Infomotions, Inc.Patty at Home / Wells, Carolyn, 1862-1942



Author: Wells, Carolyn, 1862-1942
Title: Patty at Home
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): patty; fairfield; miss daggett; boxley hall; pansy potts; aunt alice; miss patty; kenneth harper; uncle charley; tea club; elsie morris; uncle fred; miss; aunt isabel
Contributor(s): Johnson, Percy D. [Illustrator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 51,417 words (really short) Grade range: 8-10 (high school) Readability score: 68 (easy)
Identifier: etext10268
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Title: Patty at Home

Author: Carolyn Wells

Release Date: November 25, 2003 [EBook #10268]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK PATTY AT HOME ***




Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Mary Meehan, and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team.





                              Patty At Home

                             BY CAROLYN WELLS

        AUTHOR OF TWO LITTLE WOMEN SERIES, THE MARJORIE SERIES, ETC.

                                   1904




_To My very good friend, Ruth Pilling_




CONTENTS

CHAPTER

      I. THE DEBATE

     II. THE DECISION

    III. THE TEA CLUB

     IV. BOXLEY HALL

      V. SHOPPING

     VI. SERVANTS

    VII. DIFFERING TASTES

   VIII. AN UNATTAINED AMBITION

     IX. A CALLER

      X. A PLEASANT EVENING

     XI. PREPARATIONS

    XII. A TEA CLUB TEA

   XIII. A NEW FRIEND

    XIV. THE NEIGHBOUR AGAIN

     XV. BILLS

    XVI. A SUCCESSFUL PLAY

   XVII. ENTERTAINING RELATIVES

  XVIII. A SAILING PARTY

    XIX. MORE COUSINS

     XX. A FAIR EXCHANGE

    XXI. A GOOD SUGGESTION

   XXII. AT THE SEASHORE

  XXIII. AMBITIONS

   XXIV. AN AFTERNOON DRIVE




CHAPTER I

THE DEBATE


In Mrs. Elliott's library at Vernondale a great discussion was going on.
It was an evening in early December, and the room was bright with
firelight and electric light, and merry with the laughter and talk of
people who were trying to decide a great and momentous question.

For the benefit of those who are not acquainted with Patty Fairfield and
her relatives, it may be well to say that Mrs. Elliott was Patty's Aunt
Alice, at whose home Patty and her father were now visiting. Of the other
members of the Elliott family, Uncle Charley, grandma, Marian, and Frank
were present, and these with Mr. Fairfield and Patty were debating a no
less important subject than the location of Patty's future home.

"You know, papa," said Patty, "you said that if I wanted to live in
Vernondale you'd buy a house here, and I do want to live here,--at least,
I am almost sure I do."

"Oh, Patty," said Marian, "why aren't you quite sure? You're president of
the club, and the girls are all so fond of you, and you're getting along
so well in school. I don't see where else you could want to live."

"I know," said Frank. "Patty wants to live in New York. Her soul yearns
for the gay and giddy throng, and the halls of dazzling lights. 'Ah,
Patricia, beware! the rapids are below you!' as it says in that thrilling
tale in the Third Reader."

"I think papa would rather live in New York," said Patty, looking very
undecided.

"I'll tell you what we'll do," exclaimed Frank, "let's debate the
question. A regular, honest debate, I mean, and we'll have all the
arguments for and against clearly stated and ably discussed. Uncle Fred
shall be the judge, and his decision must be final."

"No," said Mr. Fairfield, "we'll have the debate, but Patty must be the
judge. She is the one most interested, and I am ready to give her a home
wherever she wants it; in Greenland's icy mountains, or India's coral
strand, if she chooses."

"You certainly are a disinterested member," said Uncle Charley, laughing,
"but that won't do in debate. Here, I'll organise this thing, and for the
present we won't consider either Greenland or India. The question, as I
understand it, is between Vernondale and New York. Now, to bring this
mighty matter properly before the house, I will put it in the form of a
resolution, thus:

"RESOLVED, That Miss Patty Fairfield shall take up her permanent abode in
New York City."

Patty gave a little cry of dismay, and Marian exclaimed, "Oh, father,
that isn't fair!"

"Of course it's fair," said Mr. Elliott, with a twinkle in his eye. "It
doesn't really mean she's going, but it's the only way to find out what
she is going to do. Now, Fred shall be captain on the affirmative side,
and I will take the negative. We will each choose our colleagues. Fred,
you may begin."

"All right," said Mr. Fairfield "As a matter of social etiquette, I think
it right to compliment my hostess, so I choose Mrs. Elliott on my side."

"Oh, you choose me, father," cried Marian, "do choose me."

"Owing to certain insidious wire-pulling I'm forced to choose Miss Marian
Elliott," said Uncle Charley, pinching his daughter's ear.

"If one Mrs. Elliott is a good thing," said Mr. Fairfield, "I am sure two
would be better, and so I choose Grandma Elliott to add to my collection
of great minds."

"Frank, my son," said Uncle Charley, "don't think for a moment that I am
choosing you merely because you are the Last of the Mohicans. Far from
it. I have wanted you from the beginning, and I'm proud to impress your
noble intellect in my cause."

"Thank you, sir," said Frank, "and if our side can't induce Patty to stay
in Vernondale, it won't be for lack of good strong arguments forcibly
presented."

"Modest boy!" said his mother, "You seem quite to forget your wise and
clever opponents."

In great glee the debaters took their places on either side of the
library table, while Patty, being judge, was escorted with much ceremony
to a seat at the head. An old parlour-croquet mallet was found for her,
with which she rapped on the table after the manner of a grave and
dignified chairman.

"The meeting will please come to order," she said, "and the secretary
will please read the minutes of the last meeting."

"The secretary regrets to report," said Frank, rising, "that the minutes
of the last meeting fell down the well. Although rescued, they were
afterward chewed up by the puppy, and are at present somewhat illegible.
If the honourable judge will excuse the reading of the minutes, the
secretary will be greatly obliged."

"The minutes are excused," said Patty, "and we will proceed at once to
more important business. Mr. Frederick Fairfield, we shall be glad to
hear from you."

Mr. Fairfield rose and said, "Your honour, ladies, and gentlemen: I would
be glad to speak definitely on this burning question, but the truth is, I
don't know myself which way I want it to be decided. For, you see, my
only desire in the matter is that the wise and honourable judge, whom we
see before us, should have a home of such a character and in such a place
as best pleases her; but, before she makes her decision, I hope she will
allow herself to be thoroughly convinced as to what will please her. And
as, by force of circumstance, I am obliged to uphold the New York side of
this argument, I will now set forth some of its advantages, feeling sure
that my worthy opponents are quite able to uphold the Vernondale side."

"Hear, hear!" exclaimed Frank, but Patty rapped with her mallet and
commanded silence.

Then Mr. Fairfield went on:

"For one thing, Patty has always lived in a city, and, like myself, is
accustomed to city life. It is more congenial to both of us, and I
sometimes fear we should miss certain city privileges which may not be
found in a suburban town."

"But we have other things that you can't get in the city," broke
in Marian.

"And I am very sure that they will be enthusiastically enumerated when it
is your turn to speak," said Mr. Fairfield, smiling.

"The gentleman has the floor," remarked Patty, "the others will please
keep their seats. Proceed, Mr. Fairfield."

So Mr. Fairfield proceeded:

"Other advantages, perhaps, will be found in the superior schools which
the city is said to contain. I am making no allusion to the school that
our honourable judge is at present attending, but I am speaking merely on
general principles. And not only schools, but masters of the various
arts. I have been led to believe by the assertions of some people, who,
however, may be prejudiced, that Miss Fairfield has a voice which
requires only training and practise to rival the voice of Adelina Patti,
when that lady was Miss Fairfield's age."

"Quite true," said the judge, nodding gravely at the speaker.

"This phenomenal voice, then, might--mind; I say might--be cultivated to
better purpose by metropolitan teachers."

"We have a fine singing-master here," exclaimed Frank, but Patty rapped
him to silence.

"What's one singing-master among a voice like Miss Fairfield's?" demanded
the speaker, "and another thing," he continued, "that ought to affect you
Vernondale people very strongly, is the fact that you would have a
delightful place to visit in New York City. Now, don't deny it. You know
you'd be glad to come and visit Patty and me in our brown-stone mansion,
and we would take you around to see all the sights, from Grant's tomb to
the Aquarium."

"We've seen those," murmured Frank.

"They're still there," said Mr. Fairfield, "and there will probably be
some other and newer entertainments that you haven't yet seen."

"It does sound nice," said Frank.

"And finally," went on Mr. Fairfield, "though I do not wish this
argument to have undue weight, it certainly would be more convenient
for me to live in the city. I am about to start in business there, and
though I could go in and out every day, as the honourable gentleman on
the other side of the table does, yet he is accustomed to it, and, as I
am not, it seems to me an uninteresting performance. However, I dare say
I could get used to a commutation ticket, and I am certainly willing to
try. All of which is respectfully submitted," and with a bow the speaker
resumed his seat.

"That was a very nice speech," said the judge approvingly, "and now we
would be pleased to hear from the captain gentleman on the other side."

Uncle Charley rose.

"Without wishing to be discourteous," he said, "I must say that I think
the arguments just set forth are exceedingly flimsy. There can be no
question but that Vernondale would be a far better and more appropriate
home for the young lady in question than any other spot on the globe.
Here we have wide streets, green lawns, fresh air, and bright sunshine;
all conducive to that blooming state of health which our honourable
judge now, apparently, enjoys. City life would doubtless soon reduce her
to a thin, pale, peaked specimen of humanity, unrecognisable by her
friends. The rose-colour in her cheeks would turn to ashen grey; her
starry eyes would become dim and lustreless. Her robust flesh would
dwindle to skin and bone, and probably her hair would all fall out, and
she'd have to wear a wig."

Even Patty's mallet was not able to check the burst of laughter caused by
the horrible picture which Uncle Charley drew, but after it had subsided,
he continued: "As to the wonderful masters and teachers in the city, far
be it from me to deny their greatness and power. But the beautiful
village of Vernondale is less than an hour from New York; no mosquitoes,
no malaria; boating, bathing, and fishing. Miss Fairfield could,
therefore, go to New York for her instructions in the various arts and
sciences, and return again to her Vernondale home on a local train. Add
to this the fact that here she has relatives, friends, and acquaintances,
who already know and love her, while, in New York, she would have to
acquire a whole new set, probably have to advertise for them. As to the
commuting gentleman: before his first ticket was all punched up, he would
be ready to vow that the commuter's life is the only ideal existence.
Having thus offered unattackable arguments, I deem a decision in our
favour a foregone conclusion, and I take pleasure in sitting down."

"A very successful speech," said Patty, smiling at her uncle. "We will
now be pleased to hear from the next speaker on the affirmative side.
Mrs. Charles Elliott, will you kindly speak what is on your mind?"

"I will," said Mrs. Elliott, with a nod of her head that betokened
Fairfield decision of character. "I will say exactly what is on my mind
without regard to which side I am on."

"Oh, that isn't fair!" cried Patty. "A debate is a debate, you know,
and you must make up opinions for your own side, whether you think
them or not."

"Very well," said Aunt Alice, smiling a little, "then it being
thoroughly understood that I am not speaking the truth, I will say that I
think it better for Patty to live in New York. As her father will be away
all day at his business, she will enjoy the loneliness of a big
brown-stone city house; she will enjoy the dark rooms and the entire
absence of grass and flowers and trees, which she hates anyway; instead
of picnics and boating parties, she can go to stiff and formal afternoon
teas; and, instead of attending her young people's club here, she can
become a member of the Society of Social Economics."

With an air of having accomplished her intention, Aunt Alice sat down
amid great cheers and handclappings from the opposite side.

Patty looked a little sober as she began to think the Vernondale home
would win; and, though for many reasons she wished it would be so, yet,
at the same time, she realised very strongly the attractions of life in
New York City.

However, she only said:

"The meeting will please come to order, in order to listen to the
opinions of Miss Elliott."

Marian rose with great dignity, and addressed the chair and the ladies
and gentlemen with true parliamentary punctiliousness.

"Though personally interested in this matter," she began, "it is not my
intention to allow my own wishes or prejudices to blind me to the best
interests of our young friend who is now under discussion. Far be it from
me to blight her career for the benefit of my own unworthy self, but I
will say that if Patty Fairfield goes to live in New York, or anywhere
except Vernondale, I think she's just the horridest, meanest old thing on
the face of the earth! Why, I wouldn't _let_ her go! I'd lock her in her
room, and poke bread and water to her through the keyhole, if she dared
to think of such a thing! Go to New York, indeed! A nice time she'd have,
hanging on straps in the trolley-cars, and getting run over by
automobiles! The whole thing is so perfectly absurd that there's no
earthly chance of its ever coming to pass. Why, she _wouldn't_ go, she
couldn't be _hired_ to go; she wouldn't be happy there a minute; but if
she _does_ go, I'll go, too!"




CHAPTER II

THE DECISION


"Hooray for our side!" cried Frank, as Marian dropped into a chair after
her outburst of enthusiasm.

"Oh, I haven't finished yet," said Marian, jumping up again. "I want to
remark further that not only is Patty going to live in Vernondale, but
she's going to have a house very near this one. I've picked it out," and
Marian wagged her head with the air of a mysterious sibyl. "I won't tell
you where it is just yet, but it's a lovely house, and big enough to
accommodate Uncle Fred and Patty, and a guest or two besides. I've
selected the room that I prefer, and I hope you will furnish it in blue."

"The speaker is a bit hasty," said Patty as Marian sat down again; "we
can't furnish any rooms before this debate is concluded; and, though we
deeply regret it, Miss Elliott will be obliged to wait for her blue room
until the other speakers have had their speak."

But Patty smiled at Marian understandingly, and began to have a very
attractive mental picture of her cousin's blue room next her own.

"The next speaker," announced the judge, "will be Mrs. Elliott,
Senior,--the Dowager Duchess. Your Grace, we would be pleased to hear
from you."

"I don't know," said Grandma Elliott, looking rather seriously into the
smiling faces before her, "that I am entirely in favour of the country
home. I think our Patty would greatly enjoy the city atmosphere. She is a
schoolgirl now, but in a year or two she will be a young woman, and one
well deserving of the best that can be given to her. I am city-bred
myself, and though at my age I prefer the quiet of the country, yet for a
young girl I well know the charm of a city life. Of course, we would all
regret the loss of our Patty, who has grown to be a part of our daily
life, but, nevertheless, were I to vote on this matter, I should
unhesitatingly cast my ballot in favour of New York."

"Bravo for grandma!" cried Frank. "Give me a lady who fearlessly speaks
her mind even in the face of overwhelming opposition. All the same, I
haven't spoken my piece yet, and I believe it is now my turn."

"It is," said Patty, "and we eagerly await your sapient and
authoritative remarks."

"Ahem!" said Frank pompously, as he arose. "My remarks shall be brief,
but very much to the point. Patty's home must be in Vernondale because we
live here. If ever we go to live in New York, or Oshkosh, or Kalamazoo,
Patty can pick up her things and go along. Just get that idea firmly
fixed in your heads, my friends. Where we live, Patty lives; whither she
goeth, we goeth. Therefore, if Patty should go to New York, the Elliotts
will take up bag and baggage, sell the farm, and go likewise to New York.
Now I'm sure our Patty, being of proper common-sense and sound judgment,
wouldn't put the Elliott family to such inconvenience,--for moving is a
large and fearsome proposition. Thus we see that as the Mountain insists
on following Mahomet whithersoever she goest, the only decently polite
thing for Mahomet to do is to settle in Vernondale. I regret exceedingly
that I am forced to express an opinion so diametrically opposed to the
advices of Her Grace, the Dowager Duchess, but I'm quite sure she didn't
realise what a bother it would be for the Elliotts to move. And now,
having convinced you all to my way of thinking, I will leave the case in
the hands of our wise and competent judge."

"Wait," said Uncle Charley; "I believe the captains are usually allowed a
sort of summing-up speech, are they not?"

"They are in this case, anyway," said Patty. "Mr. Elliott will please go
ahead with his summing-up."

"Well," said Uncle Charley, "the sum of the whole matter seems to be that
we all want Fred and Patty to live here because we want them to; but, of
course, it's only fair that they consult their own wishes in the matter,
and if they conclude that they prefer New York, why,--we'll have another
debate, that's all."

Uncle Charley sat down, and Mr. Fairfield rose. "I have listened with
great interest to the somewhat flattering remarks of my esteemed fellow
members, and have come to the conclusion that, if agreeable to Her
Judgeship, a compromise might be effected. It would seem to me that if a
decision should be arrived at for the Vernondale home, the Fairfields
could manage to reap some few of those mysterious advantages said to be
found in city life, by going to New York and staying a few months every
winter. This, too, would give them an opportunity to receive visits from
the Elliott family, which would, I'm sure, be a pleasure and profit to
all concerned. With this suggestion I am quite ready to hear a positive
and final decision from Her Honour, the Judge."

"And it won't take her long to make up her mind, either," cried Patty. "I
knew you'd fix it somehow, papa; you are the best and wisest man! Solomon
wasn't in it with you, nor Solon, nor Socrates, nor anybody! That
arrangement is exactly what I choose, and suits me perfectly, I do want
to stay in New York sometimes, but I would much rather live in
Vernondale; so the judge hereby announces that, on the merits of the
case, the question is decided in the negative. The Fairfields will buy a
house in Vernondale, and the judge hopes that they will buy it quick."

"Three cheers for Patty and Uncle Fred," cried Frank, and while they were
being given with a will, Marian flew to the telephone, and, when the
cheers subsided, she was engaged in a conversation of which the debating
club heard only one side.

"Is this you, Elsie?"

"What do you think? Patty's going to stay in Vernondale!"

"Yes, indeed, perfectly gorgeous."

"Just this evening; just now."

"I guess I am! I'm so glad I don't know what to do!"

"Oh, yes, of course she'll keep on being president."

"No, they haven't decided yet, but I want them to take the Bigelow
house."

"Yes; wouldn't it be fine!"

"Oh, it isn't very late."

"Well, come over early to-morrow morning, then."

"Good-by."

"Elsie Morris is delighted," said Marian, as she hung up the receiver,
"and Polly Stevens will just dance jigs of joy when she hears about it.
I'd call her up now, only I'm afraid she'd break the telephone trying to
express her enthusiasm; she flutters so."

"You can tell her about it to-morrow," said Frank, "and now let's
talk about where the house shall be. Would you rather buy or build,
Uncle Fred?"

"Perhaps it would be better to rent," said Mr. Fairfield. "Suppose my
fickle daughter should change her mind, and after a visit in the city
decide that she prefers it for her home."

"I'm not fickle, papa," said Patty, "and it's all arranged all right just
as it is; but I don't want a rented house, they won't let you drive tacks
in the walls, or anything like that. Let's buy a house, and then, if you
turn fickle and want to move away, we can sell it again."

"All right," said Mr. Fairfield obligingly, "what house shall we buy?"

"I know just the one," cried Marian; "guess where it is."

"Would you, by any chance, refer to the Bigelow house?" inquired
Frank politely.

"How did you know?" exclaimed Marian. "I only heard to-day that it is for
sale, and I wanted to surprise you."

"Well, next time you have a surprise in store for us," said Frank, "don't
announce it to Elsie Morris over the telephone."

"Oh, did you hear that?"

"As a rule, sister dear, unless you are the matron of a deaf and dumb
asylum, you must expect those present to hear your end of a telephone
conversation."

"Of course," said Marian; "I didn't think. But, really, wouldn't the
Bigelow house be fine? Only a few blocks away from here, and such a
lovely house, with a barn and a conservatory, and a little arbour in
the garden."

Patty began to look frightened.

"Goodness, gracious me!" she exclaimed; "I don't believe I realise what
I'm coming to. I could take care of the little arbour in the garden; but
I wonder if I could manage a house, and a barn, and a conservatory!"

"And go to school every day, besides," said her father, laughing. "I
think, my child, that at least until your school days are over, we will
engage the services of a responsible housekeeper."

"Oh, papa!" cried Patty, in dismay, "you said I could keep house for
you; and Aunt Alice has taught me lots about it; and she'll teach me
lots more; and you know I can make good pumpkin pies; and, of course,
I can dust and fly 'round; and that's about all there is to
housekeeping, anyway."

"Oh, Patty," said Aunt Alice, "my lessons must have fallen on stony
ground if you think that's all there is to housekeeping."

"That's merely a figure of speech, Aunt Alice," replied Patty. "You well
know I am a thoroughly capable and experienced housekeeper; honest,
steady, good-tempered, and with a fine reference from my last place."

"You're certainly a clever little housekeeper for your age," said her
aunt, "but I'm not sure you could keep house successfully, and go to
school, and practice your music, and attend to your club all at the
same time."

"But I wouldn't do them all at the same time, Aunt Alice. I'd have a time
for everything, and everything in it place. I would go to school, and
practise, and housekeep, and club; all in their proper proportions--"
Here Patty glanced at her father. "You see, if I had the proportions
right, all would go well."

"Well, perhaps," said Mr. Fairfield, "if we had a competent cook and a
tidy little waitress, we could get along without a professional
housekeeper. I admit I had hoped to have Patty keep house for me and
preside at my table, and at any rate, it would do no harm to try it as an
experiment; then, if it failed, we could make some other arrangement."

"I guess I do want to sit at the head of our table, papa," said Patty;
"I'd just like to see a housekeeper there! A prim, sour-faced old lady
with a black silk dress and dangling ear-rings! No, I thank you. If I
have my way I will keep that house myself, and when I get into any
trouble, I will fly to Aunt Alice for rest and refreshment."

"We'll all help," said Marian; "I'll make lovely sofa-pillows for you,
and I'm sure grandma will knit you an afghan."

"That isn't much towards housekeeping," said Frank. "I'll come over next
summer and swing your hammock for you, and put up your tennis-net."

"And meantime," said Uncle Charley, "until the house is bought and
furnished, the Fairfield family will be the welcome guests of the
Elliotts. It's almost the middle of December now, and I don't think, Miss
Patty Fairfield, that you'll get your home settled in time to make a
visit in New York _this_ winter; and now, you rattle-pated youngsters,
run to bed, while I discuss some plans sensibly with my brother-in-law
and fellow townsman."




CHAPTER III

THE TEA CLUB


"Well I should think you'd better stay in Vernondale, Patty Fairfield, if
you know what's good for yourself! Why, if you had attempted to leave
this town, we would have mobbed you with tar and feathers, or whatever
those dreadful things are that they do to the most awful criminals."

"Oh, if I had gone, Polly, I should have taken this club with me, of
course. I'm so used to it now, I'm sure I couldn't live a day, and
know that we should meet no more, as the Arab remarked to his
beautiful horse."

"It would be rather fun to be transported bodily to New York as a club,
but I'd want to be transported home again after the meeting," said
Helen Preston.

"Why shouldn't we do that?" cried Florence Douglass. "It would be lots of
fun for the whole club to go to New York some day together."

"I'm so glad Patty is going to stay with us, I don't care what we do,"
said Ethel Holmes, who was drawing pictures on Patty's white shirt-waist
cuffs as a mark of affection.

"I'm glad, too," said Patty; "and, Ethel, your kittens are perfectly
lovely, but this is my last clean shirt-waist, and those pencil-marks are
awfully hard to wash out."

"I don't mean them to be washed out," said Ethel, calmly going on with
her art work; "they're not wash drawings, they're permanent decorations
for your cuffs, and are offered as a token of deep regard and esteem."

The Tea Club was holding a Saturday afternoon meeting at Polly Stevens's
house, and the conversation, as yet, had not strayed far from the
all-engrossing subject of Patty's future plans.

The Tea Club had begun its existence with lofty and noble aims in a
literary direction, to be supplemented and assisted by an occasional
social cup of tea. But if you have had any experience with merry, healthy
young girls of about sixteen, you will not be surprised to learn that
the literary element had softly and suddenly vanished away, much after
the manner of a Boojum. Then, somehow, the social interest grew stronger,
and the tea element held its own, and the result was a most satisfactory
club, if not an instructive one.

"But," as Polly Stevens had said, "we are instructed all day long in
school, and a good deal out of school, too, for that matter; and what we
need most is absolutely foolish recreation; the foolisher the better."

And so the Saturday afternoon meetings had developed into merely merry
frolics, with a cup of tea, which was often a figure of speech for
chocolate or lemonade, at the close.

There were no rules, and the girls took pleasure in calling themselves
unruly members. There were no dues, and consequently no occasion for a
secretary or treasures. Patty continued to be called the president, but
the title meant nothing more than the fact that she was really a chief
favourite among the girls. No one was bound, or even expected to attend
the meetings unless she chose; but, as a rule, a large majority of the
club was present.

And so to-day, in the library at Polly Stevens's house, nine members of
the Tea Club were chattering like nine large and enthusiastic magpies.

"Now we can go on with the entertainment," said Lillian Desmond, as she
sat on the arm of Patty's chair, curling wisps of the presidential hair
over her fingers. "If Patty had gone away, I should have resigned my part
in the show and gone into a convent. Where are you going to live, Patty?"

"I don't know, I am sure; we haven't selected a house yet; and if we
don't find one we like, papa may build one, though I believe Marian has
one all picked out for us."

"Yes, I have," said Marian. "It's the Bigelow house on our street. I do
want to keep Patty near us."

"The Bigelow house? Why, that's too large for two people. Patty and Mr.
Fairfield would get lost in it. Now, I know a much nicer one. There's a
little house next-door to us, a lovely, little cottage that would suit
you a lot better. Tell your father about it, Patty. It's for sale or
rent, and it's just the dearest place."

"Why, Laura Russell," cried Marian, "that little snip of a house! It
wouldn't hold Patty, let alone Uncle Fred. You only proposed it because
you want Patty to live next-door to you."

"Yes; that's it," said Laura, quite unabashed; "I know it's too little,
but you could add ells and bay-windows and wings and things, and then it
would be big enough."

"Would it hold the Tea Club?" said Patty. "I must have room for them,
you know."

"Oh, won't it be fun to have the Tea Club at Patty's house!" cried
Elsie. "I hadn't thought of that."

"What's a home without a Tea Club?" said Patty. "I shall select the house
with an eye single to the glory and comfort of you girls."

"Then I know of a lovely house," said Christine Converse. "It's awfully
big, and it's pretty old, but I guess it could be fixed up. I mean the
old Warner place."

"Good gracious!" cried Ethel; "'way out there! and it's nothing but a
tumble-down old barn, anyhow."

"Oh, I think it's lovely; and it's Colonial, or Revolutionary, or
something historic; and they're going to put the trolley out there this
spring,--my father said so."

"It is a nice old house," said Patty; "and it could be made awfully
pretty and quaint. I can see it, now, in my mind's eye, with dimity
curtains at the windows, and roses growing over the porch."

"I hope you will never see those dimity curtains anywhere but in your
mind's eye," said Marian. "It's a heathenish old place, and, anyway, it's
too far away from our house."

"Papa says I can have a pony and cart," said Patty; "and I could drive
over every day."

"A pony and cart!" exclaimed Helen Preston. "Won't that be perfectly
lovely! I've always wanted one of my own. And shall you have
man-servants, and maid-servants? Oh, Patty, you never could run a big
establishment like that. You'll have to have a housekeeper."

"I'm going to try it," said Patty, laughing. "It will be an
experiment, and, of course, I shall make lots of blunders at first; but
I think it's a pity if a girl nearly sixteen years old can't keep house
for her own father."

"So do I," said Laura. "And, anyhow, if you get into any dilemmas we'll
all come over and help you out."

The girls laughed at this; for Laura Russell was a giddy little
feather-head, and couldn't have kept house for ten minutes to save her
life.

"Much good it would do Patty to have the Tea Club help her keep house,"
said Florence Douglass. "But we'll all make her lovely things to go to
housekeeping with. I shall be real sensible, and make her sweeping-caps
and ironing-holders."

"Oh, I can beat that for sensibleness," cried Ethel Holmes. "I read about
it the other day, and it's a broom-bag. I haven't an idea what it's for;
but I'll find out, and I'll make one."

"One's no good," said Marian sagely. "Make her a dozen while you're
about it."

"Oh, do they come by dozens?" said Ethel, in an awestruck voice. "Well,
I guess I won't make them then. I'll make her something pretty. A
pincushion all over lace and pin ribbons, or something like that."

"That will be lovely," said Laura. "I shall embroider her a tablecloth."

"You'll never finish it," said Patty, who well knew how soon Laura's
bursts of enthusiasm spent themselves. "You'd better decide on a doily.
Better a doily done than a tablecloth but begun."

"Oh, I'll tell you-what we can do, girls," said Polly Stevens. "Let's
make Patty a tea-cloth, and we'll each write our name on it, and then
embroider it, you know."

"Lovely!" cried Christine. "Just the thing. Who'll hemstitch it? I won't.
I'll embroider my name all right, but I hate to hemstitch."

"I'll hemstitch it," said Elsie Morris. "I do beautiful hemstitching."

"So do I," said Helen Preston. "Let me do half."

"Ethel and I hemstitch like birds," said Lillian Desmond. "Let's each do
a side,--there'll be four sides, I suppose."

"Well, the tea-cloth seems in a fair way to get hemstitched," said
Patty. "You can put a double row around it, if you like, and I'll be
awfully glad to have it. I'll use it the first Saturday afternoon after
I get settled."

"I wish I knew where you're going to live," said Ethel. "I'd like to have
a correct mental picture of that first Saturday afternoon."

"It's a beautiful day for walking," said Polly Stevens. "Let's all go
out, and take a look at the Warner place. Something tells me that you'll
decide to live there."

