Fixing It For Sally
Said Sally: “You think I'm a hopeless fool, don't you, Peter?” Said Peter: “No—not hopeless”
OH, PETER!” said a plaintive voice from the depths of the receiver. “Is that you?”
“Yeah, it’s me.” Peter’s tone was instantly foreboding.
“Oh, Peter, I’ve got to see you! Right away!”
“Can’t,” said Peter loudly and aggressively. “I’m busy on the car.”
“Just for a few minutes. Peter, please—it’s awfully important.”
“But my gosh, Sally, I can’t come over now. I’m all grease from the car.”
“Not just for a little while before lunch? Peter, if you don’t I’ll never forgive you—”
“Hey, what are you getting desperate about? What’s the plot?” Peter’s tone was now definitely suspicious.
“I’ll tell you when I see you. How soon can you be here?”
“I tell you I’m bust,” shouted Peter, and thrust out his jaw as though threatening to bite the transmitter.
“We could go for a little ride, and maybe—”
“Tell you I’m—”
“We could come back here for lunch, and I’ll have Nellie make a strawberry shortcake—with lots of whipped cream. Please, Peter—I do need you!”
“Oh gosh—I dunno—”
“That’s a dear. I’ll expect you in fifteen minutes. I’m in an awful fix, Peter—I don’t know what I’ll do if you don’t help me out.”
“Hey, I’m getting tired of helping you out of fixes,” asserted Peter loudly. “You come to me and ask me what you’ll do, and I tell you, and you don’t do it, and then you come and say: ‘What’ll I do now?’ and I’m getting tired—”
“In fifteen minutes.” The receiver clicked in his ear. He banged it on the hook and turned to meet the mild, amused gaze of his mother.
“Do you think that’s quite the way to talk to a lady, Peter dear?” she asked.
“Well, why don’t she act like a lady?” he retorted bitterly. “No lady would go round getting into scrapes and then pestering a busy man till he gets her out again. I’m getting tired of being Sally’s permanent slave.”
“I suppose she likes to have someone she can depend on. She’s young, you know.” His mother’s tolerant smile suggested that Sally’s eighteen years should excuse much in the eyes of a man of the world whose twentieth birthday was already in sight.
“But gosh,” he protested, “you’d think she’d let a fellow alone now and then, even if it is Leap Year. Honest, I’m getting scared of her. I never met such a brazen woman. I don’t know what women are coming to anyway.”
“My dear,” replied his mother placidly, “no one ever does.”
YOU think I’m a hopeless fool, don’t you, Peter?” Sally’s brown eyes smiled at his reflection in the windshield.
Peter kept his eyes on the road and ignored the smile. “No—not hopeless,” he replied. “You just haven’t got much judgment. Of course you’re a girl, but even for a girl you haven’t got much.”
“I know,” sighed Sally, dropping against his shoulder. “It gets me into awful messes. But this is the worst yet. You’re going to be awful mad at me, Peter.” Peter groaned. “What is it now?”
“Oh, my dear, it’s too frightful. You remember I told you about Billy Adams that I met at the Prom? Well, I sort of told him I’d like to see him this summer, and he said he might be in Princetown, and I said he must come and stay with us—can you imagine? Well, my dear, I had a letter from him, and he’ll be here this afternoon, and he sort of took me seriously and expects to spend the week-end, and I simply don’t know what to do.”
“Well, what can you expect? That’s what you get for saying things you don’t mean.”
“But I did mean it—I mean, I did then. It was the Prom, and I'd just met him, and it was just too adorable with the moon and everything, and he cut in every dance after supper—I mean, I sort of fell for him and told him I wanted to see him this summer, and now he’s coming this afternoon and I’m simply frantic. I mean, I think a man ought to realize about these things, don’t you?”
“Does he bite, or something?” asked Peter without sympathy. “Maybe there’ll be another moon while he’s here.”
“Yes, but that isn’t the worst of it. I’ve had a telegram from Jerry, and he’s going to be here to-night.” “What do you mean, Jerry? Who’s that?”
