TWO LITTLE WOMEN ON A HOLIDAY
Author Of The Patty Books, The Marjorie Books, Two Little Women Series,
FRONTISPIECE BY E. C. CASWELL
Made in the United States of America 1917
TO MY VERY DEAR CHILD FRIEND
FRANCES ALTHEA SPRAGUE
I A WONDERFUL PLAN
II A FAVOURABLE DECISION
III THE ARRIVAL
IV A MERRY QUARTETTE
V GOING ABOUT
VI A MATINEE IDOL
VII GREAT PREPARATIONS
VIII THE CALLER
IX FINE FEATHERS
X A SKATING PARTY
XI THE COLLECTIONS
XII THE LOST JEWEL
XIV AT THE TEA ROOM
XV DOLLY'S RIDE
XVI WAS IT ALICIA?
XVII A CLEVER IDEA
XVIII FOUR CELEBRATIONS
XIX ALICIA'S SECRET
XX UNCLE JEFF'S FOUR FRIENDS
A WONDERFUL PLAN
"Hello, Dolly," said Dotty Rose, over the telephone.
"Hello, Dot," responded Dolly Fayre. "What you want?"
"Oh! I can't tell you this way. Come on over, just as quick as you can."
"But I haven't finished my Algebra, and it's nearly dinner time,
"No it isn't,—and no matter if it is. Come on, I tell you! You'd come
fast enough if you knew what it's about!"
"Tell me, then."
"I say I can't,—over the telephone. Oh, Dolly, come on, and stop
The telephone receiver at Dotty's end of the wire was hung up with a
click, and Dolly began to waggle her receiver hook in hope of getting
Dotty back. But there was no response, so Dolly rose and went for her
coat. Flinging it round her, and not stopping to get a hat, she ran
next door to Dotty Rose's house.
It was mid January, and the six o'clock darkness was lighted only by
the street lights. Flying across the two lawns that divided the houses,
Dolly found Dotty awaiting her at the side door.
"Hurry up in, Doll," she cried, eagerly, "the greatest thing you ever
heard! Oh, the very greatest! If you only CAN! Oh, if you ONLY can!"
"Can what? Do tell me what you're talking about." Dolly tossed her coat
on the hall rack, and followed Dotty into the Roses' living-room. There
she found Dotty's parents and also Bernice Forbes and her father. What
could such a gathering mean? Dolly began to think of school happenings;
had she cut up any mischievous pranks or inadvertently done anything
wrong? What else could bring Mr. Forbes to the Roses' on what was very
evidently an important errand? For all present were eagerly
interested,—that much was clear. Mr. and Mrs. Rose were smiling, yet
shaking their heads in uncertainty; Bernice was flushed and excited;
and Mr. Forbes himself was apparently trying to persuade them to
something he was proposing.
This much Dolly gathered before she heard a word of the discussion.
Then Mrs. Rose said, "Here's Dolly Fayre. You tell her about it, Mr.
"Oh, let me tell her," cried Bernice.
"No," said Mr. Rose, "let her hear it first from your father. You girls
can chatter afterward."
So Mr. Forbes spoke. "My dear child," he said to Dolly, "my Bernice is
invited to spend a week with her uncle, in New York City. She is
privileged to ask you two girls to accompany her if you care to."
Dolly listened, without quite grasping the idea. She was slow of
thought, though far from stupid. And this was such a sudden and
startling suggestion that she couldn't quite take it in.
"Go to New York, for a week. Oh, I couldn't. I have to go to school."
Mrs. Rose smiled. "That's just the trouble, Dolly. Dot has to go to
school, too,—at least, she ought to. Bernice, likewise. But this
invitation is so delightful and so unusual, that I'm thinking you three
girls ought to take advantage of it. The question is, what will your
"Oh, they'll never let me go!" exclaimed Dolly, decidedly. "They don't
want anything to interfere with my lessons."
"No, and we feel the same way about Dotty. But an exceptional case must
be considered in an exceptional manner. I think your people might be
persuaded if we go about it in the right way."
"I don't believe so," and Dolly looked very dubious. "Tell me more
"Oh, Doll, it's just gorgeous!" broke in Bernice. "Uncle Jeff,—he's
father's brother,—wants me to spend a week with him. And he's going to
have my cousin, Alicia, there at the same time. And he wants us to
bring two other girls, and Alicia can't bring one, 'cause she's at
boarding school, and none of the girls can get leave,—that is, none
that she wants. So Uncle said for me to get two, if I could,—and I
want you and Dot."
"A whole week in New York! Visiting!" Dolly's eyes sparkled as the
truth began to dawn on her. "Oh, I WISH I could coax Mother into it.
I've never been to New York to stay any time. Only just for the day.
How lovely of you, Bernie, to ask us!"
"There's no one else I'd rather have, but if you can't go, I'll have to
ask Maisie May. I must get two."
"Are you going anyway, Dots?"
"I don't know. I want to go terribly, but I don't want to go without
you, Dolly. Oh, WON'T your mother let you?"
"The only way to find out is to ask her," said Mr. Forbes, smiling.
"Suppose I go over there now and ask. Shall I go alone, or take you
three chatterboxes along?"
"Oh, let us go," and Dotty sprang up; "we can coax and you can tell
about the arrangements."
"Very well," agreed Mr. Forbes, "come along, then."
So the four went across to the Fayre house, and found the rest of
Dolly's family gathered in the library.
"Here is Mr. Forbes, Daddy," said Dolly, as they entered.
Mr. and Mrs. Fayre and Trudy, Dolly's older sister, greeted the visitor
cordially, and looked with smiling inquiry at the eager faces of the
Dolly went and sat on the arm of her mother's chair, and, putting an
arm around her, whispered, "Oh, Mumsie, please, PLEASE do say yes! Oh,
"Yes to what?" returned Mrs. Fayre, patting her daughter's shoulder.
"Mr. Forbes will tell you. Listen."
"It's this way, my dear people," began Mr. Forbes. He was a man with an
impressive manner, and it seemed as if he were about to make a speech
of grave importance, as, indeed, from the girls' point of view, he was.
"My brother Jefferson, who lives in New York, has invited my daughter
to spend a week in his home there. He has asked also another niece,
Miss Alicia Steele. He wants these girl visitors to bring with them two
friends, and as Alicia does not wish to avail herself of that
privilege, Bernice may take two with her. She wants to take Dotty and
Dolly. There, that's the whole story in a nutshell. The question is,
may Dolly go?"
"When is this visit to be made?" asked Mrs. Fayre.
"As soon as convenient for all concerned. My brother would like the
girls to come some day next week, and remain one week."
"What about school?" and Mrs. Fayre looked decidedly disapproving of
"That's just it!" exclaimed Dotty. "We knew you'd say that! But, Mrs.
Fayre, my mother says this is the chance of a lifetime,—almost,—and
we ought, we really OUGHT to take advantage of it."
"But to be out of school for a whole week,—and what with getting ready
and getting home and settled again, it would mean more than a week—"
"But, mother, we could make up our lessons," pleaded Dolly, "and I DO
want to go! oh, I do want to go, just AWFULLY!"
"I should think you would," put in Trudy. "Let her go, mother, it'll be
an education in itself,—the visit will. Why, the girls can go to the
museums and art galleries and see all sorts of things."
"Of course we can," said Bernice, "and my uncle has a beautiful house
and motor cars and everything!"
"That's another point," said Mr. Fayre, gravely. "You must realise, Mr.
Forbes, that my little girl is not accustomed to grandeur and wealth. I
don't want her to enjoy it so much that she will come back discontented
with her own plain home."
"Oh, nonsense, my dear sir! A glimpse of city life and a taste of
frivolity will do your girl good. Dolly is too sensible a sort to be a
prey to envy or discontent. I know Dolly fairly well, and I can vouch
for her common sense!"
"So can I," said Bernice. "Doll will enjoy everything to the limit, but
it won't hurt her disposition or upset her happiness to see the sights
of the city for a short time. Oh, please, Mr. Fayre, do let her go."
"Just as her mother thinks," and Mr. Fayre smiled at the insistent
"Tell me of the household," said Mrs. Fayre. "Is your brother's wife
"Jeff has never been married," replied Mr. Forbes. "He is an elderly
bachelor, and, I think is a bit lonely, now and then. But he is also a
little eccentric. He desires no company, usually. It is most
extraordinary that he should ask these girls. But I think he wants to
see his two nieces, and he fears he cannot entertain them pleasantly
unless they have other companions of their own age."
"And who would look after the girls?"
"Mrs. Berry, my brother's housekeeper. She is a fine noble-hearted and
competent woman, who has kept his house for years. I know her, and I am
perfectly willing to trust Bernice to her care. She will chaperon the
young people, for I doubt if my brother will go to many places with
them. But he will want them to have the best possible time, and will
give them all the pleasure possible."
"That part of it is all right, then," smiled Mrs. Fayre; "it is, to my
mind, only the loss of more than a week of the school work that
presents the insuperable objection."
"Oh, don't say insuperable," urged Mr. Forbes. "Can't you bring
yourself to permit that loss? As Dolly says, the girls can make up
"They can—but will they?"
"I will, mother," cried Dolly; "I promise you I will study each day
while I'm in New York. Then I can recite out of school hours after I
get back, and I'll get my marks all the same."
"But, Dolly dear, you can't study while you are in New York. There
would be too much to distract you and occupy your time."
"Oh, no, Mrs. Fayre," observed Bernice, "we couldn't be all the time
sightseeing. I think it would be fine for all us girls to study every
day, and keep up our lessons that way."
"It sounds well, my dear child," and Mrs. Fayre looked doubtfully at
Bernice, "and I daresay you mean to do it, but I can't think you could
keep it up. The very spirit of your life there would be all against
"I agree with that," said Mr. Forbes, decidedly. "I vote for the girls
having an entire holiday. Lessons each day would spoil all their fun."
"They couldn't do it," Trudy said. "I know, however much they tried,
they just COULDN'T study in that atmosphere."
"Why not?" asked Bernice. "We're not young ladies, like you, Trudy. We
won't be going to parties, and such things. We can only go to the shops
and the exhibitions and for motor rides in the park and such things. We
could study evenings, I'm sure."
"It isn't only the lessons," Mrs. Fayre said; "but I can't feel quite
willing to let my little girl go away for a week without me." Her
pleasant smile at Mr. Forbes robbed the words of any reflection they
might seem to cast on his brother's invitation. "I'm sure Mrs. Berry
would do all that is necessary in the way of a chaperon's duties, but
these girls are pretty young even for that. They need a parent's
Mrs. Fayre was about to say a mother's oversight, when she remembered
that Bernice had no mother, and changed the words accordingly.
There was some further discussion, and then Mrs. Fayre said she must
have a little time alone to make up her mind. She knew that if Dolly
did not go, Maisie May would be asked in her place, but she still felt
undecided. She asked for only an hour or two to think it over, and
promised to telephone directly after dinner, and tell Mr. Forbes her
final decision. This was the only concession she would make. If not
acceptable then her answer must be no.
"Please do not judge my wife too harshly," said Mr. Fayre as he
accompanied Mr. Forbes and Bernice to the door. "She still looks upon
Dolly as her baby, and scarcely lets her out of her sight."
"That's all right," returned Mr. Forbes. "She's the right sort of a
mother for the girl. I hope she will decide to let Dolly go, but if
not, I quite understand her hesitancy, and I respect and admire her for
it. Bernice can take somebody else, and I trust you will not try over
hard to influence Mrs. Fayre in Dolly's favour. If anything untoward
should happen, I should never forgive myself. I would far rather the
children were disappointed than to have Mrs. Fayre persuaded against
her better judgment."
The Forbeses departed, and then Dotty Rose went home, too.
"Oh, Dollyrinda," she whispered as they stood in the hall, "do you
s'pose your mother'll EVER say yes?"
"I don't believe so," replied Dolly mournfully. "But, oh, Dot, how I do
want to go! Seems 'sif I never wanted anything so much in all my life!"
"You don't want to go a bit more than I want to have you. Why, Dollops,
I shan't go, if you don't."
"Oh, yes, you will, Dotty. You must. It would be silly not to."
"But I couldn't! I just COULDN'T. Do you s'pose I could have one single
bit of fun going to places without you? And knowing you were here at
home, longing to be with us! No-sir-ee! I just couldn't pos-SIB-ly! So
just you remember that, old girl; no Dolly,—no Dotty! And that's SURE!"
There was a ring in Dotty's voice that proclaimed an unshakable
determination, and Dolly knew it. She knew that no coaxing of Bernice
or even of Dolly herself, could make Dotty go without her chum.
For chums these two were, in the deepest sense of the word. They were
together all that was possible during their waking hours. They studied
together, worked and played together, and occupied together their
little house, built for them, and called Treasure House.
Dolly knew she couldn't enjoy going anywhere without Dotty, and she
knew Dot felt the same way about her. But this was such a big, splendid
opportunity, that she hated to have Dotty miss it, even if she couldn't
go herself. The two girls said good-night, and Dolly went back to her
family in the library.
"I hate terribly to disappoint you, Dolly darling," began her mother,
and the tears welled up in Dolly's blue eyes. This beginning meant a
negative decision, that was self evident, but Dolly Fayre was plucky by
nature and she was not the sort that whines at disappointment.
"All right," she said, striving to be cheerful, and blinking her eyes
quickly to keep those tears back.
"Now, look here, Edith," said Mr. Fayre, "I don't believe I can stand
this. I don't differ with you regarding the children, but I do think
you might let Dolly go on this party. Even if it does take a week out
of school, she'll get enough general information and experience from a
week in the city to make up."
"That's just it, Will. But the experiences she gets there may not be
the best possible for a little girl of fifteen."
"Oh, fifteen isn't an absolute baby. Remember, dear, Dolly is going to
grow up some day, and she's getting started."
"And another thing. I asked Mr. Forbes a few questions while you were
talking to Bernice, and it seems this other girl, the niece, Alicia, is
attending a very fashionable girls' boarding school."
"Well, what of that? You speak as if she were attending a lunatic
"No; but can't you see if Dolly goes to stay a week with wealthy
Bernice Forbes and this fashionable Alicia, she'll get her head full of
all sorts of notions that don't belong there?"
"No, I won't, mother," murmured Dolly, who, again on her mother's arm
chair, was looking earnestly into the maternal blue eyes, so like her
own. And very lovingly Mrs. Fayre returned the gaze, for she adored her
little daughter and was actuated only by the best motives in making her
"And, here's another thing," said Dolly, "Dot won't go, if I don't. It
seems too bad to spoil HER fun."
"Oh, yes, she will," said Mrs. Fayre, smiling. "She would be foolish to
give up her pleasure just because you can't share it."
"Foolish or not, she won't go," repeated Dolly. "I know my Dot, and
when she says she won't do a thing, she just simply doesn't do it!"
"I'd be sorry to be the means of keeping Dotty at home," and Mrs. Fayre
A FAVOURABLE DECISION
All through dinner time, Mrs. Fayre was somewhat silent, her eyes
resting on Dolly with a wistful, uncertain expression. She wanted to
give the child the pleasure she craved, but she had hard work to bring
herself to the point of overcoming her own objections.
At last, however, when the meal was nearly over, she smiled at her
little daughter, and said, "All right, Dolly, you may go."
"Oh, mother!" Dolly cried, overwhelmed with sudden delight. "Really?
Oh, I am so glad! Are you sure you're willing?"
"I've persuaded myself to be willing, against my will," returned Mrs.
Fayre, whimsically. "I confess I just hate to have you go, but I can't
bear to deprive you of the pleasure trip. And, as you say, it would
also keep Dotty at home, and so, altogether, I think I shall have to
"Oh, you angel mother! You blessed lady! How good you are!" And Dolly
flew around the table and gave her mother a hug that nearly suffocated
"There, there, Dollygirl," said her father, "go back and finish your
pudding while we talk this over a bit. Are you sure, Edith, you are
willing? I don't want you to feel miserable and anxious all the week
Dolly is cut loose from your apron string."
"No, Will; it's all right. If you and the Roses and Trudy, here, all
agree it's best for Dolly to go, it seems foolish for me to object. And
it may be for her good, after all."
"That's what I say, mother," put in Trudy. "Doll isn't a child,
exactly. She's fifteen and a half, and it will be a fine experience for
her to see a little bit of the great world. And she couldn't do it
under better conditions than at Mr. Forbes' brother's. The Forbes' are
a fine family, and you know, perfectly well, there'll be nothing there
that isn't just exactly right."
"It isn't that, Trudy. But,—oh, I don't know; I daresay I'm a foolish
mother bird, afraid of her littlest fledgling."
"You're a lovely mother-bird!" cried Dolly, "and not foolish a bit!
but, oh, do decide positively, for I can't wait another minute to tell
Dot, if I'm going."
"Very well," said Mrs. Fayre, "run along and tell Dotty, and Bernice,
Dolly made a jump and two hops for the telephone, and soon the wires
must have bent under the weight of joyous exclamations.
"Oh, Dolly, isn't it fine!"
"Oh, Dotty, it's splendid! I can hardly believe it!"
"Have you told Bernice?"
"Not yet. Had to tell you first. When do we go?"
"Next Tuesday, I think. Now, you tell Bernie, so she can write to her
uncle that we accept."
And then there was another jubilation over the telephone.
"Fine!" cried Bernice, as she heard the news. "Lovely! I'd so much
rather have you two girls than any others. I'll write Uncle Jeff
to-night that I'll bring you. And I'll come over to-morrow, and we'll
decide what clothes to take, and all that."
Mrs. Fayre sighed, as Dolly reported this conversation.
"You girls can't do a bit of serious study all the rest of the time
before you go," she said. "Now, Dolly, I'll have to ask you to do your
lessons every day, before you plan or talk over the trip at all."
"Yes, mother, I will," and Dolly started at once for her schoolbooks.
It was hard work to put her mind on her studies, with the wonderful
possibilities that lay ahead of her. But she was exceedingly
conscientious, was Dolly Fayre, and she resolutely put the subject of
the New York visit out of her mind, and did her algebra examples with
Not so, Dotty Rose. After Dolly's telephone message, she flung her
schoolbooks aside, with a shout of joy, and declared she couldn't study
"I don't wonder," laughed her father. "Why, Dot, you're going on a
veritable Fairy-tale visit. You are quite justified in being excited
"I thought you and Dolly didn't like Bernice Forbes very much," said
"We didn't use to, mother. But lately, she's been a whole lot nicer.
You know Doll made her sort of popular, and after that, she helped
along, herself, by being ever so much more pleasant and chummy with us
all. She used to be stuck up and disagreeable; ostentatious about being
rich, and all that. But nowadays, she's more simple, and more agreeable
"That's nice," observed Mr. Rose. "Forbes is not a popular man, nor a
very good citizen; I mean he isn't public-spirited or generous. But
he's a fine business man and a man of sound judgment and integrity. I'm
glad you're chums with his daughter, Dotty. And you ought to have a
perfectly gorgeous time on the New York visit."
"Oh, we will, Daddy; I'm sure of that. What about clothes, Mumsie?"
"I'll have to see about that. You'll need a few new frocks, I suppose,
but we can get them ready made, or get Miss Felton to come for a few
days. There's nearly a week before you start."
"I want some nice things," declared Dotty. "You know Bernice has
wonderful clothes, and I suppose her cousin has, too."
"Maybe your wardrobe can't be as fine as a rich man's daughter," said
her father smiling at her, "but I hope mother will fix you up so you
won't feel ashamed of your clothes."
"I think they'll be all right," and Mrs. Rose nodded her head. "I'll
see Mrs. Fayre to-morrow, and we'll find out what Bernice is going to
take with her. You children can't need elaborate things, but they must
The Rose family spent the entire evening talking over the coming trip,
and when Dotty went to bed she set an alarm clock, that she might rise
early in the morning to do her lessons for the day before breakfast.
She did them, too, and came to the table, smiling in triumph.
"Did all my examples and learned my history perfectly," she exulted.
"So you see, mother, my trip won't interfere with my education!"
"Oh, you can make up your lessons," said her father, carelessly. "I
wouldn't give much for a girl who couldn't do a few extra tasks to make
up for a grand outing such as you're to have."
"I either!" agreed Dotty. "But the Fayres are worried to death for fear
Doll will miss a lesson somewhere."
"Dolly learns more slowly than you," remarked her mother. "You have a
gift for grasping facts quickly, and a good memory to retain them."
"You ought to be grateful for that," said Mr. Rose.
"I am," returned Dotty. "When I see Dolly grubbing over her history, I
can't understand how she can be so long over it."
"But she's better in mathematics than you are."
"Yes, she is. She helps me a lot with the old puzzlers. She thinks
we'll study in New York. But somehow, I don't believe we will."
"Of course, you won't," laughed Mr. Rose. "Why, you'd be foolish to do
that. A fine opportunity has come to you girls, and I advise you to
make the most of it. See all the sights you can; go to all the pleasant
places you can; and have all the fun you can cram into your days. Then
go to sleep and rest up for the next day."
"Good, sound advice, Dads," said Dotty; "you're a gentleman and a
scholar to look at it like that! But I don't know as we can go about
much; I believe Mr. Forbes is quite an old man, and who will take us
"I thought the housekeeper would," said Mrs. Rose.
"I don't know at all, mother. It seems Bernie has never visited there
before, though she has been to the house. Her uncle is queer, and why
he wants his two nieces all of a sudden, and his two nieces' friends,
nobody knows. It's sort of mysterious, I think."
"Well, it's all right, as long as you're properly invited. It seems
strange Bernie's cousin didn't care to take a friend."
"Yes; I wonder what she's like. Bernice hasn't seen her since they were
little girls. She lives out in Iowa, I think. She's at school in
Connecticut somewhere. It's all sort of unknown. But I like that part
of it. I love new experiences."
"I always do too, Dot," said her father. "I reckon when you come home,
you'll have lots to tell us."
"New York isn't so strange to me," said Dotty. "I've been there a lot
of times, you know. But to go and stay in a house there,—that's the
fun. It's so different from going in for a day's shopping with mother.
Or the day we all went to the Hippodrome."
"You'll probably go to the Hippodrome again, or some such
entertainment," suggested Mrs. Rose.
"I dunno. I imagine the old gentleman doesn't favour such gaiety. And
the housekeeper lady will likely be too busy to do much for us. We
can't go anywhere alone, can we?"
"I don't know," replied Mrs. Rose. "You must be guided by
circumstances, Dotty. Whatever Mr. Forbes and Mrs. Berry say for you to
do, will be all right. Make as little trouble as you can, and do as
you're told. You'll have fun enough, just being with the girls."
"Indeed I will! Oh, I'm so glad Dolly can go. I wouldn't have stirred a
step without her!"
"No, I know you wouldn't," agreed her mother.
Next day at school recess, Bernice showed the girls a letter she had
received from Alicia.
"You know I haven't seen her in years," Bernice said; "I think she must
be more grown up than we are, though she's only just sixteen."
"Dearest Bernice:" the letter ran.
"Isn't it simply screaming that we're to camp out at Uncle Jeff's! I'm
wildly excited over it! Do you know why he has asked us? I'm not sure,
myself, but I know there's a reason, and it's a secret. I heard aunt
and father talking about it when I was home at Christmas time, but when
I drifted into the room, they shut up like clams. However, we'll have
one gay old time! Think of being in New York a whole week! I don't want
to take any of the girls from here, for fear they'd bring back tales.
Don't you bring anybody you can't trust. Oh, I've laid lots of plans,
but I won't tell you about them till I see you. Bring all your best
clothes, and ask your father for quite a lot of money, though I suppose
Uncle Jeff will give us some. I can scarcely wait for the time to come!
"What does she mean by a secret reason for your going?" asked Dolly.
"I haven't an idea," replied Bernice. "My father knows, though, I'm
quite sure, 'cause he smiled at that part of Alicia's letter. But he
wouldn't tell me. He only said, 'Oh, pshaw, nothing of any consequence.
It's very natural that a lonely old bachelor uncle should want to see
his little girl nieces, and it's very kind and thoughtful of him to ask
you to bring friends.' He says Uncle Jeff is not fond of company, and
spends all his time by himself. He's a scientist or naturalist or
something, and works in his study all day. So, dad says, it'll be fine
for us girls to have four of us to be company for each other."
"It's gorgeous!" sighed Dotty, in an ecstasy of anticipation. "But what
does your cousin mean by bringing a lot of money? We can't do
that,—and our parents don't let us spend much money ourselves, anyway."
"Oh, that'll be all right," said Bernice, carelessly. "We won't need
much money. And if we go to matinees, or anything like that, of course,
I'll pay, if Uncle Jeff doesn't. You two girls are my guests, you know.
You needn't take any money at all."
"All right," said Dolly, and dismissed the subject. Money did not
figure very largely in her affairs, as, except for a small allowance
for trifles, she never handled any. Nor did Dotty, as these two were
still looked upon as children by their parents.
But motherless Bernice bought her own clothes and paid her own bills;
and so generous was her father, that there was no stint, and as a
consequence, she too, cared and thought little about money as a
"I'm a little scared of that Alicia person," said Dolly to Dotty as
they walked home from school.
"Pooh! I'm not. She's no richer than Bernie."
"It isn't that. I'm not afraid of rich people. But she seems so grown
up and—well, experienced."
"Well, sixteen is grown up. And we're getting there, Dolly. I shall put
up my hair while I'm in New York."
"Why, Dot Rose! Really?"
"Yes, that is if Alicia does. Bernice often does, you know."
"I know it. I'll ask mother if I may."
"Goodness, Dolly, can't you decide a thing like that for yourself? What
would your mother care?"
"I'd rather ask her," returned the conscientious Dolly.
Mrs. Fayre smiled when Dolly put the question. "I've been expecting
that," she said. "You'd better do as the others do, dear. If they twist
up their pigtails, you do the same."
"I'll show you how," offered Trudy. "If you're going to do it, you may
as well learn a becoming fashion."
So Trudy taught her little sister how to coil up her yellow, curly mop
in a correct fashion, and very becoming it was to Dolly.
But it made her look a year or two older than she was.
"Oh!" exclaimed her mother, when she saw her, "Where's my baby? I've
lost my little girl!"
"Just as well," said Dolly, delighted at her achievement and
pirouetting before a mirror. "It's time I began to be a little grown
"Yes, I suppose it is. I felt just the same when Trudy put up her curls
for the first time. I am a foolish old thing!"
"Now, don't you talk like that," cried Dolly, "or I'll pull down my
hair and wear it in tails till I'm fifty!"
"No, dear; do as you like about it. And, if you want to wear it that
way while you're in New York, do. It's all right."
More discussions came with the new dresses. Mrs. Fayre was for keeping
to the more youthful models, but Mrs. Hose felt that the girls should
have slightly older styles. Bernice's frocks were almost young ladyish,
but those were not copied.
Dotty and Dolly always had their things similar, different in colouring
but alike in style. So their respective mothers had many confabs before
the grave questions were settled.
And the result was two very attractive wardrobes that were really right
for fifteen-year-old girls. Afternoon dresses of voile or thin silk,
and one pretty party dress for each of dainty chiffon and lace. Morning
frocks of linen and a tailored street suit seemed to be ample in amount
Bernice had more and grander ones, but the two D's were entirely
satisfied, and watched the packing of their small trunks with joyful
Dolly put in her diary, declaring she should write a full account of
each day's happenings.
"Then that'll do for me," said Dotty. "I hate to keep a diary, and what
would be the use? It would be exactly like yours, Doll, and I can
borrow yours to read to my people after you've read it to your family."
"All right," agreed Dolly, good-naturedly, for what pleased one girl
usually suited the other.
They didn't take their schoolbooks, for it made a heavy load, and too,
all agreed that it would spoil the pleasant vacation. The girls
promised to make up the lessons on their return, and so it seemed as if
nothing marred the anticipation of their splendid holiday.
The girls were put on the train at Berwick and as Mrs. Berry was to
meet them at the station in New York, they were allowed to make the
"I think this train ride the best part of the whole thing," said Dolly,
as she took off her coat and hung it up beside her chair. "I do love to
ride in a parlour car; I wish we were to travel in it for a week."
"I like it, too," agreed Bernice. "Oh, girls, what fun we're going to
have! You won't like Uncle Jeff at first, he's awful queer; but there's
one thing sure, he'll let us do just as we like. He's very
"What's Mrs. Berry like?" asked Dotty. "I suppose we'll obey her?"
"Yes, but she's good-natured, too. I can twist her round my finger. Oh,
we'll have a high old time."
"S'pose Mrs. Berry shouldn't be there to meet us when we get in,"
suggested Dolly. "What then?"
"She will, of course," said Bernice. "But if she shouldn't, if the car
broke down or anything like that, we'd take a taxicab right to the
This sounded very grown-up and grand to the two D's, who had had little
experience with taxicabs, and Dotty exclaimed with glee, "I'd rather do
that than go in Mr. Forbes' car! What a lark it would be! Oh, Bernice,
can we go somewhere in a taxicab while we're there?"
"I don't know, Dotty,—I s'pose so. But why should we? Uncle Jeff has
two cars, and the chauffeur will take us wherever we want to go."
"But I've never been in a taxicab,—without older people, I mean, and
I'd love to try it."
"Well, I expect you can," returned Bernice, carelessly. "I dare say you
can do pretty much anything you want to."
"But do behave yourself, Dot," cautioned Dolly; "you're so daring and
venturesome, I don't know what mischief you'll get into!"
"Oh, we won't get into mischief," laughed Bernice. "There'll be enough
fun, without doing anything we oughtn't to."
"Of course, I won't do anything wrong," declared Dotty, indignantly.
"But there are so many things to do, it sets me crazy to think of it!"
"I'm going to buy things," announced Bernice. "There aren't any decent
shops in Berwick, and I'm going to get lots of things in the city
"We can't do that," said Dolly, decidedly. "We haven't lots of money
like you have, Bernie; I'm going to see things. I want to see all the
pictures I possibly can. I love to look at pictures."
"I want to go to the theatre," and Dotty looked at Bernice inquiringly.
"Will we, do you s'pose?"
"Oh, yes, Mrs. Berry will take us. Perhaps we can go to matinees,
"I don't think we ought to do that," and Dolly looked distinctly
"Oh, come now, old priggy-wig," said Dotty, "don't be too awfully
"It will be just as Mrs. Berry says," Bernice informed them. "Father
said I must obey her in everything. Uncle Jeff won't pay much attention
to what we do, but Mrs. Berry will. I wonder if Alicia will be there
when we get there."
But Alicia wasn't. As the girls came up the stairs into the great
station, they saw a smiling, motherly-looking lady waiting to welcome
"Here you are!" she cried, and it wasn't necessary for Bernice to
introduce her friends, except to tell which was which.
"I feel as if I knew you," Mrs. Berry said, and her kindly grey eyes
beamed at them both. "Now I must learn to tell you apart. Dolly with
golden hair,—Dotty with black. Is that it?"
"Is Alicia here?" asked Bernice, eagerly.
"No; she's coming in at the other station. She won't arrive for an hour
or more. Where are your checks? Let George take them."
The footman took the checks and looked after them, while Mrs. Berry
piloted the girls to the waiting motor-car.
It was a large and very beautiful limousine, and they all got in, and
were soon rolling up Fifth Avenue.
"How splendid it all is!" exclaimed Dolly, looking out at the crowds.
"It seems as if we must get all snarled up in the traffic, but we don't."