"I hope something else will tell you differently, soon," said Marian,
"for I'll never give my consent to that arrangement. However, I'd just
as lieve walk out there, if only to convince you what a forlorn old
place it is."

"Come on; let's go, then. We can be back in an hour, and have tea
afterwards. I'll get the key from Mr. Martin, as we go by."

Like a bombarding army the Tea Club stormed the old Warner house, and
once inside its Colonial portal, they made the old walls ring with their
laughter. The wide hall was dark and gloomy until Elsie Morris flung open
the door at the other end, and let in the December sunshine.

"Seek no farther," she cried dramatically. "We have crossed the Rubicon
and found the Golden Fleece! This is the place of all others for our Tea
Club meeting, and it doesn't matter what the rest of the house may be
like. Patty, you will kindly consider the matter settled."

"I'll consider anything you like," said Patty; "and before breakfast,
too, if you'll only hurry up and get out of this damp, musty old place.
I'm shivering myself to pieces."

"Oh, it isn't cold," said Laura Russell; "and while we're here, let's go
through the house."

"Yes," said Marian; "examine it carefully, lest some of its numerous
advantages should escape your notice. Observe the hardwood floors, the
magnificent mahogany stair-rail, and the lofty ceilings!"

The old floors were creaky, worm-eaten, and dusty; the stair-rail was in
a most dilapidated condition, and the ceilings were low and smoky; so
Marian scored her points.

"But it is antique," said Ethel Holmes, with the air of an auctioneer.
"Ah, ladies, what would you have? It is a fine specimen of the Colonial
Empire period, picked out here and there with Queen Anne. The mantels,
ah,--the mantels are dreams in marble."

"Nightmares in painted wood, you mean," said Lillian.

"But so roomy and expansive," went on Ethel. "And the wall-papers!
Note the fine stage of complete dilapidation left by the moving
finger of Time."

"The wall-papers are all right," said Patty. "They look as if they'd peel
off easily. Come on upstairs."

The chambers were large, low, and rambling; and the house, in its best
days, must have been an interesting specimen of its type. But after a
short investigation, Patty was as firmly convinced as Marian that its
charms could not offset its drawbacks.

"I've seen enough of this moated grange," cried Patty. "Come on, girls,
we're going back to tea, right, straight, smack off."

"There's no pleasing some folks," grumbled Ethel. "Here's an ancestral
pile only waiting for somebody to ancestralise it. You could make it one
of the Historic Homes of Vernondale, and you won't even consider it for
a minute."

"I'll consider it for a minute," said Patty, "if that will do you
any good, but not a bit longer; and as the minute is nearly up, I
move we start."




CHAPTER IV

BOXLEY HALL


After consultation with various real estate agents, and after due
consideration of the desirable houses they had to offer, Mr. Fairfield
came to the conclusion that the Bigelow house, which Marian had
suggested, was perhaps the most attractive of any.

And so, one afternoon, a party of very interested people went over to
look at it.

The procession was headed by Patty and Marian, followed by Mr. Fairfield
and Aunt Alice, while Frank and his father brought up the rear. But as
they were going out of the Elliotts' front gate, Laura Russell came
flying across the street.

"Where are all you people going?" she cried. "I know you're going to look
at a house. Which one?"

"The Bigelow house," said Marian, "and I'm almost sure Uncle Fred will
decide to take it. Come on with us; we're going all through it."

"No," said Laura, looking disappointed, "I don't want to go; and I don't
want the Fairfields to live in that house anyway. If they would only look
at that little cottage next-door to us, I know they'd like it ever so
much better. Oh, please, Mr. Fairfield, won't you come over and look at
it now? It's so pretty and cunning, and it has the loveliest garden and
chicken-coop and everything."

"I don't want a chicken-coop," said Patty, laughing; "I've no chickens,
and I don't want any."

"Our chickens are over there most of the time," said Laura.

"Then, of course, we ought to have a coop to keep our neighbours'
chickens in," said Mr. Fairfield; "and if this cottage is as delightful
as Miss Russell makes it out, I think it's our duty at least to go and
look at it. If the rest of you are willing, suppose we go over there
first, and then if we _should_ decide not to take it, we'll have time to
investigate the Bigelow afterward"

Marian looked so woe-begone that Patty laughed.

"Cheer up, girl," she said; "there isn't one chance in a million of our
taking that doll's house, but Laura will never give us a minute's peace
until we go and look at it; so we may as well go now, and get it over."

"All right," said Marian; and Patty, with her two girl friends on either
side of her, started in the direction of the cottage.

But when they reached it, Mr. Fairfield exclaimed in amazement. "That
little house?" he said. "Oh, I see; that's the chicken-coop you spoke of.
Well, where is the house?"

"This is the house," said Laura; "but, somehow, it does look smaller than
usual; still, it's a great deal bigger inside."

"No doubt," said Frank. "I've often noticed that the inside of a house is
much larger than the outside. Of course, we can't all go in at once, but
I'm willing to wait my turn. Who will go first?"

"Very well, you may stay outside," said Laura. "I think the rest of us
can all squeeze in at once, if we try."

But Frank followed the rest of the party, and, passing through the narrow
hall, they entered the tiny parlour.

"I never was in such a crowded room," said Marian. "I can scarcely get my
breath. I had no idea there were so many of us."

"Well, you're not going to live here," said Laura. "There's room enough
for just Patty and her father."

"There is, if we each take a room to ourself," said Mr. Fairfield. "You
may have this parlour, my daughter, and I'll take the library. Where is
the library, Miss Russell?"

"I think it has just stepped out," said Frank; "at any rate, it isn't on
this floor; there's only this room, and the dining-room, and a kitchen
cupboard."

"Very likely the library is on the third floor," said Marian; "that would
be convenient."

"There isn't any third floor," explained Laura. "This is what they call
a story-and-a-half house."

"It would have to be expanded into a serial story, then, before it would
do for us," said Mr. Fairfield. "We may not be such big people, but Patty
and I have a pretty large estimate of ourselves, and I am sure we never
could live in such a short-story-and-a-half as this seems to be."

"Indeed, we couldn't, papa," said Patty. "Just look at this dining-room.
I'm sure it's only big enough for one. We would have to have our meals
alternately; you could have breakfast, and I would have dinner one day,
and the next day we'd reverse the order."

"Come, look at the kitchen, Patty," called out Frank; "or at least stick
your head in; there isn't room for all of you. See the stationary tubs.
Two of them, you see; each just the size of a good comfortable
coffee-cup."

"Just exactly," said Patty, laughing; "why, I never saw such a house.
Laura Russell, what were you thinking of?"

"Oh, of course, you could add to it," said Laura. "You could build on
as many more rooms as you wanted, and you could run it up another story
and a half, and that would make three stories; and I do want you to
live near me."

"We're sorry not to live near you, Miss Laura," said Mr. Fairfield; "but
I can't see my way clear to do it unless you would move into this
bandbox, and let us have your roomy and comfortable mansion next door."

"Oh, there wouldn't be room for our family here," said Laura.

"But you could build on a whole lot of rooms," said Frank, "and add
enough stories to make it a sky-scraper; and put in an elevator, and it
would be perfectly lovely."

Laura laughed with the rest, and then, at Mrs. Elliott's suggestion, they
all started back to the Bigelow house.

"Now, this is something like," said Marian, as they went in at the gate
and up the broad front walk.

"Like what?" said Frank.

"Like a home for the Fairfields. What shall you call it--Fairfield Hall,
Fairfield Place, or what?"

"I don't know," cried Patty, dashing up the veranda steps. "But isn't it
a dear house! I feel at home here already. This big piazza will be lovely
in warm weather. There's room for hammocks, and big chairs, and little
tables, and everything."

Inside, the house proved very attractive. The large square hall opened
into a parlour on one side and a library on the other. Back of the
library was a little conservatory, and beyond that a large, light
dining-room with an open fireplace.

"Here's a kitchen worth having," said Aunt Alice, who was investigating
ahead of the rest; "and such convenient pantries and cupboards."

"And this back veranda is great," said Frank, opening the door from a
little hall.

"Oh, yes," said Patty; "see the dead vines. In the summer it must have
honeysuckles all over it. And there's the little arbour at the foot of
the garden. I'm going down to see it."

Marian started to follow her, but Laura called her back to show her some
new attraction, and Patty ran alone down the veranda steps, and through
the box-bordered paths to the little rustic arbour.

"Goodness!" she exclaimed, as she reached it. "Who in the world are you?"

For inside the arbour sat a strange-looking girl of about Patty's own
age. She was a tall, thin child, with a pale face, large black eyes, and
straight black hair, which hung in wisps about her ears.

"I'm Pansy," she said, clasping her hands in front of her, and looking
straight into Patty's face.

"You're Pansy, are you?" said Patty, looking puzzled. "And what are you
doing here, Pansy?"

"Well, miss, you see it's this way. I want to go out to service; and when
I heard you was going to have a house of your own, I thought maybe you'd
take me to work for you."

"Oh, you did! Well, why didn't you come and apply to me, then, in proper
fashion, and not sit out here waiting for me to come to you? Suppose I
hadn't come?"

"I was sure you'd come, miss. Everybody who looks at this house comes out
to look at the arbour; but there hasn't been anybody before that I wanted
to work for. Please take me, miss; I'll be faithful and true."

"What can you do?" asked Patty, half laughing, and half pitying the
strange-looking girl. "Can you cook?"

"No, ma'am, I can't cook; but I might learn it. But I didn't mean that. I
thought you'd have a cook, and you'd take me for a table girl, you know;
and to tidy up after you."

"I do want a waitress; but have you had any experience?"

"No, ma'am," said the girl very earnestly, "I haven't, but I'm just sure
I could learn. If you just tell me a thing once, you needn't ever tell it
to me again. That's something, isn't it?"

"Indeed it is," said Patty, remembering a certain careless waitress at
Mrs. Elliott's. "Have you any references?"

"No," said the girl, smiling; "you see, I've never lived anywhere except
home, and I suppose mother's reference wouldn't count."

"It would with me," said Patty decidedly. "I think your mother ought
to know more about you than anybody else. What would she say if I
asked her?"

"She'd say I was careless and heedless and thoughtless, and didn't know
anything," replied the girl cheerfully; "and I am that way at home, but I
wouldn't be if I worked for you, because I want to be a waitress, and a
good one; and you'd see how quick I'd learn. Oh, do take me, miss. You'll
never be sorry, and that's sure!"

This statement was accompanied by such decided gestures of head and hands
that Patty was very nearly convinced to the contrary, but she only said,
"I'm sorry, Pansy,--you said your name was Pansy, didn't you?"

"Yes, miss,--Pansy Potts."

"What an extraordinary name!"

"Is it, miss? Well, you see, my father's name was Potts; and mother named
me Pansy, because she's so fond of the flower. You don't think the name
will interfere with my being a waitress, do you?"

"Not so far as I'm concerned," said Patty, laughing; "but, you see, I
shall be a very inexperienced housekeeper, and if I have an inexperienced
waitress also, I don't know what might happen."

"Why, now, miss; it seems to me that that would work out just right.
You're a young housekeeper, but I expect you know just about what a
waitress ought to do, and you could teach me; and I know a lot about
housekeeping, and I could teach you."

The sincerity in Pansy's voice and manner impressed Patty, and she looked
at her closely, as she said:

"It does seem good proportion."

"It is," said Pansy; "and you've no idea how quickly I can learn."

"Can you?" said Patty. "Well, then, learn first to call me Miss Patty. It
would suit me much better than to hear you say 'miss' so often."

"Yes, Miss Patty."

"And don't wring your hands in that absurd fashion, and don't stand
first on one foot and then on the other, as if you were scared out of
your wits."

"No, Miss Patty."

Pansy ceased shuffling, dropped her hands naturally to her sides, and
stood in the quiet, respectful attitude that Patty had unconsciously
assumed while speaking.

Delighted at this quick-witted mimicry, Patty exclaimed:

"I believe you will do. I believe you are just the one; but I can't
decide positively, now. You go home, Pansy, and come to-morrow afternoon
to see me at Mrs. Elliott's. Do you know where I live?"

"Yes, Miss Patty," and, with a respectful little bob of her head, Pansy
Potts disappeared, and Patty ran back to the house.

"Well, chickadee," said Mr. Fairfield, "I have about decided that
you and I can make ourselves comfortable within these four walls,
and, if it suits your ladyship, I think we'll consider that we have
taken the house."

"It does suit me," said Patty. "I'm perfectly satisfied; and _I_ have
taken a house-maid."

"Where did you get her?" exclaimed Frank. "Do they grow on trees in the
garden? I saw you out in the arbour with one."

"Yes," said Patty; "I picked her off a tree. She isn't quite ripe, but
she's not so very green; and I think she'll do. Never mind about her now.
I can't decide until I've had a talk with Aunt Alice. I'm so glad you
decided on this house, papa. Oh, isn't it lovely to have a home! It looks
rather bare, to be sure, but, be it ever so empty, there's no place like
home. Now, what shall we name it? I do like a nice name for a place."

"It has so many of those little boxwood Hedges," said Aunt Alice, looking
out of the window, "that you might call it The Boxwood House."

"Oh, don't call it a wood-house," said Uncle Charley.

"Call it the wood-box, and be done with it," Frank.

"I like 'Hall,'" said Patty. "How is Boxwood Hall?"

"Sounds like Locksley Hall," said Marian.

"More like Boxley Hall," said Frank.

"Boxley Hall!" cried Patty. "That's just the thing! I like that."

"Rather a pretentious name to live up to," said Mr. Fairfield.

"Never mind," said Patty. "With Pansy Potts for a waitress, we can live
up to any name."

And so Patty's new home was chosen, and its name was Boxley Hall.




CHAPTER V

SHOPPING


As Boxley Hall was a sort of experiment, Mr. Fairfield concluded to rent
the place for a year, with the privilege of buying.

By this time Patty was sure that she wished to remain in Vernondale all
her life; but her father said that women, even very young ones, were
fickle in their tastes, and he thought it wiser to be on the safe side.

"And it doesn't matter," as Patty said to Marian; "for, when the year is
up, papa will just buy the house, and then it will be all right."

Having found a home, the next thing was to furnish it; and about this Mr.
Fairfield was very decided and methodical.

"To-morrow," he said, as they were talking it over at the Elliotts' one
evening, "to-morrow I shall take Patty to New York to select the most
important pieces of furniture. We shall go alone, because it is a very
special occasion, and we can't allow ourselves to be hampered by outside
advices. Another day we shall go to buy prosaic things like tablecloths
and carpet-sweepers; and then, as we know little about such things, we
shall be glad to take with us some experienced advisers."

And so the next day Patty and her father started for the city to buy
furniture for Boxley Hall.

"You see, Patty," said her father after they were seated in the train,
"there is a certain proportion to be observed in furnishing a house,
about which, I imagine, you know very little."

"Very little, indeed," returned Patty; "but, then, how should I know such
things when I've never furnished a house?"

"I understand that," said Mr. Fairfield; "and so, with my advantages
of age and experience, and your own natural good taste, I think we
shall accomplish this thing successfully. Now, first, as to what we
have on hand."

"Why, we haven't anything on hand," said Patty; "at least, I have a
few pictures and books, and the afghan grandma's knitting for me; but
that's all."

"You reckon without your host," said her father, smiling. "I possess some
few objects of value, and during the past year I have added to my
collection in anticipation of the time when we should have our own home."

"Oh, papa!" cried Patty; "have you a whole lot of new furniture that I
don't know about?"

"Yes," said Mr. Fairfield; "except, that, instead of being new, it is
mostly old. I had opportunities in the South to pick up bits of fine old
mahogany, and I have a number of really good pieces that will help to
make Boxley Hall attractive."

"What are they, papa? Tell me all about them. I can't wait another
minute!"

"To begin with, child, I have several heirlooms; the old sideboard that
was your grandfather Fairfield's, and several old bureaus and tables that
came from the Fairfield estate. Then I have, also, two or three beautiful
book-cases, and an old desk for our library; and to-day we will hunt up
some sort of a big roomy table that will do to go with them."

"Let's make the library the nicest room in the house, papa."

"It will make itself that, if you give it half a chance, though we'll do
all we can to help. But I'm so prosaic I would like to have special
attention paid to the comforts of the dining-room; and as to your own
bedroom, Patty, I want you to see to it that it fulfills exactly your
ideal of what a girl's room ought to be."

"Oh, I know just how I want that; almost exactly like my room at Aunt
Alice's, but with a few more of the sort of things I had in my room at
Aunt Isabel's. I do like pretty things, papa."

"That's right, my child, I'm glad you do; and I think your idea of pretty
things is not merely a taste for highfalutin gimcracks."

"No, I don't think it is," said Patty slowly; "but, all the same, you'd
better keep pretty close to me when I pick out the traps for my room. Do
you know, papa, I think Aunt Isabel wants to help us furnish our house.
She wrote that she would meet us in New York some time."

"That's kind of her," said Mr. Fairfield; "but, do _you_ know, it just
seems to me that we'll be able to manage it by ourselves. Our house is
not of the era of Queen Isabella, but of the Princess Patricia."

"That sounds like Aunt Isabel. They always called me Patricia there.
Don't you think, papa, now that I'm getting so grown up, I ought to be
called Patricia? Patty is such a baby name."

"Patty is good enough for me," said Mr. Fairfield. "If you want to be
called Patricia, you must get somebody else to do it. I dare say you
could hire somebody for a small sum per week to call you Patricia for a
given number of times every day."

"Now, you're making fun of me, papa; but I do want to grow up dignified,
and not be a silly schoolgirl all my life."

"Take care of your common sense, and your dignity will take care
of itself."

After they crossed the ferry, and reached the New York side, Mr.
Fairfield took a cab, and they made a round of the various shops, buying
such beautiful things that Patty grew fairly ecstatic with delight.

"I do think you're wonderful, papa," she exclaimed, after they had
selected the dining-room furnishings. "You know exactly what you want,
and when you describe it, it seems to be the only possible thing that
anybody could want for that particular place."

"That is a result of decision of character, my child. It is a Fairfield
trait, and I hope you possess it; though I cannot say I have seen any
marked development of it, as yet. But you must have noticed it in your
Aunt Alice."

"Yes, I have," said Patty; "she is so decided that, with all her
sweetness, I have sometimes been tempted to call her stubborn."

"Stubbornness and decision of character are very closely allied; but
now, we're going to select the furniture for your own bedroom, and if
you have any decision of character, you will have ample opportunity to
exercise it."

"Oh, I'll have plenty of decision of character when it comes to that,"
said Patty; "you will find me a true Fairfield."

Aided by her father's judgment and advice, Patty selected the furnishings
for her own room. She had chosen green as the predominant colour, and the
couch and easy-chairs were upholstered in a lovely design of green and
white. The rug was green and white, and for the brass bedstead with its
white fittings, a down comfortable with a pale green cover was found. The
dainty dressing-table was of bird's-eye maple; and for this Mr. Fairfield
ordered a bewildering array of fittings, all in ivory, with Patty's
monogram on them.

"And I want a little book-case, papa," she said; "a little one, you know,
just for my favouritest books; for, of course, the most of my books will
be down in the library."

So a dear little book-case was bought, also of bird's-eye maple, and a
pretty little work-table, with a low chair to match.

"That's very nice," said Patty, with an air of satisfaction, "for, though
I hate to sew, yet sometimes it must be done; and with that little
work-table, I think I could sew even in an Indian wigwam!"

Patty hadn't much to say regarding the furniture of her father's
bedroom, for Mr. Fairfield attended to that himself, and selected the
things with such rapidity and certainty that it was all done almost
before Patty knew it.

"Now," said Mr. Fairfield, "there are two guest-chambers to be furnished;
the one you call Marian's room, and the other for the general stranger
within our gates."

Marian's room was done up in blue, as she had requested, and the other
guest-room was furnished in yellow.

It was great fun to pick out the furniture, rugs, and curtains for
these rooms; and Patty tried very hard to select such things as her
father would approve of, for she dearly loved to have him commend her
taste and judgment.

As they were sitting at luncheon, Mr. Fairfield said: "This afternoon, I
think, we will devote to pictures. I'm not sure we will buy any, but we
will look at them, and I will learn what is your taste in art, and you
will leant what is mine."

"I haven't any," said Patty cheerfully. "I don't know anything about art
and never did."

"You still have some time, I hope, in which to learn."

"I've time enough, but I don't believe I could learn. The only pictures I
like are pretty ones."

"You _are_ hopeless, and that's a fact," said Mr. Fairfield. "Of all
discouraging people, the worst are those who like pretty pictures!"

"But I'm sure I can learn," said Patty, "if you will teach me."

"You are more flattering than convincing," said Mr. Fairfield, "but I
will try."

And so after luncheon they visited several picture shops, and Mr.
Fairfield imported to his daughter what was at least a foundation for an
education in art.

Back in Vernondale, Patty confided to Marian that she had had a perfectly
lovely time all the morning, but the afternoon wasn't so much fun. "In
fact," she said, "it was very much like that little book we had to study
in school called 'How to Judge a Picture.'"

The following Saturday another shopping tour was undertaken. This time
Aunt Alice and Marian accompanied the Fairfields, and there was more fun
and less responsibility for Patty.

Her father insisted upon her undivided attention while Mrs. Elliott
selected table-linen, bed-linen, towels, and other household fittings;
but, as these things were chosen with Fairfield promptness and decision,
Patty had nothing to do but admire and acquiesce.

"And now," she remarked, after they had chosen two sets of china and a
quantity of glass for the dining-room; "now, if you please, we will buy
me some tea-things to entertain the Tea Club."

"We will, indeed," said Mr. Fairfield, and both he and Aunt Alice entered
into the selection of the tea-table fittings with as much zest as they
had shown in the other china.

Dainty Dresden cups were found, lovely plates, and a tea-pot, and
cracker-jar, which made Marian and Patty fairly shriek with delight.

A three-storied wicker tea-table was found, to hold these treasures, and
Mr. Fairfield added the most fascinating little silver tea-caddy and
tea-ball and strainer.

"Oh," exclaimed Marian, made quite breathless by the glory of it
all, "the Tea Club will never want to meet anywhere except at your
house, Patty."

"They'll have to," said Patty. "I don't propose to have them every time."

"Well, you'll have to have them every other time, anyway," said Marian.

After the fun of picking out the tea-things, it was hard to come down to
the plainer claims of the kitchen, but Aunt Alice grew so interested in
the selection of granite saucepans and patent coffee-mills that Patty,
too, became enthusiastic.

"And we must get a rolling-pin," she cried, "for I shall make pumpkin
pies every day. Oh, and I want a farina-kettle and a colander, and a
_bain-marie,_ and a larding-needle, and a syllabub-churn."

"Why, Patty, child!" exclaimed her father; "what are all those things
for? Are you going to have a French _chef_?"

"No, papa, but I expect to do a great deal of fancy cooking myself."

"Oh, you do! Well, then, buy all the contraptions that are necessary, but
don't omit the plain gridirons and frying-pans."

Then Aunt Alice and Patty put their heads together in a most sensible
fashion, and ordered a kitchen outfit that would have delighted the heart
of any well-organised housekeeper. Not only kitchen utensils, but laundry
fittings, and household furnishings generally; including patent
labour-saving devices, and newly invented contrivances which were
supposed to be of great aid to any housewife.

"If I can only live up to it all," sighed Patty, as she looked at the
enormous collection of iron, tin, wood, and granite.

"Or down to it," said Marian.




CHAPTER VI

SERVANTS


"I did think," said Patty, in a disgusted tone, "that we could get
settled in the house in time to eat our Christmas dinner there, but it
doesn't look a bit like it. I was over there this afternoon, and such a
hopeless-looking mess of papering and painting and plumbing I never saw
in my life. I don't believe it will _ever_ be done!"

"I don't either," said Marian; "those men work as slow as mud-turtles."

The conversation was taking place at the Elliotts' dinner-table, and
Uncle Charley looked up from his carving to say:

"It's an ill wind that blows nobody good, and the slower the mud-turtles
are, the longer we shall have our guests with us. For my part, I shall be
very sorry to see pretty Patty go out of this house."

Patty smiled gaily at her uncle, for they were great friends, and said:

"Then I shall expect you to visit me very often in my new home,--that is,
if I ever get there."

"I can't see our way clear to a Christmas dinner in Boxley Hall," said
Mr. Fairfield; "but I think I can promise you, chick, that you can
invite your revered uncle and his family to dine with you there on New
Year's day."

There were general exclamations of delight at this from all except Patty,
who looked a little bewildered.

"What's the matter, Patsie?" said her uncle. "Don't you want to entertain
your admiring relatives?"

"Yes," said Patty, "of course I do; but it scares me to death to think of
it! How can I have a dinner party, when I don't know anything about
anything?"

"Aunt Alice will tell you something about something," said her father;
"and I'll tell you the rest about the rest."

"Oh, I know it will be all right," said Patty, quickly regaining
confidence, as she looked at her father. "If papa says the house will be
ready, I know it will be, and if he says we'll have a dinner party on New
Year's day, I know we will; and so I now invite you all, and I expect you
all to accept; and I hope Aunt Alice will come early."

"I shall come the night before," said Marian, "so as to be sure to be
there in time."

"I'm not sure that any of us will be there the night before," said Mr.
Fairfield, laughing. "I've guaranteed the house for the dinner, but I
didn't say we would be living there at the time."

"That's a good idea," said Aunt Alice; "let Patty entertain her first
company there, and then come back here for the reaction."

"Well, we'll see," said Patty; "but I'd like to go there the first day of
January, and stay there."

By some unknown methods, Mr. Fairfield managed to stir up the mud-turtle
workmen to greater activity, and the work went rapidly on. The
wall-papers seemed to get themselves into place, and the floors took on
a beautiful polish; bustling men came out from the city and put up
window-shades, and curtains, and draperies; and, under Mr. Fairfield's
supervision, laid rugs and hung pictures.

The ladies of the Elliott household organised themselves into a most
active sewing-society.

Grandma, Aunt Alice, Marian, and Patty hemmed tablecloths and napkins
with great diligence, and even little Edith was allowed to help with the
kitchen towels.

Everybody was so kind that Patty began to feel weighed down with
gratitude. The girls of the Tea Club made the tea-cloth that they had
proposed, and they also brought offerings of pin-cushions, and doilies
and centre-pieces, until Patty's room began to look like a booth at a
fancy bazaar.

One Saturday morning, as the sewing-circle was hard at work, little
Gilbert came in carrying a paper bag, which evidently contained
something valuable.

"It's for you, Patty," he said. "I brought it for you, to help keep
house; and its name is Pudgy."

Depositing the bag in his cousin's lap, little Gilbert knelt beside her.
"You needn't open it," he cried; "it will open itself!"

And, sure enough, the mouth of the bag untwisted, and a little grey head
came poking out.

"A kitten!" exclaimed Patty; "a Maltese kitten. Why, that's just the very
thing I wanted! Where did you get it, Gilbert, dear?"

"From the milkman," said Gilbert proudly. "We always get kitties
from him, and I telled him to pick out a nice pretty one for you. Do
you like it?"

"I love it," said Patty, cuddling the little bunch of grey fur; "and
Pudgy is just the right name for it. It's the fattest little cat I
ever saw."

"Yes," said Gilbert gravely; "don't let it get thin, will you?"

"No, indeed," said Patty; "I'll feed it on strawberries and cream all the
year round!"

That same afternoon Patty and Aunt Alice started out on a cook-hunting
expedition. A Cook's Tour, Frank called it; and the tourists took it very
seriously.

"Much of the success of your home, Patty," said Aunt Alice, as they were
going to the Intelligence Office, "depends upon your cook; for she will
be not only a cook, but, in part, housekeeper, and overseer of the whole
place. And while you must, of course, exercise your authority and demand
respect, yet at the same time you will find it necessary to defer to her
judgment and experience on many occasions."

"I know it, Aunt Alice," said Patty very earnestly; "and I do want to do
what is right. I want to be the head of papa's home, and yet there are a
great many things that my servants will know more about than I do. I
shall have to be very careful about my proportion; but if you and papa
will help me, I think I'll come out all right."

"I think you will," said Aunt Alice, but she smiled a little at the
assured toss of her niece's head.

The Intelligence Office proved to be as much misnamed as those
institutions usually are, and varying degrees of unintelligence were
shown in the candidates offered for the position of cook at Boxley Hall;
though, if the applicants seemed unsatisfactory to Patty, in many cases
she was no less so to them.

One tall, rawboned Irishwoman seemed hopefully good-tempered and capable,
but when she discovered that Patty was to be her mistress, instead of
Mrs. Elliott, as she had supposed, she exclaimed:

"Go 'way wid yez! Wud I be workin' for the likes of a child like that?
No, mum, I ain't no nurse; I'm a cook, and I want a mistress as has got
past playing wid dolls."

"I hope you'll find one," said Patty politely; "and I'm afraid we
wouldn't suit each other."

Another Irish girl, with a merry rosy face and frizzled blonde hair, was
very anxious to go to work for Patty.

"Sure, it will be fun!" she said. "I'd like to work for such a pretty
little lady; and, sure, we'd have the good times. Could I have all me
afternoons out, miss?"

"Not if you lived with me," said Patty, laughing. "My house is large,
and there's a great deal of work to be done by somebody. I think my cook
couldn't do her share if she went out every afternoon."

Many others were interviewed, but each seemed to have more or less
objectionable traits. One would not come unless she were the only
servant; another would not come unless Patty kept five. Most of them
showed such a decided lack of respect to so young a mistress that Aunt
Alice began to despair of finding the kind, capable woman she had
imagined. They went home feeling rather discouraged, but when Patty told
her troubles to her father, he only laughed.

"Bless your heart, child," he said; "you couldn't expect to engage a
whole cook in one afternoon! It's a long and serious process."

