Emma C. Dowd.

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"Oh, no, indeed! I shouldn't dare!"

"Why not? He is very nice to talk with."

"Yes, I know. He calls on me every year or two. I like him."

"I do, and I want him to read your poems. Do you mind if I take
this home to show to father and mother? They love poetry. - And
then I'll mid a way for Mr. Parcell to see it!"

"Why, my dear, it is yours!"

"Oh, did you mean that?" Polly drew a long breath of delight. "I
shall love it forever - and you, too!" Impulsively she put her arms
round Miss Twining's neck and kissed her on both cheeks.

"If I thought Mr. Parcell wouldn't think it queer," - hesitated Miss
Twining, - "I have several copies, and I'd like to give him one; but
I don't know - "

"Of course he wouldn't think it queer!" asserted Polly. "He'd be
delighted! He couldn't help it - such poetry as this is! I'll
leave it at his house if you care to have me."

"Oh, would you? That is dear of you! I Was wondering how I'd get
it to him. I'll do it right up now."

Miss Twining came back with the book, a little troubled scowl on
her forehead.

"Oughtn't I to write an inscription in it? I don't know what to
say."

"It would be nice," Polly nodded. "Of course you'll say it all
right."

In a moment the poet was at her table, the book open before her.
She dipped her pen in the ink, then halted it, undecided.

"I wonder if this would be enough, - 'To Rev. Norman S. Parcell,
from his parishioner, Alice Ely Twining'?"

"That sounds all right to me," answered Polly deliberately.

"I can't say 'loving parishioner' - to a man," laughed Miss Twining
a bit nervously.

"It isn't necessary," chuckled Polly.

"If he came to see me oftener I'd love him more," said the little
woman wistfully.

"He'll come often enough now - you just wait! He hasn't anybody in
his church that can write such poetry as this." She patted the
little book caressingly.

"I hope he'll like it, - but I don't know," the author doubted.

"He will," smiled Polly.

In a moment the package was ready.

"It is so good of you to do it!" Miss Twining looked very happy.

"I love to do such errands as this," laughed Polly. "I'll be in
to-morrow to tell you about it."




CHAPTER XXIV

"HOPE DEFERRED"

"I didn't see the minister," Polly reported to Miss Twining. "He
and his wife were both away. So I left the book with the maid and
said that you sent it to Mr. Parcell - that was right, wasn't it?"

"Certainly, and I thank you ever so much. I do hope he won't think
me presumptuous," she added.

"Why, how could he - such a beautiful book as yours?"

"I don't know. He might. I lay awake last night thinking about
it."

"You shouldn't have stayed awake a minute," laughed Polly. "I
wouldn't wonder if you'd hear from him this afternoon. Then you'll
stop worrying."

Miss Twining laughed a little, too. "I'm glad I sent it anyway,"
she said. "It has given me something to think of and something to
hope for. The days are pretty monotonous here - oh, it is so nice
to have you come running in! You don't know how much good you do
me!"

"Do I? I guess it's because I'm such a chatterbox! There! I
haven't told you what father and mother said about your book!
Father took it and read and read and read. Finally he looked up
and asked, 'Did you say a lady at the Home wrote these?' Then he
brought his head down, as he does when he is pleased, and
exclaimed, 'They ought to be proud of her!' - just what I said, you
know!"

"I am so glad he likes them!" Miss Twining's delicate face grew
pink with pleasure.

"Oh, he does! He kept reading - it seemed as if he couldn't lay it
down - till somebody called him. And when he got up he said, 'This
is poetry - I should like to see the woman who can write like that.
She must be worth knowing.'"

"Oh, Polly!" Miss Twining's eyes overflowed with happy tears.
"That is the best compliment I ever had in my life - and from such a
man as your father!"

"Mother fairly raves over the poems," went on Polly. "She says she
is coming over here next visiting day to get acquainted with you."

"I hope she will come," smiled the little woman. "I have always
wished I could know her, she looks so sweet as she sits there
beside you in church."

"She is sweet!" nodded Polly. "Nobody knows how sweet till they've
lived with her."

Every day now Miss Twining had a visit from Polly, and every day
she had to tell her that she had not heard from Mr. Parcell.

"He is only waiting till he has read the book through," Polly
assured the disappointed author. "Or maybe he is coming to tell
you how much he thinks of it - you'd like that better, shouldn't
you?"

"I don't mind which way, if only he doesn't scorn it and says
something," was the half-smiling reply.