"Kirke is a very careful driver," said Mrs. Berry, "and he understands
just where to go. How you've grown, Bernice. I haven't seen you for two
years, you know."
"Yes, I have. We're all getting to be grown-ups, Mrs. Berry. Isn't
"I don't know. I haven't seen her for a long time. But she's at a very
fashionable school, so I suppose she is full of notions."
"What are notions?" asked Dolly, smiling up into the speaker's eyes.
"Oh, notions," and Mrs. Berry laughed, "well, it's thinking you know it
all yourself, and not being willing to listen to advice. I don't
believe you have notions, Dolly."
"No, she hasn't," said Bernice. "But Dotty and I have! However, I
promised Dad I'd obey you, Mrs. Berry, in everything you say, so I
don't believe you'll have any trouble with us."
"Land, no! I don't expect any. Now, let me see; I've two big rooms for
you all, with two beds in each. I suppose you'll room with your cousin,
Bernice, and these other two girls together?"
"Yes, indeed," said Dolly, quickly, for she had no idea of rooming with
any one but Dotty.
"That settles itself, then."
"But suppose I don't like Alicia," said Bernice, doubtfully. "Suppose
"All right," and Mrs. Berry nodded her head, "there are other rooms. I
don't want you to be uncomfortable in any particular. I thought you'd
like it better that way. The two rooms I've fixed for you, are two big
ones on the second floor. Mine is on the same floor, in the rear. Your
uncle's rooms are upon the third floor."
"I think it sounds fine," declared Bernice, "and I'm sure I'll get on
with Alicia, if she does have 'notions.'"
And then they reached the big house on upper Fifth Avenue, and as they
entered, Dolly felt a little appalled at the grandeur everywhere about
her. Not so Dotty. She loved elegance, and as her feet sank into the
deep soft rugs, she laughed out in sheer delight of being in such
beautiful surroundings. Mrs. Berry took the girls at once to their
rooms, and sent the car for Alicia.
"I'll give the front room to Dotty and Dolly," she said to Bernice;
"and you can have the other. It's quite as nice, only it looks out on
the side street, not on the Avenue."
"That's right, Mrs. Berry. Dot and Dolly are more company than Alicia
and I are. We're really members of the family. I was so surprised at
Uncle Jeff's inviting us. Why did he do it, anyway?"
"Why, indeed!" said Mrs. Berry, but her expression was quizzical. "No
one can tell why Mr. Forbes does things! He is a law unto himself. Now,
girls, your trunks are coming up. And here are two maids to unpack for
you and put your things away. You can direct them."
Mrs. Berry bustled away, and two neat-looking maids appeared, one of
whom entered Bernice's room and the other attended on Dot and Dolly.
"Which frocks shall I leave out for dinner?" the maid asked, as she
shook out and hung up the dresses in the wardrobe.
"The blue voile for me," replied Dolly, "and—er—what is your name?"
"Foster, miss," and she smiled at Dolly's gentle face.
"And the rose-coloured voile for me," directed Dotty. "You'll find,
Foster, that our frocks are pretty much alike except as to colour."
"Yes, ma'am. And these patent leather pumps, I daresay?"
"Yes, that's right," and Dotty flung herself into a big easy-chair and
sighed in an ecstasy of delight that she really had a ladies' maid to
wait on her. Dolly didn't take it so easily. She wanted to look after
her own things, as she did at home. But Dotty motioned to her not to do
so, lest Foster should think them inexperienced or countrified.
Their simple belongings were soon in place, and the two D's wandered
into Bernice's room.
Here everything was helter-skelter. Finery was piled on beds and
chairs, and hats were flung on top of one another, while shoes and
veils, gloves and hair-brushes were scattered on the floor.
"It's my fault," laughed Bernice, "don't blame Perkins for it! I'm
hunting for a bracelet, that has slipped out of my jewel case, somehow.
It must be in this lot of stockings!"
It wasn't, but it turned up at last, inside of a hat, and Bernice gave
a little squeal of relief.
"That's all right, then!" she cried; "I wouldn't lose that for worlds!
It's a bangle father gave me for Christmas, and it has a diamond in the
pendant. All right, Perkins, put the things away any place you like.
But save hooks and shelves enough for my cousin Alicia. She'll be in
this room with me."
Each large room had what seemed to the two little women ample room for
clothes. But Bernice had brought so much more than they did, that her
things overflowed the space provided.
"I'll wear this to-night, for dinner," she said, pulling out a light
green silk from a pile of frocks.
"Oh, Bernie!" exclaimed Dotty; "not that! That's a party dress, isn't
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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.
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
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
"I'm Alicia," announced that spry damsel, gaily, and she caught him by
"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.
Mrs. Berry did not appear at the table, and evidently was not expected,
as no place was set for her.
Mr. Forbes sat at the head, and two girls at either side. A
grave-faced, important looking butler directed the service, and two
footmen assisted. Everything was of the best, and wonderfully cooked
and served, but Dolly and Dotty could scarcely eat for the novelty and
interest of the scene.
"Come, come, Miss Fayre, eat your terrapin," counselled Mr. Forbes, "it
is not so good cold."
"Oh, gracious, Uncle Jeff," exclaimed the volatile Alicia, "don't call
those kids Miss! Call 'em Dotty and Dolly, do."
"Can't remember which is which," declared her uncle, looking at the two
D's. "I can remember the last names, because the Fayre girl is fair,
and the Rose girl is rosy. I shall call them Rosy and Fairy, I think."
"All right, Mr. Forbes," and Dolly smiled and dimpled at the pretty
"And you two must call me something less formal," he said. "Suppose you
call me Uncle Forbes, as you are not really my nieces."
This seemed a fine plan and was readily adopted.
"And now," Mr. Forbes went on, "I don't mind confessing that I've no
idea what to do with you girls. By way of entertainment, I mean."
"Oh, Uncle Jeff," said Bernice, "it's enough entertainment just to be
here in New York for a week. Why, we will have all we can do to see the
shops and the sights—I suppose we can go around sight-seeing?"
"Bless my soul, yes. Of course you can. Go where you like. Order the
motors whenever you choose. Mrs. Berry will do all you want her to;
just tell her your plans. All I ask is that I shan't be troubled with
you during the day."
"Why, uncle," cried Alicia, "won't we see you at all in the daytime?"
"No. I am a very busy man. I cannot have my work interrupted by a pack
of foolish chatterers."
"Whatever did you ask us for?" Alicia's round face wore a look of
"Never you mind, miss. I had a very good reason for asking you, but one
doesn't always tell his reasons. However, I expect to see you every
night at the dinner table, and for an hour or so afterward in the
drawing room. The rest of the time you must amuse yourselves. Have you
any friends in New York, any of you?"
"I have a few," said Dotty, as the inquiring glance turned in her
"Invite them to the house when you choose," said Mr. Forbes,
hospitably, if curtly.
"Oh, no, sir," said Dotty, quickly. "They wouldn't fit in."
Mr. Forbes chuckled. "You have a sense of the fitness of things, Miss
Rosy. Why wouldn't they fit in?"
"Why, they're plain people. Not grand and elegant like you."
"Oho! So I'm grand and elegant, am I? And are you grand and elegant,
Dotty considered. "Yes," she said, finally, "I am, while I'm here. I'm
very adaptable, and while I'm in New York, I mean to be just as grand
and elegant as the house itself."
Mr. Forbes burst into hearty laughter. "Good for you!" he cried. "When
you're in Rome do as the Romans do. And you, Fairy of the golden curls.
Are you going to be grand, also?"
"I can't," returned Dolly, simply. "I can only be myself, wherever I
am. But I shall enjoy all the beautiful things as much as Dotty."
Again Mr. Forbes laughed. "You're a great pair," he said. "I'm glad I
discovered you. And now, Bernice and Alicia, haven't you any young
friends in town you'd like to invite to see you here? Remember the
house is yours."
"Oh, Uncle Jeff," cried Alicia, "you are too good! Do you mean it? Can
we do just as we like? Invite parties, and all that?"
"Yes, indeed. Why not? Have the best time possible, and see to it that
those two little friends of yours have a good time, too."
"But won't you go with us anywhere?" asked Bernice; "I thought you'd
take us to see places where we can't go alone."
"Bless my soul! Take a lot of chattering magpies sightseeing! No, not
if I know it! Mrs. Berry will take you; and on a pinch, I might let my
secretary accompany you, say to see the downtown big buildings or the
bright lights at night."
"Oh, do you have a secretary?" asked Alicia. "What's he like?"
"Fenn? Oh, he's a good sort. Very dependable and really accommodating.
He'll be of great help to you, I'm sure."
"What is your business, Mr. Forbes?" asked Dolly, who was much
interested in this strange type of man. She had never seen any one like
him, and he seemed to her a sort of fairy godfather, who waved his wand
and gave them all sorts of wonderful gifts.
"I haven't any business, my dear. My occupation and amusement is
collecting specimens for my collection. I am an entomologist and
ornithologist, if you know what those big words mean."
"Yes, sir, I do." And Dolly smiled back at him. "Mayn't we see your
"I'm not sure about that, I don't show it to everybody. It is up on the
fourth floor of this house, and no one is allowed up there unless
accompanied by myself or Mr. Fenn. By the way, remember that, all of
you. On no account go up to the fourth floor. Not that you'd be likely
to, for you have no call above the second floor, where your rooms are.
But this is a special command. The house is yours, as I said, but that
means only this first floor and the one above it."
"Goodness me, Uncle Jeff!" said Alicia, "you needn't lay down the law
so hard! We're not absolute babes, to be so strictly cautioned and
forbidden! If you desire us not to go up the second flight of stairs,
of course we won't."
"That's right, my dear, don't. But I do lay it down as a law, and it is
the only law I shall impose on you. Except for that you can follow out
your own sweet wills."
"But," said Dotty, her dark eyes brilliant with the excitement of the
occasion, "I'm not always sure as to what is proper. I want to do just
what is right. Is it correct for us to go about alone, in your big
motor, with your chauffeur? Can we go to the art galleries and the
"Bless my soul! I don't know." The big man looked absolutely helpless.
"Surely you must know such things yourselves. What do your mothers let
you do at home? Oh, well, if you're uncertain, ask Mrs. Berry, she'll
know. She's an all-round capable person, and she'll know all the
unwritten laws about chaperonage and such things. Do as she bids you."
This was satisfactory, and Dotty began at once to make plans for the
"Let's go to the Metropolitan Museum first," she said.
"All right," chimed in Alicia, "we'll go there in the morning, then.
But to-morrow is Wednesday, and I want to go to a matinee in the
afternoon. Can't we, Uncle Jeff?"
"Of course you can. Tell Fenn, he'll see about tickets for you. Just
tell Mrs. Berry to see Fenn about it."
"Oh," sighed the outspoken Dotty, "it is just like Fairyland! Tell
Fenn! Just as if Fenn were a magician!"
"He is," said Mr. Forbes, smiling at her enthusiasm. "I couldn't keep
house without Fenn. He's my right hand man for everything. You girls
mustn't claim too much of his time and attention, for I keep him on the
jump most of the time myself."
"Does your collection keep you so busy?" asked Dolly, whose secret
longing was to see that same collection, which greatly interested her.
"Yes, indeed. There's always work to be done in connection with it.
I've a lot of new specimens just arrived to-day, awaiting
classification and tabulation."
After dinner they all returned to the drawing-room. Mr. Forbes seemed
desirous of keeping up a general conversation, but it was hard to find
a subject to interest him. He would talk a few moments, and then lapse
into absent-mindedness and almost forget the girls' presence.
At times, he would get up from his chair, and stalk up and down the
room, perhaps suddenly pausing in front of one of them, and asking a
"How old are you?" he asked abruptly of Alicia.
"Sixteen," she replied. "I was sixteen last October."
"You look like your mother at that age. She was my only sister. She has
now been dead—"
"Ten years," prompted Alicia. "I was a little child when she died."
"And who looks after you now? Your father's sister, isn't it?"
"Yes, Uncle Jeff. My Aunt Nellie. But I'm at school, you know. I shall
be there the next four years, I suppose."
"Yes, yes, to be sure. Yes, yes, of course. And you, Bernice? You have
no mother, either. But who looks after you?"
"I look after myself, Uncle. Father thinks there's no necessity for me
to have a chaperon in our little home town."
"Not a chaperon, child, but you ought to have some one to guide and
"Dad doesn't think so. He says an American girl can take care of
"Maybe so, maybe so. It might be a good thing for you to go to school
"It might be. But I like our High School at home, and we learn a lot
"But not the same kind of learning. Do they teach you manners and
general society instruction?"
"No," said Bernice, smiling at thought of such things in connection
with the Berwick school. "But my father thinks those things come
naturally to girls of good families."
"Maybe so, maybe so." And then Mr. Forbes again walked up and down the
long room, seemingly lost in his own thoughts.
Dolly and Dotty felt a little uncomfortable. They wanted to make
themselves agreeable and entertaining, but their host seemed interested
exclusively in his young relatives, and they hesitated lest they
As it neared ten o'clock, Mr. Forbes paused in his pacing of the room,
bowed to each of the four in turn, and then saying, courteously, "I bid
you goodnight," he vanished into the hall.
Immediately Mrs. Berry entered. It seemed a relief to see her kind,
smiling face after the uncertain phases of their eccentric host.
"Now you young people must go to bed," the housekeeper said; "you're
tired,—or ought to be. Come along."
Not at all unwillingly they followed her upstairs, and she looked after
their comfort in most solicitous fashion.
After she had shown them how to ring the various bells to call the
maids or to call her, in emergency, and had drawn their attention to
the ice water in thermos bottles, and told them how to adjust the
ventilators, she bade them good-night and went away.
The rooms had a communicating door, and this Alicia promptly threw open
and came through into the two D's room.
"Oh, isn't it all the greatest fun! And did you EVER see anything so
crazy as Uncle Jeff? What he wants us here for, I don't know! But
it's something,—and something especial. He never asked us here to
amuse him! Of that I'm certain."
"Not much he didn't!" and Bernice followed Alicia, and perched on the
edge of Dolly's bed. "Isn't he queer? I didn't know he was so funny as
he is. Did you, Alicia?"
"No; I haven't seen him since I was a tiny mite. But he's all right. He
knows what he's about and I don't wonder he doesn't want us bothering
around if he's busy."
"I'd love to see his collection," said Dolly. "I'm awfully interested
in such things."
"Oh, well, you'll probably have a chance to see it while we're here,"
and Alicia began taking down her hair. "Now, girls, let's get to bed,
for I'm jolly well tired out. But I foresee these poky evenings right
along, don't you? We'll have to cram a lot of fun into our days, if the
evenings are to be spent watching an elderly gentleman stalking around
thus." And then Alicia gave a very good imitation of the way Mr. Forbes
walked around. She didn't ridicule him; she merely burlesqued his
manner as he paused to speak to them in his funny, abrupt way.
"What are you, my dear?" she said, looking at Dolly. "Are you a
specimen I can use in my collection? No? Are you a fashionable
butterfly? I say, Bernice," she suddenly broke off, "why was he so
curious about the way we live at home, and who brings us up?"
"I don't know; and anyway, he knew how long our mothers have been dead
and who takes care of us. Why did he ask those things over and over?"
"I think he's a bit absent-minded. Half the time he was thinking of
matters far removed from this charming quartette of bewitching
beauties. Well, it's up to us to make our own good time. I move we
corral the big limousine for to-morrow morning and go in search of
"To the Metropolitan?" suggested Dolly.
"Yes, if you like, though I'd rather go to the shops," and Alicia
gathered up her hairpins to depart. Her long light hair hung round her
shoulders, and she pushed it back as she affectionately kissed Dolly
and Dotty good-night. "You are sure two darlings!" she said
Four smiling, eager girls trooped down to breakfast the next morning,
and found Mrs. Berry awaiting them. She presided at the table, and they
learned that she would always do so at breakfast and luncheon, though
she did not dine with them.
"Uncle Jeff says we may go to a matinee to-day," said Alicia,
delightedly. "Will you see about the tickets, Mrs. Berry? Uncle said
Mr. Fenn would get them if you asked him to."
"Yes, my dear. And what are your plans for the morning? Do you want the
"Yes, indeed," said Bernice. "We're going to the Museum and I don't
know where else."
"To the Library, if we have time," suggested Dolly. "I want to see all
the places of interest."
"Places of interest never interest me," declared Alicia. "I think
"All right," returned Dolly, good-naturedly, "I'll go wherever you
"Now, don't be so ready to give in, Doll," cautioned Bernice. "You have
as much right to your way as Alicia has to hers."
"No, I haven't," and Dolly smiled brightly; "this is the house of
Alicia's uncle, and not mine."
"Well, he's my uncle, too, and what I say goes, as much as Alicia's
"There, there, girls, don't quarrel," said Mrs. Berry, in her amiable
way. "Surely you can all be suited. There are two cars, you know, and
if you each want to go in a different direction, I'll call taxi-cabs
Dolly and Dotty stared at this new lavishness, and Dotty said, quickly,
"Oh, no, don't do that! We all want to be together, wherever we go. And
I think, as Dolly does, that Bernice and Alicia must choose, for they
belong here and we're guests."
"You're two mighty well-behaved little guests," and Mrs. Berry beamed
at them. "Well, settle it among yourselves. Now, what matinee do you
want to go to? I'll order tickets for you."
"Will you go with us, Mrs. Berry?" asked Dolly.
"No, child. I hope you'll let me off. You girls are old enough to go
alone in the daytime, and Kirke will take you and come to fetch you
home. Now, what play?"
"I want to see 'The Lass and the Lascar'; that's a jolly thing, I
hear," said Alicia, as no one else suggested anything.
"Musical?" asked Bernice.
"Yes," said Mrs. Berry, "it's a comic opera, and a very good one. I've
seen it, and I'm sure you girls will enjoy it. I'll order seats for
that. Be sure to be home for luncheon promptly at one, so you can get
ready for the theatre."
"I can't believe it all," whispered Dotty, pinching Dolly's arm, as
they ran upstairs to prepare for their morning's trip. "Think of our
going to all these places in one day!"
"And six days more to come!" added Dolly. "Oh, it is too gorgeous!"
Arrayed in warm coats and furs, the laughing quartette got into the big
car, and George, the polite footman, adjusted the robes, and asked
"To the Metropolitan Museum, first," said Alicia, unselfishly.
"Oh," cried Dolly, with sparkling eyes, "are we really going there
first! How good of you, Alicia!"
And from the moment they entered the vestibule of the great museum,
Dolly was enthralled with what she saw. Like one in a trance, she
walked from room to room, drinking in the beauty or strangeness of the
exhibits. She ignored the catalogues, merely gazing at the pictures or
curios with an absorbed attention that made her oblivious to all else.
"Watch her," said Alicia, nudging Dotty. "She doesn't even know where
she is! Just now, she's back in Assyria with the people that wore that
Sure enough Dolly was staring into a case of antique bracelets and
earrings of gold and jewels. She moved along the length of the case,
noting each piece, and fairly sighing with admiration and wonder.
"My gracious! isn't she the antiquarian!" exclaimed Alicia. "Look here,
old Professor Wiseacre, what dynasty does this junk belong to?"
Dolly looked up with a vacant stare.
"Come back to earth!" cried Alicia, shaking with laughter. "Come back
to the twentieth century! We mourn our loss!"
"Yes, come back, Dollums," said Dotty. "There are other rooms full of
stuff awaiting your approval."
Dolly laughed. "Oh, you girls don't appreciate What you're seeing. Just
think! Women wore these very things! Real, live women!"
"Well, they're not alive now," said Bernice, "and we are. So give us
the pleasure of your company. Say, Dolly, some day you come up here all
alone by yourself, and prowl around—"
"Oh, I'd love to! I'll do just that. And then I won't feel that I'm
delaying you girls. Where do you want to go now?"
"Anywhere out of this old museum," said Alicia, a little pettishly.
"You've had your way, Dotty, now it's only fair I should have mine.
We've about an hour left; let's go to the shops."
"Yes, indeed," and Dolly spoke emphatically. "I didn't realise that I
was being a selfish old piggy-wig!"
"And you're not," defended Bernice. "We all wanted to come here, but,
well, you see, Dolly, you do dawdle."
"But it's such a wonder-place!" and Dolly gazed longingly backward as
they left the antiquities. "And there are rooms we haven't even looked
"Dozens of 'em," assented Alicia. "But not this morning, my
chickabiddy! I must flee to the busy marts and see what's doing in the
way of tempting bargains."
"All right," and Dolly put her arm through Alicia's. "What are you
going to buy?"
"Dunno, till I see something that strikes my fancy. But in the paper
this morning, I noticed a special sale of 'Pastime Toggery' at
Follansbee's. Let's go there."
"Never heard of the place," said Dolly. "But let's go."
"Never heard of Follansbee's! Why, it's the smartest shop in New York
for sport clothes."
"Is it? We never get sport clothes. Unless you mean middies and
sweaters. My mother buys those at the department stores."
"Oh, you can't get exclusive models there!" and Alicia's face wore a
"No," said outspoken Dolly, "but we don't wear exclusive models. We're
rather inclusive, I expect."
"You're a duck!" cried Alicia, who, though ultra-fashionable herself,
liked the honesty and frankness of the two D's.
They reached the shop in question, and the four girls went in.
The Berwick girls were a little awed at the atmosphere of the place,
but Alicia was entirely mistress of the situation. She had many
costumes and accessories shown to her, and soon became as deeply
absorbed in their contemplation as Dolly had been in the Museum
"Why, for goodness' sake!" cried Bernice, at last. "Are you going to
buy out the whole shop, Alicia?"
"Why, I'm not going to buy any," returned Alicia, looking surprised;
"I'm just shopping, you know."
"Oh, is that it? Well, let me tell you it isn't any particular fun for
us to look on while you 'shop'! And, anyway, it's time to be going
home, or we'll be late for the luncheon and for the matinee."
"All right, I'll go now. But wait. I want to buy some little thing for
you girls,—sort of a souvenir, you know."
"Good for you!" said Bernice, but Dolly demurred.
"I don't think you ought to, Alicia," she said. "I don't believe my
mother would like me to take it."
"Nonsense, Towhead! I'm just going to get trifles. Nobody could object
to my giving you a tiny token of my regard and esteem. Let me see,—how
about silk sweaters? They're always handy to have in the house."
Unheeding the girls' protestations, Alicia selected four lovely
colours, and asked the saleswoman to get the right sizes.
Dolly's was robin's egg blue; Dotty's salmon pink; Bernice's, a deep
orange, and Alicia's own was white, as she declared she already had
every colour of the rainbow.
Then she selected an old rose one for Mrs. Berry, getting permission to
exchange it if it should be a misfit.
Alicia ordered the sweaters sent to her uncle's house, and the bill
sent to her father. This arrangement seemed perfectly satisfactory to
the shop people, and the girls set off for home.
"I feel uncomfortable about that sweater," announced Dolly, as they
were on their way.
"That doesn't matter," laughed Alicia, "so long as you don't feel
uncomfortable in it! Remove that anxious scowl, my little Towhead; I
love to give things to my friends, and you must learn to accept trifles
"But it isn't a trifle, Alicia. I know mother won't like it."
"Won't like that blue sweater! Why, it's a beauty!"
"I don't mean that. I mean she won't like for me to take it,—to accept
it from you."
"All right; tell her you bought it yourself."
"Tell a story about it! No, thank you." Dolly's blue eyes fairly
flashed at the thought.
"Well, my stars! Dolly, don't make such a fuss about it! Throw it away,
or give it to the scullery maid! You don't have to keep it!"
Clearly, Alicia was annoyed. Dolly was far from ungrateful, and she
didn't know quite what to do.
"Of course, she'll keep it," Dotty broke in, anxious to straighten
matters out. "She adores it, Alicia; but we girls aren't accustomed to
making each other gifts,—at least, not expensive ones."
"Well, you needn't make a habit of it. One sweater doesn't make a
summer! I hope Mrs. Berry won't be so squeamish! If I thought she
would, I'd throw hers in the ash barrel before I'd give it to her!"
"I s'pose I was horrid about it, Alicia," said Dolly, contritely; "I do
love it, really, you know I do; but, as Dotty says, we never give such
gifts. Why, I can't give you anything to make up for it—"
"And I don't want you to! You little goose! But like as not, you can
sometime do something for me worth more than a dozen sweaters."
"I hope so, I'm sure. Will you tell me if I can?"
"Yes, baby-face! I declare, Dolly, it's hard to realise you're fifteen
years old! You act about twelve,—and look ten!"
"Oh, not so bad as that!" and Dolly laughed gaily. "I s'pose I do seem
younger than I am, because I've always lived in a small town. We don't
do things like city girls."
"'Deed we don't!" exclaimed Dotty. "I used to live in the city, and
when I went to Berwick it was like a different world. But I've come to
like it now."
"I like it," said Bernice, decidedly. "I think we have a lot more fun
in Berwick than we could in New York. To live, I mean. Of course, this
visit here is lovely, but it's the novelty and the strange sights that
make it so. I wouldn't want to live in New York."
"Neither would I," and Dolly shook her head very positively.
"I would," said Alicia. "I'd just love to live here, in a house like
Uncle Jeff's, and have all these cars and servants and everything fine."
"No, thank you," Dolly rejoined. "It's beautiful for a week, but it
makes my head go round to think of living like this always."
"Your head is not very securely fastened on, anyway," and Alicia
grinned at her. "You'll lose it some day!"
"Maybe so," smiled Dolly, affably, and then they suddenly found they
were back home.
"Good time, girlies?" called out Mrs. Berry, as they entered. "Lunch is
all ready; sit down and eat it, and get dressed for the matinee
afterward, Mr. Fenn got fine seats for you,—near the front. You'll
like the play, I know."
And like the play they did. It was a light opera, of the prettiest
type, full of lovely scenery, gay costumes and bright, catchy music.
"The Lass and the Lascar" was its name, and the lass in question was a
charming little girl who seemed no older than the quartette themselves.
The Lascar was a tall, handsome man, whose swarthy East Indian effects
were picturesque and attractive. He had a magnificent baritone voice,
and the girls sat breathless when he sang his splendid numbers. All
four were fond of music and even more than the gay splendour of the
show they enjoyed the voices and orchestra.
"Isn't he wonderful!" exclaimed Alicia, as the curtain fell on the
first act. "Oh, girls, isn't he SUPERB! I'm MADLY in love with him!"
"He has a beautiful voice," agreed Dolly, "but I couldn't be in love
with him! He's too,—too ferocious!"
"But that's his charm," declared Alicia, rolling her eyes in ecstasy.
"Oh, he is ideal! He's fascinating!"
The curtain rose again, and the Lascar proved even more fascinating. He
was a daredevil type, as Lascars have the reputation of being, but he
was gentle and affectionate toward the Lass, who, for some inexplicable
reason, scorned his advances.
"What a FOOL she is! WHAT a fool!" Alicia whispered, as the coquettish
heroine laughed at the impassioned love songs of her suitor. "I should
fall into his arms at once!"
"Then there wouldn't be any more opera," laughed Bernice. "That fall
into his arms is always the last episode on the stage."
"That's so," agreed Alicia, "but how can she flout him so? Oh, girls,
isn't he the grandest man? I never saw such a handsome chap! What a
lovely name he has, too: Bayne Coriell! A beautiful name."
"Good gracious, Alicia! don't rave over him like that! Somebody will
"I don't care. I never saw any one so wonderful! I'm going to get his
picture when we go out. I suppose it's for sale in the lobby. They
"Are they?" asked Dolly. "Then I want to get one of the Lass. Marie
Desmond, her name is. Can I, do you think?"
"Yes, of course, Dollykins. You get that and I'll get my hero, my idol,
As it chanced the photographs were not on sale at the theatre, but an
usher told Alicia where they could be bought, and she directed Kirke to
stop there on the way home.
She bought several different portraits of the man who had so infatuated
her and Dolly bought two photographs of Miss Desmond. The other girls
said they didn't care for any pictures, and laughed at the enthusiasm
of Alicia and Dolly.
"I want this," Dolly defended herself, "because sometime I'm going to
be an opera singer. I did mean to sing in Grand Opera, and maybe I
will, but if I can't do that, I'll sing in light opera, and I like to
have this picture to remind me how sweet Miss Desmond looks in this
"Pooh," said Alicia, "that's all very well. But I want these pictures
of Bayne Coriell because he's such a glorious man! Why, he's as
handsome as Apollo. And, girls, I don't believe he's hardly any older
than we are."
"Oh, he must be," returned Dotty. "Why, he's twenty-two or more, I'm
"Maybe he is twenty, but not more than that. Oh, how I wish I could
meet him! Think of the joy of talking to a man like that!"
"Well, it's not likely you'll ever meet Bayne Coriell," said Bernice,
laughing at the idea; "so you needn't hope for that!"
A MATINEE IDOL
"Oh, Uncle Jeff," Alicia cried, as they gathered round the dinner-table
that same night, "we went to the splendidest play! It was a light
opera, 'The Lass and the Lascar.' Have you seen it?"
"No, my dear, I rarely go to the theatre; never to foolish pieces like
that! But it's all right for you young people. So you enjoyed it, did
you? How did you like—"
But Alicia's babble interrupted him. "Oh, Uncle, it was simply out of
sight! And the hero! Ah-h-h!"
Alicia leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes as if the memory of
the hero was overwhelming.
"Took your fancy, did he?" asked her uncle, with a twinkle in his eye.
"Good-looking faintly expresses it!" and Alicia returned to
consciousness. "He was like a Greek god! And his CHARM! Oh, Uncle Jeff,
he is just indescribable! I wish you could SEE him."
"Must be a paragon! What did the rest of you girls think! Were you hit
Dotty laughed. "He was splendid, Uncle Forbes," she said, "but we
didn't fall so head over heels in love with him as Alicia did. He has a
stunning voice and he's a fine actor."
"Oh, more than that!" raved Alicia. "He's a DARLING! a man of a
"A young man?" asked Mr. Forbes.
"Yes," replied Bernice. "Alicia thinks he isn't twenty, but he can't be
much more. He looked a mere boy."
"Wasn't that because he was made up as a young character in the play?"
"Partly," admitted Alicia. "But he's a very young man, anyway. Oh,
Uncle Jeff, I'm just CRAZY over him! I think I shall go to see that
play every chance I can possibly get. Could we go to an evening
"Speak for yourself, John!" cried Bernice. "I don't want to see that
play again! I enjoyed it heaps, and I think Mr. Coriell was fine, but
next time we go I'd rather see something else."
"So would I," said the two D's together.
"How can you say so!" and Alicia looked at the others in scorn. "You'll
never find any actor who can hold a candle to Coriell! I have his
picture, Uncle," and, excusing herself, she left the table to get them.
"H'm, yes, a good-looking man," agreed Mr. Forbes, as he scrutinised
the photographs. "But, Alicia, you mustn't fall in love with every
operatic tenor you see. I believe this Coriell is a 'matinee idol,' but
don't allow him to engage your young affections."
"Too late with your advice, Uncle Jeff!" and Alicia gazed raptly at the
pictures. "I ADORE him! and the fact that my adoration is hopeless
makes it all the more interesting. Oh, isn't he a WONDER!"
Gaily she set the pictures up in front of her, propping them on glasses
or salt cellars, and continued to make mock worship at his shrine.
"Don't be silly, Alicia," commented her uncle, but she only shook her
head at him, and gave a mournful sigh.
