E-text prepared by Al Haines
Illustrated by Thelma Gooch
[Frontispiece: "It's easy," Chuck laughed, holding out his hand to Phyllis, "you are Don's girl."]
Publishers Barse & Hopkins New York, N. Y. ————— Newark, N. J.
Copyright, 1920, by Barse & Hopkins
I PHYLLIS II DON III FRIENDS IV JANET ARRIVES V SCHOOL VI TOM'S LAST DAY VII DAPHNE'S ADVICE VIII A CHANGE IN JANET IX TWINS INDEED X THE SCREENED WINDOW XI THE MASQUERADE XII CHUCK GUESSES RIGHT XIII A BLUE MONDAY XIV MISS PRINGLE XV A WHITE MITTEN XVI DON! XVII CHRISTMAS VACATION XVIII THE ENCHANTED KINGDOM XIX PHYLLIS'S "MATH" PAPER XX THE FAREWELL PARTY XXI CONCLUSION
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"It's easy," Chuck laughed, holding out his hand to Phyllis. "You are Don's girl" . . . . . Frontispiece
"She had never been made a fuss over except by Phyllis in all her life and she couldn't understand it"
"Vers two of you," he said gravely
"Something white caught her eye"
PHYLLIS, A TWIN
A glorious autumn day spread its golden sunshine over the city. In the parks the red leaves blazed under the deep blue sky, and the water in the lakes sparkled over the reflections of the tall buildings mirrored in their depths. People walked with a brisk step, as though they had but suddenly awakened from a long drowsy sleep to the coolness of a new, vigorous world.
In a house just off Fifth Avenue, a short distance from Central Park, all the windows were open to admit the dazzling sunshine. Soft white curtains fluttered in the crisp breeze, and the rooms were flooded with cool, yellow light.
Phyllis Page stood in the center of one of the rooms and looked critically about her. There was no need of criticism, for it was as nearly perfect as a room could be.
The walls were hung with dainty pink and white paper. A bed of ivory white, with carved roses at the head and covered with a sheer embroidered spread, filled one corner; a tall chest of drawers stood opposite, and a dressing-table with a triple mirror was placed between the two windows.
A little to one side of the open grate was a tiny table just large enough to hold a bowl of pink roses. In all the room not a pin was out of place.
As Phyllis surveyed it all for perhaps the twentieth time that day, a look of disappointment cast a momentary shadow over her usually merry face.
"There isn't one single thing more to do," she complained. "Oh, dear, I do hope she likes it."
The suggestion of doubt made her hurry to her aunt's room on the floor below. She found Miss Carter sitting before an open fire reading.
"Auntie Mogs," she said, standing in the doorway, "suppose Janet doesn't like it? The room, I mean."
There was real concern in her voice, but in spite of it Miss Carter laughed.
"Why, Phyllis, you little goose, of course she'll like it. It's a dear room, and it will just suit her exactly. What put such a ridiculous notion into your head?"
"But, Auntie Mogs, it's so awfully different from her own room," Phyllis protested. "Perhaps she'll miss her big four-posted bed and those ducky rag rugs. I would, I think,"—she hesitated.
Miss Carter laughed again.
"But that's exactly why Janet won't," she answered. "She has grown up with all those lovely old things and she is used to them. She has never seen anything like her new room and she will love it, I am sure. Just as you loved the dear old room we had at her house, only of course Janet won't go into such ecstasies as you did," she added with a smile.
She pulled her niece down to the arm of her chair and stroked her soft golden-brown hair. But Phyllis's leaf-brown eyes were still clouded with doubt.
"I want her to love it, Auntie Mogs," she said softly. "I want her to love it, and I want her to be happy. But, oh, dear, suppose she isn't? Suppose she is homesick for Old Chester. Perhaps she'll just hate the city. If she does—oh, Auntie Mogs, if she does, I think I shall die."
This time Miss Carter did not smile.
"Phyllis dear," she said kindly, "do you love Janet?"
Phyllis stared in amazement. "Love her? Why, of course I do! I simply adore her. Isn't she my twin, and haven't I wanted her all my life?"
Her aunt nodded. "Then I wouldn't worry," she said kindly. "Poor little Janet has had very little real love in her life, and I think she will be very happy to be with people who do love her. You must remember, dear, that although it was wonderful for you to find Janet, it was just as wonderful for her to find you. I think it was even more wonderful perhaps, for she was very lonely and you never were. Don't worry about her not liking her room or the city. Just love her and her happiness will take care of itself."
Phyllis jumped up and kissed her aunt.
"Oh, Auntie Mogs, you always smooth things out," she exclaimed joyfully. "They ought to make you President of the United States, they really ought."
"Mercy me, don't say it out loud,"—Miss Carter laughed. "Some one might hear you and take your advice. Now, go out for a walk and come back for tea with pink cheeks, you look tired out. And no matter how much you worry and fume, Janet won't get here a minute sooner than three o'clock on Wednesday."
"And that's a whole day and a half off,"—Phyllis sighed as she left the room to get ready for her walk.
Miss Carter looked thoughtfully into the fire for many minutes after she had gone. Her advice to love Janet was sound, but in her own heart she knew that Phyllis's doubts were not without foundation.
It had been just a little over a month ago that news had come from Tom, Phyllis's older brother, that Mrs. Page had at last given in and was willing to let Janet, whom she had cared for ever since she had been a baby, see her twin sister Phyllis whom Miss Carter had brought up. Many years before Mrs. Page had insisted that the twins be separated, and because Phyllis bore her mother's name and Mrs. Page cruelly blamed her daughter-in-law for the tragic accident that had resulted in both parents' death, she had chosen to keep Janet with her. Thirteen years had passed, and neither of the girls had dreamed of the other's existence; perhaps they had dreamed, but they had never expected their dream to come true, as it had only a short month ago when Phyllis, too happy for words, had jumped off the train at Old Chester and into the arms of her twin.
It had been an exciting month as Miss Carter reviewed it, and with all her heart she wanted the happiness that both girls looked forward to for the coming winter to be assured.
"If we can only keep Janet from feeling shy and different from the other girls it will be all right," she said at last, and fell to gazing into the fire again.
Phyllis, already well on her walk in the park, was busy with the same thoughts. They were more concrete in form, but they amounted to the same thing. She knew that she could be happy with Janet and keep her from being homesick, but the thought of the other girls at school made her uneasy. They were nice girls, all of them, and they were all fond of Phyllis, and for her sake she knew they would be nice to her twin, but Phyllis was not satisfied to let the matter drop there. She wanted the girls to accept Janet on her own merit.
The roguish autumn wind was playing tricks with the dead brown leaves, swirling them about regardless of passers-by. One especially gusty little gale made Phyllis duck her head so low that she did not gee where she was going. She bumped into something small unexpectedly, and an angry voice startled her out of her revery.
"Now, I've lost it for good. Why don't you look what you're about? Nurse says it's rude to jostle."
Phyllis looked down into two very angry blue eyes which, except for a glimpse of ruddy cheeks almost hidden by a fur cap, were all that was visible of the chubby face before her.
She tried hard not to smile. She loved and understood children, and one of the chief reasons that they always returned her love with interest was that she always took them seriously.
"Oh, I'm so very sorry," she apologized humbly; "perhaps I can help you find it again. What was it you lost?"
"It were a brownie, a brown leaf brownie wiv crinkly legs, and I were following it and now—"
"And now I've chased it away. Isn't that a shame." Phyllis was very serious. "But, do you know, I think it was the brownie's own fault. I felt something a minute ago, just punching and kicking at my face, and I thought perhaps it was an ordinary leaf but of course it couldn't have been."
"It were my brownie,"—the blue eyes wrinkled up at the end of an impish grin. "Did it kick hard?"
"I should say it did. Look,"—Phyllis took her hand away from her eye. It was quite red, for a bit of dust had inflamed it.
The small boy gazed at it thoughtfully.
"He hadn't ought to have hurted you," he said solemnly. "He were a bad brownie, I guess—so I'll go back to Nannie now."
"Where is Nannie?" Phyllis inquired, looking in vain for a nurse. The park, as far as she could see, was deserted.
"It doesn't matter," he said quite calmly. "I just remembered I'm losted." He took Phyllis's outstretched hand and trotted along beside her.
"Losted?" she inquired in astonishment.
"Yes, for quite a while, you see, Nannie talks and talks, and to-day she were talking when the brownie came, and so I ran away. Nannie doesn't know about brownies; just angels and devils."
Phyllis, in spite of herself, laughed. "But if Nannie has lost you, won't she be worried?" she asked.
The small head nodded. "But she'll find me again," he assured her. "She always does."
"What's your name?" he demanded after a minute of silence.
"Is that all?"
"Oh, I have ever so many more names than that."
"What are they?"
"Donald Francis MacFarlan Keith," he recited glibly; "but mostly I'm called Don."
"That's a very nice name," Phyllis agreed absently. She was still looking for the lost Nannie.
"And I live," Don continued proudly, "at number theventeen East Theventy-theventh Street." The s's were almost too much for him but he struggled manfully.
"Why, that's very near where I live!" Phyllis exclaimed, relief in her voice. "I'll take you home, if we don't find Nannie."
Don decided that that might be a good idea when, after a short hunt, the missing Nannie was not discovered.
He talked every step of the way home, about brownies, policemen, dogs and fire engines, and Phyllis joined in the discussion whole heartedly and agreed with him that a mounted policeman was indeed superior to a banker on Wall Street.
"For," Don explained, "that's what Nannie says my Daddy is, but I think policemen is nicer."
When they reached the house that Don pointed out as his, they hurried up the steps, but before Phyllis could press the button the door opened and a boy about her own age stood on the threshold.
"I beg your pardon—" Phyllis began, but Don interrupted.
"Hello, Chuck," he said seriously. "This girl bringed me home because I got losted. She's only got two names but she's very nice; she knows all about brownies—"
"Don!"—the elder boy spoke so sharply that Phyllis was startled.
"Thank you very much," he continued, looking at her. "My small cousin is always getting lost, I hope he hasn't bothered you."
"Not a bit," Phyllis laughed. "We've had a fine time. I'm sorry if you have been worried."
"Oh, I haven't," the boy replied, "but I think his nurse has the whole police force out looking for him. I knew he'd show up."
"Good-by, Don." Phyllis held out her hand, and Don put his little one in it.
"Don't get lost again, will you!"
