A week before her seventeenth birthday, Eileen discovered that the man she loved was to marry her sister. At sixteen, Eileen was more than pretty; she was quite beautiful. Her thick dark hair, in the fashion of 1910, was worn caught up in a large satin bow at the back of her head from where a cascade of curls spilled down to her shoulders. Green eyes peered from beneath thick lashes and the pinkness of her soft cheeks was accentuated by the rich natural colour of the sweetest little rosebud lips. Eileen was quite unaware of how devastatingly attractive she was. Her older sister, Betty, was always pointing out faults and suggesting ways of improvement. Put your hair up. Straighten out some of those awful curls. Wear your collars higher. Cover those bright cheeks with face powder - and so on and so on. Eileen accepted Betty’s criticism and helpful suggestions, but, for the most part, remained unchanged. As Betty was her elder, Eileen generally considered her to automatically also be the wiser and more attractive of the two, and accepted her position of second sister in every way. It was only when Victor came on the scene that Eileen ever felt a desire to resent Betty’s attempts at gaining all the attention for herself. Victor was a handsome young Englishman who had come, alone, to Australia in search of adventure and a new life. The girls’ father had employed Victor in his accountancy business and had, in a rash moment of pity for the young man with no family, invited Victor to join his family for a meal. The girls both immediately fell for him, but Victor, right from the start, had eyes only for Eileen. It wasn’t only Eileen’s looks that attracted him. They shared interests in art and literature and a general rapport seemed to spring up easily between them. Victor admired some of Eileen’s water-colour paintings of wild flowers and suggested that they have an outing together to appreciate and sketch some of the nearby countryside. And so began a series of outings which could have been heavenly but for the fact that, on each occasion, it was two girls who accompanied Victor. This was not only because the parents insisted Eileen was not to go out alone with Victor, but also because Betty always invited herself along in an ever-so-charming manner. And Victor was too ever-so-charming to object. After four or five weeks of threesomes, the intrusive Betty found that she was making no headway with Victor. That it was Eileen, and only Eileen, who was capturing the heart and mind of this most appealing Englishman. So Betty resorted to subterfuge and sent a message to Victor, on the pretext of it coming from both girls, inviting him to see and learn about something really special in the nearby river bank reserve. “Meet us there,” was the message. And he did. But it wasn’t “us”, it was just Betty. Eileen had no idea of this meeting. Nor of the subsequent ones which Betty cunningly arranged while the family thought she was attending extra piano lessons with a friend. And, thus it was that Betty, determined to gain the attention (and more) of her handsome Victor, organised surreptitious and succulent meetings with him; meetings that became extended afternoons and evenings of sheer wantonness. The weak Victor being unable to resist what Betty offered succumbed to her certain “charms”. As before, other outings of the trio continued and the shy Eileen’s love for Victor blossomed. Once she let him hold her hand for longer than a fleeting moment, but withdrew it when she thought Betty might see. There were times, as Victor continued this double life, that he was repelled by his own behaviour and would vow to resist Betty’s next invitation. But he was a weak-willed man, and, although his love for Eileen was real (and pure, he told himself), his desire for what Betty offered was overpowering. It was just over six months since Eileen and Betty had first met Victor, when the mother called Eileen into the front room. It was here that she learnt the devastating news that Betty and Victor were to be married in a quiet ceremony at St Stephen’s church on the Saturday after next. After a brief nightmarish time of disbelief and inconsolable hysteria, the next day dawned as if nothing untoward had happened. Eileen was her sweet, smiling self again. She began busying herself with preparation for the forthcoming wedding of her sister and the man she adored. Her major activity concerned the making of her gift for the bride and groom. She was covering a large box in fabric, lace and ribbons - the contents of which were to be a secret. Eileen also helped with the wedding dress, which was, in fact, a hastily altered “best” dress that was already in Betty’s wardrobe. The alterations were not only to elevate the dress to a slightly more grand design, but also to surreptitiously let out the waist section to accommodate Betty’s expanding form. Betty and the rest of the family were relieved at how well Eileen had accepted the situation and marvelled at her generous and loving nature, as she continued to toil away at her intricately made surprise gift. The wedding day came with a cloudless blue sky and a feeling in the air of mild excitement and anticipation. Betty, radiant with victory (and pregnancy!) wished that her wedding was not such a hushed up affair. She wished that the whole world could see her and her splendid catch. After the service at St Stephen’s, the wedding party went back to the family home for sherry and afternoon tea. Victor had been very quiet during all the proceedings and celebrations, but was relieved to see that Eileen seemed to be happy for him. His heart ached. “What a girl!” he thought, but refused himself any further reflections on what might have been. As they were leaving for their honeymoon, Eileen came to the couple and presented them with her gift. Betty and Victor took it with them - as requested by Eileen - only opening it when they at last reached their destination. The beautifully made box contained little decorated packages with all manner of delightful contents. There was an embroidered satin bag with soaps and bath salts, a half dozen appliquéd serviettes, a tiny mustard pot and silver spoon and other gifts all separately presented and each accompanied by a daintily lettered card: “for your bathroom”, said one, “for candle-lit dinners”, another, and so on. The last small thing that they picked up was a tiny box with “for under your pillow on your wedding night” carefully written on a card in minute calligraphy. Betty and Victor agreed that Eileen was indeed a real darling, as they placed the small package under the pillow of their bed. “Whatever do your think it is?” asked Betty of her husband. “We’ll find out in the morning, I suppose,” replied Victor as he began making bed-time preparations. It was about 2 AM before a very hungry and very bad-tempered funnel-web spider finally fought her way out of the parcel which had been squashed under the weight of the two heads on the pillow.