Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
“Hello!” exclaimed the twins, in one voice.
“Hello,” replied the girl, and they suspected that she was smiling, although their eyes were still too unused to the dimness of the little store for them to be certain. She was still only a vague figure in white, with a deeper blur where her face should have been. Treading on each other’s heels, Ned and Laurie followed her to the other side. The twilight brightened and objects became more distinct. They were in front of a sort of trough-like box in which, half afloat in a pool of ice-water, were bottles of tonic and soda and ginger-ale. Behind it was a counter on which reposed a modest array of pastry.
“What do you want?” asked the girl in the middy.
“Ginger-ale,” answered Ned. “Say, do you live here?”
“No, this is the shop,” was the reply. “I live upstairs.”
“Oh, well, you know what I mean,” muttered Ned. “Is this your store?”
“It’s my mother’s. I help in it afternoons. My mother is Mrs. Deane. The boys call her the Widow. I’m Polly Deane.”
“Pleased to know you,” said Laurie. “Our name’s Turner. I’m Laurie and he’s Ned. Let me open that for you.”
“Oh, no, thanks. I’ve opened hundreds of them. Oh dear! You said ginger-ale, didn’t you! And I’ve opened a root-beer. It’s so dark in here in the afternoon.”
“That’s all right,” Ned assured her. “We like root-beer. We’d just as soon have it as ginger-ale. Wouldn’t we, Laurie?”
“You bet! We’re crazy about it.”
“Are you sure? It’s no trouble to—Well, this is ginger-ale, anyway. I’m awfully sorry!”
“What do we care?” asked Ned. “We don’t own it.”
“Don’t own it?” repeated Polly, in a puzzled tone.
“That’s just an expression of his,” explained Laurie. “He’s awfully slangy. I try to break him of it, but it’s no use. It’s fierce.”
“Of course you don’t use slang?” asked Polly, demurely. “Who wants the root-beer?”
“You take it,” said Laurie, hurriedly.
“No, you,” said Ned. “You’re fonder of it than I am, Laurie. I don’t mind, really!”
Laurie managed a surreptitious kick on his brother’s shin. “Tell you what,” he exclaimed, “we’ll mix ’em!”
Ned agreed, though not enthusiastically, and with the aid of a third glass the deed was done. The boys tasted experimentally, each asking a question over the rim of his glass. Then looks of relief came over both faces and they sighed ecstatically.
“Corking!” they breathed in unison.
Polly laughed, “I never knew any one to do that before,” she said. “I’m glad you like it. I’ll tell the other boys about it.”
“No, you mustn’t,” protested Ned. “It’s our invention. We’ll call it—call it—”
“Call it an Accident,” suggested Laurie.
“We’ll call it a Polly,” continued the other. “It really is bully. It’s—it’s different; isn’t it, Laurie? Have another?”
“Who were those on?” was the suspicious reply.
“You. The next is on me. Only maybe another wouldn’t taste so good, eh?”
“Don’t you fool yourself! I’ll risk that.”
However, the third and fourth bottles, properly combined though they were, lacked novelty, and it was some time before the last glass was emptied. Meanwhile, of course, they talked. The boys acknowledged that, so far, they liked what they had seen of the school. Mention of the doctor and Miss Hillman brought forth warm praise from Polly. “Every one likes the doctor ever so much,” she declared. “And Miss Tabitha is—”
“Miss what?” interrupted Laurie.
“Miss Tabitha. That’s her name.” Polly laughed softly. “They call her Tabby,—the boys, I mean,—but they like her. She’s a dear, even if she does look sort of—of cranky. She isn’t, though, a bit. She makes believe she’s awfully stern, but she’s just as soft as—as—”
“As Laurie’s head?” offered Ned, helpfully. “Say, you sell ’most everything here, don’t you? Are those cream-puffs?”
Ned slipped a hand into his pocket and Laurie coughed furiously. Ned’s hand came forth empty. He turned away from temptation. “They look mighty good,” he said. “If we’d seen those before we’d had all that ginger-ale—”
Polly spoke detachedly. “You can have credit if you like,” she said, placing the empty bottles aside. “The doctor lets the boys run bills here up to a dollar. They can’t go over a dollar, though.”
“Personally,” observed Laurie, jingling some coins in a trousers pocket, “I prefer to pay cash. Still, there are times—”
“Yes, a fellow gets short now and then,” said Ned, turning for another look at the pastry counter. “Maybe, just for—for convenience, it would be a good plan to have an account here, Laurie. Sometimes a fellow forgets to put any money in his pocket, you know. Does your mother make these?”
“Yes, the cream-cakes, and some of the others. The rest Miss Comfort makes.”
“That’s another funny name,” said Laurie. “Who is Miss Comfort?”
“She’s—she’s just Miss Comfort, I guess,” replied Polly. “She lives on the next corner, in the house with the white shutters. She’s quite old, almost seventy, I suppose, and she makes the nicest cake in Orstead. Everybody goes to her for cakes. That’s the way she lives, I guess.”