The girls spent the evening much the same as they had done the night
before. They all sat in the stately drawing-room, and endeavoured to
make conversation. But Uncle Jeff was hard to talk to, for he rarely
stuck to one subject for more than five minutes at a time, and abruptly
interrupted the girls when they were trying their best to be
Alicia continued to chatter about her new-found enthusiasm, until her
uncle commanded her to desist.
"May I beg of you, Alicia," he said, sternly, "to cease raving over
that man? He's doubtless old enough to be your father, and would be
bored to death could he hear your nonsense about him!"
Alicia looked put out, but a glance at her uncle's face proved his
seriousness, and she said no more about the actor.
The evening wore away, but it seemed to the girls as if it never would
be ten o'clock. And it was greatly to their relief, when, at about
half-past nine, Mr. Forbes bade them good-night and went off upstairs.
"It is all the queerest performance," said Bernice. "What in the world
does Uncle Jeff want of us,—I can't make out. The outlook seems to be
that we can have all the fun we want daytimes, and pay for it by these
ghastly evening sessions."
"There's something back of it all," said Alicia, astutely. "This
revered uncle of ours, Bernie, has something up his sleeve."
"I think so, too," said Dotty. "He scrutinises us all so closely, when
he thinks we're not looking. But I, for one, am quite willing to put up
with these evenings for the sake of the fun we have in the daytime."
"I should say so!" agreed Dolly. "We never can thank you enough, Bern,
for bringing us."
"And I'm glad to have you here," said Mrs. Berry, entering the room.
"You're like a ray of sunshine in this dull house,—like four rays of
"But WHY are we here?" insisted Alicia. "You must know why, Mrs. Berry.
Do tell us."
"You're here, my dears, because Mr. Forbes invited you. There is no
other reason,—no other explanation. And now, tell me, did you like the
"Did we LIKE it!" exclaimed the volatile Alicia, "we're just crazy over
it. Why, the chief actor—"
"Now, 'Licia," protested Dolly, "if you're going to begin raving over
that man again!"
"Well, I am!" declared Alicia. "I just can't help it!"
Nor did she seem able to curb her enthusiasm, for after the girls went
to their rooms, she kept on extolling Mr. Coriell until the others were
tired of the subject.
And even when the D's were nearly ready for bed, and, in kimonos, were
brushing their hair, Alicia burst into their room, exclaiming, "I've
the grandest plan! I'm going to invite Mr. Coriell to come here and
call on me!"
"Alicia Steele!" Dotty cried, "you're not going to do any such thing!"
"Yes, I am. Uncle Jeff said we could invite anybody we wanted
to,—that's permission enough for me."
"But he didn't mean some one you don't know at all,—and an actor at
"I don't care. He didn't make any exceptions, and I'm going to do it.
I'm going to write the note."
She went back to her own room, and sat down at the pretty little
escritoire that was there.
"How shall I address him?" she asked, but more of herself than the
"Not at all!" said Dolly, and she took the pen from Alicia's fingers.
"You must be crazy to think of such a thing!"
"Don't do it, Alicia," begged Dotty; "tell her not to, Bernice."
"I don't care what she does," and Bernice laughed. "It's none of my
affair. I think it would be rather good fun, only I know he wouldn't
"I think he would," said Alicia. "Anyway, I'm going to tell him how I
adored his acting and his singing, and I guess he'll be glad to come to
call at Jefferson Forbes' house! I think I'll ask him to afternoon tea.
Why, it isn't such a terrible thing, as you seem to think, Dolly.
Anybody has a right to write to an actor,—they expect it. He probably
gets hundreds of notes every day."
"Then he won't notice yours. He can't possibly accept a hundred
"Oh, they don't all invite him. Any way, I'm going to write."
Alicia found another pen, and soon produced this effusion:
"My dear Mr. Coriell.
"I'm just simply crazy over your performance in 'The Lass and the
Lascar' and I feel that I MUST meet you. I shall DIE if I don't!
Please, oh, PLEASE give me an opportunity. Will you come to see me at
my uncle's house, Mr. Jefferson Forbes? Can you come to-morrow or
Friday? I can't EXIST if you say No! So grant the plea of
"Your devoted admirer,
"It's perfectly horrid!" and Dolly's fair face grew flushed with anger.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Alicia."
"Now, look here, Dolly Fayre," and Alicia's eyes flashed, "I won't be
dictated to by a little country ignoramus! I've had experience in the
ways of the world, and you haven't. Now suppose you let me alone. It's
none of your business, as you very well know."
"Dolly was only advising you for your own good!" Dotty flashed out,
indignant at the rebuff to her chum; "but, truly, Doll, it isn't up to
you to tell Alicia what to do. This is her uncle's house, not yours,
and you're in no way responsible for her doings."
"I know it," and Dolly looked serious, "but I know, too, Alicia will be
sorry and ashamed if she sends that silly letter!"
"Let her be, then," counselled Bernice. "If Uncle Jeff doesn't like it,
that's Alicia's affair, not ours. Leave her alone, Dolly."
But Dolly made one more effort.
"Listen, Alicia," she said, pleadingly; "at least, ask Mrs. Berry's
advice. She's awfully indulgent, you know, and if she says all
right,—then go ahead."
Alicia looked at Dolly. To tell the truth, she had misgivings herself
about the plan, but she was too proud to be advised.
"I'll tell you what," she decided, at last; "you said, only to-day,
Dolly, that you'd be glad to do something for me. Now, prove that you
meant it. You go and ask Mrs. Berry if we can do this. She's awfully
fond of you, and she'd say yes to you quicker'n she would to me. So, if
you're so anxious for her consent, go and ask her. She's in her
room,—I just heard her go in."
"But, Alicia," and Dolly looked dismayed, "I don't want to do this
thing! Why should I ask Mrs. Berry for what YOU want?"
"Because you said you'd be glad to do me a favour. I knew you didn't
mean it! I knew you'd fizzle out when the time came!"
"She hasn't fizzled out!" exclaimed Dotty. "Doll never breaks a
promise. But, say, Alicia, I'll go and ask Mrs. Berry. How's that?"
"No, Dolly's got to go, if any one does. She said she'd love to do me a
favour, now let her do it."
It was evidently a test case with Alicia, and one glance at her
determined face convinced Dolly, that she would never be forgiven if
she failed to do this thing.
"All right," she said, slowly, "I'll go and ask Mrs. Berry. But I shall
tell her it's for you, Alicia. I shan't let her think I want to ask
that man here!"
"Hold on, Dolly. Don't you think it would be nice if he should come,
with Mrs. Berry's permission?"
"Yes, I think that would be lots of fun; but she won't give permission,
Alicia. I know that as well as I know my own name!"
"Of course, she won't, if you go about it that way! I depend on you to
coax her or get around her some way to MAKE her say yes. See? Don't
think that you can go in there and say 'May we?' and have her say 'No,'
and let that end it! I tell you you've got to get her consent. You've
got to do this for me, because you said you'd do whatever I asked you."
"Oh, Alicia!" and Dotty shook her head vigorously, "Doll never said
"Well, she meant that. And what's the use of her doing anything I can
do for myself? But you all know she's Mrs. Berry's pet of the four of
"No, I'm not," and Dolly looked deeply troubled.
"Yes, you are, and it's just because you're so mild and meek. Now, will
you go and ask her? You'll have to be quick or she'll have gone to bed."
"Yes, I'll go," and Dolly showed sudden determination.
"And will you promise to do all you can to make her say yes—"
"I'll do that, Alicia, but I can't promise to make her say yes."
"You can if you coax her. And don't let her think it's all for my
benefit. Because it isn't. You girls will have just as much fun as I
will, if he comes."
Dolly twisted up her golden curls in a loose knot, and still in her
trailing dressing-gown, she went down the hall to Mrs. Berry's room and
tapped gently at the door.
It was opened at once, and Dolly was glad to see Mrs. Berry had not yet
begun her preparations for the night, so she was not disturbing her.
"What is it, dearie?" asked the kind-hearted lady; "come in. Sit down."
Dolly sat down in a little rocker, and was suddenly seized with a fit
of shyness. The request she had come to make seemed so impossible, that
she couldn't put it into words. Mrs. Berry saw her embarrassment, and
kindly strove to put her at ease.
"How do you like my room?" she said, cordially; "you've never been in
"It's lovely," said Dolly, looking about at the pretty furnishings;
"it's in a sort of back extension, isn't it?"
"Yes, this a narrower part of the house, and gives me an outlook on our
tiny yard as well as on the side street. It's a very satisfactory room,
except for my neighbour," and she laughed.
"Who is the unsatisfactory neighbour?" asked Dolly, smiling in response.
"Not the people next door, they're quiet enough; but they have a
parrot, and he's in the room just across from this, and he chatters so
often that it is sometimes very annoying. Look over, you can see him
Sure enough, as Dolly looked from the window, she saw a big Polly in a
cage at the opposite casement. Only thin lace curtains were between,
and Dolly could clearly see the beautiful bird.
"It's a lovely parrot," she said, "but I suppose his chatter is just as
bothersome as if he were a homelier bird. Well, Mrs. Berry," and she
turned from the window, "I've come to ask you something."
"And something that you hesitate to ask,—I can see that. But don't be
afraid, dear. Tell me what it is, and if I have to refuse you, at least
I won't do it harshly."
"I know you won't!" and Dolly felt ashamed of her fears. "Well, it's
just this. Alicia,—that is, we're all of us just crazy over the hero
in the play we saw this afternoon, and we—that is, we think it would
be nice if we could—if we could ask him to—to call here, on us."
The dreaded speech was made, and though Mrs. Berry looked surprised,
she didn't exclaim in horror at the idea.
"Whose plan is this?" she asked, quietly.
"Why,—well,—we all want it."
"Yes, but who first thought of it?"
"Alicia spoke of it, and—the others agreed,—we all agreed,—that it
would be lots of fun,—if you approved of it." Now Mrs. Berry could see
a hole through a millstone, and she knew as well as if she had been
told, that the others had planned this thing,—probably Alicia or
Bernice,—and had made Dolly their spokesman, because of her
"What do YOU think of the idea?" she said smiling.
"At first it seemed to me a very forward thing to do," Dolly replied,
looking very sober; "but if you think it's all right, I'd like to meet
Mr. Coriell. You see, I'm going to be an opera singer myself, some day,
and there are a few questions I'd like to ask him."
Mrs. Berry gasped. "You do beat the dickens!" she exclaimed. "So you're
going on the stage, are you?"
"Yes, I think so."
"Then of course you ought to meet an actor. Tell Alicia to go ahead and
ask this man. Tell her to invite him to tea on Friday. I'll arrange a
pretty tea-party for you."
"Oh, I'll tell her! She'll be SO glad!" and Dolly departed, quite
unconscious that she had unwittingly betrayed Alicia's principal part
in the scheme.
Demurely Dolly went back to her room. The other girls were breathlessly
awaiting her return, and pounced on her for the news.
"At least you got back alive!" cried Dotty as she grabbed Dolly by the
arms and danced her up and down the room.
"But what did she say?" demanded Alicia, in fiery impatience.
"Don't you wish you knew!" and Dolly fell into a teasing mood, and when
Dolly Fayre felt like teasing, she was adept at it!
"Tell us! Tell us!" cried Bernice. "Oh, Dolly, tell us!"
"Tell you what?" asked Dolly, with an innocent stare.
"Tell us what Mrs. Berry said."
"Oh, she asked me how I liked her room, and she showed me the parrot
next door. It's a beautiful bird—"
"Never mind a bird! What did she say about Mr. Coriell?"
"Why, we talked about the parrot first. You see, his cage hangs in a
window right across from hers, not ten feet away—"
"Nonsense!" cried Alicia, "who cares about the parrot! Tell us about my
"She says he has a dreadful voice, and squawks like fury—"
"Oh, he HASN'T! He's a wonderful singer!"
"I mean the parrot," said Dolly, mischievously enjoying Alicia's
disgusted look. "And she says we can ask him to tea."
"Who? the parrot?" This from Dotty.
"No, you silly! Mr. Coriell. But, of course, if you'd rather have the
"Oh, Dolly, do be sensible!" and Bernice looked exasperated; "are you
going to tell us all about it or not?"
"Not if you're so rude to me! Certainly not! You are dismissed, you
two. Dot and I are going to bed."
"Not much you're not!" declared Alicia. "Not till you tell us what Mrs.
"Then you must ask me with due politeness and proper courtesy. I can't
report to a lot of cackling geese! You're worse than parrots!"
"Please, dear, sweet Dollyrinda, what DID the lady say?" begged Dotty,
in wheedling tones.
"Ah, yes, tell us," and Alicia took the cue. "Angel child! Beautiful
blonde Towhead! what,—oh, vouchsafe to deign to tell us, WHAT did she
"Whoop it up, Dollums," said Bernice, laughing, "out with it, you
little rascal. Did she hold up her hands in horror?"
"She did NOT," said Dolly, with dignity. "She said, that if Alicia
chose, she might invite the gentleman to tea on Friday, and that she
would see to it that there was a nice tea-party prepared for his
benefit. There, WHO'S a good ambassador?"
"You are! you blessed angel!" cried Alicia, warmly; "you're a wonder! a
marvel! a peach! a pippin! Oh, you're just all there is of it! Did she
REALLY say that?"
"Oh, you want to know what she REALLY said," and Dolly's head went on
one side, as she began to tease again.
"Of course, that's what she really said," interposed Dotty, who didn't
want any more high words. "'Licia, be satisfied with that, and scoot to
"Nothing of the sort. We're going to make fudge to celebrate! I told
you I had my chafing-dish; don't you girls feel fudgy?"
"I could nibble a morsel," Bernice said, "and not half try. How about
"I'm right there—with bells on!"
"Isn't it too late?" objected Dolly.
"Now, look here, priggy-wig," and Alicia shook a finger at her, "if you
don't quit that spoilsporting of yours, there'll be trouble in camp!
The truth is, there's not much fun in making fudge, just 'cause there's
nobody to forbid it! At school, we have to do it on the sly. Here, if
Mrs. Berry or Uncle Jeff knew we thought of it, they'd send forty
'leven footmen and maids to help us!" "That's so," laughed Dolly; "I
wasn't thinking of them. But isn't it time we all went to bed?"
"Of course it is, young hayseed. That's why we're staying up. Also, it
makes you so delightfully sleepy next morning! Now, do you come to this
fudge party or do you go to bed?"
"Do I come to it!" cried Dolly, in disdain. "Well, I like that! Why,
your old fudge party is FOR me! I'm the heroine of the hour! Who went
on your desperate and dangerous errand, I'd like to know! Who got
permission to invite your old Coriell man to tea? Come, now, declare
the fudge party a feast in my honour, or call it off!"
"It is! it is!" laughed Alicia. "To the victor belong the spoils. The
party is ALL for you, and if you will accept our humble invitation come
right into our room and make yourself at home."
So the two D's went into the other girls' room, and Alicia got out her
chafing-dish set and prepared for the feast.
"How are you going to make fudge with nothing but chocolate?" laughed
"That's so," said Alicia, looking blank. "I forgot I had to have milk
and butter and sugar and a lot of things. Guess we can't do it."
"Guess we can!" retorted Bernice, and she pushed a bell button.
"Oh, Bernie!" exclaimed Dotty, "you oughtn't to call the maid so late!
She'll be in bed."
"Then she won't answer," said Bernice, calmly.
But in a moment a maid did come, and smilingly listened to their
"Some milk, please," said Alicia, "and sugar, and butter,—"
"All the things for fudge, miss?" asked the girl, her eyes taking in
the chafing-dish. "Certainly. In a moment."
She disappeared and the girls burst into peals of laughter.
"It's impossible to do anything frisky here," said Alicia, "because
everything we want to do, is looked on as all right!"
"Well, it isn't a dreadful thing to make fudge of an evening," put in
"No," agreed Dolly, "but I wouldn't think of doing it at my house.
After I'd gone to my room for the night, I mean."
"It's a funny thing," said Alicia, "but all the fun of it's gone now. I
don't care two cents for the fudge, it's the excitement of doing it
secretly, that appeals to me. We do it at school, and we have to be so
fearfully careful lest the teachers hear us."
"I know what you mean," said Dolly, "but I don't believe I feel that
way. I love fudge, but I'd a whole lot rather have people know we're
making it than to do it on the sly."
"You're a little puritan," and Alicia flew over and kissed her. "No
wonder Mrs. Berry said yes to you, you probably made her think it was a
duty to humanity!"
When the maid returned with the trayful of things they had asked for,
there was also a goodly plate of frosted cakes and a dish of fruit.
"In case you might feel hungry," she explained. "Mrs. Berry was saying
the other day, how hungry young folks do be gettin'. Shall I return for
the tray, miss?"
"No," said Dolly, kindly. "You go to bed. We'll set the things out in
the hall, when we're finished, and you can take them away in the
"Thank you, miss," and the maid went away, leaving the girls to their
"I'm not going to make fudge," said Alicia, "there's enough here to
eat, without it."
"I'll do it, then," said Dolly. "I'm not going to make all this trouble
and then not seem to appreciate it."
She began to cut the chocolate, and Dotty helped her.
Alicia made the chafing-dish ready, and Bernice set out a table for
"This is splendid fudge," Alicia remarked, as at last they sat enjoying
the feast. "You must give me your recipe."
"Probably just like yours," smiled Dolly; "but it always tastes better
if somebody else makes it."
"Not always! It depends on WHO makes it. This is fine!"
"Even if we are not doing it on the sly? I declare, Alicia, I can't
understand that feeling of yours. I s'pose you don't care so much about
Mr. Coriell, since Mrs. Berry is willing."
"It does take the snap out of it," Alicia admitted. "But I couldn't do
that on the sly, anyway. I mean if I had him HERE. I wish I could meet
him somewhere else,—at some tearoom, or somewhere."
"Oh, Alicia, I think you're horrid! Nice girls don't do things like
that!" Dolly's big blue eyes expressed such amazement that Alicia
"You little innocent!" she cried.
"I'd rather be innocent than ill-bred," Dolly flashed back.
"Well, wait till you go to boarding-school and you'll get some of those
strait-laced notions knocked out of you."
"I don't ever expect to go. I wouldn't like to leave home. And that
reminds me, girls, I must skip. I've got to write up my diary before I
go to bed. You do my share of the clearing up, won't you, Dot?"
"'Course I will," and Dolly ran off to the other room while the three
cleared away the party and set the tray out in the hall.
"Is Dolly always so goody-goody?" asked Alicia.
Dotty took the question seriously. "I shouldn't call her that," she
said; "but she isn't very mischievous, and she's as honest as the day
is long. She positively abhors deceit. And, somehow, Alicia, all the
things that you think are fun, are the sort of things she doesn't stand
for. That's all. Doll isn't a prig,—is she, Bernice?"
"No; she's as fond of fun as anybody. But Alicia rubs her the wrong
"I don't mean to. Only I don't see any harm in pranks that SHE thinks
"Well, you ought to bless her for getting the Coriell matter fixed up.
I don't believe Mrs. Berry would have done it for any of us. But when
Dolly asked her, I s'pose she made it seem all right."
"It IS all right," defended Alicia.
"Oh, I don't know," and Bernice looked doubtful, "I don't think the
Fayres or Roses would like it much; I doubt if my dad would approve.
But what Mrs. Berry says, goes." "It does SO!" assented Alicia, and
then they all said good-night.
Alicia's letter was mailed next morning and to her surprise a reply
arrived about noon, brought by a messenger. It said:
My dear Miss Steele:
Your welcome invitation is here. I cannot accept for to-morrow as I
have an important engagement then, but I will do myself the pleasure of
calling upon you TO-DAY at four o'clock, and trust I may find you at
"Oh, isn't it wonderful!" sighed Alicia. "A letter from HIM! Oh, girls,
I'm so happy! How CAN I wait for four o'clock!"
She ran away to tell Mrs. Berry of the letter.
"Very well," said the kind-hearted woman, "it's just as well to have
him come to-day. Suppose we have tea in the small reception room, it's
cosier than the drawing-room."
"All right," said Alicia. "Will Uncle Jeff come down, do you think?"
"I doubt it. However, I'll tell him you expect Mr. Coriell, and he can
do as he likes." Mrs. Berry had a peculiar twinkle in her eye, and
Alicia noted it, and wondered what it meant. The whole affair seemed
mysterious, for she had not supposed Mrs. Berry would be so ready to
receive this strange young man.
"You think it's all right for us to receive him, don't you, Mrs.
Berry?" she asked, for she began to fear lest she had been too
"I daresay it's all right, my dear. Of course, such things weren't done
in my day, but young folks are different now. And Mr. Forbes said you
girls were to do pretty much as you like."
"Were you surprised at our asking for this?" Alicia persisted.
"Well, yes, since you ask me, I must say I was surprised. Especially
when I found Dolly Fayre was the ringleader."
"Oh,—well,—she DID ask you, didn't she? Maybe Dolly isn't such a
quiet little mouse as she seems."
"Dolly's all right," and Mrs. Berry spoke with some asperity. "Now,
I'll send tea in at quarter past four, is that your idea?"
"Oh, Mrs. Berry, won't you be present?"
"No; I have my duties, and I observe them properly, but to preside at
tea is not one of them. Your uncle expressly ordered that."
"Do you mean Uncle Jeff ordered that we should receive Mr. Coriell
"Well, he didn't direct that I should be there. If he wants to come
down, he will."
"Very well," and Alicia suddenly became dignified, "we can manage. I
suppose it will be proper to dress up a good deal?"
Again that amused smile flitted over Mrs. Berry's face.
"As you like," she said, indifferently. "All your frocks are pretty."
Alicia returned to the others, and told them all the conversation.
"I hope Uncle Forbes does come down," said Dolly, "I think it would be
nicer to have him there."
"Come, now, old mother Prim, don't throw cold water on our little
party," said Alicia. "You know how the conversation would run, with
uncle at the helm!"
"It wouldn't run at all," laughed Bernice, "it would stagnate!"
When the girls began to dress for the tea, there was a wide diversity
of opinion as to appropriate costumes.
"Our very best," said Alicia decidedly. "Nothing's too good for Bayne!"
"You'd better be careful," warned Dotty, "you'll call him Bayne to his
face! You use it so much!"
"Don't care if I do!" returned Alicia, pertly. "I say, Doll, is THAT
your best frock?"
"Yes, except an evening one."
"Let's see your evening one. I'll bet it's just about right for this
Dolly produced a pretty light blue affair of chiffon, and Alicia
exclaimed, "Wear that, of course. It's really no evening dress at all,
but it's a very nice afternoon thing."
Dolly looked dubious. "What are you going to wear, Dots?" she said.
"Oh, I s'pose we might as well wear our best ones. As Alicia says,
they're all right for afternoon here, though they wouldn't be in
"All right," and Dolly put on her pretty fluffy dress. Very lovely she
looked, her golden curls twisted up high on her head, and held by a
bandeau of blue ribbon.
Dotty's dress was yellow, and very becoming. She wore a black velvet
headband, and Alicia cried out in approval when she saw the two D's
ready for inspection.
"My!" she said, "you look better than I do! Now, I am mad!"
But her rage was only simulated, and she didn't really think what she
She herself wore a most elaborate embroidered dress of rich pink silk.
It was trimmed, too, with pearl bead fringe, and to Dolly's simple
taste it was too fussy. But Dotty admired it, and Bernice thought it
"It IS a good thing," said Alicia, carelessly. "It's imported. I've
never had it on before."
Bernice had a lovely dress of white tulle, with white satin
ribbons;—lovely, that is, for evening, but too dressy for daytime.
However, as the winter dusk fell early, the lights were on, and it
seemed almost like evening.
The four girls, in the reception room, waited the coming of their
guest. To their surprise, Mr. Forbes came in, and looked them over with
"Well, you ARE ready for the fray, aren't you?" he said, taking in
their dressy finery and their important, self-conscious airs.
"Yes, Uncle Jeff," responded Alicia; "will you stay and see our young
For some unexplained reason, Uncle Jeff laughed heartily. But he
checked his merriment, and said, "No, Alicia, I fear I might intrude; I
know you want to flirt with this young actor, and I'd be a spoilsport.
But let me warn you to be very gentle with him. You see, he may be so
overcome by this galaxy of youth and beauty that he'll be embarrassed
and run away!"
"Nonsense, uncle," said Bernice, "actors are not easily embarrassed.
More likely we girls will be struck dumb at his splendour and
"Well, tell me all about it afterward," and still chuckling, Mr. Forbes
"What ails Uncle?" said Alicia, pettishly. "Anybody'd think he had a
joke on us."
"No," Dotty rejoined, "only he's sort of old, you know, and he doesn't
see the fun in this, as we do."
"Well, I wish the fun would hurry up! It's after four now."
"Such people are never on time," said Alicia, with a great air of
experience. "He's sure to be late. Oh, there's the bell now!"
The girls, with hearts beating high, grouped themselves in a
picturesque pose, which they had practised beforehand, and breathlessly
watched the doorway.
Through it came, in a moment, a jolly-faced man, with an informal
manner and pleasant smile.
"Hullo, girlies," he said, "what's up? Expecting a party? Well, I won't
keep you a minute. Where's Mr. Forbes?"
"Why, you're the party, Mr. Coriell," said Alicia, stepping forward to
greet him, and looking very coquettish as she smiled up into his face.
"Oh, am I! all right, have it your own way, kiddies. But I can't give
you more than ten minutes of my valuable time. What do you want?
Autographs? Or tickets for a box? Speak up, now."
"Oh, no!" exclaimed Bernice, for Alicia was speechless with
disappointment at this prosaic attitude on the part of the visitor. "We
just want to—to talk to you."
"You see," said Dolly, frankly, "we thought you'd be—different."
"Oh, of course you did! They always do! You wanted to see the Lascar,
not plain James Brown!"
"What!" cried Alicia, hope rising in her breast that this was not the
great actor after all, "aren't you Bayne Coriell?"
"Sure! That's my stage name, but in private life I'm James Brown, at
"You don't even look like the Lascar!" wailed Dotty, dismayed at the
turn things had taken.
"Of course, I don't, little one. Actors on and off, are two different
persons. Oh, I begin to see through this performance. Your uncle didn't
tell you anything about me! Eh?"
"No, sir," said Dolly, as the others were silent. "We saw you in your
play, and we admired your work so much, that we—we—"
"Oh, the matinee idol business! Well, well! I didn't expect that. Why,
kiddies, outside the theatre, I'm just a plain United States citizen. I
have a daughter about the age of you girls. My Muriel is fourteen,
nearly fifteen, but she's taller than any of you. Your uncle is a great
friend of mine. He was my father's chum, and he has been more than kind
to me all my life. I supposed he knew all about the letter from Miss
Alicia, and ran around here expecting to see you and him both."
"That's why he chuckled at us!" and Dolly's eyes twinkled at the joke.
Somehow, she seemed more at ease with the actor than the other girls.
"You see, Mr. Brown, we thought you'd be more like you are on the
stage. Of course we didn't expect you'd be dressed like the Lascar,
or—or—made up,—isn't that what you call it? but we thought you'd be
stagy and actory—"
James Brown laughed. "Everybody thinks that, or something like it," he
said. "Few people realise that an actor's profession is MERELY a
profession,—a business; and that we discard it out of business hours."
"But don't you get lots of notes from—from your audiences?" asked
"Indeed I do. My wife looks after 'em, and most of 'em go into the
trash basket. But of course a note from Jefferson Forbes' home was
welcome, and I was glad to call on his nieces. Are you all his nieces?"
"No," said Alicia, who had recovered her poise, and she introduced the
other girls by name. "I wrote the note, because I thought you were—"
"Because you thought I was a gay young sport," laughed James Brown;
"well, I'm sorry, for your sake, that I'm merely an uninteresting,
middle-aged man, but, I doubt if your uncle would have let you send
that note, if I had been a stranger to him. Take my advice, girls, for
I know what I'm talking about, never write to an actor with whom you
are not acquainted. It can never lead to any good result and might lead
to great harm."
"Are they all bad?" asked Dolly, innocently.
"No, indeed, far from it. But many of them are thoughtless; and, too,
if a girl so far forgets the conventions as to write to a stranger, an
actor often thinks he is justified in meeting her half way. And nice
girls don't write to men they don't know. The fact that a man is an
actor, is no more reason to treat him informally than if he were a
broker or a merchant. It is the glamour of the stage that blinds you to
the proprieties. That's only natural, I know, and that's why I'm
presuming to give you this little talk for your own good. If ever you
feel moved to make advances to a matinee idol,—don't do it!"
Alicia looked decidedly chagrined and a little angry, but Mr. Brown
proceeded to talk of other matters, and though it was plain to be seen
he meant the advice he had given them, all unpleasant effect was
forgotten as he began to tell them some funny anecdotes.
And then tea was brought in, and they all grouped round the teatable,
still listening to his entertaining chat.
The actor was a good-looking man, but far from being as handsome as he
appeared on the stage. His fascination and charm were evidently as much
put on as his swarthy complexion and long black hair, which so became
him as an East Indian. Really, his hair was ash-coloured, and he was
"I expect to go on the stage," observed Dolly, as they ate the cakes
and bon-bons that accompanied the elaborate tea service.
"You do!" exclaimed the guest. "Why?"
"Because I feel I have talent for it. Not so much as an actress,
perhaps, but as a singer. What shall I do first, Mr. Brown, to prepare
for the light opera stage?"
James Brown looked at her kindly. "I see you are in earnest," he said,
in a serious tone, "and so, I will treat your question practically. The
first thing to do, is to finish your education, and then start on a
course of voice training. By the time you have done these things, come
to me again, and I will advise you further. Do you think me flippant?"
he continued, as Dolly looked decidedly disappointed. "I am telling you
just the line to follow that I expect my own daughter to pursue. Muriel
has promise of a good singing voice. I assume you have that hope also,
otherwise you wouldn't think of a stage career. Tell your parents what
I have told you, and if they care to consult me on the subject I shall
be more than glad to meet them."
"Good gracious! What a come down!" cried Dotty. "We thought of course
Doll could start in in the chorus at most any time, and work up."
"That has been done successfully," and Mr. Brown smiled, "about one
time in ten thousand. My plan is surer and better in every way."
"Is that the way Miss Marie Desmond learned?" asked Dolly, wistfully.
"Yes, my child. Miss Desmond worked long and faithfully before she
attained her present position. If you'd care to meet her and have a
little talk with her, I can arrange it. Suppose you all come to my
house some afternoon, and Muriel will make a little party for you, and
I'm sure I can persuade Miss Desmond to meet you for a few minutes at
least. She is not a lady easy of access, I can tell you, but she will
meet friends of mine."
"Well, well, Jim, hobnobbing with young people, are you?" sang out a
hearty voice from the hall, and Uncle Jeff came stalking into the room.
"Glad to see you, my boy. You seem to be getting on famously."
"Yes, indeed. Your nieces and their friends are the most charming bunch
of young people I've seen in a long time. We're discussing all sorts of
matters of interest. Join us in a cup of tea, won't you?"
"That's what I'm here for," and Uncle Jeff took a seat among the group.
"Yes, thank you, Alicia, fix me up a cup. Sugar, please, but no lemon.
How's your wife, Jim? Muriel all right?"