“Oh, my dear, haven’t I told you about Jerry! He’s a sort of legacy. You see, my roommate was sort of engaged to him, and then she got interested in this other man at college, and Jerry kept writing to her, and he wrote the most adorable letters—I mean, she let me read his letters, and they were too sweet, and I used to feel so sorry for him, because I knew Madge didn’t care a bit any more; and then when she got engaged to this other man she made me write and explain to Jerry. Well, he wrote back the sweetest letter —I almost wept over it—and I sort of wrote back again, and then he said he’d like to hear from me, and we’ve been sort of corresponding frantically ever since. And my dear, I asked him up for the Prom, and he couldn’t come, and he asked me to a house party and I was down with tonsilitis, and we’ve been trying madly to meet for months.”
“Do you mean to tell me you’ve never even seen the man?” Peter’s voice was shocked and stern.
“Uh-huh! And so I said he’d have to come and see me here, and to-day I had his wire and I’m all of a panic. I mean, with Billy here and everything—” “Well, run them in shifts. You’ve done it before.” Peter’s voice held the bitterness of past experience.
“But I couldn’t do it—not with them in the same house. I mean, my letters to Billy have been sort of hectic too, and they’ll both be expecting me to fall all over myself with joy when they come—”
“You’re not engaged to either of them?” shot out Peten with quick suspicion.
“No-o—but they sort of half think— Oh, Peter, it’s an awful mess! How am I ever going to get out of it?” “Don’t ask me,” said Peter grimly. “This is your own mess, and it’s coming to you. Now see what you can do about it.”
“Oh, but Peter!” Her hand caressed his sleeve. “You surely aren’t going to let me down! You’re the only person I can depend on. And I thought you liked me a little bit—enough to help—”
“Here, you lay off!” commanded Peter in alarm. “Don’t you try your stuff on me. I like you all right, but believe me, it’s going to stay purely academic. I know you too well. If I ever catch you trying to vamp me, I’ll wring your neck. You ought to be suppressed anyway—you’re a menace to the community. Now you lay off!”
“I know I couldn’t vamp you, Peter.” Sally’s voice was small and meek. “I only want you to fix it this once—I promise I’ll leave you alone for the rest of the summer if you only will.”
“Well, I didn’t mean that exactly,” said Peter, relenting with some haste. “But how the devil do you think I can get you out of this?”
“Can’t you think of something? See what the old bean can do, Peter—I’m too muddled to think straight any more.”
“Couldn’t you wire that you’re quarantined—or that your folks have been killed in a wreck ”
“It’s too late—they’re both on their way now.’ Sally lapsed into sombre silence. Then suddenly she started with a little squeal of delight.
“Hey, don’t do that!” shouted Peter. “Want to run us into the ditch?”
“Oh, I’ve got it!” Sally clapped her hands excitedly; “I’ll get Doris—”
“Doris won’t do it,” said Peter.
“But you don’t know what it is yet.”
“Doris won’t do it anyway,” he replied with conviction. “She’s got too much sense.”
“Of course she’ll do it. She’ll have to. What’s *he use of having a twin if she won’t help you out? You’ll see—I’ll make her if I have to strangle her. Turn round now, Peter, and we’ll go home to lunch. The big idea has dawned at last.”
“I won’t do it,” said Doris.
“You see,” said Peter. “I told you she wouldn’t.” “But I haven’t asked you to do anything yet,” said Sally.
“I can see it in your eye,” said Doris coldly. “You want something, and that always means trouble. Well, I have troubles of my own. I won’t do it.”
“But it’s so simple—I’ve thought it all out. Jerry has never seen me—why can’t you pretend you’re me and take charge of him while he’s here? I mean, it’s only over to-morrow, and I’m sure he’ll give you a good time, and I could look after Billy—”
“And poach on me the minute Billy turned his back. No, thanks—my nerves won’t stand it.”
“I’ll keep out of your way—honest, I will. We could put him up at the Country Club, couldn’t we, Peter? And then you could take him for a drive or something to-morrow—my dear, why don’t you? I mean, it would be so easy, and then everybody would be happy—” “Don’t be a fool, Sally. ' I couldn’t get away with it. He knows too much about you—besides, didn’t you send him your picture? Anyone but a born fool would see through it in two minutes.”
“But my dear, that picture was two years old, and anyway it didn’t flatter me. Of course, your hair is bobbed and mine isn’t, but you can explain all that. Tell him you’ve changed a lot in two years. Tell him you had scarlet fever, or something. You can make him believe anything for one day—and you know how grateful I’d be—”
The light of barter glowed in her twin’s eyes. “How grateful would you be?”