"But, papa, you said we'd be all settled and ready by the first of
January."

"Yes, I know, but I didn't say which January."

"Now, you're teasing," said Patty; but she ran away with a light heart,
feeling sure that somehow a cook would be provided.

That evening, according to appointment, Pansy Potts appeared for
inspection. The whole Elliott family was present, and observed with much
interest the strange-looking girl.

But, though ignorant and awkward, Pansy was not embarrassed, and, seeming
to realise that her fate lay in the hands of Mrs. Elliott, Mr. Fairfield,
and Patty, she addressed herself to them.

Her manner, though untrained, showed respectful deference, and her
expressive black eyes showed quick perception and clever adaptability.

"She is all right at heart," thought Mr. Fairfield to himself, "but she
knows next to nothing. I wonder if it would be a good plan to let the two
girls help each other out."

"Have you ever waited at table, Pansy?" he asked, so pleasantly that
Pansy Potts felt encouragement rather than alarm.

"No, sir; but I could learn, and I would do exactly as I was told."

"That's the right spirit," said Mr. Fairfield "I think perhaps we'll
have to give you a trial."

"But don't you know anything of a housemaid's duties?" inquired Aunt
Alice, who was a little dubious in the face of such absolute ignorance.
"For instance, if the door-bell should ring, what would you do?"

"I would have asked Miss Patty beforehand, ma'am, and I would do whatever
she had told me to."

"Good enough!" exclaimed Mr. Fairfield. "I think you'll do, Pansy; at any
rate, you'll have nothing to unlearn, and that's a great deal."

So the waitress was engaged, and it was not long after this that a cook
"dropped from the skies," as Patty expressed it.

One afternoon a large and amiable-looking coloured woman appeared at Mrs.
Elliott's house, with a note from Mrs. Stevens recommending her as a cook
for Patty. As soon as Patty saw her she liked her, but, remembering
previous experiences, she said:

"Do you understand that you are to work for me? I'm a very young
housekeeper, you know."

"Laws, missy, dat's all right. Til do de housekeepin' and you can do de
bossin'. I reckon we'll get along mos' beautiful."

"That sounds attractive, I'm sure," said Patty, laughing. "What is
your name?"

"Emancipation Proclamation Jackson," announced the owner of the
name proudly.

"That's a big name," said Patty; "I couldn't call you all that at once."

"Co'se I shouldn't expect it. Mancy, mos' folks calls me, and dat's good
enough for me; but I likes my name, my whole name, and it does look
beautiful, wrote."

"I should think it might," said Aunt Alice. "Can you cook, Mancy?"

"Oh, yas'm, I kin cook everything what there is to cook, and I can make
things besides. Oh, they won't be no trouble about my cookin'. I know
dat much!"

"Are you a good laundress?" asked Aunt Alice.

"Yas'm, I am! Ef I do say it dat shouldn't, you jes' ought to see de
clothes I sends up! Dey's jes' like druvven snow. Oh, dey won't be no
trouble about de laundry work!"

"And can you sweep?" said Patty.

"Can I sweep? Law, chile, co'se I kin sweep! What yo' s'pose I want to
hire out for, ef I can't do all dem things? Oh, dey won't be no trouble
about sweepin'!"

"Well, where _will_ the trouble be, Mancy?" said Patty.

"Dey moughtn't be any trouble, miss," said the black woman earnestly;
"but if dey is, it'll be 'count o' my bein' spoke cross to. I jes'
nachelly can't stand bein' spoke cross to. It riles me all up."

"I don't believe there will be any trouble on that score," said Patty,
laughing. "My father and I are the best-natured people in the world."

"I believe yo', missy; an' dat's why I wants to come."

"There will be another servant, Mancy," said Aunt Alice; "a young girl
who will be a waitress. She is ignorant and inexperienced, but Very
willing to learn. Do you think you could get along with her?"

"Is she good-natured?" asked Mancy.

"I don't know her very well," said Patty; "but I think she is. I'm sure
she will be, if we are."

"Den dat's all right," said Mancy. "I kin look after you two chilluns, I
'spect, and get my work done, too. When shall I come?"

"The house isn't quite ready yet," said Patty; "but I hope to go there
to live on New Year's day."

"I think we'd be glad of Mancy's help a few days before that," said
Aunt Alice.

And so, subject to Mr. Fairfield's final sanction, Mancy was engaged. And
now Patty's whole establishment, including Pudgy the cat, was made up.




CHAPTER VII

DIFFERING TASTES


A few days before the close of the old year, Patty sat at her desk in the
library of Boxley Hall.

She was making lists of good things to be ordered for the feast on
New Year's day; and, as it was her first unaided experience with
such memoranda, she wore an air of great importance and a deeply
puckered brow.

Mancy, with her arms comfortably akimbo, stood before her young mistress
ready to suggest, but tactfully chary of advice.

They were not yet living in the new home, but all the furniture was in
place, the furnace fire had been started, and the palms arranged in the
little conservatory.

So Patty spent most of her time there, and some of the Elliotts were
usually there with her.

But this morning she was alone with Mancy, struggling with the
all-important lists.

"I'll make the salad myself," she remarked, as she wrote "olive oil" on
her slip of paper.

"Yas'm," answered Mancy, rolling her eyes with an expression of dubious
approval. "Does yo' know how, missy?"

"Oh, yes," said Patty confidently; "I can make most beautiful salad
dressing. Only it does take quite a long time, and I shall have a lot to
do Thursday morning. Perhaps I'd better leave it to you this time, Mancy.
Can you make it?"

"Laws, yes, honey; and yo'd better leave it to me. Yo'll have enough to
do with yo' flowers and fixin's, and dressin' yourself up pretty. I'll
'tend to the food."

"Well, all right, Mancy; I wish you would. And, now, just help me with
this list. I'll read it to you, and see if you think of anything that
I've forgotten."

"Yas'm," said Mancy, who was most anxious to help, but who had already
learned that Patty was a little inclined to resent unasked advice.

They were deep in the fascinating bewilderments of grocers' and
greengrocers' wares, when Pansy Potts appeared in the doorway.

"Miss Patty," she said, "I've done all the things you told me to do; and
I watered the palms, and I've poked around that bunchy rosebush, but I'm
'most sure it's going to die; and now, if you please, when can I be let
to fix up my own room?"

"Sure enough, Pansy," said Patty; "we must get at that room of yours, and
we'll fix it up as pretty as we can."

"Mine, too," said Mancy; "I wants my room fixed up nice. I fetched a lot
of pictures to liven it up some, but I reckon I ain't got no time to put
'em up to-day."

"Oh, yes, you have, Mancy," said Patty, rising; "and, anyway, we'll go
right up and look at those rooms; then I can tell what we need to get
for them."

"Mine won't need anything," said Pansy, "except what's in it already,
and what I've got to put in it myself. I brought my decorations over
this morning."

"Oh, you did?" said Patty. "Well, bring them along, and we'll all go
upstairs together."

"I'll get mine, too," said Mancy, shuffling toward the kitchen.

The servants' rooms were in the third story. They had been freshly
papered and neatly and appropriately furnished, though Patty had not, as
yet, added any pictures or ornaments.

And, apparently, she would have no occasion to do so; for, as she went up
to these rooms, she was immediately followed by their future occupants,
each of whom came with her arms full of what looked like the most
worthless rubbish.

"What _is_ all that stuff, Pansy?" exclaimed Patty, as she beheld her
young waitress fairly staggering under her load.

"They're lovely things, Miss Patty, and I hope you don't mind. This is a
hornet's nest, and this is a branch of an apple tree, with a swing-bird's
nest on it."

"A branch! It's a big limb,--a bough, I should call it. What _are_ you
going to do with it?"

"I thought I'd put it on the wall, Miss Patty. It makes the room look
outdoorsy."

"It does, indeed! Put it up, if you like; but will you have room then to
get in yourself?"

"Oh, yes," said Pansy cheerfully; "and I've got a big tub over home that
I want to bring; it has an orange tree planted in it."

"With oranges on?"

"Oh, no, not oranges; indeed, it hasn't any leaves on, but I think maybe
they'll come."

"It must be beautiful!" said Patty. "But if it hasn't any leaves on, it's
probably dead."

"Oh, no, Miss Patty, it isn't dead; and it had leaves a-plenty, but my
little brother he picked the leaves all off. That's one reason I wanted
to come here, so's to get my orange tree away from Jack."

"Well, bring it along," said Patty good-naturedly. "What else are you
going to have? A grape-vine, I suppose, trained over the headboard of
your bed."

"No, Miss Patty, I haven't got no grapevine, but I've got a
wandering-jew-vine in a pot, that I want to set on the mantel."

"All right," said Patty, "bring your wandering-jew, and let him wander
wherever he likes. You'll have to keep your door shut, or he'll wander
out and run downstairs. What's in that bag?"

"Rocks, Miss Patty."

"Rocks? What in the world are you going to do with those?"

"I'm going to make a rockery, ma'am, by the window. They're just
beautiful. Miss Powers has one in her parlour, and I always wanted one,
but mother wouldn't let me have it, 'cause she says it clutters."

"But, what is it?" said Patty. "How do you make it?"

"Oh, you just pile the stones up in a heap, and you stick dried grasses,
and autumn leaves and things, in them; and, if ever you have any flowers,
you know, you stick them in, too."

"I see; it must be very effective; and sometimes I can give you flowers
for it, I'm sure."

"Thank you, Miss Patty; I hope you will. Oh, I'll be so glad to have it;
I've been saving these stones for it for years. You see, they're
beautiful stones."

Pansy Potts was on her knees arranging the stones, many of which were
jagged pieces of quartz shining here and there with mica scales, into a
symmetrical pile, which somehow had the effect of a Pagan altar.

"Well," said Patty, as she watched her, "I don't think you'll need any of
the decorations I expected to give you."

"Oh, Miss Patty," said Pansy earnestly, "please don't make me have
pictures, and pincushions, and vases, and all those things; I like my own
things so much better."

"You shall fix your room just as you choose," said Patty kindly; "and if
I can help you in any way, I'll be glad to do so. How are _you_
progressing, Mancy?"

Patty stepped across the hall to her cook's room, and found its stout
occupant rather precariously perched on a chair, tacking up a picture.
She had evidently improved her time, for many other pictures were already
in place, and, what is unusual in either a public or private art-gallery,
the pictures were all exactly alike. They were large, very highly
coloured, unframed, and, in fact, were nothing more or less than
advertisements of a popular soap. The subject was a broadly-grinning old
coloured woman, washing clothes, that were already snow-white, in a sea
of soapsuds.

"For goodness' sake, Mancy!" exclaimed Patty. "Who said you might drive
tacks all over these new walls, and where did you get all those pictures
of yourself?"

"They does favour me, don't they, missy?" exclaimed Mancy, beaming with
delight, as she took another tack from her mouth, and pounded it into
place. "I got 'em from de grocer man, and co'se I has to tack 'em, else
how would dey stay up?"

"But you have so many of them."

"Laws, chile, only a dozen; youse got mo'n that on the libr'y wall."

"But ours are different; these are all alike."

"Co'se dey's all alike! I des nachelly gets tired of lookin' at different
pitchers. It 'stracts my head."

"I should think these would distract your head. I feel as if I were in a
kinetoscope."

"Does that mean art-gal'ry?"

"Not exactly; but tell me, Mancy, did you get all these pictures because
they looked like you? And was the grocer willing to give you so many?"

"Yas'm. But I 'spects I'll hab to confess a little about dat, Miss Patty.
You see, I dun tole him I was gwine t' work for yo', and dat's huccome he
guv 'em to me."

"That's all right, Mancy. After he gets that long order we made out this
morning, I'm sure he'll feel he was justified in favouring us; but get
down out of that chair. In the first place, you'll fall and break your
neck, and if you don't, you'll break the chair. Get down, and I'll tack
up the rest of your pictures."

"Thank you, missy, do; and I'll hand you the tacks. There's only six
more, anyhow. I 'llowed to have three over the mantel, and two over that
window, and one behind the door."

"But you can't see it; that door is usually open."

"No'm; but I'll know it's there jes' the same."

"All right; here goes, then," and soon Patty had the rest of the gaudy
lithographs tacked into their designated places.

"Now, Mancy," she said, as she jumped down from the chair for the last
time, "you don't want any other pictures, do you? It would interfere with
the artistic unities to introduce any other school."

"Laws 'a' massy, chile; I don't want to go to school! Miss Patty,
sometimes you does cert'nly talk like a Choctaw Injun. Leastways, _I_
can't understand you."

"It doesn't really matter," said Patty, "and we're even, anyway; for I
can't understand why _you_ want those fearful posters in your room,
instead of the nice little pictures I had planned to give you."

"Oh, yes; I knows yo' nice little pictures! with a narrow black ban',
jes' about the size ob a sheet of mo'nin' paper! No, thank you, missy,
no black-bordered envelopes hanging on my wall! Give me good reds and
yallers and blues; the kind you can hear with yo' eyes shut. That is,
ef yo' don't mind, missy. Ef yo' does, I'll take 'em all right
slam-bang down."

"No, no, Mancy; it's all right. In your own room I want you to have just
exactly what you want, and nothing else. Now, let's go and see how
Pansy's getting along."

The rockery was completed, and was a most imposing structure. Wheat ears
and dried oats were sticking out from between the stones, and pressed
autumn leaves added a touch of colour. At the base of the rockery were a
large pink-lined conch-shell and several smaller shells. On the walls
were various branches of different species of vegetation; among others a
tangle of twigs of the cotton plant, from which depended numerous bolls.

Pansy was struggling with a lot of evergreen boughs, which she was trying
to crowd into a strange-looking receptacle.

"How do you like it, Miss Patty?" she asked, as Patty stood in the
doorway and gazed in.

"I like it very much, for you, Pansy," replied Patty. "If this is the
kind of room you want, I'm very glad for you to have it; only, I don't
know whether to call it 'First Course in Mineralogy,' or 'How to Tell the
Wild Flowers,'"




CHAPTER VIII

AN UNATTAINED AMBITION


To say that Boxley Hall was in readiness for the party would be stating
it very mildly. It was overflowing,--yes, fairly bursting with readiness.

New Year's day was on Thursday, and Patty had decreed that on that day
none of the Elliotts should go to Boxley Hall until they came as guests.

Dinner was to be at two o'clock, and in the morning Patty and her father
went over to their new home together.

"Just think, papa," said Patty, squeezing his hand as they went along,
"how many times we have walked--and run, too, for that matter--from Aunt
Alice's over to our house; but this time it's different. We're going to
stay, to live, really to _reside_ in our own home; and whenever we go to
Aunt Alice's again, it will be to visit or to call. Oh, isn't it
perfectly lovely! If I can only live up to it, and do things just as you
want me to."

"Don't take it too seriously, Pattikins; I don't expect you to become an
old and experienced housewife all at once. And I don't want you to wear
yourself out trying to become such a personage. Indeed, I shall be
terribly disappointed if you don't make ridiculous mistakes, and give me
some opportunity to laugh at you."

"You are the dearest thing, papa; that's just the way I want you to feel
about it; and I think I can safely promise to make enough blunders to
keep you giggling a good portion of the time."

"Oh, don't go out of your way to furnish me with amusement. And now, how
about your party to-day? Is everything in tip-top order?"

"Yes, except a few thousand things that I have to do this morning, and a
few hundred that I want you to do."

"I shall see to it, first, that the carving-knife is well sharpened. It's
the first time that I have carved at my own table for a great many years,
and I want the performance to be marked by grace and skill."

"It will be, if you do it, papa; I'm sure of that," and by this time they
had reached the gate, and Patty was skipping along the path and up the
steps, and into the door of her own home.

Mancy and Pansy Potts were already there, and, to a casual observer, it
looked as if there was nothing more to do except to admit the guests.

Patty had set the table the day before, and, to the awestruck admiration
of Pansy Potts, had arranged the beautiful new glass and china with most
satisfactory effects. Pansy had watched the proceedings with intelligent
scrutiny and, when it was finished, had told Patty that the next time she
would be able to do it herself.

"You'll have a chance to try," Patty had answered, "for in the evening
we'll have supper, and you may set the table all by yourself; and I'll
come out and look it over to make sure it's all right."

But, as Patty had said, there was yet much to be done on Thursday
morning, even though there were eight hands to make the work light.

Boxes of flowers had arrived from the florist's, and these had to be
arranged in the various rooms; also, a few potted plants in full bloom
had come for the conservatory, and these so delighted the soul of Pansy
Potts that Patty feared the girl would spend the whole day nursing them.

"Come, Pansy," she called; "let them grow by themselves for a while; I
want your help in the kitchen."

"But, oh, Miss Patty, they're daisies! Real white daisies, with
yellow centres!"

"Well, they'll still be daisies to-morrow, and you'll have more time to
admire them then."

Patty's ambitions in the culinary line ran to the fanciful and elaborate
confections which were pictured in the cook-books and in the household
periodicals; especially did she incline toward marvellous desserts which
called for spun sugar, and syllabubs, and rare sweetmeats, and patent
freezing processes.

For her New Year's dinner party she had decided to try the most
complicated recipe of all, and, moreover, intended to surprise
everybody with it.

Warning her father to keep out of the kitchen on pain of excommunication,
she rolled up her sleeves and tied on a white apron; and with her open
book on the table before her, began her proceedings.

Pansy Potts was set to whipping cream with a new-fangled syllabub-churn,
and Mancy was requested to blanch some almonds and pound them to a paste
in a very new and very large mortar.

Though the good-natured Mancy was more than willing to help her young
mistress through what threatened to be somewhat troubled waters, yet she
had the more substantial portions of the dinner to prepare, and there was
none too much time.

As Patty went on with her work, difficulties of all sorts presented
themselves. The cream wouldn't whip, but remained exasperatingly fluid;
the sugar refused to "spin a thread," and obstinately crystallised
itself into a hard crust; the almonds persisted in becoming a lumpy mass,
instead of a smooth paste; and the gelatine, as Patty despairingly
remarked, "acted like all possessed!"

But, having attempted the thing, she was bound to carry it through,
though it was with some misgivings that she finally poured a queer and
sticky-looking substance into the patent freezer.

Pansy Potts had declared herself quite able to accomplish the freezing
process; but, as she was about to begin, she announced in tragic tones
that the extra ice hadn't come.

"Oh!" exclaimed Patty, in desperation, "everything seems to go wrong
about that dessert! Well, Pansy, you use what ice there is, and I'll
telephone for some more, right away."

But when Patty called up the ice company she found that their office was
closed for the day, and, hanging up the receiver with an angry little
jerk, she turned to find her father smiling at her.

"I see you have begun to amuse me," he said; "but never mind about my
entertainment now, Puss; run away and get dressed, or you won't be ready
to receive your guests. It's half-past one now."

"Oh, papa, is it so late? And I have to get into that new frock!"

"Well, scuttle along, then, and make all the haste you can."

Patty scuttled, but during the process of making all the haste she could,
she very nearly lost her temper.

The new white frock was complicated; the broad white hair-ribbons were
difficult to tie; and, as it was the first time that she had made a
toilette in her new home, it is not at all surprising that many useful or
indispensable little articles were missing.

"Pansy," she called, as she heard the girl in the dining-room, "do, for
mercy's sake, come up and help me. I can't find my shoe-buttoner, and I
can't button the yoke of this crazy dress without it."

Pansy came to the rescue, and just as the Elliott family came in at the
front gate, Patty completely attired, but very flushed and breathless
from her rapid exertions--flew downstairs and tucked her arm through her
father's, as he stood in the hall.

"I'm here," she said demurely, and trying to speak calmly.

"Oh, so you are," he said. "I thought a white cashmere whirlwind had
struck me. I _hope_ you didn't hurry yourself."

"Oh, no!" said Patty, meeting his merry smile with another. "I just
dawdled through my dressing to kill time."

"Yes, you look so," said her father, and just then the doorbell rang.

"Oh, papa," cried Patty, her eyes dancing with excitement, "_isn't_ it
just grand! That's the first ring at our own doorbell, our _own_
doorbell, you know; and hasn't it a musical ring? And now it will be
answered by our own Pansy."

Without a trace of the hurry and fluster that had so affected her young
mistress, Pansy Potts, in neat white cap and apron, opened the door to
the guests.

Patty nudged her father's arm in glee, as they noted the correct
demeanour of their own waitress, and then all such considerations were
drowned in the outburst of enthusiasm that accompanied the entrance of
the Elliotts. The younger members of the family announced themselves with
wild war-whoops of delight, and the older ones, though less noisy, were
no less enthusiastic.

"I like Cousin Patty's house," announced Gilbert, sitting down in the
middle of the floor. "I will stay here always. Where is the Pudgy
kitty-cat?"

"I'll get her for you, right away," said Patty. "She is fatter than ever;
but, first, let me make grandma comfortable."

Taking Mrs. Elliott's bonnet and wraps, Patty led the old lady to a large
easy-chair, and announced that she must sit there for a few moments and
rest, before she made a tour of inspection around the house.

Grandma Elliott had not been allowed in the new house while it was being
arranged, lest she should take cold, and so to-day it burst upon her in
all its glory. By this time Frank and Marian were investigating the
conservatory, and little Edith was announcing that Cousin Patty had a
"Crimson Gambler."

"She means Crimson Rambler!" exclaimed Patty; "or, as Pansy calls it,
'that bunchy rosebush.'"

Although the guests had been invited to a two-o'clock dinner, yet when
the clock hands pointed to nearly three, the meal had not been announced.

There was so much to be talked about that the time did not drag, but Aunt
Alice looked at Patty a little curiously.

Patty caught the glance, and excusing herself, went out into the kitchen.

"Mancy!" she exclaimed; "it's almost three o'clock. Why don't you
have dinner?"

"Well, honey, yo' took so much of my time mashin' your old nuts dat my
work got put behind. Dinner'll come on after a while; it's mos' ready."

Patty went back to the parlour, laughing.

"If anybody can hurry up Mancy," she said, "they're welcome to try it. I
didn't realise it was so late, and I'm awfully sorry; but I guess we'll
have dinner pretty soon, now."

"Don't be sorry we're going to have it soon," said Frank; "none of the
rest of us are, I assure you."

Although served about an hour late, the dinner was a great success.
It had been carefully planned; Mancy's cooking was beyond reproach,
and Pansy Potts proved a neat-handed and quick-witted, if
inexperienced, Phyllis.

Encouraged by the general excellence of the courses, as they succeeded
one another, Patty began to hope that her gorgeous dessert would turn out
all right after all.

Seated at the head of her own table, she made a charming little hostess,
and many a glance of happy understanding passed between her and the
gentleman who presided at the other end.

"I say, Patty, it's right down jolly, you having a house of your own,"
said Frank.

"Except that we miss you awfully over home," added Uncle Charley.

"I don't see how you can," said Patty, smiling; "as I took breakfast
there this morning, you haven't yet gathered round your lonely board
without me."

"No, but we shall have to," said Uncle Charley, "and it is that which is
breaking my young heart."

"Well, _this_ is what's breaking _my_ young heart," said Patty, as she
watched Pansy Potts, who was just entering the room with a dish
containing a most unattractive-looking failure.

"I may as well own up," she said bravely, as the dessert was placed in
front of her. "My ambition was greater than my ability."

"Don't say another word," said Aunt Alice. "_I_ understand; those
spun-sugar things are monuments of total depravity."

Patty gave her aunt a grateful glance, and said, "They certainly are,
Aunt Alice; and I'll never attempt one again until I've made myself
perfect by long practice."

"Good for you, my Irish Pat," said Frank; "but, do you know, I like them
better this way. There's an attraction about that general conglomeration
that appeals to me more strongly than those over-neat concoctions that
look as if they had sat in a caterer's window for weeks."

But, notwithstanding Frank's complimentary impulses, the dessert proved
uneatable, and had to be replaced with crackers and cheese and fruit
and bonbons.




CHAPTER IX

A CALLER


It was quite late in the evening before the Elliotts left Boxley Hall;
but after they had gone, Patty and her father still lingered in the
library for a bit of cosey chat.

"Isn't it lovely," said Patty, with a little sigh of extreme content, "to
sit down in our own library, and talk over our own party? And, by the
way, papa, how do you like our library; is it all your fancy painted it?"

"Yes," said Mr. Fairfield, looking around critically, "the library is all
right; but, of course, as yet it is young and inexperienced. It remains
for us to train it up in the way it should go; and I feel sure, under our
ministrations and loving care, it will grow better as it grows older."

"We've certainly got good material to work on," said Patty, giving a
satisfied glance around the pretty room. "And now, Mr. Man, tell me what
you think of our first effort at hospitality? How did the dinner party go
off today?"

"It went off with flying colours, and you certainly deserve a great deal
of credit for your very successful first appearance as a hostess. Of
course, if one were disposed to be critical--"

"One would say that one's elaborate dessert--"

"Was a very successful imitation of a complete failure," interrupted Mr.
Fairfield, laughing. "And this is where I shall take an opportunity to
point a moral. It is not good proportion to undertake a difficult and
complicated recipe for the first time, when you are expecting guests."

"No, I know it," said Patty; "and yet, papa, you wouldn't expect me to
have that gorgeous French mess for dinner when we're all alone, would
you? And so, when could we have it?"

"Your implication does seem to bar the beautiful confection from our
table entirely; and yet, do you know, it wouldn't alarm me a bit to have
that dessert attack us some night when you and I are at dinner quite
alone and unprotected."

"All right, papa, we'll have it, and I'm sure, after another trial, I can
make it just as it should be made."

"Don't be too sure, my child. Self-confidence is a good thing in its
place, but self-assurance is a quality not nearly so attractive. I think,
Patty, girl," and here Mr. Fairfield put his arm around his daughter and
looked very kindly into her eyes; "I think every New Year's day I shall
give you a bit of good advice by way of correcting whatever seems to me,
at the time, to be your besetting sin."

Patty smiled back at her father with loving confidence.

"But if you only reform me at the rate of one sin per year, it will be a
long while before I become a good girl," she said.

"You're a good girl, now," said her father, patting her head. "You're
really a very good girl for your age, and if I correct your faults at the
rate of one a year, I don't think I can keep up with the performance for
very many years. But, seriously, Pattikins, what I want to speak to you
about now is your apparent inclination toward a certain kind of filigree
elaborateness, which is out of proportion to our simple mode of living. I
have noticed that you have a decided admiration for appointments and
services that are only appropriate in houses run on a really magnificent
scale; where the corps of servants includes a butler and other trained
functionaries. Now, you know, my child, that with your present retinue
you cannot achieve startling effects in the way of household glories. Am
I making myself clear?"

"Well, you're not so awfully clear; but I gather that you thought that
ridiculous pudding I tried to make was out of proportion to Pansy Potts
as waitress."

"You have grasped my meaning wonderfully well," said her father; "but it
was not only the pudding I had in mind, but several ambitious attempts at
an over-display of grandeur and elegance."

"Well, but, papa, I like to have things nice."

"Yes, but be careful not to have them more nice than wise. However,
there is no necessity for dwelling on this subject. I see you understand
what I mean; and I know, now that I have called your attention to it,
your own sense of proportion will guide you right, if you remember to
follow its dictates."

"But do you imagine," said Patty roguishly, "that such a mild scolding as
that is going to do a hardened reprobate like me any good?"

"Yes," said her father decidedly, "I think it will."

"So do I," said Patty.

Next morning at breakfast Patty could scarcely eat, so enthusiastic was
she over the delightful sensation of breakfasting alone with her father
in their own dining-room.

Very carefully she poured his coffee for him, and very carefully Pansy
Potts carried the cup to its destination.

"I didn't ask Marian to stay last night," slid Patty, "because I wanted
our first night and our first breakfast all alone by ourselves."

"You're a sentimental little puss," said her father.

"Yes, I think I am," said Patty. "Do you mind?"

"Not at all; if you keep your sentiment in its proper place, and don't
let it interfere with the somewhat prosaic duties that have of late come
into your life."

"Gracious goodness' sakes!" said Patty; "that reminds me. What shall I
order from the butcher this morning?"

"Don't ask me," said Mr. Fairfield. "I object to being implicated in
matters so entirely outside my own domain."

"Oh, certainly," said Patty; "that's all right. I beg your pardon,
I'm sure. And don't feel alarmed; I'll promise you shall have a
tip-top dinner."

"I've no doubt of it, and now good-bye, Baby, I must be off to catch my
train. Don't get lonesome; have a good time; and forget that your father
scolded you."

"As if I minded that little feathery scolding! Come home early, and bring
me something nice from the city. Good-bye."

Left to herself, Patty began to keep house with great diligence. She
planned the meals for the day, made out orders for market, gave the
flowers in the vases fresh water, and looking in at the conservatory, she
found Pansy Potts digging around the potted daisies with a hairpin.

"Pansy," she said kindly, "I'm glad to have you take care of the flowers;
but you mustn't spend all your time in here. Have you straightened up in
the dining-room yet?"

"No, ma'am," said Pansy; "but these little daisies cried so loud to be
looked after that I just couldn't neglect them another minute. See how
they laugh when I tickle up the dirt around their toes."

"That's all very well, Pansy," said Patty, laughing herself; "but I want
you to do your work properly and at the right time; now leave the daisies
until the dining-room and bedrooms are all in order."

"Yes, Miss Patty," said Pansy, and, though she cast a lingering farewell
glance at the beloved posies, she went cheerfully about her duties.

"Now," thought Pansy, "I'll telephone to Marian to come over this
afternoon and stay to dinner, and stay all night; then we can arrange
about having the Tea Club to-morrow. Why, there's the doorbell; perhaps
that's Marian now. I don't know who else it could be, I'm sure."

In a few moments Pansy Potts appeared, and offered Patty a card on a very
new and very shiny tray.

