Kathryn and Melissa Hardy were not as identical in temperament as they were in appearance, for they were identical twins. Melissa, the elder, was the more adventurous, while Katie was less so, and more used to getting her sister out of scrapes than getting herself into them.
Apart, their light brown curls and luminous seen eyes, against alabaster skin ensured they were called well-looking girls. But together, the effect was so striking that it was hard to draw one's eyes away from them.
Such was the case for one Jeffery Greenacre, who no sooner saw the twins than he was bewitched.
He immediately resolved to partner them both at some point in the evening, to0 see which he preferred. For there was little doubt he wanted one of them. He dearly hoped not to find the girls' conceited or obnoxious, for he was a single young man in possession of a fortune, and consequently in want of a wife. The eighteen year old Miss Hardy's would either of them be eligible, as they were each in possession of a 10 000 pound dowry, which although not impressive was adequate.
He was able to first solicit Miss Kathryn's hand. She was abominably shy to him, but when she did speak he found her well informed, pleasant and unpretentious. He was disappointed not to find her very lively, for he liked her taste in clothing better. Miss Kathryn was thrust into the background by her sister, who never stopped chatting or flirting all night, stealing the show as ever. Almacks was Melissa's playground, but it was Katie's discomfort. She had no taste for such an elite grouping, and felt uneasy in it.
She went home with a headache.
In the following days, Mr. Greenacre became recognised as a suitor to Melissa's hand. Melissa didn't really care, but Katie was decidedly opposed to this notion.
Katie had been in high dudgeon since that night at Almacks, but Melissa could not work out why. She hoped this evenings masquerade ridotto would divert her twin's mind from its depression. It had been Melissa's idea to venture out to the ridotto in face of her parent's disapprobation, and as Katie refused to allow her sister to go alone, she joined her.
Melissa and Katie entered wearing metallic grey-green dominoes, with silver masks. As all guests were masked, the girls felt fairly safe from recognising any of their mother's friends, or being recognised. They did not recall that as they wore identical costumes, it would be hard to mistake them. Mr. Greenacre, for example, had no difficulty in realising the twins had arrived.
He was glad, because he had planned for tonight to mark the beginning of the rest of his life. He was going to propose.
As a lark, the twins had agreed to pose as themselves or do an about-face and switch their persona for the night. Little did they realise the possible ramifications. Katie first had an inkling of them after she had been hustled into a private room by a man in a black domino.
"Miss Hardy!" he cried before kissing her.
"I beg your PARDON?!?" Katie stuttered, aghast, trying to stare into his eyes, but unable to recognise them.
"Just as I said : Miss Hardy!" the man repeated, before once again reaching for her.
Katie was in shock. What was her sister getting up to behind her back? She took a step back. "I think you are mistaken."
"Oh no. How could I be, Mellie? My dear love. I have come to ask you something particular. Will you marry me?"
"I would do no such thing, even if my life depended on it, you rag-mannered scoundrel!" Katie said hotly. She scrunched her fists in preparation, but was thankful when her assailant did not advance, and merely watched her.
"You have spirit. I like that."
Katie ground her teeth. "Spirit?" she whispered bitterly. "Oh no. Only an intense desire not to marry a fiend such as you. As though I would! Why, you don't even like me! You like Mel...." Katie broke off, biting her lip.
"Not even Mel... Do you mean you are not Melissa Hardy?" the man stopped suddenly.
Katie hung her head. Then she realised that this could be taken as an ashamed expression. "No sir. I am not Melissa. I couldn't act as flighty as she can in a million years. No, I'm Katie Hardy."
The man stared at her. Then he took his mask off to reveal his face : that of Jeffery Greenacre.
"Then... Katie.. you're not the insipid child I thought you! I fell in love with the expression of your face - sweeter than Melissa's - but when you were so dull..... I want a wife with spirit, you see. So I thought I'd have to settle with Melissa, and see if she could suit me better.
"D-did she?" Katie asked softly, her eyes downcast.
"How could she? She has your beauty, and buckets of spirit, but she's not Kathryn. She'd probably have difficulty spelling her name.
Katie permitted herself to smile. "That is true. Her education was very trying for all of us."
"But you,. Kathryn, you fooled me. You made me think you a spiritless, dull creature. But you're not, are you? You're a different person to Melissa, but I know now which I prefer. Thank goodness I realised before it was too late! Katie, my spirited girl. I thought I wanted your sister. I was mistaken. Katie, I want you."
Katie could hardly believe her ears. "You do? But you've been after Melissa...."
"Only because I thought myself mistaken in you."
"And all these days I've been jealous to death of my sister for having you... and it turns out you don't want her after all?"
Jeffery's face was cleared of its anxiety. "You were jealous? my love, what a goose!"
"I know" Katie admitted, finding recourse to a handkerchief. "But do you mean it? You want to marry me?"
"You, and only you." he said tenderly, before smothering her in his embrace.
"Oh.. I ... oh!!!" Katie Hardy's face blushed fierily as her sister entered the room. Then she grinned. "Which of us is to tell her the news?"
© 2001 Copyright held by the author.