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Title: Patty's Social Season
Author: Wells, Carolyn, 1862-1942
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Patty's Social Season" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



PATTY'S SOCIAL SEASON

by

CAROLYN WELLS

Author of
The TWO LITTLE WOMEN Series
The MARJORIE Books
etc.



Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers
New York

Copyright, 1913
By Dodd, Mead and Company

Printed in the United States of America



CONTENTS

CHAPTER                           PAGE
      I  Flowers!                    9
     II  At the Dance               25
    III  Happy Saturdays            42
     IV  An Invitation              60
      V  Happy Guests               76
     VI  Confidences                94
    VII  More Making Up            108
   VIII  A Delightful Invitation   125
     IX  Fern Falls                141
      X  Christmas Eve             158
     XI  The Christmas Spirit      174
    XII  Coasting                  192
   XIII  Hide and Seek             208
    XIV  A Proposal                225
     XV  A Christmas Card          243
    XVI  Stormbound                260
   XVII  The Country Club Ball     284
  XVIII  Back to New York          300
    XIX  An Exciting Chase         316
     XX  Bridesmaid Patty          333



CHAPTER I

FLOWERS!


"Patty, do come along and get your luncheon before everything grows
cold!"

"'And the stars are old, And the leaves of the judgment book unfold,'"
chanted Patty, who had just learned this new song, and was apt to sing
it at unexpected moments. She sat on the floor in the middle of the
long drawing-room of her New York home. To say she was surrounded by
flowers, faintly expresses it. She was hemmed in, barricaded, nearly
smothered in flowers.

They were or had been in enormous florist's boxes, and as fast as
Patty opened the boxes and read the cards which accompanied the
blossoms, Jane took the boxes away.

It was the great occasion of Patty's début, and in accordance with
the social custom, all her friends had sent her flowers as a message
of congratulation.

"You certainly have heaps of friends," said Elise, who was helping
arrange the bouquets.

"Friends!" cried Patty; "nobody could have as many friends as this!
These flowers must be also from my enemies, my casual acquaintances,
and indeed from utter strangers! I think the whole hilarious populace
of New York has gone mad on the subject of sending flowers!"

Even as she spoke, Jane came in with several more boxes, followed by
Miller, fairly staggering under an enormous box that was almost too
much for one man to carry. Behind him was Nan, who went straight to
Patty and held out both hands to assist her to rise.

"Patty," she said, "if you don't come out this minute, you never _can_
get out! A few more of these boxes, and the door will be completely
blocked up."

"That's so, Nan," and Patty scrambled to her feet. "Come on, girls,
let's gather our foodings while we may. These flowers will keep; but I
shudder to think of the accumulation when we come back from luncheon!"

"I didn't know there were so many flowers in the world," said Mona
Galbraith, who paused to look back into the drawing-room.

"There aren't," said Patty solemnly; "it's an optical illusion. Don't
you know how the Indian jugglers make you see flowers growing, when
there aren't any flowers there? Well, this is like that."

Following Nan, Patty's pretty stepmother, the three girls, arm in arm,
danced along to the dining-room, quite hungry enough to do justice to
the tempting luncheon they found there.

All the morning they had been untying the flower boxes and making a
list of the donors.

"Just think of the notes of thanks I have to write," said Patty,
groaning at the outlook.

"Wish we could help you," said Elise, "but I suppose you have to do
those yourself."

"Yes; and I think it will take me the rest of my natural life! What's
the use of 'coming out,' if I have got to go right in again, and write
all those notes? Why, there are hundreds!"

"Thousands!" corrected Elise. And Mona said, "Looks to me like
millions!"

"Who sent that last big box, Patty?" asked Nan; "the one that just
came."

"Dunno, Nancy; probably the Czar of Russia or the King of the Cannibal
Islands. But I mean to take time to eat my luncheon in peace, even if
the flowers aren't all in place by the time the company comes."

"We can't stay very long," said Elise; "of course, Mona and I have to
go home and dress and be back here at four o'clock, and it's nearly
two, now."

"All right," said Patty; "the boys are coming, and they'll do the
rest. We couldn't hang the flowers on the wall, anyway."

"We ought to have had a florist to attend to it," said Nan,
thoughtfully; "I had no idea there'd be so many."

"Oh, it'll be all right," returned Patty. "Father's coming home early,
and Roger and Ken will be over, and Mr. Hepworth will direct
proceedings."

Even as she spoke the men's voices were heard in the hall, and Patty
jumped up from the table and ran to the drawing-room.

"Did you ever see anything like it?" she exclaimed, and her visitors
agreed that they never had.

"It must be awful to be so popular, Patty," said Roger. "If I ever
come out, I shall ask my friends to send fruit instead of flowers."

"Patty would have to start a canning factory, if she had done that,"
said Kenneth, laughing. "Let's open this big box, Patty. Who sent it?"

"I haven't an idea, but there must be a card inside."

They opened the immense box, and found it full to the brim with
exquisite Killarney roses.

After some search, Roger discovered a small envelope, with a card
inside. The card read, "Mr. William Farnsworth," and written beneath
the engraved name was the message, "With congratulations and best
wishes."

"From Big Bill!" exclaimed Mona. "For goodness' sake, Patty, why
didn't he send you more? But these didn't come all the way from
Arizona, where he is."

"No," said Patty, looking at the label on the box; "he must have just
sent an order to a New York florist."

"To two or three florists, I should think," said Mr. Hepworth. "What
can we do with them all?"

But the crowd of merry young people set to work, and in an hour the
floral chaos was reduced to a wonderful vision of symmetry and beauty.
Under Mr. Hepworth's directions, the flowers were banked on the
mantels and window-seats, and hung in groups on the wall, and
clustered on the door-frames in a profusion which had behind it a
methodical and symmetrical intent.

"It's perfectly beautiful!" declared Nan, who, with her husband, was
taking her first view of the finished effect. "It's a perfect shame to
spoil this bower of beauty by cramming it with a crowd of people, who
will jostle your bouquets all to bits."

"Well, we can't help it," said Patty. "You see, we invited the people,
as well as the flowers, so we must take the consequences. But they
can't reach those that are up high, and as soon as the party is over,
I'm going to put them all in fresh water----"

"What! the party?" and Kenneth looked astounded.

"I mean the flowers," said Patty, not deigning to laugh at his
foolishness. "And then, to-morrow morning, I'm going to send them all
to the hospital."

"The people?" said Kenneth again. "That's thoughtful of you, Patty! I
have no doubt they'll be in condition to go. I'm about ready, myself."

"Well, you may go now," and Patty smiled at him. "Your work is done
here, and I'm going away to dress. Good-bye, Ken; this is the last
time you'll see me as a little girl. When next we meet, I shall be a
young lady, a fully-fledged society lady, whose only thoughts will be
for dancing and gaiety of all sorts."

"Nonsense," said Kenneth; "you can't scare me. You'll be the same old
Patty, foolish and irresponsible,--but sunshiny and sweet as ever."

"Thank you, Ken," said Patty, for there was a note of earnestness in
Kenneth's voice that the girl was quick to catch. They had been
friends since childhood, and while Patty did not take her "coming out"
very seriously, yet she realised that it meant she was grown up and a
child no longer.

"Don't let it all spoil you, Patty." It was Mr. Hepworth who said
this, as he was about to follow Kenneth out. "I have a right to
lecture you, you know, and I want to warn you----"

"Oh, don't do it now, Mr. Hepworth," said Patty, laughing; "the
occasion is solemn enough, I'm sure, and if you lecture me, I shall
burst into large weeps of tears! Do let me 'come out' without being
lectured, and you can come round to-morrow and give me all the
warnings you like."

"You're right, little Patty," and Hepworth looked at her kindly. "I
ought not to spoil one of the happiest days of your life with too
serious thought. Yours is a butterfly nature----"

"But butterfly natures are nice; aren't they, Mr. Hepworth?" and Patty
looked up at him with the roguishness that she could never quite
control.

"Yes,----" and the man hesitated a moment, as he looked into Patty's
blue eyes. Then, suddenly, "Yes, indeed, _very_ nice." And, turning
abruptly, he left her.

"Now, you girls, skip," ordered Patty.

"You haven't more than time to fly home and get dressed, for I don't
want you to be late and delay the ceremony."

"Gracious! it sounds like a wedding," cried Mona, laughing.

"Well, it isn't!" declared Patty. "I may have a wedding some day, but
that's in the far, far future; why, I'm only just entering society,
and when I'm married, I suppose I shall leave it. I expect to have
heaps of fun between this and then."

The programme for the occasion was an afternoon reception, from four
o'clock until seven. This was really Patty's début. A dinner at eight
was to follow, to which were invited about a dozen of her dearest
friends, and after this would be a dance, to which a goodly number
more were asked.

"You ought to have time for an hour's rest, Patty," said Nan, as she
drew the girl away from a last look at the beautiful flowers, and took
her up to her room.

"Well, I haven't, little steppy-mother. It will be just about all Miss
Patricia Fairfield can do to get into her purple and fine linen by
four o'clock p.m., and methinks you'd better begin on your own glad
toilette, or you'll be late yourself."

"Was I _ever_ late?" asked Nan, scornfully, and as Patty responded,
"never anything but," she ran away to her own room.

However, four o'clock found all the members of the reception party in
their places.

Patty looked adorable in soft white chiffon, untrimmed, save for some
fine lace round the slightly low-cut neck. She wore a string of small
but perfect pearls which her father had given her for the occasion,
and she carried a beautiful bouquet of orchids, which was Nan's gift.

Patty had never looked prettier. Her rose-leaf cheeks were slightly
flushed with excitement, and her big violet eyes were bright and
sparkling. Her golden hair, which was really unusual in texture and
quantity, was dressed simply, yet in a manner very becoming to her
small, prettily poised head. On her brow and temples it rippled in
natural ringlets, which gave her piquant face a charming, childish
effect. Patty was certainly a beauty, but she was of such a sweet,
unspoiled nature, and of such simple, dainty manners, that everybody
loved her.

Her father looked at her rather thoughtfully, half unable to realise
that his little Patty had really grown up and was taking her place in
society. He had no fears for her, he knew her sweet nature too well;
but he was earnestly hoping that she was starting out on a life of
happiness and well-being. Though healthy and moderately strong, Patty
was not of a robust constitution, and there was danger that too much
gaiety might result in a nervous breakdown. This, Mr. Fairfield
determined to guard against; and resolved that, while Patty should be
allowed generally to do as she chose, he should keep a strict eye
against her overdoing.

Nan had much the same thoughts as she looked at the lovely débutante,
so exquisite in her fresh young beauty. Nan's gown of heavy white lace
was very becoming, and though a secondary figure, she ably shared the
honours of the afternoon with Patty.

Mona and Elise assisted in the capacity of "Floaters," and in their
pale pink frocks, they were quite in harmony with the floral setting
of the picture.

And then the guests began to arrive, and Patty learned what it meant
to stand and shake hands, and receive the same compliments and
congratulations over and over again. It was interesting at first, but
she grew very tired as the hours went by.

"Now, I say," exclaimed a cheery voice, suddenly, "it can't be that
you have to stand here continuously from four to seven! Mrs.
Fairfield, mayn't I take Patty to get a cup of tea or an ice, and you
stay here and 'come out' until she returns?"

It was Philip Van Reypen who made this request, and Nan consented
readily. "Yes, indeed, Philip," she said, "do take her off to rest a
minute. I think most of the people have arrived; and, anyway, you must
bring her back shortly."

"I will," and young Van Reypen led Patty through the crowd to the
dining-room.

"I ought to find you a 'quiet little corner,'" he said, smiling; "but
I don't see such a thing anywhere about. So I'll just place you on one
of these gimcrack gilt chairs, and I'll ask you to keep this one next,
for me, until I make a raid on the table. What will you have?"

"I don't really want anything, Philip, but just to sit here a moment
and rest. I had no idea coming out was so tiresome! I believe I've
said, 'oh, thank you!' a billion times!"

"Yes, you said it to me," and Philip laughed at the recollection, "and
I can tell you, Patty, it had the real society ring! You said it like
a conventionalised parrot."

"Well, I don't care if I did! It was the proper thing to say, and
nobody could say it a million times in succession, without sounding
parrotty! I know now how the President feels when he has to shake
hands with the whole United States!"

Philip left her, and returned in a moment, followed by a waiter, who
brought them hot bouillon and tiny sandwiches.

"My, but these are good!" exclaimed Patty, as she nibbled and sipped.
"Why, Philip, I believe I was hungry and that's what made me tired!
Oh, hello, Mona! Did you get leave of absence, too?"

"Yes; the mad rush is pretty much over. Only a few late stragglers
now, and Elise is floating them. Here's Roger. He says you wouldn't
speak to him this afternoon, except to say, 'oh, thank you!' three
times."

"I couldn't help it," returned Patty, laughing. "That's all I said to
anybody. I felt like a rubber stamp--repeating myself. Well, thank
goodness, I'm out!"

"But you're not a bit more grown up than when you were in," said
Kenneth, joining the group around Patty.

"Oh, pshaw, I'm never going to be grown up. Now I'm rested, Philip;
please take me back to Nan. She said we must return soon."

So Patty went back to the drawing-room, and insisted that her
stepmother should go for a little refreshment. "I can hold the fort
alone now," she said; "you've no idea how capable I am, now that I'm
really out. Run along, Nan, and get some of those sandwiches; they're
awfully good."

"It isn't romantic, Patty, to think about eating when you're
celebrating an occasion like this," reproved Philip.

"Well, I'm not romantic," declared Patty, "and I never expect to be.
Oh, how do you do, Mr. Galbraith? It's so late, I feared you weren't
coming." And Patty held out her hand to Mona's father.

"How d'y'do, Patty?" And Mr. Galbraith shook hands heartily. "I
suppose I ought to say all sorts of pretty things to you, but you
know, I'm not much up in social chat."

"I'm glad of it," said Patty, "and then I won't have to say, 'oh,
thank you!' to you. Mona is looking beautiful this afternoon, isn't
she?"

"She's a fine girl--a fine girl." Mr. Galbraith's eyes rested on his
daughter a little thoughtfully. He was a Chicago man, who had made his
fortune suddenly, and was a little bewildered at his own success. His
one interest in life, outside of business matters, was his daughter
Mona, for whom he desired every possible good, and to whose wishes and
whims he always willingly consented.

At her request, he had closed his Chicago home and come to spend the
winter in New York, that Mona might be near Patty, whom she adored.
The Galbraiths were living for the winter at the Plaza Hotel, and
Patty, who had grown fond of Mona, was glad to have her friend so near
her.

"She's a fine girl," Mr. Galbraith repeated, "and a good-looking
girl." He paused a moment, and then added in a sudden burst of
confidence, "but, Patty, I wish she had a mother. You know how I
idolise her, but I can't do for her what a mother would do. I've urged
her to have a chaperon or a companion of some sort, but she won't do
it. She says a father is chaperon enough for her, and so we live alone
in that big hotel, and I'm afraid it isn't right. Right for her, I
mean. I don't care a snap about conventions, but Mona is impulsive,
even headstrong, and I wish she had an older woman to guide and advise
her."

"I wish she did, Mr. Galbraith," said Patty, earnestly, for the two
were chatting by themselves, and no one else was within hearing. "I've
thought about it, and I've talked with my stepmother about it. Perhaps
I could persuade Mona to do as you wish her to."

"I hope you can, Patty; I do hope you can. You know, Mona is dignified
and all that, and as proud as they make them. Nobody would dare to
speak to her if she didn't want them to; but, Patty, here's the
trouble. There's a young man at the hotel named Lansing. He's not
especially attractive, and yet, somehow, he has gained Mona's favour.
I have told my girl that I do not like him, but she only laughs and
says carelessly that he's all right. Now, I mustn't detain you longer,
my child; there are people waiting to speak to you. But, some time, I
want to have a little talk to you about this, and perhaps you can help
me in some way. For I believe, Patty, that that Lansing man is trying
to win my girl for the sake of her money. He has all the appearances
of a fortune-hunter, and I can't let Mona throw herself away on such."

"I should think not!" exclaimed Patty, indignantly. And then Mr.
Galbraith moved away to give his place to other guests who were
arriving.



CHAPTER II

AT THE DANCE


At eight o'clock that same evening, Patty came down to her own dinner
party. An hour's rest had freshened her up wonderfully, and she had
changed her little white frock for a dinner gown of pale green
chiffon, sparkling with silver embroidery. It trailed behind her in a
most grown-up fashion, and she entered the drawing-room with an
exaggerated air of dignity.

"Huh," cried Roger; "look at grown-up Patty! Isn't she the haughty
lady? Patty, if you put on such airs, you'll be old before your time!"

"Airs, nothing!" retorted Patty, and with a skipping little dance
step, she crossed the room, picked up a sofa pillow, and aimed it
deftly at Roger, who caught it on the wing.

"That's better," he said. "We can't have any of these _grande dame_
airs. Now, who is the lucky man who is to take you out to dinner? Me?"

"No, not you," and Patty looked at him, critically; "you won't do, and
neither will Kenneth, nor Phil Van Reypen, nor Mr. Hepworth." She
looked at them each in turn, and smiled so merrily that they could take
no offence. "I think," she said, "I shall select the best-looking and
best-natured gentleman, and walk out with him." Whereupon she tucked
her arm through her father's, and led the way to the dining-room,
followed by the rest of the merry crowd.

The dinner was a beautiful one, for Nan had spared no pains or thought
to make it worthy of the occasion. At the girls' places were beautiful
souvenirs, in the shape of fans of carved ivory with lace mounts,
while the men received attractive stick-pins.

"Shall you feel like dancing after all this gaiety, Patty?" asked Van
Reypen.

"Well, rather!" declared Patty. "Why, I'd feel like dancing if I'd
been through a--civil war! I could scarcely keep still when the
orchestra was playing this afternoon, and I'm crazy for to-night's
dance to begin."

"Frivolous young person, very," murmured Philip. "Never saw such
devotion to the vain follies of life! However, since you're determined
to dance, will you honour me with the first one to-night?"

"Why, I don't mind, if you don't," said Patty, dimpling at him.

"And give me the second," said Kenneth and Roger simultaneously.

"I can't do these sums in my head," said Patty; "I'll get all mixed
up. Let's wait till we get our dance orders, and fill them up, hit or
miss."