“Oh, my dear, I’ll pay all the bills at the club—and you can use the car,” she added hastily as Doris made an impatient gesture.
“Not enough, Sally.” Her sister’s tone was regretful but firm. “If I have to pretend I’m you for a whole
day I’ll need something to sustain my self-respect.” “You pig, Doris! I know what you want—the green dress.”
“Well?” Doris’s tone was implacable.
“But Doris, I’ve only worn it once, and father was wild because it cost so much. Goodness knows when I’ll be able to get another—”
“Do I get it, or don’t I?”
“You beast—and I want to wear it while Billy’s here.” “You can wear it while they’re both here if you like, and see where that gets you. Get down to cases, dearie. If you want me to take your heavy lover off your hands, you’d better come across.”
“Peter, do you think that’s fair? Honestly, I think a twin who would steal the only decent rag off her sister’s back is a positive savage, don’t you?”
“Sure,” agreed Peter. “She’s a criminal type and she’ll probably take up blackmail as a career. But what are you going to do about it? Looks to me like you’d better pay up.”
“Oh, I think you’re horrid. Well, all right—I’ll give you the dress. But just wait—”
“Never mind,” said Doris contemptuously. “It isn’t worth it. You’d only borrow the thing back and I’d never see it again. You can keep your dress and your lovers—I don’t want either of them.”
“Oh, but darling, I didn’t mean that. You can have the dress—honest, you can.”
“For keeps?” persisted Doris.
“Cross my heart,” affirmed Sally.
“All right, then.” Doris concealed her triumph under an air of generous concession. “I think it’s a fool scheme, but I’ll try anything once. Only don’t blame me if it falls through. Now I’m going to get the dress—and from now on it’s mine, see? You keep your hands off it.”
“The horrid, despicable wretch!” breathed Sally as her twin departed. “That green dress—and everything else I own is just in rags. Oh, I could slay her! Peter dear, have you a nice comfortable shoulder? If I don’t find one to cry on I’ll explode with rage.”
T-TELLO, Peter,” said Doris, pausing in surprise at the door of the living-room. “What are you doing here so early in the morning?”
“He’s bullying me again,” Sally told her.
Peter eyed her bitterly. “I wish I could,” he said. “I’d like to see you fall for a man who could bully you. If you ever get a husband I hope he’ll beat you every week. I guess that’s the only way to handle you. Maybe I’ll give it a try myself.”
“My, aren’t you the early ray of sunshine!” scoffed Doris. “Why the grouch?”
“Never mind now,” put in Sally. “I want to hear how you got on with Jerry last night.”
Doris’s face lightened with an impish joy. She sank down on the chesterfield and stretched her arms with an air of complete abandon; her satisfied laugh was almost gloating.
“Dear, you’d never believe it!” she exulted. “Honest, it’s a crime the way he fell for it. Where do you find these trusting men? All mine are so hard-boiled they’d have laughed themselves sick at the line I pulled. You certainly pick them soft. No wonder you get away with murder.”
“She means it worked,” translated Peter.
“Don’t be nasty, Peter,” Doris admonished him. “You haven’t heard the half of it. My dear, I fed him a line that would choke a whale, and he swallowed it and came back for more.”
“What on earth have you been telling him?” asked Sally.
“Oh, don’t get excited, little one—I haven’t scared him off. But it was all so easy—honest, I’m thrilled to death. What do you think—I was waiting at the station, and trying to think how he’d look with a hat on and whether I’d recognize him from his picture, and I nearly hailed two or three weird specimens before he came along, and then all at once this man came up to me and said: ‘You’re Sally, aren’t you?’ and I sort of gasped with excitement and said, ‘Don’t tell me you’re Jerry!’ and he said: ‘I’d recognize you anywhere from your picture,’ and I said! ‘I’d never have known you— you’re so much better looking—’ ”
“You’ll never get him back, Sally,” said Peter with glum satisfaction. “The urchin has him roped and branded by now.”
“Go on,” said Sally, wide-eyed. “What happened then?”
“Well, we drove out to the club, and he sort of put his arm around me, and I kept on talking for dear life—and my dear, I told him the weirdest things! I mean, I told him I’d have to put him up at the club because we’d just found that the house was full of rats and we’d been using gas to drive them out and it was all through the house and the whole family was sleeping on the sun-porch. And I said I was ever so sorry he’d come this week-end because I did want him to meet the family, and now papa had gone to Montreal and mother had just had her face lifted and couldn’t see anyone yet—”
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Continued from page 15
“Doris! You awful—!”