"For goodness' sake, who is it, Pansy?" asked Patty, reading the card,
which only said, "Miss Rachel Daggett."

"I don't know, Miss Patty, I'm sure. She asked for you, and I said you'd
go right down."

"Very well; I will," said Patty.

A glance in the mirror showed a crisp fresh shirt-waist, and neatly
brushed hair, so Patty ran down to the library to welcome her guest.

The guest proved to be a large, tall, and altogether impressive-looking
lady, who spoke with a great deal of firmness and decision.

"I am Miss Daggett," she said, "and I am your neighbour."

"Are you?" said Patty pleasantly. "I am very glad to meet you, and I
hope you will like me for a neighbour."

"I don't know whether I shall or not," said Miss Daggett; "it depends
entirely on how you behave."

Although Patty was extremely good-natured, she couldn't help feeling a
little inclined to resent the tone taken by her guest, and she returned
rather crisply:

"I shall try to behave as a lady and a neighbour."

"Humph!" said Miss Daggett. "You're promising a good deal. If you
accomplish what you've mentioned, I shall consider you the best neighbour
I've ever experienced in my life."

Patty began to think her strange guest was eccentric rather than
impolite, and began to take a fancy to the somewhat brusque visitor.

"I live next-door," said Miss Daggett, "and I am by no means social in my
habits. Indeed, I prefer to let my neighbours alone; and I am not in the
habit of asking them to call upon me."

"I will do just as you like," said Patty politely; "call upon you or
not. It is not my habit to call on people who do not care to see me. But,
on the other hand, I shall be happy to call upon such of my neighbours as
ask me to do so."

"Oh, people don't have to call upon each other merely because they are
neighbours," said Miss Daggett; "and that's why I came in here to-day, to
let you understand my ideas on this matter. I have lived next-door to
this house for many years, and I have never cared to associate with the
people who have lived in it. I have no reason to think that you will
prove of any more interest to me that any of the others who have lived
here. Indeed, I have reason to believe that you will prove of less
interest to me, because you are so young and inexperienced that I feel
sure you will be a regular nuisance. And I would like you to understand
once for all, that you are not to come to me for advice or assistance
when you make absurd and ridiculous mistakes, as you're bound to do."

At first Patty had grown indignant at Miss Daggett's conversation, but
soon she felt rather amused at what was doubtless the idiosyncrasy of an
eccentric mind, and she answered:

"I will promise not to come to you for advice or warning, no matter how
much I may need assistance."

"That's right," said Miss Daggett very earnestly; "and remember, please,
that your cook is not to come over to my house to borrow anything; not
even eggs, butter, or lemons."

"I'll promise that, too," said Patty, trying not to laugh; though she
couldn't help thinking that her first caller was an extraordinary one.

"Well, you really behave quite well," said Miss Daggett; "I am very much
surprised at you. I came over here partly to warn you against interfering
with myself and my household, but also because I wanted to see what
you're like. I had heard that you were going to live in this house, and
that you were going to keep house yourself; and, though I was much
surprised that your father would let you do such a thing, yet I can't
help thinking that you're really quite sensible. Yet, I want you to
understand that you are not to borrow things from my kitchen."

"I am glad that you think I'm sensible," said Patty, looking earnestly at
her visitor, toward whom she felt somehow drawn in despite of her queer
manners. "And I'll promise not to borrow anything from you under any
circumstances."

"That is all right," said Miss Daggett, rising; "and that is all I came
to say to you. I will now go home, and if I ever feel that I want you to
return this call, I will let you know. Otherwise, please remember that I
do not care to have it returned."

Patty showed her guest to the door, and dismissed her with a polite
"Good-bye."

"Well!" she exclaimed to herself, as Miss Daggett walked out of the front
gate with an air of stalwart dignity. "That's a delightful specimen of a
caller, but I hope I won't have many more like that. She's a queer kind
of a neighbour, but somehow I rather think if I saw her more I should
like her better."




CHAPTER X

A PLEASANT EVENING


Marian came to dinner, and Frank came with her. As he announced when he
entered, he had had no invitation, but he said he did not hesitate on
that account.

"I should think not," said Patty. "I expect all the Elliott family to
live at my house, and only go home occasionally to visit."

So Frank proceeded to make himself at home, and when Mr. Fairfield
arrived a little later and dinner was served, it was a very merry party
of four that sat down to the table.

As Patty had promised her father, the dinner was excellent, and it
was with a pardonable pride that she dispensed the hospitality of her
own table.

"What's the dessert going to be, Patty?" asked Frank. "Nightingales'
tongues, I suppose, served on rose-leaves."

"Don't be rude, Frank," said his sister. "You're probably causing your
hostess great embarrassment."

"Not at all," said Patty; "I am now such an old, experienced housekeeper,
that I'm not disturbed by such insinuations. I'm sorry to disappoint you,
Frank, but the dessert is a very simple one. However, you are now about
to have a most marvellous concoction called 'Russian Salad.' I was a
little uncertain as to how it would turn out, so I thought I'd try it
tonight, as I knew my guests would be both good-natured and hungry."

"That's a combination of virtues that don't always go together," said Mr.
Fairfield. "I hope the young people appreciate the compliment. To be
good-natured and hungry at the same time implies a disposition little
short of angelic."

"So you see," said Marian, "you're not entertaining these angels
unawares."

"Bravo! pretty good for Mally," said Frank, applauding his sister's
speech. "And if I may be allowed to remark on such a delicate subject,
your salad is also pretty good, Patty."

"It's more than pretty good," said Marian. "It's a howling, screaming,
shouting success. I am endeavouring to find out what it's made of."

"You can't do it," said Mr. Fairfield. "I have tried, too; and it seems
to include everything that ever grew on the earth beneath, or in the
waters under the earth."

"Your guesses are not far out of the way," said Patty composedly. "I will
not attempt to deny that that complicated and exceedingly Frenchified
salad is concocted from certain remainders that were set away in the
refrigerator after yesterday's dinner."

"Who would have believed it?" exclaimed Frank, looking at his plate with
mock awe and reverence.

"Materials count for very little in a salad," said Marian, with a wise
and didactic air. "Its whole success depends on the way it is put
together."

"Now, that's a true compliment," said Patty; "and it is mine, for I made
this salad all myself."

After dinner they adjourned to the library, and the girls fell to making
plans for the Tea Club, which was to meet there next day.

"I do think," said Marian, "it's awfully mean of Helen Preston to insist
on having a bazaar. They're so old-fashioned and silly; and we could get
up some novel entertainment that would make just as much money, and be a
lot more fun besides."

"I know it," said Patty. "I just hate bazaars; with their everlasting
Rebeccas at the Well, and flower-girls, and fish-ponds, and gipsy-tents.
But, then, what could we have?"

"Why, there are two or three of those little acting shows that Elsie
Morris told us about. I think they would be a great deal nicer."

"What sort of acting shows are you talking about, my children; and what
is it all to be?" asked Mr. Fairfield, who was always interested in
Patty's plans.

"Why, papa, it's the Tea Club, you know; and we're going to have an
entertainment to make money for the Day Nursery--oh, you just ought to
see those cunning little babies! And they haven't room enough, or nurses
enough, or anything. And you know the Tea Club never has done any good in
the world; we've never done a thing but sit around and giggle; and so we
thought, if we could make a hundred dollars, wouldn't it be nice?"

"The hundred dollars would be very nice, indeed; but just how are you
going to make it? What's this about an acting play?"

"Oh, not a regular play,--just a sort of dialogue thing, you know; and
we'd have it in Library Hall, and Aunt Alice and a lot of her friends
would be patronesses."

"It would seem to me," said Frank, "that Miss Patty Fairfield, now
being an old and experienced housekeeper, could qualify as a
patroness herself."

"No, thank you," said Patty. "I'm housekeeper for my father, and in my
father's house, but to the great outside world I'm still a shy and
bashful young miss."

"You don't look the part," said Frank; "you ought to go around with your
finger in your mouth."

"Why didn't you tell me sooner?" said Patty. "I shall begin to cultivate
the habit at once."

"Do," said Marian; "I'm sure it would be becoming to you, but perhaps
hard on your gloves."

"Well, there's one thing certain," said Patty:

"I would really rather put my finger in my mouth than to crook out my
little finger in that absurd way that so many people do. Why, Florence
Douglass never lifts a cup of tea that she doesn't crook out her little
finger, and then think she's a very pattern of all that's elegant."

"I know it," said Marian. "I think it's horrid, too; it's nothing but
airs. I know lots of people who do it when they're all dressed up, but
who never think of such a thing when they are alone at home."

"I wonder what the real reason is?" said Patty thoughtfully.

"It is an announcement of refinement," said Mr. Fairfield, falling in
with his daughter's train of thought; "and, as we all know, the
refinement that needs to be announced is no refinement at all. We
therefore see that the conspicuously curved little finger is but an
advertisement of a specious and flimsy imitation of aristocracy."

"Papa, you certainly do know it all," said Patty. "I haven't any words by
me just now, long enough to answer you with, but I quite agree with you
in spirit."

"That's all very well," said Frank, "for a modern, twentieth-century
explanation, but the real root of the matter goes far back into the
obscure ages of antiquity. The whole habit is a relic of barbarism.
Probably, in the early ages, only the great had cups to drink from. These
few, to protect themselves from their envious and covetous brethren,
stuck out their little fingers to ward off possible assaults upon their
porcelain property. This ingrained impulse the ages have been unable to
eradicate. Hence we find the Little Finger Crooks upon the earth to-day."

"What an ingenious boy you are," said Patty, looking at her cousin with
mock admiration. "How did you ever think of all that?"

"That isn't ingenuity, miss, it's historic research, and you'll probably
find that Florence Douglass can trace her ancestry right back to the
aforesaid barbarians."

"I suppose most of us are descended from primitive people," said Marian.

And then the entrance of Elsie Morris and her brother Guy put an end to
the discussion of little fingers.

"I'm so glad to see you," said Patty, welcoming her callers. "Come right
into the library, you are our first real guests."

"Then I think we ought to have the Prize for Promptness," said Elsie, as
she took off her wraps. "But don't you count Frank and Marian?"

"Not as guests," replied Patty; "they're relatives, and you know your
relatives--"

"Are like the poor," interrupted Frank, "because they're always
with you."

"Then, we are really your first callers?" said Guy Morris.

"No, not quite," said Patty, laughing. "I spoke too hastily when I said
that, and forgot entirely a very distinguished personage who visited me
this morning."

"Who was it?"

"My next-door neighbour, Miss Daggett."

"What! Not Locky Ann Daggett!" exclaimed Elsie, laughing merrily.

"It was Miss Rachel Daggett. I don't know why you call her by that queer
name," said Patty.

"Oh, I've known her ever since I was a baby, and mother always calls her
Locky Ann Daggett, and grandmother did before her. You know Locky is a
nickname for Rachel."

"I didn't know it," said Patty. "What an absurd nickname."

"Yes, isn't it? How did you like her?"

"It isn't a question of liking," answered Patty. "She doesn't want me to
like her. All she seemed to care about was to have me promise not to
interfere with her."

"Oh, she's afraid of you," said Guy. "You don't seem so very terrifying,
now, but I suppose when you're engaged in the housekeeping of your house
you're an imposing and awe-inspiring sight."

"I dare say I am," said Patty; "but my neighbour, Miss Daggett, I'm sure,
would be imposing at any hour of the day or night."

"She's a queer character," said Elsie. "Have you never seen her before?"

"No; I never even heard of her until she sent up her card."

"Why, how funny," said Marian; "I've always heard of Locky Ann Daggett,
but I never knew anything about her, except that she's very old and
very queer."

"She's a sort of humourous character," said Guy Morris; "strong-minded,
you know, and eccentric, but not half bad. I quite like the old lady,
though I almost never see her."

"No; she doesn't seem to care to see people," said Patty. "She seems to
have no taste for society. Why, I don't suppose she'd care to take part
in our play, even if we invited her."

"Oh, what about the play?" said Elsie. "Have you really decided to have
a play, instead of that stupid old fair?"

"We haven't decided anything," said Patty, "we can't until the club meets
to-morrow."

"Oh, do have a play," said Frank, "and then us fellows can take part. We
couldn't do anything at a bazaar, except stand around and buy things."

"And we're chuck-full of histrionic talent," put in Guy. "You ought to
see me do Hamlet."

"Yes," said Frank, "Guy's Hamlet is quite the funniest thing on the face
of the earth. I do love comedy."

"So do I," said Guy, "I just love to play a side-splitting part
like Hamlet."

"Then you may have a chance," said Marian, "for one of the plays we're
thinking about--and it isn't exactly a play either--brings in a whole lot
of tragic characters in a humourous way. It's a general mix-up, you know:
Hamlet, and Sairy Gamp, and Rip Van Winkle, and Old Mother Hubbard, and
everybody."

"Yes, that's a good one," said Marian; "it's called 'Shakespeare at the
Seashore.'"

"The name is enough to condemn that piece," said Mr. Fairfield; "not one
of you can say it straight."

And sure enough, though numerous attempts were made, and much laughter
ensued, none entirely successful.




CHAPTER XI

PREPARATIONS


With the instincts of a true hostess, Patty had slipped from the room
unobserved, and had held a short Confab with her two trusty servitors in
the kitchen.

"But, Miss Patty," expostulated Mancy, "dey ain't nuffin' fit to set
befo' dem fren's ob yo's. Dey ain't nuffin' skacely in de house, ceptin'
some bits ob candies an' cakaroons le' from yo' las' night's supper."

"Well, that's all right," said Patty; "let Pansy arrange those nicely on
the dining-room table. Use the silver dishes, Pansy, and fix them just as
I told you."

"Yes, Miss Patty," said Pansy, "but there aren't very many left."

"Well, then, Mancy, I'll tell you what: you make us a nice pot of
chocolate, and fix us some thin bread and butter, and cut up some of the
fruit cake to put with those little fancy cakes; won't that do?"

"Yas'm, I spec' so; but it's a mighty slim layout, 'specially for dem
hearty young chaps. But you go 'long, honey, I'll fix it somehow."

And, sure enough, she did fix it somehow; for when, a little later, Patty
invited her young friends out into the dining-room, the thin bread and
butter had doubled itself up into most attractive and satisfying
chicken-sandwiches, and there was also a plate of delicious toasted
crackers and cheese.

Mr. Fairfield added a box of candy which he had brought home from New
York, and the unpretentious little feast proved most enjoyable to all
concerned.

"I should think you would feel all the time as if you were acting a play
yourself, Patty," said Elsie Morris, taking her seat at the prettily
laid table.

"I do," said Patty as she took her own place at the head; "it's awfully
hard to realise that I am monarch of all I survey."

"But you have someone to dispute your right," said her father.

"And I'm glad of it," said Patty. "Whatever should I do living here all
alone just with my rights?"

"By her rights, she means her cousins," put in Frank.

"Yes," said Patty; "they're about as right as anything I know."

And so the evening passed in merry chaff and good-natured fun; and at its
close the young guests all went away except Marian, who was going to
spend the night at Boxley Hall.

After her cousin had gone upstairs to her pretty blue bedroom, Patty
lingered a moment in the library for a word with her father.

"How am I getting along, papa?" she said. "How about the proportion
to-night?"

"The market seems pretty strong on proportion to-day, Patty, dear; your
housekeeping is beginning wonderfully well. That little dinner you gave
us was first-class in every respect, and the simple refreshments you had
this evening were very pretty and graceful."

"Don't praise me too much, papa, or I'll grow conceited."

"You'll get praise from me, my lady, just when you deserve it, and at no
other time. Now, skip along to bed, or you'll have too great a proportion
of late hours."

With a good-night kiss Patty went singing upstairs, feeling sure that she
was the happiest and most fortunate little girl in the world.

So impressed was she with her realisation of this fact that she announced
it to Marian.

Marian looked at her curiously.

"You _are_ fortunate in some ways," she said; "but the real reason
you're always so happy, I think, is because of your happy disposition. A
great many girls with no mother or brother or sister, who had all the
care and responsibility of a big house, and whose father was away all
day, would think they had a pretty miserable life. But that never seems
to occur to you."

"No," said Patty contentedly; "and I don't believe it ever will."

The next morning Patty devoted all her energy to getting ready for the
Tea Club. She declined Marian's offers of help, saying:

"No, I really don't need any help. If I can keep Pansy out of the
conservatory, we three can accomplish all there is to be done; so you go
and sit by the library fire, and toast your toes and read, or play with
the cat, or do whatever you please. Remember, whenever you come here,
you're one of the family."

So Marian went off by herself and played on the piano, and read, and had
various kinds of good times, scrupulously keeping out of the way of her
busy and preoccupied cousin.

"Now, Pansy," said Patty, as she captured that culprit in the
conservatory, and led her off to the kitchen, "I want you to try
especially hard to-day to do just as I want you to, and to help me in
every possible way."

"Can I fix the flowers, Miss Patty?" said Pansy Potts, her eyes sparkling
with delight.

"Where are there any flowers to fix? You've fussed over those in the
conservatory until you've nearly worn them all out."

"Oh, Miss Patty, they're thriving beautifully. But I mean that big box
of flowers that just came up from the flower man's. He said Mr.
Fairfield sent it."

"Oh!" exclaimed Patty, "did papa really send me up flowers for the Tea
Club? How perfectly lovely! I meant to order some myself, but I know his
will be nicer."

By this time Patty was diving into the big box and scattering tissue
paper all about.

"They're beautiful," she exclaimed, "and what lots of them! Yes, Pansy,
you may arrange them; you really do it better than I do. Keep all the
pink ones for the dining-room, and put the others wherever you like. Now,
Mancy," she went on, "we'll discuss what to eat."

"Yas'm, and I s'pose it'll be some ob dem highfalutin fandangoes ob yo's,
what nobody can't eat."

"You guessed right the very first time," said Patty, smiling back at
the good-natured old cook, whose bark was so much worse than her bite.
"You see, Mancy, this is my own party, and so I can have just what I
like at it. Not even papa can object to the things that I have for my
own Tea Club."

"Dat's so, chile, but co'se yo' knows you'se mighty likely to spoil dem
good t'ings befo' yo' get 'em made."

"Oh, I don't think I will this time," said Patty, with that assured
little toss of her head which always meant perfect confidence in her
own ability.

Mancy said nothing, but grunted somewhat doubtfully as Patty went on to
describe the beautiful things she intended to have.

"I want rissoles," she said, as she turned over the cookery-book, and
looked in the index for R. "They're awfully good."

"What's dem, missy? I never heard tell of 'em."

"I forget what they are," said Patty, "but we had them at Delmonico's one
day, when papa and I were there at lunch, and I remember thinking then
they'd be nice for the Tea Club. They were either some little kind of a
cake, or else a sort of croquette. Either would be nice, you know. Why,
they're not here. What a silly book not to have them in! Oh, well, never
mind, here's 'Richmond Maids of Honour.' We used to have those at Aunt
Isabel's, and they're the loveliest things. I'll make those, Mancy; and
while I'm doing it you make me some wine jelly and some Bavarian cream,
and then I can put them together with _marrons_ and candied cherries and
whipped cream and things, and make a Royal Diplomatic Pudding."

"'Pears like yo's makin' things fine enough for a weddin',"
growled Mancy.

"Well, now, look here, last night you thought the things I had for my
evening company were too plain, and now you're grumbling because they're
too fancy."

"Laws, honey, can't you see no diffunce 'tween plain bread and butter and
a lot of pernicketty gimcracks that never turns out right nohow?"

A haunting doubt regarding the proportion between her elaborate plans and
the simple Tea Club hovered round Patty's mind, but she resolutely put it
aside, thinking to herself, "I don't care, it's my first function, and
I'm going to have it just as nice as I can."

Patty always felt particularly grand and grown up when she used the word
_function_, and now that she had mentally applied it to the Tea Club
meeting, that simple affair seemed to take on a gigantic amplitude and
fairly seemed to cry out for elaborate devices of all sorts.

"Never you mind, Mancy," she said, "you just go ahead and do as I tell
you. Get the jelly and cream ready, and I'll do the rest."

"But ain't yo' gwine to have no solidstantial kind o' food?"

"Oh, yes, of course. I want a _croustade_ of chicken and
club-sandwiches."

"Humph," said Mancy, her patience giving out at this, "ef yo' does, yo'll
hab to talk English."

Patty laughed. "You must get used to these names, Mancy, because these
are the kind of things I like. Well, you just boil a couple of chickens,
and cut them up small, and see that there are two loaves of bread ready,
those long round, crimply ones, you know, and then I'll put it all
together and all you'll have to do is to brown it. And I'll show you how
to make the club-sandwiches after lunch. You might as well learn once for
all, you know. There's bacon in the house, isn't there?"

"No, dey ain't; is yo' fren's gwine stay ter breakfus'?"

"Oh, no, I'd want the bacon for the club-sandwiches. Don't worry, Mancy,
they'll all come out right."

"Dey mought and den again dey moughtn't," grumbled the old woman, but
undaunted Patty went on measuring and weighing with a surety of success
that is found only in the young and inexperienced.

At one o'clock Marian walked out into the kitchen.

"Good gracious, Patty Fairfield," she exclaimed, "what are you doing? And
what are all those things? Do you expect the Democratic Convention to be
entertained here, or are you going to give the Sunday-school a picnic?
And are we never to have lunch? I'm simply starving!"

Patty turned a flushed face to her cousin, and looked dazed and
bewildered.

"Two and five-eighths ounces of sugar," she said, "spun to a thread; add
chopped nuts and the well-beaten whites of six eggs; brown with a
salamander. Marian, I haven't any salamander!"

The tragic tone of Patty's awful avowal was too much for Marian, and she
dropped into a kitchen chair and went off into peals of laughter.

"Patty," she cried, "you goose! What are you doing? Just making up the
whole recipe-book, page by page? I believe you're crazy!"

"It's for the Tea Club," exclaimed Patty, "and I want things to be nice."

"H'm," said Marian, "and _are_ they nice?"

She glanced at some of the completed delicacies on the table, and Patty,
seeing the look, turned red again, but this time it was not the effect of
the kitchen range.

"Well," she said, "some of them aren't quite right, but I think the
others will be."

"And I think you're working too hard," said Marian kindly. "You come
away with me now, and rest a little bit; and, Mancy, you put a little
lunch for us on the dining-room table, won't you? Just anything will do,
you know."




CHAPTER XII

A TEA CLUB TEA


Patty rebelled at being overruled in this manner, but Marian had some
Fairfield firmness of her own, and taking her cousin's arm led her to the
library and plumped her down upon the couch in a reclining position,
while she vigorously jammed pillows under her head.

"There, miss," she announced, "you will please stay there until luncheon
is announced."

"But, Marian," pleaded Patty, seeing that resistance was useless, "I've
such a lot of things to do, and the girls will be here before I get them
all done."

"Let them come," said the hard-hearted Marian, "it won't hurt them a bit,
and you've got enough things done now to feed the Russian army."

"But they're not finished," said Patty, "and they'll spoil standing."

"You'll more likely spoil them by finishing them. Now you stay right
where you are."

So Patty rested, until Pansy came and called them to a most appetising
little lunch spread very simply on the dining-table.

The two hungry girls did full justice to it, and then Patty said:

"Now, Marian, you're a duck, and you mean well, I know; but this is my
house and my tea-party, and now you must clear out and leave me to fix it
up pretty in my own way."

"All right," said Marian, "I rescued you once, now this time I'll
leave you to your fate; but I'll give you fair warning that those Tea
Club girls would rather have a few nice little things like we had at
lunch, than all those ridiculous contraptions that you've got out
there half baked."

"Oh me, oh me!" sighed Patty, in mock despair. "Nobody appreciates me;
nobody realises or cares for my one great talent. I believe I'll go and
drown myself."

"Do," said Marian, "drown yourself in that tub of wine-jelly, for it
will never stiffen. I can tell that by looking at it."

"Bye, bye," said Patty, pushing Marian out of the dining-room, "run along
now, and take a little nap like a good little girl. Cousin Patty must set
the table all nice for the pretty ladies."

"Goose!" was the only comment Marian vouchsafed as she walked away.

Then Patty, with the assistance of Pansy Potts, proceeded to lay the
table. Elaborate decoration was her keynote and she kept well in tune.
Along the centre of the table over the damask cloth, she spread a rich
lace "runner" and over this, crossed bands of wide, pink, satin ribbon
ran the entire diagonal length of the table. In the centre was a large
cut-glass bowl of pink roses, and at each corner slender vases of a
single rose in each. Also single roses with long stems and leaves were
laid at intervals on the cloth. Asparagus fern was lavishly used, and
pink-shaded candles in silver candlesticks adorned the table. Small
silver dishes of almonds, olives, and confectionery were dotted about,
and finger-bowls with plates were set out on the side-table.

Certainly it was all very beautiful, and Patty surveyed it with feelings
of absolute satisfaction.

"We will have tea at five o'clock, Pansy," she said, "and just before
that, you light the candles and fill the glasses and see that everything
is ready."

"Yes, Miss Patty," said Pansy, who adored her young mistress, and who was
especially quick in learning to do exactly what was expected of her.

The afternoon was slipping away, and Patty suddenly discovered that she
had only time to get dressed before the girls would arrive.

So she announced to Mancy that she must finish up such things as were not
finished, and without waiting to hear the old woman's remarks of
disapproval, Patty ran up to her room.

There she found that Marian had kindly laid out her dress and ribbons for
her, and was ready to help do her hair.

"You're a good old thing, Marian," she said, as she dropped into a chair
in front of her toilet mirror, "I'm as tired as a bicycle wheel, and
besides, I do love to have somebody do my hair. Sometimes Pansy does it,
but to-day she's too busy."

"Taking days as they go," said Marian in an impersonal manner, "I don't
think I ever saw a more busy one than to-day has seemed to be. The Tea
Club does seem to make a most awful amount of fluster in a new house."

"Yes, it _is_ exacting, isn't it?" said Patty, who caught her cousin's
eye in the mirror and looked very demure, though she refused to smile.

"There are some of the girls coming in at the front gate now," said
Marian as she tied the big white bow on Patty's pretty, fluffy hair.
"Didn't I time this performance just right?"

"You did indeed," said Patty, and kissing her cousin, she ran gaily
downstairs.

How the Tea Club girls did chatter that afternoon! there was so much to
see and talk about in Patty's new home, and there were also other weighty
matters to be discussed.

The proposed entertainment was an engrossing subject, and as various
opinions were held, the arguments were lively and outspoken.

"You can talk all you like," said Helen Preston, "but you'll find that a
bazaar will be the most sensible thing after all. You're sure to make a
lot of money, and the boys will help, and we all know exactly what to do
and how to go about it."

"It may be sensible," said Laura Russell, "but it won't be a bit of fun.
Stupid, poky, old chestnut; nobody wants to come to buy things, they only
come because they think they have to. Now if we had a play--"

"Yes," said Elsie Morris, "a play would be the very nicest thing. I've
brought two books for us to look over. One's that Shakespeare thing, and
the other is called 'A Reunion at Mother Goose's.' It's awfully funny; I
think it's better than the Shakespeare."

"I think Mother Goose things are silly," said Ethel Holmes. "Who wants to
go around dressed up like Little Bo-peep, and say 'Ba, ba, black sheep,'
all the time?"

"Yes, or who wants to be Red Riding Hood's wolf and eat up Mary's
little lamb?"

"Oh, it isn't like that; it's a reunion, you know, and all the Mother
Goose children are grown up, and they talk about old times."

"It does sound nice," said Patty, "let's read it."

They read both the plays, and so interested were they in the reading and
discussing them that before they knew it the afternoon slipped away, and
Pansy Potts came in to announce that the tea was ready.

"Goodness," cried Patty, "I forgot all about it! Come on, girls, we can
discuss the play just as well at the table."

"Yes, and better," said Elsie.

Such a shout of exclamation as went up from the Tea Club girls when they
saw Patty's table.

"Why didn't you tell us there was to be a wedding?" said Ethel, "and we
would have brought presents."

"Is it an African jungle?" said Laura, "or is it only Smith's flower
store moved up here bodily?"

"I think it looks like a page out of the _Misses' Home Guide_" said
Polly Stevens. "You ought to have this table photographed, it would take
the first prize! But where are we going to eat? Surely you don't expect
us to sit down at this Louis XlV. gimcrack?"

"Nonsense," said Patty. "I fixed it up pretty because I thought it would
please you. If you don't like it--"

"Oh, we like it," cried Christine Converse, "we love it! We want to take
it home with us and put it under a glass case."

"Stop your nonsense, girls," said Marian, who had noticed Patty's rising
colour, "and take your places. It's a beautiful party, and a lot too good
for such ungrateful wretches! If you can read writing, you'll find your
names on your cards."

"I can read writing," said Lillian Desmond, "but not such elegant gold
curlycues as these. Won't you please spell it out for me, Miss
Fairfield?"

"Oh, take any place you choose," said Patty, laughing good-naturedly. She
didn't really mind their chaff, but she began to think herself that she
had been a little absurd.

Then Pansy brought in the various dishes that Patty had worked so hard
over, and perhaps you will not be surprised to learn that they were
almost uneatable, or, at least, very far from the dainty perfection they
ought to have shown.

On discovering this, the girls, who were really well-bred, in spite of
their love of chaffing, quite changed their manner and, ignoring the
situation, began merrily to discuss the play.

But as the various viands proved a continuous succession of failures,
Patty became really embarrassed and began to make apologies.

"Don't say a word," said Marian; "it was all my fault. I insisted on
spending the day here, and I nearly bothered the life out of my poor
cousin. Indeed, I carried her off bodily from the kitchen just at a dozen
critical moments."

