Penelope's Party Waist by Lucy Maud
"It's perfectly horrid to be so poor," grumbled Penelope. Penelope did
not often grumble, but just now, as she sat tapping with one
pink-tipped finger her invitation to Blanche Anderson's party, she
felt that grumbling was the only relief she had.
Penelope was seventeen, and when one is seventeen and cannot go to a
party because one hasn't a suitable dress to wear, the world is very
apt to seem a howling wilderness.
"I wish I could think of some way to get you a new waist," said Doris,
with what these sisters called "the poverty pucker" coming in the
centre of her pretty forehead. "If your black skirt were sponged and
pressed and re-hung, it would do very well."
Penelope saw the poverty pucker and immediately repented with all her
impetuous heart having grumbled. That pucker came often enough without
being brought there by extra worries.
"Well, there is no use sitting here sighing for the unattainable," she
said, jumping up briskly. "I'd better be putting my grey matter into
that algebra instead of wasting it plotting for a party dress that I
certainly can't get. It's a sad thing for a body to lack brains when
she wants to be a teacher, isn't it? If I could only absorb algebra
and history as I can music, what a blessing it would be! Come now,
Dorrie dear, smooth that pucker out. Next year I shall be earning a
princely salary, which we can squander on party gowns at will—if
people haven't given up inviting us by that time, in sheer despair of
ever being able to conquer our exclusiveness."
Penelope went off to her detested algebra with a laugh, but the pucker
did not go out of Doris' forehead. She wanted Penelope to go to that
Penelope has studied so hard all winter and she hasn't gone anywhere,
thought the older sister wistfully. She is getting discouraged over
those examinations and she needs just a good, jolly time to hearten
her up. If it could only be managed!
But Doris did not see how it could. It took every cent of her small
salary as typewriter in an uptown office to run their tiny
establishment and keep Penelope in school dresses and books. Indeed,
she could not have done even that much if they had not owned their
little cottage. Next year it would be easier if Penelope got through
her examinations successfully, but just now there was absolutely not a
"It is hard to be poor. We are a pair of misfits," said Doris, with a
patient little smile, thinking of Penelope's uncultivated talent for
music and her own housewifely gifts, which had small chance of
flowering out in her business life.
Doris dreamed of pretty dresses all that night and thought about them
all the next day. So, it must be confessed, did Penelope, though she
would not have admitted it for the world.
When Doris reached home the next evening, she found Penelope hovering
over a bulky parcel on the sitting-room table.
"I'm so glad you've come," she said with an exaggerated gasp of
relief. "I really don't think my curiosity could have borne the strain
for another five minutes. The expressman brought this parcel an hour
ago, and there's a letter for you from Aunt Adella on the clock shelf,
and I think they belong to each other. Hurry up and find out. Dorrie,
darling, what if it should be a—a—present of some sort or other!"
"I suppose it can't be anything else," smiled Doris. She knew that
Penelope had started out to say "a new dress." She cut the strings
and removed the wrappings. Both girls stared.
"Is it—it isn't—yes, it is! Doris Hunter, I believe it's an old
Doris unfolded the odd present with a queer feeling of disappointment.
She did not know just what she had expected the package to contain,
but certainly not this. She laughed a little shakily.
"Well, we can't say after this that Aunt Adella never gave us
anything," she said, when she had opened her letter. "Listen,
My Dear Doris
I have decided to give up housekeeping and go out West to
live with Robert. So I am disposing of such of the family
heirlooms as I do not wish to take with me. I am sending you
by express your Grandmother Hunter's silk quilt. It is a
handsome article still and I hope you will prize it as you
should. It took your grandmother five years to make it. There
is a bit of the wedding dress of every member of the family in
it. Love to Penelope and yourself.
Your affectionate aunt,
"I don't see its beauty," said Penelope with a grimace. "It may have
been pretty once, but it is all faded now. It is a monument of
patience, though. The pattern is what they call 'Little Thousands,'
isn't it? Tell me, Dorrie, does it argue a lack of proper respect for
my ancestors that I can't feel very enthusiastic over this
heirloom—especially when Grandmother Hunter died years before I was
"It was very kind of Aunt Adella to send it," said Doris dutifully.
"Oh, very," agreed Penelope drolly. "Only don't ever ask me to sleep
under it. It would give me the nightmare. O-o-h!"
This last was a little squeal of admiration as Doris turned the quilt
over and brought to view the shimmering lining.
"Why, the wrong side is ever so much prettier than the right!"
exclaimed Penelope. "What lovely, old-timey stuff! And not a bit
The lining was certainly very pretty. It was a soft, creamy yellow
silk, with a design of brocaded pink rosebuds all over it.
"That was a dress Grandmother Hunter had when she was a girl," said
Doris absently. "I remember hearing Aunt Adella speak of it. When it
became old-fashioned, Grandmother used it to line her quilt. I
declare, it is as good as new."
"Well, let us go and have tea," said Penelope. "I'm decidedly hungry.
Besides, I see the poverty pucker coming. Put the quilt in the spare
room. It is something to possess an heirloom, after all. It gives one
a nice, important-family feeling."
After tea, when Penelope was patiently grinding away at her studies
and thinking dolefully enough of the near-approaching examinations,
which she dreaded, and of teaching, which she confidently expected to
hate, Doris went up to the tiny spare room to look at the wrong side
of the quilt again.