“And I told him he mustn’t mind if people called me Doris, because when I got home from college this spring, my twin began to imitate the way I dressed and did my hair, and it was so confusing because no one could tell us apart, and when I had a date she’d get down first and walk off with the man and he’d think it was me, and so I had to bob my hair and people hadn’t got us sorted out yet—”
“You perfect little devil! If I’d ever thought you’d play a trick like that—!”
“What difference? He thinks I’m you—he honestly does. I mean, it was pathetic the way the poor goof drank it all in. By the time we got to the club I had him in a sort of daze and he was looking at me as if I was Niagara Falls or something and saying: ‘How wonderful!’ every time I stopped for breath. He’s safe enough—it will be a week at least before he snaps out of it. Only I’d better see a few of the gang and tell them not to call me Doris at the dance to-night in case he begins to recover consciousness.”
“But Doris—you’re not taking him to the dance! I mean, I just don’t dare run into him there—I’m sure he’d know me if he saw us together, and I simply have to go—”
“Sure you do—with me,” put in Peter.
“Oh, Peter, do stop. We've been arguing about that all mqjning I tell you I’ve got to take Billy. W f at else is there to do with him? You can go stag and cut in--it won’t make so much difference really.”
“Yea promised me last week you’d go with me,” said Peter stubbornly, “and
it’s up to you to keep your promise.” “But I didn’t know Billy was coming. Peter dear, you said you’d help me out. Now be reasonable and I’ll go with you any time you say—all the rest of the summer—”
“There’s a threat for you,” said Doris. “I thought you’d be glad enough to get rid of her for once, Peter.”
“Gosh, what a woman!” growled Peter. “When I don’t want her she won’t let me alone, and when I do want her she’s off with some cheap imitation of John Gilbert. Makes me sick.”
“Now. Peter, don’t sulk. You’ll have just as many dances as if you went with me. But Doris, you’ll have to find something else—you really will.”
“Not a chance, dearie. Why do you think I wanted that green dress? I’m going to cut a wide swath to-night; so clear the road when you see me coming.” “Of course,” said Sally pensively, “it would be nice to see Jerry, and sort of pretend I’m you and I’ve heard all about him—”
Doris laughed. “You can’t scare me off that way, little one. You can still have him if you want to. I won’t mind taking over Billy if it comes to that. Maybe I will anyway. Here he comes now—say the word and I’ll get in a little fast work right away.”
Sally’s glance of hatred smoothed out into a welcoming smile. “Why Billy— how nice you look this morning! And your hair’s curlier than ever. How do you do it?”
“It gets that way when I’m in love,” replied the sunburnt youth ardently. “Gosh, you look like a million yourself,
Sally. And how’s little sister this morning?”
“You know Peter, don’t you?” interposed Sally hastily. “You met him last night.”
“Sure,” said Billy with the briefest of glances. “How do?”
“Same to you,” answered Peter without enthusiasm.
“Wouldn’t it be a gorgeous morning for a swim!” said Doris. “I’ve heard so much about your over-arm stroke, Billy— I simply must have you teach me.”
“Be glad to,” answered Billy expansively. “Let’s all—”
“Peter just called for Doris to take her over to the club,” said Sally firmly. “Come on, Billy—I’ll show you those snaps of last spring. See you at the club, Peter—don’t forget.”
“You know, Peter,” said Doris reflectively, as Sally manoeuvred Billy out of danger, “I have a hunch that all may not go as smoothly as Sally expects.” “Catch me shedding tears if it doesn’t,” answered Peter viciously. “Gosh, how I hate curly-headed men!”
' I 'HERE was trouble brewing; Sally felt it as soon as she saw them bearing down upon her from opposite quarters. Indeed, she had felt it hanging over her all evening, and this time there was no escape. The best defence, she remembered, was attack. She summoned her brightest manner and opened at long range on the nearest body of the enemy.
“Doris, dear, are you having a wonderful time? You look a little pale— think it must be the dress. You know it doesn’t suit your complexion, really. Why don’t you go and use a little of my rouge—”
“Never mind my complexion,” interrupted Doris grimly. “What I want to know is, do I get a dance with Billy, or don’t I?”