"No, it wasn't that," said honest Patty, "but I did just what I'm always
doing, trying to make a lot of things I don't know anything about"

"Well," said Elsie, "if you couldn't try them on us girls, I don't know
who you could try them on; I'm more than willing to be a martyr to the
cause, and I say three cheers for our noble President!"

The cheers were given with a will, and Patty's equanimity being restored,
she was her own merry self again, and they all laughed and chatted as
only a lot of happy girls can.

And that's how it happened that when Mr. Fairfield reached home at about
six o'clock he heard what sounded like a general pandemonium in the
dining-room. As he appeared in the doorway he was greeted by a merry
ovation, for most of the Tea Club members knew and liked Patty's pleasant
and genial father.

Then the girls, realising how late it was, began to take their leave.
Marian went with them, and Patty, after the last one had gone, returned
to the dining-room, to find her father regarding the table with a look of
comical dismay.

It was indeed a magnificent ruin. Besides the dishes of almost untasted
delicacies, the flowers had been pushed into disarray, one small vase had
been upset and broken; owing to improper adjustment the candles had
dripped pink wax on the table-cloth; and the ice cream, which Pansy had
mistakenly served on open-work plates, had melted and run through.

Patty didn't say a word, indeed there was nothing to say. She went and
stood very close to her father, as if expecting him to put his arm around
her, which he promptly did.

"You see, Pitty-Pat," he said, "it wouldn't have made any difference at
all--not _any_ difference at all, _except_ that I have brought my friend
Mr. Hepworth, the artist, home to dinner; and you see, misled by the
experiences of last night, I promised him we would find a tidy little
dinner awaiting us."

"Oh, papa," cried Patty, "I _am_ sorry. If I had only known! I wouldn't
have failed you for worlds."

"I know it, my girl, and though this Lucullus feast does seem out of
proportion to a young misses' Tea Club, yet we won't say a word about
that now. We'll just get snow shovels and set to work and clear this
table and let Mancy get a simple little dinner as quickly as she can."

"But, papa," and here Patty met what was, perhaps, so far, the hardest
experience of her life, "I forgot to order anything for dinner at all!"

"Why, Patty Fairfield! consider yourself discharged, and I shall suit
myself at once with another housekeeperess!"

"You are the dearest, best, sweetest father!" she exclaimed. "How can you
be so good-natured and gay when my heart is breaking?"

"Oh, don't let your heart break over such prosaic things as dinners!
We'll crawl out of this hole somehow."

"But what can we do, papa? It's after six o'clock, and all the markets
are shut up, and there isn't a thing in the house except those horrible
things I tried to make."

"Patty," said her father, struck by a sudden thought, "to-morrow is
Sunday. Do you mean to say you haven't ordered for over Sunday?"

"No, I haven't," said Patty, aghast at the enormity of her offence.

Mr. Fairfield laughed at the horror-stricken look on his daughter's face.

"I always thought you couldn't keep house," he said, with an air of
resignation. "On Monday I shall advertise for a housekeeper."

"Oh, please don't," pleaded Patty. "Give me one more trial. I've had a
good lesson, and truly I'll profit by it. Let me try again."

"But you can't try again before Monday, and by that time we'll all be
dead of starvation."

"Of course we will," said Patty despairingly. "I wish we were Robinson
Crusoes and could eat bark or something."

"Well, baby, I think you _have_ had a pretty good lesson, and we can't
put old heads on young shoulders all at once, so I'll help you out this
time, and then, the next time you go back on me in this heartless
fashion, I'll discharge you."

"Papa, you're a _dear_! But what can we do?"

"Well, the first thing for you to do is to go and brush your hair and
make yourself tidy, then come down and meet Mr. Hepworth; and then we'll
all go over to the hotel for dinner. Meanwhile I'll call in the Street
Cleaning Department to attend to this dining-room."




CHAPTER XIII

A NEW FRIEND


"Patty," said her father, a week or two later, "Mr. Hepworth has invited
us to a tea in his studio in New York tomorrow afternoon, and if you care
to go, I'll take you."

"Yes, I'd love to go; I've always wanted to go to a studio tea. It's very
kind of Mr. Hepworth to ask us after the way he was treated here."

Mr. Fairfield laughed, but Patty looked decidedly sober. She still felt
very much crestfallen to think that the first guest her father brought
home should be obliged to dine at the hotel, or at a neighbour's. Aunt
Alice had invited them to dinner on that memorable Sunday, and though she
said she had expected to ask the Fairfields anyway, still Patty felt
that, as a housekeeper, she had been weighed in the balances and found
sadly wanting.

According to arrangement, she met her father in New York the day of the
tea, and together they went to Mr. Hepworth's studio.

It gave Patty a very grown-up feeling to find herself amongst such
strange and unaccustomed surroundings.

The studio was a large room, on the top floor of a high building. It was
finished in dark wood and decorated with many unframed pictures and dusty
casts. Bits of drapery were flung here and there, quaint old-fashioned
chairs and couches were all about, and at one side of the room was a
raised platform. A group of ladies and gentlemen sat in one corner,
another group surrounded a punch bowl, and many wise and learned-looking
people were discussing the pictures and drawings.

Patty was enchanted. She had never been in a scene like this before, and
the whole atmosphere appealed to her very strongly.

The guests, though kind and polite to her, treated her as a child, and
Patty was glad of this, for she felt sure she never could talk or
understand the artistic jargon in which they were conversing. But she
enjoyed the pictures in her own way, and was standing in delighted
admiration before a large marine, which was nothing but the varying
blues of the sea and sky, when she heard a pleasant, frank young voice
beside her say:

"You seem to like that picture."

"Oh, I do!" she exclaimed, and turning, saw a pleasant-faced boy of about
nineteen smiling at her.

"It is so real," she said. "I never saw a realer scene, not even down at
Sandy Hook; why, you can fairly feel the dampness from it."

"Yes, I know just what you mean," said the boy; "it's a jolly picture,
isn't it? They say it's one of Hepworth's best."

"I don't know anything about pictures," said Patty frankly, "and so I
don't like to express definite opinions."

"It's always wiser not to," said the boy, still smiling.

"That's true," said Patty, "I only did express an opinion once this
afternoon, and then that lady over there, in a greenish-blue gown, looked
at me through her lorgnette and said:

"Oh, I thought you were temperamental, but you're only an
imaginative realist."

"Now, what could she have meant by that?" said the boy, laughing. "But
you're very imprudent. How do you know that lady isn't my--my sister, or
cousin, or something?"

"Well, even if she is," said Patty, "I haven't said anything
unkind, have I?"

"No more you haven't; but as I don't see anyone just now at leisure to
introduce us, suppose we introduce ourselves? They say the roof is an
introduction, but I notice it never pronounces names very distinctly.
Mine is Kenneth Harper."

"And mine is Patricia Fairfield, but I'm usually called Patty."

"I should think you would be, it suits you to a dot. Of course the boys
call me Ken. I'm a Columbia student."

"Oh, are you?" said Patty. "I've never known a college boy, and I've
always wanted to meet one."

"Well, you see in me a noble specimen of my kind," said young Harper,
straightening up his broad shoulders and looking distinctly athletic.

"You must be," said Patty; "you look just like all the pictures of
college boys I've ever seen."

"And I flattered myself that my beauty was something especial and
individual."

"You ought to be thankful that you're beautiful," said Patty, "and not be
so particular about what kind of beauty it is."

"But some kinds of beauty are not worth having," went on young Harper;
"look at that man over there with a lean pale face and long lank hair.
That's beauty, but I must say I prefer a strong, brave, manly type, like
this good-looking chap just coming toward us."

"Oh, you do?" said Patty. "Well, as that good-looking chap happens to be
my father, I'll take pleasure in introducing you."

"I am glad to see you, sir," said Kenneth Harper, as Patty presented him
to her father, "and I may as well own up that I was just making remarks
on your personal appearance, which accounts for my blushing
embarrassment."

"I won't inquire what they were," said Mr. Fairfield, "lest I, too,
should become embarrassed. But, Patty, my girl, if we're going back to
Vernondale on the six-o'clock train, it's time we were starting."

"Oh, do you live in Vernondale?" inquired Kenneth. "I have an
aunt there. I wonder if you know her. Her name is Daggett--Miss
Rachel Daggett."

"Indeed I do know her," said Patty. "She is my next-door neighbour."

"Is she really? How jolly! And don't you think she's an old dear? I'm
awfully fond of her. I run out to see her every chance I can get, though
I haven't been much this winter, I've been digging so hard."

"She _is_ a dear," said Patty. "I've only seen her once, but I know I
shall like her as a neighbour."

"Yes, I'm sure you will, but let me give you a bit of confidential
advice. Don't take the initiative, let her do that; and the game will be
far more successful than if _you_ make the overtures."

Patty smiled. "Miss Daggett told me that herself," she said; "in fact,
she was quite emphatic on the subject."

"I can well believe it," said Kenneth, "but I'm sure you'll win her
heart yet."

"I'm sure she will too," said Mr. Fairfield, with an approving glance at
his pretty daughter; "and whenever you are in Vernondale, Mr. Harper, I
hope you will come to see us."

"I shall be very glad to," answered the young man, "and I hope to run out
there soon."

"Come out when we have our play," said Patty; "it's going to be
beautiful."

"What play is that?"

"We don't know yet, we haven't decided on it."

"I know an awfully good play. One of the fellows up at college wrote it,
and so it isn't hackneyed yet."

"Oh, tell me about it," said Patty. "Papa, can't we take the next later
train home?"

"Yes, chick, I don't mind if you don't; or, better still, if Mr. Harper
can go with us, I'll take both of you children out to dinner in some
great, glittering, noisy hotel."

"Oh, gorgeous!" cried Patty. "Can you go, Mr. Harper?"

"Indeed I can, and I shall be only too glad. College boys are not
overcrowded with invitations, and I am glad to say I have no other for
to-night."

"You'll have to telephone to Emancipation Proclamation, papa,"
said Patty, "or she'll get out all the bell-ringers, and drag the
river for us."

"So she will," said Mr. Fairfield. "I'll set her mind at rest the
first thing."

"That's our cook," explained Patty.

"It's a lovely name," observed Kenneth, "but just a bit lengthy for
every-day use."

"Oh, it's only for Sundays and holidays," said Patty; "other days we
contract it to Mancy."

Seated at table in a bright and beautiful restaurant, Patty and her new
friend began to chatter like magpies while Mr. Fairfield ordered dinner.

"Now tell me all about your friend's play," said Patty, "for I feel sure
it's going to be just what we want"

"Well, the scene," said Kenneth, "is on Mount Olympus, and the characters
are all the gods and goddesses, you know, but they're brought up to date.
In fact, that's the name of the play, 'Mount Olympus Up to Date.' Aurora,
you know, has an automobile instead of her old-fashioned car."

"But you don't have the automobile on the stage?"

"Oh, no! Aurora just comes in in her automobile rig and talks about her
'bubble.' Mercury has a bicycle; he's a trick rider, and does all sorts
of stunts. And Venus is a summer girl, dressed up in a stunning gown and
a Paris hat. And Hercules has a punching-bag--to make himself stronger,
you know. And Niobe has quantities of handkerchiefs, dozens and dozens of
them; she's an awfully funny character."

"Oh, I think it would be lovely!" said Patty. "Where can we get
the book?"

"I'll send you one to-morrow, and you can see if you like it; and then if
you do, you can get more."

"Oh, I'm sure the girls will all like it; and will you come out to see
it?"

"Yes, I'd be glad to. I was in it last winter. I was Mercury."

"Oh, can you do trick work on bicycles?"

"Yes, a little," said Kenneth modestly.

"I wish you'd come out and be Mercury in our play."

"Aren't you going ahead rather fast, Patty, child?" said her father.
"Your club hasn't decided to use this play yet."

"I know it, papa, and of course I mean if we _do_ use it; but anyway, I'm
president of the club, and somehow, if I want a thing, the rest of the
girls generally seem to want it too."

"That's a fine condition of affairs that any president might be glad to
bring about. You ought to be a college president."

"Perhaps I shall be some day," said Patty.

The dinner hour flew by all too quickly. Patty greatly enjoyed the
sights and sounds of the brilliant, crowded room. She loved the lights
and the music, the flowers and the palms, and the throngs of gaily
dressed people.

Kenneth Harper enjoyed it too, and thought he had rarely met such
attractive people as the Fairfields.

When he took his leave he thanked Mr. Fairfield courteously for his
pleasant evening, and promised soon to call upon them at Boxley Hall.

They reached home by a late train, and Patty went up to her pretty
bedroom, with her usual happy conviction that she was a very fortunate
little girl and had the best father in the world.




CHAPTER XIV

THE NEIGHBOUR AGAIN


Kenneth Harper did send the book, and, as Patty confidently expected, the
girls of the club quite agreed with her that it was the best play for
them to use.

At a meeting at Marian's, plans were made and parts were chosen. The
goddesses were allotted to the members of the club, and the gods were
distributed among their brothers and friends.

Guy Morris, being of gigantic mould, was cast for Hercules, and Frank
Elliott for Ajax. When Patty told the girls that Kenneth Harper could do
trick riding on a bicycle, they unanimously voted to invite him to take
part in their entertainment.

It was decided to have the play about the middle of February, and the
whole Tea Club grew enthusiastic over the plans for the wonderful
performance.

One morning Patty sat in the library studying her part. She was very
happy. Of course, Patty always was happy, but this morning she was
unusually so. Her housekeeping was going on smoothly; the night before
her father had expressed himself as being greatly pleased with the system
and order which seemed everywhere noticeable in the house. It was
Saturday morning, and she didn't have to go to school.

Moreover, she was very much interested in the play and in her own part in
it, and had already planned a most beautiful gown, which the dressmaker,
Madame LaFayette, was to make for her.

Patty's part in the play was that of Diana, and her costume was to be a
beautiful one of hunter's green cloth with russet leather leggings and a
jaunty cap. Being up-to-date, instead of being a huntress she was to
represent an agent of the S.P.C.A.

This suited Patty exactly, for she had a horror of killing live things,
and very much preferred doing all she could to prevent such slaughter.
Moreover, the humour of the thing appealed to her, and the funny effect
of the huntress Diana going around distributing S.P.C.A. leaflets, and
begging her fellow-Olympians not to shoot, seemed to Patty very humourous
and attractive.

This Saturday, then, she had settled down in the library to study her
lines all through the long cosey morning, when, to her annoyance, the
doorbell rang.

"I hope it's none of the girls," she thought. "I did want this morning
to myself."

It wasn't any of the girls, but Pansy announced that a messenger had come
from Miss Daggett's, and that Miss Daggett wished Miss Fairfield to
return her call at once.

Patty smiled at the unusual message, but groaned at the thought of her
interrupted holiday.

However, Miss Daggett was not one to be ignored or lightly set aside, so
Patty put on her things and started.

Although Miss Daggett's house was next door to Boxley Hall, yet it was
set in the middle of such a large lot, and was so far back from the
street, and so surrounded by tall, thick trees, that Patty had never had
a really good view of it.

She was surprised, therefore, to find it a very large, old-fashioned
stone house, with broad veranda and steps guarded by two stone lions.

Patty rang the bell, and the door was opened very slightly. A small,
quaint-looking old coloured man peeped out.

"Go 'way," he said, "go 'way at once! We don't want no tickets."

"I'm not selling tickets," said Patty, half angry and half amused.

"Well, we don't want no shoelacers, nor lead pencils, nor nuffin! You
_must_ be selling something."

"I am not selling anything," said Patty. "I came over because Miss
Daggett sent for me."

"Laws 'a' massy, child, why didn't you say so before you spoke? Be you
Miss Fairfield?"

"Yes," said Patty; "here's my card."

"Oh, never mind the ticket; if so be you's Miss Fairfield, jes' come
right in, come right in."

The door was flung open wide and Patty entered a dark, old-fashioned
hall. From that she was led into a parlour, so dark that she could
scarcely see the outline of a lady on the sofa.

"How do you do, Miss Daggett?" she said, guessing that it was probably
her hostess who seemed to be sitting there.

"How do you do?" said Miss Daggett, putting out her hand, without
rising.

"I'm quite well, thank you," said Patty, and her eyes having grown a
little accustomed to the dark, she grasped the old lady's hand, although,
as she told her father afterwards, she was awfully afraid she would tweak
her nose by mistake.

"And how are you, Miss Daggett?"

"Not very well, child, not very well, but you won't stay long, will you?
I sent for you, yes, I sent for you on an impulse. I thought I'd like to
see you, but I'd no sooner sent than I wished I hadn't. But you won't
stay long, will you, dearie?"

"No," said Patty, feeling really sorry for the queer old lady. "No, I
won't stay long, I'll go very soon; in fact, I'll go just as soon as you
tell me to. I'll go now, if you say so."

"Oh, don't be silly. I wouldn't have sent for you if I'd wanted you to go
right away again. Sit down, turn your toes out, and answer my questions."

"What are your questions?" said Patty, not wishing to make any
rash promises.

"Well, first, are you really keeping that big house over there all alone
by yourself?"

"I'm keeping house there, yes, but I'm not all alone by myself. My
father's there, and two servants."

"Don't you keep a man?"

"No; a man comes every day to do the hard work, but he doesn't
live with us."

"Humph, I suppose you think you're pretty smart, don't you?"

"I don't know," said Patty slowly, as if considering; "yes, I think I'm
pretty smart in some ways, and in other ways I'm as stupid as an owl."

"Well, you must be pretty smart, because you haven't had to borrow
anything over here yet."

"But I wouldn't borrow anything here, anyway, Miss Daggett; you
specially asked me not to."

Miss Daggett's old wrinkled face broke into a smile.

"And so you remember that. Well, well, you are a nice little girl; you
must have had a good mother, and a good bringing-up."

"My mother died when I was three, and my father brought me up."

"He did, hey? Well, he made a fairly good job of it. Now, I guess you can
go; I'm about tired of talking to you."

"Then I will go. But, first, Miss Daggett, let me tell you that I met
your nephew the other day."

"Kenneth! For the land's sake! Well, well, sit down again. I don't want
you to go yet; tell me all about him. Isn't he a nice boy? Hasn't he fine
eyes? And gentlemanly manners? And oh, the lovely ways with him!"

"Yes, Miss Daggett, he is indeed a nice boy; my father and I both think
so. His eyes and his manners are fine. He says he wants to come out to
see you soon."

"Bless his heart, I hope he'll come! I do hope he'll come."

"Then you like to have him come to see you?" said Patty, a little
roguishly.

"Yes, and I like to have you, too. Land, child! you mustn't mind my
quick ways."

"I don't mind how quick you are," said Patty; "but when you tell me to be
sure and not come to see you, of course I don't come."

"Oh, that's all right," said Miss Daggett, "that's all right; I'll always
send for you when I want you.

"But perhaps I can't always come," said Patty. "I may be busy with my
housekeeping."

"Now, wouldn't that be annoying!" said Miss Daggett. "I declare that
would be just my luck. I always do have bad luck."

"Perhaps it's the way you look at it," said Patty. "Now, I have some
things that seem like bad luck, at least, other people think they do; but
if I look at them right--happy and cheerful, you know--why, they just
seem like good luck."

"Really," said Miss Daggett, with a curious smile; "well now, you _are_ a
queer child, and I'm not at all sure but I'd like to have you come again.
Do you want to see around my house?"

"I'd like to very much, but it's so dark a bat couldn't see things in
this room."

"But I can't open the shades, the sun would fade all the furniture
coverings."

"Well, then, you could buy new ones," said Patty; "that would be better
than living in the dark."

"Dark can't hurt anybody," said Miss Daggett gloomily.

"Oh, indeed it can," said Patty earnestly. "Why, darkness--I mean
darkness in the daytime--makes you all stewed up and fidgety and horrid;
and sunshine makes you all gay and cheerful and glad."

"Like you," said Miss Daggett.

"Yes, like me," said Patty; "I am cheerful and glad always. I like to
be."

"I would like to be, too," said Miss Daggett.

"Do you suppose if I opened the shutters I would be?"

"Let's try it and see," said Patty, and running to the windows, she flung
open the inside blinds and flooded the room with sunshine.

"Oh, what a beautiful room!" she exclaimed, as she turned around. "Why,
Miss Daggett, to think of keeping all these lovely things shut up in the
dark. I believe they cry about it when you aren't looking."

Already the old lady's face seemed to show a gentler and sunnier
expression, and she said:

"Yes, I have some beautiful things, child. Would you like to look through
this cabinet of East Indian curiosities?"

"I would very much," said Patty, "but I fear I can't take the time this
morning; I have to study my part in a play we're going to give. It's a
play your nephew told us about," she added quickly, feeling sure that
this would rouse the old lady's interest in it.

"One of Kenneth's college plays?" she said eagerly.

"Yes, that's just what it is. A chum of his wrote it, and oh, Miss
Daggett, we're going to invite Mr. Harper to come to Vernondale the night
of the play, and take the same part that he took at college last year;
you see, he'll know it, and he can just step right in."

"Good for you! I hope he'll come. I'll write at once and tell him how
much I want him. He can stay here, of course, and perhaps he can come
sooner, so as to be here for one or two rehearsals."

"That would be a good help. I hope he will do that; he could coach the
rest of us."

"I don't know just what coach means, but I'm sure Kenneth can do it, he's
a very clever boy; he says he can run an automobile, but I don't believe
it. Run away home now, child, I'm tired of having company; and besides I
want to compose my mind so I can write a letter to Kenneth."

"And will you leave your blinds open till afternoon?" said Patty, who was
beginning to learn her queer old neighbour.

"Yes, I will, if I don't forget it. Clear out, child, clear out now; run
away home and mind you're not to borrow anything and you're not to come
back till I send for you."

"All right," said Patty. "Good-bye, and mind, you're to keep bright and
cheerful, and let the sunlight in all the time."




CHAPTER XV

BILLS


Patty's plans for systematic housekeeping included a number of small
Russia-leather account books, and she looked forward with some eagerness
to the time when the first month's bills should come in, and she could
present to her father a neat and accurate statement of the household
expenses for the month.

The 1st of February was Sunday, but on Monday morning the postman brought
a sheaf of letters which were evidently bills.

Patty had no time to look at these before she went to school, so she
placed them carefully in her desk, determined to hurry home that
afternoon and get her accounts into apple-pie order before her father
came home. After school she returned to find a supplementary lot of bills
had been left by the postman, and also Mancy presented her with a number
of bills which the tradesmen had left that morning.

Patty took the whole lot to her desk, and with methodical exactness noted
the amounts on the pages of her little books. She and her father had
talked the matter over, more or less, and Patty knew just about what Mr.
Fairfield expected the bills to amount to.

But to her consternation she discovered, as she went along, that each
bill was proving to be about twice as large as she had anticipated.

"There must be some mistake," she said to herself, "we simply _can't_
have eaten all those groceries. Anybody would think we ran a branch
store. And that butcher's bill is big enough for the Central Park
menagerie! They must have added it wrong."

But a careful verification of the figures proved that they were added
right, and Patty's heart began to sink as she looked at the enormous
sum-totals.

"To think of all that for flowers! Well, papa bought some of them, that's
a comfort; but I had no idea I had ordered so many myself. I think bills
are perfectly horrid! And here's my dressmaker's bill. Gracious, how
Madame LaFayette has gone up in her prices! I believe I'll make my own
clothes after this; but the market bills are the worst I don't see how we
_could_ have eaten all these things. Mancy must be a dreadful waster, but
it isn't fair to blame her; if that's where the trouble is, I ought to
have looked after it myself. Hello, Marian, is that you? I didn't hear
you come in. Do come here, I'm in the depths of despair!"

"What's the matter, Patsie? and what a furious lot of bills! You look
like a clearinghouse."

"Oh, Marian, it's perfectly fearful! Every bill is two or three times as
much as I thought it would be, and I'm so sorry, for I meant to be such a
thrifty housekeeper."

"Jiminetty Christmas!" exclaimed Marian, looking at some of the papers,
"I should think these bills _were_ big! Why, that's more than we pay a
month for groceries, and look at the size of our family."

"I know it," said Patty hopelessly. "I don't see how it happened."

"You are an extravagant little wretch, Patty, there's no doubt about it."

"I suppose I am; at least, I suppose I have been, but I'm not going to be
any more. I'm going to reform, suddenly and all at once and very
thoroughly! Now, you watch me. We're not going to have any more fancy
things, no more ice cream from Pacetti's. Why, that caterer's bill is
something fearful."

"And so you're going to starve poor Uncle Fred?"

"No, that wouldn't be fair, would it? The economy ought to fall entirely
on me. Well, I've decided to make my own clothes after this, anyway."

"Oh, Patty, what a goose you are! You couldn't make them to save your
neck, and after you made them you couldn't wear them."

"I could, too, Marian Elliott! Just you wait and see me make my summer
dresses. I'm going to sew all through vacation."

"All right," said Marian, "I'll come over and help you, but you can't
make any dresses this afternoon, so put away those old bills and get
ready for a sleigh ride. It's lovely out, and father said he'd call for
us here at four o'clock."

"All right, I will, if we can get back by six. I want to be here when
papa comes home."

"Yes, we'll be back by six. I expect Uncle Fred will shut you up in a
dark room and keep you on bread and water for a week when he sees
those bills."

"That's just the worst of it," said Patty forlornly. "He's so good and
kind, and spoils me so dreadfully that it makes me feel all the worse
when I don't do things right."

A good long sleigh ride in the fresh, crisp winter air quite revived
Patty's despondent spirits. She sat in front with Uncle Charley, and he
let her drive part of the way, for it was Patty's great delight to drive
two horses, and she had already become a fairly accomplished little
horsewoman.

"Fred tells me he's going to get horses for you this spring," said Uncle
Charley. "You'll enjoy them a lot, won't you, Patty?"

"Yes, indeed--that is--I don't know whether we'll have them or not."

For it just occurred to Patty that, having run her father into such
unexpected expense in the household, a good way to economise would be to
give up all hopes of horses.

"Oh, yes, you'll have them all right," said Uncle Charley, in his gay,
cheery way, having no idea, of course, what was in Patty's mind. "And you
must have a little pony and cart of your own. It would give you a great
deal of pleasure to go out driving in the spring weather."

"I just guess it would," said Patty, "and I'm sure I hope I'll have it."

She began to wonder if she couldn't find some other way to economise
rather than on the horses, for she certainly did love to drive.

Promptly at six o'clock Uncle Charley left her at Boxley Hall, and as she
entered the door Patty felt that strange sinking of the heart that always
accompanies the resuming of a half-forgotten mental burden.

"I know just how thieves and defaulters and forgers feel," she said to
herself, as she took off her wraps. "I haven't exactly stolen, but I've
betrayed a trust, and that's just as bad. I wonder what papa will say?"

At dinner Patty was subdued and a little nervous.

Mr. Fairfield, quick to notice anything unusual in his daughter, surmised
that she was bothered, but felt sure that in her own time she would tell
him all about it, so he endeavoured to set her at her ease by chatting
pleasantly about the events of his day in the city, and sustaining the
burden of the conversation himself.

But after dinner, when they had gone into the library, as they usually
did in the evening, Patty brought out her fearful array of paper bugbears
and laid them before her father.

"What are these?" said Mr. Fairfield cheerily. "Ah, yes, I see. The 1st
of the month has brought its usual crop of bills."

"I do hope it isn't the usual crop, papa; for if they always come in like
this, we'll have to give up Boxley Hall and go to live in the
poor-house."

"Oh, I don't know. We haven't overdrawn our bank account yet Whew!
Pacetti's is a stunner, isn't it?"

"Yes," said Patty, in a meek little voice.

"And Fisher & Co. seem to have summed up quite a total; and Smith's
flower bill looks like a good old summer time."

"Oh, papa, please scold me; I know I deserve it. I ought to have looked
after these things and kept the expenses down more."

"Why ought you to have done so, Patty? We have to have food, don't we?"

"Yes; but, papa, you know we estimated in the beginning, and these old
bills come up to about twice as much as our estimate."

"That's a fact, baby, they do," said Mr. Fairfield, looking over the
statements with a more serious air. "These are pretty big figures to
represent a month's living for just you and me and our small retinue of
servants."

"Yes; and, papa, I think Mancy is rather wasteful. I don't say this to
blame her. I know it is my place to see about it, and be careful that
she utilises all that is possible of the kitchen waste."

Patty said this so exactly with the air of a _Young Housekeeper's Guide_
or _Cooking School Manual_, that Mr. Fairfield laughed outright.

"Chickadee," he said, "you'll come out all right. You have the true
elements of success. You see where you've fallen into error, you're
willing to admit it, and you're ready to use every means to improve in
the future. I'm not quite so surprised as you are at the size of these
bills; for, though we made our estimates rationally, yet we have been
buying a great many things and having a pretty good time generally. I
foresaw this experience at the end of the month, but I preferred to wait
and see how we came out rather than interfere with the proceedings; and
another thing, Patty, which may comfort you some, is the fact that I
quite believe that some of these tradespeople have taken advantage of
your youth and inexperience and padded their bills a little bit in
consequence."

"But, papa, just look at Madame LaFayette's bill. I don't think she
ought to charge so much."

"These do seem high prices for the simple little frocks you wear; but
they are always so daintily made, and in such good taste, that I think
we'll have to continue to employ her. Dressmakers, you know, are
acknowledged vampires."

"I like the clothes she makes, too," said Patty, "but I had concluded
that that was the best way for me to economise, and I thought after this
I would make my own dresses."

"I don't think you will, my child," said Mr. Fairfield decidedly. "You
couldn't make dresses fit to be seen, unless you took a course of
instruction in dressmaking, and I'm not sure that you could then; and you
have quite enough to do with your school work and your practising. When
did you propose to do this wonderful sewing?"