"It depends," Don replied gravely. "I can't promise. Anyway I'll look for you every time I go to the park, and I'll ask the brownies about you, 'cause I like you, oh, heaps better than Chuck. He doesn't know anything about brownies."
Phyllis looked at the boy still standing in the doorway. He was blushing.
"How silly of him," she said to Don. "We do anyway, don't we?"
"'Course," Don replied, and he insisted in spite of his cousin's threats to watch and wave until Phyllis was out of sight.
Phyllis, hidden by the corner, paused to laugh.
"That wasn't a very polite thing to say," she admitted. "I wonder what made me think of it. He looked quite nice too. I wonder who he is?"
Don for the moment was forgotten.
As Phyllis hurried home, many were the thoughts that kept her company, for the brisk wind had blown all her doubts away and only the joy of Janet's arrival remained.
People passing her saw a slender girl of thirteen with a delicate oval face and well-shaped features framed in a wealth of gold brown hair. Her eyes were soft and limpid, and they held an expression of dreaminess in their depths.
This afternoon, however, they sparkled and seemed to challenge the whole world to find a happier mortal.
She walked along, her step light as a fairy's, her skirts still blowing at the whim of the breezes.
"I think I will stop and see some of the girls," she said to herself, but she changed her mind the next minute and went home instead. It was like Phyllis to make up her mind one minute and change it the next.
She found the house deserted on her return, and she had to go down to the basement to get in.
"Where's everybody?" she demanded of Lucy, the fat good-natured cook.
"Out, my dear," Lucy told her. "Your aunt is out calling, and Annie has gone to the grocery for me."
"What did you forget to-night?" Phyllis teased, as she swung herself up on the kitchen table.
"Now, Miss Phyllis, I couldn't help it this time, for how did I know that the can of mustard, standing there on the shelf as big as you please, was empty?"
It was chronic with Lucy to forget things, and it was usually Phyllis that went after them.
"Never mind, Lucy; it's hard luck. I don't see myself why those everlasting cans don't tell you when they are empty; it would save my steps, I know that."
"Cans speak! Go way with you," Lucy replied in a gust of laughter.
Phyllis swung down off the table.
"After two more days there'll be another me to go out and buy what you forget to order," she said as she ran up the back stairs.
Lucy watched her and then shook her head at the row of shining pans on the wall opposite.
"That, my dear, will never be," she said solemnly. "Look like you she may and lucky she is to be so blest, but be like you, I beg to differ. The dear Lord only made the one. Glory be," she added piously.
Phyllis, upstairs, was trying to think of something, no matter how small, to do to improve Janet's room.
"Well, dear?" Auntie Mogs looked up from her paper the next morning at breakfast to greet her niece. Phyllis kissed her and sat down quietly at her place.
"Only one more morning to wait," she said happily, "and then—"
"And then the Page twins will have breakfast together for the rest of their lives, I hope," Auntie Mogs finished for her. "Or until one or the other of you get married."
"Married! Oh, what a perfectly silly idea!" Phyllis laughed. "I'm never going to get married, and I don't believe Janet wants to either."
Miss Carter did not contradict, but she picked up her newspaper to hide the amused smile that played on her firm red lips.
Phyllis looked around the dining-room and hummed contentedly. It was a charming room, and the fire blazing in the grate added to the warmth and coziness.
"No,"—Phyllis returned to the subject under discussion—"I'll never marry, but that doesn't mean I don't like boys. I do. I adore them. They are such fun and much more sensible than most girls, but I wouldn't admit that to any one but you, Auntie Mogs, because, nice as they are, they are fearfully conceited and that would keep me from ever being silly about them."
"I hope that's not the only reason," Auntie Mogs laughed. "Boys are—but there goes the telephone. Will you answer it, please, dear? Annie is busy."
Phyllis jumped up from the table and hurried to the hall.
"Suppose it's Tommy saying they're coming to-day!" she exclaimed. But a minute later her aunt heard her voice drop to its natural tone as she said:
"Oh, hello, Muriel; this is Phyllis—
"Why, how nice of you; of course I'll be in.
"Yes, isn't it too exciting for words!
"Oh, I think we'll both be there on Monday.
"Oh, wonderful; then I'll see you this afternoon, 'by 'till then."
"It was Muriel," she explained as she returned to the dining-room. "She and some of the girls from school are coming over this afternoon. They want to talk over some class plans and they want my advice. We have class officers this year, you know. Muriel says I've missed an awful lot. It's almost a month now since school started but it can't be helped.
"Oh, dear, I wonder what class Janet will be in. I hope it won't be too awfully low." She paused, and her pretty brows puckered into a tiny frown.
"I don't think I'd worry if I were you," her aunt said softly. "Janet may never have been to a school but she is very bright, and I don't think it will be very long before she will be even with you."
"Oh, but, Auntie Mogs," Phyllis exclaimed, "you didn't think I meant she was stupid. Of course she's bright, only she probably hasn't had the same kind of lessons that I have. Anyway, we will soon know, and even if she goes into the very baby class it won't make any difference to me. Only you see it might to some of the others," she added reluctantly.
"That won't bother Janet." Miss Carter smiled at the memory of her independent little niece who, for all her quiet ways, was thoroughly able to take care of herself.
"The only thing that worries me," she added, smiling, "is whether or not Janet will like the girls."
Phyllis looked at her in astonishment.
"But of course she will," she exclaimed. "They are all, or nearly all, awfully nice and—why, Auntie Mogs, she's sure to like them."
Miss Carter smiled as she left the table. She had given Phyllis a new idea and she did not mean to dwell upon it.
"Hurry and finish your breakfast, dear," she directed. "I want you to go down town and finish your shopping with me. When Janet comes I don't want to think of anything but her clothes. There will be lots to do if she is to start school on Monday."
"Of course," Phyllis agreed, drinking her very hot cocoa so fast that it burned her throat. "Won't it be fun, taking Janet to all the shops and having luncheon down town. I know she'll adore it."
The morning passed quickly, as mornings always do when they are spent in shopping, and Phyllis was barely home in time to receive her friends at three o'clock.
Muriel Grey arrived first. She was a short plump girl of fourteen, with lots of fluffy yellow hair and big china-blue eyes.
"Oh, Phyllis, I'm so glad to see you. We miss you terribly at school. It isn't a bit nice without you!" she exclaimed as she kissed Phyllis.
"Well, I'll be back Monday," Phyllis replied. "I've missed you too. Sit down and tell me all the news—oh, wait a minute. Here comes Eleanor, and Rosamond is with her."
The two girls who were just coming up the steps were both dressed in dark blue and their long braids hung down their backs and were both tied with bright green ribbons to match their green tams. They were not sisters, but they had been friends for so long that it was a joke at school to say that they were beginning to look like each other.
Phyllis was very fond of them both for they were great fun, and their endless ideas were always a source of wonder to their class.
"Hello, Phyllis, here we are," Rosamond greeted. "Couldn't get here a minute sooner."
"Old Ducky Lucky requested us to remain after class as usual," Eleanor explained.
It all sounded so natural to Phyllis's ear that she giggled delightedly. It was fun seeing the girls again, and she realized for the first time that she had missed them unconsciously during the past month.
"Funny old Ducky Lucky," she laughed. "Is she just as fussy as ever?"
"Well, if you want to call it fussy, she is," Rosamond groaned. "I can think of a better word, only I won't."
Ducky Lucky was the disrespectful nickname for Miss Baxter, the mathematics teacher at Miss Harding's school.
"Sally's coming later," Eleanor said, as they all entered the living room. "She said to tell you not to dare say anything about your twin until she got here. She doesn't want to miss a word. Of course we're all fearfully excited, but to hear Sally talk you would think that she was the one that had made the discovery."
"That's just like Sally,"—Phyllis laughed. "I'm crazy to see her. I've only talked to her over the phone since I got back, and you all know it's no fun talking to Sally unless you can watch her eyes."
"Good old Sally,"—Eleanor smiled at the memory of a host of funny sayings and doings, and then she looked suddenly grave. "Do you know she is talking about going to boarding school second term?" she inquired.
"Sally! Why, we could never in the world get along without her," Phyllis and Rosamond protested.
"Oh, I don't know,"—Muriel spoke for the first time. "I think we could. Sally's nice and all that, but she is such a tomboy."
The girls turned in surprise to look at her.
"Of course she is; she wouldn't be Sally if she were any different," Phyllis said, and the two girls nodded in solemn agreement, and then Sally herself arrived.
She came into the room like a whirl of merry autumn leaves. Her hair, never very orderly at best, was towsled by the wind, and her cheeks glowed. She had deep blue eyes that flashed and sparkled behind long black lashes, her hair was black as a raven's wing, and she had a single bewitching dimple in her left cheek. When she spoke people generally thought of rippling brooks and deep ringing chimes.
"Sally Ladd, you love," Phyllis greeted her enthusiastically. "I thought I was never going to see you. You wretch, why haven't you been over before?"
"Never mind about me," Sally protested, kissing her warmly. "I want to hear all about Janet. Gracious sakes, it's thrilling enough to get a new baby sister but to find a grown-up twin! Well, I do think some people have all the luck. Tell us all about her. Is she pretty?"
Phyllis laughed. She was a little embarrassed.
"She's my twin, you know," she confessed, "and so—"
"And so you haven't gumption enough to say that she's a beauty." Sally settled the question with her usual straightforwardness.
"Is she like you, Phyl?" Eleanor demanded.
"Not a bit," Phyllis denied. "She's a thousand times nicer. She is so quiet when there are people around that it looks as though she were bashful, but she really isn't a bit. She just never says anything unless it's worth saying, and I wish you could see her look at me when I babble on."
The girls laughed, and Muriel asked:
"What school has she been to? One up there in the country, I suppose."
Phyllis bit her lip. What was the matter with Muriel? She was being disagreeable and not at all like the good-natured rolypoly chum of past years.
"Janet has never been to school," she said quietly, "she has always had a tutor."
"Oh, Aunt Jane's poll parrot! That means she will know twice as much as any of us," Sally cried.
Aunt Jane's poll parrot was a mythical bird of wisdom that Sally always appealed to in moments of excitement. Phyllis laughed at hearing the familiar exclamation again.
"Oh, Sally, that does sound natural, I really feel that I am back at school and that Old Chester and Janet are all a dream!" she exclaimed.
