The strange girl’s vivid hair seemed ready to ignite, it was so
blazingly red! Her eyes, a queer green, glared at the frightened
Nancy, and altogether the intruder’s attitude was one of defiance and
“Humph!” she sniffed. “So this is why you don’t go out with Rosa; you
like trying on her clothes when no one’s around!”
Nancy flushed scarlet. So sudden had come the accusation, and perhaps
because of her secret state of mind concerning the party cape, that she
felt like one struck down by an enemy. Somehow the other girl seemed
to tower above her, although Nancy was quite tall. The glare of those
malicious green eyes seemed to take root in Nancy’s own, and above all
that red hair–yet Nancy had previously always loved red hair!
For some moments she did not attempt to reply to the cruel accusation.
Then her defense flashed back, true to her instincts of high-born
“I have a perfect right to try on my cousin’s things if I wish,” she
said loftily. “But what right have _you_ here?”
“Keep your voice down,” demanded the other in angry but subdued tones.
“There’s no need to get the house dogs after us.”
“Yes, that old Margot–don’t know why they didn’t call her Magot,”
scolded the girl, “she’s more like a watch dog than a woman. But I’m in
a hurry. You needn’t mind mentioning my call,” she sneered, “and then,
if I’m sure of that, I won’t bother telling Rosa about your–party!”
The inference was so contemptible that Nancy shrank away instinctively.
She had already carefully placed the innocent cape back on its chair,
and was ready to lower the lights, but this last act she deferred. She
felt safer with that high-strung creature under good, clear lights, at
But somehow as she looked at her, the subtle danger of Orilla’s secret
meetings with Rosa flooded into Nancy’s mind. For her, Nancy, to make
an active enemy of Orilla would surely mean that much more danger to
Rosa, whereas any possible compromise might at least insure Nancy some
knowledge of the other girl’s affairs.
She was thinking fast. Not that the term idealist (applied to her by
Betty) in any way entered into her reasoning, but simply because she
was Nancy of the disciplined mind, taught to think twice when in any
serious predicament. And more than that, she had been cautioned by her
mother, always to put down the proud spirit of revenge and in its place
to plant courage. Courage to do that which was hardest, as it would
invariably prove to be that which was best.
To understand Nancy as she was acting now, it is necessary to
understand all this, although to her it was merely doing the thing that
“Do you mean,” she said very slowly, “that you do not want Rosa to know
you have been here?”
“Yes,” snapped the girl, “just like you don’t want her to know
_you’ve_ been here.”
“But I don’t care; why should I?” Nancy could not help that flare of
“You were trying on her new clothes, weren’t you?”
“What’s wrong about that?”
“Don’t try to sneak, I’m in a hurry. Is it a bargain or isn’t it?”
“What?” blurted Nancy, now a little bit frightened lest her chance to
help Rosa might suddenly vanish.
“You keep your mouth shut and I’ll do the same!”
The vulgarity of the girl’s words offended Nancy’s sense of respectable
English, but she knew better than to show her resentment.
“But, did you bring a message or something?” she faltered. “Won’t they
know you have been here?”
“That’s my business, you just ’tend to yours and don’t worry about
mine,” snapped the stranger.
“It doesn’t make any difference to me, of course, that you’ve been
here–Orilla,” Nancy almost choked on the name, but was determined to
show some good feeling which she did not in the least feel–“and, if it
suits you better, I don’t see why I should tell Rosa.”
“That’s sporty!” exclaimed the girl, a complete change of her queer
face, with its yellow skin and other peculiar colorings of hair and
eyes, giving her a decidedly different expression. “No use being
enemies, when we’re both outsiders,” she said next. “I must run along.
Don’t worry about party capes; they never make folks happy!” and she
Her last words, although almost whispered, left an unpleasant ring in
“Don’t worry about party capes,” she had said, almost as if she had
discovered Nancy’s secret. And then: “They don’t make folks happy!”
Orilla seemed glad of that. Evidently she didn’t want party capes or
other luxuries, of which she herself had been deprived, to make folks
Nancy moved cautiously. She felt as if she were still in danger–of
what she could not guess. But since she had so inadvertently made an
ally of Orilla, instead of an enemy, she knew she must be careful.