"You be the miss and I'll try to make a hit," said Philip.

"What waggery!" exclaimed Patty, shaking her head. "If you're too
clever, Philip, I can't dance with you. When I dance, I keep my mind
on my feet, not on my head."

"That explains your good dancing," said Mr. Hepworth, laughing.
"Perhaps, if I could keep my mind on my feet, I could dance better."

"Oh, you're too highminded for such low levels," laughed Patty, while
Mona, who was rather practical, said, seriously, "Do you really think
about your feet all the time you're dancing, Patty?"

"No," returned Patty; "sometimes I have to think about my partner's
feet, to keep out of the way of them."

When they returned to the drawing-room, they found it had been cleared
for the dance, and soon the evening guests began to arrive.

Patty again stood by Nan to receive them, and after greeting many
people she knew, she was surprised to find herself confronted by a
stranger. He was a thick-set, stockily-built man, several years older
than most of Patty's friends. He had black hair and eyes and a short
black moustache and a round, heavy type of face. His black eyes were
of the audacious sort, and he flashed a glance of admiration at Patty.
Before she could speak, or even offer her hand, Mona sprang forward,
saying, "Patty, this is my friend Mr. Lansing. I took the liberty of
inviting him to your dance. Mrs. Fairfield, may I present Mr.
Lansing?"

Patty was angry. This, of course, must be the man of whom Mr.
Galbraith had spoken, and, aside from the fact that he seemed
undesirable, Patty felt that Mona had no right to invite him without
asking permission from her hostess.

But Nan knew nothing of all this, and she cordially greeted the
stranger because he was a friend of Mona's. Patty recovered her
equilibrium sufficiently to say, "How do you do, Mr. Lansing?" in a
non-committal sort of way, but she couldn't refrain from giving Mona a
side glance of reproof, to which, however, that young woman paid no
attention.

In another moment Mona had drifted away, and had taken Mr. Lansing
with her. Patty turned to speak to Nan about him, but just then some
more guests arrived; and then the dancing began, and Patty had no
further opportunity.

As Patty had promised, she gave the first dance to Philip Van Reypen;
and after that she was fairly besieged by would-be partners. The fact
that she was hostess at her own coming-out ball, the fact that she
danced beautifully, and the fact that she was so pretty and charming,
all combined to make her, as was not unusual, the most popular girl
present.

"Anything left for me?" asked Roger, gaily, as he threaded the crowds
at Patty's side.

"I saved one for you," said Patty, smiling at him; "for I hoped you'd
ask me, sooner or later."

Roger gratefully accepted the dance Patty had saved for him, and soon
after he came to claim her for it.

"I say, Patty," he began when they were whirling about the floor, "who
is that stuff Mona has trailing after her?"

"Moderate your language, Roger," said Patty, smiling up at him, and
noticing that his expression was very wrathy indeed.

"He doesn't deserve moderate language! He's a bounder, if I ever saw
one! What's he doing here?"

"He seems to be dancing," said Patty, demurely, "and he doesn't dance
half badly, either."

"Oh, stop your fooling, Patty; I'm not in the mood for it. Tell me who
he is."

Patty had never known Roger to be so out of temper, and she resented
his tone, which was almost rude. Now, for all her sweetness, Patty had
a touch of perversity in her nature, and Roger had roused it. So she
said: "I don't know why you speak like that, Roger. He's a friend of
Mona's, and lives at the Hotel Plaza, where she lives."

"The fact that two people live in the same big hotel doesn't give them
the right to be friends," growled Roger. "Who introduced them,
anyhow?"

"I don't know, I'm sure," said Patty, her patience exhausted; "but Mr.
Galbraith knows him, so it must be all right."

Patty was not quite ingenuous in this speech, for she knew perfectly
well, from what Mr. Galbraith had said to her, that it was not all
right. But she was irritated by Roger's demeanour, and perversely
disagreed with him.

"Well, I don't believe he's all right; I don't like his looks a bit,
and, Patty, you know as well as I do, that the Galbraiths are not
quite competent always to select the people best worth knowing."

"Oh, what a fuss you are, Roger; and it's hardly fair when you don't
know anything at all about Mr. Lansing."

"Do you?"

"No," and then Patty hesitated. She did know something,--she knew what
Mr. Galbraith had told her. But she was not of a mind to tell this to
Roger. "I only met him as I was introduced," she said, "and Mona has
never so much as even mentioned him to me."

"Didn't she ask you if she might bring him to-night?"

"No; I suppose, as an intimate friend, she didn't think that
necessary."

"It _was_ necessary, Patty, and you know it, if Mona doesn't. Now,
look here; you and I are Mona's friends; and if there are any social
matters that she isn't quite familiar with, it's up to us to help her
out a little. And I, for one, don't believe that man is the right sort
for her to be acquainted with; and I'm going to find out about him."

"Well, I'm sure I'm willing you should, Roger; but you needn't make
such a bluster about it."

"I'm not making a bluster, Patty."

"You are so!"

"I am not!"

And then they both realised that they were bickering like two
children, and they laughed simultaneously as they swept on round the
dancing-room. The music stopped just then, and as they were near a
window-seat, Patty sat down for a moment. "You go on, Roger," she
said, "and hunt up your next partner, or fight a duel with Mr.
Lansing, or do whatever amuses you. My partner will come to hunt me
up, I'm sure, and I'll just wait here."

"Who is your next partner, Patty?"

"Haven't looked at my card; but, never mind, he'll come. You run
along."

As Roger's next partner was Mona, and as he was anxious to talk to her
about her new friend, Roger obeyed Patty's bidding and strolled away.

Patty sat alone for a moment, knowing full well who was her next
partner, and then Mr. Lansing appeared and made a low bow before her.

Now, Patty had not chosen to express to Roger her real opinion of this
new man, but in reality she did not approve of him. Though fairly
good-looking and correctly dressed, there was about him a certain
something--or perhaps, rather, he lacked a certain something that
invariably stamps the well-bred man. He stared at Patty a trifle too
freely; he sat down beside her with a little too much informality; and
he began conversation a little too familiarly. All of these things
Patty saw and resented, but as hostess she could not, of course, be
openly rude.

"Nice, jolly rooms you've got here for a party," Mr. Lansing remarked,
rolling his eyes about appreciatively, "and a jolly lot of people,
too. Some class to 'em!"

Patty looked at him coldly. She was not accustomed to this style of
expression. Her friends perhaps occasionally used a slang word or
term, but it was done in a spirit of gaiety or as a jest, whereas this
man used his expressions as formal conversation.

"Yes, I have many kind and delightful friends," said Patty, a little
stiffly.

"You sure have! Rich, too, most of 'em."

Patty made no response to this, and Mr. Lansing turned suddenly to
look at her. "I say, Miss Fairfield, do you know what I think? I think
you are prejudiced against me, and I think somebody put you up to it,
and I think I know who. Now, look here, won't you give me a fair show?
Do you think it's just to judge a man by what other people say about
him?"

"How do you know I've heard anything about you, Mr. Lansing?"

"Well, you give me the icy glare before I've said half a dozen words
to you! So, take it from me, somebody's been putting you wise to my
defects."

He wagged his head so sagaciously at this speech, that Patty was
forced to smile. On a sudden impulse, she decided to speak frankly.
"Suppose I tell you the truth, Mr. Lansing, that I'm not accustomed to
being addressed in such--well, in such slangy terms."

"Oh, is that it? Pooh, I'll bet those chums of yours talk slang to you
once in a while."

"What my chums may do is no criterion for an absolute stranger,"--and
now Patty spoke very haughtily indeed.

"That's so, Miss Fairfield; you're dead right,--and I apologise. But,
truly, it's a habit with me. I'm from Chicago, and I believe people
use more slang out there."

"The best Chicago people don't," said Patty, seriously.

Mr. Lansing smiled at her, a trifle whimsically.

"I'm afraid I don't class up with the best people," he confessed; "but
if it will please you better, I'll cut out the slang. Shall we have a
turn at this two-step?"

Patty rose without a word, and in a moment they were circling the
floor. Mr. Lansing was a good dancer, and especially skilful in
guiding his partner. Patty, herself such an expert dancer, was
peculiarly sensitive to the good points of a partner, and she enjoyed
the dance with Mr. Lansing, even though she felt she did not like the
man. And yet he had a certain fascination in his manner, and when the
dance was over, Patty looked at him with kinder eyes than she had when
they began. But all that he had won of her favour he lost by his final
speech, for as the dance ended, he said, brusquely: "Now, I'll tumble
you into a seat, and chase my next victim."

Patty stood looking after him, almost moved to laughter at what he had
said, and yet indignant that a man, and a comparative stranger, should
address her thus.

"What's the matter, Lady Fair?" and Philip Van Reypen came up to her.
"Methinks thou hast a ruffled brow."

"No, it's my frock that's ruffled," said Patty, demurely. "You men
know so little of millinery!"

"That's true enough, and if you will smile again, I'll drop the
subject of ruffles. And now for my errand; will you go out to supper
with me?"

"Goodness, is it supper time? I thought the evening had scarcely
begun!"

"Alas! look at the programme," and Van Reypen showed her that it was,
indeed, time for intermission.

"Intermission is French for supper," he said, gravely, "and I'd like
to know if you'd rather sit on the stairs in good old orthodox party
fashion, or if you'd rather go to the dining-room in state?"

"Who are on the stairs?"

"I shall be, if you are. You don't want to know more than that, do
you?" The young man's gaze was so reproachful that Patty giggled.

"You are a great factor in my happiness, Mr. Van Reypen," she said,
saucily; "but you are not all the world to me! So, if I flock on the
stairs with you, I must know what other doves will be perching there."

"Oh, doves!" in a tone of great relief. "I thought you wanted to know
what men you would find there,--you inveterate coquette, you! Well,
Elise is there waiting for you, and Miss Farley."

"And Mona Galbraith?"

"I don't know; I didn't see Miss Galbraith. But if you will go with
me, I will accumulate for you any young ladies you desire."

"And any men?"

"The men I shall have to fight off, not invite!"

Laughing at each other's chaff, they sauntered across to the hall and
found the stairs already pretty well occupied.

"Why is it," Mr. Hepworth was saying, "that you young people prefer
the stairs to the nice, comfortable seats at little tables in the
dining-room?"

"Habit," said Patty, laughing, as she made her way up a few steps;
"I've always eaten my party suppers on the stairs, and I dare say I
always shall. When I build a house I shall have a great, broad
staircase, like they have in palaces, and then everybody can eat on
the stairs."

"I'm going to give a party," announced Van Reypen, "and it's going to
be in the new Pennsylvania Station. There are enormous staircases
there."

"All right, I'll come to it," said Patty, and then Mona and Mr.
Lansing came strolling along the hall, and demanded room on the stairs
also.

"Seats all taken," declared Roger, who had had a real tiff with Mona
on the subject of her new friend. The others, too, did not seem to
welcome Mr. Lansing, and though one or two moved slightly, they did
not make room for the newcomers.

Patty was uncertain what she ought to do. She remembered what Mr.
Galbraith had said, and she felt that to send Mona and Mr. Lansing
away would be to throw them more exclusively in each other's society;
and she thought that Mr. Galbraith meant for her to keep Mona under
her own eye as much as possible. But to call the pair upon the stairs
and make room for them would annoy, she felt sure, the rest of the
group.

She looked at Roger and at Philip Van Reypen, and both of them gave
her an eloquent glance of appeal not to add to their party. Then she
chanced to glance at Mr. Hepworth and found him smiling at her. She
thought she knew what he meant, and immediately she said, "Come up
here by me, Mona; and you come too, Mr. Lansing. We can make room
easily if we move about a little."

There was considerable moving about, and finally Patty found herself
at the top of the group with Mona and Mr. Lansing. Christine and Mr.
Hepworth were directly below them, and then Elise and Kenneth.

Mr. Van Reypen and Roger Farrington declared their intention of making
a raid on the dining-room and kidnapping waiters with trays of
supplies. On their return the supper plates were passed up to those on
the stairs, and Van Reypen and Roger calmly walked away.

Patty knew perfectly well what they meant. They intended her to
understand that if she and Mona persisted in cultivating the
acquaintance of the man they considered objectionable, they did not
care to be of the party.

"Which is perfectly ridiculous!" said Patty to herself, as she
realised the state of things. "Those boys needn't think they can
dictate to me at my own party!"

Whereupon, perverse Patty began to make herself extremely and
especially agreeable to Mr. Lansing, and Mona was greatly delighted at
the turn things had taken.

Christine and Mr. Hepworth joined in the conversation, and perhaps
because of what Patty had said earlier in the evening, Mr. Lansing
avoided to a great extent the use of slang expressions, and made
himself really interesting and entertaining.

"What a fascinating man he is," said Christine later, to Patty, when
Mona and her new friend had walked away to the "extra" supper dance.

"Do you think so?" said Patty, looking at Christine in astonishment.
"He was rather nicer than I thought him at first, but, Christine, I
never dreamed _you_ would approve of him! But you never can tell when
a quiet little mouse like you is going to break loose. Why did you
like him, Christine?"

"I don't know exactly; only he seemed so breezy and unusual."

"Yes, he's that," and Patty wagged her head, knowingly; "but I don't
like him very much, Christine, and you mustn't, either. Now run away
and play."

Patty's last direction was because she saw a young man coming to ask
Christine for this dance; while two others were rapidly coming toward
herself.

The rest of the evening was danced gaily away, but neither Roger nor
Philip Van Reypen came near Patty. To be sure, she had plenty of
partners, but she felt a little offended at her two friends' attitude,
for she knew she hadn't really deserved it.

But when the dance was over, Patty's good-nights to Roger and Philip
were quite as gentle and cordial as those she said to any one else.
She smiled her best smiles at them, and though not as responsive as
usual, they made polite adieux and departed with no further reference
to the troublesome matter.



CHAPTER III

HAPPY SATURDAYS


As was not to be wondered at, Patty slept late the next morning. And
when she awakened, she lay, cozily tucked in her coverlets, thinking
over the occurrences of the night before.

Presently Jane came in with a dainty tray of chocolate and rolls, and
then, with some big, fluffy pillows behind her, Patty sat up in bed,
and thoughtfully nibbled away at a crust.

Then Nan came in, in her pretty morning gown, and, drawing up a little
rocker, sat down by Patty's bedside.

"Are you in mood for a gossip, Patty?" she asked, and Patty replied,
"Yes, indeedy! I want to talk over the whole thing. In the first
place, Nan, it was a howling, screaming success, wasn't it?"

"Why, yes, of course; how could it be otherwise? with the nicest
people and the nicest flowers and the nicest girl in New York City!"

"In the whole United States, you mean," said Patty, complacently, as
she took a spoonful of chocolate. "Yes, the party in all its parts was
all right. There wasn't a flaw. But, oh, Nan, I got into a scrap with
the boys."

"What boys? and what _is_ a scrap? Patty, now that you're out, you
mustn't use those slang words you're so fond of."

"Nan," and Patty shook her spoon solemnly at her stepmother, "I've
come to realise that there is slang and slang. Now, the few little
innocent bits I use, don't count at all, because I just say them for
fun and to help make my meaning clear. But that man last night,--that
Lansing man,--why, Nan, his slang is altogether a different matter."

"Well, Patty, he, himself, seems to be an altogether different matter
from the people we know."

"Yes, doesn't he? And yet, Nan, he isn't so bad. Well, anyway, let me
tell you what Mr. Galbraith says."

"That's just it!" declared Nan, after Patty had finished her story.
"That man _is_ a fortune-hunter, and he means to try to marry Mona for
the sake of her father's money!"

"Oh, my!" exclaimed Patty, laughing; "isn't it grand to be grown up! I
see I'm mixed up in a matrimonial tangle already!"

"Nothing of the sort, you foolish child! There won't be any matrimonial
tangle. Mr. Galbraith is quite right; this man must be discouraged, and
Mona must be made to see him in his true light."

"But, Nan, he isn't so awful. You know, sometimes he was quite
fascinating."

"Yes, you think that, because he has big dark eyes and rolled them at
you."

"Goodness! it sounds like a game of bowls. No, I don't mean that;
but--well, I'll tell you what I do mean. He said we weren't fair to
him, to judge him adversely, not knowing anything about him. And I
think so, too, Nan; it doesn't seem fair or right to say a man is a
bounder,--that's what Roger called him,--when we don't know anything
about him, really."

"Patty, you're a goose! Don't you suppose we'll find out about him? Of
course, _we_ can't, but your father and Mr. Galbraith,--yes, and Roger
Farrington, will soon find out his standing."

"Well," said Patty, with a relieved sigh, "then I needn't bother about
_him_ any more. But, Nan, I have troubles of my own. Philip and Roger
are both mad at me!"

"Goodness! Patty, how awful! Do you suppose they'll stay mad all day?"

"Oh, it isn't just a momentary tiff; they are up and down angry! Why,
neither of them danced with me or even spoke to me after supper last
night!"

"Well, it was probably your own fault."

"My own fault, indeed! It was all because of that horrid Lansing man.
Well, if they want to stay mad, they may! _I_ shan't make any
advances."

"Don't worry, my child. Into each life some little squabbles must
fall,--and though you're fairly good-natured, as a rule, you can't
expect it always to be smooth sailing."

Seeing she could get no sympathy from her stepmother, Patty dropped
the subject of her quarrels, and remarked, with a yawn, "Well, I
suppose I may as well get up, and begin on those flower notes. What
shall I say, Nan, something like this? 'Miss Patricia Fairfield thanks
you for your kind donation of expensive blossoms, but as it's such a
bother to write the notes of acknowledgment, she really wishes you
hadn't sent them.'"

"What base ingratitude! Patty, I'm ashamed of you! or I would be, if I
thought you meant a word of it, but I know you don't. What are you
doing this afternoon?"

"Oh, I forgot to tell you. We're going to have a club, just a little
club,--only four of us girls. And, Nan, you know there are so many
clubs that make an awful fuss and yet don't really _do_ anything.
Well, this is going to be a _Doing_ Club. We're going to be real
_doers_."

"It sounds lovely, Patty. What are you going to do?"

"We don't know yet, that's what the meeting's for this afternoon. But
we're going to do good, you know--some kind of good. You know, Nan, I
always said I didn't want to be just a social butterfly and nothing
else. I want to accomplish something that will give some joy or
comfort to somebody."

