JOSIE’S FUNNY NOSE
Josie O’Gorman’s appearance was one of her greatest assets. To the general run of young girls who look upon beauty as the one and only attribute necessary for success in life no doubt this statement would sound absurd. Certainly there was little in Josie’s appearance that to the casual observer would have passed muster as an asset. To be sure her sandy hair was abundant and well kept; her complexion, though subject to freckles, smooth and clear and milk-white where the sun could not reach it; her teeth even and pearly; her figure, small but erect with every muscle under the control of the alert mind of the girl; her feet—well, her feet the most scornful flapper might have envied. Even Josie, who was as free from vanity and self-consciousness as any girl living, had much
satisfaction in her feet which were as smooth and guiltless of imperfections as those of a three-year-old child.
Those good points mentioned were not, however, Josie’s greatest assets. The features that gave Josie rank as one of the most astute female detectives were a pair of colorless, nondescript eyes, that could at the owner’s will take on an expression of absolute stupidity, even imbecility; and a nose that could be described best by the word “blobby.” No wrong-doer, attempting to evade detection, could have any fear of a person whose eyes resembled those of a codfish. As for the blobby nose, it was a nose that made a good foundation for any disguise. Not only did false noses fit on it with ludicrous exactness but Josie had the faculty of controlling that member and forcing it to do her bidding in a manner most surprising. From a mere blob she could wrinkle it into a turned-up nose, or by lifting one nostril and pulling down her upper lip she could change her countenance so that her best friends would have difficulty in recognizing her. This power of nose control was one that she had but recently acquired.
“I always could do things to my eyes,” she
said to her dear friend Mary Louise, Mrs. Danny Dexter, “but I had always considered my nose a hopeless give-away. I was sure there was not another one like it in all the world, now that my dear father is dead.”
“How did you happen to discover your power over it?” asked Mary Louise, who could not help smiling at her friend’s mention of the father’s nose. The elder O’Gorman had been a famous detective and his shapeless nose had been almost as famous as its owner.
“It was this way: I blame myself and my sensitive vanity for not finding out about it long ago,” laughed Josie. “You see I never looked in a mirror, at least hardly ever. I never liked what I saw there and I saw no use in mortifying myself. Instead of facing the truth about my ugly mug I put it behind me.”
“Your face? That was a great feat. Surely you are some juggler!”
“Excuse the Irish break. Anyhow, I looked at myself occasionally only—to see that my hair was parted straight or my hat was not cocked over one ear. It was after that experience I had in Atlanta getting even with that arch fiend,
Chester Hunt, and bringing the Waller family together that I sat down in front of a mirror one day and looked myself squarely in the face. I was very triumphant over having bested and worsted the handsome Chester; but in spite of my satisfaction there was a kind of sore spot in my heart, because you see, honey, after all I’m nothing but a girl and no matter how indifferent I may seem to things girls have and do I’m not really indifferent at all. I’m just busy—too busy to brood over the things that can’t be helped. But somehow Chester Hunt’s remarks sort of hurt me. He did not scruple to let me know he considered me homely beyond words and he took a real delight in making me feel that it was hard to believe I could be the capable person he had decided I was because my appearance was so against me. I fancy I wouldn’t have minded so much if he himself had not been so extremely handsome. I give you my word, Mary Louise, he was one of the most wonderful looking men I ever saw, and there was nothing in his appearance to give away the black-hearted villainy of him. Well, as I was saying, I sat down in front of the mirror and looked at myself, trying to see myself
as no doubt the handsome Chester saw me.”
“It’s my nose that is the insurmountable offender!” I exclaimed. “No wonder he thought me so hideous. I wonder if he’d like me any better if I had a turned-up nose.”
With that Josie turned up her nose, giving herself such a ridiculous expression that Mary Louise laughed merrily.
“Well that’s when I found out I could do it. I practiced holding it like this for minutes at the time. Then I discovered I could take on a kind of hare-lip look and in fact could do almost anything that I had a mind to with my despised nose. So you see Chester Hunt has been a great friend to me, unwittingly however. I fancy he’d like to get even with me in some way besides making it possible for me to make faces that disguise my weird beauty. Anyhow, from being a person who used never to look in a mirror, I spent all of my spare time making faces at myself in the glass. What do you think of this one? I held it for two miles the other day and met Captain Lonsdale, who did not recognize me, although he has known me forever.”
“Oh, Josie, what a face! No wonder poor
Captain Charlie didn’t know you! Who would unless he had been present at the transformation?” Mary Louise gave Josie an affectionate hug, as she spoke.
The girls were seated in the Higgledy Piggledy Shop, which was an industry owned and run by Josie O’Gorman and her two associates, Elizabeth Wright and Irene MacFarlane, and watched over by the guardian angel, Mary Louise Dexter. In the Higgledy Piggledy Shop one found a little of everything and the youthful proprietors prided themselves on never turning down an order, no matter how impossible it might appear. From a small undertaking it had grown to be a business of goodly proportions. Elizabeth Wright was the business manager and also looked after the literary end, writing club papers for the unwary females who had got themselves in for such things and were powerless to deliver the goods. She also did a pretty good business in obituary notices, corrected and typed manuscripts and ran a correspondence course in the art of scenario writing, passing on the knowledge she had picked up during the summer she had spent at Columbia University. Many and varied were the duties
of Elizabeth, all of which she performed with proficiency.