But was she now in league against Rosa? That is, of course, from an
outside viewpoint. There could be no doubt of her action having sprung
from the most honorable motives. She was doing a very distasteful
thing, just to protect Rosa, if possible, from Orilla’s secret
influence. Yet, this would be hard to understand, and Nancy knew that
it would be particularly hard for Rosa to understand.
“Well,” she sighed to herself finally, as the last faint echo of that
almost silent step had died away down the long hardwood hall, “we’ll
see what comes of it. But I didn’t know what else to do.”
She stood for a moment at the door of Rosa’s room as she left it. It
was a beautiful room; so much softness, such lovely silky things all
about, and the glow of the bird’s-eye maple furniture stood out even in
that subdued light.
How empty it was! How it lacked personality! Even a certain untidiness
which Nancy always remembered as a part of Ted’s humble little room
was, after all, so personal, so Teddy-like!
The cape lay on the chair. It was a beautiful cape, but now instead of
being merely beautiful to Nancy’s critical eye, it was the symbol of
something to be dreaded, to be careful about, and to hold as secret!
Just as she turned to enter the room which was now hers, Nancy pulled
up sharply at the sound of another step.
“Is that you, Nancy?” It was Margot who put the question, and the sight
of her was indeed welcome to the perturbed girl.
“Oh, yes, Margot,” she replied, assuming as much ease as she could
command, “I was getting a book from Rosa’s room. I’m going to spend a
whole evening reading.”
The woman, who was more than a maid yet less than a relative, laid her
white hand upon Nancy’s arm.
“You will never regret having a fondness for reading,” she said
seriously. “There is nothing better for a young girl than a good book.”
“Oh, I’ve always loved to read,” replied Nancy, flushing under the
compliment, “but I’m afraid I like it too much. There are so many other
things to do, you know.”
“Of course, there are other things to do,” admitted Margot, sort of
leading Nancy into her room while she talked, “but I do believe in lots
of reading. I can’t get Rosalind to read anything but the most absurd
stuff,” her voice was full of regret at this point. “Can you imagine
her reading boys’ books? And detective stories?”
“Oh, yes,” defended Nancy, “I know lots of girls who do that. And boys’
books are good reading, sometimes.” She feared each new sentence from
Margot would be a question about the intruder, and hardly knew what she
herself was saying.
“But you see, my dear, it’s this way with Rosa. Let’s sit down. I’ve
been wanting a few minutes’ talk with you.”
Nancy pulled out a comfortable chair into which the portly Margot
deposited herself. A low boudoir chair, the sort with the lovely square
boxy arms, suited Nancy best and she placed herself into that.
“Rosalind is still a darling baby,” went on Margot. “Because her own
dear mother had to leave her when Rosalind was so young, I suppose I am
a little too easy with the child, but you couldn’t understand how very
hard it is for me to be severe when I remember that poor dear mother.”
Margot was surely genuine in her sympathy, and as she talked Nancy
felt that she could understand. So that must be why Rosa had always,
or almost always, conquered Margot, in spite of her usual talk to the
“She’s not half as rebellious as she pretends to be,” Margot continued,
“but I have some worries.” She stopped and looked so keenly at Nancy
that the girl felt uncomfortable under the scrutiny. Then she suddenly
“Has she told you anything of this girl, Orilla?”
“No, that is, nothing much,” truthfully answered Nancy. “Mother
has told me about Orilla’s disappointment in having to leave Uncle
Frederic’s home,” she added, thoughtfully.
“Well,” sighed the trusted woman, getting up and preparing to leave,
“I don’t mean to ask you to spy on your cousin, but I should be glad if
you will do what you can to keep her away from that girl.”
“I certainly intend to do that,” declared Nancy, hardly recognizing her
“That’s right, dear, and you won’t be sorry. This is sure to be a
trying summer, with Mr. and Mrs. Fred in Europe, and I’m so glad that
you are here. Rosa needs companionship. No girl can grow up alone and
be healthy, mentally. To be sure, she has had her school friends, but
you see, my dear,” again the deep sounding sigh, “it has been rather
hard for her to make friends. She’s so sensitive about her size. Why,
one girl at school last year just followed Rosa around, she was so fond
of her. But the child just thought she was seeking favors.”
Margot, with this confidence and her apparent love for Rosa, had
suddenly taken a new hold on Nancy’s affections. After all, it is a
woman a girl needs, Nancy was determining, and to her at that very
moment–Margot was the woman.