Patty's blue eyes looked very earnest and sincere as she said this,
and Nan kissed her, saying, "I know you do, Patty, dearest, and I know
you'll succeed in your doing. If I can help you in any way, be sure to
ask me; and now I'll run away and let you dress."

Patty made a leisurely toilette; and then, in a trailing blue silk
négligée, she went into her boudoir and began to write her notes.

It was not a difficult task, and she did not really mind it, though it
was a long list. But Patty had a knack at writing graceful little
notes, and although she jested about it, she was really grateful to
the kind friends who had sent the flowers.

"I don't know _why_ I have so many friends," she said to herself, as
she scanned the rows of names. "To be sure, a great many are really
friends of father's and Nan's, but there's a lot of our crowd, too,
and lots of out of town people. Perhaps it would be a good idea to do
the farthest away first, and so work back to New York."

Patty picked up Mr. Farnsworth's card, and read again the message on
it. "H'm," she said to herself, "it sounds to me a trifle formal and
conventional--considering all things. Now, Little Billee is a Western
man,--but how different he is from that Lansing person! I wonder what
makes the difference. Little Billee isn't formal or conventional a
bit, and yet his manners are as far removed from Horace Lansing's as
white is from black. Oh, well, I know the reason well enough. It's
because Little Billee is a thorough gentleman at heart; and the other
one is,--well, I guess he's what Roger called him. Now, what shall I
say to Mr. William Farnsworth by way of thanks for his truly beautiful
pink roses? I'd like to write a nice, every-day letter, and tell him
all about the party and everything; but, as he just sent his visiting
card, with a mere line on it, I suppose I must reply very formally."

Patty began her formal note, but tore up half a dozen beginnings
before she completed one to her satisfaction. This one read, "Miss
Patricia Fairfield thanks Mr. William Farnsworth sincerely for his
exquisite gift of roses, and for his kind congratulations."

Patty gave a little sigh as she sealed this missive and addressed it
to her friend in Arizona.

With the exception of the roses, Patty had never heard a word from Big
Bill since they were at Spring Beach together. She had told her father
and Nan of what Mr. Farnsworth had said to her down there, and as they
had agreed that Patty was altogether too young even to think of such a
thing as being engaged to anybody, it was wiser to hold no
correspondence with him at all.

Apparently, this in no way disappointed the young man, for he had made
no effort on his part to recall himself to Patty's remembrance, until
the occasion of sending the flowers.

Patty had liked Bill extremely, but as Arizona was far away, and she
had no reason to think she would ever see him again, she gave him few
thoughts. However, the thoughts, when she did allow them to come, were
pleasant ones. Although she had sealed the note she intended to send,
she began another one, and the opening words were "Little Billee."
This note she wrote in the first person, and thanked him simply and
naturally for the flowers. Then, for a signature, she made a carefully
and daintily drawn pen-and-ink sketch of an apple blossom. She was
clever at flower-sketching, and she sat a moment admiring her own
handiwork. Then a flush spread over her pretty face, and she spoke
sternly to herself, as was her habit when she disapproved of her own
actions.

"Patty Fairfield," she said, reprovingly, "you ought to be ashamed to
think of sending a personal, lettery sort of a note like that, to a
man who sent you the formalest kind of a message! He only sent the
flowers, because convention demanded it! He never gave you one single
thought after that last time he saw you,--and that's all there is
about _that_!"

And then, to her great surprise, luncheon was announced, and she found
that her whole morning was gone and only one name on her list crossed
off!

                  *       *       *       *       *

The club that met that afternoon in Mona's pretty sitting-room in the
Plaza Hotel, consisted of only four girls--Patty, Mona, Elise, and
Clementine Morse.

It was thought wiser to start with a few earnest members and then
enlarge the number later if it seemed advisable.

"What a beautiful room!" said Clementine, as she tossed off her furs.
"Don't you like it, Mona, to live in a big hotel like this, and yet
have your own rooms, like a home all to yourself?"

"Yes, I like it in some ways; but I'm alone a great deal. However, I
would be that, if father and I lived in a house or an apartment."

"You ought to have a companion of some sort, Mona," said Patty, who
thought this a good opportunity to urge Mr. Galbraith's wishes.

"No, thank you," and Mona tossed her head, disdainfully; "I know what
companions are! Snoopy old maids who won't let you do anything, or
careless, easy-going old ladies who pay no attention to you. If I
could have a companion of my own age and tastes, I'd like that,--but I
suppose that wouldn't do."

"Hardly," said Elise, laughing; "that would only mean your father
would have two troublesome girls to look after instead of one. And I
daresay, Mona, you are quite as much as he can handle."

"I suppose I am. But he's so good to me I'm afraid he spoils me. But
come on, girls, let's organise our club."

"Don't let's have too much organisation," said Clementine. "Do you
know, I think lots of clubs, especially charity clubs, have so much
organisation that they haven't anything else. One club I joined fell to
pieces before it was fairly started, because the two vice-presidents
squabbled so."

"If there's anything I hate," declared Patty, "it's a squabble.
Whatever else we girls do, let's try not to have any friction. Now, I
know perfectly well that none of us four is _very_ meek or mild."

"I am," declared Elise, assuming an angelic expression, which made
them all laugh, for Elise was really the one most likely to take
offence at trifles, or to flare up impulsively if any one disagreed
with her.

Patty knew this only too well, and was trying to forestall it by a
preliminary treaty of peace.

"Well, then, let's be an organisation that doesn't organise," said
Mona, "but let's be it _now_."

"I think," said Patty, "that our end and aim ought to be to do good to
somebody who doesn't expect it. Now, that isn't quite what I mean,--I
mean to people who wouldn't accept it if it seemed like charity, but
to whom we could give a pleasure that they would really like."

"Patty, my child," said Clementine, "I think your ideas are all right,
but I must say you don't express them very clearly. Let's get down to
something definite. Do you mean to give material things,--like
presents or money?"

"That's just exactly what I _don't_ mean, Clem! Don't you remember
that little club we used to have at school,--the Merry Grigs?"

"Indeed I do! All we had to do was to be merry and gay."

"Well, that's what I mean,--in a way,--if you know what I mean."

"Oh, Patty," cried Mona, "I never knew you to be so hopelessly vague.
Now, for instance, how would it be if we gave a lovely motor ride to
some poor shop girl, or somebody that never gets into a motor?"

"That's it!" cried Clementine, approvingly; "I was thinking of sending
flowers to hospitals, but that's so general. Now, your suggestion,
Mona, is definite, and just the right sort of thing."

"But aren't we going to have a president and treasurer, and things
like that?" asked Elise.

"No," said Patty; "my mind is clearing now, and I begin to see our
club. Instead of a president, we'll all four be presidents, and
instead of a treasurer, we'll all four be treasurers. We'll give money
when it's necessary, or we'll use our motor cars, or buy flowers, or
whatever we like; but we won't have dues and officers and things."

"But the shop girls are always busy; how can we take them motoring?"
asked Elise.

"That was only a suggestion," said Mona; "it needn't be exactly a shop
girl; but anybody we know of, who would enjoy a little unexpected
pleasure."

"The principle is exactly right," said Clementine; "now, let's get it
down to practicability. As Mona says, we needn't necessarily choose a
shop girl,--but suppose we do, many of them are free Saturday
afternoon."

"Only in the summer time," objected Elise.

"Yes, perhaps, in the big shops; but there are lots of them, in
offices,--or even school teachers,--who would be free Saturday
afternoons. Well, anyway, here's what I'm thinking of, and you can all
say what you think of it. Suppose we try, every week, to give a happy
Saturday afternoon to somebody who wouldn't have it otherwise."

"The Happy Saturday Afternoon Club!" cried Patty; "that's a lovely
name! let's do it!"

"But," said Elise, "that would mean giving up our Saturday afternoons.
Do we want to do that? What about matinées?"

"I think we ought to be willing to sacrifice something," said Patty,
thoughtfully; "but I do love Saturday matinées."

"Oh, if there's anything especial, we needn't consider ourselves bound
to give up the afternoon," said Clementine. "For that matter, we could
send a couple of girls for a motor ride without going ourselves."

"But that's more like charity," objected Patty: "I meant to go with
them, and be real nice and pleasant with them, and make a bright spot
in their lives that they would always remember."

"They'd always remember you, Patty, if you were the bright spot,"
declared Mona, who idolised her friend. "But I must confess I do like
to be definite about this thing. Now, how's this for a plan? To-day's
Thursday. Suppose we begin on Saturday and make a start at something.
Suppose we each of us pick out a girl,--or a boy, for that matter,--or
a child or anybody, and think what we can do to make them happy on
Saturday afternoon."

"Now we're getting somewhere," said Elise, approvingly. "I've picked
mine already. She's a girl who comes to our house quite often to sew
for the children. She's a sweet little thing, but she looks as if she
never had a real good time in all her life. Now, can the rest of you
think of anybody like that?"

"Yes, I have one," said Mona. "Your suggestion made me think of her.
She's my manicure girl. She comes here, and sometimes she's so tired
she's ready to drop! She works awfully hard, and never takes a day
off, because she has to support two little sisters. But I'll make her
take a holiday Saturday afternoon, somehow."

"There's a girl I'd like to have," said Clementine, thoughtfully;
"she's at the ribbon counter in Walker's. She always waits on me
there; and she has such a wistful air, I'd like to do her a kindness.
I don't suppose she could get off,--but I could go and ask the head of
the department, and perhaps he'd let her."

"I can't think of anybody," said Patty, "except one person, that I
would simply _love_ to have. And that's a very tired and cross-looking
lady who gives out embroidery patterns in a dreadful place, way down
town. I believe it would sweeten her up for a year to have a little
spree with us."

"All right," said Mona. "Now we have selected our guests, what shall
we do with them? Say, a motor ride and a cup of tea afterward in some
pretty tea room?"

"I think," said Elise, "that we'd better give them luncheon first.
They can't enjoy a motor ride if they're hungry, and they probably
will be."

"Luncheon where?" said Patty, looking puzzled; "at one of our houses?"

"I could have them here, easily enough," said Mona. "Our dining-room
here, would really be better than any of the homes of you girls.
Because you all have people, and I haven't. Father would just as lieve
lunch downstairs, in the main dining-room."

"That's lovely of you, Mona," said Patty. "I was going to suggest some
small, quiet restaurant, but a luncheon here in your pretty dining-room
would indeed be a bright spot for them to remember. But suppose they
won't come?"

"Then we must ask someone instead," said Clementine; "let's promise
each to bring someone with us on Saturday, and if the first one we ask
declines, keep on asking till we get somebody. Of course, Mona, we'll
share the expense of the luncheon equally."

"Nonsense," returned Mona; "I'll be glad to give that."

"No," said Patty, firmly; "we'll each pay a quarter of whatever the
luncheon costs. And let's have it good and substantial, and yet have
some pretty, fancy things too. For, you know, this isn't a charity or
a soup kitchen,--it's to give those girls a bright and beautiful scene
to look back on."

"Oh, it will be lovely!" cried Mona. "I'll have pretty place cards,
and favours, and everything."

"But we mustn't overdo it," said Clementine.

"You know, to the unaccustomed, an elaborate table may prove
embarrassing."

"That will be all right," said Patty, smiling. "Mona can fix her
table, and I'll come over before the luncheon, and if she has too many
or too grand flumadiddles, I'll take some of them off. I don't want
our guests struck dumb by too much grandeur, but I do want things
pretty and nice. Suppose we each bring a favor for our own guest."

"Something useful?" said Elise.

"No; _not_ a suit of flannel underwear or a pair of shoes! But a
pretty necktie or handkerchief, if you like, or even a little gold
pin, or a silver one."

"Or a picture or cast," said Clementine.

"Yes," and Patty nodded approval; "but it ought to be a little thing
that would look like a luncheon souvenir and not like a Christmas
present. I think they ought to be all alike."

"So do I," said Mona, "and I think a little pin in a jeweler's box
will be the prettiest; and then a lovely bunch of flowers at each
plate, and an awfully pretty place-card."

"Oh, it will be beautiful!" cried Patty, jumping up and dancing about
the room; "but I must flit, girls,--I have an engagement at five.
Wait, what about motors? I'm sure we can use our big car."

"And ours," said all the rest together.

"Well, we'll need two," said Clementine, "and two of us girls and two
guests can go in each. We'll see which cars can be used most
conveniently; perhaps our fathers may have something to say on that
subject. But we can arrange all such things by telephone to-morrow.
The main thing is to get our guests."

"Oh, we'll do that," said Patty, "if we have to go out into the
highways and hedges after them."



CHAPTER IV

AN INVITATION


The next morning Patty started off in her own little electric runabout
with Miller, the chauffeur.

She let him drive, and gave the address, as she stepped in, "The
Monongahela Art Embroidery Company," adding a number in lower
Broadway.

The correct Miller could not suppress a slight smile as he said,
"Where I took you once before, Miss Patty?" And Patty smiled, as she
said, "Yes, Miller."

But it was with a different feeling that she entered the big building
this time, and she went straight to department B. On her way she met
the red-headed boy who had so amused her when she was there a year
ago.

He greeted her with the same lack of formality that had previously
characterised him.

"Is youse up against it again?" he inquired, grinning broadly. "I
t'ought youse didn't get no cinch, and had to can de whole projick."

"I'm not on the same 'projick' now," said Patty, smiling at him. "Is
department B in the same place?"

"Sure it is," and for some reason the boy added, "miss," after a
momentary pause, which made Patty realise his different attitude
toward her, now that she wore a more elaborate costume, than when he
had seen her in a purposely plain little suit.

"And is the same lady still in charge of it?"

"Yep; dey ain't nuttin' lessen dynnimite goin' to boost Mis' Greene
outen o' here!"

"Then Mrs. Greene is the lady I want to see," and Patty threaded her
way through the narrow passages between the piled up boxes.

"No pass needed; she's a free show," the boy called after her, and in
a moment Patty found herself again in the presence of the sharp-faced,
tired-looking woman whom she had once interviewed regarding her
embroidery work.

"This is Mrs. Greene, isn't it?" said Patty, pleasantly.

"Yes, I am," snapped the woman. "You don't want work again, do you?"

"No," said Patty, smiling, "I come this time on quite a different
errand."

"Then you don't want to see _me_. I'm here only to give out work. Did
Mr. Myers send you?"

"No, I came of my own accord. Now, Mrs. Greene, forget the work for a
moment, and let me tell you what I want."

"If it's subscribin' to any fund, or belongin' to any working woman's
club run by you swell ladies, you can count me out. I ain't got time
for foolishness."

"It isn't anything like that," and Patty laughed so merrily that Mrs.
Greene's hard face softened in spite of herself. "Well, what is it?"
she asked, in a less belligerent tone.

"It's only this," and though Patty's errand had seemed to her simple
enough before she came in, she now began to wonder how Mrs. Greene
would take it. "Some friends of mine and I are asking three or four
people to lunch with us and take a little motor ride on Saturday, and
I want you to come as my guest?"

"What!" and Mrs. Greene's face was blank with amazement, but her
manner betokened an impending burst of wrath.

Patty realised that the woman's pride was up in arms at the idea of
patronage, and she was at her wit's end how to make the real spirit of
her invitation understood.

As it chanced, she unwittingly took the right tack. So earnest was she
that her lips quivered a little, and her eyes showed a pleading,
pathetic expression, as she said, "_Please_ don't misunderstand me,
Mrs. Greene. If you would enjoy it, I want you to come to our party on
Saturday as our welcome guest. If you wouldn't enjoy it,--just say
so,--but--but _don't_ scold me!"

Mrs. Greene looked puzzled, and then the hard, stern mouth broke into
an actual smile.

"Well, I declare," she said, "I do believe you've got a real heart!"

"And I do believe that _you_ have!" exclaimed Patty. "And, now that we
know the truth about each other, you'll come, won't you?"

"Tell me about it," and the speaker seemed still uncertain, though
wavering.

So Patty told her, honestly and straightforwardly, the circumstances
of the party, and wound up by saying, "I truly want you, Mrs. Greene,
for the simple reason that I want you to enjoy the afternoon,--and for
no other reason."

"And I'll come, and be awful glad of the chance! Why, I've never had a
ride in a motor car in my life, and I've never eaten in one of those
fandangle hotels; and the way you put it, I'm just crazy to go!"

"Do you have holiday Saturday afternoon?"

"Yes, all these downtown places do."

"Very well, then, I shall expect you at the Plaza at one o'clock. Ask
for Miss Galbraith, and they will show you right up to her rooms."

"Land! it does seem too good to be true! Say, Miss Fairfield, I've
only got a black mohair to wear,--will that do?"

"Of course it will. Maybe you've a pretty bit of embroidery or
something to lighten it up a little."

"Yes, I've got a linjerry collar and cuffs that I've just been achin'
to wear ever since my sister gave them to me last Christmas."

"Then I shall expect you on Saturday, and I'm so glad."

With a smiling bow, Patty started away, but she saw by Mrs. Greene's
face, there was something left unsaid.

"What is it?" she asked, kindly, stepping back again to the counter.

"Say, Miss Fairfield," and Mrs. Greene twisted her fingers a little
nervously, "don't think this is queer,--but won't you wear one of your
real pretty dresses? I do like to see a pretty, stylish dress,--and I
never get a chance."

"Of course I will," said Patty, heartily; "I've a brand-new one that
I've never worn, and I'll honour the occasion with it, on Saturday."

And then Patty went away, greatly pleased at her success.

"Had quite a buzz, didn't yer?" observed the red-headed boy, looking
at Patty with curiosity, as she passed him.

"Yes, I did. By the way, young man, what is your name?"

"Rosy; should think you'd know without askin'," and he grabbed a bunch
of his red hair with a comical grin.

"Well, I didn't know whether it was that or Freckles," said Patty, who
was moved to chaff him, by reason of his good-natured _camaraderie_.

"Might just as well 'a' been," and Rosy grinned wider than ever.

Patty nodded a good-bye, and went on, rapidly turning over in her mind
a new plan that would include Rosy in some future happy Saturday
afternoon. But this plan must wait for development, as the coming
Saturday was enough to occupy her thoughts for the present.

"Home, Miller," she said, as she took her seat. Miller gave a relieved
sigh, for he was always more or less afraid of Patty's escapades; and
he didn't like to have her go alone into these strange buildings.