"Oh, I mean in vacation--to make my summer dresses."

"No; in vacation you're to run out of doors and play. Don't let me hear
any more about sewing."

"All right," said Patty, with a sigh of relief. "I'm awfully glad not to,
but I wanted to help somehow. I thought I'd make my green cloth costume
for Diana in the play."

"Yes, that would be a good thing to begin on," said Mr. Fairfield.
"Broadcloth is so tractable, so easy to fit; and that tailor-made effect
can, of course, be attained by any well-meaning beginner."

Patty laughed. "I know it would look horrid, papa," she said, "but as I
am to blame for all this outrageous extravagance, I want to economise
somewhere to make up for it."

"And do you call it good proportion to buy a great deal too much to eat
and then go around in botchy, home-made clothes to make up for it?"

"No," said Patty, "I don't believe it is. What can I do? I want to do
something, and I don't--oh, papa, I _don't_ want to give up those horses
that you said you'd buy."

"Well, we'll fix it up this way, Patty, girl; we'll just pay off all
these bills and start fresh. The extra expense we'll charge to experience
account--experience is an awfully high-priced commodity, you know--and
next month, while we won't exactly scrimp ourselves, we'll keep our eye
on the accounts and watch them as they progress. As I've told you before,
my darling, I don't expect you to become perfect, or even proficient, in
these things all at once. You will need years of experience before the
time can come when your domestic machinery will run without a flaw, if,
indeed, it ever does. Now, never think of these January bills again. They
are things of the past. Go and get your play-book, and let me hear you
speak your piece."




CHAPTER XVI

A SUCCESSFUL PLAY


Mr. Hepworth came again to visit Boxley Hall, and while there heard about
the play, and became so interested in the preparations that he offered to
paint some scenery for it.

Patty jumped for joy at this, for the scenery had been their greatest
stumbling-block.

And so the Saturday morning before the performance the renowned New York
artist, Mr. Egerton Hepworth, walked over to Library Hall, escorted by a
dozen merry young people of both sexes.

As a scenic artist Mr. Hepworth proved a great success and a rapid
workman beside, for by mid-afternoon he had completed the one scene
that was necessary--a view of Mount Olympus as supposed to be at the
present date.

Though the actual work was sketchily done, yet the general effect was
that of a beautiful Grecian grove with marble temple and steps, and
surrounding trees and flowers, the whole of which seemed to be a sort of
an island set in a sea of blue sky and fleecy clouds.

At least, that is the way Elsie Morris declared it looked, and though Mr.
Hepworth confessed that that was not the idea he had intended to convey,
yet if they were satisfied, he was. The young people declared themselves
more than satisfied, and urged Mr. Hepworth so heartily to attend the
performance--offering him the choicest seats in the house and as many as
he wanted--that he finally consented to come if he could persuade his
friends at Boxley Hall to put him up for the night. Patty demurely
promised to try her best to coax her father to agree to this arrangement,
and though she said she had little hope of succeeding, Mr. Hepworth
seemed willing to take his chances.

At last the great day arrived, and Patty rose early that morning, for
there were many last things to be attended to; and being a capable little
manager, it somehow devolved on Patty to see that all the loose ends
were gathered up and all the minor matters looked after.

Kenneth Harper had been down twice to rehearsals, and had already become
a favourite with the Vernondale young people. Indeed, the cheery,
willing, capable young man couldn't help getting himself liked wherever
he went. He stayed with his aunt, Miss Daggett, when in Vernondale, which
greatly delighted the heart of the old lady.

The play was to be on Friday night, because then there would be no school
next day; and Friday morning Patty was as busy as a bee sorting tickets,
counting out programmes, making lists, and checking off memoranda, when
Pansy appeared at her door with the unwelcome announcement that Miss
Daggett had sent word she would like to have Patty call on her.
Unwelcome, only because Patty was so busy, otherwise she would have been
glad of a summons to the house next-door, for she had taken a decided
fancy to her erratic neighbour.

Determining she would return quickly, and smiling to herself as she
thought that probably she would be asked to do so, she ran over to Miss
Daggett's.

"Come in, child, come in," called the old lady from the upper hall, "come
right up here. I'm in a terrible quandary!"

Patty went upstairs, and then followed Miss Daggett into her bedroom.

"I've decided," said the old lady, with the air of one announcing a
decision the importance of which would shake at least two continents,
"I've decided to go to that ridiculous show of yours."

"Oh, have you?" said Patty, "that's very nice, I'm sure."

"I'm glad you're pleased," said the old lady grimly, "though I'm not
going for the sake of pleasing you."

"Are you going to please your nephew, Mr. Harper?" said Patty, not being
exactly curious, but feeling that she was expected to inquire.

"No, I'm not," said Miss Daggett curtly. "I'm going to please myself; and
I called you over here to advise me what to wear. Here are all my best
dresses, but there's none of them made in the fashions people wear
nowadays, and it's too late to have them fixed over. I wish you'd tell
me which one you think comes nearest to being right."

Patty looked in amazement at the great heap of beautiful gowns that lay
upon the bed. They were made of the richest velvets and satins and
laces, but were all of such an antiquated mode that it seemed impossible
to advise anyone to wear them without remodeling. But, as Miss Daggett
was very much in earnest, Patty concluded that she must necessarily make
some choice.

Accordingly, she picked out a lavender moire silk, trimmed with soft
white lace at the throat and wrist. Although old-fashioned, it was plain
and very simply made, and would, Patty thought, be less conspicuous than
the more elaborate gowns.

"That's just the one I had decided on myself," said Miss Daggett, "and I
should have worn that anyway, whatever you had said."

"Then why did you call me over?" said Patty, moved to impatience by this
inconsistency.

"Oh, because I wanted your opinion, and I wanted to ask you about some
other things. Kenneth is coming to-night, you know."

"Yes, I know it," said Patty, "and I am very glad."

This frank statement and the clear, unembarrassed light in Patty's eyes
seemed to please Miss Daggett, and she kissed the pretty face upturned to
hers, but she only said: "Run along now, child, go home, I don't want
company now."

"I'm glad of it," Patty thought to herself, but she only said: "Good-bye,
then, Miss Daggett; I'll see you this evening."

"Wait a minute, child; come back here, I'm not through with you yet."

Patty groaned in spirit, but went back with a smiling face.

Miss Daggett regarded her steadily.

"You're pretty busy, I suppose, to-day," she said, "getting ready for
your play."

"Yes, I am," said Patty frankly.

"And you didn't want to take the time to come over here to see me, did
you?"

"Oh, I shall have time enough to do all I want to do," said Patty.

"Don't evade my question, child. You didn't want to come, did you?"

"Well, Miss Daggett," said Patty, "you are often quite frank with me, so
now I'll be frank with you, and confess that when your message came I did
wish you had chosen some other day to send for me; for I certainly have a
lot of little things to do, but I shall get them all done, I know, and I
am very glad to learn that you are coming to the entertainment."

"You are a good girl," said Miss Daggett; "you are a good girl, and I
like you very much. Good-bye."

"Good-bye," said Patty, and she ran downstairs and over home, determined
to work fast enough to make up for the time she had lost.

She succeeded in this, and when her father came home at night, bringing
Mr. Hepworth with him, they found a very charming little hostess awaiting
them and Boxley Hall imbued throughout with an air of comfortable
hospitality.

After dinner Patty donned her Diana costume and came down to ask her
father's opinion of it. He declared it was most jaunty and becoming,
and Mr. Hepworth said it was especially well adapted to Patty's style,
and that he would like to paint her portrait in that garb. This seemed
to Mr. Fairfield a good idea, and they at once made arrangements for
future sittings.

Patty was greatly pleased.

"Won't it be fine, papa?" she said. "It will be an ancestral portrait to
hang in Boxley Hall and keep till I'm an old lady like Miss Daggett."

When they reached Library Hall, where the play was to be given, Patty,
going in at the stage entrance, was met by a crowd of excited girls who
announced that Florence Douglass had gone all to pieces.

"What do you mean?" cried Patty. "What's the matter with her?"

"Oh, hysterics!" said Elsie Morris, in great disgust. "First she giggles
and then she bursts into tears, and nobody can do anything with her."

"Well, she's going to be Niobe, anyway," said Patty, "so let her go on
the stage and cut up those tricks, and the audience will think it's
all right."

"Oh, no, Patty, we can't let her go on the stage," said Frank Elliott;
"she'd queer the whole show."

"Well, then, we'll have to leave that part out," said Patty.

"Oh, dear!" wailed Elsie, "that's the funniest part of all. I hate to
leave that part out."

"I know it," said Patty; "and Florence does it so well. I wish she'd
behave herself. Well, I can't think of anything else to do but omit it. I
might ask papa; he can think of things when nobody else can."

"That's so," said Marian, "Uncle Fred has a positive genius for
suggestion."

"I'll step down in the audience and ask him," said Frank.

In five minutes Frank was back again, broadly smiling, and Mr. Hepworth
was with him.

"It's all right," said Frank. "I knew Uncle Fred would fix it. All he
said was, 'Hepworth, you're a born actor, take the part yourself'; and
Mr. Hepworth, like the brick he is, said he'd do it."

"I fairly jumped at the chance," said the young artist, smiling down into
Patty's bright face. "I was dying to be in this thing anyway. And they
tell me the costume is nothing but several hundred yards of Greek
draperies, so I think it will fit me all right."

"But you don't know the lines," said Patty, delighted at this solution of
the dilemma, but unable to see how it could be accomplished.

"Oh, that's all right," said Mr. Hepworth merrily. "I shall make up my
lines as I go along, and when I see that anyone else wants to talk, I
shall stop and give them a chance."

It sounded a little precarious, but as there was nothing else to do,
and Florence Douglass begged them to put somebody--anybody--in her
place and let her go home, they all agreed to avail themselves of Mr.
Hepworth's services.

And it was fortunate they did, for though the rest of the characters were
bright and clever representations, yet it was Mr. Hepworth's funny
impromptu jokes and humourous actions in the character of Niobe that
made the hit of the evening. Indeed, he and Kenneth Harper quite carried
off the laurels from the other amateurs; but so delighted were the
Vernondale young people at the success of the whole play that they were
more than willing to give the praise where it belonged.

Perhaps the only one in the audience who failed to appreciate Mr.
Hepworth's clever work was Miss Rachel Daggett. She had eyes only for her
beloved nephew, with an occasional side glance for her pretty young
neighbour.

After the entertainment there was a little dance for the young people;
and Patty, as president of the club, received so many compliments and so
much congratulation that it's a wonder her curly head was not turned.
But as she walked home between her father and Mr. Hepworth, she declared
that the success of the evening was in no way consequent upon her
efforts, but depended entirely on the talents of the two travelling
comedians from the city.




CHAPTER XVII

ENTERTAINING RELATIVES


Spring and summer followed one another in their usual succession, and
as the months went by, Boxley Hall became more beautiful and more
attractively homelike, both inside and out. Mr. Fairfield bought a
pair of fine carriage horses and a pony and cart for Patty's own use.
A man was engaged to take care of these and also to look after the
lawn and garden.

Patty, learning much from experience and also from Aunt Alice's
occasional visits, developed into a sensible and capable little
housekeeper. So determined was she to make the keeping of her father's
house a real success that she tried most diligently to correct all her
errors and improve her powers.

Patty had a natural aptitude for domestic matters, and after some rough
places were made smooth and some sharp corners rounded off, things went
quite as smoothly as in many houses where the presiding genius numbered
twice Patty's years.

With June came vacation, and Patty was more than glad, for she was
never fond of school, and now could have all her time to devote to her
beloved home.

And, too, she wanted very much to invite her cousins to visit her, which
was only possible in vacation time.

"I think, papa," she said, as they sat on the veranda one June evening
after dinner, "I think I shall have a house party. I shall invite all my
cousins from Elmbridge and Philadelphia and Boston and we'll have a grand
general reunion that will be most beautiful."

"You'll invite your aunts and uncles, too?" said Mr. Fairfield.

"Why, I don't see how we'd have room for so many," said Patty.

"And, of course," went on her father, "you'd invite the whole Elliott
family. It wouldn't be fair to leave them out of your house-party just
because they happen to live in Vernondale."

Then Patty saw that her father was laughing at her.

"I know you're teasing me now, papa," she said, "but I don't see why.
Just because I want to ask my cousins to come here and return the visits
I made to them last year."

"But you didn't visit them all at once, my child, and you certainly could
not expect to entertain them here all at once. Your list of cousins is a
very long one, and even if there were room for them in the house, the
care and responsibility of such a house party would be enough to land you
in a sanitarium when it was over, if not before."

"There are an awful lot of them," said Patty.

"And they're not altogether congenial," said her father. "Although I
haven't seen them as lately as you have, yet I can't help thinking, from
what you told me, that the Barlows and the St. Clairs would enjoy
themselves better if they visited here at different times, and I'm sure
the same is true of your Boston cousins."

"You're right," said Patty, "as you always are, and I don't believe I'd
have much fun with all that company at once, either. So I think we'll
have them in detachments, and first I'll just invite Ethelyn and Reginald
down for a week or two. I don't really care much about having them, but
Ethelyn has written so often that she wants to come that I don't see how
I can very well get out of it."

"If she wants to come, you certainly ought to ask her. You visited there
three months, you know."

"Yes, I know it, and they were very kind to me. Aunt Isabel had parties,
and did things for my pleasure all the time. Well, I'll invite them right
away. Perhaps I ought to ask Aunt Isabel, too."

"Yes, you might ask her," said Mr. Fairfield, "and she can bring the
children down, but she probably will not stay as long as they do."

So Patty wrote for her aunt and cousins, and the first day of July
they arrived.

Mrs. St. Clair, who was Patty's aunt only by marriage, was a very
fashionable woman of a pretty, but somewhat artificial, type. She liked
young people, and had spared no pains to make Patty's visit to her a
happy one. But it was quite evident that she expected Patty to return her
hospitality in kind, and she had been at Boxley Hall but a few hours
before she began to inquire what plans Patty had made for her
entertainment.

Now, though Patty had thought out several little pleasures for her
cousins, it hadn't occurred to her that Aunt Isabel would expect parties
made for her.

She evaded her aunt's questions, however, and waited for an opportunity
to speak alone with her father about it.

"Why, papa," she exclaimed that evening after their guests had gone to
their rooms, "Aunt Isabel expects me to have a tea or reception or
something for her."

"Nonsense, child, she can't think of such a thing."

"Yes, she does, papa, and what's more, I want to do it. She was very
kind to me and I'd rather please her than Ethelyn. I don't care much for
Ethelyn anyway."

"She isn't just your kind, is she, my girl?"

"No, she isn't like Marian nor any of the club girls. She has her head
full of fashions, and beaux, and grown-up things of all sorts. She is
just my age, but you'd think she was about twenty, wouldn't you?"

"Yes, she does look almost as old as that, and she acts quite as old.
Reginald is a nice boy."

"Yes, but he's pompous and stuck-up. He always did put on grand airs.
Aunt Isabel does, too, but she's so kind-hearted and generous nobody can
help liking her."

"Well, have a party for her if you want to, chicken. But don't take the
responsibility of it entirely on yourself. I should think you might make
it a pretty little afternoon tea. Get Aunt Alice to make out the
invitation list; she knows better than you what ladies to invite, and
then let Pacetti send up whatever you want for the feast. I've no doubt
Pansy will be willing to attend to the floral decoration of the house."

"I've no doubt she will," said Patty, laughing. "The trouble will be to
stop her before she turns the whole place into a horticultural exhibit."

"Well, go ahead with it, Patty. I think it will please your aunt very
much, but don't wear yourself out over it."

Next morning at breakfast Patty announced her plan for an afternoon tea,
and Aunt Isabel was delighted.

"You dear child," she exclaimed, "how sweet of you! I hate to have you go
to any trouble on my account, but I shall be so pleased to meet the
Vernondale ladies. I want to know what kind of people my niece is growing
up among."

"I'm sure you'll like them, Aunt Isabel. Aunt Alice's friends are lovely.
And then I'll ask the mothers of the Tea Club girls, and my neighbour,
Miss Daggett, but I don't believe she'll come."

"Is that the rich Miss Daggett?" asked Aunt Isabel curiously; "the
queer one?"

"I don't know whether she's rich or not," said Patty. "I dare say she
is, though, because she has lovely things; but she certainly can be
called queer. I'm very fond of her, though; she's awfully nice to me, and
I like her in spite of her queerness."

"But you'll ask some young ladies, too, won't you?" said Ethelyn. "I
don't care very much for queer old maids and middle-aged married ladies."

"Oh, this isn't for you, Ethel," said Patty. "I'll have a children's
party for you and Reginald some other day."

"Children's party, indeed," said Ethelyn, turning up her haughty little
nose. "You know very well, Patty, I haven't considered myself a child
for years."

"Nor I," said Reginald.

"Well, I consider myself one," said Patty. "I'm not in a bit of hurry to
be grown-up; but we're going to have a lovely sailing party, Ethelyn, on
Fourth of July, and I'm sure you'll enjoy that."

"Are any young men going?" said Ethelyn.

"There are a lot of boys going," said Patty. "But the only young men
will be my father and Uncle Charley and Mr. Hepworth."

"Who is Mr. Hepworth?"

"He's an artist friend of papa's, who comes out quite often, and who
always goes sailing with us when we have sailing parties."

Aunt Alice was more than willing to help Patty with her project, and the
result was a very pretty little afternoon tea at Boxley Hall.

"I'm so glad I brought my white crepe-de-chine," said Aunt Isabel, as she
dressed for the occasion.

"I'm glad, too," said Patty; "for it's a lovely gown and you look
sweet in it."

"I've brought a lot of pretty dresses, too," said Ethelyn, "and I suppose
I may as well put on one of the prettiest to-day, as there's no use in
wasting them on those children's parties you're talking about."

"Do just as you like, Ethelyn," said Patty, knowing that her cousin was
always overdressed on all occasions, and therefore it made little
difference what she wore.

And, sure enough, Ethelyn arrayed herself in a most resplendent gown
which, though very beautiful, was made in a style more suited to a belle
of several seasons than a young miss of sixteen.

Patty wore one of her pretty little white house dresses; and Aunt Alice,
in a lovely gray gown, assisted her to receive the guests, and to
introduce Mrs. St. Clair and her children.

Among the late arrivals was Miss Daggett. Her coming created a sensation,
for, as was well known in Vernondale, she rarely attended social affairs
of any sort. But, for some unknown reason, she chose to accept Patty's
invitation, and, garbed in an old-fashioned brown velvet, she was
presented to Mrs. St. Clair.

"I'm so glad to see you," said the latter, shaking hands effusively.

"Humph!" said Miss Daggett. "Why should you be glad to see me, pray?"

"Why, because--because--" Mrs. St. Clair floundered a little, and
seemed really unable to give any reason.

"Because you've heard that I'm rich and old and queer?" said Miss
Daggett.

This was exactly true, but Mrs. St. Clair did not care to admit it, so
she said: "Why, no, not that; but I've heard my niece speak of you so
often that I felt anxious to meet you."

"Well, I'm not afraid of anything Patty Fairfield said about me; she's a
dear little girl; I'm very fond of her."

"Why do you call her little girl?" said Mrs. St. Clair. "Patty is in her
seventeenth year; surely that is not quite a child."

"But she is a child at heart," said Miss Daggett, "and I am glad of it. I
would far rather see her with her pretty, sunshiny childish ways than to
see her like that overdressed little minx standing over there beside her,
whoever she may be."

"That's my daughter," said Mrs. St. Clair, without, however, looking as
deeply offended as she might have done.

"Oh, is it?" said Miss Daggett, sniffing. "Well, I see no reason to
change my opinion of her, if she is."

"No," said Mrs. St. Clair, "of course we are each entitled to our own
opinion. Now, I think my daughter more appropriately dressed than my
niece. And I think your nephew will agree with me," she added, smiling.

"My nephew!" snapped Miss Daggett. "Do you know him?"

"Oh, yes, indeed; we met Mr. Harper at a reception in New York not long
ago, and he was very much charmed with my daughter Ethelyn."

"He may have seemed so," said Miss Daggett scornfully. "He is a very
polite young man. But let me tell you, he admires Patty Fairfield more
than any other girl he has ever seen. He told me so himself. And now, go
away, if you please, I'm tired of talking to you."

Mrs. St. Clair was not very much surprised at this speech, for Patty had
told her of Miss Daggett's summary method of dismissing people; and so,
with a sweet smile and a bow, the fashionable matron left the eccentric
and indignant spinster.




CHAPTER XVIII

A SAILING PARTY


After Aunt Isabel had gone home, Patty devoted herself to the
entertainment of her young cousins. And they seemed to require a great
deal of entertainment--both Ethelyn and Reginald wanted something done
for their pleasure all the time. They did not hesitate to express very
freely their opinions of the pleasures planned for them, and as they were
sophisticated young persons, they frequently scorned the simple gaieties
in which Patty and her Vernondale companions found pleasure. However,
they condescended to be pleased at the idea of a sailing party, for, as
there was no water near their own home, a yacht was a novelty to them. At
first Ethelyn thought to appear interesting by expressing timid doubts as
to the safety of the picnic party, but she soon found that the
Vernondale young people had no foolish fears of that sort.

Fourth of July was a bright, clear day, warm, but very pleasant, with a
good stiff breeze blowing. Patty was up early, and when Ethelyn came
downstairs, she found her cousin, with the aid of Mancy and Pansy,
packing up what seemed to be luncheon enough for the whole party.

"Doesn't anybody else take anything?" she inquired.

"Oh, yes," said Patty, "they all do. I'm only taking cold chicken and
stuffed eggs. You've no idea what an appetite sailing gives you."

Ethelyn looked very pretty in a yachting suit of white serge, while
Patty's sailor gown was of more prosaic blue flannel, trimmed with
white braid.

"That's a sweet dress, Ethelyn," said Patty, "but I'm awfully afraid
you'll spoil it. You know we don't go in a beautiful yacht, all white
paint and polished brass; we go in a big old schooner that's roomy and
safe but not overly clean."

"Oh, it doesn't matter," said Ethelyn; "I dare say I shall spoil it, but
I've nothing else that's just right to wear."

"All aboard!" shouted a cheery voice, and Kenneth Harper's laughing face
appeared in the doorway.

"Oh, good-morning!" cried Patty, smiling gaily back at him; "I'm so glad
to see you. This is my cousin, Miss St. Clair. Ethelyn, may I present
Mr. Harper?"

Immediately Ethelyn assumed a coquettish and simpering demeanour.

"I've met Mr. Harper before," she said; "though I dare say he doesn't
remember me."

"Oh, yes, indeed I do," said Kenneth gallantly. "We met at a reception in
the city, and I am delighted to see you again, especially on such a jolly
occasion as I feel sure to-day is going to be."

"Do you think it is quite safe?" said Ethelyn, with what she considered
a charming timidity. "I've never been sailing, you know, and I'm not
very brave."

"Oh, pshaw! of course it's safe, barring accidents; but you're always
liable to those, even in an automobile. Hello! here comes Hepworth. Glad
to see you, old chap."

Mr. Hepworth received a general storm of glad greetings, was presented to
the strangers, and announced himself as ready to carry baskets, boxes,
rugs, wraps, or whatever was to be transported.

Mr. Fairfield, as general manager, portioned out the luggage, and then,
each picking up his individual charge, they started off. On the way they
met the Elliott family similarly equipped and equally enthusiastic, and
the whole crowd proceeded down to the wharf. There they found about
thirty young people awaiting them. All the girls of the Tea Club were
there; and all the boys, who insisted on calling themselves honorary
members of the club.

"It's a beautiful day," said Guy Morris, "but no good at all for sailing.
The breeze has died down entirely, and I don't believe it will come up
again all day."

"That's real cheerful, isn't it?" said Frank Elliott. "I should be
inclined to doubt it myself, but Guy is such a weatherwise genius, and he
almost never makes a mistake in his prognostications."

"Well, it remains to be seen what the day will bring forth," said Uncle
Charley; "but in the meantime we'll get aboard."

The laughing crowd piled themselves on board the big schooner, stowed
away all the baskets and bundles, and settled themselves comfortably in
various parts of the boat; some sat in the stern, others climbed to the
top of the cabin, while others preferred the bow, and one or two
adventurous spirits clambered out to the end of the long bowsprit and sat
with their feet dangling above the water. Ethelyn gave some affected
little cries of horror at this, but Frank Elliott reassured her by
telling her that it was always a part of the performance.

"Why, I have seen your dignified cousin Patty do it; in fact, she
generally festoons herself along the edge of the boat in some precarious
position."

"Don't do it to-day, will you, Patty?" besought Ethelyn, with a
ridiculous air of solicitude.

"No, I won't," said Patty; "I'll be real good and do just as you
want me to."

"Noble girl!" said Kenneth Harper. "I know how hard it is for you
to be good."

"It is, indeed," said Patty, laughing; "and I insist upon having
due credit."

As a rule the Vernondale parties were exciting affairs. The route was
down the river to the sound; from the sound to the bay; and, if the
day were very favourable, out into the ocean, and perhaps around
Staten Island.

Patty had hoped for this most extended trip today, in order that Ethelyn
and Reginald might see a sailing party at its very best.

But after they had been on board an hour they had covered only the few
miles of river, and found themselves well out into the sound, but with no
seeming prospect of going any farther. The breeze had died away entirely,
and as the sun rose higher the heat was becoming decidedly uncomfortable.

Ethelyn began to fidget. Her pretty white serge frock had come in contact
with some muddy ropes and some oily screws, and several unsightly spots
were the result. This made her cross, for she hated to have her costume
spoiled so early in the day; and besides she was unpleasantly conscious
that her fair complexion was rapidly taking on a deep shade of red. She
knew this was unbecoming, but when Reginald, with brotherly frankness,
informed her that her nose looked like a poppy bud, she lost her temper
and relapsed into a sulky fit.

"I don't see any fun in a sailing party, if this is one," she said.

"Oh, this isn't one," said Guy Morris good-humoredly; "this is just a
first-class fizzle. We often have them, and though they're not as much
fun as a real good sailing party, yet we manage to get a good time out of
them some way."

"I don't see how," said Ethelyn, who was growing very ill-tempered.

"We'll show you," said Frank Elliott kindly; "there are lots of things to
do on board a boat besides sail."

There did seem to be, and notwithstanding the heat and the sunburn--yes,
even the mosquitoes--those happy-go-lucky young people found ways to have
a real good time. They sang songs and told stories and jokes, and showed
each other clever little games and tricks. One of the boys had a camera
and he took pictures of the whole crowd, both singly and in groups. Mr.
Hepworth drew caricature portraits, and Kenneth Harper gave some of his
funny impersonations.

Except for the responsibility of her cousin's entertainment, Patty
enjoyed herself exceedingly; but then she was always a happy little girl,
and never allowed herself to be discomfited by trifles.

Everybody was surprised when Aunt Alice announced that it was time for
luncheon, and though all were disappointed at the failure of the sail,
everybody seemed to take it philosophically and even merrily.

"What is the matter?" said Ethelyn. "Why don't we go?"

"The matter is," said Mr. Fairfield, "we are becalmed. There is no
breeze and consequently nothing to make our bonny ship move, so she
stands still."

"And are we going to stay right here all day?" asked Ethelyn.

"It looks very much like it, unless an ocean steamer comes along and
gives us a tow."

Aunt Alice and the girls of the party soon had the luncheon ready, and
the merry feast was made. As Frank remarked, it was a very different
thing to sit there in the broiling sun and eat sandwiches and devilled
eggs, or to consume the same viands with the yacht madly flying along in
rolling waves and dashing spray.

The afternoon palled a little. Youthful enthusiasm and determined good
temper could make light of several hours of discomfort, but toward three
o'clock the sun's rays grew unbearably hot, the glare from the water was
very trying, and the mosquitoes were something awful.

Guy Morris, who probably spent more of his time in a boat than any of the
others, declared that he had never seen such a day.

Mr. Fairfield felt sorry for Ethelyn, who had never had such an
experience before, and so he exerted himself to entertain her, but she
resisted all his attempts, and even though Patty came to her father's
assistance, they found it impossible to make their guest happy.

Reginald was no better. He growled and fretted about the heat and other
discomforts and he was so pompous and overbearing in his manner that it
is not surprising that the boys of Vernondale cordially disliked him.

"As long as we can't go sailing," said Ethelyn, "I should think we
would go home."

"We can't get home," said Patty patiently. She had already explained this
several times to her cousin. "There is no breeze to take us anywhere."

"Well, what will happen to us, then? Shall we stay here forever?"

"There ought to be a breeze in two or three days," said Kenneth Harper,
who could not resist the temptation to chaff this ill-tempered young
person. "Say by Tuesday or Wednesday, I should think a capful of wind
might puff up in some direction."

"It is coming now," said Frank Elliott suddenly; "I certainly feel
a draught."

"Put something around you, my boy," said his mother, "I don't want you
to take cold."

"Let me get you a wrap," said Frank, smiling back at his mother, who was
fanning herself with a folded newspaper.

"The wind is coming," said Guy Morris, and his serious face was a sharp
contrast to the merry ones about him, "and it's no joke this time. Within
ten minutes there'll be a stiff breeze, and within twenty a howling gale,
or I'm no sailor."

As he spoke he was busily preparing to reef the mainsail, and he
consulted hurriedly with the sailors.

At first no one could believe Guy's prophecies would come true, but in a
few moments the cool breeze was distinctly felt, the sun went under a
cloud, and the boat began to move. It was a sudden squall, and the clouds
thickened and massed themselves into great hills of blackness; the water
turned dark and began to rise in little threatening billows, the wind
grew stronger and stronger, and then without warning the rain came.
Thunder and lightning added to the excitement of the occasion, and in
less than fifteen minutes the smooth sunny glare of water was at the
mercy of a fearful storm.