“Of course you do, dear. Just as soon —” She broke off and turned quickly to meet Peter, whose grimness even exceeded that of her twin. “Oh, Peter dear—I’ve been wondering where you were! Will you help me find my handkerchief? I think I must have left it in the library—” “I will not,” answered Peter brutally. “I don’t believe you had a handkerchief, and if you did, I don’t believe it’s in the library. What I want to know—”
“Peter, I think you’re horrid! I’ll go and look myself—”
“Sit down,” said Doris with cold scorn. “We’ll fix this up before you go anywhere. When do I get that dance?”
“Yeah, and what about me?” demanded Peter. “I was going to be able to cut in, wasn’t I? I was going to have just as many dances as if I’d taken you. And have I danced with you? Once— just once all evening! Gosh, the way you got that disappearing act down cold would break a magician’s heart. Well, what’s your alibi?”
“Oh, I think you’re both terrible!” Sally only refrained from a few strategic tears when she suddenly realized that she dared not produce her handkerchief. “All I’ve been doing is keeping out of Jerry’s way. I mean, think how terrible it would be if he recognized me! It would ruin everything. I just don’t dare—”
“You’ll be safe enough for the next dance—I’ve got rid of him,” Doris assured her. “So come across. Where’s Billy?”
“He went to the library—I mean, I sent him—”
“To look for your handkerchief?” enquired Peter malevolently.
Doris stared with open mouth and a light of malice in her eye. “But that’s where I sent Jerry!” she exclaimed.
“My dear, how awful!” cried Sally aghast. “Suppose they get to talking— I mean, if they both think they’re with me—Peter dear, for heaven’s sake get them away from each other—before it’s too late.”
“Not a chance,” answered Peter firmly. “They can talk all night for all I care.
I’ve got them away from you—now let’s see about those dances.”
“That’s right, Peter,” chuckled Doris. “We’ll work together on this.”
“Doris, you’re absolutely heartless!” wailed Sally. “Here I fix you up with a nice man and give you a perfectly lovely dress, and then you mess up everything just out of spite! Can’t you let me have one man for even one day?”
“Why don’t you pick the right man?” retorted her twin. “Give me Billy and you can be happy for the rest of the evening. Huh—trust you to steal the frosting off the cake. I’ve been stuck with Jerry all day, and my nerves need a change. He’s too darned old for me -why, he must be nearly thirty! And his ideas are too darned young for his age. Just because he thinks I’m you is no reason to keep trying to kiss me every time we’re alone for a minute. Gosh, I’d like to see what you’ve been writing him. I bet if the Post Office ever opened one of your letters they’d bar you from the mails.”
“But what on earth am I to do? Peter, you must help me out—there’s a lamb.”
“Yeah—and have you disappear for the rest of the evening. Not a chance—” “Honest, Peter, I won’t. You can have all the dances you like—only straighten things out this once. Dear, you’re the only one who can, and I’ll love you forever—only end this awful suspense.” Peter’s mouth opened on the verge of protest. It stayed open, soundless. The illumination of a new idea flooded him. His mouth closed slowly, and formed itself into a smile of alarming blandness.
“Sure, if that’s all you want,” he agreed with contented anticipation. “I’ll end it if I can find them—and I’ll make it good. You’ll never have to worry over them again.”
“Peter, you’re an angel!” sighed Sally. “Heavens, if I can only get through to-night without losing my sanity I’ll become a recluse for the rest of the summer. I never dreamed a week-end could be so long!”
T'HE library was a gratifying place.
Not, perhaps, as a library, for no one had ever been known to take down a book from its shelves. But if these failed to attract the mind, the deep chairs and well padded chesterfields were a bodily benediction. For the annual library appropriation was spent largely on upholstery, and serious-minded members pronounced the results well worth the cost.
Peter entered these dimly lighted precincts with an expectant light in his eye. Two figures, very much at ease, turned languid heads at his intrusion.
“Well, look what’s here!” The relaxation of a chair by the fireplace slightly dulled the usual arrogance of Billy’s tone. He waved a cigarette in greeting. “Old Peter himself, come to make it a convention.”
Jerry, stretched full length on a chesterfield, removed his pipe from his mouth. His smile was a white flash in the dark vigor of his features.
“Now I’ll bet,” he said in prophetic tones; “I’ll bet he’s come to look for a handkerchief.”