"It would make the loveliest party waist," she said under her breath.
"Creamy yellow is Penelope's colour, and I could use that bit of old
black lace and those knots of velvet ribbon that I have to trim it. I
wonder if Grandmother Hunter's reproachful spirit will forever haunt
me if I do it."
Doris knew very well that she would do it—had known it ever since
she had looked at that lovely lining and a vision of Penelope's vivid
face and red-brown hair rising above a waist of the quaint old silk
had flashed before her mental sight. That night, after Penelope had
gone to bed, Doris ripped the lining out of Grandmother Hunter's silk
"If Aunt Adella saw me now!" she laughed softly to herself as she
In the three following evenings Doris made the waist. She thought it a
wonderful bit of good luck that Penelope went out each of the evenings
to study some especially difficult problems with a school chum.
"It will be such a nice surprise for her," the sister mused
Penelope was surprised as much as the tender, sisterly heart could
wish when Doris flashed out upon her triumphantly on the evening of
the party with the black skirt nicely pressed and re-hung, and the
prettiest waist imaginable—a waist that was a positive "creation" of
dainty rose-besprinkled silk, with a girdle and knots of black velvet.
"Doris Hunter, you are a veritable little witch! Do you mean to tell
me that you conjured that perfectly lovely thing for me out of the
lining of Grandmother Hunter's quilt?"
So Penelope went to Blanche's party and her dress was the admiration
of every girl there. Mrs. Fairweather, who was visiting Mrs. Anderson,
looked closely at it also. She was a very sweet old lady, with silver
hair, which she wore in delightful, old-fashioned puffs, and she had
very bright, dark eyes. Penelope thought her altogether charming.
"She looks as if she had just stepped out of the frame of some lovely
old picture," she said to herself. "I wish she belonged to me. I'd
just love to have a grandmother like her. And I do wonder who it is
I've seen who looks so much like her."
A little later on the knowledge came to her suddenly, and she thought
with inward surprise: Why, it is Doris, of course. If my sister Doris
lives to be seventy years old and wears her hair in pretty white
puffs, she will look exactly as Mrs. Fairweather does now.
Mrs. Fairweather asked to have Penelope introduced to her, and when
they found themselves alone together she said gently, "My dear, I am
going to ask a very impertinent question. Will you tell me where you
got the silk of which your waist is made?"
Poor Penelope's pretty young face turned crimson. She was not troubled
with false pride by any means, but she simply could not bring herself
to tell Mrs. Fairweather that her waist was made out of the lining of
an old heirloom quilt.
"My Aunt Adella gave me—gave us—the material," she stammered. "And
my elder sister Doris made the waist for me. I think the silk once
belonged to my Grandmother Hunter."
"What was your grandmother's maiden name?" asked Mrs. Fairweather
"Penelope Saverne. I am named after her."
Mrs. Fairweather suddenly put her arm about Penelope and drew the
young girl to her, her lovely old face aglow with delight and
"Then you are my grandniece," she said. "Your grandmother was my
half-sister. When I saw your dress, I felt sure you were related to
her. I should recognize that rosebud silk if I came across it in
Thibet. Penelope Saverne was the daughter of my mother by her first
husband. Penelope was four years older than I was, but we were
devoted to each other. Oddly enough, our birthdays fell on the same
day, and when Penelope was twenty and I sixteen, my father gave us
each a silk dress of this very material. I have mine yet.
"Soon after this our mother died and our household was broken up.
Penelope went to live with her aunt and I went West with Father. This
was long ago, you know, when travelling and correspondence were not
the easy, matter-of-course things they are now. After a few years I
lost touch with my half-sister. I married out West and have lived
there all my life. I never knew what had become of Penelope. But
tonight, when I saw you come in in that waist made of the rosebud
silk, the whole past rose before me and I felt like a girl again. My
dear, I am a very lonely old woman, with nobody belonging to me. You
don't know how delighted I am to find that I have two grandnieces."
Penelope had listened silently, like a girl in a dream. Now she patted
Mrs. Fairweather's soft old hand affectionately.
"It sounds like a storybook," she said gaily. "You must come and see
Doris. She is such a darling sister. I wouldn't have had this waist if
it hadn't been for her. I will tell you the whole truth—I don't mind
it now. Doris made my party waist for me out of the lining of an old
silk quilt of Grandmother Hunter's that Aunt Adella sent us."
Mrs. Fairweather did go to see Doris the very next day, and quite
wonderful things came to pass from that interview. Doris and Penelope
found their lives and plans changed in the twinkling of an eye. They
were both to go and live with Aunt Esther—as Mrs. Fairweather had
said they must call her. Penelope was to have, at last, her longed-for
musical education and Doris was to be the home girl.
"You must take the place of my own dear little granddaughter," said
Aunt Esther. "She died six years ago, and I have been so lonely
When Mrs. Fairweather had gone, Doris and Penelope looked at each
"Pinch me, please," said Penelope. "I'm half afraid I'll wake up and
find I have been dreaming. Isn't it all wonderful, Doris Hunter?"
Doris nodded radiantly.
"Oh, Penelope, think of it! Music for you—somebody to pet and fuss
over for me—and such a dear, sweet aunty for us both!"
"And no more contriving party waists out of old silk linings," laughed
Penelope. "But it was very fortunate that you did it for once, sister
mine. And no more poverty puckers," she concluded.