The occupants of the boat seemed to know exactly how to behave in these
circumstances. Mrs. Elliott and the girls of the party went down into the
little cabin, which held them all, but which was very crowded.

Guy Morris took command, and the other boys, and men, too, for that
matter, did exactly as he told them.

Ethelyn began to cry. This was really not surprising, as the girl had
never before had such an experience and was exceedingly nervous as well
as very much frightened.

Mrs. Elliott appreciated this, and putting her arm around the sobbing
child, comforted her with great tact and patience.

The storm passed as quickly as it came. There had been danger, both real
and plentiful, but no bad results attended, except that everybody was
more or less wet with the rain.

The boys were more and the girls less, but to Ethelyn's surprise, they
all seemed to view the whole performance quite as a matter of course, and
accepted the situation with the same merry philosophy that they had shown
in the morning.

The thermometer had fallen many degrees, and the cold wind against damp
clothing caused a most unpleasant sensation.

"It's an ill wind that blows nobody good," said Guy. "This breeze will
take us home, spinning."

"I'm glad of it," said Ethelyn snappishly; "I've had quite enough of the
sailing party."

Frank confided to Patty afterward that he felt like responding that the
sailing party had had quite enough of her, but instead he said politely:

"Oh, don't be so easily discouraged! Better luck next time."

To which Ethelyn replied, still crossly, "There'll be no next time for
me."




CHAPTER XIX

MORE COUSINS


Patty was not sorry when her Elmbridge cousins concluded their visit, and
the evening after their departure she sat on the veranda with her father,
talking about them.

"It's a pity," she said, "that Ethelyn is so ill-tempered; for she's so
pretty and graceful, and she's really very bright and entertaining when
she is pleased. But so much of the time she is displeased, and then
there's no doing anything with her."

"She's selfish, Patty," said her father; "and selfishness is just about
the worst fault in the catalogue. A selfish person cannot be happy. You
probably learned something to that effect from your early copybooks, but
it is none the less true."

"I know it, papa, and I do think that selfish ness is the worst fault
there is; and though I fight against it, do you know I sometimes think
that living here alone with you, and having my own way in everything, is
making me rather a selfish individual myself."

"I don't think you need worry about that," said a hearty voice, and
Kenneth Harper appeared at the veranda steps. "Pardon me, I wasn't
eavesdropping, but I couldn't help overhearing your last remark, and I
think it my duty to set your mind at rest on that score. Selfishness is
not your besetting sin, Miss Patty Fairfield, and I can't allow you to
libel yourself."

"I quite agree with you, Ken," said Mr. Fairfield. "My small daughter may
not be absolutely perfect, but selfishness is not one of her faults. At
least, that's the conclusion I've come to, after observing her pretty
carefully through her long and checkered career."

"Well, if I'm not selfish, I will certainly become vain if so many
compliments are heaped upon me," said Patty, laughing; "and I'm sure I
value very highly the opinions of two such wise men."

"Oh, say a man and a boy," said young Harper modestly.

"All right, I will," said Patty, "but I'm not sure which is which.
Sometimes I think papa more of a boy than you are, Ken."

"Now you've succeeded in complimenting us both at once," said Mr.
Fairfield, "which proves you clever as well as unselfish."

"Well, never mind me for the present," said Patty; "I want to talk about
some other people, and they are some more of my cousins."

"A commodity with which you seem to be well supplied," said Kenneth.

"Indeed I am; I have a large stock yet in reserve, and I think, papa,
that I'll ask Bob and Bumble to visit me for a few weeks."

"Do," said Mr. Fairfield, "if you would enjoy having them, but not
otherwise. You've just been through a siege of entertaining cousins, and
I think you deserve a vacation."

"Oh, but these are so different," said Patty. "Bob and Bumble are nothing
like the St. Clairs. They enjoy everything, and they're always happy."

"I like their name," said Kenneth. "Bumble isn't exactly romantic, but
it sounds awfully jolly."

"She is jolly," said Patty, "and so is Bob. They're twins, about sixteen,
and they're just brimming over with fun and mischief. Bumble's real name
is Helen, but I guess no one ever called her that. Helen seems to mean a
fair, tall girl, slender and graceful, and rather willowy; and Bumble is
just the opposite of that: she's round and solid, and always tumbling
down; at least she used to be, but she may have outgrown that habit now.
Anyway, she's a dear."

"And what is Bob like?" asked her father. "I haven't seen him since he
was a baby."

"Bob? Oh, he's just plain boy; awfully nice and obliging and good-hearted
and unselfish, but I don't believe he'll ever be President."

"I think I shall like your two cousins," said Kenneth, with an air of
conviction. "When are they coming?"

"I shall ask them right away, and I hope they'll soon come. How much
longer shall you be in Vernondale?"

"Oh, I think I'm a fixture for the summer. Aunt Locky wants me to spend
my whole vacation here, and I don't know of any good reason why I
shouldn't."

"I'm very glad; it will be awfully nice to have you here when the
twins are, and perhaps somebody else will be here, too. I'm going to
ask Nan Allen."

"Who is she?" inquired Mr. Fairfield.

"Oh, papa, don't you remember about her? She is a friend of the Barlows,
and lives near them in Philadelphia, and she was visiting them down at
Long Island when I was there last summer. She's perfectly lovely. She's a
grown-up young lady, compared to Bumble and me--she's about twenty-two, I
think--and I know Kenneth will lose his heart to her. He'll have no more
use for schoolgirls."

"Probably not," said Kenneth; "but I'm afraid the adorable young lady
will have no use for me. She won't if Hepworth's around, and he usually
is. He's always cutting me out."

"Nothing of the sort," said Patty staunchly. "Mr. Hepworth is very nice,
but he's papa's friend,"

"And whose friend am I?" said young Harper.

"You're everybody's friend," said Patty, smiling at him. "You're just
'Our Ken.'"

Miss Nan Allen was delighted to accept an invitation to Boxley Hall, and
it was arranged that she and the Barlow twins should spend August there.

"A month is quite a long visit, Pattikins," said her father.

"Yes, but you see, papa, I stayed there three months. Now, if three of
them stay here one month, it will be the same proportion. And,
besides, I like them, and I want them to stay a good while. I shan't
get tired of them."

"I don't believe you will, but you may get tired of the care of
housekeeping, with guests for so long a time. But if you do, I shall pick
up the whole tribe of you and bundle off for a trip of some sort."

"Oh, papa, I wish you would do that. I'd be perfectly delighted. I'll do
my best to get tired, just so you'll take us."

"But if I remember your reports of your Barlow cousins, it seems to me
they would not make the most desirable travelling companions. Aren't they
the ones who were so helter-skelter, never were ready on time, never knew
where things were, and, in fact, had never learned the meaning of the
phrase 'Law and order'?"

"Yes, they're the ones, and truly they are something dreadful. Don't you
remember they had a party and forgot to send out the invitations? And the
first night I reached there, when I went to visit them, they forgot to
have any bed in my room."

"Yes, I thought I remembered your writing to me about some such doings;
and do you think you can enjoy a month with such visitors as that?"

"Oh, yes, papa, because they won't upset _my_ house; and, really, they're
the dearest people. Oh, I'm awfully fond of Bob and Bumble I And Nan
Allen is lovely. Nobody can help liking her. She's not so helter-skelter
as the others, but down at the Hurly-Burly nobody could help losing
their things. Why, I even grew careless myself."

"Well, have your company, child, and I'll do all I can to make it
pleasant for you and for them."

"I know you will, you dear old pearl of a father. Sometimes I think you
enjoy my company as much as I do myself, but I suppose you don't really.
I suppose you entertain the young people and pretend to enjoy it just to
make me happy."

"I am happy, dear, in anything that makes you happy; though sixteen is
not exactly an age contemporary with my own. But I enjoy having Hepworth
down, and I like young Harper a great deal. Then, of course, I have my
little friends, Mr. and Mrs. Elliott, to play with--so I am not entirely
dependent on the kindergarten."

The Barlow twins and Nan Allen were expected to arrive on Thursday
afternoon at four o'clock, and everything at Boxley Hall was in readiness
for the arrival of the guests.

"Not that it's worth while to have everything in such spick-and-span
order," said Patty to herself, "for the Barlows won't appreciate it, and
what's more they'll turn everything inside out and upside down before
they've been in the house an hour."

But, notwithstanding her conviction, she made her preparations as
carefully as if for the most fastidious visitors and viewed the result
with great satisfaction after it was finished.

She went down in the carriage to meet the train, delighted at the thought
of seeing again her Barlow cousins, of whom she was really very fond.

"I wish Aunt Grace and Uncle Ted were coming, too," she said to herself;
"but I suppose I couldn't take care of so many people at once. It would
be like running a hotel."

The train had not arrived when they reached the station, so, telling the
coachman to wait, Patty left the carriage and walked up and down the
station platform.

"Hello, Patty, haven't your cousins come yet?"

"Why, Kenneth, is that you? No, they haven't come; I think the train
must be late."

"Yes, it is a little, but there it is now, just coming into sight around
the curve. May I stay and meet them? Or would you rather fall on their
necks alone?"

"Oh, stay, I'd be glad to have you; but you'll have to walk back, there's
no room in the carriage for you."

"Oh, that's all right. I have my wheel, thank you."

The train stopped, and a number of passengers alighted. But as the train
went on and the small crowd dispersed, Patty remarked in a most
exasperated tone:

"Well, they didn't come on that train. I just knew they wouldn't. They
are the most aggravating people! Now, nobody knows whether they were on
that train and didn't know enough to get off, or whether they missed it
at the New York end. What time is the next train?"

"I'm not sure," said Kenneth; "let's go in the station and find out."

The next train was due at 4.30, but the expected guests did not arrive
on that either.

"There's no use in getting annoyed," said Patty, laughing, "for it's
really nothing more nor less than I expected. The Barlows never catch the
train they intend to take."

"And Miss Allen? Is she the same kind of an 'Old Reliable'?"

"No, Nan is different; and I believe that, left to herself, she'd be on
time, though probably not ahead of time. But I've never seen her except
with the Barlows, and when she was down at the Hurly-Burly she was just
about as uncertain as the rest of them."

"Is the Hurly-Burly the Barlow homestead?"

"Well, it's their summer home, and it's really a lovely place. But its
name just expresses it. I spent three months there last summer, and I had
an awfully good time, but no one ever knew what was going to happen next
or when it would come off. But everybody was so good-natured that they
didn't mind a bit. Well, I suppose we may as well drive back home.
There's no telling when these people will come. Very likely not until
to-morrow."

Just then a small messenger boy came up to Patty and handed her a
telegram.

"Just as I thought!" exclaimed Patty. "They've done some crazy thing."

Opening the yellow envelope, she read:

"Took wrong train. Carried through to Philadelphia. Back this
evening. BOB."

"Well, then, they can't get here until that nine-o'clock train comes in,"
said Kenneth, "so there's no use in your waiting any longer now."

"No, I suppose not," said Patty; "I'm awfully disappointed. I wish they
had come."

An east-bound train had just come into the station, and Patty and Kenneth
stood idly watching it, when suddenly Patty exclaimed:

"There they are now! Did you ever know such ridiculous people?"




CHAPTER XX

A FAIR EXCHANGE


"We didn't have to go to Philadelphia after all," explained Bob, after
greetings had been exchanged. "We found we could get off at New Brunswick
and come back from there."

"Why didn't you find out that before telegraphing?" laughed Patty.

"Never once thought of it," said Bob, "You know the Barlows are not noted
for ingenuity."

"Well, they're noted for better things than that," said Patty, as she
affectionately squeezed Bumble's plump arm.

"We wouldn't have thought of it at all," said honest Bob, "if it hadn't
been for Nan. She suggested it."

"Well, I was sent along with instructions to look after you two
rattle-pated youngsters," said Nan, "and so I had to do something to live
up to my privileges; and now, Bob, you look after the luggage, will you?"

"Let me help," said Kenneth. "Where are your checks, Miss Allen?"

"Here are the checks for the trunks, and there are three suit-cases; the
one that hasn't any name on is mine, and you tell it by the fact that it
has an extra handle on the end. I'm very proud of that handle; I had it
put on by special order, and it's so convenient, and it is identification
besides. I didn't want my name painted on. I think it spoils a brand-new
suit-case to have letters all over it."

"We'll find them all right; come on, Barlow," said Kenneth, and the two
young men started off.

They returned in a few moments with the three suit-cases, Bob bringing
his own and his sister's, while Kenneth Harper carefully carried the
immaculate leather case with the handle on the end. These were deposited
in the Fairfield carriage. Patty and her guests were also tucked in, and
they started for the house, while Kenneth followed on his wheel.

"Come over to-night," Patty called back to him, as they left him behind;
and though his answer was lost in the distance, she had little doubt as
to its tenor.

"What a nice young fellow!" said Nan. "Who is he?"

"He's the nephew of our next-door neighbour," said Patty; "and he's
spending his vacation with his aunt."

"He's a jolly all-round chap," said Bob.

"Yes, he's just that," said Patty. "I thought you'd like him. You'll like
all the young people here. They're an awfully nice crowd."

"I'm so glad to see _you_ again," said Bumble, "I don't care whether I
like the other young people or not. And I want to see Uncle Fred, too. I
haven't seen him for years and years."

"Oh, he's one of the young people," said Patty, laughing; "he goes 'most
everywhere with us. I tell him he's more of a boy than Ken."

As they drove up to the house, Bumble exclaimed with delight at the
beautiful flowers and the well-kept appearance of the whole place.

"What a lovely home!" she cried. "I don't see how you ever put up with
our tumble-down old place, Patty."

"Nonsense!" said Patty. "I had the time of my life down at the
Hurly-Burly last summer."

"Well, we're going to have the time of our life at Boxley Hall this
summer, I feel sure of that," said Bob, as he sprang out of the carriage
and then helped the others out.

"I hope you will," said Patty. "You are very welcome to Boxley Hall, and
I want you just to look upon it as your home and conduct yourselves
accordingly."

"Nan can do that," said Bumble, "but I'm afraid, if Bob and I did it,
your beautiful home would soon lose its present spick-and-span effect."

"All right, let it lose," said Patty. "We'll have a good time anyhow. And
now," she went on, as she took the guests to their rooms, "there'll be
just about an hour before dinner time but if you get ready before that
come down. You'll probably find me on the front veranda, if I'm not in
the kitchen."

Bob was the first one to reappear, and he found Patty and her father
chatting on the front veranda.

"How do you do, Uncle Fred?" he said. "You may know my name, but I doubt
if you remember my features."

"Hello, Bob, my boy," said Mr. Fairfield, cordially grasping the hand
held out to him. "As I last saw you with features of infantile vacancy, I
am glad to start fresh and make your acquaintance all over again."

"Thank you, sir," said Bob, as he seated himself on the veranda railing.
"I didn't know you as an infant, but I dare say you were a very
attractive one."

"I think I was," said Mr. Fairfield; "at least I remember hearing my
mother say so, and surely she ought to know."

Just then Bumble came out on the porch with her hair-ribbon in her hand.

"Please tie this for me, Patty," she said. "I cannot manage it myself,
and get it on quick before Uncle Fred sees me."

"But I am so glad to see you, my dear Bumble," said Mr. Fairfield, "that
even that piece of pretty blue ribbon can't make me any gladder."

Bumble smiled back at him in her winning way, and Patty tied her cousin's
hair-ribbon with a decided feeling of relief that in all other respects
Bumble's costume was tidy and complete.

"Where's Nan?" she inquired; "isn't she ready yet?"

"Why, it's the funniest thing," said Bumble, "I tapped at her door as I
came by, but she told me to go on and not wait for her, she would come
down in a few minutes."

Just as Pansy appeared to announce dinner, Nan did come down, and Patty
stared at her in amazement. Bob whistled, and Bumble exclaimed:

"Well, for goodness gracious sakes! What are you up to now?"

For Nan, instead of wearing the pretty gown which Bumble knew she had
brought in her suitcase, was garbed in the complete costume of a trained
nurse. A white pique skirt and linen shirt-waist of immaculate and
starched whiteness, an apron with regulation shoulder-straps, and a cap
that betokened a graduate of St. Luke's Hospital, formed her surprising,
but not at all unbecoming, outfit.

Nan's roguish face looked very demure under the white cap, and she smiled
pleasantly when Patty at last recovered her wits sufficiently to
introduce her father.

"Nan," she said, "if this is really you, let me present my father; and,
papa, this is supposed to be Miss Nan Allen, but I never saw her look
like this before."

"I am very glad to meet you, Miss Allen," said Mr. Fairfield, "and though
we are all apparently very well at present, one can never tell how soon
there may be need of your professional services."

"I hope not very soon," said Nan, laughing; "for my professional
knowledge is scarcely sufficient to enable me to adjust this costume
properly."

"It seems to be on all right," said Patty, looking at it critically; "but
where in the world did you get it? And what have you got it on for? We're
not going to a masquerade."

"I put it on," said Nan, "because I couldn't help myself. I wanted to
change my travelling gown, and when I opened my suit-case this is all
there was in it, except some combs and brushes and bottles."

"Whew!" said Bob. "When I picked up that suit-case I wasn't quite sure I
had the right one. You know I went back for it after we left the train at
New Brunswick, and you said it was the only one in the world with a
handle on the end."

"I thought it was," said Nan, "but it seems somebody else was clever
enough to have an end-handle too, and she was a trained nurse,
apparently."

"Many of the new suit-cases have handles on the end," said Mr. Fairfield,
"though not common as yet I have seen a number of them. But just imagine
how the nurse feels who is obliged to wear your dinner gown instead of
her uniform."

"I hope she won't spoil it," exclaimed Bumble. "It was that lovely light
blue thing, one of the prettiest frocks you own."

"I can imagine her now," said Bob: "she is probably bathing the brow of a
sleepless patient, and the lace ruffles and turquoise bugles are helping
along a lot. In fact, I think she's looking rather nice going around a
sick-room in that blue bombazine."

"It isn't bombazine, Bob," said his sister; "it's beautiful, lovely
light-blue chiffon."

"Well, beautiful, lovely light-blue chiffon, then; but anyway, I'm
sure the nurse is glad of a chance to wear it instead of her own
plain clothes."

"But her own plain clothes are not at all unpicturesque, and are very
becoming to Miss Allen," said Mr. Fairfield. "But haven't your trunks
come?" he added, as they all went out to dinner.

"No," said Bob; "Mr. Harper and I investigated the baggage-room, but
they weren't there."

"Oh, call him Kenneth," said Patty. "You boys are too young for such
formality."

"I may be," said Bob, "but he isn't. He's a college man."

"He's a college boy," said Patty; "he's only nineteen, and you're sixteen
yourself."

"Going on seventeen," said Bob proudly, "and so is Bumble."

"Twins often are the same age," observed Mr. Fairfield, "and after a few
years, Bob, you'll have to be careful how you announce your own age,
because it will reveal your sister's."

"Pooh! I don't care," said Bumble. "I'd just as lieve people would know
how old I am. Nan is twenty-two, and she doesn't care who knows it."

"You look about fifty in those ridiculous clothes," said Patty.

"Do I?" said Nan, quite unconcernedly. "I don't mind that a bit, but I
don't think I can keep them at this stage of whiteness for many days.
Can anything be done to coax our trunks this way?"

"We might do some telephoning after dinner," said Mr. Fairfield. "What is
the situation up to the present time?"

"Why, you see it was this way," said Bumble. "When the carriage came to
take us to the station, the trunks weren't quite ready, and mamma said
for us to go on and she'd finish packing them and send them down in time
to get that train or the next."

"And did they come for that train?"

"No, they didn't, and so, of course, they must have been sent on the next
one; but even so, they ought to be here now, because, you know, we went
on through and came back."

"But how did you get your checks if your trunks weren't put on the
train?"

"Oh, the baggageman knows us," explained Bob, "and he gave us our checks
and kept the duplicates to put on our trunks when they came down to the
station. He often does that."

"Yes," said Bumble, "we've never had our trunks ready yet when the man
came for them."

"Nan's was ready," put in Bob, who was a great stickler for justice,
"but, of course, hers couldn't go till ours did. Oh, I guess they'll turn
up all right."

They did turn up all right twenty-four hours later, but the exchange of
suit-cases was not so easily effected.

However, after more or less correspondence between Nan and the nurse who
owned the uniform, the transfer was finally made, and Nan recovered her
pretty blue gown, which certainly bore no evidence of having been worn in
a sickroom.

"But I bet she wore it, all the same," said Bob. "She probably
neglected her patient and went to a party that night just because she
had the frock."




CHAPTER XXI

A GOOD SUGGESTION


August at Boxley Hall proved to be a month of fun and frolic. The Barlow
cousins were much easier to entertain than the St. Clairs. In fact, they
entertained themselves, and as for Nan Allen, she entertained everybody
with whom she came in contact. Mr. Fairfield expressed himself as being
delighted to have Patty under the influence of such a gracious and
charming young woman, and Aunt Alice quite agreed with him. Marian adored
Nan, and though she liked Bumble very much indeed, she took more real
pleasure in the society of the older girl.

But they were a congenial crowd of merry young people, and when Mr.
Hepworth came down from the city, as he often did, and Kenneth Harper
drifted in from next-door, as he very often did, the house party at
Boxley Hall waxed exceeding merry.

And there was no lack of social entertainment. The Vernondale young
people were quite ready to provide pleasures for Patty's guests, and the
appreciation shown by Nan and the Barlows was a decided and very pleasant
contrast to the attitude of Ethelyn and Reginald.

Sailing parties occurred often, and these Nan enjoyed especially, for she
was passionately fond of the water, and dearly loved sailing or rowing.

The Tea Club girls all liked Nan, and though she was older than most of
them, she enjoyed their meetings quite as much as Bumble, Marian, or
Patty herself.

Bob soon made friends with the "Tea Club Annex," as the boys of Patty's
set chose to call themselves. Though not a club of any sort, they were
always invited when the Tea Club had anything special going on, and many
times when it hadn't.

One afternoon the Tea Club was holding its weekly meeting at Marian's.

"Do you know," Elsie Morris was saying, "that the Babies' Hospital is in
need of funds again? Those infants are perfect gormandisers. I don't see
how they can eat so much or wear so many clothes."

"Babies always wear lots of clothes," said Lillian Desmond, with an air
of great wisdom. "I've seen them; they just bundle them up in everything
they can find, and then wrap more things around them."

"Well, they've used up all their wrappings," said Elsie Morris, "and
they want more. I met Mrs. Greenleaf this morning in the street, and
she stopped me to ask if we girls wouldn't raise some more money for
them somehow."

"Oh, dear!" said Florence Douglass. "They just want us to work all the
time for the old hospital; I'm tired of it."

"Why, Florence!" said Patty. "We haven't done a thing since we had that
play last winter. I think it would be very nice to have some
entertainment or something and make some money for them again. We could
have some summery outdoorsy kind of a thing like a lawn party, you know."

"Yes," said Laura Russell, "and have it rain and spoil everything; and
soak all the Chinese lanterns, and drench all the people's clothes, and
everybody would run into the house and track mud all over. Oh, it would
be lovely!"

"What a cheerful view you do take of things, Laura," said Elsie Morris.
"Now, you know it's just as likely not to rain as to rain."

"More likely," said Nan. "It doesn't rain twice as often as it rains. Now
I believe it would be a beautiful bright day, or moonlight night,
whichever you have the party, and nobody will get their clothes spoiled,
and the lanterns will burn lovely, and you will have a big crowd, and it
would be a howling success, and you'd make an awful lot of money."

"That picture sounds very attractive," said Polly Stevens, "and I say
let's do it. But somehow I don't like a lawn party--it's so tame. Let's
have something real novel and original. Nan, you must know of something."

"I don't," said Nan. "I'm stupid as an owl about such things. But if you
can decide on something to have, I'll help all I can with it."

"And Nan's awful good help!" put in Bumble. "She works and works and
works, and never gets tired. I'll help, too; I'd love to, only I'm not
much good."

"We'll take all the help that's offered," said Elsie Morris, "of any
quality whatsoever. But what can the show be?"

No amount of thinking or discussion seemed to suggest any novel
enterprise by which a fortune could be made at short notice, and at last
Nan said: "I should think, Patty, that Mr. Hepworth could help. He's
always having queer sorts of performances in his studio. Don't you know
the Mock Art exhibition he told us about?"

"Oh, yes," said Patty; "he'd be sure to know of something for us to do;
and I think he's coming out with papa to-night. I'll ask him."

"Do," said Elsie; "and tell him it must be something that's heaps of fun,
and that we'll all like, and that's never been done here before."

"All right," said Patty. "Anything else?"

"Yes; it must be something to appeal to the popular taste and draw a big
crowd, so we can make a lot of money for the babies."

"Very well," said Patty; "I'll tell him all that, and I'm sure he'll
suggest just the right thing."

Mr. Hepworth did come down that night, and when the girls asked him for
suggestions he very willingly began to think up plans for them.

"I should think you might make a success," he said, "of an entertainment
like one I attended up in the mountains last summer. It was called a
'County Fair,' and was a sort of burlesque on the county fairs or state
fairs that used to be held annually, and are still, I believe, in some
sections of the country."

"It sounds all right so far," said Patty. "Tell us more about it."

"Well, you know you get everybody interested, and you have a committee
for all the different parts of it."

"What are the different parts of it?"

"Oh, they're the domestic department, where you exhibit pies and
bed-quilts and spatter-work done by the ladies in charge."

"Of course, these exhibits aren't real, you know, Patty," said her
father; "and you girls would probably be tempted to put up gay jokes on
each other. For instance, that rockery arrangement of Pansy's might be
exhibited as your idea of art work."

"I wouldn't mind the joke on myself, papa," said Patty, "but it might not
please Pansy. But we can get plenty of things to exhibit in the domestic
department. That will be easy enough. I'll borrow Miss Daggett's pumpkin
bed-quilt to exhibit as my latest achievement in the line of applied art,
and I'll make a pie and label it Laura Russell's, which will take the
first prize; but what other departments are there, Mr. Hepworth?"

"Well, the horticulture department can be made very humourous, as well as
lucrative. At this fair I went to, the ladies had a beautiful table full
of pin-cushions and other gimcracks, in the shape of fruits and
vegetables."

"Oh, yes," said Bumble, "I know how to make those. I can make bananas and
potatoes and Nan can make lovely strawberries."

"And I can make paper flowers," said Bob, "honest, I can! Great big
sunflowers and tiger lilies, and you can use them for lampshades if
you like."

"Yes, the horticulture booth will be easy enough," said Nan. "I'll help a
lot with that. Now, what else?"

"Then you can have an art gallery, if you like. Burlesque, of course,
with ridiculous pictures and statues. I know where I can borrow a lot for
you in New York."

"Gorgeous!" cried Patty, clapping her hands. "What a trump you are!
What else?"

"A loan exhibition is of real interest," said Mr. Hepworth. "If you've
never had one of those here, I think one or two of your members could
arrange a very effective little exhibit by borrowing objects of interest
from their friends about town."

"I'm sure of it," said Patty. "Miss Daggett has lovely things, and so has
Mrs. Greenleaf, and Aunt Alice, and lots of people. We'll let Florence
Douglass and Lillian Desmond look after that. It's just in their line."

"And then you must have side shows, you know; funny performances, like
'Punch and Judy,' and a fortune-telling gipsy. And then all the people
who take part in it must wear fancy or grotesque costumes. And the great
feature of the whole show is a parade of these people in their eccentric
garb. Some walk, while others ride on decorated steeds, or in queer
vehicles. Of course, there's lots of detail and lots of work about it,
but if you go into the thing with any sort of enthusiasm, I'm sure you
can make a big success of it."

They did go into the thing with all sorts of enthusiasm, and they did
make a big success of it.

The Tea Club girls declared the scheme a fine one, and the Boys' Annex
announced themselves as ready to help in any and every possible way.
Committees were appointed to attend to the different departments, and as
these committees were carefully selected with a view to giving each what
he or she liked best to do, the whole work went on harmoniously.

The site chosen for the county fair was the old Warner place. As this was
still unoccupied, it made a most appropriate setting for the projected
entertainment. When Mr. Hepworth saw it he declared it was ideal for the
purpose, and immediately began to make plans for utilising the different
rooms of the old house.

A loan exhibition was to be held in one; and, as Patty had foreseen, many
old relics and heirlooms of great interest were borrowed from willing
lenders around town. In another room was the domestic exhibition, and in
another the horticultural show was held.

One room was devoted to amusing the children, and contained a Punch and
Judy show, fish pond, and various games.

There was a candy kitchen, where white-capped cooks could make candy and
sell it to immediate purchasers.

It had been decided to hold the fair during the afternoon and evening of
two consecutive days. As Nan had prophesied, these days showed weather
beyond all criticism. Not too warm to be pleasant, but with bright
sunshine and a gentle breeze.

At three o'clock the grand parade began, and the spectators watched with
glee the grotesque figures that passed them in line.

Patty, whose special department was the candy kitchen, was dressed as the
Queen of Hearts who made the renowned tarts. Mr. Hepworth had designed
her dress, and though it was of simple white cheese-cloth, trimmed with
red-and-gold hearts, it was very effective and becoming. She wore a gilt
crown, and carried a gilt sceptre, and rode in her own little pony cart,
which had been so gaily decorated for the occasion that it was quite
unrecognisable. Kenneth Harper, as the Knave of Hearts, who wickedly
stole the tarts, sat by her side and drove the little chariot.

Nan was dressed as a gipsy. She had a marvellous tent in which to tell
fortunes, and in the parade she rode on a much-bedecked donkey.