"Well, thank goodness they're not. Look here, Phyl. Do you know, I think I'm a lot more excited about your twin than you are. In the first place she is just the sort of girl we need at school," Sally spoke seriously. "We have been the same lot of girls for, well three years now, with only an occasional new one to jog us up, and I think Janet will be a blessing. She'll be different, and that's what we need."
"I hope she is in our class," Eleanor added.
"Well, of course I do too," Muriel said slowly, "but I don't see anything the matter with us as we are, except that I do feel that it is time we were acting a little older and not so like tomboys." She looked meaningly at Sally. "We have officers this year, and, as Miss Harding says, we will have added responsibilities, and I think we ought to try and be more dignified."
Sally looked quickly from Phyllis to Eleanor and Rosamond. All three looked surprised and a little angry. Sally laughed contentedly.
"Hear that poll? we are to be more dignified! Bless us. Muriel, but you are a scream," she teased.
"I don't see why it's funny to want to be more grown up and serious." Muriel's feelings were hurt, and she looked angrily at Sally.
"If we acted any differently we'd be affected," Eleanor announced with conviction, "and I for one don't think that would be much of an improvement."
"Surely we can hold our place in school without putting our hair up on top of our heads,"—Phyllis laughed good naturedly, "but I think I know what Muriel means," she added loyally.
"No, you don't, Phyl." Rosamond had kept quiet up until now but her eyes had danced mischievously. "You none of you know, but I'll tell you,"—she paused dramatically.
"Muriel has a beau." she announced. The girls all laughed, but she went on quite seriously. "He takes her home from school and he carries her books, so of course she has to grow up. Why, even the seniors watch her from the study window in silent jealousy."
Phyllis looked at Muriel. There was no denying the change now. She sighed.
"If you are going to talk like children, I'm going home." Muriel rose with what she hoped was becoming dignity, and in silence the girls watched her put on her hat and coat. Phyllis followed her to the door.
"Muriel, don't be silly," she pleaded. "We've been such chums, I can't bear to see you so changed." But Muriel refused to be comforted.
"It isn't my fault if you can't keep up with me," she said coldly, and Phyllis was too angry to answer.
She walked upstairs slowly. "I've lost Muriel," she said wistfully, but a sudden thought made her run up the rest of the way, two steps at a time.
"Girls, do you realize that this time to-morrow Janet will actually be here?" she exclaimed joyfully.
"Aunt Jane's poll parrot, so she will!" said Sally.
Phyllis opened her eyes on Wednesday morning, and frowned as she heard the rain beating down on the tin roof below her window.
"It has no business to rain to-day of all days," she said crossly; "but, after all, it doesn't matter, for, rain or shine, Janet is coming."
She looked through the open door into the room adjoining hers and smiled. From her bed she could see the dainty white dressing table and the soft-colored print of Raphael's Madonna hanging in its gold frame beside it. Her own room, as her eyes traveled back to it, was shabby in comparison, but that only made her smile the more.
"It's just too heavenly to be true," she whispered dreamily. "How silly I've been to worry whether she will like it or not. Of course she will, and oh, joy of joys, she will be here in less than, let me see, eight hours." She jumped out of bed and in a few minutes she was singing in her bath.
"Phyllis, Phyllis, if you don't stop acting like a crazy person I don't know what I shall do," Miss Carter sighed later in the morning as Phyllis, growing more and more excited as the minutes passed, flew upstairs and down, upsetting everything in her effort to keep busy.
"I know, Aunt Mogs, but I can't help it. I shall probably die before the train gets in," Phyllis confessed as she sat down at last and tried to concentrate on a book. But the print danced before her eyes, and in not more than a minute she was up again.
"I knew I'd forgotten something!" she exclaimed.
"What is it now?" her aunt inquired, smiling gently.
"Flowers. The ones I bought day before yesterday are all wilted. Oh, I know you told me they would be, but don't say, 'I told you so,' please."
"No, I won't. I'm almost glad they have wilted; they will give you something to do. Hurry out and get some more, and be sure they are buds this time."
Phyllis hurried to the nearest florist and then took as long as she possibly could to select the roses. When she reached home she was disgusted to find that she had been gone only twenty minutes. But the morning passed somehow, and although Phyllis insisted upon a ridiculously early start in case the traffic should delay them, they were only a quarter of an hour ahead of train time.
The huge station was crowded with people, and Phyllis looked at them doubtfully.
"Auntie Mogs, if Janet ever got lost in this mob we would never find her in all this world," she said nervously.
"It might be a difficult task," Miss Carter agreed calmly, "but Tom is with her, and it would be very hard to lose Tom even here."
"Oh, I was forgetting all about Tom." Phyllis laughed with relief. "It would be hard to hide his six feet, wouldn't it? Oh, dear, that sounds as though he were a centipede, but you know what I mean."
"I do sometimes, my darling,"—Miss Carter laughed into Phyllis's eyes—"but sometimes, I must admit, you race too far ahead of me. Do try and quiet down before Janet comes."
"Oh, but she loves me just the way I am," Phyllis announced airily, "and so does Tommy. Look now, it's only ten minutes."
She kept her eyes fastened to the blackboard until the announcer called the number of the track and wrote it down in his slow deliberate hand. From that minute to the time when the first porter came up the stairs and through the gate seemed an eternity, but at last Tom's head and shoulders appeared above the crowd.
"Here they are, Janet," he called, but even that was not necessary, for the twins had found each other, in spite of bobbing hats and sharp-pointed umbrellas, and were in each other's arms. Phyllis, as usual, was doing all the talking, and Janet, a little confused, accepted it as a fitting ending to the amazing dream that had begun that morning when she watched the Old Chester station fade into the distance.
After a description of Phyllis, it is useless to give one of Janet, for except for the difference in the expression of their eyes the girls were the image of each other. Even the difference in their dress did not disguise the startling resemblance, and people turned to stare and then to smile as Phyllis's infectious laughter reached them.
"Wait here and I'll find a taxi," Tom directed, as they reached the open rotunda that led to the street.
In a minute they were all comfortably seated in a cab and had joined the procession of slow-moving vehicles that were trying to gain the avenue.
"To think you are really here," Phyllis sighed, as though the greatest event of her life were over.
"I'm not a bit sure that I am,"—Janet laughed. "I've been begging Tommy to pinch me all the way down in the train. I thought surely I would wake up any minute and hear Martha say, 'It's time to get up, child.'"
"I didn't do it though, because I thought the other people in the train might not understand," Tom said with amusement.
"Where is your dog?" Miss Carter asked suddenly, and Janet's face fell.
"Grandmother decided I mustn't bring Boru," she answered with a little catch in her voice.
Her aunt took her hand impulsively and squeezed it. "But, my dear, that is absolutely absurd. You will be miserable without him, especially when everything is new to you. I will write up to Mrs. Page to-night and ask her to have some one send him down by express as soon as possible."
Miss Carter was a gentle little lady, but when she made up her mind to a thing that thing was as good as accomplished.
"Oh, Auntie Mogs, that's awfully sweet of you," Janet said gratefully. "I know I'll miss him awfully."
"I never heard of such a thing," Phyllis protested. "We never dreamed you'd come without him. Why, I sent Sir Galahad to the hospital to have him out of the way until Boru got used to his new house."
"Oh, but you shouldn't have done that," Janet protested. "Poor kitty, he'll feel terribly abused."
"Well, he had a little cold and it really was the best place for him, and of course I can go and see him any time. The hospital is only around the corner. Tommy, what are you laughing at?"
"You two girls talk about your dog and cat just as if they were children. Are you going to make household pets of all my livestock when you come to the ranch next summer?"
"Of course," Phyllis and Janet answered, laughing.
"Now, don't bother Janet," Miss Carter interrupted before Phyllis could say anything more; "she is busy looking at the city, and I know she would rather do that than listen to you. We are on Fifth Avenue now, dear, and that lovely building on your right is Tiffany's."
Janet looked out of first one window and then the other. It was all very new and exciting to her. She had been to Boston several times, but Boston, beautiful city that it is, is not New York.
"It's awfully full, isn't it?" she said at last, and Tom laughed heartily.
"Don't you like it?" Phyllis asked in dismay.
"Oh, of course I do, but somehow I wish it would stand still for just a minute and give me a chance to look at it."
"I'm afraid it will never do that, my dear," Miss Carter laughed. "But you won't find it noisy where we are, and I know you will love the park."
"Do look," Phyllis pointed towards the west. "It's clearing, I knew it would and here's the park."
Central Park is a refreshing sight to see after the noise and confusion of the streets, and to Janet's eyes the soft green of the grass and the great trees, resplendent in their autumn dress, was comforting indeed. The sun was just visible between two sullen gray clouds, but it only peeked out for a minute and then as though it were depressed by what it saw, it hurried to bed.
"I don't blame it," Phyllis said, as she watched the last gleam of red fade into the clouds.
Janet nodded in perfect understanding. It was not the last time that, without the aid of words, the Page twins were to understand and share each other's thoughts.
The taxi drew up at the house at last, and Annie hurried to the side walk to help with bags. She was a servant that Miss Carter had had for many years and she was greatly excited over Janet's arrival.
Phyllis dashed up the stairs, pulling Janet behind her, and instead of waiting even for a minute in the living-room she hurried her up the second flight of stairs and threw open the door of her room.
"Oooooh!" Janet stood perfectly still and looked and looked. To Phyllis it seemed as though she were never going to speak, then at last she said, "Oh!" again and sank down on the soft bed.
"Like it?" Phyllis tried to make her voice sound cool, but she did not succeed in keeping the eagerness out of it.
"It's fairyland!" Janet exclaimed. "Oh, Phyllis, I never dreamed anything could be half so beautiful."
Phyllis gave a great sigh of relief. "Thank goodness for that," she said, laughing, "and now come and see the rest of the house."
Janet followed from one charming room to another, but she was speechless until she came to the library—a big brown room, filled with books, low comfy chairs and shaded lamps.
"Phyllis, it's just too wonderful to be true!" she exclaimed.
"Well, it's not the Enchanted Kingdom,"—Phyllis laughed—"but we hope it will be a substitute."
For the rest of the day Janet tried to say some of the things that seemed to be bursting her heart. It was not as easy for her to enthuse as it was for Phyllis, but her eyes shone in the firelight as she sat beside Tommy on the sofa and listened to her aunt make plans for the coming week.
Phyllis need have had no fears, for there was not a moment spared in regret for the four-poster bed. How could there be, when such a pink and white nest awaited her? She undressed that night still in a half dream.