"Yes, thank you. I'm just asking these girls to come round, say
to-morrow, for a little party. Or would you rather have a box party at
The girls decided in favour of the afternoon party at Mr. Brown's home,
and the matter was settled. And then, somehow, the two men fell into
conversation, which in no way interested the girls, being about
political matters and business affairs. Indeed, their very presence
seemed to be forgotten by the gentlemen. Absent-mindedly Uncle Jeff
accepted a second cup of tea, and then a third, still arguing a point
of finance with his guest.
Alicia, in high dudgeon, made a motion to the others that they leave
the room, and Dolly nodded assent.
So, noiselessly, the four rose from their seats, and stole out into the
hall. Mr. Brown looked up, saw them go, and waved his hand with a smile
of farewell, but Uncle Jeff paid no attention, if indeed, he noticed
"Well! of all things!" exclaimed Alicia, as they sought refuge in the
library, which was in the rear of the house. "I call that positively
"Now, 'Licia," and Dotty laughed, "you know the man said he could only
give us ten minutes of his time, and he gave us more than a half hour.
I don't think we've any reason to complain."
"Well, I do! It was a perfect fizzle, the whole thing! I'm utterly
disgusted! Matinee idol! Pooh, he's just an every-day man!"
"Well, that's just what he said he was," rejoined Bernice, who was
almost as much disappointed as Alicia. "But he was very kind and
pleasant, I think."
"Oh, kind enough," and Alicia still pouted; "but I thought he would be
young and—and sporty, you know."
"He certainly isn't sporty! whatever he is," said Dolly. "I think he's
awfully nice. I'm glad we're going to his daughter's party. It's fine
to go to a place like that."
"She's just a little girl," complained Alicia. "Fourteen years old! I
don't want to go to an infant class!"
"All right," put in Bernice, "you can stay home, then. I'm delighted to
go. To think of telling the girls at home that we went to Bayne
Coriell's daughter's party! My, won't they think we're grand!"
"That's so," agreed Alicia. "Not everybody could get such an
invitation. We couldn't, only that he's Uncle Jeff's friend. But I can
tell you, girls, if I hadn't got up this whole scheme we wouldn't have
been asked there. You can thank me for it."
"Dolly, too," said Dotty. "If she hadn't asked Mrs. Berry, he wouldn't
have come at all."
"Yes, he would; why wouldn't he?"
"Oh, pshaw! It was all made up by Uncle Jeff. You could see that. Mrs.
Berry told him, and he let us go ahead, just to have a joke on us. Mr.
Brown came mostly to see Mr. Forbes,—not us."
"You're right, you little smarty-cat," and Alicia smiled at the astute
Dotty. "And I do believe Uncle Jeff meant to give us a lesson about
writing to actors. I thought it was queer he took it so easily,—and
Mrs. Berry too. They played right into our hands. They wouldn't have
done that if the actor person had been a stranger."
"Of course they wouldn't," and Dotty wagged her head. "I felt sure
there was some reason why Mrs. Berry said yes to Doll so easily. But I
didn't think Coriell Bayne, or whatever his name is, was old enough to
be Uncle Forbes' chum."
"He isn't exactly," said Dolly; "that is, he said his father and Mr.
Forbes were friends. I suppose the son carried on the friendship."
"He looks as old as my father,—off the stage," said Bernice; "but on
it, he might be my father's son!"
"You can't tell a thing about actors!" declared Alicia. "If ever I
think another one is handsome and fascinating, I'll remember James
Bayne, and know he's nothing but an old fogy!"
"Oh, I don't call Mr. Brown an old fogy," defended Dotty. "I think he's
interesting and pleasant; just about like my father, or yours, Doll."
"He's not a bit like our fathers, though he doesn't look much younger.
Anyway, I'm glad I've met him, but he did give me a setback about my
"Is that a real stunt, Dolly?" and Alicia looked at her curiously. "Do
you really want to go on the stage? It doesn't seem like you."
"Yes, I do, or at least, I did, until Mr. Brown said what he did. I
don't know as I want to devote my whole life to getting ready for a
stage career. I'm going to think it over and see about it."
"You funny little thing! I hope you'll decide to do it, and in about
ten or twenty years, when I'm an old married woman, I'll come to your
"Whose performance? Who's stage struck?" asked Uncle Jeff, walking in
at the door. He had a way of appearing unexpectedly.
"Dolly," answered Alicia. "She wants to be a prima donna."
"Bless my soul!" exclaimed the old man, "why, one reason I had Jim
Brown here to-day, was to knock such foolishness out of your heads."
"And he did his part all right, Uncle Forbes," said Dolly, looking
serious, "but I don't quite take the knocking. At least, I haven't
decided what I'll do about it."
"Oho, you haven't, haven't you?" and the old man raised his shaggy
eyebrows. "Well, Alicia, how did you like your handsome, fascinating,
Alicia had quite recovered her good humour, and she replied,
laughingly, "Oh, except that he isn't very young or handsome or
fascinating, I liked him pretty well."
"You're a good girl," pronounced her uncle. "I thought maybe you'd
resent the little trick I played on you. But when you raved over the
handsome hero, and the Greek god effects of him, I couldn't refrain
from showing you how deceitful appearances may be. Jim's a fine chap,
not at all a silly flirt, and his daughter is a lovely young girl, a
little older than you girls—"
"Why, Uncle Jeff, Mr. Brown says she's younger, he said Muriel is not
"Bless me! is that so? Well, he must know. But I can tell you, she
seems as old or older than any of you. I suppose because she's been
brought up among stage people. But a mighty nice girl, all the same.
And Mrs. Brown is a delightful woman. All nice people. I'm glad he
asked you to his home. It'll be a rare treat for you."
"When is it to be, to-morrow?" asked Dotty.
"We don't know yet. When Brown went away he said he'd consult his wife
and daughter and telephone us about it. I fancy they'll make quite an
affair of it. See here, have you all proper frocks to wear? I don't
want my girls less well dressed than the others there. And I have a
sneaking notion these are your best clothes." Uncle Jeff's eyes
twinkled as he glanced at their dresses. "Anyway, I'd like to give each
of you a new frock. Go to-morrow morning and get them."
And having given the order, Uncle Jeff stalked away.
"Isn't he the funniest and the very dearest old thing in the world!"
said Alicia, in a whisper, as Mr. Forbes disappeared. "I've got loads
of clothes, but I'm glad to have him give me a dress, for I'll warrant
it'll be about the best money can buy."
"Let's get the best New York can show us," chimed in Bernice.
"I can't do it," said Dolly, decidedly. "My mother wouldn't like me to
accept a dress from Mr. Forbes."
"Oh, fiddlesticks, Dollyrinda!" said Dotty, "it's not charity. My
mother wouldn't let me either, ordinarily speaking, but this is
"How is it different?"
"Why, Mr. Forbes doesn't look on it as giving as clothes because we're
"He does so, Dot! You can't fool me! He knows that Alicia and Bernie
can afford grand clothes and we can't, and so he gives us each a dress
to make it easy for us to take them."
Now, Alicia privately thought this was just about the truth, but
Bernice thought differently; "Rubbish!" she cried. "Uncle Jeff doesn't
think anything of the sort! He's so kind-hearted, he wants us all to
have things nice, and he doesn't even think about whether it would hurt
our feelings or not. Why, Dolly, the price of a dress is no more to
him, than a glass of soda water would be to us."
"I know that's so," and Dolly's blue eyes looked very troubled, "but it
isn't nice to take clothing from anybody but your own people."
"But Dolly," argued Alicia, "if you kick up a bobbery, and refuse to
take this kind offer, then we'll all have to do the same, and you
deprive us all of the pretty presents."
"Oh, Alicia, I'd be sorry to do that!"
"Well, that's what it would amount to. Now, be sensible, and go with us
to-morrow, and we'll all get lovely dresses, and it will please Uncle
Jeff. I know he'd be hurt and offended, if you refused, Dolly."
"I'll see about it; I'll think it over," and that was all Dolly would
say about it then.
But next morning, Mrs. Berry informed them that they were asked to an
At Home at Mrs. Brown's that afternoon, from four till seven, and she
further said that of her knowledge, it would be an occasion where the
nicest possible apparel would be required.
"Gorgeous!" cried Alicia; "Uncle Jeff told us yesterday, we could get
new frocks as presents from him. We can get them at Follansbee's, and
if they need alteration, they'll do it for us at once, as the case is
Dolly's objections were overruled, even Mrs. Berry siding with the
"Yes, indeed, Dolly," she said; "you will spoil the pleasure of the
others if you refuse to do as they do. And it would grieve Mr. Forbes
if he thought you didn't appreciate or accept his kind offer. Run
along, girls, all of you, and get your hats and coats, the car will be
here in a few minutes."
"Won't you go with us, Mrs. Berry," asked Dolly, "to help pick them
out? We don't know about these things as well as some one who lives in
"No, dearies. But you won't have any trouble Just ask for Mrs. Baxter
at Follansbee's and her judgment will be the right thing. Be sure to
take what she advises. She'll know."
In gay spirits the quartette started off, Dolly joining in the general
enthusiasm, for having decided to do as the others did, she had no wish
to hesitate further.
Mrs. Baxter was more than pleased to advise and suggest to Jefferson
Forbes' relatives, and she had her assistants bring out dozens of
frocks for inspection.
At last, after much discussion and trying on, the four were selected
and were promised for two o'clock that afternoon. What slight
alterations were necessary could be done in that time, and there would
be no doubt of prompt delivery.
The dresses were absolutely unlike any the girls had ever owned before.
They were all imported models, and though of finest materials, were
simple in fabric and design. Yet they had an air and an effect never
achieved by a village dressmaker or a department store.
Dolly's was of fine white net, frilled with delicate lace, and adorned
with tiny rosebud garlands, and knots of pale blue velvet.
Dotty's, of apricot pink crepe, with hints of silver lace peeping
through its chiffon draperies. Alicia's was corn-coloured crepe de
chine with cherry velvet decorations, and Bernice rejoiced in a white
embroidered net, made up over green silk.
All had that indefinable charm which betokens the genius of a great
modiste, and the girls were enchanted with the wonderful robes.
"But what awful prices!" said Dolly, as they drove away from the shop.
"I'm sure mother will be displeased. I feel awfully about it."
"Now, Doll," said Dotty, sensibly, "you can't help it now. So don't let
it spoil your pleasure and ours too. When we get home you can tell your
mother just how it was. I'll tell her too, and I'm sure she'll see that
you couldn't do anything else than get the frock, or kick up a terrible
This was common sense, as Dotty's remarks often were, so Dolly accepted
the situation, and made the best of it.
And that afternoon, when they were all arrayed in the new frocks, and
presented themselves to Uncle Jeff for inspection, his approval was so
hearty, that Dolly was very glad she hadn't put a damper on the whole
thing by remaining obstinate.
"You are visions of beauty," he declared, as he looked at each in turn.
"Madame Who-ever-it-was, turned you out remarkably well. I don't know
much about feminine millinery, but I've a general idea of the fitness
of things. And I'll bet a thousand dollars that these affairs are in
better taste than the rigs you had on yesterday, though those were far
"You do know a lot about it, Uncle," said Bernice. "These are way ahead
of our best dresses, but it's because they came from a high class shop.
And when you get the bill you'll open your eyes!"
"That's all right, Bernie. I'm an old bachelor, you know, and never
before have I had the privilege of buying dresses for anybody. I'm
downright glad if you girls are pleased with these, and I'm downright
proud of the little cavalcade setting forth from my house."
The courteous old gentleman made a profound bow and the girls curtseyed
in response. Then off they went to the party.
As Mrs. Berry had foretold, fine clothes were the order of the day at
the Brown house. Everything was as formal as a grown-up affair. The
girls were ushered to a dressing-room to take off their wraps, and then
at the drawing-room door, their names were announced by an
imposing-looking personage in livery, and they were swept along into
the room, by the crush of others behind them.
Mrs. Brown and her daughter were receiving, and they greeted each
arrival with gay banter and smiles.
"Ah, my dears, how do you do?" said Mrs. Brown to our girls. "I am so
glad to welcome Mr. Forbes' young people. Muriel, dear, these are the
girls daddy told you about last night. 'Member?"
"'Course I do. Aw'fly jolly to have you here. Sweet of you to come.
Wish I could chin-chin more, but I'll see you after the rush is over."
They passed in line, saying scarce a word beyond a mere greeting, and
following the example of their predecessors they took seats in what
seemed to be a large auditorium. A curtained stage faced them, and they
looked about at the fast gathering audience. It was a merry crowd of
young people all laughing and chattering, and all arrayed in beautiful
clothes after the order of those the girls wore themselves. There were
many boys present, too, and they moved easily about, joking with their
friends here and there. Presently two boys drifted toward our
quartette, and one of them said, "What'll be the show, do you know?"
"No," said Dotty, her black eyes dancing with the excitement of the
scene; "what do you guess?"
"Dunno. Last time they had minstrels, and the time before, a magicker."
"Yes; rabbits out of hats, and that sort. Can't we sit here? Engaged?"
"No," and Dotty smiled as she looked toward the other girls for their
"Oh, let us stay," said the other boy, in a wheedling voice. "We'll be
awfully good,—so good you won't know us."
"We don't know you, anyway," laughed Alicia, and the first boy
responded, "Sure enough. Roof's the introduction, you know, but I'll
add that this marvellously handsome companion of mine is one Geordie
Knapp, and I'm Ted Hosmer, very much at your service."
"Well," said Alicia, "we're Miss Forbes, Miss Fayre, Miss Rose and Miss
Steele. Shall I tell you which is which, or let you guess?"
"Let us Sherlock it out!" exclaimed Geordie Knapp. "I know you're Miss
Steele because you mentioned yourself last.'"
"Right!" and Dotty clapped her hands in admiration of his quickness.
"Now, which am I?"
"Rosy Posy!" declared Ted Hosmer, little thinking he had guessed
correctly, but saying so because of Dotty's pink cheeks.
"Yes, sir! you ARE a Sherlock Holmes. Now which is Miss Forbes?"
"I'm not going to guess any more, I'll spoil my record," and Ted looked
uncertainly from Dolly to Bernice. "But as you two are named Forbes and
Fayre, I'll call you both Miss F., and so be sure of you."
And then the curtain began to rise, and the young people became silent.
The entertainment was very amusing, being entirely in pantomime, and
performed by exceedingly clever actors.
The story depicted was funny, and the antics of the performers were
novel and humorous, and the room resounded with laughter from the
appreciative audience. There were about a hundred young people present
yet the large room was only partly filled. Dolly concluded, as she
looked about, that it was a sort of small theatre where Mr. Brown
rehearsed his own plays. In this she was partly right, although it had
been built more for entertainment of the actor's guests. James Brown,
or Bayne Coriell, as he was more often called, stood very high in his
profession, and had hosts of friends and acquaintances. His wife was
popular, too, and Muriel was just beginning to take her place in
After the pantomime was over, two celebrated dancers gave an exhibition
of their skill, and then Miss Marie Desmond appeared and sang two of
her songs from "The Lass and the Lascar."
Dolly was enthralled. She sat, listening to every note, and admiring
the graceful manner and deportment of Miss Desmond as well as enjoying
"Well, you seemed to care for that, Miss F.," said Ted Hosmer. "You
didn't move an eyelash while Marie was on!"
"Oh, I did enjoy it!" and Dolly's eyes shone with delight. "Isn't she a
"Top notch! I like her lots. Hello, here's our charming hostess."
The programme was over now, and Muriel Brown sought out the Forbes
party to invite them to the refreshment room.
"I feel that I know you," she laughed, "from Dad's description. He says
the fair girl is Miss Fayre, and the rosy girl, Miss Rose."
"Oh, that's it, is it?" cried Ted; "then this is Miss Forbes, and now
all the problems are solved!" He looked at Bernice, who acknowledged
the fact, and then Muriel was pounced upon by a rush of young people,
and literally carried away.
"Great girl, Muriel," said young Hosmer. "Never saw such a favourite. I
say, mayn't we take you girls to the supper room? Or don't you eat?"
"Indeed we do," said Alicia, laughing, "but I may as well own up I'm so
interested in looking about me, I'm not conscious of hunger."
"Well, come ahead to the dining-room, and you can eat and look about at
the same time. I'll corral a couple more henchmen to help in your
services and we'll flock by ourselves."
Geordie whistled to a couple of his chums, whom he presented as Marly
Turner and Sam Graves.
"Now," went on Geordie, who was a born manager, "we're eight of
us,—that's enough for a table to our own selves. Nail one, Samivel."
The way to the dining-room lay through a crush of guests, every one, it
seemed, headed in a different direction.
"Why don't they all go one way?" asked Dotty,
"Few of 'em eat," replied Ted. "Most of 'em going on. But the food's
always fine here, and anyway you girls want to see the dining-room if
you've never been here before. It's a whole show."
It was. The splendid great room, with vaulted ceiling, represented an
old English hall. There was a raised platform across the end and a
gallery on either side. Fine paintings and tapestries adorned the
walls, and a multitude of small tables offered places for all who chose
to sit at them.
"Here we are," and the boys decided on a table in a desirable position,
from which the girls could see the gay scene. "Now for some supper."
Obsequious waiters appeared and soon the party was served with viands
fit for a king.
"Told you so," said Ted. "Trust the Coriell bunch to give you eats
worth-while. Oh, I guess yes!"
"But it's getting so late," sighed Dolly, as she caught sight of an old
English clock that hung near by. "And Mr. Brown promised me I could
speak to Miss Desmond. I'm afraid she'll be gone."
"'Fraid she's gone now," said Ted. "But I'll flee and discover."
He left them and threaded his way among the crowd.
"Here we are!" he cried gaily, as he returned, bringing the lady in
question. "Just caught her on the fly. Trust little Teddums to get you
what you want, Miss Fair Dolly."
Marie Desmond greeted the girls as Ted named them.
"You lovely kiddies!" she cried. "What a delectable bunch! I could eat
you all up. And your frocks! Paris! I know; you needn't tell ME! Are
you all sisters? Oh, no, I remember now; you have variegated names.
Which one of you wanted to talk to me? I've a whole minute to spare!
Never say I'M not a lady of leisure!"
"I'm the one," said Dolly, her eyes fixed on the lovely, laughing face
of the actress. "But a minute is no good, thank you. I want to talk to
you about a whole day!"
"Oh, I DO wish we could manage it," and Miss Desmond appeared to think
that was the one thing on earth she desired. But Dolly noted her
wandering attention, and was not surprised when she left them as
suddenly as she had come, and with a fleeting, smiling good-bye.
"Oh, isn't she exquisite!" breathed Dolly, her eyes on the disappearing
"You bet she is!" assented Marly Turner. "And it's a wonder she took a
step out of her way to speak to us kids. But friends of Coriell,—of
"Is she so very busy?" asked Dolly her eyes wide with interest.
"Well, she's a society belle as well as a popular actress. So, I
s'pose, she has more or less on all the time. There's no time for much
of anything in New York. I say, can't us fellows come to see you girls?
"I don't know," said Dolly, mindful of the Coriell episode. "I'm not
going to say yes till I know what's right. I'll ask Uncle Forbes."
"Do. Here's a telephone call that'll reach us. Let us come soon." And
then Mrs. Brown appeared, spoke a few words to the girls, and the hoys
with them, and in a moment everybody was going home. Our girls followed
the example set them, said their good-byes, went to the cloak-room for
their wraps, and bade the footman at the door call the Forbes car.
A SKATING PARTY
That evening, in the drawing-room, Mr. Forbes questioned the girls
rather closely as to their enjoyment of the party at the Browns'.
"I liked it," said Dolly, "but it was queer,—that's what it
was,—queer. The idea of just seeing a performance on the stage, and
then rushing through a very fancy supper, and then scooting for home as
if the house was on fire!—that's not my idea of a party!"
Uncle Jeff laughed. "And you, Dotty," he said, "how did it strike you?"
"I adored it! Everybody was so gay and smartly dressed and
quick-spoken,—I do like to hear people say things fast."
"How queer you are!" exclaimed Bernice; "why do you like to hear people
"Not talk fast exactly, but say things suddenly, funny things, I mean."
"I understand," said Mr. Forbes; "you mean bright at repartee and
"Yes, sir, that's just what I do mean. And everything was so well
planned and well arranged,—oh, I enjoyed every minute of it."
"Well, I didn't," said Bernice. "I'd rather go to a regular party,
where they play games and dance and act sociable."
"Why, the people were sociable enough," put in Alicia. "I'm like Dot, I
thought it was lovely! Muriel is as pretty as a picture—"
"She scarcely said three words to us!" complained Bernice.
"She couldn't help that. There were so many guests, that she hadn't
time to more than speak a minute or two with each one of them."
"I like Berwick parties better," persisted Bernice. "There we all know
"But, Bernie," said Dolly, laughing, "all the people at this party knew
each other,—nearly. We were strangers, of course, but the rest seemed
to be well acquainted with Muriel."
"And I thought the party was to be for us," went on Bernice, "and I
thought we'd be introduced to everybody, and be—well, be SOMEBODY, you
"Oho! you wanted to be honoured and lionised!" and Uncle Jeff's eyes
"Not exactly. But I understood from Mr. Brown that the whole affair was
gotten up for us, and so I think we ought to have been noticed more.
Why, the boys just scraped acquaintance with us, and even had to ask
"That's the way they do at large parties, Bernie," said her uncle. "You
are supposed to talk to any of the other guests without introduction."
"Well, it's no sort of a way! They were awfully nice boys, but I don't
suppose we'll ever see them again."
"Oh, yes, we will," said Dolly. "They asked to call on us, and I said
I'd ask you, Uncle Forbes. Would it be all right?"
"Bless my soul, Dolly! I don't know. I've so little knowledge of
etiquette for young people. Ask Mrs. Berry, whatever she says, you may
do. Who are the boys? Hosmer? Knapp? Oh, they're all right. I know the
families. But as to their calling, put it up to Mrs. Berry. And, by the
way, how'd you girls like to have a party, a real one?"
"Like the one we went to to-day?" asked Bernice, doubtfully. "I don't
care much about it."
"Well, have some other kind. There must be other ways of entertaining.
What would you like, Bernice?"
"I'd like a little party,—but I suppose that would have to be formal,
"Oh, gracious, you old hayseed!" exclaimed Alicia. "You go back to the
country! I'd love to have a party, Uncle, the biggest and grandest
there is! Muriel Brown would invite the people for us, I'm sure. Oh, it
would be just heavenly! We'd have an orchestra, and a midnight supper,
and—oh, and everything!"
"Hold on, my child, don't go too fast! We'll only have what you all
agree on. Come, two D's, what do you say?"
"We oughtn't to say," laughed Dolly. "It's for your nieces to choose.
And anyway, Dot and I like everything, and we'd enjoy any kind of a
party—or no party at all."
"You've a nice disposition," said Mr. Forbes, looking at her. "Don't
you ever lose your temper?"
"She hasn't any to lose!" Dotty answered for her. "In fact, she's too
awfully good-natured for any use! But she has other faults. She's as
stubborn as a perfectly good mule! Aren't you, Dollums?"
"I s'pect I am," and the golden head nodded. "But only when I care
enough to be stubborn. As to this party, I don't care what sort it is,
'cause I know it will be lovely, anyway. That is, if we have it. But
seems to me invitations for a big affair ought to be sent out several
days in advance, and we'll be going home the middle of next week."
"Why, you've only just got here!" said Mr. Forbes.
"Well, it's Friday night now, and we came last Wednesday for a week.
So, if we go home next Wednesday, that party would have to be in three
or four days, and that's a short time."
"Of course," agreed Alicia. "We couldn't give a big party on such short
"That's easily arranged," and Mr. Forbes laughed; "stay another week."
"Oh, I couldn't," cried Dolly. "My mother wouldn't hear of such a
thing. The other girls can, though."
"I wouldn't if Doll didn't," declared Dotty. "But Bernie and Alicia
"So we could," said Bernice. "My father will let me stay as long as
Uncle Jeff wants me."
"I can stay, too," said Alicia, "But it's lots more fun to have you
other girls with us."
"We'll see about all that," and Mr. Forbes dismissed the subject.
A footman came in to say that Miss Fayre was wanted on the telephone.
"Oh!" cried Dolly, her face turning white, "do you suppose any thing's
wrong at home? Mother had a cold; maybe it's developed into pneumonia!"
"Nonsense, child; don't borrow trouble. Probably it's nothing of the
"Isn't that Dolly all over?" said Alicia, after Dolly had left the
room. "She always thinks the worst there is to think!"
"Maybe she's right," said Dotty. "Mrs. Fayre does have awful
colds,—hark, I hear Dolly laughing! It's all right!"
They all listened, and they heard Dolly say, "Oh, perfectly splendid!
I'd just love it!—Thank you!—Yes, indeed!—I'm 'most sure—oh,
delightful!—Well, I'll ask her—Fine!—Yes, yes,—just wait a
minute,—I'll ask her now—hold the wire."
Followed a whispered conversation, and the girls caught the sound of
Mrs. Berry's voice.
Unable to restrain their curiosity longer, the three rushed out to the
hall and saw Dolly, her hand over the transmitter, talking to Mrs.
"What is it? Tell us all!" cried Bernice, and Alicia crowded close to
"Oh, girls," and Dolly beamed at them, "it's the loveliest invitation!
Marly Turner wants us to go, to a skating party to-morrow afternoon at
St. Valentine's rink! And Mrs. Berry says it will be all right for us
to go. Yes," she continued, speaking into the telephone. "Yes, we can
go. And we're all most happy to accept. What time?"
"Four o'clock," came the answer. "Meet our crowd at the rink. So glad
you can come."
"So are we," returned Dolly, "and thank you, ever so much. Good-bye."
"Good-bye," said Turner, and Dolly hung up the receiver.
"Tell us more," cried Alicia. "What did you hang up so soon for? Why
didn't you let US talk to him? What an old selfish you are!"
"I couldn't, Alicia," and Dolly looked hurt. "I knew from his manner
and speech that he only; wanted a reply to his invitation, and I wasn't
expected to say more."
"But why did he ask for you?" grumbled Alicia; "why not for me?"
"I don't know, I'm sure," and Dolly laughed; "he did, that's all. Let's
go and tell Uncle Forbes about it."
"All right, girls; all right. Glad you're going. Have a good time.
Marly Turner? Yes, yes, son of the Bayard Turners. Nice boy. His crowd
will be all right. Can you all skate? Did you bring your skates? If
not, get some. Get whatever you want. Look as good as the rest.
Good-night now. Good-night, all."
Abruptly, as usual, Mr. Forbes left the room, and as the girls were
getting accustomed to his eccentricities they nodded their good-nights,
and then began to plan for the skating party.
Mrs. Berry appeared and helped them decide on certain details of
costume and accessories.
The two D's had brought the pretty skating costumes they had worn at
the Berwick carnival, but as Bernice had been the queen that night, her
white velvet gown was out of the question. Alicia, too, had no
appropriate garb, so these two bought new dresses.
The final result was four very becomingly attired girls who started
merrily off on Saturday afternoon for the party at the rink.
Four bunches of violets, with Marly Turner's card, had come to the
house, and each fair damsel wore one at her corsage.
Dolly's suit was of light blue cloth trimmed with silver fox, and
Dotty's was red cloth with dark fur.
Bernice looked very handsome in white cloth, and Alicia had chosen
They were met at the rink by Marly and his chums, and at once
introduced to the chaperon of the affair, who was Marly's married
sister. She didn't look much older than the boy himself, but she
greeted the girls with a charming hospitality and declared herself
delighted to take them in charge.
The other boys whom they had met at Muriel's party were there, and
Muriel was, too. She welcomed the four warmly, but as she was
constantly in demand by other gay young friends, they had no chance for
connected conversation with her.
Indeed, connected conversation was not thought of, unless with one's
"You're all right on runners," commented Geordie Knapp, as he skated
with Dotty. "You must be fond of it."
"Oh, I am. I skate a lot at home; that is, when there's ice. We're
dependent on that, you see, as we haven't an ice rink in Berwick."
"Berwick? Small town?"
"Yes. 'Bout as big as a minute," and Dotty laughed good-naturedly.
"That's why you're so up to the minute, then," Geordie laughed back.
"Want to sit down and rest a bit?"
"All right. Let's," and they sat down for a few moments.
"There goes your chum,—with Ted Hosmer. She is your chum, isn't she?
The Fair Dolly?"
"Dolly Fayre? Yes, indeed; we're super-inseparable."
"That's the way with Ted and me. We're always together. Funny, isn't
it, how you like one person better'n anybody else?"
"Yes; I couldn't keep house without Dolly. And we do keep house!" and
Dotty told her companion all about Treasure House and its delights.
"Wow! That's some stunt! A house like that I I'd like to see it."
"Do. Some day next summer come out to Berwick and I'll show it to you.
We've great little old brothers, too. One apiece."
"Have you? I s'pose you can cut up larks in the country that you
"It's awfully different." Dotty sighed. "I like the city better in lots
of ways, but, altogether, I guess I'd rather live in Berwick."
"What are you two confabbing about?" sang out a voice, and Dolly, with
Ted Hosmer, came gliding up and stopped in front of Dot and young Knapp.
"Settling the affairs of the nation," said Geordie; "also, it's a case
of 'change partners.'" He jumped up, took Dolly's hands in his, and
they swayed off across the ice, leaving Dotty and Ted together.
"Don't mind him; he's crazy," said Ted, as he dropped onto the seat
beside Dotty. "And anyway, we're such chums we share our best friends
with each other!"
"Glad you do! I like to talk to different people—"
"I'm a different people; oh, I assure you I am. Please like to talk to
"I do. Or, at least, I'm sure I shall. What shall we talk about?"
"Sports in general. What do you like best, next to skating?"
"Tennis, don't you?"
"Sure, if you do. But that's mostly for summer. Come on, let's skate
round a couple of times, and then go for the tea place."
It was good fun skating with Ted, and, as Dolly told him, he reminded
her a little of her friend, Tad Brown.
"Any kin of Muriel's?"
"No, a boy in Berwick. He has a twin brother, Tod."
"Great names! Tadpole and Toddlekins, in full, I suppose."
"They are called those sometimes. Oh, Mrs. Graham is beckoning to us.
We must go."
They joined Mrs. Graham, who was their chaperon, and she marshalled her
crowd of young people to the tea room.
At last Muriel Brown found a chance to talk to our girls.
"We seem like old friends," she said, gaily. "Isn't the ice fine
to-day? Are you going to the dance to-night? What? Not invited? That
can easily be remedied. I say, Sam, don't you want these four angel
children at your party?"
"'Deed I do!" and Sam Graves beamed broadly, "I didn't dare ask them
myself,—meant to get you to do it. Coax 'em, Muriel. Make 'em say yes."
Alicia took it upon herself to accept this invitation, though Dolly
insisted it would depend on Mrs. Berry's sanction.
"Who's Mrs. Berry?" asked Muriel. "Is she a dragon?"
"No, indeed," smiled Dotty; "she's the dearest old yes-sayer in the
"Oh, she'll let you come then. Tell the girls all about it, Sam," and
Muriel moved away.
"She went off and left her ice cream untouched!" exclaimed Dotty.
"She's always on the hop,—Muriel is," said Sam. "Now you girls come
to-night, won't you? It's a small and early at my house. Mr. Forbes
knows me, and I know your Mrs. Berry, too. Just tell her it's little
Sammy's party, and she'll send you flying over."
"Tell us something about it," said Dolly. "Is it to be very grand?
We're hazy on the subject of New York dances."
"Can you dance?"