“There isn’t a handkerchief here, Peter,” Billy assured him mournfully. “Not a one. We’re going to post a notice—”
“I have one of my own,” Peter replied. “All I want is a quiet smoke where I won’t be bumped into all the time.” He sank into a chair and stretched himself luxuriously.
Jerry gazed at him sympathetically. “Exactly my feeling. When you get to be my age, a dance like this—”
“Too many old people here,” put in Billy dogmatically. “They run into you every second step.”
“I hope you aren’t being personal,” reproached Jerry. “What I mean is, when I’m at a dance like this I feel caught between an older generation that doesn’t
look where it’s going and a younger one that doesn’t care. That’s a parable,” he j added with a genial smile.
“Don’t be intellectual,” pleaded Billy. “It’s too late in the evening. Peter, you talk and keep him quiet. Talk of simple things. Tell us a bedtime story.”
“It isn’t your bedtime yet,” responded Peter with a tinge of malice. “I was sent to find the two of you in case you thought it was.”
“That means we’re being accused of neglect,” murmured Jerry. “How little we understand women! And I thought that by lingering I was carrying out the wishes of my charming hostess whose handkerchief was in plain sight on her wrist.”
“I suppose Sally sent you?” Billy looked at Peter with dour suspicion.
“No—Doris.” Peter fixed his gaze on nowhere in particular. “She wants a dance with you.”
Billy threw his cigarette into the fireplace. “Why didn’t you say so before?” he demanded. “Piere I’ve been waiting all evening—”
“Do you mean Sally’s sister?” Jerry’s head lifted in quick interest. “I should like very much to meet Sally’s sister. From Sally’s accounts she must be even more stimulating—”
“What d’you mean, you’d like to meet her?” demanded Billy. “You ought to be satisfied—you’ve been dancing with her all evening.”
Jerry looked at him in mild surprise. “Why no—I haven’t danced with anyone but Sally.”
“Say, are you crazy?” Billy’s voice rose belligerently. “I’ve been with Sally all evening myself. I’ve been with her for two days. You’re talking about Doris.”
Jerry shook his head slowly but firmly. “I said Sally and I mean Sally. Don’t I, Peter?”
“Sure you do,” agreed Peter calmly. “Peter, you’re cuckoo!” said Billy scornfully. “Didn’t you see me with Sally? Haven’t I been with her all the time?”
“Sure you have,” assented Peter amiably.
“Peter, you’re lying,” pointed out Jerry in a pitying tone. “She can’t have been with both of us.”
“Sure she can,” said Peter unmoved. “She’s got to. You come here to visit her. Billy comes here to visit her. Both of you at once. She’s got to be with you both, hasn’t she? All right—there you are.” He shrugged with elaborate indifference. “Think I care!”
For an instant Jerry and Billy stared at each other in startled enquiry.
“Hey, is that right?” demanded Billy. “Did you come here to visit her?”
Jerry nodded. “Something,” he said slowly, “something tells me we're being played for suckers.”
“Hey, which one’s which?” Billy lowered threateningly over Peter. “Is she my Sally or his?”
“She’s both,” asserted Peter stubbornly from the depths of his chair.
Billy straightened up with an angry exclamation. “I’ll find out!” he threatened loudly. “I’ll get the truth from that woman if I have to wring her neck. Come on—let’s both go—”
Jerry shook his head sadly. “You’d only make a scene. I hate scenes. And she’d never forgive you. Don’t you I know that the unforgivable sin is to put a woman in the wrong?”
“She can’t get away with that,” insisted Billy. “No woman can make a fool of me and get away with it.”
Jerry sighed. “I used to think so too. But they keep on doing it. And there’s nothing you can do about it. All a man can do is go their way with them or his own way without them.” He sat up and mournfully knocked the ashes from his pipe. “From which it may be seen that the lot of man is hard from the day of his birth.”
“She’s going to get a lesson this time , anyway,” said Billy with determination.
“Gosh, think of the nerve of the woman! She ought to be suppressed. She’s a menace to the community.”
Peter nodded. “I told her. I told her those very words.”
Jerry gave him a look of sympathy. “Peter, my heart goes out to you. We can escape her. But you’re here, constantly exposed to her. We ought to save you—”
Peter drew himself up with an air of nobility and martyrdom. “I can stand it. You leave her to me.”
“Peter, you’re a noble soul.” Jerry shook his hand solemnly. “That’s just what we’ll do. You take charge of her and protect your fellowmen. But first —” He paused, a speculative look in his eyes.