"Janet, have you gone to sleep yet?" Phyllis's voice called through the dark, long after the house had quieted down for the night.
Janet sat up and laughed joyously.
"No," she whispered back, "I'm afraid to."
Two big old-fashioned drawing-rooms thrown into one made the study hall at Miss Harding's school. It was not a bit like an ordinary schoolroom, for a fireplace filled one corner of it, books and pictures covered the walls, and in every window flowers nodded. Only the rows of double desks bespoke study.
On the Monday after Janet's arrival there was a suppressed current of excitement in the air. At the slightest sound from the hall every eye turned expectantly toward the door.
Phyllis was sitting in her old seat beside Muriel Grey; but the old feeling of friendship that had always existed between the two was missing, and it was to Sally Ladd that Phyllis turned for sympathy.
Sally was sitting just behind her, and she took advantage of every glance that Miss Baxter, who was on duty at the desk, cast in any other direction.
"Aunt Jane's poll parrot," she whispered excitedly, "if she doesn't come soon I shall expire." Phyllis nodded and looked again at the door.
Janet was with Miss Harding in her office upstairs. The principal was deciding the grade she had better enter, and to Phyllis the decision was all important. Although she would never have admitted it to any one, the thought of Janet in any class but her own made her miserable.
As for the rest of the girls, they were all eager and curious to see the new twin, as Sally insisted upon calling Janet. Eleanor and Rosamond had already met her. Sally had been in bed with a cold when Phyllis had called up to ask her to luncheon, and she was still waiting for her first glimpse of her.
At last the door opened and Janet came into the room. It was an entirely new Janet from the one who had arrived at the Grand Central Station a few days before; that is, to all outward appearance. She had on a dark blue serge dress with white collar and cuffs, and her hair was tied loosely in the nape of her neck with a black ribbon. The curls, that Martha had tried so hard to keep tidy, were blowing about her face, her cheeks were pale from nervousness, and her eyes shone brighter than ever.
Miss Harding nodded to Miss Baxter, and then turned to the girls.
"I think we have all been more than usually interested in Phyllis's twin sister," she said, smiling. "I want to introduce her to you; this is Janet Page. You had better all look at her very hard for I think it is going to be almost impossible to tell her from Phyllis unless we are very careful. Perhaps I'll have to ask one of them to wear a pink string tied to her finger and the other a green."
The girls, including Janet, laughed heartily. Whispers of "she's the very image," "what a dear," and "won't it be funny," ran around the room.
"I must find you a seat, my dear," Miss Harding continued. "Let me see. It would never do to put you beside Phyllis, for we'd all be sure then that we were seeing double. I think—Sally, are you alone?" she asked.
Sally stood up. "Yes, Miss Harding," she replied so quickly that the girls laughed.
"Well, then I think Janet will sit beside you. And now you must all get back to work for there are only a few minutes left of study period. But this has been an occasion, hasn't it?" Miss Harding smiled, nodded, said a few words in an undertone to Miss Baxter, and left the room, leaving behind her a joy and charm that were always hers to give.
Janet walked down between the rows of desks to the beckoning Sally, but her eyes were looking into Phyllis's. As she passed her desk Phyllis caught her hand and whispered, "What class?"
"Yours," Janet whispered back. She did not think it necessary to add that Miss Harding had found her ready for the grade higher but that she had chosen to stay with Phyllis.
Sally almost hugged her as she took her place beside her, and under cover of supplying her with books and showing her the lessons, she managed to talk until the bell rang. There was a ten-minute recess before lessons began. The girls made the most of it and crowded around Janet's desk.
"Oh, Aunt Jane's poll parrot, was there ever such luck?" Sally demanded. "I think I hypnotized Miss Harding, I really do. I thought so hard about your sitting beside me that she simply had to let you."
"Did you want me to sit beside you?" Janet asked with genuine surprise.
"But of course I did,"—Sally was equally surprised.
"It was rank favoritism," laughed Eleanor. "I thought too, good and hard. Why I even pointed to the forlorn and empty chair beside me and it didn't do a bit of good."
"Introduce us, introduce us," several voices demanded, and Phyllis was kept busy. Even the seniors came and laughed and envied. It was quite a reception.
"What a lucky girl you are," one of them, a tall girl with copper-colored hair named Madge Cannan, exclaimed, "I've wanted a twin all my life and I never found one."
"Poor Madge, I'll be your twin," some one offered.
"Can't do it," Phyllis laughed. "There's only one twin in the world and I've got her."
"I'm sorry,"—Janet looked at the older girl and spoke quite seriously. "It would be very nice to have two yous."
Madge flushed, and the girls laughed.
"Of all the precious things to say," she exclaimed. "Phyllis, I can't speak for the rest, but as far as I am concerned your nose is completely out of joint."
Just then the bell rang, and the day's lessons began.
The next recess was at eleven-thirty, when hot chocolate and crackers were served. School did not let out until one-thirty, and Miss Harding thought the girls needed something to eat before that time.
"Now, Sally, leave Phyllis's twin alone," Rosamond insisted, as she handed Janet her cup and prepared to sit down beside her. "You've had her all day long and now it's some one else's turn."
Janet looked from one girl to the other in mystified amazement. She had never been made a fuss over except by Phyllis in all her life and she couldn't understand it. For one terrible moment she thought they were making fun of her, but a glance at their smiling faces reassured her on that point but came no nearer helping her solve their reason.
"Thank you," she said quietly. It was fortunate that the girls did not expect her to do much talking and were content with her shy answers. Perhaps the interest in her brown eyes made up for her lack in that direction.
"Do you play basket ball?" Eleanor was asking.
"No." Janet shook her head.
"Well, then I'll teach you. We play this year, and you simply must love it."
"Do you like to swim?" Rosamond demanded, and again Janet shook her head.
What must these girls think of her! Why, she couldn't do anything.
"Skate?" some one else asked.
"No, I don't." Janet looked imploringly at Phyllis, but for once she was looking at some one else. Only Sally noticed the look and she gave no sign—then—
"What can you do?" It was Muriel who spoke and in spite of the angry eyes that were turned toward her she managed to smile, but it wasn't a pretty smile.
For a minute Janet's face flamed to a deep red, then as suddenly her cheeks grew very white. There was a pathetic silence. She knew that it would end soon, but before it ended she must answer or Phyllis would be ashamed of her.
"I'm afraid I can't play any games," she said slowly; "you see, I never went with girls and I never went to school."
"Did you go with boys then?" Muriel still smiled. She felt quite sure that the answer would be "no."
"Why, yes, I did," Janet confessed, "and, you see, they liked to play ball and to go sailing or canoeing,"—she thought of Peter Gibbs, and the thought of him made the color come back to her cheeks—natural color this time.
"We coasted a lot in the winter and then of course there was always fishing," she finished lamely. How could she explain the hundred and one things that went to make up her days in Old Chester?
"Oh, well, I suppose you will find it very strange here." It was a chastened Muriel that spoke.
"Now, my Aunt Jane's poll parrot, I ask you, why under the sun should she?" Sally broke the silence that followed angrily.
Eleanor laughed at Janet.
"Have you been properly introduced to Sally's Aunt Jane's poll parrot?" she asked to change the subject.
"He's a very wise bird, and we all consult him when our own reason fails,"—Rosamond took up the explanation.
"Sally consults him oftener than any of the rest of us, because you see, Sally's reason fails her oftener. Excuse my breaking into the conversation, but no one has had the manners to introduce me. My name is Daphne Hillis, but no one ever calls me anything but Taffy on account of my hair." It was a long speech, but the speaker took twice as long as was necessary to say it; her slow drawl held a hint of laughter, and her voice sounded warm and furry.
Janet looked at her and laughed without meaning to.
"How do you do," she said. "I'm awfully glad to know about the poll parrot," she added with a smile.
Phyllis, who had been talking, very much against her will, to one of the teachers, joined them and nodded to Taffy. Janet noticed that she looked surprised and pleased.
Daphne smiled lazily.
"I like your twin, Phyllis," she drawled and then left them.
"Now isn't that just like Taffy?" Sally demanded.
"Not a bit," Eleanor protested. "Taffy likes very few people."
"Well, you know what I mean," Sally insisted. "It's like her to say a thing like that and then leave."
It was not until Janet and Phyllis were alone in the living-room that Phyllis explained.
"Daphne Hillis is the most popular girl in school," she said, "but I think she has fewer friends than any other girl, and that's what makes it strange."
"But if she's so popular?" Janet queried.
"Oh, she could have dozens of friends, but she doesn't seem to want them. She's queer and different somehow; none of us understand her, but we all love her."
Janet looked out of the window and smiled softly to herself. If being different from other girls meant being like Daphne, why, being different was not so bad after all.
She didn't even bother to turn her head when Phyllis exclaimed angrily,
"I think I hate Muriel Grey."
TOM'S LAST DAY
"Tommy, I call it just plain mean, for you to go away." Phyllis was perched on the arm of her brother's chair, and she gave him a little shake to emphasize her words.
Tom, by a deft twist of a wrist and a long reach with his other arm, laid her very gently on the floor at his feet and held her so that she could not move.
"Mustn't call your big brother names," he chided. "See what happens to little girls when they do?"
"Oh, Tommy, let me up, you wretch!" Phyllis struggled, but she was quite powerless.
"Janet, come and help me," she called. "Tom is killing me."
"What good do you think Janet can do?" Tom inquired calmly, as Janet could be heard running down the stairs.
"I don't know," Phyllis confessed, "but she will do something. Oh, Janet, save me! Look what Tommy is doing to me."
Janet stood in the doorway and laughed, then she made a dive for her brother, but instead of trying to use strength she tickled him.
"Here, stop; that's no fair," he protested, but Janet only renewed her efforts, and Phyllis, taking advantage of his helplessness, jumped up. After that it was only a matter of seconds before Tommy was on the sofa completely muffled by cushions.
"Pax, pax, I'll be good," he panted. "What do you want me to do?"
"Say you are never going home," Phyllis commanded.
"I'm never going home," Tom repeated meekly.
They let him up, and he tried to smooth his hair and straighten his tie.
"Thank goodness that's settled!" Phyllis exclaimed. "And now what do you propose doing to amuse us?"
"It's Saturday, you know," Janet reminded him.
"Auntie Mogs, I appeal to you," Tom said, as Miss Carter entered the room. "Is this fair? These two Comanche Indians hold me helpless on the sofa, extract a promise that I will never go home, and now they want me to amuse them besides."