But as the days and weeks passed, and brought no word from the
recipient of "Hilltop Days," Polly hardly knew how to comfort the
sorrowful giver. She began to wish that she had not urged Miss
Twining to send the book to Mr. Parcell. She even suggested making
some errand to the house and asking, quite casually, of course, how
they liked Miss Twining's book, but the little woman so promptly
declared Polly should do nothing of the sort that the plan was
given up at once.

At the cordial invitation of Dr. Dudley and his wife, Miss Sterling
and Miss Twining spent a delightful afternoon and evening at the
Doctor's home.

"I feel as if I had been in heaven!" Miss Twining told Polly the
next day. "It carried me back to my girlhood, when I was so happy
with my mother and father and my sisters and brother. My sisters
were always stronger than I, and Walter was a regular athlete; but
they went early, and I lived on." She sighed smilingly into
Polly's sympathetic face. "It is queer the way things go. They
were so needed! So was I," she added, "as long as mother and
father lived; but now I don't amount to anything!"

"Oh, you do!" cried Polly. "You write beautiful poetry, and you
don't know how much good your poems are doing people."

"I can't write any more - yes, I can!" she amended. "Miss Sniffen
didn't tell me not to write. I needn't let them pay me any
money - I might order it sent to the missionaries! Why," - as the
thought flashed upon her, - "I could have them send the money
anywhere, couldn't I? To anybody I knew of that needed it! Oh, I
will! I'll begin this very day! Polly Dudley, you've made life
worth living for me!"

"I haven't done anything!" laughed Polly. "That is your thought,
and it is a lovely, unselfish one!"

"It would never have come to me but for what you said! How can I
ever thank you!"

"Nothing to thank me for!" insisted Polly. "But if you will have
it so, I'll say you may thank me by letting me read your poems."

"Oh, I'd love to! And then you can tell me whether they are right
or not!"

"As if I'd know!" chuckled Polly. "But I'll run away now and let
you go to writing - I do know enough for that!" She took Miss
Twining's face between her soft palms and gave her four kisses, on
cheeks and temples. "Those are for good luck, like a four-leaf
clover," she said gayly. "Good-bye, dear!"




CHAPTER XXV

ALICE TWINING, MARTYR

Early the next morning Polly ran over to the Home. She was eager
to hear how Miss Twining's new plan had worked. As she neared her
friend's door, however, a murmur of voices came from within, and
she kept on to the third floor, making her way straight to the
corner room.

Juanita Sterling met her with a troubled little smile.

"What is it?" she asked quickly, looking beyond to Mrs. Albright
and Miss Crilly. Their excited faces emphasized the other's
doubtful greeting.

"Nothing," spoke up Mrs. Albright, - "only Miss Twining has had a
time with Miss Sniffen."

"What about?"

"Money," answered Miss Sterling wearily. "It is lucky for the rest
of us that we don't have any."

"That same money?" persisted Polly.

"No, dear." Mrs. Albright drew up a chair beside her - "Come sit
down, and I'll tell you about it. I've been telling them, and we
have got a little wrought up over it, that's all."

"I should think anybody'd get wrought up!" put in Miss Crilly. "I
guess it will be the death of poor Miss Twining!"

"No, no, it won't! See how you're scaring Polly!"

The girl glanced beseechingly from one to another.

"What is it? You're keeping something back!"

Mrs. Albright patted the chair invitingly. "Come here! I'm going
to tell you every word I know."

"She was so happy yesterday!" mourned Polly.

"She will be again, dear."

"Looks like it!" sniffed Miss Crilly. "I believe in saying the
truth right out!"

"Katharine Crilly, you just mind your own business!" laughed Mrs.
Albright.

"To begin at the beginning," - she turned toward Polly, - "I was
knocking at Miss Twining's door yesterday afternoon when she came
up the stairs. So I went in with her and stayed a little while.
She was in fine spirits. She had been to see an old friend of
hers, a member of the Board, and this lady had given her the same
amount of money that Miss Sniffen had - "

"Stolen!" burst out Miss Crilly.

"I'm telling this story!" announced Mrs. Albright placidly. "But
Miss Twining said," she resumed, "that she had promised not to
divulge the name of the lady to any one. So I don't know who it
is. On her way home she had bought a book that she had wanted for
a long time. I told her she'd have to look out or she would get
caught reading it; but she said they always knocked before coming
in, and she should have time to put it on the under shelf of her
table - where the cover partly hides it. I said, 'Well, you look
out now!' and she laughed and promised she would.