“You going to do something after all?” inquired Billy hopefully.
Jerry turned to him. “First,” he said with quiet suggestiveness, “we’ll have our dance with Doris.”
For a moment Billy looked at him enquiringly. Then a slow light of comprehension dawned in his face.
“There’s one for each of us,” he said grimly. “And mine had better be the real one.”
He strode out with resolution in his bearing. Jerry watched him speculatively as he departed. Then he turned to Peter.
“Come on, Peter—you’ll have to introduce me. I’m anxious to see if this one isn’t more like her letters.”
Sally was sitting alone. There was an air of anxiety in her attitude, not unmixed with dread. Her eyes followed the swaying figures of Doris and Billy, and failed to notice the approach of Peter and his companion until they were almost at her side. Then suddenly, too late for flight, she became aware of their presence. Her eyes widened, and at the sight of the sheer panic in their depths Peter had a momentary pang of compunction. Then the memory of his wrongs rose before him and he hardened his heart. In a firm and cheerful voice he introduced Jerry, and drew aside complacently to watch the effect.
“So this is the sister I’ve heard so much about.” Jerry bent toward her with a confident suavity that held an edge of malice. Too dazed to reply, Sally stared at him dumbly, her brown eyes appealing in vain to his own of unrevealing gray.
“May I have this dance?” he asked with a courtesy that had almost an air of command. He stretched his hand toward her. Mechanically she rose to his arms. As they floated away, her eyes sought Peter over Jerry’s shoulder, and into their stunned expression flitted a glimmer that boded a coming storm.
Peter watched until they were lost to sight in the throng of dancers. Then, drawing a deep breath of achievement, he retired to meditate on the tangled webs of deceivers with the inward sense of virtue that comes from a good deed well done.
SALLY, prostrate on the living-room couch, lifted a tear-stained face. “Peter, I’ll never forgive you!” she wailed. “When everything was going so beautifully, and I was having such a lovely time—to think you had to crash in and ruin it all!”
“Ruined nothing!” retorted Peter indignantly. “All I did was straighten things out.”
“0-oh!” Sally’s ejaculation was something between a gasp and a sob. “I suppose you thought you were straightening them out by bringing Jerry over after I’d been dodging him frantically for two days!”
“Well, wasn’t I?” demanded Peter, challengingly.
“And the way he treated me!” Sally rushed on. “Calling me Doris, when all the time he knew perfectly well— And telling me how nice my sister was, and
how he’d never seen twins who wfere more unlikeemdash;I never was so humiliated in all my life, and I know I’ll never dare to write him-again, and whatever am I to do?”
“Advertise for a new one, suggested Peter heartlessly.
“And Billy disappeared for the rest of the evening with that fiend Doris, and now he knows too, and he’s gone away mad, and I’m sure he’ll never speak to me again. I hope you’re satisfiedemdash; you’ve ruined my week-end, and lost me two perfectly good men, andemdash;andemdash;oh, I hate you, Peter! I honestly do!”
“All rightemdash;I’m through!” Peter’s voice was loud and assertive. “That’s gratitude for you! I did what I said I would, didn’t I? Didn’t I fix it so you won’t have to worry about either of them again? And what thanks do I get? You find someone else to do your fixingemdash;” Sally’s sobs welled up afresh. “Oh, you brute!” she quavered in a choked voice. “Oh, Peter, how can you?” “Huh!” Peter, checked in his virtuous indignation, stared at her suspiciously.
“After all this, to go off and leave me too! And I’ll be so lonesome, and it’s all your faultemdash;”
“Who said anything about leaving you?” Peter seized her by the shoulders. “I said I’m through taking orders from you, that’s all. You’re going to do what I say from now onemdash;and you’re going to like it too.” He bent over and kissed her abruptly.
“Why, Peter!” gasped Sally, staring at him in an amazement that gave no evidence of distaste.
“You’re a menace to the community,” said Peter sternly. “I’ve got to take you in hand and protect my fellowmen. I promised I would. So you can stop thinking about how many good men you’ve lost. I’m looking after you for the rest of the summer, see?” He kissed her again. “And what are you going to do about it?”
Sally bent her head. The tears had disappeared, and in their place came a slow smile that was secret with the thought of future possibilities.
“Not a thing,” she murmured meekly, as her arms tightened about his neck.