Millicent’s Double

When Millicent Moore and Worth Gordon met each other on the first day
of the term in the entrance hall of the Kinglake High School, both
girls stopped short, startled. Millicent Moore had never seen Worth
Gordon before, but Worth Gordon’s face she had seen every day of her
life, looking at her out of her own mirror!

They were total strangers, but when two girls look enough alike to be
twins, it is not necessary to stand on ceremony. After the first blank
stare of amazement, both laughed outright. Millicent held out her
hand.

“We ought to know each other right away,” she said frankly. “My name
is Millicent Moore, and yours is–?”

“Worth Gordon,” responded Worth, taking the proffered hand with
dancing eyes. “You actually frightened me when you came around that
corner. For a moment I had an uncanny feeling that I was a disembodied
spirit looking at my own outward shape. I know now what it feels like
to have a twin.”

“Isn’t it odd that we should look so much alike?” said Millicent. “Do
you suppose we can be any relation? I never heard of any relations
named Gordon.”

Worth shook her head. “I’m quite sure we’re not,” she said. “I haven’t
any relatives except my father’s stepsister with whom I’ve lived ever
since the death of my parents when I was a baby.”

“Well, you’ll really have to count me as a relative after this,”
laughed Millicent. “I’m sure a girl who looks as much like you as I do
must be at least as much relation as a stepaunt.”

From that moment they were firm friends, and their friendship was
still further cemented by the fact that Worth found it necessary to
change her boarding-house and became Millicent’s roommate. Their odd
likeness was the wonder of the school and occasioned no end of
amusing mistakes, for all the students found it hard to distinguish
between them. Seen apart it was impossible to tell which was which
except by their clothes and style of hairdressing. Seen together there
were, of course, many minor differences which served to distinguish
them. Both girls were slight, with dark-brown hair, blue eyes and fair
complexions. But Millicent had more colour than Worth. Even in repose,
Millicent’s face expressed mirth and fun; when Worth was not laughing
or talking, her face was rather serious. Worth’s eyes were darker, and
her nose in profile slightly more aquiline. But still, the resemblance
between them was very striking. In disposition they were also very
similar. Both were merry, fun-loving girls, fond of larks and jokes.
Millicent was the more heedless, but both were impulsive and too apt
to do or say anything that came into their heads without counting the
cost. One late October evening Millicent came in, her cheeks crimson
after her walk in the keen autumn air, and tossed two letters on the
study table. “It’s a perfect evening, Worth. We had the jolliest
tramp. You should have come with us instead of staying in moping over
your books.”

Worth smiled ruefully. “I simply had to prepare those problems for
tomorrow,” she said. “You see, Millie dear, there is a big difference
between us in some things at least. I’m poor. I simply have to pass my
exams and get a teacher’s licence. So I can’t afford to take any
chances. You’re just attending high school for the sake of education
alone, so you don’t really have to grind as I do.”

“I’d like to do pretty well in the exams, though, for Dad’s sake,”
answered Millicent, throwing aside her wraps. “But I don’t mean to
kill myself studying, just the same. Time enough for that when exams
draw nigh. They’re comfortably far off yet. But I’m in a bit of a
predicament, Worth, and I don’t know what to do. Here are two
invitations for Saturday afternoon and I simply _must_ accept them
both. Now, how can I do it? You’re a marvel at mathematics–so work
out that problem for me.

“See, here’s a note from Mrs. Kirby inviting me to tea at Beechwood.
She called on me soon after the term opened and invited me to tea the
next week. But I had another engagement for that afternoon, so
couldn’t go. Mr. Kirby is a business friend of Dad’s, and they are
very nice people. The other invitation is to the annual autumn picnic
of the Alpha Gammas. Now, Worth Gordon, I simply _must_ go to that. I
wouldn’t miss it for anything. But I don’t want to offend Mrs. Kirby,
and I’m afraid I shall if I plead another engagement a second time.
Mother will be fearfully annoyed at me in that case. Dear me, I wish
there were two of me, one to go to the Alpha Gammas and one to
Beechwood–Worth Gordon!”

“What’s the matter?”

“There _are_ two of me! What’s the use of a double if not for a
quandary like this! Worth, you must go to tea at Beechwood Saturday
afternoon in my place. They’ll think you are my very self. They’ll
never know the difference. Go and keep my place warm for me, there’s a
dear.”

“Impossible,” cried Worth. “I’d never dare! They’d know there was
something wrong.”