"All day," Phyllis said.
"All day long," echoed Janet.
Miss Carter laughed. "I'm afraid I can't help you out, Tom; you brought it upon yourself, but of course you know that a promise made in self-defense is not binding."
"Isn't it, though?" Phyllis demanded, and Janet started to tickle again.
"Say it is binding," she commanded.
"Oh, anything, anything, only stop!" Tom begged. "I am at your mercy, what do you want me to do?"
"Well, we might take a walk in the park this morning," Phyllis suggested. "Janet hasn't seen my pet lion yet, and I'm crazy to show him to her."
"And we have to go to the station this afternoon to meet Boru," Janet added happily. Miss Carter, true to her promise, had written to Mrs. Page, with the result that Janet's dog was expected that day.
"And after that—" Phyllis cupped her chin in her hand and appeared to give the matter serious consideration.
"Don't you think after that you might rest awhile?" Auntie Mogs inquired.
"Saturday comes but once a year; I mean, week," Phyllis chanted, "and it's foolish to rest."
"I have an idea," Tom said suddenly; "if you promise not to tickle me in the station when I go to buy my ticket and behave yourselves generally, I will give you a surprise party. No, I won't tell you what it's to be, that's my affair, but I promise it will be something nice."
"Something to do?" Phyllis inquired.
"Will you promise?"
"Shall we?" Phyllis looked at Janet.
"Yes, let's, I love surprises," Janet agreed.
"We promise," they said together.
"Well, then, go get your things on, and we will go over and interview this lion friend of Phyllis's." Tom sighed his relief when the girls had gone.
"We'll miss you, Tom," Miss Carter said gently; "must you really go to-morrow?"
"Indeed, I must. I should have gone weeks ago," Tom replied, "but I couldn't leave those two youngsters. Tell you what it is, Auntie Mogs, it isn't every man that finds two such sisters. I wish you were all going back with me," he added wistfully.
"Dear Tom, the summer isn't very far away." Miss Carter patted his shoulder affectionately.
"Then you'll really come?"
"Of course we will. The girls are making plans already. The only thing that worries me is that Mrs. Page may want Janet with her this summer."
"Oh, I fixed all that," Tom assured her. "Grandmother knows you are coming to me, but I think she expects you all at Old Chester for Christmas."
"Oh, that would be delightful," Miss Carter said warmly. "A change would do the girls so much good. It's just the time when school gets a little monotonous and then, too, if Janet has a visit to look forward to it may keep her from growing homesick."
"Homesick! Why you haven't seen any symptoms of that, have you?" Tom demanded, sitting up straight and looking at his aunt.
Miss Carter laughed at his concern.
"Nothing very alarming," she said, "but I don't think she quite understands school yet. She doesn't seem to want to talk about it, for one thing."
"But Phyllis says the girls all like her?"
"I am sure they do, but perhaps she doesn't realize it quite yet. Girls are very strange sometimes, Tom, but I can see Phyllis is worried."
Tom had only time to nod, for the girls came back with their hats and coats on and the subject had to be dropped.
"It's a glorious day," Phyllis enthused as they entered the park and headed toward the zoo. "I wonder if Akbar will remember me."
"Oh, undoubtedly," Tom teased. "Lions are noted for their wonderful memories."
"Have you known him long?" Janet inquired mischievously.
"I have. Akbar and I have been friends for over two years, and you can laugh if you want to but he does know me," Phyllis retorted.
And indeed it almost seemed as though he did. They entered the lion house to find a number of people around the cage, for Akbar was a mighty beast, and people were apt to linger, fascinated, before him.
This morning he was lying with his huge paws over his nose, the picture of disgust.
"Oh, my beauty, isn't he a love?" Phyllis demanded, forgetting that her voice carried far in its eagerness.
The people around the cage laughed and turned to look at her, but only Tom and Janet felt embarrassed. Phyllis was gazing at Akbar.
"Come over here and talk to me," she urged. "I want you to stand up and roar."
Akbar opened one sleepy eye and then the other, lifted his splendid head and finally after a little more coaxing stood up and stretched.
"You see he does remember me," Phyllis said triumphantly. "I knew he would."
Tom and Janet looked at each other and winked solemnly.
Phyllis refused to leave until, with the aid of the keeper, who seemed to be an old friend of hers, she had made Akbar roar for a large piece of meat.
"That's the way he says please, bless his darling heart," she explained, and the keeper nodded assent.
"The little lady has a great way with him, sir," he said to Tom. "It do seem as though he knows her, for he'll get up and come to the front of his cage when he won't for another living soul, but I do be always saying that lions be rare intelligent beasts."
"My sentiments exactly," Tom agreed affably, but he hurried the girls out into the sunshine.
"I didn't want him to tell me that Phyllis ought to have been brought up as a lion tamer,"—he laughed—"and I could see that he was going to with the slightest encouragement."
Phyllis was silent most of the way home, Akbar always filled her with odd hopes, too vague to be put into words but strong enough to make her restless. He had the same effect on her that some of the statues in the museum had.
After luncheon they went down to meet the train that carried at least one very excited passenger. All the way from Old Chester Boru had done his doggish best to tell all the brakemen in the train that he was going to his mistress at last.
He very nearly ate Janet up when he spied her down the length of the baggage platform. As for Janet, she sat down on the floor and hugged him until Tom bribed her to get up by offering to buy Boru some ice cream.
It was a merry party that came back to Auntie Mogs's in a taxicab and Boru, in his excitement, insisted upon licking even the chauffeur's ear.
Janet sat with him in her lap for the rest of the happy afternoon.
Tom's surprise party was a great success. At a little after six, he told the girls to be ready to go out, and Auntie Mogs suggested that they wear their prettiest frocks.
"Of course you can do as you like," she said with a twinkle in her eye, "but I am going to wear my black lace."
"Auntie Mogs, you know what the surprise is," Phyllis accused. "Tell us, please do."
But Auntie Mogs went off to her own room, singing softly to herself.
The girls dressed as quickly as they could, and discussed the possibilities.
"I think we are going to dinner at one of those huge hotels," Janet said. "I know it will be thrilling."
"Yes, I think that's part of it too," Phyllis agreed.
"Only part?" Janet inquired.
"Hum, well, maybe that will be all." Phyllis did not wish to voice the thought that was making her smile.
"And quite enough too," Janet replied.
But dinner at a hotel was not all. A theater followed, and Janet, who had never seen a play before, was so excited and thrilled that people around her who had come expecting to be bored went home chuckling over the memory of her shining eyes.
They reached home tired and sleepy but very happy.
"It would have been a perfect day if I hadn't kept thinking that Tommy was going away to-morrow," Phyllis sighed and yawned. "Why do we always have to have some little thing to spoil perfect fun, I wonder."
"There is a reason," Janet answered dreamily. "It has something to do with roses and thorns, but I'm too sleepy to remember, only I do wish, Tommy, you wouldn't go."
"To bed with you," Tom laughed, as he kissed them both, "and happy dreams."
They were asleep in a very short time, but curiously enough they did not dream of dancing and music as they had expected, for Phyllis dreamed of Akbar and Janet of Boru.
Tom left for the West the next day, and Janet and Phyllis returned from the station with Auntie Mogs. They were very quiet for the rest of the evening, for they were busy with their own thoughts.
Janet faced another week of school and she dreaded it. If she could only stay at home with Phyllis and Auntie Mogs and Boru, instead of having to face all those girls again. She had tried at first to find her place among them, but the old dread of being "different" made her shy and self-conscious; even with Daphne before her as an example of the charms of originality she had failed, failed utterly.
It was partly the girls' fault. They had made a tremendous fuss about her the first few days and then, as the novelty had worn off, they had settled back into their own ways, and Janet had not understood the change. Her shyness made her morbid, and by the end of the first week she had made up her mind that she had failed in some way, and she construed the girls' thoughtless indifference to mean dislike.
It is no wonder that she dreaded the thought of returning; it meant hard work to keep a stiff upper lip and to smile in spite of her heartache. Only one thought was clear, and that was that Phyllis must not know.
But Phyllis did know. There was something wrong, she felt sure, but she could not understand what it was. She had been delighted with the way her friends had welcomed her twin, but when Janet had seemed to refuse their offers of friendship she could only conclude that she did not like them. But Phyllis would not accept any such explanation meekly. Janet was not happy, therefore something must be done, and she decided to talk the matter over with Sally.
She chose the noon recess, when Janet remained in the study hall to finish a composition she was writing.
Sally listened gravely.
"What shall I do about it?" Phyllis finished dolefully.
"Well, something," Sally replied decidedly. "I don't know just what, but something's wrong, and we will have to ferret it out. She's strange, of course, and she doesn't understand us very well. I've seen her look at me as if she thought I were crazy sometimes. She acts as though she didn't like us, but I think she does really. Time's the thing, of course, but it won't do to wait until the girls begin to resent her standoffishness."
"Oh, Sally, don't," pleaded Phyllis. "Hello, Taffy," she added, as Daphne passed slowly behind her chair.
"'Lo," Daphne drawled.
In another part of the room another group of girls were discussing Janet.
"She's really not a bit like Phyllis," Eleanor said with a frown. "I can't make her out."
"Neither can any one else," replied Rosamond. "She's queer."
"I've never been able to get anything but yes or no out of her," another girl complained. "I call her just plain slow."
"She's always fearfully polite," some one else objected. "I never heard her use a single slang word."
"Oh, well, Sally will cure her of that,"—Rosamond laughed.
Eleanor sighed. It was so easy to be goodnatured that she couldn't understand anybody taking the trouble to sulk.
"We must be nice to her anyway," she said decidedly. "She's Phyllis's twin, and she's in our class."
"Suppose so," the others agreed, as the bell rang.
When Sally and Phyllis returned to the study hall, Janet was still at her desk. She looked up and smiled as Phyllis spoke to her, but she went on with her work.
Sally watched her critically and sighed. She was awfully sorry for her but she was angry too. She wanted to shake her, to make her laugh or cry or do something besides just sitting there with that forced smile and her brown eyes ready to flood with tears any minute.
"I wish she would bawl and have it over with," she thought to herself.
Janet lifted the lid of her desk to put away her papers, and Sally lifted hers at the same time and bent her head so that she could speak without being seen from the desk.
"Phyllis is coming over to my house this afternoon," she whispered; "will you come too?"
