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- Two Little Women on a Holiday - 6/37 -


"Oh, Bernie!" exclaimed Dotty; "not that! That's a party dress, isn't it?"

"Not exactly. I've more dressy ones. But it is a little fussy for a quiet evening at home, I suppose. Well, what shall I wear?"

"This?" and Dotty picked out a simple challie.

"Oh, gracious, no! That's a morning frock. I guess I'll stick to the green. Don't you think so, Perkins?"

"Yes, miss. It's a lovely gown." The maid was interested in the girls, her life in the quiet house being usually most uneventful. This sudden invasion of young people was welcomed by all the servants, and there were many in Jefferson Forbes' palatial home. Mrs. Berry had engaged several extra ones to help with the increased work, but the two maids assigned to the girls were trusted and tried retainers.

And then, there was a bustle heard downstairs, a peal of laughter and a perfect flood of chatter in a high, shrill voice, and with a bounding run up the staircase, Alicia burst into the room where the three girls were.

"Hello, Bernice, old girl!" she shouted, and flung her arms around her cousin's neck, giving her resounding smacks on her cheek. "Golly! Molly! Polly! but I'm glad to see you again! Forgotten me, have you? Take a good look! Your long lost Alicia! 'Tis really she! And look who's here! I'll bet a pig these two stammering, blushing young misses are the far-famed Dolly and Dotty, but which is which?"

"Guess!" said Dotty, laughing, as Dolly stood dismayed, and half frightened at this whirlwind of a girl.

"All right, I'll guess. Lemmesee! Dolly Fayre and Dotty Rose;--you see I know your names. Why, the fair one is Dolly of course, and that leaves Dotty to be you!"

"Right!" cried Dotty, and Alicia flew to her and grabbed her as enthusiastically as she had Bernice.

"Oh, you chickabiddy!" she cried. "I foresee we shall be chums! I love Towhead, too, but I'm a little afraid of her. See her steely blue eyes, even now, fixed on me in utter disapprobation!"

"Not at all," said Dolly, politely, "I think you're very nice."

The calm demureness of this speech was too much for Alicia, and she went off in peals of laughter.

"Oh, you're rich!" she cried; "simpully rich! WON'T we have fun! I'm 'most afraid I'll love you more'n the other one--the black haired witch." And then Dolly was treated to an embrace that ruffled her hair and collar and came near ruffling her temper. For Dolly didn't like such sudden familiarity, but her good manners kept her from showing her annoyance.

"Oh, you don't fool me!" cried Alicia; "I know you think I'm awful! Too rambunctious and all that! But I'm used to it! At school they call me That Awful Alicia! How's that?"

"Fine, if you like it--and I believe you do!" laughed Dolly.

"Mind reader! I say, Bernice, where am I to put my togs! You've squatted on every available foot of property in this room! I thought it was to be ours together! But every single bed in the room is covered with your rags. I've two trunks of duds, myself."

"Two trunks! Why did you bring so much?"

"Had to have it. There's lots of things I carry around with me beside clothes. Why, I've brought a whole chafing-dish outfit."

"Goodness, Alicia," exclaimed Bernice, "do you think Uncle Jeff won't give us enough to eat?"

"I take no chances. But it isn't that. It's thusly. Say we're out of an evening, and on returning, are sent straight to beddy-by. How comforting to have the necessary for a little spread of our own! Oh, I've tried it out at school, and I can tell you there's something in it. But, where, ladies and gentlemen, WHERE I ask you, can I put it? Bernice has all the places full."

"Leave it in your trunk," suggested Dolly, "until you want to use it."

"Angel child!" cried Alicia. "I knew you had some brain concealed among that mop of yellow silk floss! I'll do that same, and be thankful if my voracious cousin leaves me enough room for a few scant and skimpy clodings!"

And then, as Perkins unpacked Alicia's trunks and Foster came in to help, the room really seemed incapable of holding all.

"We'd better get out, Doll," said Dotty, laughing, as Alicia deposited an armful of petticoats and dressing jackets in her lap.