“Maybe we’d ought to help her,” suggested Ned, mentally choosing the largest and fattest cakes on the tray. “I guess we’ll take a couple. How much are they?”
“Six cents apiece,” said Polly. “Do you want them in a bag?”
“No, thanks.” Ned handed one of the cakes to Laurie; “we’ll eat them now.” Then, between mouthfuls; “Maybe you’d better charge this to us. If we’re going to open an account, we might as well do it now, don’t you think?”
Polly retired behind a counter and produced a long and narrow book, from which dangled a lead pencil at the end of a string. She put the tip of the pencil between her lips and looked across. “You’d better tell me your full names, I think.”
“Edward Anderson Turner and—”
“I meant just your first names.”
“Oh! Edward and Laurence. You can charge us each with two bottles and one cake.”
“I like that!” scoffed Laurie. “Thought you were treating to cakes?”
“Huh! Don’t you want to help Miss Comfort? I should think you’d like to—to do a charitable act once in a while.”
“Don’t see what difference it makes to her,” grumbled Laurie, “whether you pay for both or I pay for one. She gets her money just the same.”
Ned brushed a crumb from his jacket. “You don’t get the idea,” he replied gently. “Of course, I might pay for both, but you wouldn’t feel right about it, Laurie.”
“Wouldn’t I? Where do you get that stuff? You try it and see.” Laurie spoke grimly, but not hopefully. Across the counter, Polly was giggling over the account-book.
“You’re the funniest boys I ever did see,” she explained, in answer to their inquiring looks. “You—you say such funny things!”
Before she could elucidate, footsteps sounded in the room behind the store and a tiny white-haired woman appeared. In spite of her hair, she couldn’t have been very old, for her face was plump and unwrinkled and her cheeks quite rosy. Seeing the customers, she bowed prettily and said “Good afternoon” in a very sweet voice.
“Good afternoon,” returned the twins.
“Mama, these are the Turner boys,” said Polly. “One of them is Ned and the other is Laurie, but I don’t know which, because they look just exactly alike. They—they’re twins!”
“I want to know!” said Mrs. Deane. “Isn’t that nice? I’m very pleased to meet you, young gentlemen. I hope Polly has served you with what you wanted. My stock is kind of low just now. You see, we don’t have many customers in summer, and it’s very hard to get things, nowadays, even if you do pay three times what they’re worth. Polly, those ice-cream cones never did come, did they?”
“Gee, do you have ice-cream?” asked Ned; eagerly.
“Never you mind!” said Laurie, grabbing his arm. “You come on out of here before you die on my hands. I’m sorry to tell you, ma’am, that he doesn’t know when to stop eating. I have to go around everywhere with him and look after him. If I didn’t, he’d be dead in no time.”
“I want to know!” exclaimed the Widow Deane interestedly. “Why, it’s very fortunate for him he has you, isn’t it?”
“Yes’m,” answered Laurie, but he spoke doubtfully, for the little white-haired lady seemed to hide a laugh behind her words. Ned was grinning. Laurie propelled him to the door. Then, without relinquishing his grasp, he doffed his cap.
“Good afternoon,” he said, “We’ll come again,”
“We know not how,” added Ned, “we know not when.”
“Bless my soul!” murmured the Widow, as the screen door swung behind them.
Back at school, the twins found a different scene from what they had left. The grounds were populous with boys, and open windows in the two dormitory buildings showed many others. The entrances were piled with trunks and more were arriving. A rattling taxi turned in at the gate, with much blowing of a frenzied but bronchial horn, and added five merry youths to the population. Ned and Laurie made their way to East Hall, conscious, as they approached, of many eyes focussed on them from wide-flung windows. Remarks reached them, too.
“See who’s with us!” came from a second-floor casement above the entrance; “the two Dromios!”
“Tweedledum and Tweedledee!”
“The Siamese Twins, I’ll bet a cooky!”
“Hi, East Hall! Heads out!”
The two were glad when they reached the shelter of the doorway. “Some one’s going to get his head punched before long,” growled Ned, as they started upstairs.
“What do we care? We don’t own ’em. Let them have their fun, Neddie.”
“I’ll let some of them have a wallop,” was the answer. “You’d think we were the first pair of twins they’d ever seen!”
“Well, maybe we are. How do you know? Suppose those trunks have come?”
They had, and for the next hour the twins were busy unpacking and getting settled. From beyond their door came sounds of much turmoil; the noise of arriving baggage, the banging of doors, shouts, whistling, singing; but they were otherwise undisturbed until, just when Laurie had slammed down the lid of his empty trunk, there came a knock at their portal, followed, before either one could open his mouth in response, by the appearance in the doorway of a bulky apparition in a gorgeous crimson bath-robe.
“Hello, fellows!” greeted the apparition. “Salutations and everything!”
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.