A LATE ARRIVAL
IT was a particularly hot day in early July. A girl came out on the back porch of an old-fashioned New England house and dropped into a hammock. She looked tired, but her big black eyes were eager with interest.
She held a fat letter in her hand which contained many pages. At the top of the letter was a pen-and-ink drawing of a miniature houseboat with five girls running about on the deck, their hair blowing, their skirts awry. One of them held a broom in her hand; she was the domestic Eleanor! Another waved a frying pan; Miss Jenny Ann Jones, Chief Cook and Chaperon! The third girl was drying her long, blonde hair in the sun; Miss Lillian Seldon, the beauty of the houseboat party!
The girl in the hammock recognized herself: she was feeding a weird-looking animal on four legs with a spoon. And standing among the others, apparently talking as fast as she possibly could, and doing no work of any kind, was a young woman whom the artist had carefully labeled "Madge."
Phyllis Alden laughed until the tears rolled down her cheeks. She could not recall having laughed in two months, and she was sure she would keep on giggling as long as she read her letter.
"Miss Alden"—a woman in the uniform of a professional nurse appeared at the door—"your mother says do you know where the twins are? She is restless about them. I promised her I would come to you. I am sorry to disturb you; I know you are tired."
"Not a bit of it, Miss Brazier," insisted Phil stoutly. "Those dreadful babies! I had forgotten I had not seen them in the last half hour. Of course, they are in mischief. I will look for them right away."
Phil thrust her precious letter into her blouse. It was four o'clock in the afternoon and her letter from her chum had arrived in the morning post. These were busy days for Phyllis Alden. Early in May she had been called home from school by the illness of her mother. Since that time the care of her father's house and looking after the irrepressible twins had been Phyllis's work. Her mother was better now, on the sure road to convalescence, and Phil had begun to confess to herself that she was tired.
At one side of the house there was a rain-barrel. It was strictly forbidden territory, so Phil knew at once where to look for the twins. Hanging over the edge of the barrel were two fat little girls with tight black curls. They were bent double and were fishing for queer, bobbing things that floated on the surface of the rainwater. A firm hand caught Daisy by one leg. Dot, terrified by her big sister's sudden appearance, tumbled into the barrel with a gasp and a splash.
Phil felt half-vexed; still, she was obliged to laugh at the little ones, they looked so utterly roguish.
"Frog in the middle, can't get out," she teased the small girl in the center of the barrel. Then she fished Dot out and started with both little maids for the house to make them presentable before dinner. Phyllis knew that they must both be washed and dressed before she would have another chance to peep at her precious letter....