"Oh, thanks, I'd like to," Janet replied eagerly.
Sally sighed with relief. So far so good. Once in her own home, with a box of candy between them, they could surely straighten everything out.
As for Janet, she had hardly accepted the invitation before she regretted it. Sally only wanted her because she knew Phyllis would not come without her, or so she argued.
"I won't be a bother to them," she declared vehemently. "I won't."
So when Sally and Phyllis hurried to the study hall after being detained by Miss Baxter at the close of school, Janet was nowhere to be found.
"But she said she'd come," Sally exclaimed angrily. "Oh, she's left a note on my desk, listen—
"Dear Sally—" (she read)
"I am sorry that I won't be able to come to your house with Phyllis this afternoon, but I have just remembered something that I must hurry home to do.
"Thank you very much for bothering to ask me.
"My Aunt Jane's poll parrot!" was all poor Sally could say.
"But she didn't have anything to do at home," Phyllis protested. "Oh, Sally, what is the matter with her, and what shall I do?"
"You'll come home with me first of all," Sally replied with determination; "then later in the afternoon we will go over to your house, as though nothing had happened, and perhaps we can persuade her to come out for a walk."
"All right, if you think that's best,"—Phyllis agreed to the plan, dismally. "But I warn you I won't be very good fun."
"If she would only come to her senses," Sally exclaimed.
In the meantime, Janet had hurried away from school. She did not want Phyllis to see her for, with that lump in her throat, she knew an explanation would mean tears, and Janet hated tears.
Her steps lagged before she had gone very far, and she walked on slowly, deep in an unhappy revery, too miserable to notice the quick footsteps that were rapidly gaining on her.
"Hello, Phyllis's twin!" The soft, half-laughing drawl was unmistakable, and Janet turned quickly, to see Daphne beside her.
"Hello," she answered slowly. No need to force a smile for her; she wouldn't be deceived by it.
Daphne did not appear to notice anything amiss. She looked lazily down at the wet and muddy sidewalks and shrugged her shoulders.
"Park's better than this," she suggested. "Let's cut over to it."
They walked in silence until they gained the path that ran around the reservoir.
"Looks wintry, doesn't it?" she asked idly. They stopped and looked over the iron railing into the dull green water.
It was a somber autumn day. The sky was banked with dark gray clouds, and a high wind swept through the trees, tearing away the last leaves and whirling them to the ground.
"I suppose so," Janet replied indifferently. "I like it," she added listlessly.
"Of course, but it's silly of you," Daphne agreed with her odd little laugh. "Awfully silly."
"What do you mean?" Janet looked up at her suddenly.
"It's silly to like dreary things, even days, and it's most awfully silly to be dreary yourself. Not fair, you know, when every body's doing their best to be nice."
"But they're not," Janet said quickly. "They were the first day and then—"
Daphne turned slowly and looked at her. For once her drooping lids fully uncovered the sea green eyes that they were usually at such pains to hide. A strand of her taffy-colored hair blew across her face, and she tucked it carefully under her hat before she answered.
"So that's it, is it?" There was a hint of something besides laughter in her velvety voice. "I didn't understand; what happened?"
"I don't know," Janet answered dully; "perhaps I did something they didn't like or perhaps they just stopped bothering with me; I don't know."
"But I know,"—Daphne laughed. "You expected too much. When the girls stopped making a fuss about you, you thought they stopped liking you, so here you are going off in corners and looking sadder than a wet chicken, and you think you are doing the best you can, eh?"
"Go on," Janet said quietly.
"Ever have a pet rabbit?" Daphne inquired with mild interest.
"Yes, but what—" Janet stammered.
"Remember the first day you had him, the fuss you made about him and then how you got sort of tired of him?"
"Why, yes, I suppose—"
Daphne laughed and yawned, showing all her pretty white teeth.
"Little simpleton, you're the rabbit," she said. "The girls still like you, but they're used to you and they rather expect you to do something now. It's your turn to do tricks, like the bunny."
"And I—" Janet began.
"Oh, you sit in the corner and sulk and say, 'Yes, thank you,' and 'no, thank you,' and the girls are discouraged. Can't blame them, you know. You're Phyllis's sister, and they have a right to expect more from you." She said it all in her soft furry voice, and it was impossible to resent it. Janet watched her fasten her coat collar up closer about her neck, but she could not speak.
Daphne apparently did not expect her to.
"It's your turn now," she repeated and without another word turned and walked away.
Janet did not follow her except with her eyes. She seemed rivetted to the spot on which she stood. When Daphne was out of sight she turned once more to the reservoir, but this time she saw more than the clouds reflected in the dull water. She saw her own mistake.
A CHANGE IN JANET
"Hello, you two, where are you bound for?" Eleanor joined Sally and Phyllis as they were on their way to Sally's house and took them each by an arm.
"Home," Sally replied, "home to muse with wonder and sorrow over the sickening cruelty of Ducky Lucky."
"I know," Eleanor nodded sympathetically; "isn't to-morrow's math. simply terrible. I'm not going to try to do it."
"Well, I am," Sally announced emphatically. "Catch me staying in for an hour and listening to a long and weary lecture on my many sins; no thanks. If the worse comes to the worst, I will make Daddy do it for me."
"Where's Rosey-posey?" inquired Phyllis. "You're not going to walk all the way home to your house, are you?" Eleanor lived across the city on Riverside Drive.
"Walk, well, I guess not, but I had to make a start to get Rosey away from the piano. She's playing while Madge teaches some of the other seniors how to dance the latest step. I wish she'd hurry, I hate loosing my special bus." She glanced behind her and then stopped. "Here she comes now."
Rosamond joined them. She was out of breath but she was laughing.
"Oh, my hat!" she exclaimed. "Muriel will kill me yet. I met her in the cloakroom and we went out together. I thought she looked worried, but I didn't catch on until she began making excuses to get rid of me, then I looked ahead and down the street, busily tying his shoe, HE was waiting."
"Well, I hope you had the manners to leave at once?"—Eleanor laughed. "Or did you wait and make her miserable!"
Rosamond winked one eye mischievously.
"I behaved with perfect decorum," she replied. "I said I really must run for my bus as the conductor was a cousin of my sister-in-law's aunt and he let me ride for nothing. I said it loud too, so that He could hear, and Muriel was wild."
"Oh, Rosey, how could you, you wretch; poor Muriel!" Phyllis tried not to laugh, but gave up and joined the rest.
Rosamond turned them down one of the side streets abruptly.
"Where are you going?" Eleanor demanded. "I want to go home; I'm hungry."
"Now don't be absurd," Rosamond admonished. "You can eat any old time, but it isn't often that you can see what I am going to show you."
"Oh, now what are you up to?" Eleanor protested, but Rosamond only pointed to the corner of the next avenue and told them to watch.
"Aunt Jane's poll parrot, Muriel!" Sally was the first to see that the girl and boy approaching them was their classmate and her friend. They would soon meet.
"I'll giggle, I know I will," Eleanor warned them. "Rosey, it's all your fault. Let's turn around."
"Never," Rosamond protested. "Just walk like little ladies and bow politely when they pass," she said with a ridiculous primness that was exactly like the art teacher at school.
They walked; there was nothing else to do; and Muriel and the boy beside her came toward them, deep in conversation. It was noticeable that Muriel was doing most of the talking.
When they were even with them, Rosamond bowed formally and in a high and very affected voice she exclaimed,
"Why, Muriel, how do you do?"'
Sally called a careless hello, and Eleanor, too full of laughter to dare speech, only nodded. It was Phyllis that gave a little gasp of astonishment that was repeated in turn by the boy. He recovered himself and pulled off his cap in response to her quick smile.
They were hardly out of earshot before the girls turned to her.
"Phyllis Page, you've known him all the time, you wretch," Rosamond accused.
"I have not," Phyllis denied. "I was never so surprised in my life."
"What's his name?" Sally demanded, but Phyllis shook her head.
"I don't know," she protested, "honestly I don't. I have only seen him once before and then I wasn't really introduced, his first name, or rather his nickname, is Chuck, and that's all I know, except,"—she added provokingly, "that he doesn't believe in brownies." And that was all she would say on the subject, though the girls did their best to make her explain.
"Well, we have to go or Eleanor will faint from hunger," Rosamond said regretfully as they reached the avenue again and waited for the bus. "But I'll find out some more about this, if I have to ask Muriel," she added laughingly.
Sally and Phyllis hurried home. Now that the girls had left them, they forgot everything but Janet and their plans. They were late in reaching Sally's home, but they found a dainty luncheon waiting for them and Sally's mother was delighted to see Phyllis.
"But where's the twin?" she demanded. "I do want to see her so much. Sally says she is the very image of you and a darling too."
Phyllis looked uncomfortable and tried to smile. It was Sally who explained.
"She was coming, but at the last minute she had to go home. Phyl and I are going over for her a little later and, darling mother of mine, we will bring her over here to call on you if you promise us hot cinnamon toast and cake to go with tea."
Mrs. Ladd laughed and pinched Sally's cheek. She was a tall and strikingly handsome woman with flashing black eyes and the jolliest laugh in the world. All Sally's friends loved her almost as much as they loved Sally, and she was always in demand with Auntie Mogs to act as chaperone to the various skating and theater parties.
"You are getting very grown up," she answered now, her eyes twinkling. "Last year it was hot chocolate you wanted and the year before that ice cream and now it's tea."
"And we really hate it," Phyllis laughed. "We'd lots rather have chocolate."
"Oh, well, give us chocolate then," Sally exclaimed. "Only be sure there's plenty of toast."
"For Phyllis's twin, I suppose," Mrs. Ladd laughed. "Very well, I'll remember," she promised, as she left them to go out.
The girls ate hurriedly and then talked up in Sally's room until they thought it was time to go back.
"What shall we do if she won't come?" Sally said seriously.
"Oh, there's no fear of that," Phyllis replied hastily. "She'll come if we are there to make her and she will love your mother, I know she will. I do hope she hasn't gone out anywhere with Auntie Mogs."
"Let's hurry," Sally said, the idea making her feel the need for immediate action. "If she's out we can wait for her."
But Janet was not out. She was sitting in the library window-seat with Boru in her lap. She saw the girls coming up the street and she knocked on the window to them and waved.
"I hoped you'd bring Sally back with you," she called as they ran up the steps. "Auntie Mogs is out and Boru is too sleepy to be very good company. I almost went over to get Sir Galahad, but I thought they might know I wasn't you and refuse to give him to me."