The lame girl, Irene MacFarlane, had charge of all needle work. At the beginning of the venture Irene had merely been employed by Josie and Elizabeth, giving a few hours a day to the work, but she had proven herself so necessary to the establishment that she had been tendered a full partnership and now every day the brave patient girl wheeled herself to the shop in her invalid’s chair, which she never left; and there she sat mending lace or doing the exquisite embroidery for which the Higgledy Piggledy Shop was famous, or even minding the store when the other partners were out on business. She managed her chair with the ease of an expert bicycle rider, never bumping into furniture or scraping her wheels, but gliding across the floor, weaving her way in and out, with a positive grace of movement.
The Higgledy Piggledy Shop was on the second floor of an old building. In the rear was a small electric elevator, entered from the alley. This had been originally a clumsy dumb-waiter, manipulated by creaking pulleys and ropes, but had been converted to its present state of useful
beauty by Danny Dexter, who ever strove to serve his darling Mary Louise and her friends. Irene would enter the small lift from the rear through a door just large enough to admit her chair. The door was locked and Irene alone had the key. One touch of a button would send her to the floor above, where the door would automatically open and then she would glide into the shop. It always seemed to the girls a kind of miraculous vision when Irene would so silently appear.
On the day when Josie was showing Mary Louise the control she had gained over what she had hitherto looked upon as a despised and useless feature—at least useless as far as the detective business was concerned in the matter of disguises, although greatly prized as to its ability to detect tell-tale odors—Irene appeared just in time to get the full benefit of Josie’s last and most astounding face.
It was a sad face and a sinister one, the left nostril lifted and the right one compressed; the mouth drawn down at the corners with the under lip protruding loosely.
Irene greeted the girls gaily but stopped embarrassed.
“I—I—beg your pardon,” she said falteringly. “I thought for a moment you were Miss O’Gorman.”
Mary Louise laughed delightedly and try as she might Josie could not hold her expression but broke down in hopeless giggles.
“There now, I must practice a lot or I’ll never be able to fool a flea,” she declared. “If my risibles get the better of me there is no use in calling myself a detective.”
Irene looked worried, although she, too, was amused.
“What’s the matter with you, honey?” asked Josie.
“I can’t bear for you to make yourself look that way,” said Irene. “It does not seem right, somehow, to twist one’s features so far from the way God has meant them to be. I love your dear face, Josie, and it gave me an awful turn to see it all out of shape.”
“Bless your dear heart!” exclaimed Josie. “I promise you never to twist it except in the cause of righteousness, unless it is in practicing. Of course I must practice a lot to perfect my detective make-up.”
“You make me think of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde. I only hope making yourself look so frightful won’t make you sad,” said Irene. “Speaking of sad looks, I have found a person to conduct our tea room—if you others like her as much as I do—but she is awfully sad. I don’t blame her. No doubt she has had her troubles—is still having them, but she is very industrious. Indeed she has need to be since two little brothers are entirely dependent on her for support.”
The tea room was one of the Higgledy Piggledy ventures that brought in more money than any branch of the business, but gave the girls more trouble than all of the other industries put together. Elizabeth Wright’s talents did not lie in a domestic direction, Irene because of her lameness was handicapped, and Josie was too often absent on detective business to give any time to it. There had been times when the Higgledy Piggledies had almost determined to abandon the tea room, but it seemed like flying in the face of Providence to give up the steady income that accrued from it.
“Tell us about this sad person,” urged Josie.
“Her name is Ursula Ellett and she came from Louisville, Kentucky. She is well educated
and really a lady. She must be about twenty-two, but she seems much older because she has had so much trouble. She went to see Uncle Peter Conant on legal business and it was with him that I met her. Her father died when she was very young and the little brothers, Ben and Philip, were tiny tots. Her mother married again, then died two years ago and the stepfather, who is the root of all evil and source of all woe, wished to put them in charge of a trained nurse, a most impossible person with whom Ursula refused to live or to allow the little brothers to live. The stepfather, by some dishonest juggling, has got possession of the estate which belonged to the Elletts and refuses to do a thing for Ursula or the boys unless they live with him. His name is Cheatham, which seems to fit him to a dot.”
“How did she happen to come to Dorfield?” asked Josie.
“Her mother’s people came from here, and while there are none of them left Ursula felt drawn to the place because of what her mother had told of her childhood here and the kindly neighbors. The public schools of Dorfield have a good name and she wants to educate Ben and
Philip. She loves Louisville but could not stay in the same city with Cheatham, who busied himself making things unpleasant for her.
“I believe she is just the girl we want for the tea room. She has managed a household, understands servants and serving, and she is really a fine cook. What do you say to looking her over?”
“Sure, let’s give her the job,” agreed Josie. “Of course Elizabeth must give her vote before we can settle on it.”
“Certainly, but I’m pretty sure that what our sane Irene says is safe for the Higgledy Piggledies,” laughed Mary Louise. “I fancy Ursula Ellett will take charge of the tea room at an early date.”