"Yes, though maybe not the very latest steps."
"That's all right, then. Put on a clean sash and come along. You won't
be wall flowers!"
"What time shall we come?" asked Bernice. "Tell me about the details;
I'm Mr. Forbe's niece."
Bernice was always a little jealous if the D's seemed to be consulted
rather than herself or Alicia.
"Oh, no details specially. All informal, you know. Come when you
like,—nine, maybe, or half past. If you're feeling conventional about
it, my mother will call on you—by telephone—and ask you proper."
"Oh, no, she needn't do that," and Bernice laughed at the idea. "We're
only little girls. If Mrs. Berry says we can go, your invitation is
"Good work! Be sure to come. Crazy to have you. 'Scuse me a
minute,—there's a girl I want to speak to."
Sam darted off, and another boy dropped into his vacated seat. It was
this touch and go effect that Dotty liked, but to Dolly it seemed a
And, indeed, almost before they knew it they were all whirled off home.
On Sunday, dinner was in the middle of the day, and directly after it
was over Mr. Forbes led the four to the drawing-room, as was usual in
the evening, and asked an account of the dance.
"It was lovely!" vouchsafed Dotty.
"Gorgeous!" agreed Bernice.
"Perfectly all right," Alicia averred.
"Nice enough, but very grown uppish," was Dolly's verdict.
"You stick to your taste for simpler parties?" said Mr. Forbes, looking
kindly at Dolly.
"Yes, sir; I guess I'm a country girl."
"Well, I'm not," and Dotty's black eyes flashed. "I'd just as lief live
in Berwick, to be sure; but I do love to visit in New York and see all
the grand doings."
"And was the party grand?"
"Oh, it was, uncle," said Alicia. "It was small and it was early."
"Pooh!" cried Dolly. "We came home at half past eleven. I don't call
"Early for a city party," insisted Alicia, "but it was an elaborate
affair, after all, and what do you s'pose, Uncle Jeff? We had
invitations to a lot of things, next week and the week after, too."
"Well, you girls are real belles!"
"They do seem to like us," and Alicia looked very well self-satisfied.
"Which one of you do they like the best?" teased Uncle Jeff.
"Dotty," said Alicia and Bernice together.
"Nothing of the sort!" declared Dotty, blushing rosy red.
"Who, then?" and Mr. Forbes turned to her.
"Why, I don't know," said Dotty, still embarrassed. "Dolly, I guess."
"You know better, Dot," and Dolly laughed at her. "I think, Uncle
Forbes, the most citified boys and girls like Bernie and Alicia best,
and some of the others take to Dot and me."
Her honest blue eyes proved this was her true opinion, whatever the
facts might be.
"Well, look here," and Mr. Forbes' eyes twinkled "I ask you two, Dotty
and Dolly, which of my two nieces is a greater favourite?"
"Why, how can we tell that, right before them both?" cried Dolly,
taking it as a joke.
"Yes, I want you to tell me,—right before them."
"I don't think there's a bit of difference," Dotty said, speaking
seriously, and looking at the two girls. "You see, everybody likes
Bernie—and—they all like Alicia."
"You're a diplomat!" laughed the old man, "Now, Dolly, see if you can
Dolly liked being put on her mettle, and after a moment's thought, when
she pretended to study the girls, she said, "They are both liked
tremendously for themselves,—but more, because they are your nieces."
"Capital!" and Mr. Forbes rubbed his hands in glee. "You're a tactful
young person, I do avow. Now, just for that you may ask anything of me
you like, to the half of my kingdom."
"I'll ask," said Dolly, quickly, "before you have a chance to repent of
that offer. This is what I want: Let us go up and see your collections.
"I s'pose so. Will you be good little girls, and not finger the
exhibits, except such as I say you may?"
"Of course we will. We're not mischievous little kiddies! Oh, are you
really going to let us see it! When?"
"Now. May as well get it over, I suppose. March!"
He led the way, and the girls trooped after him, up to the fourth floor
of the house.
The rooms corresponded to those below stairs, but all were arranged as
a museum. There were enormous cases filled with specimens of every sort
of bird, butterfly or insect. Or, if not every kind was represented,
surely they were nearly all there, so multitudinous were the exhibits.
"What a lot!" exclaimed Dolly, "I had no idea it was such an enormous
"Yes," said Mr. Forbes, with justifiable pride, "it Is the largest
private collection that I know of. Come, let me show you the birds
Obediently the girls followed his directions, and with ever growing
interest they saw the rows and rows of stuffed birds, of all sizes and
of all varieties of plumage.
Then came great cabinets filled with shallow drawers, each of which,
when opened, displayed tiny moths, queer flies, and microscopic
insects, each daintily mounted on its own pin and all standing in trim
The butterflies were the prettiest exhibit of all. These showed rare
varieties and well-known ones; specimens from far distant countries and
from their own state.
All the girls were interested, but Dolly was absorbed. She walked from
case to case, asking intelligent questions, that Mr. Forbes was glad to
"You ought to make natural history a special study," he said to her.
"You seem so fond of it."
"Oh, I am!" responded Dolly. "I shall try to get mother to let me take
it up specially next year. And here are the beetles! How wonderfully
they are arranged, and what beautiful colours!"
"Yes, see the iridescent wings of this chap," and Uncle Jeff pointed to
a fine specimen. "I don't wonder the old Egyptians loved this creature
and carved their scarabs in its likeness, do you?"
"No indeed," responded Dolly. "And do you like old Egyptian things,
too? So do I. I saw wonders in the Museum."
"I have quite an antique collection, if you're interested."
"If I'm interested! Well, I just guess I AM!"
The other girls enjoyed the exhibition, too, but not so much as Dolly,
who was enthusiastic over it all. They had so far seen only the front
rooms, but now Uncle Jeff conducted them to the room in the rear
extension of the house, and as he unlocked the door he said, "Here are
my greatest treasures of all."
The girls went in, and Mr. Forbes rolled up the shades and let in the
"My, but it's close and stuffy!" exclaimed Bernice; "mayn't we have a
window open, uncle?"
"Yes, indeed; I believe in fresh air, but I keep this room closed so
much of the time it does get stale."
Mr. Forbes threw open a window that faced the south, and as there was
no wind blowing, the fresh winter air was balmy and pleasant.
"That's better," said Bernice, and she began to look at the treasures
all about her.
There were many tall cases, like book-cases, and on their shelves were
ranged curios and valuables of all sorts. These proved more interesting
to Dotty than the birds and butterflies.
"Oh, look at the old jewellery!" she cried. "Just like what we saw in
the museum, Doll."
"Yes, here are old Egyptian trinkets,—aren't they, Uncle Forbes?"
"Yes, those are Egyptian and Abyssinian. This nose ring was worn by a
lady in India some centuries before you girls were born."
"What is the oldest thing you have, Uncle?" asked Alicia. "This
"No; this is my oldest piece," and Mr. Forbes took from a shelf an
image of a cat. It was of dark brown material, and was dingy and
roughened, as if by fire.
"This came from an old Egyptian tomb," he said. "You know they put all
sorts of idols and charms in the tombs of their dead. Then once in a
while these things are exhumed, and in some instances sold by the
Egyptian Museum authorities. I buy only what is guaranteed by them to
be genuine. I have an agent, who has travelled in many countries to
collect authentic antiquities for me. This cat dates from about 2000 B.
"Gracious!" cried Dotty, "and there's been nearly two thousand years
since B. C. That makes Mr. Cat about four thousand years old! Some cat!"
"Well, a cat has nine lives anyway," laughed Alicia, "so it ought to be
a long time dead."
"That never was a live cat, was it?" asked Dolly.
"Oh, no. This was a bronze image, but fire and age have turned it to a
mere brittle shell. If it were dropped to the floor it would break into
a thousand pieces."
"Oh, my! take it!" exclaimed Dolly, who was holding the precious relic.
"I didn't know it was so fragile."
Mr. Forbes took it carefully. "That's why I don't often bring young
people up here. They're too heedless to appreciate the value of these
old things. Yes, two centuries before the Christian Era, this piece of
bric-a-brac, as we would call it, adorned the tomb of some Egyptian
citizen. I have the guarantee, signed by the Egyptian Museum. And here
is a fine specimen. This is in a better state of preservation. See, you
can read the date on it clearly, 537 B. C."
Mr. Forbes took from a cabinet a small image of a mummy. It was of blue
stone, somewhat chipped and worn, but preserving its shape and colour.
On the back, in rude figures, but clearly discernible was the date to
which he called their attention.
"Wonderful!" said Alicia. "Their figures are much like ours, aren't
"Yes, my child, the Arabic numerals are of ancient usage. Think of the
old hand that carved that date! Long since mouldered to dust!"
"It gives me the creeps!" declared Bernice, "and yet it fascinates me,
too. Was this found in a tomb?"
"Yes, or in a temple. Excavations in Egypt, latterly, produce so many
of these things that it is not difficult to get them. But that's pretty
old, you see,—half a century before Christ."
"I wonder who was King of Egypt then," said Dotty. "I wish I could
remember my history better. I learned about the Ptolemies and the other
dynasties, but I get 'em all mixed up."
Although the others were eagerly examining the old mummy relic, Dolly
stood looking at it thoughtfully.
"May I take it?" she said, after the others had scrutinised it.
Dolly handled it carefully, as she minutely observed it on every side.
It was about six inches long and was a perfect little model of an
Egyptian mummy. She gazed at the date deeply graven on the back, and
then with a slight smile she handed it back to Mr. Forbes, saying,
"Very good, Eddie!"
"What! What do you mean?" cried the old gentleman, glaring at her, and
Alicia exclaimed, "Why, Dolly Fayre! You rude little thing!"
"But what do you mean?" persisted Mr. Forbes. "Why do you call me Eddie?"
"Oh," and Dolly laughed, "that's a slang phrase that people say when
they see through a joke."
"Joke, miss! Are you making fun of my antiques? Explain yourself!"
"Yes, what DO you mean, Dolly?" said Dotty, anxiously; "you can't mean
to insult Mr. Forbes."
"You goosies!" cried Dolly, "he's fooling you. It's a joke on us."
"What is? What's a joke?"
"This mummy," and now Mr. Forbes had joined in Dolly's laughter.
"You're a cute one!" he said. "Not one person in a dozen catches on to
that. Tell 'em, my dear. Oh, you are a smart one!"
Mr. Forbes shook with glee, and Dolly held up the image to the
"Don't you see, you blindies, the date 537 B. C. couldn't have been put
on in the year 537 B. C.?"
"Why not?" asked Alicia, looking blank.
"Why, at that time they didn't know how many years it would be before
Christ's birth. Nobody dated anything B. C. until after the Christian
Era had begun."
"But why didn't they?" and Bernice also looked bewildered.
"Think a minute, you sillies. Nobody knew the exact date of the year
one until after the year one was here. In fact, I don't think they
began to count right away, anyhow. But certainly they didn't know five
hundred and thirty-seven years before!"
"Oh, I see!" cried Bernice. "All the B. C. years have been computed or
dated since the A. D. years began."
"Of course they have, and Mr. Forbes had the date carved on this mummy
on purpose to fool people. Didn't you?"
"Yes," chuckled Mr. Forbes, "and it has fooled lots of people older and
wiser than you, little Dolly Fayre! I think you're pretty smart to
notice the fraud!"
"Oh, no. But it just happened to occur to me that I'd never seen a B.
C. date marked before, and then I thought at once that it couldn't be."
"Pretty cute, all the same. You other girls didn't see it."
"No, we didn't," admitted Dotty. "I own up I was fooled. I never
thought of the absurdity of the thing. Did you make up the joke?"
"No, I bought the mummy from a dealer who sold a few of them for the
purpose of fun-making. It's a pretty good joke."
It was, and though the girls felt a little chagrined at being taken in,
they were generous enough to appreciate Dolly's cleverness and be glad
A case of antique jewellery proved interesting to all. The queer
ornaments worn by the ancients were admired and studied by the girls,
and Mr. Forbes enjoyed telling of their histories.
"This earring," he said, "is perhaps the gem of the whole collection.
It is Byzantine, and is of wonderfully delicate workmanship." The
filigree gold ornament, was a long and slender pendant, of intricate
gold work and studded with tiny jewels. It was one of a pair of
earrings, and they wondered where its mate might be, if indeed, it was
yet in existence.
"It would make a fine lavalliere," said Dolly, holding it up against
her chest, and glancing in a nearby mirror. "See!" and she hooked the
trinket into the lace at her throat, "isn't it becoming?"
"Very," laughed Bernice, and turned to see what Dotty was now
It proved to be a bracelet, that legend said had been worn by
Cleopatra, though Mr. Forbes frankly acknowledged he didn't believe
"Let me take it by the light," said Alicia, "it's getting dusk in here."
She took the bracelet to the open window, and admired the beauty of its
"Here, take it, Uncle Jeff," she said; "I declare I'm almost afraid to
handle these valuable things for fear I should suddenly become a
"Kleptomaniac?" said her uncle, laughing, "I'm not afraid, or I
shouldn't have brought you girls up here. I don't mind admitting I have
one friend, a wise old octogenarian, rich as Croesus, whom I wouldn't
trust up here alone! He'd steal a gem as quickly as a highway robber
"How awful!" said Bernice. "Just because of his craze for antiques?"
"Yes. You know some people are carried quite out of themselves by a pet
hobby. Well, girls, it is getting dusk. Let's go downstairs, and have a
little chat over what you've seen. I'd like to see how much you
remember of what I've told you."
"Shall I shut the window, Uncle Jeff?" asked Bernice.
"No, leave it open. A little air will do the room good. I'll see to it
The girls left the room, Mr. Forbes followed, and locking the door,
pocketed the key, and they all went downstairs.
THE LOST JEWEL
A pleasant hour was spent in the library as Mr. Forbes told the girls
anecdotes connected with his treasures, and also catechised them on
what they had learned from their afternoon in his museum.
Dolly had taken the greatest interest in it, though Bernice soon proved
that she had the best memory of them all, for she could tell dates and
data that her uncle had informed them, and which the others more often
"I haven't any memory," sighed Dolly. "But I do love to see these
things and hear about them. It's lots of work, isn't it, to get them
all properly catalogued and labelled?"
"Yes, it keeps Fenn pretty busy, and often I bring in an assistant for
him. But Fenn is a clever chap, and a quick worker."
Their chat was interrupted by Geordie Knapp and Ted Hosmer, who came
over to call on the girls.
"Come right in, boys, glad to see you," was Mr. Forbes' hearty
greeting. "I shouldn't wonder if our young friends here would be glad
too. They've spent the whole afternoon with my old fogy talk and I'll
warrant they'll be glad of a change."
"You, stay with us, Uncle, and enjoy the change, too," laughed Alicia,
as Mr. Forbes was leaving the room.
"No, no; it doesn't seem to occur to you that I'd like a rest from a
crowd of chatter-boxes!" His merry smile belied his words, and he went
off leaving the young people together.
Mrs. Berry looked in, and hospitably invited the boys to stay to
supper, which they willingly agreed to do.
Also, they stayed an hour or more after supper, and when at last they
departed, the four girls remained in the library talking things over.
To their surprise, Mr. Forbes came to the room, and without a word sat
down facing the group. Something in his expression caused the girls to
stop their laughter and chatter, for the old gentleman looked decidedly
"Well, my dears," and he looked from one to another, "have you had a
"Yes, indeed," spoke up Alicia, and they all added words of assent.
"Well, I haven't," said Mr. Forbes, and they looked up at him with a
startled air. "That is, I have just made a discovery that makes to-day
one of the most unfortunate of my life."
"What is it, Uncle? What is the matter?"
Alicia spoke solicitously, as if she feared her uncle had become
"I have met with a loss."
"A loss?" queried Bernice. "What have you lost?"
"One of my dearest possessions. I went to my museum just now, to that
rear room which we were in last, and I discovered that one of my
valuable pieces of jewellery is gone."
The girls stared at him blankly, and at last, Bernice said, "Which one?"
"The Byzantine earring, the gold filigree piece."
"Oh," cried Alicia, "that lovely piece! Why, where can it be?"
"I don't know," replied her uncle, slowly. "I searched everywhere, and
as I couldn't find it, I came down here to ask if you girls had taken
it as—as a joke on me."
"No, indeed!" exclaimed Alicia. "I'd scorn to do such a mean trick!
None of us would think of such a thing, would we, girls?"
"No, indeed," said they all, and then a silence fell. Where could the
jewel be? As always, in moments of excitement, Dolly turned very pale
while Dotty flushed furiously red. Alicia, sat, her big eyes staring
with dismay and Bernice nervously picked at her handkerchief.
"Come now," said Mr. Forbes, "if any of you girls did take it, in jest,
give it up, for it isn't a funny joke at all."
"Oh, we didn't! I'm sure none of us did!" and Dolly almost wailed in
her earnest denial.
"Of course, we didn't!" declared Dotty, angrily. "You ought to know
we're not that sort of girls! It must have been mislaid, or pushed
behind something that conceals it from view."
"Probably you're right," and Mr. Forbes looked at her intently. "That's
probably the solution of its disappearance. I'll have Fenn make search
to-morrow. I'm sorry I bothered you about it. Good-night."
With his funny abruptness he left the room, and the girls sat looking
at each other in amazement.
"Did you ever hear anything like that!" demanded Dotty, furiously. "The
idea of thinking we would do such a thing! I hate practical jokes,
unless among a lot of school chums. I wouldn't think of playing a joke
on a grown-up!"
"Uncle Jeff hasn't had much experience with young folks," put in
Alicia, by way of excuse for their host. "You know he always lives
alone, and he doesn't know what girls would or wouldn't do."
"But how awful for that thing to be lost," mused Bernice. "Suppose it
fell down behind a case, or somewhere, and he NEVER finds it!"
"Oh, his secretary will find it," said Dolly, hopefully. "It MUST be
somewhere around. Don't let's talk about it. If we do, I shan't sleep a
wink all night! I never do, if I worry."
"I think it's something to worry about," said Alicia. "It's the worst
blow Uncle Jeff could have. You know how he adores his treasures. Why,
he'd rather lose everything from these downstairs than one specimen out
of those fourth story rooms. And that gold earring, of all things!"
"I tell you stop talking about it!" and Dolly clapped her hands over
her ears. "Please, humour me in this," she added, smiling a little,
"truly, it will keep me awake, if I get to worrying over it."
"All right, girls, let's drop the subject. Also, let's go to bed." It
was Alicia who spoke, and she seemed under great excitement. Her eyes
were unnaturally bright, and her cheeks were pink, and she moved
jerkily, as if nervous.
So the four went up to their rooms, and saying good-night, they closed
the door of communication between.
"What's the matter, Dollums?" asked Dotty, as she saw tears in the blue
"Nothing, Dot, only don't talk about that gold thing, will you? I just
simply can't stand it if you do!"
"'Course I won't if you don't want me to, only what DO you s'pose DID
become of it?"
"There you go! I think you're too mean for anything!"
"Oh, pshaw, I didn't mean to. I forgot. All right, no more talk 'bout
that old rubbish. What shall us talk about?"
"Don't talk at all. I'd rather go to sleep."
"Go, then, old crossy! But I s'pose you don't mean to sleep in your
"No," and Dolly laughed a little. "I know I'm an old bear, and a
crosspatch, and everything horrid,—but I'm nervous, Dotty, I AM."
"I know it, old girl, but you'll get over it. I believe this city life
is wearing you out! I believe it's time you went home."
"Oh, I think so, too. I wish we could go tomorrow!"
"Well, we can't. What has got into you, Dollyrinda? I believe you're
"I am, Dotty! I'd give anything to see mother now.—I wish I was home
in my own room."
"You'll be there soon enough. I s'pose we'll go Wednesday."
"Wednesday! that seems ages off!"
"Why, Dollums, to-morrow, you can say Wednesday is day after to-morrow!
That's what I always do if I want to hurry up the days. But I don't
want to hurry up our days in New York! No sir-ee! I love every one of
'em! I wish we could stay a month!"
"I don't!" and then there were few more words said between the two that
night. Soon they were in bed, and if Dolly lay awake, Dotty didn't know
it, for she fell asleep almost as soon as her dark curly head touched
Meantime in the next room, the other two were talking.
"I do hope Uncle Jeff will find his old jewel," Bernice said,
pettishly. "We won't have a bit more fun, if he doesn't." "That's so,"
agreed Alicia, "but he won't find it."
"How do you know?"
"Oh, 'cause. It's very likely fallen down some crack or somewhere that
nobody'd think of looking. Why, once, a photograph was on our mantel,
and it disappeared most mysteriously. And we never could find it. And
after years, there was a new mantelpiece put in, and there was the
picture! It had slipped down a narrow mite of a crack between the
mantel-shelf and the wall back of it."
"Tell Uncle Jeff that to-morrow. Maybe it will help him to find the
"All right, I will. But of course, Mr. Fenn will look everywhere
possible. I don't believe anybody'll ever find it."
"Then Uncle will be cast down and upset all the rest of the time we're
"Well, I can't help that. What do you suppose, Bernice, he asked us
here for, anyway?"
"You ask me that a hundred dozen times a day, 'Licia! I tell you I
don't know, but I think it was only a whim. You know how queer he is.
He forgets we're in this house from one evening to the next. If to-day
hadn't been Sunday, we wouldn't have seen him this afternoon. I wish we
were going to stay another week."
"So do I. But I don't like to ask him outright, and he hasn't said
anything about it lately. The others couldn't stay, anyway."
"Oh, I don't know. I think if they were invited their mothers would let
them. And anyway, I'd rather stay without them, than to go home."
"Yes, I would, too. Dot likes it better than Dolly."
"Yes, Dolly's homesick. Anybody can see that. But they like it when we
go to places, and see sights."
"Who wouldn't? We're really having fairy-tale times, you know."
"I know it. I shall hate to go back to school."
"Well, I don't hate to go home. I have good enough times in Berwick;
but I'd like to stay here one week more. I think I'll ask Uncle Jeff to
let us, if he doesn't ask us himself."
"Wait till he finds his lost treasure. He'll be pretty blue if he
doesn't get that back."
"Yes, indeed he will. Let's hope the Fenn man will spy it out. It must
be in that room somewhere, you know."
"Of course it must. The secretary will find it. That's what secretaries
And then silence and sleep descended on that room also.
Next morning, Mr. Forbes appeared at the breakfast table. This was the
first time they had ever seen him in the morning and the girls greeted
"Very nice," he said, affably, "to come down and breakfast with a flock
of fresh young rosebuds like you," and he seemed so good-natured, that
Alicia decided he had taken his loss more easily than she had feared.
But toward the end of the meal, Mr. Forbes made known the reason of his
"We can't find that earring," he said, suddenly. "Mr. Fenn and I have
been looking since six o'clock this morning. Now I'm going to ask you
girls to help me. Will you all come up to the museum and hunt? Your
young eyes may discern it, where we older seekers have failed. At any
rate, I'd like you to try."
The four expressed ready willingness, and they rose from the table and
followed Uncle Jeff up the stairs to the rear room where the loss had
The sun shone in at the southern windows, and flooded the room with
brightness. It seemed impossible to overlook the treasure, and surely
it must be found at once.
A youngish man was there before them, and he was introduced as the
secretary. Lewis Fenn was a grave looking, solemn-faced chap, who, it
was evident took seriously the responsibility of his position as
tabulator and in part, custodian of valuable treasures. He bowed to the
girls, but said nothing beyond a word of greeting to each.
"You see," said Mr. Forbes, "I locked this room myself, after you girls
last evening, and nobody could get in to take the earring.
Consequently, it would seem that a close search MUST be efficacious.
So, let us all set to, and see what we can do in the way of discovery."
"Let's divide the room in four," suggested Mr. Fenn, "and one of you
young ladies take each quarter."
"Good idea!" commented Uncle Jeff, "and we'll do just that. Alicia, you
take this west end, next the door; Bernice, the east end, opposite;
Dotty, the north side, and Dolly, the south side. There, that fixes it.
Now, to work, all of you. I've exhausted my powers of search, and so
The two men sat down in the middle of the room, while the girls eagerly
began to search. They were told not to look in the cases, but merely on
tables or any place around the room where the jewel might have fallen
or been laid.
"Who had it last?" asked Mr. Fenn, as the girls searched here and there.
Nobody seemed to know, exactly, and then Alicia said, suddenly, "Why,
don't you know, Dolly hooked it onto the front of her dress, and said
it would make a lovely pendant."
"But I took it off," said Dolly, turning white.
"Where did you put it then?" asked Mr. Fenn, not unkindly, but
"Let me see," faltered Dolly, "I don't quite remember. I guess I laid
it on this table."
"If so, it must be there now, my dear," said Mr. Forbes, suavely. "Look
Dolly did look thoroughly, and Dotty came over to help her, but the
earring was not on the table.
Nor was it on other tables that were about the room; nor on any chair
or shelf or settee or window-sill.
"Where CAN it be?" said Dotty, greatly alarmed, lest Dolly's having
fastened it to her dress should have been the means of losing it.
"Are you sure you removed it from your frock, Miss Fayre?" asked Fenn,
and at that moment Dolly took a dislike to the man. His voice was low
and pleasant, but the inflection was meaning, and he seemed to imply
that Dolly might have worn it from the room.
"Of course, I am," Dolly replied, in a scared, low voice, which
trembled as she spoke.
"There's an idea," said Mr. Forbes. "Mightn't you have left it hooked
into your lace, Dolly, and it's there still? Run and look, my dear."
"I'll go with you," said Dotty, but Fenn said, "No, Miss Rose, you'd
better stay here."
Dotty was so astonished at his dictum that she stood still and stared
at him. Dolly ran off to her room on the second floor and carefully
examined the dress she had worn the day before.
"No," she said, on her return, "it isn't on my dress. I knew it
couldn't be,—I should have seen it when I undressed. Besides, I know I
took it off here, only a moment after I tried it on. I merely looked at
it an instant, and then I unhooked it and laid it on this table."
"But at first, you weren't sure that you did place it on that table,
Miss Fayre," came the insinuating voice of Fenn once more.
"Yes, I did, I'm sure of it now," and Dolly's white face was drawn with
"Think again." counselled the secretary.
"Maybe you took it off, and absent-mindedly slipped it in your pocket."
Dotty turned on Fenn like a little fury. "What do you mean?" she cried.
"Are you accusing Dolly of stealing that thing?"
"There, there," said Mr. Forbes, placatingly, "Of course, Fenn didn't
mean that. Not intentionally, that is. But without thinking, couldn't—"
"No, she couldn't!" stormed Dotty. "Dolly Fayre doesn't go around
pocketing people's jewels unconsciously! She isn't a kleptomaniac, or
whatever you call it! She did exactly as she says she did. She laid
that earring on that table."
"Then why isn't it there now?" asked Fenn.
"Because somebody else moved it. Oh, don't ask me who. I don't KNOW
who! And I don't CARE who! But Dolly put it there, and whoever took it
away from there can find it! Perhaps YOU, can, Mr. Fenn!"
The secretary looked at the angry girl with an irritating smile.
"I wish I might, Miss Rose. But I've searched the room thoroughly, as
you all have, too. It can't be HERE, you know."
"I'll tell you," said Alicia, eagerly, and then she described how in
her home a photograph had slipped down behind the mantel and had been
lost for years.
"Let us see," and Mr. Forbes went to the mantel in the room. But there
was not the least mite of a crack between the shelf and the wall.
Alicia's suggestion was useless.
"But," she said, "there might be that sort of a hiding-place somewhere
else. Let's look all over."
The girls tried hard to find some crack or crevice in any piece of
furniture, into which the trinket might have slipped, but there was
none. They felt down between backs and seats of chairs, looked behind
cases of treasures, moved every book and paper that lay on the tables,
even turned up the edges of rugs, and peeped under.
"It doesn't make any difference how much we look," Dotty declared,
"we've just got to look more,—that's all. Why, that earring is in this
room, and that's all there is about that! Now, it's up to us to find
it. You know, after you search all the possible places, you have to
search the impossible ones."
"I admire your perseverance," said Mr. Forbes, "but I can't hope it
will be rewarded. It isn't as if we were hunting for a thing that
somebody had purposely concealed, that would mean an exhaustive search.
But we're looking for something merely mislaid or tossed aside, and if
we find it, it will be in some exposed place, not cleverly hidden."
"Oh, I don't know, Uncle Jeff," said Bernice, "you know when Alicia's
photograph slipped behind the mantel, that was deeply hidden, although
"Yes, that's so," and Uncle Jeff looked questioningly from one girl to
It was impossible to ignore the fact that he deemed one of them
responsible for the disappearance of the jewel, and until the matter
was cleared up, all felt under suspicion. Fenn, too, was studying the
four young faces, as if to detect signs of guilt in one of them.
At last he said, "Let us get at this systematically. Who took the
earring first, when Mr. Forbes handed it out from the case?"
"I did," said Dotty, promptly. "I stood nearest to Mr. Forbes and he
handed it to me. After I looked at it, I passed it to Alicia."
"No, you didn't," contradicted Alicia. "I didn't touch it."
"Why, yes, 'Licia," Dotty persisted, "you took it and said—"
"I tell you I didn't! I never handled the things at all! It was
"I did have it in my hands," said Bernice, reflectively, "but I can't
remember whether I took it from Dot or Alicia."
"I didn't touch it, I tell you!" and Alicia frowned angrily.
"Oh, yes, you did," said Dolly, "it was you, Alicia, who passed it on
to me. And I took it—"
"You didn't take it from me, Dolly," and Alicia grew red with passion.
"I vow I never touched it! You took it from Bernice."
"No," said Dolly, trying to think. "I took it from you, and I held it
up and asked you how it looked."
"No, Doll, you asked me that," said Bernice, "and I said it was very
"You girls seem decidedly mixed as to what you did," said Mr. Fenn,
with a slight laugh. "I think you're not trying to remember very
"Hold on, Fenn," said Mr. Forbes, reprovingly. "It's in the girls'
favour that they don't remember clearly. If they tossed the thing aside
carelessly, they naturally wouldn't remember."
"But, Mr. Forbes," and the secretary spoke earnestly, "would these
young ladies toss a valuable gem away carelessly? They are not ignorant
children. They all knew that the earring is a choice possession. I'm
sure not one of them would toss it aside, unheeding where it might
This was perfectly true. None of the four girls could have been so
heedless as that! They had carefully handled every gem or curio shown
them, and then returned it to Mr. Forbes as a matter of course.
Fenn's speech was rather a facer. All had to admit its truth, and the
four girls looked from one to another and then at Mr. Forbes. He was
studying them intently.
Bernice and Dolly were crying. Alicia and Dotty were dry-eyed and
angry-faced. If one of the four had a secret sense of guilt, it was
difficult to guess which one it might be, for all were in a state of
excitement and were well-nigh hysterical.
"Much as I regret it," Mr. Forbes began, "I am forced to the conclusion
that one or more of you girls knows something of the present
whereabouts of my lost jewel. I do not say I suspect any of you of
wilful wrong-doing, it might be you had accidentally carried it off,
and now feel embarrassed about returning it. I can't—I won't believe,
that any of you deliberately took it with intent to keep it."