Sally had never heard Janet say so much at one time, and she looked at her with a new interest. Perhaps she was going to be human after all and without their aid. She devoutly hoped so.
"We came back especially to get you," she replied as she patted Boru. "Mother wants you to come to tea with her and incidentally us."
"Oh, that will be bully," Janet said, and Phyllis had hard work to believe her ears.
"What are you reading?" she inquired as a book dropped from Janet's lap.
Janet picked it up and laughed.
"Elsie Dinsmore," she answered, blushing a little. "I found it behind a shelf in the corner and I have been laughing myself sick over it."
"Laughing?" Phyllis was more surprised than ever. As she remembered the Elsie Books they were more calculated to make you weep than laugh.
"Yes, Elsie was always going off into corners to cry. I've just finished the part where her father made her play a hymn on Sunday and she had to be carried fainting to her room and I don't know just why but I began to think I was like Elsie and, well, I think I'm cured," she ended in confusion.
"Oh, Janet, of all the silly notions!" Phyllis exclaimed. "Since when have you been going off into corners to weep?"
"Or fainted at hearing music on Sunday?" added Sally.
"Well, I haven't exactly," Janet admitted, "but I have done a lot of silly sulking, but honestly I didn't realize how silly I was being."
"You never sulked in your whole entire life, Janet Page," Phyllis protested warmly. "I won't have you saying such a thing."
"Of course not," Sally agreed, no less warmly; "do chuck that silly old book out of the window and come out for a walk. Bring Boru, too; mother will adore him."
Janet went upstairs, still laughing, and Sally and Phyllis were left staring at each other.
"What has come over her?" Sally inquired.
"I don't know and I don't much care," Phyllis answered happily.
Janet was humming as she put on her berry cap and pulled it over at a rakish angle. She had spent a very profitable afternoon laughing at herself. At first the laughter had been a little too grim, but before long the grimness had disappeared and only a good-natured ridicule was left. It is good to be able to laugh at yourself once in a while, but Janet was glad that the time was over.
She had made up her mind not to tell them about Daphne, that was to be her secret.
"Snow!" Every girl looked up as Janet spoke, and a ripple of laughter ran around the room.
"Janet, did you say that?"—Miss Baxter looked over her thick lens glasses and focused her pale blue eyes on Phyllis's twin. An expectant silence fell over the room.
"Yes, Miss Baxter,"—Janet rose to answer.
Miss Baxter tapped the desk with her long and callous forefinger.
"Phyllis, I am quite aware that you are answering, and I might add that this is not the place to practice silly jokes."
A sudden, though quickly suppressed, snort came from behind Sally's desk, and even Muriel, sitting beside Phyllis, giggled.
"Janet, will you please stand up and speak for yourself?" Miss Baxter peered a little over the desk, and her face set in hard, uncompromising lines.
A month had passed since the last chapter, and Janet had found a very particular place in the school for herself. Once on the right road it had been only a matter of a few days before the girls accepted her, and only a matter of weeks before she was one of the leading members of her class. Her quiet humor and downright frankness made her a welcome addition to the school, as Sally had prophesied.
She and Phyllis had discovered how easy it was to pass for each other, and further to confuse people they began to dress alike. Miss Gwynne, the history teacher, had made a mistake in their identity in class one day and had laughed about it later to the rest of the teachers. Only Miss Baxter refused to find the story amusing. She had called it impertinence, and then and there made up her mind that the same trick should never be played on her.
This morning her near-sightedness had confused her, but she was certain that they were trying to trick her and she would have none of it.
"But I am Janet, and I am standing up." Janet had caught some of Daphne's drawl and used it when she remembered to.
Miss Baxter smiled coldly but triumphantly.
"Very well, if you persist in being childish, then I will ask Phyllis to stand also."
Phyllis rose, and the girls waited breathlessly.
"Come to my desk, please," Miss Baxter continued.
They obeyed her, Phyllis slipping her watch with its tell-tale initials into her pocket as she walked beside Janet to the front of the room and up to the desk that was raised on a small platform.
Miss Baxter surveyed them with grim determination as she might have a knotty problem in mathematics. She would not give heed to the small voice within her that counseled care. Miss Baxter never gave heed to anything but her own faultless judgment.
"You," she said, pointing to Phyllis, "are Janet and you,"—she frowned at Janet—"you are Phyllis."
The twins did not reply. They stood before her in respectful silence.
"Now, Janet,"—not being contradicted, Miss Baxter continued with even more certainty—"you, I believe, spoke." She looked at Phyllis.
"I was the one that spoke," Janet said quietly. "I said 'snow.' It is snowing, you know."
"We are not discussing the weather." Miss Baxter tried to silence the room with the weight of her scorn but she failed.
"Very well then, Phyllis, you may report to me after school." She prided herself that the interview had been most successful.
"Where, Miss Baxter?" Phyllis inquired.
Miss Baxter gasped.
"Janet, is it necessary for you to interrupt?"
"I wasn't interrupting," Janet protested.
Miss Baxter looked from one to the other of them and realized very slowly and very painfully that she had made a mistake.
"Go back to your seats," she said scornfully. "The matter is too trivial to discuss."
The twins did not smile; they merely walked backed to their seats and went on studying.
The bell rang not many minutes later.
"My Aunt Jane's poll parrot, was there ever such a scream. My sides ache." Sally hugged Janet in the excess of her delight.
"Look out for rocks ahead," Eleanor warned. "Old Ducky Lucky doesn't like to be laughed at."
"Bless you," Phyllis protested; "we didn't laugh at her, did we, Jan?"
"Certainly not. I'd never do anything so disrespectful," Janet replied. "We merely answered when we were spoken to."
"While Ducky Lucky thought you were answering for each other,"—Sally chuckled. "Oh, why didn't somebody give me a twin. I never realized the thrilling possibilities until now."
"I wish you'd put on your watch again, Phyl," Rosamond said. "I feel so foolish when I look at you sometimes. You're not really alike but I never can remember which is which."
Phyllis slipped her watch on, and all the girls sighed with relief.
Daphne joined the group.
"I offer my congratulations," she drawled. "Sort of a dual role you were playing. Old Ducky Lucky was more ducky lucky-ish than ever. I could hear her even from where I sit."
"Just why do you call her Ducky Lucky?" Janet inquired. "I've always wondered."
The girls turned to Sally.
"It's a long time ago," she began, "since I christened her, but it had something to do with the way she said, 'Tut, tut'; her teeth, you know, aren't always tight and the effect sounded just like ducky lucky, and so I called her that. It's years ago, and of course they fit better now, but the name still sticks."
"Oh, Sally,"—Janet was convulsed—"she did make a noise just like that to-day, only I didn't realize."
"But I did,"—Phyllis laughed—"and it was all I could do to keep from giggling."
"Thank goodness math. is the last period; perhaps she'll have time to forget," Janet said just as the bell rang.
"Don't count on it," Rosamond called over her shoulder as she went back to her desk. "Ducky Lucky never forgets."
But mathematics class was uneventful. Miss Baxter ignored the twins, much to their delight, for they did not have to answer a single question.
"Sally, you're coming home with us this afternoon, aren't you?" Janet called as the bell rang.
"Yes; can you wait a half a shake?" Sally replied. "I have to take a paper over to Miss Simmons, but I'll meet you on the steps."
"Snow!"—Phyllis laughed as she and Janet waited for her a few minutes later—"what a lot you were responsible for to-day. Jan, whatever possessed you to say that out loud?"
Janet shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know; I suppose I was just thinking out loud. I was awfully thrilled when I saw it anyway."
"Well, I may be your twin," Phyllis mused, "but I don't pretend to understand you. We did have fun with Ducky Lucky, though, didn't we?"
"Yes, but she could have gotten beautifully even with us if she had wanted to,"—Janet laughed.
"How?" Phyllis inquired, but Sally's appearance cut short the conversation before Janet had a chance to explain.
They walked home through the park, and Phyllis insisted upon going in to see Akbar. As they entered the lion house, a small body thrust itself upon her and shouted gleefully:
"I've found you at last! I knew I would. Where have you been all this awful long time? I've looked for you every single day."
It was Donald, and Phyllis was delighted to see him. She introduced him to Sally and Janet, and then waited to hear what he would say.
Donald looked at her twin and then at her.
"Vers two of you," he said gravely.
"Oh, you darling!" Phyllis exclaimed. "Don't look so disturbed. We're only twins."
Donald did not reply, he was busy looking at them again.
"Do you think you could tell us apart?" Janet inquired.
He nodded solemnly.
"I fink I could," he replied, "because, you see, her eyes are like ve brownie's—all soft and queer"—he smiled engagingly at Phyllis—"but yours"—he turned to Janet—"have all kinds of funny little gold fings that make vem all shiny. But I couldn't tell you apart if you shut your eyes, I don't fink."
"Oh, Donald, you're a great boy!" Phyllis laughed.
"I think he's wonderful," Sally exclaimed, "and the most amazing part of it is, he's right, Janet has little golden flecks in the brown part of her eye and you haven't. What a way to tell you apart, but I promise not to tell."
"Well, not Ducky Lucky anyway," laughed Janet.
Donald's nurse came to look for him, and bore him off in spite of his protests.
Phyllis described her last meeting with him and confessed to Sally that it had been at his house that she had met Muriel's Chuck.
"Oh, by the way," Sally suddenly remembered, "Muriel is going to give a party. Quite an affair, I understand, and we are all going to be invited. I suppose that Mr. Chuck will be there and a lot of other boys; have you heard anything about it?"
Phyllis nodded; she and Muriel had forgotten their quarrel and were seemingly on good terms again, although Sally had taken the place in Phyllis's heart that Muriel had occupied the year before. With Janet, they made up what the rest of the girls called the jolly trio. Daphne occasionally joined them, much to Janet's delight, and many were the afternoons that they had spent together in the snuggery, a room that the twins had fitted up to suit their particular tastes at the top of the house.
They were on their way up to it to-day when Miss Carter heard them and came out of the drawing-room.
"Late for luncheon," she chided. "You will all be very ill if you are not careful. Were you kept in?" she questioned, laughing.
"No, Auntie Mogs. Phyl just decided she had to see Akbar," Janet explained.