“They wouldn’t–they couldn’t. None of the Kirbys have ever seen me
except Mrs. Kirby, and she only for a few minutes one evening at dusk.
They don’t know I have a double and they can’t possibly suspect. _Do_
go, Worth. Why, it’ll be a regular lark, the best little joke ever!
And you’ll oblige me immensely besides. Worthie, _please_.”

Worth did not consent all at once; but the idea rather appealed to her
for its daring and excitement. It would be a lark–just at that time
Worth did not see it in any other light. Besides, she wanted to oblige
Millicent, who coaxed vehemently. Finally, Worth yielded and promised
Millicent that she would go to Beechwood in her place.

“You darling!” said Millicent emphatically, flying to her table to
write acceptances of both invitations.

Saturday afternoon Worth got ready to keep Millicent’s engagement.
“Suppose I am found out and expelled from Beechwood in disgrace,” she
suggested laughingly, as she arranged her lace bertha before the
glass.

“Nonsense,” said Millicent, pointing to their reflected faces. “The
Kirbys can never suspect. Why, if it weren’t for the hair and the
dresses, I’d hardly know myself which of those reflections belonged to
which.”

“What if they begin asking me about the welfare of the various members
of your family?”

“They won’t ask any but the most superficial questions. We’re not
intimate enough for anything else. I’ve coached you pretty thoroughly,
and I think you’ll get on all right.”

Worth’s courage carried her successfully through the ordeal of
arriving at Beechwood and meeting Mrs. Kirby. She was unsuspectingly
accepted as Millicent Moore, and found her impersonation of that young
lady not at all difficult. No dangerous subject of conversation was
introduced and nothing personal was said until Mr. Kirby came in. He
looked so scrutinizingly at Worth as he shook hands with her that the
latter felt her heart beating very fast. Did he suspect?

“Upon my word, Miss Moore,” he said genially, “you gave me quite a
start at first. You are very like what a half-sister of mine used to
be when a girl long ago. Of course the resemblance must be quite
accidental.”

“Of course,” said Worth, without any very clear sense of what she was
saying. Her face was uncomfortably flushed and she was glad when tea
was announced.

As nothing more of an embarrassing nature was said, Worth soon
recovered her self-possession and was able to enter into the
conversation. She liked the Kirbys; still, under her enjoyment, she
was conscious of a strange, disagreeable feeling that deepened as the
evening wore on. It was not fear–she was not at all afraid of
betraying herself now. It had even been easier than she had expected.
Then what was it? Suddenly Worth flushed again. She knew now–it was
shame. She was a guest in that house as an impostor! What she had done
seemed no longer a mere joke. What would her host and hostess say if
they knew? That they would never know made no difference. _She_
herself could not forget it, and her realization of the baseness of
the deception grew stronger under Mrs. Kirby’s cordial kindness.

Worth never forgot that evening. She compelled herself to chat as
brightly as possible, but under it all was that miserable
consciousness of falsehood, deepening every instant. She was thankful
when the time came to leave. “You must come up often, Miss Moore,”
said Mrs. Kirby kindly. “Look upon Beechwood as a second home while
you are in Kinglake. We have no daughter of our own, so we make a
hobby of cultivating other people’s.”

When Millicent returned home from the Alpha Gamma outing, she found
Worth in their room, looking soberly at the mirror. Something in her
chum’s expression alarmed her. “Worth, what is it? Did they suspect?”

“No,” said Worth slowly. “They never suspected. They think I am what I
pretended to be–Millicent Moore. But, but, I wish I’d never gone to
Beechwood, Millie. It wasn’t right. It was mean and wrong. It was
acting a lie. I can’t tell you how ashamed I felt when I realized
that.”

“Nonsense,” said Millicent, looking rather sober, nevertheless. “No
harm was done. It’s only a good joke, Worth.”

“Yes, harm _has_ been done. I’ve done harm to myself, for one thing.
I’ve lost my self-respect. I don’t blame you, Millie. It’s all my own
fault. I’ve done a dishonourable thing, dishonourable.”

Millicent sighed. “The Alpha Gamma picnic was horribly slow,” she
said. “I didn’t enjoy myself a bit. I wish I had gone to Beechwood. I
didn’t think about it’s being a practical falsehood before. I suppose
it was. And I’ve always prided myself on my strict truthfulness! It
wasn’t your fault, Worth! It was mine. But it can’t be undone now.”

“No, it can’t be undone,” said Worth slowly, “but it might be
confessed. We might tell Mrs. Kirby the truth and ask her to forgive
us.”

“I couldn’t do such a thing,” cried Millicent. “It isn’t to be thought
of!”