"We thank you for that, Mr. Forbes," and Dotty's tone and the
expression of her face denoted deepest sarcasm. "It is a comfort to
know that you do not call us thieves! But, for my part, I think it is
about as bad to accuse us of concealing knowledge of the matter. I
think you'd better search our trunks and suitcases! And then, if you
please, I should like to go home—"
"No doubt you would, Miss Rose!" broke in Fenn's cold voice. "A search
of your belongings would be useless. If one of you is concealing the
jewel, it would not be found in any available place of search. You
would have put it some place in the house, not easy of discovery. That
would not be difficult."
"Be quiet, Fenn," said Mr. Forbes. "Girls, I'm not prepared to say I
think one of you has hidden the jewel, but I do think that some of you
must know something about it. How can I think otherwise? Now, tell me
if it is so. I will not scold,—I will not even blame you, if you have
been tempted, or if having accidentally carried it off, you are ashamed
to own up. I'm not a harsh man. I only want the truth. You can't be
surprised at my conviction that you DO know something of it. Why,
here's the case in a nutshell. I handed that earring to you, and I
never received it back. What can I think but that you have it yet? It
is valuable, to be sure, but the money worth of it is as nothing to the
awfulness of the feeling that we have an untrustworthy person among us.
Can it be either of my two nieces who has done this wrong? Can it be
either of their two young friends? I don't want to think so, but what
alternative have I? And I MUST know! For reasons which I do not care to
tell you, it is imperative that I shall discover who is at fault. I
could let the whole matter drop, but there is a very strong cause why I
should not do so. I beg of you, my dear nieces,—my dear young
friends,—I beseech you, tell me the truth, won't you?"
Mr. Forbes spoke persuasively, and kindly.
Alicia burst into a storm of tears and sobbed wildly. Bernice, her face
hidden in her handkerchief, was crying too.
Dotty sat stiffly erect in her chair, her little hands clenched, her
big, black eyes staring at Mr. Forbes in a very concentration of wrath.
Dolly was limp and exhausted from weeping.
With quivering lips and in a shaking voice, she said:
"Maybe one of us is a kleptomaniac, then, after all."
"Ah, a confession!" said Mr. Fenn, with his cynical little smile. "Go
on, Miss Fayre. Which one has the accumulating tendency?"
"You do make me so mad!" exclaimed Dotty, glaring at him. "Uncle
Forbes, can't we talk with you alone?"
"Oh, no, little miss," said Fenn, "Mr. Forbes is far too easy-going to
look after this affair by himself! He'd swallow all the stories you
girls would tell him! I'll remain, if you please. Unless you have
something to conceal, you can't object to my presence at this
Dolly came to Dotty's aid. She looked at the secretary with a glance of
"It is of no consequence, Mr. Fenn," she said, haughtily, "whether you
are present or not. Uncle Forbes, I agree with Dotty. You said
yourself, you have an acquaintance who can't help taking treasures that
are not his own. It may be that one of us has done this. But, even so,
the jewel must be in the house. None of us has been out of the house
since we were in this room yesterday afternoon. So, if it is in the
house, it must be found."
"Ha! You HAVE hidden it securely, to be willing to have a thorough
search of the house made!" and Fenn looked unpleasantly at her. "Own
up, Miss Fayre; it will save a lot of trouble for the rest of us."
Dolly tried to look at the man with scorn, but her nerves gave way, and
again she broke down and cried softly, but with great, convulsive sobs.
Dotty was furious but she said nothing to Fenn for she knew she would
only get the worst of it.
"Come now, Dolly," said Mr. Forbes, in a gentle way, "stop crying, my
dear, and let's talk this over. Where did you lay the earring when you
took it from your dress?"
"On—on—the t-table," stammered Dolly, trying to stop crying. But, as
every one knows, it is not an easy thing to stem a flood of tears, and
Dolly couldn't speak clearly.
"Yes; what table?"
"This one," and Dotty spoke for her, and indicated the table by the
"Where,—on the table?" persisted Uncle Jeff.
Dolly got up and walked over to the light stand in question.
"About here, I think," and she indicated a spot on the surface of the
dull finished wood.
"Why didn't you hand it back to me?" queried Mr. Forbes, in a kind tone.
"I d-don't know, sir," Dolly sobbed again. "I'm sure I don't know why I
"I know," put in Dotty. "Because just then, Mr. Forbes showed us a
bracelet that had belonged to Cleopatra, and we all crowded round to
look at that, and Doll laid down the earring to take up the bracelet.
We didn't suppose we were going to be accused of stealing!"
"Tut, tut," said Mr. Forbes. "Nobody has used that word! I don't accuse
you of anything,—except carelessness."
"But when it comes to valuable antiques," interrupted Fenn, "it is what
is called criminal carelessness."
"It WAS careless of Dolly to lay the earring down," said Mr. Forbes,
"but that is not the real point. After she laid it down, just where she
showed us, on that small table, somebody must have picked it up. Her
carelessness in laying it there might have resulted in its being
brushed off on the floor, but not in its utter disappearance."
"Maybe it fell out of the window," suggested Bernice, suddenly, "that
window was open then, you know."
Mr. Forbes waited over to the table. "No," he said, "this stand is
fully a foot from the window sill. It couldn't have been unknowingly
brushed as far as that."
"Of course, it couldn't," said Fenn, impatiently. "You're making no
progress at all, Mr. Forbes."
"Propose some plan, yourself, then," said Dotty, shortly; "you're so
smart, suppose you point your finger to the thief!"
"I hope to do so, Miss Rose," and Fenn smirked in a most aggravating
way. "But I hesitate to accuse anyone before I am quite sure."
"A wise hesitation!" retorted Dotty. "Stick to that, Mr. Fenn!"
She turned her back on him, and putting her arm round Dolly, sat in
Suddenly Bernice spoke. She was not crying now, on the contrary, she
was composed and quiet.
"Uncle Jeff," she said, "this is a horrid thing that has happened. I
feel awfully sorry about it all, but especially because it is making so
much trouble for Dolly and Dotty, the two friends that I brought here.
Alicia and I belong here, in a way, but the others are our guests, as
well as your guests. It is up to us, to free them from all suspicion in
this thing and that can only be done by finding the earring. I don't
believe for one minute that any one of us four girls had a hand,
knowingly, in its disappearance, but if one of us did, she must be
shown up. I believe in fairness all round, and while I'm sure the jewel
slipped into some place, or under or behind something, yet if it
DIDN'T,—if somebody did,—well,—steal it! we must find out who. I
wouldn't be willing, even if you were, Uncle, to let the matter drop. I
want to know the solution of the mystery, and I'm going to find it!"
"Bravo! Bernie, girl," cried her uncle, "that's the talk! As I told you
I must know the truth of this thing,—never mind why, I MUST find it
out. But how?"
"First," said Bernice, speaking very decidedly, but not looking toward
the other girls, "I think all our things ought to be searched."
"Oh, pshaw, Bernie," said Alicia, "that would be silly! You know if any
of us wanted to hide that earring we wouldn't put it in among our
"Why not?" demanded Bernice. "I can't imagine any of us having it, but
if we have, it's by accident. Why, it might have caught in any of our
dresses or sashes, and be tucked away there yet."
"That's so," and Dotty looked hopeful. "It could be, that as one of us
passed by the table, it got caught in our clothing. Anyway, we'll all
"But don't look in your own boxes," objected Fenn. "Every girl must
search another's belongings."
"I wonder you'd trust us to do THAT!" snapped Dotty, and Fenn
"You're right! It wouldn't be safe! I propose that Mrs. Berry search
all your rooms."
"Look here, Fenn, you are unduly suspicious," Mr. Forbes remonstrated,
"But, sir, do you want to get back your gem, or not? You asked for my
advice and help in this matter, now I must beg to be allowed to carry
out my plans of procedure."
It was plain to be seen that Mr. Forbes was under the thumb of his
secretary. And this was true. Lewis Fenn had held his position for a
long time, and his services were invaluable to Jefferson Forbes. It was
necessary that the collector should have a reliable, responsible and
capable man to attend to the duties he required of a secretary, and
these attributes Fenn fully possessed. But he was of a small,
suspicious nature, and having decided on what course to pursue
regarding the lost curio, he was not to be swerved from his path.
"Well, well, we will see," Mr. Forbes said, an anxious look wrinkling
his forehead as he looked at the girls. "Run away now, it's nearly
luncheon time. Don't worry over the thing. Each one of you knows her
own heart. If you are innocent, you've no call to worry. If you are
implicated, even in a small degree in the loss of my property, come to
me and tell me so. See me alone, if you like. I will hear your
confession, and if it seems wise, I will keep it confidential. I can't
promise this, for as I hinted, I have a very strong reason for probing
this affair to the very core. It is a mystery that MUST be cleared up!"
AT THE TEA ROOM
The girls went to their rooms to tidy up for luncheon, though there was
some time before the meal would be announced.
By common consent the door was closed between the rooms, and on one
side of it the two D's faced each other.
"Did you ever see such a perfectly horrid, hateful, contemptible old
thing as that Fenn person?" exclaimed Dotty, her voice fairly shaken
with wrath. "I can't see how Mr. Forbes can bear to have him around! He
ought to be excommunicated, or whatever they do to terrible people!"
"He IS awful, Dotty, I don't wonder you gave it to him! But you mustn't
do it. He's Mr. Forbes' right hand man, and whatever Uncle Jeff tells
him to do, he'll do it. The idea of searching our trunks! I won't allow
them to touch mine, I can tell you that!"
"Oh, Dolly, now don't be stubborn. Why, for you to refuse to let them
look over your things would be the same as saying you had the thing
"Dorothy Rose! What a thing to say to me!"
"I'm not saying it to you! I mean, I am saying it to you, just to show
you what other people would say! You know it, Dolly. You know Fenn
would say you had the earring."
"But, Dotty, it must be somewhere."
"Of course, it must be somewhere,—look here, Dollyrinda, you don't
know anything about it, do you? Honest Injun?"
"How you talk, Dot. How should I know anything about it?"
"But do you?"
"Don't be silly."
"But, DO you?"
"Dotty, I'll get mad at you, if you just sit there saying, 'But do
you?' like a talking machine! Are you going to change your dress for
"No, I'm not. These frocks are good enough. But, Dolly, DO you? do you
know anything, ANYTHING at all, about the earring?"
Dolly was sitting on the edge of her little white bed. At Dotty's
reiteration of her query, Dolly threw her head down on the pillow and
hid her face.
"Do you?" repeated Dotty, her voice now tinged with fear.
Dolly sat upright and looked at her. "Don't ask me, Dotty," she said,
"I can't tell you."
"Can't tell me," cried Dotty, in bewilderment, "then who on earth COULD
you tell, I'd like to know!"
"I could tell mother! Oh, Dotty, I want to go home!"
"Well, you can't go home, not till day after to-morrow, anyway. What's
the matter with you, Dolly, why can't you tell me what you know? How
can I find the thing, and clear you from suspicion if you have secrets
"You can't, Dotty. Don't try."
Dolly spoke in a tense, strained way, as if trying to preserve her
calm. She sat down at their little dressing-table and began to brush
A tap came at the door, and in a moment, Bernice came in.
"Let me come in and talk to you girls," she begged. "Alicia is in a
temper, and won't say anything except to snap out something
quarrelsome. What are we going to do?"
"I don't know, Bernie," and Dotty looked as if at her wits' end. "It's
bad enough to put up with that old Fenn's hateful talk, but now Dolly's
gone queer, and you say Alicia has,—what ARE we to do?"
"Let's talk it all over with Mrs. Berry at lunch, she's real sensible
and she's very kind-hearted."
"Yes, she is. And there's the gong now. Come on, let's go down. Come
on, Dollikins, brace up, and look pretty! Heigho! come on, Alicia!"
Alicia appeared, looking sullen rather than sad, and the quartette went
Mrs. Berry listened with interest to their story. Interest that quickly
turned to deep concern as the story went on.
"I don't like it," she said, as the girls paused to hear her comments.
"No carelessness or thoughtlessness could make that valuable earring
disappear off the face of the earth! I mean, it couldn't get LOST, it
must have been taken."
"By us?" flared out Alicia.
"Maybe not meaningly, maybe for a joke, maybe unconsciously; but it was
carried out of that room by some one, of that I'm certain."
"The idea of thinking we'd do it as a joke!" cried Bernice.
"But you told me about the joke Mr. Forbes played on you about the B.
C. image, why mightn't one of you have taken this to tease him? Oh,
girls, if any of you did,—give it back, I beg of you! Mr. Forbes is a
kind man, but a very just one. If you give it back at once, and
explain, he will forgive you, fully and freely. But if you delay too
long he will lose patience. And, too, you must know he wants to—"
"Wants to what, Mrs. Berry?" asked Dotty, for the lady had stopped
speaking very suddenly.
"Never mind. I forgot myself. But Mr. Forbes has a very strong reason
for wishing to sift this matter to the bottom. Don't, girls,—oh, DON'T
"What makes you think we're deceiving him?" cried Dotty. "That's the
way old Fenn talks! Isn't he a disagreeable man, Mrs. Berry?"
"Mr. Fenn is peculiar," she admitted, "but it isn't nice for you to
criticise Mr. Forbes' secretary. He is a trusted employee, and of great
use in his various capacities."
"But he was very rude to us," complained Alicia. "He was positively
insulting to Dolly and me."
"Don't remember it," counselled Mrs. Berry. "The least you have to do
with him the better. Forget anything he may have said, and keep out of
his way all you can."
Mr. Forbes' housekeeper was a tactful and peaceable woman, and she well
knew the temperament and disposition of the secretary. She herself
disliked him exceedingly, but it was part of her diplomacy to avoid
open encounter with him. And she deemed it best for the girls to follow
"I think," she said finally, "the best thing for you to do, is to go
for a nice motor ride in the park. It is a lovely day, and the ride
will do you good and make you feel a heap better. Then on your return,
stop at a pretty tearoom, and have some cakes and chocolate, or ices;
and while you're gone, I'll have a little talk with Mr. Forbes, and,
who knows, maybe we might find the earring!"
"You're going to search our boxes!" cried Alicia. "Well, I won't submit
to such an insult! I shall lock mine before I go out."
"So shall I," declared Dolly. "I think we all ought to. Really, Mrs.
Berry, it's awful for you to do a thing like that!"
"Mercy me! girls, how you do jump at conclusions! I never said a word
about searching your rooms. I had no thought of such a thing! You
mustn't condemn me unheard! You wouldn't like that, yourselves!"
"Indeed, we wouldn't, Mrs. Berry," cried Dolly, smiling at her. "I
apologise for my burst of temper, I'm sure. But I hate to be suspected."
"Be careful, Dolly, not to be selfish. Others hate to be suspected
"Yes, but I'm innocent!" cried Dolly, and as soon as she had spoken
she blushed fiery red, and her sweet face was covered with confusion.
"Meaning somebody else ISN'T innocent!" spoke up Alicia; "who, please?"
"Me, probably," said Dotty, striving to turn the matter off with a
laugh. "Dolly and I always suspect each other on principle—"
"Oh, pooh! This is no time to be funny!" and Alicia looked daggers at
the smiling Dotty.
"You're right, Alicia, it isn't!" she flashed back, and then Mrs.
Berry's calm voice interrupted again.
"Now, girlies, don't quarrel among yourselves. There's trouble enough
afoot, without your adding to it. Take my advice. Go and put on some
pretty dresses and then go for a ride, as I told you, and get your tea
at the 'Queen Titania' tearoom. It's just lately been opened, and it's
a most attractive place. But promise not to squabble. Indeed, I wish
you'd promise not to discuss this matter of the earring. But I suppose
that's too much to ask!"
"Yes, indeed, Mrs. Berry," and Bernice smiled at her. "I'm sure we
couldn't keep that promise if we made it!"
"Well, don't quarrel. It can't do any good. Run along now, and dress."
The cheery good-nature of the housekeeper helped to raise the girls'
depressed spirits, and after they had changed into pretty afternoon
costumes and donned their coats and furs, they had at least, partially
forgotten their troubles of the morning.
But not for long. As they sped along in the great, comfortable car,
each found her thoughts reverting to the sad episode, and oh, with what
Suddenly, Bernice broke out with a new theory.
"I'll tell you what!" she exclaimed; "Uncle Jeff hid that thing
himself, to see how we would act! Then he pretended to suspect us! That
man is studying us! Oh, you needn't tell ME! I've noticed it ever since
we came. He watches everything we do, and when he says anything
especial, he looks closely, to see how we're going to take it."
"I've noticed that, too," agreed Dolly. "But it's silly, Bernie, to
think he took his own jewel."
"Just to test us, you know. I can't make out WHY he wants to study us
so, but maybe he's writing a book or something like that. Else why did
he want not only Alicia and me but two of our friends to come for this
visit? He studies us, not only as to our own characters, but the effect
we have on each other."
Dotty looked at Bernice with interest.
"You clever thing!" she cried; "I do believe you're right! I've caught
Uncle Forbes frequently looking at one or another of us with the most
quizzical expression and listening intently for our answers to some
question of right or wrong or our opinions about something."
"I've noticed it," said Dolly, though in an indifferent tone, "but I
don't think he's studying us. I think he's so unused to young people
that everything we do seems strange to him. Why any of our fathers
would know what we're going to say before we say it. Mine would anyhow
and so would Dot's. But Mr. Forbes is surprised at anything we say or
do because he never saw girls at close range before. I think we
interest him just like his specimens do."
"That's it," cried Dotty, "you've struck it, Doll. We're just specimens
to him. He's studying a new kind of creature! And, maybe he did want to
see what we'd do in given circumstances,—like an unjust accusation,
and so he arranged this tragic situation."
"No," said Dolly, still in that unnerved, listless way, "no, that won't
do, Dotty. If it were true, he'd never let Mr. Fenn be so rude to us.
Why, this morning, I'm sure,—I KNOW,—Mr. Forbes was just as uncertain
of what had become of that earring as—as any of us were."
"Well, have it your own way," and Dotty smiled good-naturedly at her
chum, "but here's my decision. That thing is lost. Somehow or other,
for some ridiculous reason, blame seems to be attached to my
Dollyrinda. I won't stand it! I hereby announce that I'm going to find
that missing gimcrack before I go back to my native heath,—if I have
to take all summer!"
"Aren't you going home on Wednesday?" cried Dolly, looking aghast at
"Not unless that old thing is found! I'll telephone my dear parents not
to look for me until they see me. I'll hunt every nook and cranny of
Mr. Forbes' house, and when I get through, I'll hunt over again. But
find the thing, I will! So there, now!"
"Why do you say Dolly is suspected?" asked Alicia.
"Oh, you all know she is, just because she hooked the foolish thing
into her lace. She put it on the table after that, and every one of us
probably handled it, but no, it is laid to Dolly! Just because she's
the only one of us incapable of such a thing,—I guess!"
"Why, Dot Rose, what a speech!" and Dolly almost laughed at the
belligerent Dotty. "None of us would take it wrongly, I'm sure—but—"
"Well, but what?" demanded Alicia, as Dolly paused.
"Oh, nothing, Alicia, but the same old arguments.
Mistake,—unintentional,—caught in our dresses,—and all that." Dolly
spoke wearily, as if worn out with the subject.
"Well, I've a new theory," said Dotty, "I believe that Fenn man stole
The other three laughed, but Dotty went on. "Yes, I do. You see, he's
never had a chance to take any of the treasures before, 'cause Uncle
Forbes would know he was the thief. But now he has all us four to lay
it on, so he made the most of his chance."
"Oh, Dotty, I can't believe it!" said Bernice. "He didn't act like a
thief this morning. He was more like an avenging justice."
"That's just his smartness! Make it seem as if we did it, you know."
"Nothing in it," and Dolly smiled at Dotty's theory. "He wasn't here
yesterday, at all. He didn't know that I hooked the old thing on my
waist,—oh, I WISH I hadn't done that!"
"Never you mind, Dollums," Dotty said, endearingly. "If he did do it,
we'll track him down. Because, girls, I tell you I'm going to find that
earring. And what Dorothy Rose says, goes! See?"
Dotty's brightness cheered up the others, and as they drove through the
park, there were many sights of interest, and after a time the talk
drifted from the subject that had so engrossed them.
And when at last they stopped at the new tea room and went in, the
beauty and gaiety of the place made them almost forget their trouble.
"I'll have cafe parfait," said Dotty, "with heaps of little fancy
cakes. We can't get real FANCY cakes in Berwick, and I do love 'em!"
The others were of a like mind, and soon they were feasting on the rich
and delicate confections that the modern tea room delights to provide.
While they sat there, Muriel Brown came in, accompanied by two of her
"Oh, mayn't we chum with you?" Muriel cried, and our four girls said
"How strange we should meet," said Dolly, but Muriel laughed and
responded, "Not so very, as I'm here about four or five days out of the
seven. I just simply love the waffles here, don't you?"
And then the girls all laughed and chattered and the New Yorkers
invited the other four to several parties and small affairs.
"New York is the most hospitable place I ever saw!" declared Dotty. "We
seem to be asked somewhere every day for a week."
"Everybody's that," laughed Muriel. "But you must come to these things
we're asking you for, won't you?"
"I don't believe we can promise," said Bernice, suddenly growing
serious. "You see, we may go home on Wednesday."
"Day after to-morrow? Oh, impossible! Don't say the word!" And with a
laugh, Muriel dashed away the unwelcome thought. "I shall depend upon
you," she went on, "especially for the Friday party. That's one of the
best of all! You just MUST be at it!"
"If we're here, we will," declared Alicia, carried away by the gay
insistence. "And I'm 'most sure Bernice and I will be here, even if the
"I want you all," laughed Muriel, "but I'll take as many as I can get."
Then into the limousine again, and off for home.
"Oh," cried Dolly, "that horrid business! I had almost forgotten it!"
"We can't forget it till it's settled," said Dotty, and her lips came
tightly together with a grim expression that she showed only when
desperately in earnest.
It was Tuesday morning that Lewis Fenn came to Dolly and asked her to
give him a few moments' chat.
A little bewildered, Dolly followed Fenn into the reception room, and
they sat down, Fenn closing the door after them.
"It's this way, Miss Fayre," he began. "I know you took the gold
earring. It's useless for you to deny it. It speaks for itself. You are
the only one of you girls especially interested in antiques, and
moreover, you are the one who handled the jewel last. Now, I don't for
a moment hold you guilty of stealing. I know that you thought the thing
of no very great intrinsic value, and as Mr. Forbes has so many such
things in his possession you thought one more or less couldn't matter
to him. So, overcome by your desire to keep it as a souvenir, and
because of its antique interest you involuntarily took it away with
you. Of course, searching your boxes is useless, for you have concealed
it some place in the house where no one would think of looking. Now, I
come to you as a friend, and advise you to own up. I assure you, Mr.
Forbes will forgive you and he will do so much more readily if you go
to him at once and confess."
Dolly sat rigidly, through this long citation, her face growing whiter,
her eyes more and more frightened, as she listened. When Fenn paused,
she struggled to speak but couldn't utter a sound. She was speechless
with mingled emotions. She was angry, primarily, but other thoughts
rushed through her brain and she hesitated what attitude to assume.
The secretary looked at her curiously.
"Well?" he said, and there was a threatening tone in his voice.
Dolly looked at him, looked straight into his accusing eyes, began to
speak, and then, in a burst of tears, she cried out, "Oh, how I HATE
Dotty flung open the door and walked in.
"I've been listening," she announced, "listening at the keyhole, to
hear what you said to my friend! I heard, and I will answer you. Dolly
Fayre no more took that earring, than you did, Mr. Fenn, and I'm
inclined to think from your manner, that you stole it yourself!"
"What!" shouted Fenn, surprised out of his usual calm. "What do you
mean, you little minx?"
"Just what I say," repeated Dotty, but Dolly had already fled from the
room. She went in search of Mrs. Berry, and found her in her own
"Please, Mrs. Berry," said Dolly, controlling her sob-shaken voice, "I
want to go out, all by myself, a little while. May I?"
"Goodness, child, what do you mean? Where? I'll go with you."
"No; I want to go alone. I have to think something out all by myself.
Nobody can help me, and if I'm here, all the girls will butt in and
"Where are you going? For a walk?"
"No, please. I want to ride on the top of a Fifth Avenue stage. I want
to go alone, and then, sitting up there, with the fresh air blowing
around me, I can think something out. I may go, mayn't I, Mrs. Berry? I
know all about the stages."
"Why, yes, child, of course, you can go, if you really want to. You
can't come to any harm just riding on top of a bus. Run along. But I'd
rather you'd let me help you. Or go with you."
"No, please; I must be alone. I don't want even Dotty. I have something
very serious to decide. No one can help me. My mother could, but she
"I wish you'd try me," and the kind lady smiled endearingly.
"I would if I could, and you're a dear to ask me. But this is a special
matter, and it troubles me awfully. So, I'll go off by myself for an
hour or so, and when I come back, I'll be all decided about it."
Dolly got her hat and coat, without seeing the other girls at all. She
went out at the front door of the big Fifth Avenue house, and walked a
few blocks before she stopped to wait for a stage.
"I don't care which way I go," she thought to herself, "I'll take the
first bus that comes along."
The first one chanced to be going down-town, and signalling the
conductor, Dolly climbed the little winding stairs to the top.
There were only half a dozen passengers up there, and Dolly sat down
near the front.
It was a clear, crisp morning. The air was full of ozone, and no sooner
had Dolly settled herself into her seat, than she began to feel better.
Her mind cleared and she could combat the problems that were troubling
her. But she was in a dilemma. Should she go to Mr. Forbes and tell him
where the jewel was,—or, should she not?
She wanted to be honest, she wanted to do right, but it would be a hard
task. The more she thought it over, the more she was perplexed, and
though her spirits were cheered by the pleasant ride, her troubles were
as far as ever from a solution.
Down she went, down the beautiful Avenue, past the Sherman statue and
the Plaza fountain. On, past the Library, down through the shopping
district, and then Dolly concluded she would go on down to the
Washington Arch, and stay in the same bus for the return trip.
But, before she realised it, she found the bus she was in had turned
East on Thirty-second Street, and was headed for the Railroad Station.
She started up, to get off the stage, but sat down again.
"What's the use?" she thought. "I can just as well go on to the
station, and come back again. I only want the ride."
So she went on, and at the station, she was asked to take another
stage. Down the stairs she climbed, and as she glanced at the great
colonnade of the building she realised that from there trains went
home! Home,—where mother was!
Unable to resist, Dolly obeyed an impulse to enter the station.
The warm, pleasant atmosphere of the arcade, soothed her nerves, and
she walked along, thinking deeply.
She came to the stairs that led down to the waiting rooms, and a great
wave of homesickness came over her.
She would go home! She had money with her, she would buy a ticket, and
go straight to Berwick! She couldn't, she simply COULD NOT face Uncle
Jeff and the girls, with her secret untold, and she would not tell it!
Anyway, she couldn't go back to the house where that horrid Fenn was!
That was certain.
She looked in her pocket-book, and tucked away in its folds was the
return half of her Berwick ticket! She had forgotten that she had it
with her. It seemed a finger of Fate pointing the way.
"I will," she decided. "I will go back to Berwick. I'll ask about the
Inquiry at the Information Department told her that there would be a
train for Berwick in half an hour, and Dolly went in and sat down in
the waiting room.
Suddenly it struck her that the people at Mr. Forbes' would be alarmed
at her non-appearance, and would be very anxious for her safety.
That would never do. She had no wish to disturb kind Mrs. Berry or to
scare Dotty half to death.
She saw the telephone booths near by, and realised how easy it would be
to communicate with the house.
She asked the operator for the number of Jefferson Forbes' residence
and in a moment was in the booth.
The butler responded to her call, and Dolly did not ask for any one
"That you, McPherson?" she said, speaking as casually as she could.
"Yes, Miss Fayre. Will you speak with Mrs. Berry?"
"No; I'll give you a message. Please say to Miss Rose that I have gone
"To Berwick, miss?"
"Yes; and tell Mrs. Berry the same. That's all, McPherson; no message
for any one else."
"Yes, Miss Fayre. When will you be back, Miss Fayre?"
"Not at all. Or, that is,—never mind that. Just say I have gone to
Berwick. I'll write to Miss Rose as soon as I get there."
"Yes, Miss Fayre," and the butler hung up his receiver. It was not his
business if the ladies came or went.
In obedience to orders, McPherson went to Mrs. Berry and delivered the
"The dear child," said the housekeeper, and the tears came to her eyes.
Of course, she knew about the earring episode, and until now she hadn't
suspected that Dolly really took it. But to run away practically proved
her guilt. So she had meant to go when she asked permission to go on
the bus! Mrs. Berry's heart was torn, for she loved Dolly best of the
four, and it was a blow to be thus forced to believe her guilty. She
quizzed the butler, but he had no further information to give.
"She only said she was going, ma'am, and said for me to tell you and
Miss Rose. That's all."
"I will tell Miss Rose," said Mrs. Berry, and dismissed the man.
She thought deeply before going to find Dotty. She wondered if she
might yet stay Dolly's flight and persuade her to return. She looked up
a timetable, and found that the train for Berwick would leave in ten
minutes. Doubtless Dolly was already in the car.
However, being a woman of energetic nature, Mrs. Berry telephoned to
the Railroad Station. She asked for a porter, and begged him to try to
find Dolly, whom she described, and ask her to come to the telephone.
"I remember seeing that girl," said the negro porter. "She was walking
around sort of sad-like, and sort of uncertain. But I don't see her
"Look on the Berwick train," commanded Mrs. Berry, "and do it quickly.
If she's on the train, ask her to get off and answer my call. I think
she'll do it. Go quickly! I'll hold the wire."
But it was within a few minutes of starting time; the train was
crowded, and after a short search the porter came back with the word
that he couldn't find her. "I could of," he said, "if I'd 'a' had a
minute more. But the Train Despatcher put me off, and they started.
"I'm sorry, too," and Mrs. Berry sighed as she realised how near she
had come to success, only to fail.
She thought a few moments longer, then she went to find Dotty.
That young person, she discovered, to her astonishment, was up in Mr.
Forbes' own study, on the fourth floor. Dotty had insisted on an
interview with her host after the stormy time she had with his
Mr. Forbes had received her, not at all unwillingly, for he wanted to
get at the truth of the unpleasant matter.
"Dolly never took it!" Mrs. Berry heard Dotty, declare, as she
approached the door. "Either it's just lost, or else Mr. Fenn stole
"Or else what?" asked Mr. Forbes, as Dotty paused.
"I don't like to say," and Dotty twisted her finger nervously; "I do
suspect somebody,—at least, I fear maybe I do, a little bit, but I
won't say anything about it, unless you keep on blaming Dolly. Then I
"I have something to tell you," said Mrs. Berry, entering. "Dolly has
"What!" cried Mr. Forbes and Dotty simultaneously. Lewis Fenn smiled.
"Yes," continued Mrs. Berry, "she has gone home to Berwick. She came to
me and asked if she might go for a ride on top of a Fifth Avenue stage,
to think things out by herself,—she said. Then, a little later, she
telephoned from the Pennsylvania Station that she was just taking the
train for Berwick."
"I don't believe it!" cried Dotty. "Who told you?"
"McPherson. He took the message. Dolly said to tell you, Dotty, and to
tell me, but she sent no word to any one else."
"Looks bad," said Mr. Forbes, shaking his head.
"I told you so!" said Lewis Fenn, nodding his. "I knew when I flatly
accused Miss Fayre this morning of taking the earring, that she was the
guilty one. Understand me, she didn't mean to steal. She didn't look
upon it as theft. She only took a fancy to the bauble, and appropriated
it without really thinking it wrong. As a child would take a worthless
little trinket, you know."