They whizzed homeward, and at luncheon time Patty gave Nan a graphic
account of her interview with Mrs. Greene.

"I think that's the funniest of all," said Nan, "that she should want
you to wear your elaborate clothes."

"So do I," said Patty. "We girls had planned to wear our plainest
dresses, thinking to make our guests feel more at ease. And when
Madame Greene spoke of her black mohair, I thought I'd even rip the
trimming off my brown waist! But not so,--far otherwise. So I shall
get me into that new American Beauty satin, and I hope to goodness it
will suit her taste. I expect she's fearfully critical."

"Perhaps the other girls' guests won't feel as Mrs. Greene does about
this matter. What then?"

"Now, Nan, don't stir up trouble! I have only my own guest to look
after, and I shall dress my part. The others will have to do as
seemeth unto them best. Oh, Nan, it's going to be heaps of fun!"

"Yes, if it turns out right,--without any awkwardness or embarrassment."

"Oh, you old wet blanket! Now, you know perfectly well, we're doing our
best. And if we're awkward, we can't help it. We're going this
afternoon to get the favours. What do you think of little pins,--silver
gilt, or enamel?"

"They'd be all right, or hatpins, either."

"No, hatpins everybody has. And they don't show, anyhow. That amethyst
one of mine always hides itself behind a bow or a feather. No; I'm
sure a nice little round brooch is the best thing."

"How about gloves?"

"Or overshoes? or knitted wash-cloths? Nan, can't I bang it into your
head that this affair is for pleasure, not profit? Would you give
_your_ luncheon guests gloves as souvenirs?"

"I suppose you're right, Patty. But it _is_ an experiment."

"Of course it is! And it's going to be a successful one, and the
forerunner of many others!"

                  *       *       *       *       *

Half an hour before luncheon time, Patty walked into Mona's dining-room.
She wore her new gown of American Beauty satin, softly draped with a
thin black marquisette, and a soft sash of black satin. Her hat was all
black, with a Beauty rose tucked under the brim, and resting against her
fair hair.

Mona surveyed her with delight. "You look unusually well, Patty,--but
that's not saying anything unusual, for you always look unusually
well."

"Good gracious, Mona, what kind of English is that? And a doubtful
compliment beside! But I see you're preoccupied, so I shan't expect
much appreciation of my new costume. Simple but tasty, isn't it?"

As she spoke, Patty was looking at herself in a long mirror and
craning her neck to get a view of her back. She was fond of pretty
clothes, and her new gown, though rich, was really simple in line and
colouring.

"Your table is beautiful, Mona," she said, suddenly bringing her
attention from her own raiment to the festal preparation.

The girls had decided that, since Christmas was only about a fortnight
away, it would be attractive to use Christmas decorations for their
party. And so the round table showed crossed strips of broad red
ribbon, under bands of lace, and a central decoration of a real
Christmas tree, with beautiful fancy ornaments and colored electric
lights. At each place was an elaborate bonbonnière of Christmas red,
decked with sprays of holly. The place cards were Christmassy; and the
little brooches they had bought, were in dainty boxes tied with holly
ribbon.

"It's perfectly lovely, Mona," said Patty, enthusiastically. "There
isn't a bit too much of anything, and it's just as cheery and jolly as
it can be."

"I thought I wouldn't have any flowers on the table," Mona explained,
"for they didn't go with the other things. So, you see, I've these
four big bunches of red carnations around the room, and I shall give
them each one to take home. Of course, I have boxes ready for
them,--and then, Patty, I thought we'd distribute the Christmas tree
decorations among them,--and I have the boxes big, so we can put those
and the place-cards and candy-boxes and souvenirs all in them. And
then, you know, it won't seem like _giving_ them things; for you know
yourself how keen people are to take away their place cards and such
things."

"They are, indeed! I've been _surprised_ the people who have
_everything_ will gather up their cards and trumpery boxes after a
luncheon! And your thoughtfulness is lovely, Mona. We'll each give
them our own place-card and box, too."

"Yes; and then, you see, they'll have quite a few little things for
their own Christmas, and that will make them remember the 'bright
spot' all the more."

"Of course it will! Mona, you're a perfect _darling_!" And Patty
grasped Mona's shoulders and swung her about in a mad dance of
jubilation.

"And, Patty," Mona went on, "Mr. Lansing wants to help us with our
Happy Saturdays Club. He says he could go with us some afternoon, to
take a lot of newsboys to the circus."

"Why, Mona Galbraith!" and Patty stared at her friend in astonishment.
"Have you been telling _him_ about our club?"

"Yes; of course, I have. It's no secret society, is it?"

"No; but we don't want men for members."

"But, Patty, he would be a help. I'd love to give some of those poor
little newsboys a good time, and we couldn't do it, just by ourselves."

Suddenly, Patty thought of "Rosy," and her idea of including him in
some of their plans. To be sure, it would be better to have a man to
help manage such a project. But not Mr. Lansing!

"No, Mona," she said; "our club is made up of just us four girls, and
we can find plenty to do among girls or women. At least, for this
winter. If it's all a success, we can do more next winter, and perhaps
get some men to help us then. If we want to take newsboys to the
circus, father will go with us. Don't be everlastingly dragging in
that Mr. Lansing."

"I'm _not_ dragging him in! He kindly offered to help. But of
course,--if you don't want him----"

"Well, I don't! And, look here, Mona, I wish you'd let him alone,
yourself. He's not like the men of our set, and I want you to realise
that. Roger says he's a bounder,--if you know what that is."

"Pooh! Roger is jealous."

"Yes, I think he is. But, aside from that, he's right about Mr.
Lansing not being the right kind of a friend for you. Philip Van
Reypen says the same thing."

"Oh, pshaw! Mr. Van Reypen is an old stuck-up! He thinks nobody is any
good if they don't begin their names with a Van."

"Now, Mona, don't be silly. I'm sure I don't know what you see so
admirable in Mr. Lansing, but I do think you ought to be advised by
others who know better than you. Why, your own father doesn't like
him."

"I know dad doesn't; but--well, all the same, I _do_! Why, Patty, he's
awfully interesting, and he brings me flowers and candy and books----"

"Now, stop, Mona. You know you don't care for those things! You can
have all you want, without Mr. Lansing's gifts. You like him, because
he flatters you, and--well, I must admit that he has a way with him."

"Oh, yes, Patty, he has! Why, when you know him, he's really
fascinating!"

"Well, don't let him fascinate you. He's loud, Mona. He's not our
sort. Now, do promise me to see less of him, won't you? He seems to be
calling on you very often."

"Yes, he does. But how can I stop that? I can't be rude to him."

"Well, you can be cool. Every girl can discourage a man's attentions,
if she wants to."

"H'm; you seem to know a great deal about it."

"I only know what my common sense tells me. Mona, dear, _do_ drop that
man! Why, Roger is worth a dozen of him!"

"Roger's all right,--but Mr. Lansing is so,--so,--well, he's
different."

"He is, indeed! And that's the trouble. The difference is all in
Roger's favour, if you only could see it."

"Well, I can't! Now, look here, Patty. You know how much I care for
you, but I won't have you talking to me like a Dutch Aunt. I made
father bring me to New York this winter, so I could be near you, and
we could have fun together. But, if you're going to scold me all the
time, we won't have any fun at all."

Patty began to realise that, though Mona might be coaxed, she could
never be driven. So she concluded to drop the subject, and use more
thought and tact in her endeavours to break up Mona's new friendship.

And then Clementine Morse came, so the matter had to be laid aside.

"Is Jenny here?" asked Clementine, as she tossed off her furs.

"Jenny who?"

"My guest, Jenny Bisbee. She's the ribbon girl I told you about. I had
the greatest time to get her off for the afternoon. I had to go to
Walker's, you know, and see all sorts of Heads of Departments. My!
they acted like Crowned Heads! They said it wouldn't do at all,--it
would establish a precedent,--and all sorts of things like that. But,
somehow or other, I wheedled them into it, and at last they said Jenny
might come. She was just crazy about it. She said, she never has any
fun in her life, except looking at the new ribbons when they come in!
Oh, girls, isn't it awful _never_ to have any fun? I expect Jenny will
be embarrassed, but I'm sure she'll enjoy it all. Oh, how lovely the
table looks! Mona, you are a wonder! I never should have thought of
all those Christmas fixings."

"I'm glad you like them. Say, Clementine, don't you think it would be
nice to have men members in our club?"

"Why, I don't know. No, I guess not, though my brother Clifford says
it's a great game, and he'd like to help us."

"Yes, and I know another man who wants to help," said Mona, eagerly,
when Clementine interrupted her.

"I hope it isn't that strange being you brought to Patty's party!
Wherever _did_ you pick up that freak, Mona?"

"He _isn't_ a freak! Mr. Lansing is not a rich man, but he's very
exclusive. He told me so himself."

"Don't you believe it!" and Clementine laughed merrily. "As a rule,
people who say themselves that they're exclusive, are _not_. And one
glance at that man is enough to show his standing."

"What _is_ his standing, then?" said Mona, sulkily.

"Outside the pale of society, if not outside the pale of civilisation,"
retorted Clementine, who was plain-spoken.

"Don't let's talk about Mr. Lansing now," broke in Patty, who feared
an unpleasant element in their pleasant occasion. "And, anyway, here
comes Elise."



CHAPTER V

HAPPY GUESTS


Elise came in, bringing her guest with her. The three girls waiting in
the sitting-room were surprised to see the small, dainty person whom
Elise introduced as Miss Anna Gorman. She had a sweet, sad little
face, and wore a simple one-piece gown of dove-grey voile. Her hat was
grey, also; a turban shape, with a small knot of pink roses at one
side. Anna was not pretty, but she had a refined air, and a gentle
manner. Though embarrassed, she strove not to show it, and tried to
appear at ease.

Mona greeted her cordially: "How do you do, Anna?" she said, for they
had agreed to call the girls informally, by their Christian names. "I
am glad to see you. Come with me into the boudoir, and lay off your
coat." Mona herself assisted, for she thought it better not to have
her maid about.

"I'm well, thank you," said Anna, in response to Mona's inquiry, and
then she broke out, impulsively: "Oh, I'm so happy to be here! It was
so heavenly kind of you young ladies to ask me. You don't _know_ what
it means to me!"

"Why, I'm very glad," said Mona, touched at the girl's gratitude.
"Now, I hope you'll just have the time of your life!"

"Oh, I shall, indeed! I know it. I'm enjoying every minute, just being
in these lovely rooms, and seeing you kind ladies."

Then Mona's manicure girl came. Her name was Celeste Arleson, and she
was a tall, slender young woman, garbed all in black. It was the gown
she always wore at her work, and, being of French descent, she had an
air of charm that made her attractive.

"Good-morning, Celeste; come right in," said Mona, and then she
introduced her to Anna.

The two looked at each other a little shyly, and then Anna said,
"Good-morning," in a timid way.

Mona felt embarrassed, too, and began to wonder if their party would
be a failure, after all.

But Patty came in then and, with her ever-ready tact, took the two
visitors to the drawing-room, and began to show them some pictures and
curios.

Then Jenny Bisbee came, the girl from the ribbon counter, whom
Clementine had invited.

"My, isn't this fine!" she exclaimed, as she met the others. "I just
do think it's fine!"

"I'm glad we could arrange for you to come," said Clementine,
cordially.

"Glad! My gracious, I guess I'm glad! Well! if you measured ribbon
from morning till night, I guess you'd be glad to get away from it for
once. Why, I measure ribbon in my dreams, from night till morning. I
can't seem to get away from that everlasting stretching out of
thirty-six inches, over and over again."

"But the ribbons are so pretty," said Clementine, by way of being
agreeable.

"Yes; when they first come in. But after a few weeks you get so tired
of the patterns. My, I feel as if I could throw that Dresden sash
ribbon on the floor and stamp on it, I'm so tired of seeing it! And
there's one piece of gay brocade that hits me in the eye every
morning. I can't stand that piece much longer."

"I'll come round some day, and buy it," said Patty, laughing
good-naturedly. "I didn't know the ribbons were so individual to you."

"Yes, they are. There's one piece of light blue satin ribbon, plain
and wide, that I just love. It's a real comfort to me."

Jenny gave a little sigh, as she thought of her favourite ribbon, and
Patty looked at her in wonderment, that she should be so sensitive to
colour and texture. But her taste in colours did not seem to extend to
her clothes. Jenny was a pale little thing, with ashy blonde hair, and
large, light blue eyes. She wore a nondescript tan-coloured dress,
without tone or shape; and she had a weary, exhausted air, as if
chronically tired.

Conversation was a little difficult. The four hostesses tried their
best to be entertaining without being patronising, but it was not an
easy task. At least, their advances were not easily received, and the
guests seemed to be on the alert to resent anything that savoured of
patronage. But help came from an unexpected quarter. Just at one
o'clock Mrs. Greene arrived.

"My land!" she exclaimed, as she entered the room, "if this isn't grand!
I wouldn't of missed it for a farm! You see, I waited out on the corner,
till it was just one o'clock. I know enough to get to a party just on
the minute. My bringin' up was good, if I have fell off a little since.
But my folks was always awful particular people,--wouldn't even take
their pie in their hands. My husband, now, he was different. He wasn't a
fool, nor he wasn't much else. But I only had him a year, and then he up
and got killed in a rolling mill. Nice man, John, but not very
forth-putting. So I've shifted for myself ever since. Not that I've done
so awful well. I'm slow, I am. I never was one o' those to sew with a
hot needle and a scorching thread, but I do my stent right along. But,
my! how I do rattle on! You might think I don't often go in good
society. Well, I don't! So I must make the most of this chance."

Mrs. Greene's chatter had been broken in upon by introductions and
greetings, but that bothered her not at all. She nodded her head
affably at the different ones, but kept right on talking.

So Mona was fairly obliged to interrupt her.

"Now, let us go out to luncheon," she said, after the maid had
announced it twice.

"Glad to," said Mrs. Greene. "Oh, my land! what a pretty sight!"

She stood stock still in the doorway, and had to be urged forward, in
order that the others might follow.

"Well, I didn't know a table _could_ look so handsome!" she went on.
"My land! I s'pose it's been thirty years since I've went to a real
party feast, and then, I can tell you, it wasn't much like this!"

Probably not, for Mona's table, with the coloured electric lights
blazing from the pretty Christmas tree, the soft radiance of the room,
the fragrance of flowers, the exquisite table appointments, and the
pretty, kindly hostesses, was a scene well worthy of praise.

Anna Gorman trembled a little as she took her seat, and sat,
wide-eyed, looking almost as if in a trance of delight. Celeste
Arleson was less embarrassed, as her profession took her into fine
mansions and in presence of fashionable people every day.

Jenny Bisbee looked rapturous. "Oh," she said, "Oh! I am _so_ happy!"

The guests all looked a trifle awestruck when the first course
appeared, of grapefruit, served in tall, slender ice-glasses, each
with a red ribbon tied round its stem, and a sprig of holly in the
bow.

"Well, did you ever!" exclaimed Mrs. Greene. "And is this the way they
do things now? Well, well! It does look 'most too good to eat, but I'm
ready to tackle it."

Anna Gorman looked a little pained, as if this homely enthusiasm
jarred upon her sense of fitness. But Mona said hospitably, "Yes,
indeed, Mrs. Greene,--it's here to be eaten."

"Now, I'm free to confess, I don't know what spoon to take," Mrs.
Greene acknowledged, looking blankly at the row of flat silver before
her.

"I know," spoke up Jenny Bisbee, eagerly; "I read it in a Sunday
paper. You begin at the outside of the row, and eat in!"

"Land! are you sure to come out right, that way? S'pose you had a fork
left for your ice cream!"

"We'll risk it," said Mona, smiling. "Let's use this spoon at the
outside, as Jenny suggests."

The second course was clam bouillon, and after it was served, a maid
passed a dish of whipped cream.

Mrs. Greene watched carefully as Mona placed a spoonful on the top of
her soup, and then she exclaimed:

"Well, if that don't beat all! What is that, might I ask?"

"Whipped cream," said Mona. "Won't you have some?"

"Well, I will,--as you took some. But if that ain't the greatest! Now,
just let me tell you. A friend of mine,--she has seen some high
society,--she was telling me a little how to behave. And she told me
of a country person she knew, who had some soup in a cup once. And he
thought it was tea, and he ca'mly puts in milk and sugar! Well, he was
just kerflum-mixed, that poor man, when he found it was soup! So, my
friend says, says she: 'Now, Almira, whatever you do, _don't_ put milk
in your soup!' And, I declare to goodness, here you're doin' just that
very thing!"

"Well, we won't put any sugar in," said Mona, pleasantly; "but I think
the cream improves it. You like it, don't you, Jenny?"

"Heavenly!" said Jenny, rolling her eyes up with such a comically
blissful expression that Elise nearly choked.

As Patty had agreed, the luncheon was good and substantial, rather
than elaborate. The broiled chicken, dainty vegetables, and pretty
salad all met the guests' hearty approval and appreciation; and when
the ice cream was served, Mrs. Greene discovered she had both a fork
and a spoon at her disposal.

"Well, I never!" she observed. "Ain't that handy, now? I s'pose you
take whichever one you like."

"Yes," said Mona. "You see, there is strawberry sauce for the ice
cream, and that makes it seem more like a pudding."

"So it does, so it does," agreed Mrs. Greene, "though, land knows, it
ain't much like the puddin's I'm accustomed to. Cottage, rice, and
bread is about the variety we get, in the puddin' line. Not but what
I'm mighty grateful to get those."

"I like chocolate pudding," said Jenny, in a low voice, and apparently
with great effort. Patty knew she made the remark because she thought
it her duty to join in the conversation; and she felt such heroism
deserved recognition.

"So do I," she said, smiling kindly at Jenny. "In fact, I like
anything with chocolate in it."

"So do I," returned Jenny, a little bolder under this expressed
sympathy of tastes. "Once I had a whole box of chocolate candies,--a
pound box it was. I've got the box yet. I'm awful careful of the lace
paper."

"I often get boxes of candy," said Celeste, unable to repress this bit
of vanity. "My customers give them to me."

"My," said Jenny, "that must be fine. Is it grand to be a manicure?"

"I like it," said Celeste, "because it takes me among nice people.
They're mostly good to me."