"In the evening, as I was sitting alone, I heard talking, and I
went to my door to listen. I thought I knew the voice, and when I
opened the door a crack I was sure whose room it came from. 'Oh,
I'm afraid she's caught her again!' I said to myself, and I waited
till I heard somebody go softly away and down the stairs. Then I
stole over to Miss Twining.

"It was just as I had feared! She was reading all so nice, when
without a mite of warning in sailed Miss Sniffen! Of course she
asked her where she got the book, and she said it was given to her.
But she wouldn't tell the woman's name. Miss Sniffen couldn't get
it out of her! She talked and threatened; but Miss Twining
wouldn't give in. Finally she vowed she'd have it out of her if
she had to flog it out! I could see that Miss Twining was all
wrought up and as nervous as could be - as who wouldn't have been!"

"Oh!" gasped Polly. "It's just awful! Did she whip her?"

Mrs. Albright shook her head and went on.

"Miss Twining said that Amelia Sniffen used to go round in society
with her youngest brother, Walter, and that she was dead in love
with him. Walter fairly hated her, and never paid her the least
attention when he could get out of it; but she would put herself in
his way, as some girls will, until he was married and even
afterwards. And when Alice Twining came here and found that Miss
Sniffen had been appointed superintendent she was almost a mind to
back out; but she hadn't any other place to go, so she stayed, and
she said Miss Sniffen had seemed to take delight in being mean to
her ever since. Well, it's a tight box that Amelia Sniffen has got
herself into this time!" Mrs. Albright sighed.

"Please go on!" whispered Polly.

"Yes, dear. I got Miss Twining to bed, and she quieted down a
little. Finally I left her and crept back to my room. I don't
know what time it was, - but after eleven, - I woke dreaming that I
heard my name called. I jumped up and ran and opened the door.
Everything was still. But I waited, and pretty soon I heard a voice
in the room opposite. I rushed across the hall - the door was
locked! 'Miss Twining! Miss Twining!' I called, two or three
times. At first nobody answered; then Miss Sniffen came over to
the door and said, 'Shut up and go to bed!' I asked her to let me
in, but she wouldn't. I said things that I shouldn't have dared to
say if I'd been cooler; but I'm glad I did! After a while I went
back to my room, and I took out my key and hid it. I was afraid
she'd lock me in. She did mean to, but for once she got fooled. I
lay still as a mouse, hearing her fumble round my door. Finally
she went downstairs. When I was sure she'd gone for good I took my
key and stole across the hall. Sure enough, it unlocked the door,
just as I hoped it would. Oh, that poor child was so glad to see
me! Miss Sniffen had come up prepared to give her a whipping! She
had brought a little riding-whip with her! But the very sight of
it so upset Miss Twining, in her nervous state, that she had a bad
turn with her heart, - you know her heart always bothers her, - and
once she gave a little cry. Of course, Miss Sniffen didn't want
any rumpus, and she just clapped her hand hard over Miss Twining's
mouth. She says she doesn't know whether it took her breath away
suddenly, or what; but she fainted! When she came to, Miss Sniffen
was rubbing her - I guess she was pretty well frightened! There
wasn't anything more said about whipping! After she made up her
mind that Miss Twining wasn't likely to die right off, she and the
riding-whip left."

"Oh, dear, what will become of us!" cried Miss Crilly. "We are not
safe a minute!"

"You shall be!" Polly burst out excitedly. "I'm going to tell Mr.
Randolph everything about it!"

"Polly! Polly!" Miss Sterling laid a quieting hand on her shoulder.

The girl threw it off. Then she caught it to her lips and kissed
it passionately. "I can't bear it! I can't bear it!" she cried.
"To think of you all in such danger! You don't know what she'll
do!"

"I don't think we need have any fear until she gets over her scare
about this," said Mrs. Albright reassuringly. "She seems to me
pretty well cowed down. Her eyes looked actually frightened when I
caught her off guard. You see, she's in a fix! She knows Miss
Twining needs a doctor; but, of course, he would ask first thing
what brought this on, and she couldn't make the patient lie it out."

"I guess lying wouldn't trouble her any," put in Miss Crilly.

"Dear Miss Twining!" murmured Polly plaintively.

"She is a sweet little woman," Miss Crilly sighed.

"How is she this morning?" asked Polly.

"I hardly know what to tell you," hesitated Mrs. Albright. "I
think if Miss Sniffen would keep away she'd be better. Still, when
she got up and tried to dress, she fainted again. Now Miss Sniffen
has told her to stay abed, and she has put a notice on her door
that she is too ill to receive visitors."

"Then can't you go in?" queried Polly anxiously.

"I do," chuckled Mrs. Albright. "They'd have to do more contriving
than they've done yet to shut me out!"