Dotty looked stunned. She paid no attention to Fenn's talk; she stared
at Mrs. Berry, saying, "Has she really gone?"
"Yes, dear," answered the sympathetic lady, "she has. Perhaps it's the
best thing. She'll tell her mother all about it, and then we'll know
"Yes, she'll confess to her mother," said Fenn, and he grinned in
"Shut up, Fenn," said Mr. Forbes. "I'm not at all sure Dolly is the
culprit. If I know that girl, she wouldn't run away if she were
guilty,—but she might if she were unjustly accused."
"That's generous of you, sir," said the secretary, "but you know
yourself that when I taxed Miss Fayre definitely with the deed, she
immediately went off, pretending that she was just going for a ride,
and would return. That piece of deception doesn't look like innocence,
I think you must admit!"
"No, no, it doesn't. Dotty, did you say you had some other suspicion?
What is it?"
"I can't tell it now. I can't understand Dolly. I know, oh, I KNOW she
never took the earring, but I can't understand her going off like that.
She never pretends. She's never deceitful—"
"She surely was this time," and Fenn seemed to exult in the fact.
"Maybe she changed her plan after she started," suggested Dotty
"Not likely," mused Mr. Forbes. "It was unprecedented for her to go
alone for a bus ride, but if it was because she wanted to get off home
secretly, it is, of course, very plausible. She didn't want any of you
girls to know she was going, lest you persuade her not to. She didn't
want to go in my car alone, as that would seem strange. But to take a
bus, that was really a clever way to escape unnoticed!"
"I'm surprised that she telephoned back at all," said Mr. Fenn.
"Of course, she would!" said Dotty, indignantly. "She didn't want us to
think she was lost or worry about her safety."
"She was most considerate," said Fenn, sarcastically.
"Oh, stop!" cried Dotty, at the very end of her patience with the man.
"You're enough to drive any one distracted!"
"Let the child alone, Fenn," said Mr. Forbes; "your manner IS
"The whole affair is irritating," returned the secretary, "but it is
now in a way to be cleared up, I think. We shall hear from Miss Fayre's
parents, I'm sure."
"What IS going on?" spoke up Alicia from the doorway, and she and
Bernice came into the room. "I know we're forbidden up here, but
Dotty's here, so we came, too. What's the matter?"
"Dolly's gone home," said Mr. Forbes, looking at his nieces.
"Dolly has!" exclaimed Bernice. "What for?"
"Because she was persecuted!" Dotty replied, "and unjustly accused, and
suspected, and her life made generally miserable! I don't blame her for
going home! I'm going, too."
"When did she go? Who took her?" Alicia asked.
"She went alone," said Mrs. Berry, and she gave them the details of
"Well, I am surprised," said Bernice, but Alicia began to cry softly.
"Yes, cry, Alicia!" said Dotty, turning on her.
"I should think you WOULD! YOU made Dolly go! YOU know where that
earring thing is!"
"I do not!" and Alicia stared at Dotty.
"Well, you know something more than you've told!"
WAS IT ALICIA?
"What do you mean by that speech Dotty?" asked Bernice, as Alicia kept
"I mean just what I say. Alicia knows where the earring is, or, if she
doesn't know that, she knows something about it that she won't tell us."
"What is it, Alicia?" said her uncle, kindly. "If you know anything at
all, tell us, won't you?"
"I don't, Uncle. I don't know ANYTHING about it!" and Alicia wept more
"Well, the thing to do is to find it," said Fenn gazing closely at
Alicia. "Where we find it will disclose who took it."
"I agree with you, Mr. Fenn," said a voice from the doorway, and there
stood Dolly Fayre!
"Oh," cried Dotty, "I knew you wouldn't run away!"
"I did," returned Dolly, looking very sober. "I couldn't stand things
here, and I was tempted to go home."
"Did you start out with that idea?" asked Dotty.
"No; never thought of such a thing when I went out. But I took a bus
that turned around and went to the station, so that made me think of
Berwick and I got homesick for mother, and I just couldn't help wanting
to go to her. And I telephoned back here that I was going. Then, I had
no sooner done that, than it seemed to me a cowardly thing to do, after
all, and I changed my mind quick and came right back here. I rode up on
top of a stage, and the trip in this lovely bright air made me feel a
heap better. Now then, I want to say, once for all, that I didn't take
that earring, but I'm going to find out who DID, and also I'm going to
find the jewel. I don't know which I'll find first, but one means the
"Just what I said, Miss Fayre," exclaimed Fenn. "I'll join forces with
you, and we'll see about this thing. We'll find the missing jewel and
we'll find out who took it, but we'll have to put up a search."
"All my things are at your disposal," said Dolly; "look through all my
cupboards and bureau drawers as you like. I'm not afraid."
"Of course not," said Fenn, "after your absence this morning! You had a
fine opportunity to dispose of the jewel!"
"How dare you!" cried Dolly, turning white with rage. "I have told you
truthfully where I went and why."
"Let her alone, Fenn," said Mr. Forbes, sharply. "You talk too much.
Run along now, girls; we'll let the matter rest for to-day. I'll
consult with Mr. Fenn, and I don't think we'll search your belongings.
I can't think any one of you has intentionally concealed the jewel.
It's lost but not stolen, that's what I think."
"You dear old thing!" and Bernice impulsively threw her arms around her
uncle's neck. "I think you're right. But it must be found!"
"It must be found!" repeated Dolly. "Otherwise suspicion will always
rest on me."
"Not on you any more than the rest of us," declared Dotty, "but there's
no use in hunting any more in this room. It simply isn't here."
They had searched the room in which the jewel had been kept, thoroughly
and repeatedly. So the girls went off to their own rooms to talk it all
"You're too hard on them, Fenn," said Mr. Forbes to his secretary, when
they were alone.
"But it's a clear case, sir. That Fayre girl took it. She got scared
and tried to run home, then decided it would be better to face the
music, so she returned. She's the one, of course. She adores those old
trinkets; the others don't care two cents for them. She put it on her
dress,—probably she took it off again, but after that the temptation
to possess the thing was too strong for her. She thought you'd not miss
it, and she carried it off. Then, when she was out this morning, she
either threw it away, or secreted it somewhere. Perhaps she took it to
some friend for safe keeping."
"I don't believe it, Fenn. I've studied the four girls pretty closely
and Dolly Fayre is, I think, the most frank and honest and
conscientious of them all. Why, I'd suspect either of my own nieces
before I Would Dolly."
"You're generous, sir. But you're mistaken. Miss Fayre is the culprit,
and we'll fasten the theft on her yet."
"I hope not,—I sincerely hope not. But it's a queer business, Fenn, a
very queer business."
"It's all of that, Mr. Forbes, but we'll get at the truth of it yet."
Meantime the four girls were talking over the matter. But not all
together. The two D's, in their own room, and the other two girls in
theirs were having separate confabs.
"Now, Dolly Fayre," Dotty was saying, "you tell me EVERYTHING you know
about this thing! I don't want any holding back or concealing of any
suspicions or doubts you may have."
"It isn't really a suspicion, Dotty, but I—will tell you. It's only
that just as we left the room, the museum room I call it, yesterday
afternoon, we were all out, and Alicia ran back. She said she had left
her handkerchief on the table. And she went straight to that very table
where I had laid the earring. Now, I can't suspect Alicia, but that's
what she did."
"Well, Dolly," and Dotty looked thoughtful, "that's enough to cast
suspicion on her. She went to that very table?"
"Yes. Of course, I didn't think anything about it at the time, but now
I remember it distinctly. That's why I wanted to go home and tell
Mother all about it, and ask her if I ought to tell Mr. Forbes about
"I see. I don't know myself what you ought to do. I've been thinking it
might be Alicia all the time. I hate to suspect her, as much as you do.
But if she ran back, and went to that table, and then the jewel that
laid there was gone, it certainly looks queer. Decidedly queer."
"Well, what shall I do?"
"I suppose you'll have to keep still, unless you're actually accused of
taking it. You can't very well tell on Alicia."
"That's what I think."
"But if they really accuse you,—and Mr. Fenn has already done so."
"Oh, Fenn! I don't care what he says. If Mr. Forbes doesn't think I
took it, I don't want to say anything about Alicia."
"Well, let's wait and see. After what you've just told me, I think she
did take it. But I don't WANT to think that."
Now, in the next room, Alicia and Bernice were talking confidentially
and in low tones.
"Of course, Dolly must have taken it," Alicia said, slowly.
"I can't believe that," said Bernice. "I know Dolly Fayre awfully well,
and I just about 'most KNOW she couldn't do such a thing."
"I daresay she never was tempted before. You can't tell what you may do
until there's a sudden temptation. She might have thought it was no
harm, when Uncle Jeff has so many of such trinkets. She might have
thought he'd never miss it—"
"No," dissented Bernice. "Dolly never thought out those things. If she
did take it, it was just on the spur of the moment, and, as you say,
because of a sudden irresistible temptation. And the minute after she
was doubtless sorry, but then she was ashamed to confess or return it."
It was luncheon time then, and the girls went downstairs together,
with no disclosures of their suspicions of each other.
At the luncheon table the subject was freely discussed.
Dolly explained to Mrs. Berry that, after she had telephoned she was
going home, she felt that it was a cowardly thing to do, and that she
ought to remain and see the matter through.
"You see," Dolly said, smiling, "it was a sudden temptation, when I got
to the station, to go home. Just the sight of the ticket office, and
the train gates, gave me a wave of homesickness and I wanted to see
Mother so terribly, that I thought I'd just go. But as soon as I'd
telephoned, I realised that I oughtn't to do it, so I came right back
here. I didn't telephone I'd changed my mind, for I thought I'd be here
so soon. Mrs. Berry, what do you think became of the earring?"
"I don't know, I'm sure, my dear. I don't think I could ever believe
that any one of you girls took it with any wrong intent. Did one of you
just borrow it? To study it as a curio or anything like that?"
"No!" cried Bernice. "That's absurd. If I'd wanted to do that I should
have asked Uncle's permission."
"Of course you would," and good Mrs. Berry sighed at the undoubted
fallacy of her theory.
It was during luncheon that the telephone bell rang, and Geordie Knapp
invited the girls to a matinee at the Hippodrome.
"They must come," he said to Mrs. Berry, who had answered his call.
"Please let them. It's a big party. We've three boxes; my mother is
going with us, and all the rest are young people. I know your girls
will like it."
"Of course they will," Mrs. Berry replied. "I'll be glad to have them
go. Wait; I'll ask them."
The invitation was heard with delight, and Bernice answered Geordie for
the others that they'd all be glad to go.
"Good!" cried Geordie. "We'll call for you in our big car. Be ready on
They promised and hastened through luncheon to go to dress.
"I'm glad you're going," kind Mrs. Berry said; "it'll take your minds
off this old earring business. Have a real good time, and don't even
think of anything unpleasant."
So the girls started off in gay spirits, resolved not to worry over the
During the intermission at the matinee Dotty chanced to be talking to
Geordie alone, and she told him about the mystery, and asked him what
he thought. The boy was greatly interested, and asked for all the
details. So Dotty told him all, even of Dolly's seeing Alicia return to
the room and go to the table by the window.
"Jiminy crickets!" said Geordie, "that looks bad! But I can't believe
Alicia would take it, nor any of you others. Let me talk to Alicia; I
won't accuse her, you know, but maybe I can gather something from the
way she talks."
So by changing of seats Geordie found opportunity to talk to Alicia
about the matter. To his surprise, she willingly discussed it, and,
moreover, she made no secret of the fact that she suspected Dolly of
taking it. She said she felt sure that Dolly did it, meaning no great
harm, but probably being over-tempted. "Why," said Alicia, "she said
only at luncheon that when she was at the Railroad Station she was so
tempted to go home to her mother that she very nearly went. So, you
see, she is given to sudden temptations and I suppose she can't always
Geordie considered. "I don't believe she took it, Alicia," he said;
"either it's slipped behind something, or else somebody else got in and
took it. It never was one of you four girls! I'm SURE it wasn't If I
could be over there for an hour or so, I'll bet I could find it. I'm
pretty good at such things. S'pose I go home with you after the show;
"Oh, I wish you would! If you could find that thing, you would be a joy
and a blessing!"
And so, after the performance was over, Geordie Knapp and Ted Hosmer
both went to Mr. Forbes' house with the four girls.
Alicia asked her uncle's permission for them all to go up to the museum
rooms, and he gave it. He was not entirely willing, for he rarely
allowed visitors to his collections, but Alicia coaxed until he gave in.
"It can't be that Alicia took it," Dotty whispered to Dolly, "for she
is so willing to have Geordie investigate."
Ted Hosmer was as anxious as Geordie to hunt for the earring, but when
he reached the rooms of the collections he was so interested in looking
at the specimens that he nearly forgot what they came for.
"Look at the birds!" he cried, as they passed through the Natural
History room on the way to the antiques.
"You like birds?" asked Dolly, as she saw his eyes brighten at the
sights all round him. "Yes, indeed! I've a small collection myself, but
nothing like this! I study about birds every chance I get. Oh, see the
humming birds! Aren't they beautiful?"
But Dolly persuaded him to leave the birds and butterflies and go on to
the antique room.
Here the girls told their two visitors all about the earring and its
disappearance. Mr. Fenn was not present, for which Dolly was deeply
Mr. Forbes watched the two boys quizzically. Then he said,
"Go to it, Geordie. Do a little detective work. If any of my four
visitors took it, make them own up. I won't scold them; I'm anxious
only to know which one it was."
"You don't really think it was any of them, I know, Mr. Forbes, or you
wouldn't speak like that," said Ted. "I know you think as I do, that
some queer mischance or accident is responsible for the disappearance.
But WHAT was that accident, and WHERE is the jewel?"
The two boys searched methodically. They did not look into cupboards or
drawers; they asked questions and tried to think out some theory.
"Could any one have come in at the window?" asked Ted.
"No chance of that," said Mr. Forbes, "considering the window is in the
fourth story, and no balcony, or any way of reaching it from the
Geordie stuck his head out of the window in question.
"Who lives next door?" he said, looking across the narrow yard to the
"People named Mortimer," replied Mr. Forbes. "But they're all away from
home. They're somewhere down South."
"There's somebody over there. I see a light in one of the rooms."
"A caretaker, maybe. But don't be absurd. It's all of ten or twelve
feet across to that house from our back extension to theirs. Are you
thinking somebody could spring across, take the jewel and spring back
"That ISN'T very likely, is it?" Ted laughed, "but there's some
explanation, somewhere," and the boy shook his head. "You see, Mr.
Forbes, somebody might have made entrance to this room after the girls
left it Sunday afternoon, and before you discovered your loss."
"Somebody might," agreed Mr. Forbes, "but I can't quite see how. Surely
no intruder came up by way of the stairs; I can't believe any one came
in by the window, and what other way is there?"
"Suppose," said Geordie, earnestly, "suppose the caretaker, or whoever
is next door, saw you people examining the earring by the light from
the window,—you were by the window, weren't you?"
"Yes," said Dolly, to whom he had put the question. "Yes, it was
growing dusk, and I stepped to the window to look at the gold work."
"Well, suppose this caretaker person saw you, and realised the jewel
was valuable. Then suppose after you all went out and left the earring
on this little table, which is only ten or twelve inches from the
window, suppose the caretaker leaned out of his window, and, with a
long pole, with a hook on the end, fished the thing over to himself."
"Ridiculous!" cried Mr. Forbes. "Nobody could do such a thing as that!
Absurd, my boy! Why, even a long fishpole would scarcely be long
enough, and he couldn't get purchase enough on the end—"
"I admit it sounds difficult, sir, but they do pretty clever things
"And, too, I can't suspect my neighbour's servants! Why, I've not the
slightest cause for such suspicion!"
"Oh, no, I can't think it's that way, either," said Dolly. "Why, that
caretaker is a nice old man. I've heard Mrs. Berry tell about him. His
room is just opposite hers, two floors beneath this very room we're in
now. He has a parrot that chatters and annoys Mrs. Berry, but the old
man is honest, I'm sure. And he's too old to be agile enough to do such
an acrobatic thing as you suggest."
A CLEVER IDEA
Ted Hosmer looked at Dolly as she spoke, and a sudden light came into
"By Jiminy!" he said, and he drew a sharp little whistle. "I say,
Dolly, where is your Mrs. Berry?"
"Oh, no, Ted," Dolly laughed, "you can't connect Mrs. Berry with this
matter any more than you can the Mortimers' servants. Mrs. Berry didn't
"I didn't say she did," returned Ted, smiling at her. "But where is
she, that's all."
"I don't know. Probably in her room."
"Take me there, will you? I must see her at once. Why, I've got an
"Goodness, Ted!" exclaimed Geordie. "What a strange piece of news!"
"Don't be funny!" said Ted; "I say, Dolly, take me to speak to Mrs.
Berry, won't you?"
"Why, of course, if you like,—come on."
Dolly led the way and Ted followed. The others paid little attention,
for Geordie was thinking out a new theory of how somebody could get
across from the next house, by means of scuttles to the roofs on the
front part of the houses. Of course, in front the houses were attached,
but the back extensions were only one room wide, thus giving ground
space for tiny back yards.
A tap on Mrs. Berry's door was answered, and the two were admitted.
"What is it?" and the housekeeper looked a little surprised at her
"May we look out of your window?" asked Ted, politely.
"Surely," was the reply. "But what for?"
Ted, however, already had raised the window and was looking out. It was
dark, or nearly, and the house next door showed a dim light in the room
opposite the one they were in.
The shade was down at the window, so they saw nothing of the room but a
few indistinct shadows.
"Tell us something about the old caretaker next door, won't you?"
begged Ted, and Mrs. Berry responded: "Now, don't suspect him! Why, old
Joe is the most honest man in the city! I've known him for years, and
I'm sure he wouldn't steal a pin! Mr. Mortimer trusts him absolutely."
"But tell us a little about him."
"There's nothing to tell, only that he stays there alone when the
family go away. He lives, practically, in the two rooms; that room
opposite and the kitchen. He has no company but his parrot; he makes a
great pet of that."
"A nice Polly?"
"A handsome bird, yes. But a nuisance with its continual squawking and
"Thank you, Mrs. Berry; I believe that's all. Pardon our intrusion.
We'll go now. Come along, Dolly."
Dolly followed Ted from the room, and he said, "Don't go back upstairs
yet. Come along with me."
"Never mind. Come on," and, making a gesture for her to be silent, Ted
piloted her down the main staircase and out of the front door.
"Gracious! I won't go another step till you tell me where we're going!"
"Of course I'll tell you. We're going next door. Come on; you don't
need wraps; it's just a step."
Taking her hand, Ted led her down the Forbes' steps and up those of the
house next door. He rang the bell and they waited. In a moment,
shuffling steps were heard and an old man opened the door.
"That you, Joe?" said Ted, pleasantly. "Let us come in for a moment,
"I don't know you, young sir, but if I'm not mistaken, this is one of
the little ladies from next door."
"Quite right. We intend no harm, I assure you. Let us come in for a
minute or two."
The old man let them enter and closed the door behind them.
"How's your parrot?" asked Ted, conversationally.
Old Joe looked surprised, but he answered courteously, "Polly is well,
"What kind of a bird is he?"
"A parrot, sir."
"I don't mean that. Is he honest or—or gives to thievery?"
"Oh, sir, he's the thievingest beast in the world, that he is! I don't
dare leave a thing around I'm not willing for him to take if he wants
"Yes, just so. And does he ever go out of this house?"
Ted's face fell. Dolly's, too, for she began to see what Ted had in
mind. But if Polly never left the Mortimer house, surely he didn't fly
over and steal the earring.
"Could I go up to the room where the bird is?" said Ted, trying to
conceal his disappointment at the collapse of his theory.
"Yes, sir, if you like, or I'll bring the bird down here."
"We'll go up, please," and Dolly and Ted followed the old man to the
room on the second floor, which was opposite Mrs. Berry's.
They looked in and saw the bird in his cage, hanging from a bracket
near the window.
"Pretty Polly," said Ted, walking toward the cage. "Nice Polly. Polly
want a cracker?"
The bird cocked his head on one side, but said nothing.
"And you're sure he never leaves his cage?" said Ted, examining the
fastening on the cage door.
"Well, sir, he does leave his cage. I said he doesn't leave this house.
That is,—not often. So seldom as to call it never."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Well, a few days ago,—I'm thinking it was Sunday,—the bird let
himself out of his cage. The latch broke, do you see, and he could push
the door open with his claw. I came into the room, and there he was
stalking up and down the floor with a knowing look. I soon found how he
got out of the cage and I fixed the latch so he can't do it again. I
let him out often, but I'm not going to have him letting himself out."
"Sunday, was it?" and Dolly's eyes brightened as Ted went on with his
questions. "And you weren't here when he got out of his cage?"
"No, sir. But I came in soon and he was marching along the floor,
winking at me."
"And was the window open?"
Old Joe stopped to think. "No," he said, finally, and Dolly gave a sigh
of despair. If the window had been open, there was a possibility that
Polly had been the thief.
"Can he fly?" she put in.
"Fly? Yes, that he can. That's why I'm careful to keep him shut up
here. I wouldn't like him to fly over and annoy Mrs. Berry. He did that
once a year ago, and the lady was right down mad about it."
"Think again, Joe. Couldn't this window have been open Sunday, when
Polly got out of his cage?"
"Well, now, I do believe it was! Wasn't Sunday that warm, pleasant day?
Yes? Well, then, come to think of it, this here window WAS open! My! it
was a good thing Mr. Polly didn't walk out of it!"
"But that's just what he did do,—I believe!"
"What, sir? What do you mean?"
"Well, I'll tell you. A small article has disappeared from the house
next door, from a room on this side, just above Mrs. Berry's room. It's
a hard matter to find out what became of the thing, a small trinket of
jewellery, and I'm in hopes that your bird flew over and took it,
because that will let out certain very much worried human beings!"
"Oh, I can't think Polly did that!"
"Can he fly as far as to go up to that window two stories higher than
this? You say he can fly, but would he be likely to fly UP?"
"If so be that window was open he might. He's a born thief, that bird
is. But in that case, what did he do with it? A jewel, you say?"
"Yes, an old, very old earring."
"Ah!" and Joe started; "of fine work, but all broken and bent?"
"I don't know. How about that, Dolly?"
"It was old, and it was fine gold work. But it wasn't bent or broken."
"Then it's not the same," said Joe. "Polly has a lot of playthings, and
some old imitation jewellery that Mrs. Mortimer lets him have because
he loves such things. And it was Monday, yes, yesterday, he had an old
piece of stuff that I didn't remember seeing before, but I paid little
attention to it. And it was that bent and twisted it can't have been
the thing you're searching for. No, that it couldn't."
"I suppose not," said Ted, but Dolly said, "Let us see it, anyway,
can't you? Maybe Polly bent it up himself."
Old Joe went and searched through a lot of broken bits of metal tilings
in a box on the table.
"Here it is," he said. "You see how it's worn out!"
"That's it!" cried Dolly. "Oh, Ted, THAT'S the earring! Hooray!"
"Is it? Hooray!" shouted Ted. "REALLY, oh, it's too good to be true!
Polly MUST have taken it, Joe."
"Yes, he must have done so, if Miss, here, says it's the one. But let
me figger it out. I s'pose when Polly opened his cage door, the open
window attracted him, and he flew out. Then as the other windows in the
Forbes house were closed, he made for that one that was open. Was
nobody in the room?"
"No," said Dolly, "not when the jewel was taken. I left it on a table,
near the window, and—"
"Yes, Miss, I see! Polly was tempted by the glittering thing; he loves
glitter, and he snatched it up and flew right back home with it. He hid
it somewhere; that's his thievish nature, and when I came in here he
was walking up and down the floor as innocent appearin' as a lamb! Oh,
you wicked Polly!"
"Wick-ed Polly!" screeched the bird. "Naughty Polly!"
"Yes, very naughty Polly!" said Ted. "But a good Polly, after all, to
get us out of our troubles!"
"Then, you see," continued Old Joe, "that villainous bird, he hid his
treasure, and when I let him out yesterday, just to fly around the
room, he found it out again, and he hent and broke it all up."
"Well, never mind!" Dolly cried, "as long as we have it! Oh, Ted, how
clever of you to think of it! I'm so glad! Come, let's hurry home and
tell about it! My, won't they all rejoice!"
"Shall I go over and make my apologies to Mr. Forbes?" asked Joe,
"No; at least, not now. Mr. Forbes won't hold you at all to blame. It
was merely coincidence that the bird happened to get out of his cage,
just when the jewel lay there unprotected," said Ted.
"And, he'd taken something else if he hadn't found that. Anything
glittering or sparkling catches his eye, and he steals it. But 'tis
seldom he gets a chance outside the house."
"Why do you keep such a bird?" asked Dolly.
"He isn't mine. I wouldn't care to have him. He belongs to Mrs.
Mortimer, and she only laughs at his thievin' traits. She thinks
they're cunning. So, I must needs take good care of him. 'Twas careless
of me to leave the window open, and him here alone. But I didn't think
he could break loose from his cage. I'm thinkin' the door was ajar."
"Well, we're much obliged to you and to Polly. Oh, just think if you
hadn't reasoned it out, Ted, we never would have known the truth! You
see, Joe thought the earring was one of Polly's own belongings, so, of
course, he never would have paid any attention to it."
"That I wouldn't, Miss. I supposed it was some of the trinkets the
missus gave him. She buys 'em for him at the five-and-ten. He breaks
'em as fast as he gets 'em!"
"I hope this can be straightened out, and I think it can," said Dolly,
as she looked at the bent gold work.
"I'm sure it can," agreed Ted, "but anyway, it solves the mystery and
clears you girls! Hooray! Hurroo!! Come on, let's go and tell them all."
The two dashed into the Forbes house next door, and found the rest of
them down in the drawing room, wondering what had become of Dolly and
With a beaming face and dancing eyes, Dolly went straight to Mr. Forbes
and dangled the bent and twisted earring before his surprised
"Bless my soul!" he cried, as he saw it. "Did you—where did you find
Dolly realised that he had been about to say, "Did you decide to own
up?" or something like that, and she was glad that he changed his
"Next door!" she exclaimed, for Ted stood back and let her have the
pleasure of telling. "That old parrot came and stole it!"
"Oh! the parrot!" cried Mr. Forbes. "Why, of course! I see it all! Why
didn't I think of that? Once before, I saw that bird light on my
window sill and I shooed him off. Strange I didn't think of that
"Tell us more!" cried Dotty; "who thought of a parrot? Whose parrot is
it? How did he get in? When?"
"Wait a minute, Dot," said Dolly, laughing, "and I'll tell you all
about it. You tell some, Ted, I'm all out of breath!"
So Ted told the whole story of their visit to the next house.
"And I thought it was n. g. when the old chap said the window in his
room wasn't open. Also, when he said the bird never left that house, I
thought again we were off the track. But when we went on to discuss the
matter, and he said the bird was a born thief, and also he finally
remembered that his window was open on Sunday afternoon, why I felt
sure we had found the culprit. Then, the old fellow produced the
earring, which he had seen, but had scarcely noticed, thinking it was
some of the bird's own junk. It seems Polly also collects antiques!"
"Well, well, Hosmer, my boy, you did well to think of such a solution
to our mystery! What put you on the track in the first place?"
"I think it was the birds of your collection, sir. I'm very fond of
birds and bird study, and I know a lot about parrots, and their ways.
Well, seeing all your stuffed birds, put birds in my head, I suppose;
any way, when Dolly spoke of a parrot next door that annoyed Mrs.
Berry, I thought right away of how that Polly bird would like to grab a
gold trinket if he had a good chance. So I looked up his chances, and I
began to realise that if your window was open, the one in the other
house might have been too. Sunday was such a warm, pleasant day. So, I
looked into matters a little, and concluded we'd better go over there.
I didn't say what we were going for, because it might easily have
turned out a wild goose chase—"
"Instead of a wild parrot chase!" said Alicia. "Oh, isn't it just fine
that it's found!"
"I guess old Fenn will be surprised," said Dotty, with an angry shake
of her dark head. "He tried his best to fasten it on Dolly—"
"Fasten the earring on?" asked Geordie Knapp, laughing.
"No; I did that myself," rejoined Dolly. "Oh, Uncle Forbes, you didn't
think I took it, did you?"
"I didn't know what to think. No thought of that bird came into my
mind. And so I had to cudgel my brain to think how it did disappear.
For I HAD to know! Yes, I positively HAD to know!"
"Of course," agreed Bernice. "You didn't want to lose that jewel."
"It wasn't only that, there was another reason, a reason that I'll tell
you some day."
Next morning at breakfast, each of the four girls found a note at her
plate. The notes were all alike, and they read:
Mr. Jefferson Forbes, because of his great delight over the discovery
of his lost piece of property, invites you to a celebration occasion,
to-morrow, Thursday evening. Mr. Forbes would say, also, that he has
obtained the consent of all interested parents, that you may stay till
Saturday. Mr. Jefferson Forbes will be glad of suggestions as to what
form said celebration shall assume.
They all laughed at the formal style and stilted language of the notes,
and were amazed at the information that they were to make a longer
visit than they had thought.
Mrs. Berry smiled at the shower of questions that followed the reading
of the notes, but she only said, "Don't ask me, my dears. After
breakfast, Mr. Forbes will meet you in the reception room and discuss
So a merry group of four awaited the coming of their host in the pretty
little reception room.
"Good morning," he said, cheerily, as he entered, "What an attractive
bunch of humanity! Four smiling faces and eight bright eyes! I greet
With an old-fashioned bow, he took a seat near them, and asked, "Did
you receive certain important documents?"
"We did," replied Bernice. "May we have further enlightenment?"
"You may, and first I will remove that anxious look from Dolly's face,
by saying that her mother is perfectly willing that she should stay
here the rest of the week."
"Oh, goody!" cried Dolly. "How did you ask her? By telephone?"
"Yes. So pleased was I over the developments of last evening, that I
telephoned all the powers that be, and arranged for an extension to our
house party. Are you glad?"
"Indeed we are," chorused the girls, and Uncle Jeff went on.
"Now, our celebration is to be just whatever you want. And if you don't
all want the same thing, you can all have different things. So just
state your preferences."
"I know mine," said Alicia, "it is to go to Muriel Brown's party on
Friday night. She asked us, and I'd love to go."
"That's one," said her uncle. "Of course you can all go to the party.
Now, Bernice, what do you choose?"
"I'd like to go to the opera," said Bernice. "Grand opera, I mean. I've
never been but once, and I'd love to go."
"Good! We'll go to-night. If you all agree?"
They certainly did agree to that, and then Mr. Forbes asked the two D's
"I want to go to the Metropolitan Museum,—with you!" said Dolly, half
afraid to ask such a boon. But Mr. Forbes seemed pleased, and declared
he would be delighted to go with her, and explain the exhibits and the
others could go or not, as they liked. All decided in favour of going,
and then Dotty was asked to choose.
"Don't laugh at me," said Dotty, "but I'd like to have a party. Only,
not a big one. Just us four girls, and the four boys, that we know the
best; Geordie, Ted, Marly Turner and Sam Graves. I like that sort of a
party better than the big, dressy ones."
"Why, Dot Rose!" exclaimed Alicia, "I thought you liked the big dances."