Marian was a dame of olden time, and Bumble was a Japanese lady of
high degree.

There were quaint and curious costumes of all sorts, each of which
provoked much mirth or admiration from the enthusiastic audience.

After the parade, the fair was announced open, and the patrons were
requested to spend their money freely for the benefit of the hospital.

So well did they respond that, as a result of their efforts, the Tea Club
girls were able to present Mrs. Greenleaf with the sum of five hundred
dollars toward her good work.




CHAPTER XXII

AT THE SEASHORE


Toward the end of August the Barlows' visit drew toward its close.
Although Patty was sorry to have her cousins go, yet she looked forward
with a certain sense of relief to being once more alone with her father.

"It's lovely to have company," she confided to her Aunt Alice one day,
"and I do enjoy it ever so much, only somehow I get tired of ordering and
looking after things day after day."

"All housekeepers have that experience, Patty, dear," said Aunt Alice,
"but they're usually older than you before they begin. It is a great deal
of care for a girl of sixteen, and though you get along beautifully, I'm
sure it has been rather a hard summer for you."

So impressed was Mrs. Elliott with these facts that she talked to Mr.
Fairfield about the matter, and advised him to take Patty away somewhere
for a little rest and change before beginning her school year again.

Mr. Fairfield agreed heartily to this plan, expressed himself as willing
to take Patty anywhere, and suggested that some of the Elliotts go, too.

When Patty's opinion was asked, she said she would be delighted to go
away for a vacation, and that she had the place all picked out.

"Well, you are an expeditious young woman," said her father. "And where
is it that you want to go?"

"Why, you see, papa, the 1st of September, when Bob and Bumble go home
from here, Nan isn't going back with them; she's going down to Spring
Lake. That's a place down on the New Jersey coast, and I've never been
there, and she says it's lovely, and so I want to go there."

"Well, I don't see any reason why you shouldn't," said Mr. Fairfield. "It
would suit me well enough, if Nan is willing we should follow in her
footsteps."

"I'm delighted to have you," said Nan, who was in a hammock at the other
end of the veranda when this conclave was taking place.

"I wish we could go with the crowd," said Bob, who was perched on the
veranda railing.

"I wish so, too," said Bumble; "but wishing doesn't do any good. After
that letter father wrote yesterday, I think the best thing for us to do
is to scurry home as fast as we can."

So the plans were made according to Patty's wish, and a few days after
the Barlow twins returned to their home, a merry party left Vernondale
for Spring Lake.

This party consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Elliott and Marian, Mr. Fairfield,
Patty, and Nan.

They had all arranged for rooms in the same hotel to which Nan was going,
and where her parents were awaiting her.

Marlborough House was its name, and very attractive and comfortable it
looked to the Vernondale people as they arrived about four o'clock one
afternoon in early September.

Mr. and Mrs. Allen proved to be charming people who were more than ready
to show any courtesies in their power to the Fairfields, who had so
kindly entertained Nan.

Although an older couple than the Elliotts, they proved to be congenial
companions, and after a day or two the whole party felt as if they had
known each other all their lives. Acquaintances ripen easily at the
seashore, and Patty soon came to the conclusion that she was beginning
what was to be one of the pleasantest experiences of her life.

And so it proved; although Mr. Fairfield announced that Patty had come
down for a rest, and that there was to be very little, if any, gaiety
allowed, yet somehow there was always something pleasant going on.

Every day there was salt-water bathing, and this was a great delight to
Patty. The summer before, at her uncle's home on Long Island, she had
learned to swim, and though it was more difficult to swim in the surf,
yet it was also more fun. Nan was an expert swimmer, and Marian knew
nothing of the art, but the three girls enjoyed splashing about in the
water, and were never quite ready to come out when Aunt Alice or Mrs.
Allen called to them from the beach.

In the afternoons there were long walks or drives along the shore, and
the exercise and salt air soon restored to Patty the robust health and
strength which her father feared she had lost during the summer.

In the evening there was dancing--sometimes hops, but more often informal
dancing among the young people staying at the hotel. All three of our
girls were fond of dancing, and excelled in the art, but Patty was
especially graceful and skillful.

The first Saturday night after their arrival at Marlborough House, a
large dance was to be held, and this was really Patty's first experience
at what might be termed a ball.

She was delighted with the prospect, and her father had ordered her a
beautiful new frock from New York, which proved to be rather longer than
any she had as yet worn.

"I feel so grown up in it," she exclaimed, as she tried it on to show her
father. "I think I'll have to do up my hair when I wear this grand
costume; It doesn't seem just right to have it tied up with a little
girl hair-ribbon."

"Patty, my child, I do believe you're growing up!" said her father.

"I do believe I am, papa; I'm almost seventeen, and I'm taller than Aunt
Alice now, and a lot taller than Marian."

"It isn't only your height, child, you always were a big girl. But you
seem to be growing up in other ways, and I don't believe I like it I
was glad when you were no longer a child, but I like to have you a
little girl, and I don't believe I'll care for you a bit when you're a
young woman."

"Now, isn't that too bad!" said Patty, pinching her father's cheek. "I
suppose I'll have to suit myself with another father--I'm sure I couldn't
live with anybody who didn't like me a bit. Well, perhaps Uncle Charley
will adopt me; he seems to like me at any age."

"Oh, I'll try and put up with you," said her father, kissing her. "And
meantime, what's this talk about piling up your hair on top of your head.
Is it really absolutely necessary to do so, if you wear this frippery
confection of dry-goods?"

"Oh, not necessary, perhaps, but I think it would look better. At any
rate, I'll just try it."

"Well, you don't seem to be standing with very _reluctant_ feet," said
her father. "I believe you're rather anxious to grow up, after all; but
run along, chicken, and dress your hair any way you please. I want you to
have a good time at your first ball."

As Frank Elliott and Kenneth Harper and Mr. Hepworth came down to Spring
Lake to stay over Sunday, the party of friends at Marlborough House was
considerably augmented. When the young men arrived the girls were lazily
basking on the sand, and Nan was pretending to read a book to the other
two. Only pretending, however, for Patty kept interrupting her with
nonsensical remarks, and Marian teased her by slowly sifting sand through
her fingers onto the pages of the book.

"I might as well try to read to a tribe of wild Indians as to you two
girls," said Nan at last. "Don't you _want_ your minds improved?"

"Do you think our superior minds _can_ be improved by that trash you're
reading?" said Patty. "I really think some of your instructive
conversation would benefit us more greatly."

"You're an ungrateful pair," said Nan, "and you don't deserve that I
should waste my valuable conversation upon you. And you don't deserve,
either, that I should tell you to turn your heads around to see who's
coming--but I will."

Her hearers looked round quickly, and saw three familiar figures coming
along the board walk.

"Goody!" cried Patty, and scrambling to her feet, she ran with
outstretched hands to meet them.

She didn't look very grown up then, in her blue-serge beach dress and her
hair in a long thick braid down her back, and curling round her temples
in windblown locks; but to Mr. Hepworth's artist eye she looked more
beautiful than he had ever seen her.

Kenneth Harper, too, looked admiringly at the graceful figure flying
toward them across the sand, but Frank shouted:

"Hello, Patty, don't break your neck! we're coming down there.
Where's Marian?"

"She's right here," answered Patty; "we're all right here. Your mother's
up on the veranda. Oh, I'm so glad to see you! This is the loveliest
place, and we're having the beautifullest time; and now that you boys
have come, it will be better than ever. And there's going to be a hop
tonight! Isn't that gay? Oh, how do you do, Mr. Hepworth?"

Though Patty's manner took on a shade more of dignity in addressing the
older man, it lost nothing in cordiality, and he responded with words of
glad greeting.

Hearing the laughter and excitement, Aunt Alice and Mrs. Allen came down
from the veranda to sit on the sand by the young people. Soon Mr.
Fairfield and Mr. Allen and Mr. Elliott, returning from a stroll, joined
the party.

The newcomers produced divers and sundry parcels, which they turned over
to the ladies, and which proved to contain various new books and
magazines and delicious candies and fruits.

"It's just like Christmas!" exclaimed Patty. "I do love to have things
brought to me."

"You're certainly in your element now, then," said Mr. Fairfield, looking
at his daughter, who sat with a fig in one hand and a chocolate in the
other, trying to open a book with her elbows.

"I certainly am," she responded. "The only flaw is that I suppose it's
about time to go in to dinner. I wish we could all sit here on the
sand forever."

"You'd change your mind when you reached my age," said Mrs. Allen. "I'm
quite ready to go in now and find a more comfortable chair."

Later that evening Patty, completely arrayed for the dance, came to her
father for inspection.

"You look very sweet, my child," he said after gazing at her long and
earnestly; "and with your hair dressed that way you look very much like
your mother. I'm sorry you're growing up, my baby, I certainly am; but I
suppose it can't be helped unless the world stops turning around. And if
it's any satisfaction to you, I'd like to have you know that your father
thinks you the prettiest and sweetest girl in all the country round."

"And aren't you going to tell me that if I only behave as well as I look,
I'll do very nicely?"

"You seem to know that already, so I hardly think it's necessary."

"Well, I'll tell it to you, then; for you do look so beautiful in
evening clothes that I don't believe you _can_ behave as well as you
look. Nobody could."

"I see your growing up has taught you flattery," said her father, "a
habit you must try to overcome."

But Patty was already dancing down the long hall to Aunt Alice's room,
and a few moments later they all went down to the parlours.

When Kenneth first saw Patty that evening, he stood looking at her with a
funny, stupefied expression on his face.

"What's the matter?" said Patty, laughing. "Just because I'm wearing a
few extra hairpins you needn't look as if you'd lost your last friend."

"I--I feel as if I ought to call you Miss Fairfield."

"Well, call me that if you like, I don't mind. Call me Miss Smith or Miss
Brown, if you want to--I don't care what you call me, if you'll only ask
me to dance."

"Come on, then," said Kenneth; and in a moment they were whirling in the
waltz, and the boy's momentary embarrassment was entirely forgotten.




CHAPTER XXIII

AMBITIONS


"There!" said Kenneth, after the dance was over, "you look more like your
old self now."

"I haven't lost any hairpins, have I?" said Patty, putting up her hands
to her fluffy topknot.

"No, but you've lost that absurd dressed-up look."

"I'm getting used to my new frock. Don't you like it?"

"Yes, of course I do. I like everything you wear, because I like you. In
fact, I think I like you better than any girl I ever saw."

Kenneth said this in such a frank, boyish way that he seemed to be
announcing a mere casual preference for some matter-of-fact thing.

At least it seemed so to Patty, and she answered carelessly:

"You _think_ you do! I'd like you to be sure of it, sir."

"I am sure of it," said Ken, and then, a little more diffidently: "Do you
like me best?"

"Why, yes, of course I do," said Patty, smiling, "that is, after papa and
Aunt Alice and Marian and Uncle Charley and Frank and Mancy and
Pansy--and Mr. Hepworth."

Patty might not have added the last name if she had not just then seen
that gentleman coming toward her.

He looked at Patty with an especial kindliness in his eyes, and
said gently:

"Miss Fairfield, may I see your card?"

Patty flushed a little and her eyes fell.

"Please don't talk like that," she said. "I'm not grown up, if I am
dressed up. I'm only Patty, and if you call me anything else I'll
run away."

"Don't run away," said Mr. Hepworth, still looking at her with that grave
kindliness that seemed to have about it a touch of sadness. "I will call
you Patty as long as you will stay with me."

Then Patty smiled again, quite her own merry little self, and gave him
her card, saying:

"Put your name down a lot of times, please; you are a beautiful dancer,
and I like best to dance with the people I know best."

"I wish I had a rubber stamp," said Mr. Hepworth; "it's very fatiguing to
write one's name on every line."

"Oh, good gracious!" cried Patty, "don't take them all. I want to save a
lot for Frank and Ken--"

"And your father," said Mr. Hepworth.

"Papa? He doesn't dance--at least, I never saw him."

"But he did dance that last waltz, with Miss Allen."

"With Nan? Well, then, I rather think he can dance with his own
daughter. Don't take any more; I want all the rest for him, and please
take me to him."

"Here he comes now. Mr. Fairfield, your daughter wishes a word with you."

"Papa Fairfield!" exclaimed Patty, "you never told me you could dance!"

"You never asked me; you took it for granted that I was too old to frisk
around the ballroom."

"And aren't you?" asked Patty teasingly.

"Try me and see," said her father, as he took her card.

The trial proved very satisfactory, and Patty declared that she must have
inherited her own taste for dancing from her father.

The evening passed all too swiftly. Pretty Patty, with her merry ways and
graceful manners, was a real belle, and Aunt Alice was besieged by
requests for introductions to her niece and daughter. But Marian, though
a sweet and charming girl, had a certain shyness which always kept her
from becoming an immediate favourite. Patty's absolute lack of
self-consciousness and her ready friendliness made her popular at once.

Mr. Fairfield and Nan Allen were speaking of this, as they stood out on
the veranda and looked at Patty through the window.

"She's the most perfect combination," Miss Allen was saying, "of the
child and the girl. She has none of the silly affectations of
young-ladyhood, and yet she has in her nature all the elements that go to
make a wise and sensible woman."

"I think you're right," said Mr. Fairfield, as he looked fondly at his
daughter. "She is growing up just as I want her to, and developing the
traits I most want her to possess. A frank simplicity of manner, a happy,
fun-loving disposition, and a gentle, unselfish soul."

Meantime Patty and Mr. Hepworth were sitting on the stairs.

"Now my cup of happiness is full," remarked Patty. "I have always thought
it must be perfect bliss to sit on the stairs at a party. I don't know
why, I'm sure, but all the information I have gathered from art and
literature have led me to consider it the height of earthly joy."

"And is it proving all your fancy painted it?" asked Mr. Hepworth, who
was sitting a step below.

"Yes--that is, it's almost perfect."

"And what is the lacking element?"

"Oh, I wouldn't like to tell you," said Patty, and Mr. Hepworth was not
quite certain whether her confusion were real or simulated.

"May I guess?" he asked.

"Yes, if you'll promise not to guess true," said Patty. "If you did, I
should be overcome with blushing embarrassment."

"But I am going to guess, and if I guess true I will promise to go and
bring you the element that will complete your happiness."

"That sounds so tempting," said Patty, "that now I hope you _will_ guess
true. What is the missing joy?"

"Kenneth Harper," said Mr. Hepworth, looking at Patty curiously.

Without a trace of a blush Patty broke into gay laughter.

"Oh, you are ridiculous!" she said. "I have _you_ here, why should I
want him?"

"Then what is it you do want?" and Mr. Hepworth looked away as he evaded
her question.

"Since you make me confess my very prosaic desires, I'll own up that I'd
like a strawberry ice."

"Well, that's just what I'm dying for myself," said Mr. Hepworth gaily;
"and if you'll reserve this orchestra chair for me, I'll go and forage
for it. It looks almost impossible to get through that crowd, but I'll
return either with my shield or on it. Unless you'd rather I'd send
Harper back with the ice?"

"Do just as you please," said Patty, with a sudden touch of coquetry in
her smiling eyes; "it doesn't matter a bit to me."

But though a willing messenger, Mr. Hepworth found it impossible to
accomplish his errand with any degree of rapidity, and when he
returned, successful but tardy, he found young Harper waiting where he
had left Patty.

"She's gone off to dance with Frank Elliott," explained the boy
cheerfully, "and she said you and I could divide the ices between us."

"All right," said the artist; "here's your share."

The next morning Patty, Nan, and Marian went down to the beach for a
quiet chat.

"Let's shake everybody," said Patty, "and just go off by ourselves. I'm
tired of a lot of people."

"You're becoming such a belle, Patty," said Nan, "that I'm afraid you'll
be bothered with a lot of people the rest of your life."

"No, I won't," said Patty. "Lots of people are all very well when you
want them, but I'm going to cultivate a talent for getting rid of them
when you don't want them."

"Can you cultivate a talent, if you have only a taste to start with?"
said Marian, with more seriousness than Patty's careless remark seemed
to call for.

"If you have the least little scrap of a mustard-seed of taste, and
plenty of will-power, you can cultivate all the talents you want,"
said Patty, with the air of an oracle, "Why, what do you want to do
now, Marian?"

Marian's ambitions were a good deal of a joke in the Elliott family. At
one time she had determined to become a musician, and had spent,
unsuccessfully, many hours and much money in her endeavours, but at last
she was obliged to admit that her talents did not lie in that
direction. Later on she had tried painting, and notwithstanding
discouraging results, she had felt sure of her artistic ability for a
long time, until at last she had proved to her own satisfaction that she
was not meant to make pictures; and now, when she asked the above
question in a serious tone, Patty felt sure that some new scheme was
fermenting in her cousin's brain.

"What's up, Marian?" she said. "Out with it, and we'll promise to help
you, if it's only by wise discouragement."

"I think," said Marian, unmoved by her cousin's attitude, "I think I
should like to be an author."

"Do," said Patty; "that's the best line you've struck yet, because it's
the cheapest. You see, Nan, when Marian goes in for painting and
sculpture and music, her whims cost Uncle Charley fabulous sums of money.
But this new scheme is great! The outlay for a fountain pen and a few
sheets of stamps can't be so very much, and the scheme will keep you out
of other mischief all winter."

"It does sound attractive," said Nan. "Tell us more about it. Are you
going to write books or stories?"

"Books," said Marian calmly.

"Lovely!" cried Patty. "Do two at once, won't you? So you can dedicate
one to Nan and one to me at the same time; I won't share my dedication
with anybody."

"You can laugh all you like," said Marian; "I don't mind a speck, for I'm
sure I can do it; I've been talking to Miss Fischer, she's written lots
of books, you know, and stories, too, and she says it's awfully easy if
you have a taste for it."

"Of course it is," said Patty; "that's just what I told you. If you have
a taste--good taste, you know--and plenty of will-power and stamps, you
can write anything you want to; and I believe you'll do it. Go in and
win, Marian! You can put me in your book, if you want to."

"Willpower isn't everything, Patty," said Nan, whose face had assumed a
curious and somewhat wistful look; "at least, it may be in literature,
but it won't do all I want it to."

"What do you want, girlie?" said Patty. "I never knew you had an
ungratified ambition gnawing at your heart-strings."

"Well, I have; I want to be a singer."

"You do sing beautifully," said Marian. "I've heard you."

"Yes, but I mean a great singer."

"On the stage?" inquired Patty.

"Yes, or in concerts; I don't care where, but I mean to sing wonderfully;
to sing as I feel I could sing, if I had the opportunity."

"You mean a musical education and foreign study and all those things?"
said Patty.

"Yes," said Nan.

"But after all that you might fail," said Marian, remembering her own
experiences.

"Yes, I might, and probably I should. It's only a dream, you know, but we
were talking about ambitions, and that's mine."

"And can't you accomplish it?"

"I don't see how I can; my parents are very much opposed to it. They hate
anything like a public career, and they think I sing quite well enough
now without further instructions."

"I think so, too," said Patty. "I'd rather hear you sing those quaint
little songs of yours than to hear the most elaborate trills and frills
that any prima donna ever accomplished."

"Your opinion is worth a great deal to me, Patty, as a friend, but
technically, I can't value it so highly."

"Of course, I don't know much about music," said Patty, quite unabashed;
"but papa thinks so too. He said your voice is the sweetest voice he
ever heard."

"Did he?" said Nan.

"What is your ambition, Patty?" said Marian, after a moment's pause. "Nan
and I have expressed ourselves so frankly you might tell us yours."

"My ambition?" said Patty. "Why, I never thought of it before, but I
don't believe I have any. I feel rather ashamed, for I suppose every
properly equipped young woman ought to have at least one ambition, and I
don't seem to have a shadow of one. Really great ones, I mean. Of course,
I can sing a little; not much, but it seems to be enough for me. And I
can play a little on the piano and on the banjo, and I suppose it's
shocking; but really I don't care to play any better than I do. I can't
paint, and I can't write stories, but I don't want to do either."

"You can keep house," said Marian.

Patty's eyes lighted up.

"Yes," she said; "isn't it ridiculous? But I do really believe that's my
ambition. To keep house just perfectly, you know, and have everything go
not only smoothly but happily."

"You ought to have been a _chatelaine_ of the fourteenth century," said
Nan.

"Yes," said Patty eagerly; "that's just my ambition. What a pity it's
looking backward instead of forward. But I would love to live in a great
stone castle, all my own, with a moat and drawbridge and outriders, and
go around in a damask gown with a pointed bodice and big puffy sleeves
and a ruff and a little cap with pearls on it, and a bunch of keys
jingling at my side."

"They usually carry the keys in a basket," observed Marian; "and you
forgot to mention the falcon on your wrist."

"So I did," said Patty, "but I think the falcon would be a regular
nuisance while I was housekeeping, so I'd put him in the basket, and set
it up on the mantelpiece, and keep my keys jingling from my belt."

"Well, it seems," said Nan, "that Patty has more hopes of realising her
ambition than either of us."

"Speak for yourself," said Marian.

"I think I have," said Patty. "I have all the keys I want, and I'm quite
sure papa would buy me a falcon if I asked him to."




CHAPTER XXIV

AN AFTERNOON DRIVE


The next Saturday Mr. Fairfield proposed that they all go for a drive
to Allaire.

"What's Allaire?" said Patty.

"It's a deserted village," replied her father. "The houses are empty, the
old mill is silent, the streets are overgrown; in fact, it's nothing but
a picturesque ruin of a once busy hamlet."

"They say it's a lovely drive," said Nan. "I've always wanted to
go there."

"The boys will be down by noon," said Mr. Elliott, "and we can get off
soon after luncheon. Do you suppose, Fred, we can get conveyances enough
for our large and flourishing family?"

"We can try," said Mr. Fairfield. "I'll go over to the stables now and
see what I can secure."

On his return he found that Hepworth, Kenneth, and Frank had arrived.

"Well, Saturday's children," he said, "I'm glad to see you. I always
know it's the last day of the week when this illustrious trio bursts
upon my vision."

"We're awfully glad to burst," said Frank; "and we hope your vision can
stand it."

"Oh, yes," said Mr. Fairfield; "the sight of you is good for the eyes.
And now I'll tell you the plans for the afternoon."

"What luck did you have with the carriages, papa?" asked impatient Patty.

"That's what I'm about to tell you, my child, if you'll give me half a
chance. I secured four safe, and more or less commodious, vehicles."

"Four!" exclaimed Marian. "We'll be a regular parade."

"Shall we have a band?" asked Nan.

"Of course," said Kenneth; "and a fife-and-drum corps besides."

"You won't need that," said Patty, "for there'll be no 'Girl I Left
Behind Me.' We're all going."

"Of course we're all going," said Mr. Fair-field; "and as we shall
have one extra seat, you can invite some girl who otherwise would be
left behind."

"If Frank doesn't mind," said Patty, with a mischievous glance at her
cousin, "I'd like to ask Miss Kitty Nelson."

They all laughed, for Frank's admiration for the charming Kitty was an
open secret.

Frank blushed a little, but he held his own and said:

"Are they all double carriages, Uncle Fred?"

"No, my boy; there are two traps and two victorias."

"All right, then, I'll take one of the traps and drive Miss Nelson."

"Bravo, boy! if you don't see what you want, ask for it. Miss Allen, will
you trust yourself to me in the other trap?"

"With great pleasure, Mr. Fairfield," replied Nan; "and please
appreciate my amiability, for I think they're most jolty and
uncomfortable things to ride in."

"I speak for a seat in one of the victorias," said Aunt Alice; "and I
think it wise to get my claim in quickly, as the bids are being made
so rapidly."

"I don't care how I go," said Patty, "or what I go in. I'm so amiable, a
child can play with me to-day. I'll go in a wheelbarrow, if necessary."

"I had hoped to drive you over myself," said Mr. Hepworth, who sat next
to her, speaking in a low tone; "but I'll push you in a wheelbarrow, if
you prefer."

"You go with me, Patty, in one of the traps, won't you?" said Kenneth,
who sat on the veranda railing at her other side.

Patty's face took on a comical smile of amusement at these two requests,
but she answered both at once by merrily saying:

"Then it all adjusts itself. Mr. and Mrs. Allen and Mr. and Mrs. Elliott
shall have the most comfortable carriage, and Marian and Mr. Hepworth and
Ken and I will go in the other."

That seemed to be the, best possible arrangement, and about three
o'clock the procession started.

Patty and Marian took the back seat of the open carriage, Mr. Hepworth
and Kenneth Harper sat facing them.

As Marian had already become very much interested in her new fad of
authorship, and as under Miss Fischer's tuition she was rapidly
developing into a real little blue-stocking, it is not strange that the
conversation turned in that direction.

"I looked in all the bookshops in the city for your latest works, Miss
Marian," said Mr. Hepworth, "but they must have been all sold out, for I
couldn't find any."

"Too bad," said Marian. "I'm afraid you'll have to wait until a new
edition is printed."

"You're not to tease Marian," said Patty reprovingly. "She's been as
patient as an angel under a perfect storm of chaff, and I'm not going to
allow any more of it."

"I don't mind," said Marian. "I think, if one is really in earnest, one
oughtn't to be annoyed by good-natured fun."

"Quite right," said Kenneth; "and ambition, if it's worth anything,
ought to rise above comment of any sort."

"It ought to be strengthened by comment of any sort," said Mr. Hepworth.

"Of any sort?" asked Marian thoughtfully.

"Yes, for comment always implies recognition, and that in itself means
progress."

"Have you an ambition, Mr. Hepworth?" said Patty suddenly. "But you have
already achieved yours. You are a successful artist."

"A man may have more than one ambition," said Mr. Hepworth slowly, "and I
have _not_ achieved my dearest one."

"I suppose you want to paint even better than you do," said Patty.

"Yes," said the artist, smiling a little, "I hope I shall always want to
paint better than I do. What's your ambition, Harper?"

"To build bridges," said Kenneth. "I'm going to be a civil engineer, but
my ambition is to be a bridge-builder. And I'll get there yet," he added,
with a determined nod of his head.

"I think you will," said Mr. Hepworth, "and I'm sure I hope so."

Then the talk turned to lighter themes than ambition, and merry laughter
and jest filled up the miles to Allaire.

All were delighted with the place. Aside from the picturesque ruined
buildings and the eerie mysterious-looking old mill, there was a novel
interest in the strange silent air of desertion that seemed to invest the
place with an almost palpable loneliness.

"I don't like it," said Patty. "Come on, let's go home."

But to Marian's more romantic imagination it all seemed most attractive,
so different was her temperament from that of her sunshiny,
merry-hearted cousin.

At last they did go home, and Patty chattered gaily all the way in
order, as she said, to drive away the musty recollections of that
forlorn old place.

"How did you like it, Nan?" she asked, when they were all back at
the hotel.

"I thought it beautiful," said Nan, smiling.

That evening there was a small informal dance in the parlours. Not a
large hop, like the one given the week before, but Patty declared the
small affair was just as much fun as the other.

"I always have all the fun I can possibly hold, anyway," she said; "and
what more can anybody have?"

Toward the close of the evening Mr. Fairfield came up to Patty, who
was sitting, with a crowd of merry young people, in a cosey corner of
the veranda.

"Patty," he said, "don't you want to come for a little stroll on the
board walk?"

"Yes, of course I do," said Patty, wondering a little, but always ready
to go with her father. "Is Nan going?"

"No, I just want you," said Mr. Fairfield.

"All right," said Patty, "I'm glad to go."

They joined the crowd of promenaders on the board walk, and as they
passed Patty's favourite bit of beach she said:

"That's where we girls sit and talk about our ambitions."

"Yes, so I've heard," said Mr. Fairfield. "And what are your
ambitions, baby?"

"Oh, mine aren't half so grand and gorgeous as the other girls'. They
want to do great things, like singing in grand opera and writing immortal
books and things like that."

"And your modest ambition is to be a good housekeeper, isn't it?"

"Well, yes, papa; but not only that. I was thinking about it afterward by
myself, and I think that the housekeeping is the practical part of
it--and that's a good big part too--but what I really want to be is a
lovely, good, _womanly_ woman, like Aunt Alice, you know. I don't believe
she ever wanted to write books or paint pictures."

"No she never did," said Mr. Fairfield, "and I quite agree with you that
her ambitions are just as high and noble as those others you mentioned."

"Well, I'm glad you think so, papa, for I was afraid I might seem to you
very small and petty to have all my ambitions bounded by the four walls
of my own home."

"No, Patty, girl, I think those are far better than unbounded ambitions,
far more easily realised, and will bring you greater and better
happiness. But don't you see, my child, that the very fact of your having
a talent--which you certainly have--for housekeeping and home-making,
implies that some day, in the far future, I hope, you will go away from
me and make a home of your own?"

"Very likely I shall, papa; but that's so far in the future that it's not
worth while bothering about it now."

"But I'm going to bother about it now to a certain extent. Do you
realise that when this does come to pass, be it ever so far hence, that
you're going to leave your poor old father all alone, and that, too,
after I have so carefully brought you up for the express purpose of
making a home for me?"

"Well, what are you going to do about it?" said Patty, who was by no
means taking her father's remarks seriously.

"Do? Why, I'm going to do just this. I'm going to get somebody else to
keep my house for me, and I'm going to get her now, so that I'll have
her ready against the time you leave me."

Patty turned, and by the light of an electric lamp which they were
passing, saw the smile on her father's face, and with a sudden intuition
she exclaimed:

"Nan!"

"Yes," replied her father, "Nan. How do you like it?"

"Like it?" exclaimed Patty. "I _love_ it! I think it's perfectly
gorgeous! I'm just as delighted as I can be! How does Nan like it?"

"She seems delighted too," said Mr. Fairfield, smiling.


THE END





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