"Oh, I'm so glad!" cried Polly. "But she ought to have a doctor!
I suppose if she did it would be that Dr. Gunnip - He's no good!
Father says he's little more than a quack and he isn't safe. I
wish father could see her; but he can't unless he is called. It is
too bad! I believe I'll go straight to Mr. Randolph!"

"I don't dare have you," returned Mrs. Albright. "He would, of
course, favor the Home, and if Miss Sniffen should hear of it - "

"Before I say anything I shall make him promise not to tell."

"I'm awfully afraid to let you do it - oh, Polly, don't!" Miss
Crilly was close to tears.

"Had you rather die?" she demanded. "You may be sick yourself and
want a doctor! How are you going to get him?"

"If I'm sick I bet I'll make such a fuss they'll send for a
doctor - and a good one too!" cried Miss Crilly hysterically.

Polly had risen, and Miss Sterling drew her within the circle of
her arm. "When the time comes we'll decide what is best to do,"
said she.

"I should think the time had come now!" the girl fumed. "Poor Miss
Twining! It's just an outrage!"

"Oh, I forgot!" Mrs. Albright bent toward Polly, with lowered
voice. "She gave me something for you, dear."

"Me?" Polly calmed at once.

"Yes. When I was with her in the night I think she feared that her
heart might give out, and she said, 'If anything should happen, I
wish you would give Polly those papers in my portfolio - or you may
give her the whole portfolio. She will understand.'"

"Oh, I know! Yesterday morning she was planning to write some
poems, and those must be the 'papers.' But perhaps she won't want
me to have them now."

"She spoke of it again to-day," nodded Mrs. Albright. "She said
she should somehow feel easier for you to keep them."

"I hope Miss Sniffen won't rummage round and get hold of them
first," returned Polly anxiously.

"I guess she won't find 'em in a hurry!" chuckled Mrs. Albright.
"They're in my room!"




CHAPTER XXVI

MR. PARCELL'S LESSON

Polly carried the portfolio home with her, and later, alone in her
room, read the poems it contained. Tears blurred her eyes as she
read and read again the verses dated the day before. Such a
lilting, joyous song it was! And now - !

"Oh, but she will get well and write again!" Polly said softly.
Then she sighed, thinking of the bright plans that had so suddenly
ceased.

Her thoughts went farther back, to the days of watching and waiting
for the message that had never come, to the sleepless nights of
grieving -

"Oh!" she burst out impetuously, "he's got to know it! Somebody
must tell him how he has made her suffer! Miss Nita would do it
beautifully; but I don't suppose I could hire her to! Maybe father
will."

When this suggestion was made to him, however, Dr. Dudley shook his
head promptly, and his impulsive daughter began at once to form
other plans. "Mother wouldn't," she told herself. "No use asking
her. Dear! dear! if there were only somebody besides me! Perhaps
I can coax Miss Nita - "

A telephone call broke in upon her musings, and the disturbing
thoughts were exchanged for a ride and a luncheon with Patricia
Illingworth. On her way home in the afternoon, the matter came up
again.

"I may as well go now and have it over with," she decided suddenly,
and she turned into a street which led to the home of the Reverend
Norman Parcell.

Yes, he was in and alone, the maid said, and Polly was shown
directly to the study.

"How do you do, Miss Polly!" The minister grasped her hand
cordially. "This is a pleasant surprise." He drew forward an easy
chair and saw her comfortably seated.

"Have you heard that Miss Twining is ill?" Polly began.

"Miss Twining?" he repeated interrogatively. "M-m - no, I had not
heard. Is she an especial friend of yours, some one I ought to
know?" He smiled apologetically. "I find it difficult always to
place people on the instant."

His apology might not have been attended by a smile if Polly's
indignant thought had been vocal. When she spoke, her voice was
tense.

"Yes, Mr. Parcell, she is a very dear friend." Her lip quivered,
and she shook herself mentally; she was not going to break down at
this juncture. She went quickly on, ahead of the phrase of sympathy
on its way to the minister's lips. "She lives at the June Holiday
Home."

"Oh, yes! I remember! Her illness is not serious, I hope."

"I am afraid so," returned Polly, passing quickly toward what she
had come to talk about. "I don't suppose you know what a beautiful
woman she is." She looked straight into his eyes, and waited.

"No," he answered slowly, a suggestion of doubt in his tone, "I
presume not. I have seen her only occasionally."

"She told me that you called upon her every year or two." Polly
hesitated. "You can judge something by her poems. You received
the book of poems she sent you?"