Nevertheless, Millicent did think of it several times that night and
all through the following Sunday. She couldn’t help thinking of it. A
dishonourable trick! That thought stung Millicent. Monday evening
Millicent flung down the book from which she was vainly trying to
study.

“Worthie, it’s no use. You were right. There’s nothing to do but go
and ‘fess up to Mrs. Kirby. I can’t respect Millicent Moore again
until I do. I’m going right up now.”

“I’ll go with you,” said Worth quietly. “I was equally to blame and I
must take my share of the humiliation.”

When the girls reached Beechwood, they were shown into the library
where the family were sitting. Mrs. Kirby came smilingly forward to
greet Millicent when her eyes fell upon Worth. “Why! _why_!” she said.
“I didn’t know you had a twin sister, Miss Moore.”

“Neither I have,” said Millicent, laughing nervously. “This is my
chum, Worth Gordon, but she is no relation whatever.”

At the mention of Worth’s name, Mr. Kirby started slightly, but nobody
noticed it. Millicent went on in a trembling voice. “We’ve come up to
confess something, Mrs. Kirby. I’m sure you’ll think it dreadful, but
we didn’t mean any harm. We just didn’t realize, until afterwards.”

Then Millicent, with burning cheeks, told the whole story and asked to
be forgiven. “I, too, must apologize,” said Worth, when Millicent had
finished. “Can you pardon me, Mrs. Kirby?”

Mrs. Kirby had listened in amazed silence, but now she laughed.
“Certainly,” she said kindly. “I don’t suppose it was altogether right
for you girls to play such a trick on anybody. But I can make
allowances for schoolgirl pranks. I was a school girl once myself, and
far from a model one. You have atoned for your mistake by coming so
frankly and confessing, and now we’ll forget all about it. I think you
have learned your lesson. Both of you must just sit down and spend the
evening with us. Dear me, but you _are_ bewilderingly alike!”

“I’ve something I want to say,” interposed Mr. Kirby suddenly. “You
say your name is Worth Gordon,” he added, turning to Worth. “May I ask
what your mother’s name was?”

“Worth Mowbray,” answered Worth wonderingly.

“I was sure of it,” said Mr. Kirby triumphantly, “when I heard Miss
Moore mention your name. Your mother was my half-sister, and you are
my niece.”

Everybody exclaimed and for a few moments they all talked and
questioned together. Then Mr. Kirby explained fully. “I was born on a
farm up-country. My mother was a widow when she married my father, and
she had one daughter, Worth Mowbray, five years older than myself.
When I was three years old, my mother died. Worth went to live with
our mother’s only living relative, an aunt. My father and I removed to
another section of the country. He, too, died soon after, and I was
brought up with an uncle’s family. My sister came to see me once when
she was a girl of seventeen and, as I remember her, very like you are
now. I never saw her again and eventually lost trace of her. Many
years later I endeavoured to find out her whereabouts. Our aunt was
dead, and the people in the village where she had lived informed me
that my sister was also dead. She had married a man named Gordon and
had gone away, both she and her husband had died, and I was informed
that they left no children, so I made no further inquiries. There is
no doubt that you are her daughter. Well, well, this is a pleasant
surprise, to find a little niece in this fashion!”

It was a pleasant surprise to Worth, too, who had thought herself all
alone in the world and had felt her loneliness keenly. They had a
wonderful evening, talking and questioning and explaining. Mr. Kirby
declared that Worth must come and live with them. “We have no
daughter,” he said. “You must come to us in the place of one, Worth.”

Mrs. Kirby seconded this with a cordiality that won Worth’s affection
at once. The girl felt almost bewildered by her happiness.

“I feel as if I were in a dream,” she said to Millicent as they walked
to their boarding-house. “It’s really all too wonderful to grasp at
once. You don’t know, Millie, how lonely I’ve felt often under all my
nonsense and fun. Aunt Delia was kind to me, but she was really no
relation, she had a large family of her own, and I have always felt
that she looked upon me as a rather inconvenient duty. But now I’m so
happy!”

“I’m so glad for you, Worth,” said Millicent warmly, “although your
gain will certainly be my loss, for I shall miss my roommate terribly
when she goes to live at Beechwood. Hasn’t it all turned out
strangely? If you had never gone to Beechwood in my place, this would
never have happened.”

“Say rather that if we hadn’t gone to confess our fault, it would
never have happened,” said Worth gently. “I’m very, very glad that I
have found Uncle George and such a loving welcome to his home. But I’m
gladder still that I’ve got my self-respect back. I feel that I can
look Worth Gordon in the face again.”

“I’ve learned a wholesome lesson, too,” admitted Millicent.

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