"My ladies are nice to me, too," observed Anna. "I only sew in nice
houses. But I don't see the ladies much. It's different with you, Miss
Arleson."

"Well, I don't see nice ladies," broke in Jenny. "My, how those queens
of society can snap at you! Seems 'if they blame me for everything:
the stock, the price, the slow cash boys,--whatever bothers 'em, it's
all my fault."

"That is unkind," said Clementine. "But shopping does make some people
cross."

"Indeed it does!" returned Jenny. "But I'm going to forget it just for
to-day. When I sit here and see these things, all so beautiful and
sparkly and bright, I pretend there isn't any shop or shopping in all
the world."

Jenny's smile was almost roguish, and lighted up her pale face till
she looked almost pretty.

Then they had coffee, and snapping crackers with caps inside, and they
put on the caps and laughed at each other's grotesque appearance.

Mrs. Greene's cap was a tri-corne, with a gay cockade, which gave her
a militant air, quite in keeping with her strong face. Patty had a
ruffled night-cap, which made her look grotesque, and Anna Gorman had
a frilled sunbonnet.

Celeste had a Tam o' Shanter, which just suited her piquant face, and
Jenny had a Scotch cap, which became her well.

"Now," said Mona, as she rose from the table, "I'm going to give you
each a bunch of these carnations----"

"To take home?" broke in Jenny, unable to repress her eagerness.

"Yes; and I'll have them put in boxes for you, along with your cards
and souvenirs, which, of course, you must take home also. And, if
there's room, I'll put in some of these Christmas tree thingamajigs,
and you can use them for something at Christmas time."

"Oh!" exclaimed Jenny; "maybe my two kid brothers won't just about go
crazy over 'em! Says I to myself, just the other day, 'What's going in
them kids' stockings is more'n I know; but something there must be.'
And,--here you are!"

"Here you are!" said Mona, tucking an extra snapping cracker or two in
Jenny's box.

"We plan to go for a motor ride, now," said Mona. "I wonder if you
girls are dressed warmly enough."

All declared that they were, but Mona provided several extra cloaks
and wraps, lest any one should take cold.

"We have two cars for our trip," she explained; "Miss Farrington's
limousine and my own. Has any one any preference which way we shall
go?"

"Well," said Mrs. Greene, "if you ask me, I'd like best to ride up
Fifth Avenue. There ought to be some fine show of dress, a bright
afternoon like this. And there ain't anything I admire like stylish
clothes. That's a real handsome gown you got on, Miss Fairfield."

"Do you like it?" said Patty, smiling.

"Yes, I do. It's fashionable of cut, and yet it ain't drawed so tight
as some. And a becomin' colour, too."

"It's a dandy," observed Jenny. "I see lots of good clothes on my
customers, but they don't all have such taste as Miss Fairfield's. And
all you other ladies here," she added, politely, glancing round.

"Now, are we all ready?" asked Mona, looking over the group. "Mrs.
Greene, I fear you won't be warm enough, though your jacket _is_
thick, isn't it? But I'm going to throw this boa round your neck, by
way of precaution. Please wear it; I have another."

"My land! if this ain't luxuriant," and Mrs. Greene smoothed the
neckpiece and muff that Mona put on her. "What is this fur, Miss
Galbraith?"

"That is caracul. Do you like it?"

"Like it? Well, I think it's just too scrumptious for anything. I'll
remember the feel of it for a year. And so genteel looking, too."

"Yes, it's a good fur," said Mona, carelessly throwing a sable scarf
round her own throat. "Now, let us start."

Down went the eight in an elevator, and Mrs. Greene was overjoyed to
find that she was attended with quite as much deference as Mona
herself. Elise and Clementine took their guests in the Farrington car,
leaving Patty and Mona, with their guests, for the Galbraith car.

Celeste Arleson enjoyed the ride, but she was not so openly enthusiastic
as Mrs. Greene.

"My!" exclaimed that worthy, as she bobbed up and down on the springy
cushions; "to think it's come at last! Why, I _never_ expected to ride
in one of these. I saved up once for a taxicab ride, but I had to use
my savings for a case of grippe, so I never felt to try it again."

"Did you have grippe?" said Patty, sympathetically; "that was too
bad."

"Well, no; it wasn't _my_ grippe. Leastways, I didn't have it. It was
a lady that lived in the same boardin' house, along with me. But she'd
had misfortune, and lost her money, so I couldn't do no less than to
help her. Poor thing! she was crossed in love and it made her queer.
But that Rosy,--you know, that redhead boy, Miss Fairfield?"

"Yes, I do," returned Patty, smiling.

"Well, he says she was queered in love, and it made her cross! She
works in our place, you know. Well, cross she is; and, my land! if she
wasn't cross when she had the grippe! You know, it ain't soothin' on
folks' nerves."

"No," said Patty; "so I've understood. Well, Mrs. Greene, now you can
see plenty of fashionable costumes. Do you enjoy it?"

"My! I'm just drinkin' 'em in! Furs is worn a lot this year, ain't
they? Well, I don't wonder. Why, I feel real regal in this fur of
yours, Miss Galbraith. I don't know when I've had such a pleasure as
the wearin' of this fur."

"Now, we'll go through the park and up Riverside Drive," said Mona, as
they neared Eighty-sixth Street. It was pleasant in the Park, and the
fine motors, with their smartly-apparelled occupants, delighted Mrs.
Greene's very soul.

"Where would you like to go, Celeste?" asked Mona; "or do you like the
Park and the River drive?"

"If I might, Miss Galbraith, I'd like to go to Grant's Tomb. I've
always wanted to go there, but I never can get a spare hour,--or if I
do, I'm too tired for the trip."

"Certainly, you shall. Would you like that, Mrs. Greene?"

"Oh, land, yes! I've never been there, either. Quite some few times
I've thought to go, but something always interferes."

So to Grant's Tomb they went. The other car followed, and all went in
to look at the impressive mausoleum.

"Makes you feel kind o' solemn," said Mrs. Greene, as they came out.
"Think of lyin' there in that eternal rock, as you might say, and the
whole nation comin' to weep over your bier."

"They don't all weep," observed Celeste.

"Well, in a manner o' speakin', they do," said Mrs. Greene, gently.
"Not real tears, maybe; but, you know, to weep over a bier, is a
figger of speech; and so far as its meanin' goes, Grant's got it. And,
after all, it's the meanin' that counts."

It was nearing sundown as they started down the Drive, and Mona
proposed that they go to a tea room, and then take their guests to
their several homes.

"Oh, how pretty!" said Mrs. Greene, as they all went into the Marie
Jeannette Tea Room.

The younger girls chose chocolate, but Mrs. Greene said, "Give me a
cup of tea. There's nothing like it, to my mind. And to think of
having tea in this beautiful place, all decked with posies. I'll just
throw this fur a little open, but keep it over my shoulders. It looks
so luxuriant that way."

Mona ordered dainty sandwiches and little fancy cakes--and after a
pleasant half-hour they started homeward. They left Celeste at her
home first, and then took Mrs. Greene to hers.

"I live way down on East Eleventh Street," she said, apologetically;
"and I oughtn't to let you go clear down there with me. But,--oh,
well, I might as well own up,--I'd just love to roll up to our door in
this car!"

"And so you shall," said Mona, appreciating this bit of feminine
vanity. "And, Mrs. Greene, if you'll accept them, I'd like to make you
a present of those furs. I don't need them, for I have several other
sets, and you're very welcome to them."

"My land!" said Mrs. Greene, and then could say no more, for her voice
choked, and two tears rolled down her cheeks.

"And to think I thought you ladies were stuck up!" she said, in a
voice of contrition. "Why, two angels straight from Heaven couldn't be
more kind or whole-soulder than you two are. But, Miss Galbraith, I
can't accept such a gift,--I--I ought not to."

Mrs. Greene was caressing the fur as she spoke, and Mona patted her
hand, saying laughingly:

"I couldn't take it away from anybody who loves it as you do. Please
keep it. I'm more glad to give it to you than you can possibly be to
have it."

So Mrs. Greene kept the furs,--and her beaming face proved the depth
of thankfulness which she tried, all inadequately, to express.



CHAPTER VI

CONFIDENCES


Mona went home with Patty to dinner, as she often did when the girls
had been together during the afternoon.

At the dinner table the elder Fairfields were greatly entertained by
the account of the first Happy Saturday Afternoon.

"But aren't you afraid," Mr. Fairfield asked, "that such unaccustomed
luxuries will make those people discontented with their own conditions?"

"Now, father Fairfield," exclaimed Patty, "you ought to know better
than that! you might as well say that a man in a prison ought never to
see a ray of sunlight, because it would make him more discontented
with his dark jail."

"That's true," agreed Nan; "I think it's lovely to give these people
such a pleasure, and if I can help in any way, Patty, I'll be glad
to."

"And then it's the memory of it," said Mona.

"You know yourself how pleasant it is to look back and remember any
pleasure you may have had; and when it's only one, and such a big one,
the pleasure of remembrance is even greater."

"That's good philosophy, Mona," said Mr. Fairfield, approvingly, "and
I take back what I said. I think the plans you girls have made are
excellent; and I, too, will be glad to help if I can."

"Other people have offered to help us," began Mona, but Patty
interrupted her, saying: "We don't want any help from people
individually. I mean, father, if you will lend us the car, and things
like that, we'll be glad, of course. But we don't want any personal
assistance in our plans."

"All right, chickadee; far be it from me to intrude. But I thought
perhaps if you wanted to make a little excursion, say, to see the
Statue of Liberty, or even to go to the circus, you might like a man
along with you as a Courier General."

"That's just what Mr. Lansing said!" exclaimed Mona, which was the
very remark Patty had been fearing.

"That's just what we're _not_ going to do!" she declared. "We're only
going to places where we can go by ourselves, or if we need a
chaperon, we'll take Nan. But we don't want any men in on this deal."

"I don't see why," began Mona, but Patty promptly silenced her by
saying, "You _do_ see why. Now, Mona, don't say anything more about
it. There isn't any circus now, and it's time enough when it comes, to
decide about going to it; and I don't want to go, anyway. There are
lots of things nicer than a circus."

"Mr. Lansing said he'd send us a box for the Hippodrome, some Saturday
afternoon," said Mona, a little diffidently.

"That's awfully kind of him," said Nan. "I should think you girls
would be delighted with that."

"A box," and Patty looked scornful. "Why, a box only holds six, so
with us four, we could only invite two guests. I don't think much of
that scheme!"

"I'll donate a box also," said Mr. Fairfield. "You can get them
adjoining, and with two of you girls in one and two in the other, you
can invite eight guests."

Patty hesitated. The plan sounded attractive, and she quickly thought
that she could invite Rosy for one of the guests and give the boy a
Happy Saturday Afternoon. But she didn't want to accept anything from
Mr. Lansing, though she couldn't quite bring herself to say so,
frankly.

"What's the matter, Patty?" asked Nan. "You don't like the idea of the
Hippodrome, though I don't see why."

"I _do_ like it," said Patty, "but we can't decide these things in a
minute. We ought to have a meeting of the club and talk it over."

"Nonsense," said Mona. "You know very well, Patty, it isn't a formal
club. I'm going to accept these two Hippodrome boxes, and tell the
girls that we can each invite two guests. The Hippodrome show is
lovely this year, and anybody would like it, whether children or
grown-ups. And we're much obliged to you, Mr. Fairfield."

"You're taking a great deal upon yourself, Mona," said Patty. "You're
not president of the club."

"Neither are you."

"Well, _I'm_ not dictating how things shall be run."

"Well, I _am_! So all you'll have to do, is to run along with me."

Mona was so laughingly good-natured that Patty's serious face broke
into a smile, too. She was annoyed at the idea of being under
obligation to Mr. Lansing, but, after all, it was hardly fair to stand
in the way of eight people's pleasure. So she surrendered gracefully.

"All right, Mona," she said; "we'll have the Hippodrome party. I know
one guest I shall invite, who's sure to enjoy it. He's a boy about
fourteen, and the funniest thing you ever saw."

"I'd like to take children, too," said Mona; "but I don't know many. I
think I'll ask Celeste's two little sisters."

It was characteristic of Patty not to dwell on anything unpleasant, so
having made up her mind to accept Mr. Lansing's favour, she entered
heartily into the plan for the next party.

But after dinner, when the girls were alone in Patty's boudoir, she
said to Mona, seriously, "You know I didn't want to take that box from
Mr. Lansing."

"Of course I know it, Patty," and Mona smiled, complacently. "But I
made you do it, didn't I? I knew I should in the end, but your father
helped me unexpectedly, by offering a second box. Now, Pattikins, you
may as well stop disliking Mr. Lansing. He's my friend, and he's going
to stay my friend. He may have some faults, but everybody has."

"But, Mona, he isn't our sort at all. I don't see _why_ you like him."

"He mayn't be your sort, but he's mine; and I like him because I like
him! That's the only reason that anybody likes anybody. You think
nobody's any good unless they have all sorts of aristocratic ancestry!
Like that Van Reypen man who's always dangling after you."

"He isn't dangling now," said Patty. "I haven't seen him since my
party."

"You haven't! Is he mad at you?"

"Yes; he and Roger are both mad at me; and all on account of your old
Mr. Lansing!"

"Yes, Roger's mad at me, too, on account of that same poor,
misunderstood young gentleman. But they'll get over it. Don't worry,
Patty."

"Mona, I'd like to shake you! I might just as well reason with the
Rock of Gibraltar as to try to influence _you_. Don't you know that
your father asked me to try to persuade you to drop that Lansing man?"

Patty had not intended to divulge this confidence of Mr. Galbraith,
but she was at her wit's end to find some argument that would carry
any weight with her headstrong friend.

"Oh, daddy!" said Mona, carelessly. "He talks to me by the hour, and I
just laugh at him and drum tunes on his dear old bald head. He hasn't
anything, really, against Mr. Lansing, you know; it's nothing but
prejudice."

"A very well-founded prejudice, then! Why, Mona, that man isn't fit
to--to----"

"To worship the ground I walk on," suggested Mona, calmly. "Well, he
does, Patty, so you may as well stop interfering."

"Oh, if you look upon it as interfering!"

"Well, I don't know what you call it, if not that. But I don't mind.
Go ahead, if it amuses you. But I'm sorry if my affairs make trouble
between you and your friends. However, I don't believe Mr. Van Reypen
will stay angry at you very long. And as for Roger,--well, I wouldn't
worry about him. Of course, you're going to Elise's dance on Tuesday
night?"

"Yes, of course. And I've no doubt I'll make up with Roger, then; but
I don't know about Philip. I doubt if he'll be there."

"I haven't the least doubt. Where you are, there will Mr. Van Reypen
be, also,--if he can possibly get an invitation."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Mona was right in her opinion. At Elise's dance on Tuesday night,
almost the first man Patty saw, as she entered the drawing-room, was
Philip Van Reypen. He greeted her pleasantly, but with a certain
reserve quite different from his usual eager cordiality.

"May I have a dance, Miss Fairfield?" he said, holding out his hand
for her card.

Quick-witted Patty chose just the tone that she knew would irritate
him. "Certainly, Mr. Van Reypen," she said, carelessly, and as she
handed him her card, she turned to smile at another man who was just
coming to speak to her. When Philip handed back her card, she took it
without looking at it, or at him, and handed it to Mr. Drayton,
seemingly greatly interested in what dances he might select.

Van Reypen looked at her a moment in amazement. He had intended to be
cool toward her, but the tables were turned, and she was decidedly
cool toward him.

However, his look of surprise was not lost upon Miss Patricia
Fairfield, who saw him out of the corner of her eye, even though she
was apparently engrossed with Mr. Drayton.

And then, as usual, Patty was besieged by several men at once, all
begging for dances, and her card was quickly filled.

"What _can_ I do with so many suitors?" she cried, raising her hands
in pretty bewilderment, as her card was passed from one to another.
"Don't take all the dances, please; I want to save some for my special
favourites."

"Meaning me?" said Kenneth Harper, who had just joined the group in
time to hear Patty's remark.

"You, for one," said Patty, smiling on him, "but there are seventeen
others."

"I'm two or three of the seventeen," said Roger, gaining possession of
the card. "May I have three, Patty?"

One look flashed from Roger's dark eyes to Patty's blue ones, and in
that glance their foolish little quarrel was forgiven and forgotten.

Roger had a big, generous nature, and so had Patty, and with a smile
they were good friends again.

Patty's mind worked quickly. She had no intention of giving Roger
three dances, but she saw that he and Mona were not yet on speaking
terms. So she nodded assent, as he scribbled his initials in three
places, thinking to herself that before the evening was over, two of
them should be transferred to Mona's card.

Patty was looking lovely in pale blue chiffon with tiny French
rosebuds of pink satin adorning it here and there. Her golden hair was
clustered in becoming puffs and curls, tucked into a little net of
gold mesh, with coquettish bunches of rosebuds above each ear.

But, though Patty was pretty and wore lovely clothes, her chief charm
was her happy, smiling face and her gay, good-natured friendliness. She
smiled on everybody, not with a set smile of society, but in a frank,
happy enjoyment of the good time she was having, and appreciation of
the good time that everybody else helped her to have.

"You are all so kind to me," she was saying to Robert Kenton, who had
just come in; "and I want to thank you, Mr. Kenton, for the beautiful
flowers you sent. I do love valley lilies, they're so--so----"

"They're so sentimental," suggested Rob Kenton, smiling.

"Well, yes,--if you mean them to be," said Patty, dimpling at him.
"Any flower is sentimental, if the sender means it so."

"Or if the receiver wants it to be. Did you?" and Kenton smiled back
at her.

"Oh, yes, of _course_ I do!" And Patty put on an exaggeratedly soulful
look. "I'm _that_ sentimental you wouldn't believe! But I forget the
language of flowers. What do lilies of the valley mean,--especially
with orchids in the middle of the bunch?"

"Undying affection," responded Kenton, promptly. "Do you accept it?"

"I'd be glad to, but I suppose that means it lasts for ever and
ever,--so you needn't ever send me any more flowers!"

"Oh, it isn't as undying as all that! It needs to be revived sometimes
with fresh flowers."

"It's a little too complicated for me to think it out now," and Patty
smiled at him, roguishly. "Besides, here are more suitors approaching;
so if you'll please give me back my card, Mr. Kenton,--though I don't
believe there's room for another one."