"So I do, if I knew the people. But I think it would be lots of fun to
have a few, and have a less formal party. I'd like to ask Muriel Brown,
and two or three of those girls we met with her, the other day, and
then, have a few more boys; but not a hundred, like Muriel had."
"A good plan," said Mr. Forbes, "because you couldn't invite a large
party on such short notice. So, make out your list, Dotty, and invite
them by telephone at once. Mrs. Berry will help you, and will arrange
all details. Let me see, you can have that party to-morrow night; go to
the opera to-night; go to Muriel's party on Friday night, and go home
on Saturday. The museum we can visit any afternoon. I thank you for
your kind attention."
"Oh, Uncle Jeff, we thank YOU for your kindness, all of it," cried
Alicia. "You have been so very good to us, and now you are doing a lot
more for our pleasure."
"Have you enjoyed it all, so far, Alicia?" and her uncle looked at her
"Oh, yes, sir, indeed I have! I was troubled about the lost earring,
but that was not your fault."
"Nor the fault of any of you girls," said Mr. Forbes. "As I have hinted
to you, I have a reason for this visit you are making me, beside a
desire to give you pleasure. I am considering a serious matter and this
stay of yours in my house is helping me to a decision."
"What can it be, Uncle?" cried Bernice. "Tell us, so we can help you
more, and more intelligently."
"I will tell you Saturday morning," he returned with a smile. "Perhaps
in that time other developments may occur that will alter my final
decision in the matter."
"It sounds most mysterious," laughed Dolly, "can't we guess what it's
"You may guess, if you like, but I don't promise to tell you if you
guess correctly. And I don't mind adding, that I feel pretty sure you
couldn't guess correctly, if you tried!"
"No use trying, then!" said Alicia, gaily. "Oh, I'm so glad we're going
to stay longer. I want to do a lot of things beside the celebrations
we've just planned. I do think you're the best and kindest uncle in the
whole world! I've got a secret, too, and some day I'm going to tell it
to you all."
"Secrets seem to be the order of the day," laughed Dolly; "we'll have
to scrape up one, Dot."
"Well, it's no secret that we're having one grand, glorious, good
time!" said Dotty. "What's on for this morning?"
Mr. Forbes went off to his own room then, and the girls planned out all
they should do for the rest of their stay in the city.
There was some shopping, some sight-seeing and some errands yet undone
but they at last agreed on a programme that would suit everybody.
Dotty's party, as they called it, took place on Thursday night, and she
had her way about having it a small gathering. There were about twenty
in all, and according to Dotty's wishes it was not only a dancing
party. There were games as well as dances, for Dotty loved games.
Some of the city young people were at first inclined to laugh at the
idea of games, but when they began to take part in these that Dotty had
planned they became exceedingly interested.
One was an "Observation Test," up in Mr. Forbes' museum.
At Dotty's request, he had allowed the collection rooms to be opened to
the guests, and this very special dispensation was so appreciated by
all that they were most exceedingly careful not to handle the rare
specimens or touch the exhibits.
This state of things lent itself beautifully to the game. Each player
was asked to walk about for half an hour and look at the curios and
treasures, and at the expiration of the time, to return to the drawing
room, and spend ten minutes writing down the names of such objects as
could be remembered.
This game, most of them had played before, with a table full of less
interesting exhibits. But in the wonderful museum rooms of Mr. Forbes
it was quite another story.
So eagerly did the young people observe and examine the things, that
the half hour allotted for that purpose slipped away all too soon.
And then they sat down to write their lists, and that too proved an
Our four girls wrote lists, just for fun, but did not compete for the
prizes, as, knowing the exhibit so well, that would not have been fair.
Muriel Brown took the first prize, and the hostesses were glad of it
for it was pleasant to have Muriel so honoured.
The prize was a gold penholder, and the boys' prize, which Marly Turner
won, was a similar gift.
After it was over, another game was played. This was ribbon cutting.
Girls and boys, stood at either end of the long drawing-room. To each
girl was given the end of a piece of long, narrow ribbon, and a pair of
scissors. The other end of each ribbon was held by a boy, who likewise
had a pair of scissors.
At a signal, each player started cutting the ribbon straight through
the middle. If the scissors slipped and cut through the selvage, the
player was out of the game. It was not easy, for the ribbon was narrow,
and there was a strong impulse to hurry, which made for crooked
cutting. The middle of each piece of ribbon was marked by a knot, and
whoever reached the knot first, was the winner of that pair. The one
who finished first of all, received a special prize.
The game caused great laughter and sport, and the city young people
declared they enjoyed it quite as much as dancing.
Then the feast was served, and very beautiful and elaborate it was. The
celebration, Mr. Forbes had said, was to be especially for the two D's,
as it was Dotty's choice, and Dolly's choice of a visit to the museum
provided little opportunity for gaiety.
The table showed two great floral D's, one at either end. Dotty's was
made of red roses, and Dolly's of pink roses. Every guest had as a
souvenir, some pretty and valuable little trinket, and at every place
was a small D made of flowers.
Cakes, ices, jellies, and all such things as could be so shaped, were
cut in the form of D's, and our two girls felt greatly honoured to see
their initial so prominently and beautifully displayed.
In the centre of the table was a huge French Doll, of the finest type.
It was dressed in silk covered with polka dots, and its hat and parasol
were of silk to match.
Everybody laughed when Mr. Forbes pointed out that it was Dotty Dolly!
And all agreed it was a most clever and appropriate symbol.
After supper there was dancing, and a fine orchestra furnished the
music. Our girls liked dancing pretty well, but often they sat out a
dance talking to one or another of their guests.
Once, as Dolly passed along the hall, chatting with Geordie Knapp, they
heard rather loud voices behind the closed door of the little reception
Rather surprised that the door should be shut at all, that evening,
Dolly paused involuntarily, and Geordie stood by her side. They had no
intention of eavesdropping; indeed, Geordie thought perhaps some new
game was about to be announced.
But to Dolly's amazement, she heard Alicia's voice saying, "Oh, I
cannot! I dare not!"
The tones were quivering with emotion, and Dolly couldn't help
listening for the next words. She feared Alicia was troubled about
something; indeed, she didn't know what she feared.
And, next came a voice that was unmistakably; Marly Turner's, saying,
"Do, dear! Oh, TRUST me,—I will take care of you!"
"But it is a desperate step!" exclaimed Alicia, "if I should ever
"You will not regret it, dearest," Marly said, "I will never LET you
regret it! Your own mother eloped; it is fitting you should do so, too."
Dolly looked at Geordie, her face white with horror.
Alicia, planning an elopement! And with Marly Turner! She laid her hand
on the knob of the door.
"Don't!" said Geordie, "don't you get mixed up in a thing like that! Is
Alicia Steele that sort of a girl?"
"I don't know," faltered Dolly. "I heard Bernice hint once that
Alicia's mother did elope with her father,—but, Alicia! Why, she isn't
"Well, that's old enough to know what she's about. I advise you, Dolly,
not to go in there. Tell Mr. Forbes, if you like."
"Oh, I couldn't tell on Alicia!"
And, then, as they still stood there, too fascinated to move away,
Alicia said, "Yes, to-morrow night. I will steal out after the house is
quiet,—oh, my hero! my idol!"
"My angel!" exclaimed Marly, in a deep, thrilled voice, and Dolly
turned away, sick at heart.
"I don't know what to do!" she said to Geordie, as they went on to the
drawing room, where the dancers were.
"Don't do anything," he advised. "It's none of your business. That
Steele girl isn't like you, she's a different type. If she wants to cut
up such didoes, don't you mix in it. Let her alone. I knew Marly liked
her,—he said so,—but I didn't suppose he'd do such a thing as that!
But I shan't say a word to him. We're good friends, but not chums.
Marly's a good chap, but he's awfully anxious to act grown up, and my
stars! he's doing so! Elope with the Steele girl! Jiminy!" "I can't
bear to tell on Alicia," said Dolly, "and yet, I can't think I ought to
let her go ahead and do this thing. She's so fond of romance, and
excitement, she doesn't realise what she's doing."
Later on, Dolly saw Alicia and young Turner emerge from the reception
room, and saunter toward the drawing room. They were talking earnestly,
in whispers. Alicia's cheeks were pink, and her manner a little
excited. Marly looked important, and bore himself with a more grown up
air than usual. Dolly and Geordie looked at each other, and shook their
heads. It was only too evident that the two were planning some secret
doings. They went off by themselves and sat on a davenport in a corner
of the room, and continued to converse in whispers, oblivious to all
Dolly and Geordie purposely walked past the other pair, and distinctly
heard Marly say something about a rope ladder.
"It's part of the performance," he urged, as Alicia seemed to demur.
Then she smiled sweetly at him, and said, "All right, then, just as you
"It's perfectly awful!" said Dolly, as they walked on. "I've simply got
to tell Dotty, anyway."
"Oh, I wouldn't," expostulated Geordie; "I don't believe they'll pull
it off. Somebody will catch on and put a stop to it."
"Maybe and maybe not," said Dolly, dubiously. "Alicia is awfully
clever, and if she sets out to do a thing, she generally carries it
through. And her head is full of crazy, romantic thoughts. She'd rather
elope than to go back to school, I know she would. She told me she'd do
anything to get out of going back to school."
"That makes it look serious," agreed Geordie. "Still I don't think you
ought to mix yourself up in it, unless you just tell the whole story to
"I hate to be a tattle-tale," and Dolly looked scornful. "But if it's
for Alicia's good, maybe I ought to."
"Look at them now! Their heads close together, and whispering like
"Yes, they're planning for their getaway!"
During the rest of the evening, Dolly watched Alicia, feeling mean to
do it, and yet unable to keep herself from it.
At last the guests went home, one and all exclaiming at the good time
they had had. Marly Turner bade Dolly good night, with a smiling face.
"I've had the time of my life!" he declared.
"I've not seen much of you," said Dolly, pointedly.
"I know it. Too bad! I wanted to dance with you oftener, but the time
was so short."
"And you found another charmer?"
"Well, Alicia sure is a wonder, isn't she? You know she is!"
"Yes, she is," said Dolly, and for the life of her, she couldn't frown
on the happy-hearted youth.
Marly went off, and the others followed.
"I'm not going to talk things over to-night," said Dolly, when the four
were alone. "I'm tired, and I'm going straight to bed."
The time seemed fairly to fly. Each of the four girls had some last few
errands to do, each wanted some little souvenirs for herself, or for
her people at home, and so busy were they that there was not so much
mutual conversation among them as usual.
They were to go home on Saturday. And already it was Friday afternoon.
They had finished luncheon, Alicia and Bernice had gone to their room,
and Dolly was about to go upstairs, when she remembered that she had
planned to run in and say good-bye to old Joe and his parrot.
Dolly felt she owed a debt of gratitude to Polly, and she had bought a
little toy for him.
"I'm going to run in next door a minute," she said to Mrs. Berry.
"Very well, my dear. Here's a cracker for Polly."
Dolly took it laughingly, and went out to the hall.
"Put your coat round you," called out Mrs. Berry. "It's only a step, I
know, but it's a very cold day."
"Oh, Dot just took my coat upstairs, with her own. Well, here's
Alicia's hanging on the hall rack. I'll throw this round me."
She did so, and ran out of the front door and up the steps of the next
Old Joe answered her ring at the bell.
"Just ran over to say good-bye," laughed Dolly, "and to bring a cracker
and a toy for Polly."
"Thank you, Miss," and Joe smiled at her. "I'll bring the bird down to
you, Ma'am, to save your going upstairs."
"All right," said Dolly, a little absent-mindedly, for she was thinking
of a lot of things at once.
Still absentmindedly, she put her hand in her coat pocket for a
handkerchief. There was none there, and she drew out a letter instead.
Then she suddenly remembered she had on Alicia's coat, and with a
glance at the envelope, she thrust the letter back in the pocket. But
that one glance sufficed to show her it was in Marly Turner's
She had had a note from him a day or two ago, inviting her to some
party or other, and his striking, sprawling penmanship was
unmistakable. The letter had been opened, and Dolly remembered that
Alicia had had several letters in the mail that morning.
It all recalled to her the talk she had overheard the night before. All
that morning Alicia had seemed preoccupied, and twice she had gone off
by herself to telephone in a booth, which the girls rarely used, for
they had no secrets from one another.
Dolly thought over the situation between Alicia and young Turner. She
had not told Dotty yet. She had two minds about doing so. It seemed to
her one minute that she had no right to interfere in Alicia's affairs
and then again, it seemed as if she ought to tell Mr. Forbes what was
She had heard Alicia say to Marly that they would elope that very
night, and she felt sure they meant to do so.
They were all going to Muriel Brown's party, that being Alicia's own
choice of the "celebrations." Would she elope from the party, or return
home first? The latter, probably, for they had mentioned a rope ladder,
and that seemed as if Alicia meant to go late at night when all the
others were asleep. If she ran away from the party there would be no
need of a rope ladder.
Dolly had asked Bernice if Alicia's mother had eloped, and Bernice had
said she thought she had, though she had never heard any of the
And then Joe came down with the parrot, and Dolly forgot Alicia and her
elopement for the moment.
Polly showed great delight over his gifts, and after a few words of
good-bye to the bird and to old Joe, Dolly ran back again.
In the hall she took off Alicia's coat and hung it on the rack just as
Alicia herself appeared on the stairs.
"Where you been?" she called out gaily.
"Next door," said Dolly, "to say a fond farewell to Polly Mortimer. And
as my coat was upstairs, I took the liberty of wearing yours."
"That's all right," laughed Alicia, "you're welcome to it, I'm sure.
Oh, I say, Dolly, there's a letter in the pocket of it! I hope you
didn't read it!"
"Alicia Steele! You ought to be ashamed of yourself to hint at such a
"There, there, don't flare up over nothing! I only said I hoped you
didn't. Did you?"
"I consider that question insulting!"
"Yes, people often get out of answering, that way! Now, you haven't
answered me yet. Did you or did you NOT read that letter that's in the
pocket of my coat?"
"I did NOT! But I've my opinion of a girl who could even think I'd do
such a thing!"
"Well, you had plenty of time, and when you were in next door, would
have been a good opportunity. I'm not sure I believe you even yet.
You're blushing like fury!"
"Who wouldn't, at being insulted like that! I don't think you can have
much sense of honour yourself, to think anybody decent would read
another person's letter!"
"Now, don't get huffy, little goldilocks!" and Alicia laughed at her.
"I had to be sure, you see, because it's a most important matter, and I
wouldn't have anybody know for the world,—until I get ready to tell,
"And when will you be ready to tell?" Dolly tried to speak lightly, but
the words nearly choked her.
"I dunno. Maybe you'll know about it to-morrow."
"Oh, Alicia—" Dolly meant to speak a word of warning or of pleading,
indeed she didn't quite know what she WAS going to say, but just then,
Dotty and Bernice came down stairs, and proposed they all go for a
motor ride, and a last visit to the pretty tearoom.
Dolly agreed, but Alicia didn't seem quite willing.
"I'm expecting a telephone message," she said, at last. "You girls go
on, and leave me at home. I shan't mind."
"Oh, no," said Dotty, "we four can't be together after to-day. We
mustn't be separated this last day of all. Come on, 'Licia."
"But it's an important message," and Alicia looked anxious.
"Can I be of help?" said Mrs. Berry, coming toward them.
"Yes," cried Dotty, "let Mrs. Berry take the message, and tell her what
answer to make."
"No answer," said Alicia, slowly, and a pink flush rose to her cheeks.
"But just take the message, if you please, dear Mrs. Berry. It will be
short, I know. Jot it down, lest you forget the exact wording."
Mrs. Berry promised and the four ran away to get ready for their last
"Dress up pretty, girls," Alicia called from her room. "No telling whom
we might meet at the tearoom."
"That's so," said Dotty; "put on your Dresden silk, Doll."
Dolly laughingly agreed, and the four dressed-up young ladies started
A few calls at various shops, a few stops to look once more at certain
points of interest they admired, and then for a long drive through the
parks, and finally to the tearoom.
"How short the time has been," said Bernice, as they flew along.
"Yes," assented Alicia, "it doesn't seem possible we've been here as
long as we have. Oh, I don't want to go home. I wish I could live in
New York, I just love it!"
"I like it," said Dolly, "but I don't want to live here. I'd LIKE to
come here oftener than I do, though."
At the tearoom they found Janet Knapp and Corinne Bell, two girls whom
they had come to know very pleasantly.
"Sit here with us," called out Janet, as they entered. "We haven't
ordered yet,—what do you girls want?"
"Cafe frappe for me," said Dotty, "and waffles."
"Thick chocolate and whipped cream for mine," said Alicia. "Oh, when
shall I ever get these lovely things again? Think of going back to
"Don't you have good things to eat at that nice school?" asked Dolly.
"Oh, good enough, but not lovely, fancy things like these."
"I'd like to go to boarding-school," said Janet, "but mother doesn't
want me away from home. She thinks girls get no home training at those
"We don't, and that's a fact," admitted Alicia. "We're taught manners
and, oh, well, I s'pose it's up to the girl herself, as to what she
learns. Maybe I won't go back to school, after all."
"Oh, Alicia," cried Bernice, "what do you mean?"
"Oh, nothing," and Alicia smiled as she tossed her head. "I've got a
secret. I can't tell you now. Maybe you'll know soon."
Dolly looked at Alicia, in bewilderment. Could she be referring to her
intended elopement with Marly Turner?
"Good gracious! What do you mean?" and Janet laughed.
"Never mind," returned Alicia, airily, "don't ask me any questions. You
know they call me 'that awful Alicia!' So be prepared for anything."
Dolly grew thoughtful. Only she and Geordie Knapp held the secret of
Alicia's strange remarks, and she couldn't decide whether it was her
duty to tell anyone of her knowledge or not. She made up her mind to
tell Mrs. Berry, as soon as she went home, and then she had
compunctions about that, for Dolly was very conscientious and she
really didn't know what was right to do.
"I go to an awfully nice school," Corinne Bell said. "It's quite near
my house and I can go alone every day. We have such interesting
teachers, and such a jolly lot of girls. You'd love it, Alicia."
"Yes, I'd love it, but how could I go there? It isn't a boarding
school, is it?"
"No; but couldn't you board somewhere in New York?"
"Alone! No, I should say not! You know I live out in the western wilds,
at least the middle western wilds, and I think they're wilder than the
far west. This little New York visit is all poor Alicia will see of the
glittering metropolis for,—oh, well, it may be for years and it may be
"What do you do in vacation time?" asked Janet.
"Oh, Dad and I go to summery places. Couldn't come to New York then,
you know. But when I get married, I'm going to live in New York, you
can bet on that!"
"You're not thinking of marrying soon, I hope," and Janet laughed.
"Never can tell!" said Alicia, smiling saucily. "I have all sorts of
wonderful schemes in my noodle. Some of 'em materialise,—some don't.
But trust little Alicia to do something big! Oh, girls, my secret is
just TOO splendid!"
"Is it—is it all right?" and Dolly stammered, as she looked at Alicia
with a doubtful glance.
"Is it all right! You little sanctimonious-eyed prude! You bet it's all
right! Maybe we'll meet again, Janet. You can't 'most always sometimes
"I hope you'll come to Berwick to visit me, Alicia," said Bernice; "I
think as we're cousins we ought to see more of each other."
"I'd love to, Bernie. Maybe I'll come this summer."
"We could have a sort of reunion at our house," went on Bernice;
"Muriel and you girls could come for a few days, and the two D's and I
would be there, and we'd scare up a lot of fun."
"'Deed we would! I'll surely come if it can be arranged. But I never
know Dad's plans from one day to the next," Alicia said.
"Hello, girls," sang out a boyish voice, and in came Geordie Knapp with
half a dozen comrades. "We just sorter, kinder thought we'd see a bunch
of peaches here about this time o' day! Hello, everybody!"
Marly Turner was not among the group, and Dolly looked anxiously at
Geordie, as if to ask him what he knew concerning him.
"What is it, Dolly?" asked Geordie, with a blank look.
"Secret!" laughed Dolly, "come over here and whisper to me."
"Oh, how rude!" cried Alicia; "even out West we don't whisper in polite
"But this is a special case," and Dolly smiled and dimpled, as if about
to discuss the most trivial subject with Geordie.
The boy looked surprised when Dolly spoke to him about what they had
overheard the night before.
"Why," he said, "I never gave it another thought! I don't believe they
really meant what we thought they did."
"Yes, they did," asserted Dolly. "All day, Alicia has been keyed up to
some great excitement. She had a letter from Marly this morning, and
she expects a telephone from him. Also, she said things that could only
mean that they really are going to elope to-night."
"Such as what?"
"She said maybe she'd live in New York soon, and said she had a big,
wonderful secret and we'd know it to-morrow,—why, she even said she
expects to live in New York after she's married!"
"Whew! that's going some! Still, Dolly, I don't just see what we can
"I think I ought to tell Mr. Forbes, don't you?"
"I don't know. I do hate tell other people's secrets."
"Yes; so do I. Perhaps I'll just tell Mrs. Berry."
"I say, I've an idea! Suppose I get hold of Turner, and get him to go
home and spend the evening with me. I'll insist upon it, you know, and
if he objects, I'll ask him what's up."
"Oh, yes, Geordie, that will be fine! You do that, will you?"
"Yes; suppose I telephone him now, and ask him."
"Go ahead, and then tell me what he says."
Geordie excused himself and went off to the telephone booth.
"You seem to have a lot of secrets, too, Dolly," said Alicia.
"Yes, I have," and Dolly looked demure. "Can't let you have all the
"Nothing doing," Geordie reported to Dolly, as he came back, and his
face looked more serious. He made an opportunity to speak to her alone
again, and he said, "I got him all right, and he said he couldn't see
me this evening, for he's awful busy. Said he was busy with his father."
"His father! Why, Mr. Turner is an actor, isn't he?"
"Sure he is, one of the best."
"Then how can Marly be with him? Isn't Mr. Turner acting?"
"Not just now. He's rehearsing, I think."
"Well, I believe Marly made that up. He's planning the elopement."
"I'm afraid he is. He was sort of queer and didn't answer as
straightforwardly as he usually does. Oh, what a silly performance to
cut up! Why, they're just a couple of kids!"
"I know it. I never was mixed up in a thing like this before."
"You're not mixed up in this."
"No; not unless I mix in purposely. And I believe I shall have to. You
see, I'm only a country girl, and I don't know what's right to do in
this case. But I'm going to follow my instinct, and tell either Mr.
Forbes or Mrs. Berry. I don't think I'll tell Dot or Bernice, for
they'd have no more knowledge of what's right to do, than I have
"You're a good deal of a trump, Dolly Fayre. But I think you're in a
hard place. I wish I could help you, and I'll do anything you say."
"Couldn't you go to Mr. Turner?"
"I'd hate to. Yer see, us fellows don't tell on each other,—it isn't
done—" "I know. Well, let's hope we're mistaken."
"But I don't see how we can be,—-after what we heard."
"Neither do I. I've a mind to speak straight out to Alicia about it."
"Do, if you think best."
"Well, I'll see."
UNCLE JEFF'S FOUR FRIENDS
Still uncertain what she'd do, Dolly went home with the rest of the
Alicia was in high spirits, constantly exclaiming, "Oh, if you only
knew what I know!" or "I'm terribly excited over my secret! Just you
wait till to-morrow!" or some such speech.
And as they entered the Forbes house she flew to Mrs. Berry demanding
to know if a telephone message had arrived for her.
"Yes," replied the good-natured housekeeper. "Marly Turner called up,
and he asked me to tell you that everything was all right, and he'd
pull it off to-night, sure."
"Oh, goody!" cried Alicia, "are you sure that's just what he said?"
"Yes," asseverated Mrs. Berry, "see, I wrote it down, so I shouldn't
Dolly had to eavesdrop a little to overhear this conversation, as
Alicia had drawn Mrs. Berry aside, to make her inquiries. And it was
with a heavy heart that Dolly went upstairs to lay off her wraps.
"Oh, girls, I'm so happy!" cried Alicia, as she flung herself into a
chair. "But don't ask me why, for I refuse to tell you. Now, do we
dress for to-night's party before dinner or after?"
"Before, please," said Mrs. Berry, who had followed the girls to their
rooms. "Mr. Forbes asked me to tell you that he wants an interview in
the drawing-room before you go to Muriel's, and so you'd better be
"Ah, those drawing-room interviews!" exclaimed Bernice. "How they
frightened me at first; then they rather bored me; but in the last few
days I've come to like them!"
"So have I," said Dotty. "I like Mr. Forbes himself a whole lot better
than I did at first. He's so much more get-at-able."
"He ought to be," laughed Alicia, "with four girls to train him up in
the way he should go! What frocks, ladies? Our very bestest?"
"Yes, indeed," said Bernice. "This is our last night, and we must 'go
out in a blaze of glory'! And scoot, you two D's. We've none too much
time to dress."
Dolly and Dotty went to their room, and it was rather a silent Dolly
who sat down to the dressing-table to brush her golden locks.
"Whatamatter, Dollums?" said her chum. "Sad at thoughts of going home?"
"Oh, no; really, Dot, I'm glad to go home. We've had a magnificent time
here, but I'm—well, I s'pect I'm homesick."
"So'm I, a little, now that you mention it. But we've enough to
remember and think over for a long time, haven't we?"
"Of course. My but I'm glad that earring was found! Oh, Dot, wouldn't
it have been awful if we had gone home with that doubt hanging over us?"
"It would, indeed, old girl. And, now if you'll proceed to do up that
taffy-coloured mass on top of your head, I'll accept the dressing
mirror for a while."
Dolly twisted up her golden mop, and decorated it with a ribbon band,
and then gave over her place to Dotty.
And, shortly, four very much dressed-up girls went down to the extra
elaborate dinner that was served in honour of the last night of their
The chat at table was far more gay and spontaneous than it had been on
the night of their arrival, for all had become used to each other's
ways, and had grown to like each other very much. Mr. Forbes, too, had
changed from a stiff, somewhat embarrassed host to a genial, even gay
comrade. He asked all about their doings of the day, and they told him,
with gay stories of funny episodes.
Dolly watched Alicia, but except that her eyes were unusually bright
and her laughter very frequent, the Western girl showed no especial
After dinner they all went to the drawing-room, and it was with a
feeling of real sadness that Dolly realised it was for the last time.
Mr. Forbes walked up and down the room as he often did, and then paused
in front of the group of girls who were standing by the piano.
"Sit down, girlies," he said; "Alicia and Bernice, sit on that sofa,
please,—you two D's on that one."
Uncle Jeff was smiling, but still, there seemed to be an undercurrent
of seriousness in his tone, that implied a special talk.
"Did it ever occur to any of you," he began, "that I invited you here
for something beside a mere desire to give you young people some
"Why, you've practically said so to us, Uncle Jeff," laughed Alicia;
"are you going to tell us your reason?"
"Yes, I am. And I'm going to tell you now."
Mr. Forbes sat down in an easy chair, in such a position that he could
look straight at all the girls, but his gaze rested on his two nieces.
"My reason," he said, slowly, "is, I admit, a selfish one. If you girls
have enjoyed your visit, I'm very glad, but what I wanted, was to study
"I knew it!" exclaimed Bernice. "I thought you were studying us—our
"Yes, just that. And I wanted to study the characters of my two nieces.
Now you know you can't judge much of girls, unless you see them with
their comrades, their chums; or at least with other girls of their own
age. So I asked you each to bring a girl friend with you. As it
happened, Bernie brought two, and Alicia none, but that didn't matter.
And I'm exceedingly glad to have met and known the two D's."
The courteous old gentleman bowed to Dotty and Dolly who smiled and
bowed in return.
"Well," Uncle Jeff went on, "here's the reason I wanted to study my two
nieces. Because I want to take one of them to live with me, and to
inherit, eventually, my house and the greater part of my fortune."
There was a silence, as each of his hearers thought over what this
Either Bernice or Alicia was to be chosen to live in that big city
house, practically to be mistress of it, to have a life of wealth and
luxury and at last to inherit Mr. Forbes' great fortune, and all his
valuable collections and belongings.
Dotty broke the silence. "It's great!" she exclaimed, "just great! And
which one are you going to choose?"
"I have chosen," said Mr. Forbes, slowly, "it remains to be seen
whether the one I have selected will accept. But now, you all can see
why I was so alarmed and anxious over the episode of the lost earring.
I HAD to find out if any of you girls had yielded to temptation. And if
so, if it was one of my nieces, or one of their friends."
"And if it had been one of your nieces, you would have chosen the
other!" cried Bernice.
"No, my child," returned her uncle. "Quite the contrary. If either you
or Alicia had taken that gem, with a wrong intent, I should have asked
the wrong-doer to come and live with me, hoping I could teach her the
error of her ways. But that's neither here nor there. For none of you
DID take the jewel, nor indeed, ever thought of such a thing. But my
decision, which I have made, is not entirely based on worthiness, or
even on desirability. And I'll tell you frankly, had I tried to choose
my favourite between Bernie and 'Licia, I should have had a hard time!
For I have come to love both girls very dearly, and would have not the
slightest objection to adopting them both."
"And us two also?" asked Dotty, mischievously.
"Yes, and you two also! Bless my soul! From a lonely, somewhat
misanthropic old man, you young people have turned me into a real human
being! I like young voices round me, and young folks's pleasures going
on in my house. Well, my dears, are you interested to know my choice?"
"ARE we?" cried Dotty, while Dolly fairly held her breath.
"I have chosen Alicia," Mr. Forbes announced, and there was a deep
Bernice looked a little bewildered, but not at all disappointed. Alicia
looked simply stunned, and the two D's just listened for further
"But don't you for one minute think," said Mr. Forbes, "that I consider
Alicia in any way superior to Bernice; nor, on the other hand, do I
think Bernie better than Alicia. I love my nieces equally, and the
thing that settled the question in my mind was a letter I received
to-day from Alicia's father."
"I know!" cried Alicia, "I had one, too. I didn't say anything about
it, because Dad asked me not to. You tell, Uncle Jeff."
"It's this," said Mr. Forbes. "Alicia's father is to be married soon.
As you know, Alicia's mother, my dear sister died many years ago, and I
know Mr. Steele but slightly. However, now that he is about to remarry,
I hope that it will please both him and his new wife if Alicia comes to
live with me. Also, I hope it will please Alicia."
"Oh, Uncle Jeff!" and Alicia flew over to him, and flung her arms round
his neck, "indeed it does please me! Why, only to-day I was saying how
I'd LOVE to live in New York, and how I HATED to go back to that old
school! But I never dreamed of such a thing as this!"
"Oh, it's just fine!" exclaimed Bernice. "I couldn't think of leaving
father, and I'd rather live in the country anyhow—"
"I discovered that, Bernie, girl," said her uncle, seriously. "That's
why I had you girls here, so I could see for myself what your tastes
and traits really are. I've learned that Bernice prefers her own home
and too that she doesn't want to leave her father alone though my plan
would have been if I asked Bernice to come here to have her father live
here, too. However, I also discovered that Alicia is unhappy in her
school life, that she does not care much about returning to her Western
home to live with a stepmother, and that she adores New York City! So,
I wrote to her father asking his opinion, and he leaves the 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
"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
"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!
"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
But Alicia hesitated. She began to speak once or twice, and stammered
At last she said, "I hate to tell, it sounds so—so grown-up and
"I should think it DID!" cried Dolly, who began to wonder if Alicia
"You tell him, Dolly," and Alicia suddenly looked very shy and
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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