"Oh, don't go! I want you to hold things till I find a place for them. And, say, are your own wardrobes full?"

"No!" cried Dolly. "Just the thing! Put your overflow in our room, we've less than a dozen dresses between us."

"Goodness gracious me! Oh, you're going to buy a lot in the city,--I see!"

"No, we're not," said Dolly, who never sailed under false colours; "we brought all we had, all our best ones. I mean. But we don't have things like you and Bernice."

"You frank little bunch of honesty! Isn't she the darling! All right, neighbours, since you insist, I'll put some seventeen or twenty-four of my Paris confections in your empty cupboards."

Of course, Alicia was exaggerating, but she really did take half a dozen frocks into the two D's room, and hung them in outspread fashion right over their best costumes.

"And, now, since one good turn deserves another," she rattled on, "I'll just toss my extra shoes and slippers into your lowest bureau drawer, and my stockings into the next one. There's plenty of room."

So there was, by crowding the contents already there. But Alicia was so quick of motion, and so gay of speech that they couldn't refuse to let her have her way. And, too, it seemed inevitable, for there wasn't room for Alicia's things and Bernie's in the same room, and the D's shelves and bureau drawers showed much vacancy.

"Now, what do we wear this evening?" Alicia asked, tossing over her dresses. "This, let us say?" She held up a low--necked evening gown of silk tissue.

"No, you goose," said Bernice, decidedly. "Your respected uncle would think you were crazy! Here, wear this."

Bernice picked out one of the least ornate, a pretty Dresden silk, and then the girls all began to dress for dinner.

CHAPTER IV

A MERRY QUARTETTE

"Ready for dinner, girls?" sounded a cheery voice, and Mrs. Berry came bustling in. "Almost, aren't you? Try to remember that Mr. Forbes doesn't like to be kept waiting."

"I'm scared to death," said Bernice, frankly. "I never know what to say to Uncle Jeff, anyway, and being a guest makes it all the harder."

"Pooh! I'm not afraid," exclaimed Alicia. "Leave it to me. I'll engineer the conversation and all you girls need to do is to chip in now and then."

Alicia was a tall, fair girl, larger than any of the others. She was plump and jolly-looking, and had a breezy manner that was attractive because of her smiling good-natured face. She laughed a great deal, and seemed to have no lack of self-confidence and self-assurance. Her dress had many fluttering ribbons of vivid pink, and frills of lace of an inexpensive variety.

She led the way downstairs, calling out, "March on, march on to victory!" and the others followed.

The four entered the drawing-room, and found there a tall, dignified gentleman, in full evening dress. He had a handsome face, though a trifle stern and forbidding of expression, and his closely trimmed white beard was short and pointed. He had large, dark eyes, which darted from one girl to the other as the quartette appeared.

"H'm," he said, "this is Bernice; how do you do, my dear? How do you do?"

"I'm Alicia," announced that spry damsel, gaily, and she caught him by the hand.

"Yes, and very like your mother, my dear sister. Well, Alicia, if you possess half her fine traits, you'll make a splendid woman. But I doubt if you are very much like her except in appearance. You look to me like a flibbertigibbet,--if you know what that is."

"Yes, and I am one, thank you, Uncle Jeff," and Alicia laughed gaily, not at all abashed at her uncle's remark.

"These are my two friends from Berwick, uncle," said Bernice, introducing them. "Dolly Fayre and Dotty Rose."

"You are welcome, my dears," and the courteous old gentleman bowed to them with great dignity. "I trust you can find amusement and enjoy your visit here. Now, let us dine."

Dolly looked curiously at her host, as he stood back, and bowed the girls out of the room, before he followed them, but Dotty was so interested in the surroundings that she gave no second thought to Mr. Forbes, as she passed him.

The dining-room was a marvel of old time grandeur. Nothing was modern, but the heavy black walnut sideboard and chairs spoke of long usage and old time ways.


Two Little Women on a Holiday - 6/37

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