"Not one?" said the man who took it, disappointedly; for sure enough,
every space was filled. "But there'll be an extra or two. May I have
one of those?"

"Oh, I never arrange those in advance," said Patty. "My partners take
their chances on those. But I'll give you half of this dance," and she
calmly cut in two the one dance against which Philip Van Reypen had
set his aristocratic initials.

Then the dancing began, and what with the fine music, the perfect
floor, and usually good partners, Patty enjoyed herself thoroughly.
She loved dancing, and being accomplished in all sorts of fancy
dances, could learn any new or intricate steps in a moment.

After a few dances she found herself whirling about the room with
Roger, and she determined to carry out her plan of reconciling him and
Mona. Mr. Lansing was not at the dance, for Elise had positively
declined to invite him; and so, though Mona was there, she was rather
cool to Elise, and favoured Roger only with a distant bow as a
greeting.

"You and Mona are acting like two silly idiots," was Patty's somewhat
definite manner of beginning her conversation.

"You think so?" said Roger, as he guided her skilfully round another
couple who were madly dashing toward them.

"Yes, I do. And, Roger, I want you to take my advice and make up with
her."

"I've nothing to make up."

"Yes, you have, too. You and Mona are good friends, or have been, and
there's no reason why you should act as you do."

"There's a very good reason; and he has most objectionable manners,"
declared Roger, looking sulky.

"I don't like his manners, either; but I tell you honestly, Roger,
you're going about it the wrong way. I know Mona awfully well,--better
than you do. And she's proud-spirited, and even a little contrary, and
if you act as you do toward her, you simply throw her into the arms of
that objectionable-mannered man!"

"Good Heavens, Patty, what a speech!"

"Well, of course, I don't mean literally, but if you won't speak to
her at all, on account of Mr. Lansing, why of course she's going to
feel just piqued enough to smile on him all the more. Can't you
understand that?"

"Let her!" growled Roger.

"No, we won't let her,--any such thing! I don't like that man a bit
better than you do, but do you suppose I'm going to show it by being
unkind and mean to Mona? That's not tactful."

"I don't want to be tactful. I want him to let her alone."

"Well, you can't make him do that, unless you shoot him; and that
means a lot of bother all round."

"It might be worth the bother."

"Don't talk nonsense, I'm in earnest. You're seriously fond of Mona,
aren't you, Roger?"

"Yes, I am; or rather, I was until that cad came between us."

"He isn't exactly a cad," said Patty, judicially. "I do believe in
being fair, and while the man hasn't all the culture in the world, he
is kind-hearted and----"

"And awfully good to his mother, let us hope," and Roger smiled, a
little sourly. "Now, Patty girl, you'd better keep your pretty little
fingers out of this pie. It isn't like you to interfere in other
people's affairs, and I'd rather you wouldn't."

"Oh, fiddle-de-fudge, Roger! I'm not interfering, and it _is_ my
affair. Mona is my affair, and so are you; and now your Aunt Patty is
going to bring about a reconciliation."

"Not on my part," declared Roger, stoutly;



CHAPTER VII

MORE MAKING UP


After the sixth dance was over, Patty asked her partner to bring Mr.
Everson to her, and then she awaited his coming on a little sofa in an
alcove.

If Eugene Everson was surprised at the summons, he did not show it,
but advanced courteously, and took a seat by Patty's side. He had a
dance engaged with her much later in the evening, so Patty said,
pleasantly:

"Mr. Everson, don't think my request strange, but won't you exchange
our later dance for this number seven?"

"I would gladly, Miss Fairfield, but I'm engaged for this."

"Yes, I know," and Patty favoured him with one of her most bewitching
smiles; "but the lady is Miss Galbraith, as I happen to know, and Miss
Galbraith is a very dear friend of mine, and,--oh, well, it's a matter
of 'first aid to the injured.' I don't want to tell you all about it,
Mr. Everson, but the truth is, I want Miss Galbraith to dance this
number with another man,--because,--because----"

It was not quite so easy as Patty had anticipated. She didn't want to
go so far as to explain the real situation, and she became suddenly
aware that she was somewhat embarrassed. Her face flushed rosy pink,
and she cast an appealing glance from her violet-blue eyes into the
amused face of the man beside her.

"I haven't an idea of what it is all about, Miss Fairfield, but please
consider me entirely at the orders of yourself and Miss Galbraith. A
man at a party is at best but a puppet to dance at the bidding of any
fair lady. And what better fortune could I ask than to be allowed to
obey your decree?"

Patty was greatly relieved when he took the matter thus lightly. In
whimsical conversation she was on her own ground, and she responded
gaily: "Let it remain a mystery, then; and obey as a noble knight a
lady's decree. Dance with me, and trust it to me that Miss Galbraith
is also obeying a decree of mine."

"For a small person, you seem to issue decrees of surprising number
and rapidity," and Everson, who was a large man, looked down at Patty
with an air of amusement.

"Yes, sir," said Patty, demurely, "I'm accustomed to it. Decrees are
my strong point. I issue them 'most all the time."

"And are they always obeyed?"

"Alas, noble sir, not always. Though I'm not sure that your question
is as flattering as the remarks most young men make to me."

"Perhaps not. But when you know me better, Miss Fairfield, you'll find
out that I'm very different from the common herd."

"Really? How interesting! I hope I shall know you better very soon,
for I adore unusual people."

"And do unusual people adore you?"

"I can't tell; I've never met one before," and after the briefest of
saucy glances, Patty dropped her eyes demurely.

"Aren't you one yourself?"

"Oh, no!" And Patty looked up with an air of greatest surprise; "I'm
just a plain little every-day girl."

"You're a plain little coquette, that's what you are!"

"You are indeed unusual, sir, to call me plain!" and Patty looked
about as indignant as an angry kitten.

"Perhaps, when I know you better, I may change my opinion of your
plainness. Will you dance now?"

The music had been playing for some moments, and signifying her
assent, Patty rose, and they joined the dancers who were circling the
floor. Mr. Everson was a fine dancer, but he was all unprepared for
Patty's exquisite perfection in the art.

"Why, Miss Fairfield," he said, unable to suppress his admiration, "I
didn't know anybody danced like you, except professionals."

"Oh, yes, I'm a good dancer," said Patty, carelessly; "and so are you,
for that matter. Do you think they've made up?"

"Who?"

"Miss Galbraith and Mr. Farrington. See, we're just passing them. Oh,
I'm afraid they haven't!"

It was difficult to judge by the glance they obtained in passing, but
Patty declared that both Mona's and Roger's faces looked like thunder
clouds.

"Give them a little longer," said Mr. Everson, who began to see how
matters stood.

"Perhaps another round, and we will find them smiling into each
other's eyes."

But when they next circled the long room, Mona and Roger were nowhere
to be seen.

"Aha," said Everson, "the conservatory for theirs! It must be all
right! Shall we trail 'em?"

"Yes," said Patty. "I don't care if they see us. Let's walk through
the conservatory."

They did so, and spied Mona and Roger sitting under a group of palms,
engaged in earnest conversation. They were not smiling, but they were
talking very seriously, with no indication of quarrelling.

"I guess it's all right," said Patty, with a little sigh. "It's
awfully nice to have friends, Mr. Everson, but sometimes they're a
great care; aren't they?"

"If you'll let me be your friend, Miss Fairfield, I'll promise never
to be a care, and I'll help you to care for your other cares."

"Goodness, what a complicated offer! If I could straighten all those
cares you speak of, I might decide to take you as a friend. I think I
will, anyway,--you were so nice about giving me this dance."

"I was only too delighted to do so, Miss Fairfield."

"Thank you. You know it is in place of our other one, number sixteen."

"Oh, we must have that also."

"No, it was a fair exchange. You can get another partner for sixteen."

"But I don't want to. If you throw me over, I shall sit in a corner
and mope."

"Oh, don't do that! Well, I'll tell you what, I'll give you half of
sixteen, and you can mope the other half."

And then Patty's next partner claimed her, and Mr. Everson went away.

Having done all she could in the matter of conciliating Mona and
Roger, Patty bethought herself of her own little tiff with Philip Van
Reypen. It did not bother her much, for she had little doubt that she
could soon cajole him back to friendship, and she assured herself that
if she couldn't, she didn't care.

And so, when he came to claim his dance, which was the last before
supper, Patty met him with an air of cool politeness, which greatly
irritated the Van Reypen pride.

He had thought, had even hoped, Patty would be humble and repentant,
but she showed no such attitude, and the young man was slightly at a
loss as to what manner to assume, himself.

But he followed her lead, and with punctilious courtesy asked her to
dance, and they stepped out on to the floor.

For a few rounds they danced in silence, and then Philip said, in a
perfunctory way: "You're enjoying this party?"

"I have been, up to this dance," and Patty smiled pleasantly, as she
spoke.

"And you're not enjoying yourself now?" Philip said, suppressing his
desire to shake her.

"Oh, _no_, sir!" and Patty looked at him with big, round eyes.

"Why not?"

"I don't like to dance with a man who doesn't like me."

"I _do_ like you, you silly child."

"Oh, no, you don't, either! and I'm _not_ a silly child."

"And you're not enjoying this dance with me?"

"Not a bit!"

"Then there's no use going on with it," and releasing her, Philip
tucked one of her hands through his arm, and calmly marched her into
the conservatory. The seat under the palms was vacant, and as she took
her place in one corner of it, he poked one or two cushions deftly
behind her back and made her entirely comfortable. Then he sat down
beside her.

"Now," he commanded, "say you're sorry."

"Sorry for what?"

"That you carried on with that horrid man and spoiled our friendship."

"Didn't carry on, and he isn't a horrid man, and our friendship isn't
spoiled, and I'm not sorry."

"Not sorry that our friendship isn't spoiled?"

"No; 'course I'm not! You don't s'pose I want it to be spoiled, do
you?"

"Well, you certainly did all in your power to spoil it."

"Now, look here, Philip Van Reypen, I've already exhausted myself this
evening patching up one spoiled friendship, and it's just about worn
me out! Now if ours needs any patching up, you'll have to do it
yourself. I shan't raise a finger toward it!"

Patty leaned back among her pillows, looking lovely and provoking. She
tried to scowl at him, but her dimples broke through the scowl and
turned it into a smile. Whereupon, she dropped her eyes, and tried to
assume a look of bored indifference.

Van Reypen looked at her. "So she won't raise a finger, won't she? And
I've got to do it myself, have I? Well, then, I suppose I'll have to
raise her finger for her." Patty's hand was lying idly in her lap, and
he picked up her slender pink forefinger slowly, and with an
abstracted air. "I don't know how raising a finger helps to patch up a
spoiled friendship," he went on, as if to himself, "but she seems to
think it does, and so, of course, it does! Well, now, mademoiselle,
your finger is raised,--is our quarrel all patched up?"

Philip held her finger in one hand, and clasped her whole hand with
the other, as he smiled into her eyes, awaiting an answer to his
question.

Patty looked up suddenly, and quickly drew her hand away.

"Unhand me, villain!" she laughed, "and don't bother about our
friendship! I'm not worrying over it."

"You needn't, little girl," and Philip's voice rang true. "Nothing can
_ever_ shake it! And I apologise for my foolish anger. If you want to
affect the society of men I don't like,--of course I've no right to
say a word, and I won't. At any rate, not now, for I don't want to
spoil this blessed making-up with even a thought of anything
unpleasant."

"Now, that's real nice of you, Philip," and Patty fairly beamed at
him. "It's so nice to be friends again, after being near-not-friends!"

"Yes, milady, and you made up just in time. Aunty Van is having an
opera party to-morrow night, and she wants you to go."

"Are you going?" and Patty put her fingertip in her mouth, and looked
babyishly at him.

"Oh, don't let that influence you. Decide for yourself."

"Well, since _you_ don't care whether I go or not, I believe I won't
go."

"Foolish child! Of course you'll go. And then, as you know very well,
wild horses couldn't keep me away."

"How do wild horses keep people away? They must be trained to do it.
And _then_, they're not wild horses any more."

"What foolishness you do talk! Well, will you go to the opera with
us?"

"Yes, and thank you kindly, sir. Or, rather, I thank your august aunt
for the invitation."

"No, thank me. As a matter of fact, I made up the party. So it's
really mine, though I accept Aunty Van's box for the occasion."

"'Tis well, fair sir. I thank thee greatly. What may I do for thee in
return?"

Patty clasped her hands and looked a pretty suppliant, begging a
favour.

"Give me half a dozen more dances," replied Philip, taking her card to
look at.

"Not one left," said Patty, calmly.

"And most of them halves!" exclaimed Philip. "What a belle you are,
Patty!"

"All the girls are," she returned, carelessly, which, however, was not
quite true. "But I'll tell you what I will do. I'll give you half of
number sixteen. That's Mr. Everson's, but I'll divide it. I told him I
should."

"You little witch! Did you save it for me?"

"M--m----," and Patty slowly wagged her head up and down.

"That was dear of you! But don't you think for a minute that's all I'm
going to have! There'll be an extra or two, and I claim them all!"

"Hear the man talk!" exclaimed Patty. "Why, I do believe they're
beginning an extra now! Mr. Van Reypen, won't you dance it with me?"
Patty jumped up and stood before him, lightly swaying in time to the
music.

Philip sat looking at her, entranced by the pretty vision; and even
before he could rise, Kenneth Harper came to Patty, and obeying a
sudden coquettish impulse, she put her hand lightly on Kenneth's
shoulder and they danced away.

Philip Van Reypen sat looking after them, smiling.

"What a transparent child she is," he thought to himself. "Her pretty
little coquetries are like the gambols of a kitten. Now, she thinks
I'm going to be annoyed at losing this dance with her. Well,--I
am,--but I don't propose to quarrel with her about it."

And then Patty and Kenneth came dancing back again; and Patty calmly
told Mr. Van Reypen it was his turn now.

Philip took her hand and they started off, and when that dance was
finished it was supper-time.

As usual, Patty and her most especial friends grouped in some pleasant
corner for supper. But, looking about, she missed a familiar face.

"Where is Christine Farley?" she said. "She always has supper with us.
Do you know where she is, Mr. Hepworth?"

Gilbert Hepworth drew near Patty, and spoke in a low voice: "I think
she has gone to the dressing-room," he said. "I wish you'd go up and
see her, Patty."

A little startled at his serious face, Patty ran upstairs, to Elise's
room, where she had taken off her wraps.

There was Christine, who had thrown herself on a couch, and buried her
face in the pillows.

"Why, Christine, what is the matter, dear?" and Patty laid her hand
gently on Christine's hair.

"Oh, Patty, don't speak to me! I am not fit to have you touch me!"

"Good gracious, Christine, what _do_ you mean?" and Patty began to
think her friend had suddenly lost her mind.

"I'm a bad, wicked girl! You were my friend, and now I've done an
awful, dreadful thing! But, truly, _truly_, Patty, I didn't mean to!"

"Christine Farley, stop this foolishness! Sit up here this minute, and
tell me what you're talking about! I believe you're crazy."

Christine sat up, her pale hair falling from its bands, and her eyes
full of tears.

"I've--I've--stolen----" she began.

"Oh, you goose! _do_ go on! What have you stolen? A pin from Elise's
pin cushion,--or some powder from her puff-box? Another dab on your
nose would greatly improve your appearance,--if you ask me! It's as
red as a beet!"

"Patty, don't giggle! I'm serious. Oh, Patty, _Patty_, _do_ forgive
me!"

"I'll forgive you _anything_, if you'll tell me what's the matter, and
convince me that you haven't lost your mind. Now, Christine, don't you
_dare_ ask me to forgive you again, until you tell me _what for_!"

"Well, you see, you were away all summer."

"Yes, so I was," agreed Patty, in bewilderment.

"And you have been so busy socially this fall and winter, I haven't
seen much of you."

"No," agreed Patty, still more deeply mystified.

"And--and--Gil--Mr. Hepworth hasn't either----"

"Oh!" cried Patty, a great light breaking in upon her; "oh,--oh!--OH!!
Christine, do you _mean_ it? Oh, how perfectly _lovely_! I'm _so_
glad!"

"You're glad?" and Christine opened her eyes in amazement.

"Why, of _course_ I'm glad, you silly! Did you think _I_ wanted him?
Oh, you Blessed Goose!"

"Oh, Patty, I'm _so_ relieved. You see, I thought you looked upon him
as your especial property. I know he cared a lot for you,--he still
does. But----"

"But he and I are about as well suited as chalk and cheese! Whereas,
he's just the one for you! Oh, Christine, darling, I'm delighted! May
I tell? Can we announce it to-night?"

"Oh, no! You see, he just told me to-night. And I felt guilty at once.
I knew I had stolen him from you."

"Oh, Christine, _don't_! Don't say such things! He wasn't mine to
steal. We've always been friends, but I never cared for him _that_
way."

"That's what he said; but I felt guilty all the same."

"Well, stop it, right now! Mr. Hepworth is lovely; he's one of the
best friends I ever had, and if I have any claim on his interest or
affection, I'm only too glad to hand it over to you. Now, brace up,
powder your nose, and come down to supper. And you needn't think you
can keep this thing secret! I won't tell,--but your two faces will
give it away at once. Don't blame _me_ if people guess it!"

"Don't let them, Patty; not to-night. Keep me by you, and right after
supper I'll go home."

"All right, girlie; just as you like. But don't look at G. H. or
you'll betray your own dear little heart."

However, they reckoned without the other interested party.

When the two girls came downstairs, smiling, and with their arms about
each other, Mr. Hepworth went to meet them, and drew Christine's arm
through his own with an unmistakable air of proprietorship. Christine's
blushes, and Patty's smiles, confirmed Hepworth's attitude, and a shout
of understanding went up from their group of intimates.

"Yes, it's so," said Patty; "but I promised Christine I wouldn't
tell!"

And then there were congratulations and good wishes from everybody,
and the pretty little Southern girl was quite overcome at being so
suddenly the centre of attraction.

"It's perfectly lovely," said Patty, holding out her hand to Hepworth,
"and I'm as glad for you as I can be,--and for Christine, too."

"Thank you, Patty," he returned, and for a moment he held her eyes
with his own. Then he said, "Thank you," again, and turned away.



