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- Two Little Women on a Holiday - 37/37 -


settlement of the question to Alicia, herself."

"And I settle it! Yes! oh, I certainly DO!" and the girl gave her kind uncle another big embrace.

"Isn't it funny you should have been saying to-day that perhaps you might live in New York?" said Bernice.

"Yes," replied Alicia, and her face changed, "but I didn't mean THIS!"

Dolly spoke impulsively. In fact, it seemed as if she couldn't keep still.

"Suppose you tell your uncle just what you DID mean," she said, looking straight at Alicia with an unmistakably meaning gaze.

Alicia turned on her with a sudden expression of anger.

"You DID read that note in my coat pocket!" she cried, "you DID read it, Dolly Fayre! and you pretended you were too honourable to do such a thing!"

"Why, Alicia, I did not! You take that back!"

"Bless my soul! Are you two quarrelling? What IS the matter?"

"Dolly read my note!" cried Alicia, "she--"

"I did not!" interrupted Dolly, her blue eyes blazing. "Alicia has a secret, and I think she ought to tell it!"

"I've got a right to have a secret if I like,--Dolly Fayre!"

"But it isn't a nice secret! You wouldn't want Uncle Forbes to know it! It's--it's shocking!"

"How do YOU know?"

"I know all about it,--at least I know something about it. I heard you and Marly Turner--"

"Oh, pshaw! you little blue-eyed goose! You only think it's shocking, because you're so prim and straight-laced! I'll tell Uncle Jeff, myself, and I'll tell him right now!"

"All right, Alicia," and Dolly drew a big sigh of relief. If Alicia would tell her own secret, it would take all responsibility from her shoulders.

But Alicia hesitated. She began to speak once or twice, and stammered and paused.

At last she said, "I hate to tell, it sounds so--so grown-up and ambitious."

"I should think it DID!" cried Dolly, who began to wonder if Alicia were crazy.

"You tell him, Dolly," and Alicia suddenly looked very shy and embarrassed.

"Do you MEAN it? Do you want ME to tell him?"

"Yes, I honestly wish you would. Though how you found out about it, I don't see!"

"We weren't intending to listen, Alicia, but Geordie Knapp and I heard you and Marly Turner, in the little reception-room last night."

"Oh, that explains it! Yes, we did talk pretty loud. Well, what did you think of it, Dolly?"

"If you say so, I'll tell the rest, and see what they think of it."

"All right, go ahead! Spare my blushes, good people, but I am fearfully embarrassed!"

Everybody looked uncomprehending, and Dolly began.

She couldn't see how Alicia could treat the matter so lightly, but was fervently thankful that she did so.

"It's this," said Dolly, solemnly, "Alicia is planning to elope with Marly Turner."

There were four astonished faces that greeted this announcement, but none showed such blank amazement as Alicia's own.

"Oh, Dolly!" she cried. "Oh, Dolly Fayre! You will be the death of me yet! Go on, tell them more!"

"That's about all I know. They planned it last night and it just happened that Geordie and I heard them. Marly coaxed her, and Alicia hesitated and then consented. She said her mother eloped, and she would do the same. They were going to have a rope ladder."

"Oh, Dolly! Oh, Uncle Jeff! Oh, Dollyrinda!"

"Well, Alicia, suppose you stop yelling, oh, and tell me about this interesting performance," Mr. Forbes spoke, severely.

But Alicia had thrown herself into a big chair and was screaming with laughter. Every time she essayed to speak, she went off in uncontrollable spasms of mirth and when she wiped her eyes and endeavoured to speak, she giggled again.

Dolly realised there was some misunderstanding somewhere and waited for the explanation.

At last it came.

"No, Uncle Jeff," and Alicia managed to speak intelligibly, "I'm not going to elope with Marly or anybody else. I'm going to live here with you."

"But you were!" said Dolly. "You planned to!"

"No, my child," and Alicia laughed again. "I'll have to tell my story myself. I've written a play, Uncle, and in it, the heroine elopes with the handsome hero. I was awfully shy about showing it to anybody, but Marly said he'd try to persuade his father to read it over and see if it showed any promise. You know it's a great thing to have Mr. Turner read your play, and I was delighted. Well, last night, Marly and I went over the elopement scene, that's the strong act of the play, and that's what Dolly heard, and she thought we were talking ourselves! Oh, Dolly, if people plan to elope they don't do it at the top of their lungs! Marly and I read the various character parts to see how it would sound in different voices. Well, then, he said he'd try to get his father to read it to-night, so I'd know before I went away to- morrow. And he telephoned that he'd pull it off,--he meant he'd get his father to read it. That's my secret. And, you know, Uncle Jeff, my mother DID elope, because her father didn't want her to marry Jim Steele. And I'd heard the story of her elopement so often, and it was so dramatic, that I put it in my play. Oh, Dolly, what a little innocent you are!"

"I don't care if I am," returned Dolly, and her pretty face beamed with smiles. "I think your secret is lovely, Alicia, and I think Uncle Forbes' secret is too."

"So do I," said Dotty, "and I'm glad and proud that Dollyrinda and I are chums of two such talented and distinguished girls."

"And _I_'m glad, Alicia," said her uncle, "that you have a taste for writing. I shall be glad to help you cultivate it and I've no doubt that Mr. Turner can give you valuable advice. Of course your early efforts can't amount to much, but if you care to keep at it, you may yet do good work. Well, then, do I understand, that you accept my invitation to live with me?"

"Yes, indeed, you dear, darling old uncle! I'll live with thee, and be thy love! as the poet sings."

"Then run away to your party now, and we'll settle all further details to-morrow."

"And you'll forgive me, Alicia, for misjudging you?" said Dolly, still smiling at her funny mistake.

"Yes, indeed, you blue-eyed angel! And you'll forgive me for thinking you read my note. In it, Marly said he thought he could get his father to read my manuscript and I was SO excited over it. But of course I know you wouldn't touch my letter only I was so upset over it, I hardly knew what I said."

"Oh, that's all right. And, girls, won't we have the great times having Alicia come to Berwick to see us all?"

"Yes, and having you all come here to visit me!" returned Alicia.

"We'll always be chums," said Dotty. "These days together have made us inseparable friends."

"The Forbes quartette," said Dolly. "Only Bernice is named Forbes, but I mean Uncle Forbes' quartette."

"Yes," said Jefferson Forbes, "my four friends, my Rosebud Garland of Girls."

THE END


Two Little Women on a Holiday - 37/37

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