"Well, I don't think that was very nice to you, Sally dear," Miss Carter protested. "Do hurry and eat your luncheon. I told Annie to keep it hot for you, and, oh, by the way, there are some letters for you on the hall table." She returned to the drawing-room where she was listening to the head of a new charity who was trying to secure her promise of support.
Janet dashed to the table and came back with the letters.
"Both alike and they're from town," she said as she opened hers.
"Muriel's invitations!" Phyllis exclaimed. "And, oh, Sally, do listen—it's to be a masquerade."
"What luck, oh, oh, why haven't I got a twin!" Sally wailed.
The discussion of costumes occupied the rest of the afternoon, and they must have reached a happy conclusion for Sally went home singing, and every time Phyllis and Janet looked at each other that evening they burst out laughing.
THE SCREENED WINDOW
The telephone rang insistently, and Phyllis, stretched at ease on the sofa in the snuggery, looked appealingly at Janet.
"Darling twin of my heart, if you love me go and answer that. I'm so comfy," she pleaded.
Janet got up slowly from her big chair and looked reproachfully at her sister.
"Lazy, you're not a bit more comfy than I am, but I will go just to prove that I have the sweeter disposition."
"Bless you, I never doubted it," Phyllis called after her as she ran down the steps. Then she snuggled deeper into the cushions that were piled high about her, selected a large chocolate from the box beside her and closed her eyes.
It was the day before Muriel's party, and it was snowing hard. The girls had returned wet and cold from school and decided upon spending the rest of the day indoors. Janet, as usual, had found a book to read, but Phyllis, after playing with Galahad and Boru, had insisted upon interrupting, until in sheer desperation she had given it up and they had discussed the coming masquerade.
"It was Sally," Janet announced, returning from the 'phone.
"And what did she want?" Phyllis inquired. "You know, Jan, we were awfully silly not to bring Sally home with us."
"I won't tell you what she said unless you get up and hand me those chocolates," Janet replied as she settled herself once more in the big tufted chair.
Phyllis looked at the box of candy and then at the distance between it and Janet. It was too far to reach.
"Oh, Jan, I'm so tired," she protested.
"All right." Janet opened her book and began to read.
"Was it anything important?" Phyllis inquired, with pretended indifference.
"Fearfully,"—Janet did not look up from her book as she replied.
Phyllis appeared to consider the matter.
"Tell me what kind you want and I'll throw it to you," she offered by way of compromise.
Janet only went on reading.
"Oh, well, if I must, I must!" Curiosity won, and Phyllis got up slowly, the candy box in her hand. "Only never again allude to dispositions," she finished as she gave it to Janet.
"Thank you, dear," Janet said sweetly as she rooted in the bottom of the box for a nut.
"Well?" Phyllis demanded, "what did Sally want?"
Janet finished her candy and selected another before she answered.
"Sally called up to tell me that our costumes would be ready to try on at four o'clock to-day and that she would call for us in Daphne's car."
"Oh, how nice Taffy can be when she wants to." Phyllis was now wide awake. "Did Sally say when the not-to-be-hurried Miss Pringle intended to finish our things?"
"To-morrow, not later than twelve o'clock."
"Do you think she really will have them done then?"
"I should hope so; she's had them for ages," Janet replied. "Now, Phil, do keep still and let me read in peace until the girls come, I have a corking story and I'm just in the middle of the most thrilling part."
"What is it?" Phyllis inquired.
"'The White Company,' by Conan Doyle," Janet replied.
"Oh, I've read that and it is a thriller. I won't bother you any more." She turned her attentions to the candy box, and then because she was now too wide awake to dream lazily on the lounge again she went over to the window and looked out.
The snow had stopped and a cold sun was struggling through a mass of heavy clouds. She gazed below her idly. A man was on the roof of the house across the yard. The roof covered an extension that was only one story high but ran out from the house almost to the end of the yard, and brought it quite near to the roof of the kitchen of Miss Carter's house.
Phyllis watched the man with lazy interest. He was the caretaker, she knew, for the family was down South. He seemed to be fitting a heavy wire screen into one of the smaller windows immediately above the extension.
"Now, I wonder what he's doing that for?" she said aloud to herself. "Looks as though they were fixing that room for a baby."
Miss Carter came in at this minute and put an end to her curiosity.
"Oh, Auntie Mogs, Sally just called up to say that she and Daphne would come by for us in Daphne's car, and we could all go to Miss Pringle's and try on our costumes!" she exclaimed.
"Why, how very nice of Daphne,"—Miss Carter smiled. "I was worrying about your having to go out on this miserable day."
Phyllis laughed and put her arm around her aunt.
"You see there are no two ways about it!" she cried. "We should have a car of our own and then you would never have to worry about our feet."
"Oh, Phyllis, you're a great one,"—her aunt laughed. "Well, I'm afraid I must keep on worrying for we certainly can't have a car."
"Glad of it." Janet, for all her apparent interest for her book, had been listening with one ear to the conversation.
"Why, Jan,"—Phyllis looked at her in amazement—"wouldn't you like a car?"
"No, I hate them; silly smelly things—give me a horse every time."
"Old fashioned," scoffed Phyllis. "I'll take a high-powered racer every time."
Miss Carter listened and smiled her amusement.
"And you will both have to take a street car,"—she laughed. "Poor abused children! Hurry along with you, and get ready or you will keep Daphne waiting."
"There they are now!" Phyllis exclaimed, as the front door bell pealed merrily. "That's Sally's ring; I know it."
Janet threw down her book, and they went to their rooms in search of hats.
A few minutes later they were all in the comfortable limousine, speeding along uptown.
"It was awfully nice of you to stop for us, Taffy," Phyllis said as soon as the greetings were over. "This is certainly a whole lot better than walking."
"Yes, isn't it!" Daphne agreed. "I was tickled when mother said I could have it. It isn't often that I can, you know."
Sally had been looking out of the window, and suddenly she leaned forward and knocked on the glass and waved.
"Look!" she exclaimed. "There's little Donald; isn't he the cutest youngster?"
Phyllis waved too, then she looked puzzled.
"Funny," she said under her breath.
"What is?" Janet demanded.
Daphne looked back at Donald through the window above her head.
"Isn't that Donald Keith?" she asked, and Phyllis nodded.
"It is Donald Francis MacFarlan Keith,"—she laughed, "or so he told me with much pardonable pride. He was most sympathetic when I had to confess to only two names."
"His father's a friend of my uncle's," Daphne explained. "It's little Don's cousin, Chuck Vincent, that Muriel walks home with every day. I've played tennis with him, and he's really rather fun for a boy," she drawled.
"For a boy?" laughed Janet. "I think boys are a whole lot more fun than girls."
"I don't," Daphne replied airily. "I think they are all very stuck up. Chuck is; you'll see that to-morrow night."
"Wonder if Miss Pringle will really have our things ready for us," Sally said. "She is always so uncertain. If she doesn't, I think I will die of disappointment."
"You tell her she has to, Daphne," Janet suggested. "You can always put on such airs, and they never fail to impress."
"Do my best." Daphne accepted Janet's compliment calmly; she knew it was true. Her drawl did seem to impress people, though she could never imagine why.
The car stopped before a dilapidated, brownstone house, and the girls got out and hurried up the worn steps. Miss Pringle herself let them in. She was a tall, angular woman, with wisps of untidy hair blowing about her face, and a mouth out of which she could always produce a pin at a moment's notice.
"Oh, young ladies," she said distractedly. "Why have you come?"
"We want to try on our dominoes," Sally said, rather taken aback.
"Dominoes? Oh, yes, yes, to be sure. Step this way."
She led them into a large room, filled with the smell of the kerosene stove and strewn with patterns and pieces of silks. It was a cluttered-up place.
"Here they are!" Phyllis exclaimed, going over to the table and picking up a dress. "Aren't they ducks?"
"Don't touch, please," Miss Pringle said nervously; "they're only pinned."
She picked up one of the costumes and beckoned to Sally.
"This is yours, Miss Ladd. Slip it over your head."
The others crowded around and admired.
"Oh, Sally, it's a love!" Phyllis enthused.
Miss Pringle shook her head and sighed.
"I can't understand why you are having them all alike," she complained. "Now, if you had only consulted me I could have designed such a pretty one for each of you; but, no, you must have your own way."
"But we want them alike for a special reason," Sally explained. "It's to be a regular masquerade, you know, and we thought that four costumes just alike would confuse people,"—she stopped, discouraged by the lack of Miss Pringle's attention.
The costume was a domino made of strips of colored silks with a big hood lined with pale yellow. Each stripe ended in a point, and a tiny bell hung from each one.
The girls tried them on, one at a time, and Miss Pringle pinned and basted and lengthened and shortened. She had made costumes all her life and no play at Miss Harding's seemed complete until she had been consulted.
"What are the other girls going to wear?" Daphne asked indifferently.
"Miss Grey will have a dear little shepherdess dress, and those two that are always together, I've mislaid their names in my mind—"
Sally laughed and Phyllis said quickly,
"Rosamond Dodd and Eleanor Schuyler."
"Yes, those are the ones. Well, they are going as Jack and Jill, and, oh, dearie me, I forgot. I know I've done my best for them all, and I must say they had more faith in my judgment than you young ladies had." An audible sniff ended the sentence.
"Oh, now, Miss Pringle," Sally protested, "we have unlimited faith in you. Didn't I prove it last year by letting you make a fairy out of me when I wanted to be a witch? This is a special joke we are having, that's why we want to be all alike."
"A very poor one, if you ask me,"—another sniff. "I can understand the Miss Pages, being as how they are twins, but—"
The girls were ready to leave, and Daphne interrupted her politely, but in her most approved drawl:
"We must all have our dominoes before noon, you know," she said. "As we are all going to dress at one house and go together, please be sure they are delivered on time."
"Certainly, Miss Hillis. I think I can be depended upon to keep my promises." Miss Pringle spoke huffily, but Daphne only smiled her slowest smile and nodded graciously as they went down the steps.
Phyllis hesitated before she entered the waiting car. A man whom she recognized as the caretaker of the house just back of theirs ran up the steps and disappeared in the wake of Miss Pringle's trailing wrapper.
"Wonder how he got here so quickly," Phyllis said to herself, and then dismissed the subject, at an impatient "hurry up" from Sally.
"Aunt Jane's poll parrot, what a mob!"
The four girls, each in a domino exactly like the others, stood at the door of the Greys' immense drawing-room and surveyed the scene before them. It was, of course, Sally who spoke.