CHAPTER VIII

A DELIGHTFUL INVITATION


Patty was singing softly to herself, as she fluttered around her
boudoir at a rather late hour the next morning. Robed in a soft blue
silk négligée, with her golden curls tucked into a little lace
breakfast cap, she now paused to take a sip of chocolate or a bit of a
roll from her breakfast tray, then danced over to the window to look
out, or back to her desk to look up her calendar of engagements for
the day.

"What a flutter-budget you are, Patty," said Nan, appearing at the
doorway, and pausing to watch Patty's erratic movements.

Patty flew across the room and greeted her stepmother with an
affectionate squeeze, and then flew back and dropped comfortably on
the couch, tucking one foot under her, and thereby dropping off a
little blue silk boudoir slipper as she did so.

"Oh, Nan!" she began, "it was the most exciting party ever! What _do_
you think? Christine and Mr. Hepworth are engaged!"

"Christine! and Gilbert Hepworth!" and Nan was quite as surprised at
the news as Patty could desire.

"Yes, isn't it great! and oh, Nan, what _do_ you think? Christine was
all broken up,--crying in fact,--because,--did you ever know anything
so ridiculous?--because she thought she was taking him away from me!"

Nan looked at Patty a little curiously. "Well; you must know, Patty,
he certainly thought a great deal of you."

"Of course he did! And of course he _does!_--You speak as if he were
dead!--and I think a great deal of him, and I think a heap of
Christine, and I think they are perfectly suited to each other, and I
think it's all just lovely! Don't you?"

"Yes," said Nan, slowly. "Then, you didn't care for him especially,
Patty?"

"Good gracious, Nan, if you mean was I in love with him, I sure was
_not!_ Little girls like me don't fall in love with elderly gentlemen;
and this particular little girl isn't falling in love anyway. Why,
Nan, I'm only just out, and I do perfectly adore being out! I want
three or four years of good, solid outness before I even think of
falling in love with anybody. Of course I shall marry eventually, and
be a beautiful, lovely housekeeper, just exactly like you. But, if you
remember, my lady, you were some few years older than nineteen when
you married my revered father."

"That's true enough, Patty, and I can tell you I'm glad I didn't
accept any of the young men who asked me before Fred did."

"I'm jolly glad, too; and father was in luck when he got you. But
you're not going to be rid of me yet for a long time, I can tell you
that much. Well, more things happened last night. Philip and I made up
our quarrel,--which wasn't much of a quarrel anyway,--and Roger and
Mona are pretty much at peace again; though, if Mona keeps on with
that Lansing idiot, Roger won't stand it much longer. And I'm going to
the opera to-night in the Van Reypen box, and I'm going skating
to-morrow,--oh, there's the mail!"

Patty jumped up and ran to take the letters from Jane, who brought in
a trayful.

"Quite a bunch for you, Nansome," and Patty tossed a lot of letters in
Nan's lap. "And a whole lot of beautiful, fat envelopes for me. 'Most
all invitations, as you can see at a glance. Two or three requests for
charity,--they show on the outside, too. A few bills, a few circulars
and advertisements, and all the rest invitations. Isn't it gorgeous,
Nan, to be invited to such heaps of things?"

"Don't wear yourself out, Patty," returned Nan, a little
absent-mindedly, being absorbed in a letter from her mother.

Having weeded out the more interesting looking letters, Patty returned
to her sofa, and curled up there with both feet under her, looking
like a very pretty and very civilised little Turk. With a slender
paper cutter she slashed all the envelopes, and then went through them
one by one, making running comments of delight or indifference as she
read the various contents.

But suddenly a more excited exclamation broke from her. "Oh, my
goodness, gracious, sakes alive!" she cried. "Nan, _will_ you listen
to this!"

"Wait a minute, honey, till I finish this letter," and Nan went on
reading to herself.

Patty dashed through eight pages of sprawly penmanship, and as soon as
she finished she read it all over again.

"Now, Miss Fairfield, what's it all about?" and Nan folded her own
letter and returned it to its envelope.

"Well, in a nutshell, it's a Christmas Country House Party! Could
anything be more delightfuller?"

"Who, where, what, when?" And Nan patiently awaited further
enlightenment.

"Oh, Nan, it's _too_ gorgeous!" And Patty's eyes ran through the letter
again. "You know Adèle Kenerley, who was down at Mona's last
summer,--well, she and Jim have bought a place at Fern Falls,--wherever
that may be,--somewhere up in Connecticut,--in the Berkshires, you
know. Heavenly in summer, dunno what it'll be in winter. But all the
same that's where the house party is, Christmas,--stay two or three
weeks,--all our crowd,--oh, Nan! isn't it beatific!"

Patty bounded to her feet, and gathering up the sides of her
accordion-pleated gown, she executed a triumphant dance about the
room, winding up by kicking her little blue silk slipper straight over
Nan's head.

"Moderate your transports, my love," Nan said, calmly. "I don't want
concussion of the brain, from being hit by a French heel."

"Not much of a compliment to my skilful ballet dancing," and Patty
flung herself into the cushions again. "But, Nan, you don't understand;
everybody's going! Elise and Mona and the boys, and oh, gracious, _do_
show some enthusiasm!"

"Don't have to," said Nan, smiling, "when you show enough for a
dozen."

"Well, I'll call up Mona, she'll have something to say."

Patty reached for the telephone, and in a few moments both girls were
talking at once, and the conversation ran something like this:

"Yes, I did, and, Patty----"

"Of course I am! Oh, I don't know about that! If I----"

"But of course if Daisy is there----"

"Well, we can't help that, and anyway----"

"Tuesday, I suppose; but Adèle said----"

"No, Monday, Mona, for us, and the boys----"

"I'm not sure that I'll go. You see----"

"Now, stop such nonsense! Of course he isn't invited, but I'll never
speak to you again if----"

"Oh, of course I will, but I'll only stay----"

"Yes, all our best frocks, and lots of presents and, oh, Mona, come on
over here, do. There's oceans of things to talk about!"

"All right, I will. Good-bye."

"Good-bye." And Patty hung up the receiver. "She's coming over here,
Nan; there's so much to plan for, you know. Do help me, won't you? A
regular Christmas tree, and all that, you know; and presents for
everybody, and a dance at the country club, and I don't know what
all."

"Yes, you will have a lovely time." And Nan smiled with sympathy at
the excited girl, whose sparkling eyes and tumbled hair betokened her
state of mind.

Mona came over and spent the rest of the day, and plans were made and
unmade and remade with startling rapidity.

Mona began to voice regrets that Mr. Lansing was not invited to the
house party, but Patty interrupted at once:

"Now, Mona Galbraith, you stop that! Adèle has a lovely party made
up, and you're not going to spoil it by even so much as a reference to
that man! Roger will be there for Christmas, and if that isn't enough
for you, you can stay home!"

"Isn't Elise going?"

"No, she can't. She's going South next week with her mother, and I
doubt if Philip Van Reypen will go. His aunt won't want him to leave
her at the holidays. Do you know, I'm a little sorry Daisy Dow is up
there."

"You don't like her, do you, Patty?"

"I would, if she'd like me. But she's always snippy to me."

"'Cause she's jealous of you," observed Mona, sapiently.

"Nonsense! She has no reason to be. I never interfere with her."

"Well, never mind, don't let her bother you. Hal Ferris will be there.
You don't know him, do you? He's Adèle's brother."

"No, I never met him. She wrote that he'd be there."

"He's the dearest boy. Well, he's older than Adèle, but he seems like
a boy,--he's so full of capers. Adèle says it's a beautiful big
house, just right for a jolly, old-fashioned Christmas party."

                  *       *       *       *       *

The days simply flew by as Christmas drew nearer. There was so much to
do socially, and then there were the Happy Saturday Afternoons to be
planned and carried out, and the Christmas shopping to be done.

This last was greatly added to because of the house party, for Patty
knew the generosity of her hosts, and she wanted to do her share in
the presentation festivities.

She undertook to dress a huge doll for baby May. Nan helped her with
this or she never could have finished the elaborate wardrobe. She
selected a beautiful doll, of goodly size, but not big enough to be
cumbersome to little two-year-old arms. With her knack for dressmaking
and her taste for colour, she made half a dozen dainty and beautiful
frocks, and also little coats and hats, and all the various accessories
of a doll's outfit.

She bought a doll's trunk and suit-case to contain these things, and
added parasol, furs, jewelry, and all the marvellous little trinkets
that the toy shop afforded.

"I spent so much time and thought on this doll," said Patty, one day,
"that I shall have to buy things for the others. I can't sew any more,
Nan; my fingers are all like nutmeg graters now."

"Poor child," sympathised Nan. "You have worked hard, I know, but
Adèle will appreciate it more than if you had made something for
herself. By all means buy the rest of your gifts."

So Patty bought a beautiful luncheon set of filet lace and embroidery
for Mrs. Kenerley, and an Oriental antique paper cutter for her
husband.

She bought a handsome opera bag for Mona and a similar one for Daisy
Dow, that there might be no rivalry there. She bought a few handsome
and worth-while books for the men who would be at the party, and
attractive trinkets for the house servants.

Of course, in addition to these, she had to prepare a great many gifts
for her New York friends, as well as for her own family and many of
her relatives. But both Patty and Nan enjoyed shopping, and went about
it with method and common sense.

"I can't see," said Patty, as they started off in the car one morning,
"why people make such a bugbear of Christmas shopping. I think it's
easy enough."

"Perhaps it's because you have plenty of money, Patty. You know, not
every one has such a liberal father as you have."

Patty looked thoughtful. "I don't think it's that, Nan; at least, not
entirely. I think it's more common sense, and not being fussy. Now, I
give lots of presents that cost very little; and then, of course, I
give a lot of expensive ones, too. But it's just as easy to buy the
cheap ones, if not easier. You just make up your mind what you want to
spend for a certain present, and then you buy the nicest thing you see
for that amount. It's when people fuss and bother, and can't make up
their minds among half a dozen different things, that they get worried
and bothered about Christmas. I do believe most of their trouble comes
from lack of decision, which is only another way of saying that they
haven't common sense or even common gumption!"

"Well, Patty, whatever else you may lack, you certainly have common
sense and gumption; I'll give you credit for them."

"Thank you, Nan; much obliged, I'm sure. I wish I could return the
compliment, but sometimes I think you haven't much of those things
yourself."

Nan flashed a smile at Patty, entirely unmoved by this criticism; for
she knew that she was vacillating and sometimes undecided, as compared
to Patty's quick-witted grasp of a subject and instantaneous decision.

"Have I told you," said Patty, "what we're going to do next Saturday
afternoon? I do think it's going to be lovely. And I do hope it won't
make the girls mad, but I don't think it will. You know, Nan, what an
awful lot of things we all get every Christmas that we don't want and
can't use, although they're awfully pretty and nice. We just lay them
away in cupboards, and there they stay. Well, on Saturday, we're going
to take a lot of these things and give them to people."

"For Christmas presents? Why, Christmas is two weeks off yet."

"That's just it! Not for presents to themselves, but presents for them
to give to other people."

"Oh, I begin to see."

"Yes; it isn't the least bit _charity_, you see. Why, one of the people
I'm going to give things to, is Christine. With her work, and being
engaged and all, she hasn't any time to make things, or even to go
shopping, and she can't afford to buy much, anyway. So I'm going to give
her one or two beautiful silk bags that were given to me two or three
years ago. They're perfectly fresh, never been out of their boxes. And
I'm going to give her one or two beautiful, fine handkerchiefs in boxes,
and two or three lovely books, and two or three pieces of bric-a-brac,
and a Japanese ivory carving. Don't you see, Nan, she can give these to
her friends for Christmas, and it will save her a lot of trouble and
expense. And dear knows, _I_ don't want them! My rooms are chock-a-block
with just such things, now. And I know she won't feel offended, when I
tell her about it straightforwardly."

"Of course she won't be offended with you, Patty; and I think the idea
is lovely. I've a lot of things put away I'll give you. I never
thought of such a thing before."

"The girls thought at first that maybe it might not work, but I talked
them around and now they're all in for it. I'm going to take some
things to Mrs. Greene. I've quite a lot for her, and I'll tell her she
can give them all away, or keep some herself, just as she likes. And
I've things for Rosy, that freckled-faced boy, you know. I have games
and picture-puzzles and books that I used to have myself. Of course
they're all perfectly new. I wouldn't give anything that had been used
at all. And we're going Saturday afternoon to take these things
around. Mona has lovely things, and so has Elise. You see, we get so
many Christmas and birthday presents, and card party prizes, and such
things, and I do think it's sensible to make use of them for
somebody's pleasure instead of sticking them away in dark cupboards.
And, Nan, what do you think?--with each lot of things we're going to
give a dozen sheets of white tissue paper and a bolt of holly ribbon
and some little tags so they can fix up real Christmassy presents to
give away."

"Patty, you're a wonder," said Nan, looking affectionately at the girl
beside her. "How do you think of all these things?"

"Common sense and general gumption," returned Patty. "Very useful
traits, _I_ find 'em. And here we are at our first shopping place."

Assisted by Patty's common sense and expeditious judgment, they
accomplished a great deal that morning, and returned home with their
lists considerably shortened.

"It does seem funny," said Patty, that same afternoon, "to be tying up
these things almost two weeks ahead of time. But with all the
newspapers and magazines urging you to do your shopping early, and
send off your parcels early, you can't really do otherwise."

Patty was surrounded by presents of all sorts, boxes of all sizes,
pieces of ribbon, and all sorts of cards and tags.

"I'm sick and tired of holly ribbon and red ribbon," she said, as she
deftly tied up her parcels. "So, this year, I'm using white satin
ribbon and gilt cord. It's an awfully pretty combination, and these
little green and gilt tags are lovely, don't you think?"

Her audience, which consisted of Elise and Mona, were watching her
work with admiration. They had offered to help, but after an
ineffectual attempt to meet Patty's idea of how a box should be tied
up, they abandoned the effort, and sat watching her nimble fingers
fly.

"You ought to get a position in some shop where they advertise, 'only
experienced parcel wrappers need apply,'" said Elise. "I never saw
such neat parcels."

"You're evidently going to be an old maid," said Mona, "you're so
fussy and tidy."

"I do like things tidy," admitted Patty, "and if that interferes with
my having a husband, why, of course I'll have to give him up. For I
can't stand not having things neat about me."

"Do you call this room neat?" asked Elise, smiling as she looked about
at the scattered boxes and papers, cut strings, and little piles of
shredded tissue.

"Yes, I do," declared Patty, stoutly. "This kind of stuff can be
picked up in a jiffy, and then the room is all in order. This is
temporary, you see. By untidiness, I mean dirt and dust, and bureau
drawers in a mess, and desks in disorder."

"That's me," confessed Mona, cheerfully. "Not the dirt and dust,
perhaps,--the maids look after that. But I just _can't_ keep my
belongings in their places."

"Neither can I," said Elise. "I don't see how you do it, Patty."

"Oh, pshaw! it's no credit to me, I just can't help it. I'd have a fit
if they weren't all nice and in order. And if that means I'm going to
be an old maid, I can't help it,--and I don't care!"

"Hoo-hoo!" said Elise.



CHAPTER IX

FERN FALLS


Christmas would be on Wednesday, and it was arranged that Patty and
Mona should go up to Fern Falls on Monday. Roger and Philip Van Reypen
were to go up on Tuesday for the Christmas Eve celebration; and the
rest of the house-party were already at the Kenerleys'.

The girls started off early in the afternoon, and a train ride of
three hours brought them to the pretty little New England village of
Fern Falls.

Jim Kenerley met them with a motor.

"We hoped for snow," he said, as he cordially greeted the befurred
young women who stepped off the train at the little station. "So much
more Christmassy, you know. But, at any rate, we have cold, clear
weather, and that's something. Hop in, now. Adèle didn't come to meet
you,--sent all kinds of excuses, which I've forgotten, but she can
tell you herself, when we reach the house. Here, I'll sit between you,
and keep you from shaking around and perhaps spilling out."

Cheery Jim Kenerley bustled them into the tonneau, looked after their
luggage, and then, taking his own place, drew up the fur robes snugly,
and the chauffeur started off. It was a four-mile spin to the house,
for the village itself was distant from the station, and the
Kenerleys' house a mile or so beyond.

It was cold, but the girls were warmly wrapped up and didn't a bit
mind the clear, frosty air, though in an open car. "Didn't bring the
limousine," Mr. Kenerley rattled on. "Can't abide to be shut up in a
stuffy glass house, and then, you know, people who ride in glass
houses mustn't throw stones."

"But, you see, we girls couldn't hit anything if we did throw a
stone," said Patty. "At least, women have that reputation."

"That's so," agreed Jim. "Can't even hit the side of a barn, so they
say. But I expect you girls that grow up with athletics and basket
ball, and such things, put the old proverbs to rout."

"How's Daisy?" asked Mona. "Same as ever?"

"Yep; same as ever. Daisy's all right, you know, if things go her way.
But if not----"

"If not, she makes them go her way," said Mona, and Jim laughed and
agreed, "She sure does!"

At last they reached the house, which Jim informed them they had
dubbed the Kenerley Kennel, for no particular reason, except that it
sounded well.

"But you have dogs?" asked Patty, as they rolled up the driveway.

"Yes, but we didn't exactly name it after them. Hello, here are the
girls!"

Adèle and Daisy appeared in the doorway, and greeted the visitors in
truly feminine fashion, which included much laughter and exclamation.

"Where do I come in?" said a laughing voice, and a big, laughing man
left his seat by the fireplace and came toward them.

"This is my brother," said Adèle, "by name, Mr. Harold Ferris,--but
commonly called Chub."

The name was not inapt, for Mr. Ferris showed a round, chubby face,
with big, dancing black eyes and ringlets of dark hair clustered on
his brow. Only his enormous size prevented his appearance being
positively infantile, and his round, dimpled face was as good-natured
as that of a laughing baby.

"And so you're the two girls who are to spend Christmas with us," he
said, beaming down on them from his great height. "Well, you'll do!"

He looked approvingly from Patty's flower face to Mona's glowing
beauty, and truly it would have been hard to find two more attractive
looking girls. The sudden transition from the cold out-of-doors to the
warmth of the blazing fire had flushed their cheeks and brightened
their eyes, and the hearty welcome they received brought smiles of
delight to their faces.

"Now, come away with me," said Adèle, "and get off your furs and
wraps, and make yourselves pretty for tea."