"Oh, yes!" he brightened. "I have the book."

"How do you like it, Mr. Parcell? Don't you think the poems
wonderful?" Polly was sitting very straight in the cushioned
chair, her brown eyes fixed keenly on the minister's face.

"Why," - he moved a little uneasily - "I really - don't know - " He
threw back his head with a little smile. "To be frank, Miss Polly,
I haven't read them."

Something flashed into the young face opposite that startled the
man.

"Do you mean, Mr. Parcell," Polly said slowly, "that you have not
read the book at all?" Her emphasis made her thought clear, and
his cheeks reddened.

"I shall have to own up to my neglect," he replied. "You know I am
a very busy man, Miss Polly."

"You needn't bother with the 'Miss,'" she answered; "nobody does.
Then, that is why you haven't said 'thank you' - you don't feel
'thank you'!"

"Oh, my dear Polly! I am very grateful to Miss Twining, I assure
you, and I realize that I should have sent her a note of thanks;
but - in fact, I don't recollect just how it was - I presume I was
waiting until I had read the book, and - I may as well confess
it! - I was somewhat afraid to read it."

"Afraid?" Polly looked puzzled.

"Such things are apt to be dreary reading," he smiled. "I am
rather a crank as regards poetry."

The flash came again into Polly's face. "Oh!" she cried, fine scorn
in her voice, "you thought the poems weren't good!"

He found himself nodding mechanically.

"Where is the book?" she demanded, glancing about the room.

"I - really don't know where I did leave it - " He scanned his cases
with a troubled frown.

Tears sprang to the girl's eyes. She seemed to see Alice Twining's
gentle, appealing face, as it had looked when she said, "I hope he
doesn't think I am presumptuous in sending it." She dashed away
the drops, and went on glancing along the rows of books. The
minister had risen, but Polly darted ahead of him and pounced upon
a small volume.

"Here it is!" She touched it caressingly, as if to make up for
recent neglect.

"Your eyes are quicker than mine," said Mr. Parcell, taking it from
her hand.

"Read it!" she said, and went back to her chair,

The minister obeyed meekly. Polly's eyes did not leave him.

He had opened the book at random, and with deepened color and a
disturbed countenance had done as he was bidden. Surprise,
pleasure, astonishment, delight, - all these the watcher saw in the
face above the pages.

Five minutes went by, ten, twenty; still the Reverend Norman
Parcell read on! Polly, mouse-quiet, divided her softening gaze
between the clergyman and the clock. The pointers had crept almost
to four when the telephone called. The reader answered. Then he
walked slowly back from the instrument and picked up the book.

"Miss Twining must be a remarkable woman," he began, "to write such
poetry as this - for it is poetry!"

"She is remarkable," replied Polly quietly. "She is finer even
than her poems."

The minister nodded acquiescently. "This 'Peter the Great,'" he
went on, running over the leaves, "is a marvelous thing!"

"Isn't it! If you could have told her that" - Polly's tone was
gentle - "it would have spared her a lot of suffering."

"Has she so poor an opinion of her work?

"Oh, not that exactly; but" - she smiled sadly - "you have never said
'thank you', you know!"

The lines on his face deepened. "I have been unpardonably rude,
and have done Miss Twining an injustice besides - I am sorry, very
sorry!"

"She had had pretty hard experiences in giving away her books, but
I persuaded her to send one to you, for I knew you liked poetry and
I thought you would appreciate it. I was sorry afterwards that I
did. It only brought her more disappointment. She cried and cried
because she did not hear from you. I'm afraid I ought not to tell
you this - she wouldn't let me if she knew. But I thought if you
could just write her a little note - she isn't allowed to see
anybody - it might do her good and help her to get well."

"I certainly will, my dear! I shall be glad to do so!"

"You see," Polly went on, "she fears that perhaps you scorn her
book and consider her presuming to send it to you - and that is what
hurts. She has lain awake nights and grieved so over it, I could
have cried for her!" Polly was near crying now.

"The worst of such mistakes," the man said sorrowfully, "is that we
cannot go back and blot out the tears and the suffering and make
things as they might have been. If we only could!"

"A note from you will make her very happy," Polly smiled.

"She shall have it at once," the minister promised; adding, "I am
glad she is in so beautiful a Home."

Polly shook her head promptly. "No, Mr. Parcell, it is not a
beautiful Home, it is a prison - a horrible prison!"

"Why, my dear! I do not understand - "

"I don't want you to understand!" Polly cried hurriedly. "I ought
not to have said that! Only it came out! You will know, Mr.


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