"Oh, I know what you'll do," said Chub, in an aggrieved tone. "You'll
just go upstairs and hob-nob and talk and gossip and chatter and
babble, and never get down here again! I know girls! Why, first thing
I know, you'll be having your tea sent up there!"

"Great idea!" exclaimed Patty, twinkling her eyes at him. "Let's do
that, Adèle; kimono party, you know. We'll see you at dinner time,
Mr. Ferris."

"Dinner time, nothing! If you're not back here in fifteen minutes, the
whole crowd of you, I'll--I'll----"

"Well, what will you do?" laughed Mona.

"Never you mind,--you'll find out all too soon. Now, skip, and
remember, tea will be served in just fifteen minutes."

The girls had really no intention of not returning, and it was not
much more than the allotted time before Patty and Mona were arrayed in
soft, pretty house-dresses and reappeared in the great hall, where tea
was already being placed for them.

The big fireplace had cosy seats on either side, and the crackling
logs and flickering blaze made all the light that was needed save for
a pair of tall cathedral candles in their antique standards.

"What a duck of a house!" exclaimed Patty, as she came down the broad
staircase, her soft, rose-coloured chiffon gown shimmering in the
firelight. She cuddled up in a corner near the fire, and Hal Ferris
brought a cushion to put behind her.

"It ought to be a rose-coloured one," he said, apologetically; "but I
didn't see one handy to grab, and really this old blue isn't half bad
for a background."

"Much obliged for your kind colour-scheme," said Patty, smiling at
him, "and I'll have one lump, please, and a bit of lemon."

Big Mr. Ferris proved himself tactful as well as kind, for he divided
his attentions impartially among the four ladies.

"A little shy of men; aren't we, Adèle?" he said to his sister. "Even
Jim seems to have disappeared. Not that I mind being the only pebble
on the beach,--far from it,--but I'm afraid I can't prove entertaining
enough for four."

"You're doing nobly so far," said Patty, cuddling into her cushion,
for she loved luxurious warmth, like a kitten.

"Two more men are coming to dinner, girls," said their hostess; "and
to-morrow, you know, we'll have two more house-party guests. Don't
worry, Chub, you shan't be overworked, I promise you."

After a pleasant tea hour, the girls went again to their rooms,
ostensibly to rest before dinner, but really to have what Patty called
a kimono party.

All in their pretty négligées, they gathered in Adèle's room and
talked as rapidly and interruptingly as any four girls can.

"Do you hear from Bill Farnsworth often?" asked Daisy of Patty,
_apropos_ of nothing but her own curiosity.

"Not often, Daisy," returned Patty, of no mind to pursue the subject.

"But don't you ever hear from him?" persisted the other.

"Oh, sometimes," said Patty, carelessly. "He sent me flowers for my
coming-out party."

"I hear from Bill sometimes," said Adèle. "I asked him to come to
this party, but he couldn't possibly leave just now. He's awfully
busy."

"What's he doing?" asked Mona.

"I don't know exactly," answered Adèle. "Jim can tell you, but it has
something to do with prospecting of mines. Say, girls, do you want to
see the baby before she's put to bed?"

Of course they did, and they all trooped into the nursery to admire
the tiny mite of humanity, who looked a picture, with her tumbled
curls and her laughing face, just ready for bed.

She remembered Patty and Mona, and greeted them without shyness,
clinging to Patty's neck and begging her to stay and sing her to
sleep.

This Patty would have done, but Adèle wouldn't allow it, and ordered
the girls back to their rooms to dress for dinner.

"Eight o'clock sharp," she warned them, "and don't put on your
prettiest gowns; save those for to-morrow night."

Patty wandered around her room, singing softly, as she dressed.
Looking over her dinner gowns, she decided upon her second best, a
white marquisette with a garniture of pearl beads and knots of pale
blue velvet. When the maid came to assist her she was nearly dressed,
and ten minutes before the dinner hour she was quite ready to go
downstairs. "I may as well go on down," she thought to herself. "I can
explore the house a little."

She looked in at Mona's door as she passed, but as that young woman
was just having her gown put over her head, she didn't see Patty, and
so Patty went on downstairs.

There was no one about, so she strolled through the various rooms,
admiring the big, pleasant living-room, the cosy library, and then
drifted back to the great hall, which was very large, even for a
modern country house. It was wainscoted in dark wood, and contained
many antique bits of furniture and some fine specimens of old armour
and other curios. Jim Kenerley's father had been rather a noted
collector, and had left his treasures to his only son. They had chosen
this house as being roomy and well-fitted for their belongings.

Patty came back to the great fireplace, and stood there, leaning her
golden head against one of the massive uprights.

"Adèle told me you were a peach," exclaimed a laughing voice, "but
she didn't half tell me how much of a one you are!"

Patty turned her head slowly, and looked at Mr. Hal Ferris.

"And I thought you were a mannerly boy!" she said, in a tone of grave
reproach.

"I beg your pardon," he exclaimed. "I do indeed! I'm almost a stranger
to you, I know; I ought to have waited until I know you better to say
anything of that sort to you! May I take it back, and then say it to
you again after I do know you better?"

Patty couldn't help smiling at his mock dismay.

"And how well shall I have to know you," he went on, "before I can say
it to you properly?"

"I can't answer that question at once," said Patty. "We'll have to let
our acquaintance proceed, and see----"

"And see how the cat jumps," he suggested.

"Yes," agreed Patty. "And, by the way, what a jumper that cat must
be."

"Small wonder, with everybody waiting to see how she jumps! Oh, pshaw!
here comes a horde of people, and our pleasant tête-à-tête is
spoiled!"

"Never mind; we'll have another some time," and Patty gave him a
dimpled smile that quite completed the undoing of Mr. Harold Ferris.

The "horde" proved to be two young men from nearby country houses, Mr.
Collins and Mr. Hoyt. And then the other members of the household
appeared, and soon dinner was announced.

"We haven't any especial guest of honour," said Mrs. Kenerley, "for
you're all so very honourable. So pair off just as you like."

Hal Ferris jumped a low chair and two footstools to reach Patty before
any one else could. "Come in with me," he said. "I know the way to the
dining-room."

"I'm glad to be shown," said Patty. "You see, I've never been here
before."

"I know it; that's why I'm being so kind to you. To-morrow I'll take
you up in the tower--it's great."

"Why, is this place a castle?"

"Not exactly, but it's modelled after an old château. Really, it's a
most interesting house."

"All right. To-morrow we'll explore it thoroughly."

And then they took their seats at the table, and as the party was
small, conversation became general.

Suddenly Patty became aware that Mr. Collins, who sat on the other side
of her, was trying to attract her attention. He was a mild-mannered
young man, and he looked at her reproachfully.

"I've asked you a question three times, Miss Fairfield," he said, "and
you never even heard it."

"Then you certainly can't expect me to answer it, Mr. Collins," and
Patty laughed gaily. "Won't you repeat it for me, please? I'll promise
to hear it this time."

"I said, did you ever make a lemon pig?"

"A lemon pig! No, I never did. How do you make it?"

"Oh, they're the maddest fun! I say, Mrs. Kenerley, mayn't we have a
lemon?"

"Certainly, Mr. Collins."

"And, oh, I say, Mrs. Kenerley, if it isn't too much trouble, mayn't
we have a box of matches, and two black pins, and a bit of paper?"

"And a colander and a tack hammer and a bar of soap?" asked Ferris,
but Mr. Collins said, gravely: "No, we don't want those."

The articles he had asked for were soon provided, and in the slow,
grave way in which he did everything, Mr. Collins began to make the
strange animal of which he had spoken. The lemon formed the whole pig,
with four matches for his legs, two black pins for his eyes, and a
narrow strip of paper, first curled round a match, for his tail. It
was neither artistic nor realistic, but it was an exceedingly comical
pig, and soon it began to squeak in an astonishingly pig-like voice.
Then a tap at the window was heard, and a farmer's gruff voice
shouted: "Have you my pig in there? My little Lemmy pig?"

"Yes," responded Mr. Collins, "we have; and we mean to keep him, too."

"I'll have the law of ye," shouted the farmer. "Me pig escaped from
the sty, and I call upon ye to give him up!"

"We won't do it!" shouted several of the men in chorus.

"Then, kape him!" returned the voice of the farmer, and they heard his
heavy tramp as he strode away.

Patty looked puzzled. She couldn't understand what it all meant, until
Hal Ferris whispered, "It was only Collins; he's a ventriloquist."

"Oh," said Patty, turning to Mr. Collins, delightedly, "was it really
you? Oh, how do you do it? I've always wanted to hear a ventriloquist,
and I never did before."

"Oh, yes, you did!" said a voice from the other end of the table, and
Patty looked up, saying earnestly, "No, I didn't!" when she realised
that the accusation had really come from Mr. Collins.

"Oh, what fun!" she cried, clapping her hands. "Do some more!"

"I'd rather he wouldn't," said Adèle, and Patty looked at her in
surprise. "Why not, Adèle?" she asked.

Everybody laughed, and Adèle said: "You're too easily fooled, Patty.
That was Mr. Collins speaking like me. He knows my voice so well he
can imitate it."

"He'd better stop it!" came in a deep growl from Jim Kenerley's end of
the table, and Patty was surprised at such a speech from her urbane
host. Then she realised that that, too, was Mr. Collins speaking.

"I just love it!" she exclaimed. "I've always wanted to know how to do
it. Won't you teach me?"

"You couldn't learn," said Mr. Collins, smiling at her.

And then Patty _heard herself_ say: "I could so! I think you're real
mean!"

Her bewildered look changed to admiration at his wonderful imitation
of her voice, and the natural, petulant tone of the remark.

"It's too wonderful!" she said. "Some other time, Mr. Collins, after
dinner, maybe, will you teach me just a little about it?"

"I'll try," he said, kindly; "but I warn you, Miss Fairfield, it isn't
easy to learn, unless one has a natural gift for it, and a peculiar
throat formation."

"Don't teach her," begged Daisy Dow. "She'll be keeping us awake all
night with her practising."

It was like Daisy to say something unpleasant; but Patty only smiled
at her, and said, "I'll practise being an angel, and sing you to
sleep, Daisy."

"You sing like an angel without any practice," said Mona, who was
always irritated when Daisy was what Patty called snippy.

"Oh, do you sing, Miss Fairfield?" said Mr. Hoyt, from across the
table. "You must join our Christmas choir, then. We're going to have a
glorious old carolling time to-morrow night."

"I'll be glad to," replied Patty, "if I know your music."

But after dinner, when they tried some of the music, they discovered
that Patty could sing readily at sight, and she was gladly welcomed to
the musical circle of Fern Falls.

"How long are you staying here?" asked Mr. Hoyt.

"A month, at least," Adèle answered for Patty.

"Oh, no, not so long as that," Patty protested. "A fortnight, at
most."

But Adèle only smiled, and said, "We'll see about that, my dear."

After a time, Hal Ferris came to Patty, and tried to draw her away
from the group around the piano.

"You're neglecting me shamefully," he said; "and I'm the brother of
your hostess! Guests should always be especially kind to the Brother
of a Hostess."

"What can I do for you?" asked Patty, smiling, as she walked out to
the hall with him.

"Quit talking to the other people, and devote yourself to me," was the
prompt response.

"Do all your sister's guests do that?"

"I don't want 'em all to; I only want you to."

"And what about _my_ wants?"

"Yes; _what_ about them? You want to talk to me, _don't_ you?"

His tone and smile were so roguishly eager that Patty felt a strong
liking for this big, boyish chap.

"I'll talk for ten minutes," she said, "and then we're going to dance,
I believe."

"Oh, and then they'll all be after you! I say," and he drew her toward
a window, from where the moonlight could be plainly seen, "Let's go
out and skate. The ice is fine!"

"Skate! You must be crazy!"

"Yes; I supposed you'd say so! But to-morrow more people are coming,
and I'll never see anything of you. Say, how about this? Are you game
to get up and go for an early morning skate, just with me, and not let
anybody else know?"

"I'd like that!" and Patty's eyes sparkled, for she dearly loved early
morning fresh air. "Of course, we'll tell Adèle."

"Yes; so she'll have some breakfast made for us. But nobody else. How
about eight o'clock? Regular breakfast will be at nine-thirty."

"Good! I'll be ready at eight."

"Meet me in the breakfast-room at eight, then. Do you know where it
is? Just off the big dining-room."

"What are you two hob-nobbing about?" asked Daisy, curiously, as she
strolled over toward them.

"I'm just telling Miss Fairfield about the plan of the house," said
Ferris, innocently. "It's well planned, isn't it?"

"Very," said Patty.



CHAPTER X

CHRISTMAS EVE


As Patty stepped out of her room into the hall the next morning, at
eight o'clock, she found Hal Ferris already tiptoeing down the stairs.
He put his finger to his lip with a great show of secrecy, which made
Patty laugh.

"Why must we be so careful?" she whispered. "We're not doing anything
wrong."

"No; but it's so much more fun to pretend we are. Let's pretend we're
on a mysterious mission, and if we are discovered we're lost!"

So they crept downstairs silently, and reached the breakfast-room,
without seeing any one except one or two of the maids, who were
dusting about.

Patty had on a trim, short skirt of white cloth and a blouse of soft
white silk. Over this she wore a scarlet coat, and her golden curls
were tucked into a little scarlet skating cap with a saucy, wagging
tassel.

But in the warm, cheery breakfast-room she threw off her coat and sat
down at the table.

"I didn't intend to eat anything," she said; "but the coffee smells so
good, I think I'll have a cup of it, with a roll." She smiled at the
waitress, who stood ready to attend to her wishes, and Hal took a seat
beside her, saying he would have some coffee also.

"We won't eat our breakfast now, you know," he went on; "but we'll
come back with raging appetites and eat anything we can find. I say,
this is jolly cosy, having coffee here together like this! I s'pose
you won't come down every morning?"

"No, indeed," and Patty laughed. "I don't mind admitting I hate to get
up early. I usually breakfast in my room and dawdle around until all
hours."

"Just like a girl!" said Hal, sniffing a little.

"Well, I _am_ a girl," retorted Patty.

"You sure are! _Some_ girl, I should say! Well, now, Girl, if you're
ready, let's start."

He held Patty's scarlet coat for her while she slipped in her arms.

Then he disappeared for a moment, and returned wearing a dark red
sweater, which was very becoming to his athletic figure and broad
shoulders.

"Come on, Girl," he said, gathering up their skates, and off they
started.

"It's nearly half a mile to the lake. Are you good for that much
walk?" Ferris asked, as they swung along at a brisk pace.

"Oh, yes, indeed, I like to walk; and I like to skate, but I like best
of all to dance."

"I should think you would,--you're a ripping dancer. You know,
to-night we'll have 'Sir Roger de Coverley' and old-fashioned dances
like that. You like them?"

"Yes, for a change; but I like the new ones best. Are we going to have
any dressing up to-night? I do love dressing up."

"Glad rags, do you mean?"

"No; I mean fancy costumes."

"Oh, that. Well, old Jim's going to be Santa Claus. I don't think
anybody else will wear uncivilised clothes."

"But I want to. Can't you and I rig up in something, just for fun?"

"Oh, I say! that would be fun. What can we be? Romeo and Juliet, or
Jack and Jill?"

"Oh, no, nothing like that. Something more like Christmas, you know.
Well, I'll think it over through the day, and we'll fix it up."

Skating on the lake so early in the morning proved to be glorious
exercise. The ice was perfect, and the crisp, clear air filled them
with exhilaration.

Both were good skaters, and though they did not attempt fancy figures,
they spent nearly an hour skating around the lake.

"That's the best skate I ever had!" declared Hal, when they concluded
to return home.

"It certainly was fine," declared Patty, "and by the time we've walked
back to the house, I shall be quite ready for some eggs and bacon."

"And toast and marmalade," supplemented Ferris.

"I wonder if Daisy will be down. Does she come down to breakfast
usually?"

"Sometimes and sometimes not," answered Ferris, carelessly. "She's a
law unto herself, is Daisy Dow."

"You've known her a long time, haven't you?"

"Just about all our lives. Used to go to school together, and we were
always scrapping. Daisy's a nice girl, and a pretty girl, but she sure
has got a temper."

"And a good thing to have sometimes. I often wish I had more."

"Nonsense! you're perfect just as you are."

"Oh, what a pretty speech! If you're going to talk like that, I shall
take the longest way home."

"I'd willingly agree to that, but I don't believe you're in need of
further exercise just now. Come, own up you're a little bit tired."

"Hardly enough to call it tired, but if there is a short cut home
let's take it."

"And what about the pretty speeches I'm to make to you?"

"Leave those till after breakfast. Or leave them till this evening and
give them to me for a Christmas gift."

"Under the mistletoe?" and Ferris looked mischievous.

"Certainly not," said Patty, with great dignity. "I'm too grown-up for
such foolishness as that!"

"Oh, I don't know," said Ferris.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The appearance of the two runaways in the breakfast-room was greeted
with shouts of surprise.

Adèle knew they had gone skating, but no one else did, and it was
supposed they hadn't yet come downstairs.

Patty's glowing cheeks were almost as scarlet as her coat and cap,
while Ferris was grinning with boyish enthusiasm.

"Top o' the morning to you all," he cried. "Me and Miss Fairfield,
we've been skating for an hour."

"On the lake?" cried Daisy, in surprise. "Why, you must have started
before sunrise."

"Oh, no, not that," declared Patty, as, throwing off her wraps, she
took a seat next to Adèle; "but long enough to get up a ravenous
appetite. I hope the Kenerley larder is well stocked."

"Why didn't you let us all in on this game?" asked the host. "I think
a morning skating party would be just about right."

"All right," said Patty. "We'll have one any morning you say. I shall
be here for a fortnight, and I'll go any morning you like."

"I won't go," declared Mona. "I hate skating, and I hate getting up
early, so count me out."

"I doubt if any one goes very soon," said Adèle, "for I think there's
a storm coming. It looks bright out of doors, but it feels like snow
in the air."

"It does," agreed her brother; "and I hope it will snow. I'd like a
real good, old-fashioned snowstorm for Christmas."

"Well, I hope it won't begin before night," said Adèle. "We've a lot
to do to-day. I want you all to help me decorate the tree and fix the
presents."

"Of course we will," said Patty. "But, if I may, I want to skip over
to the village on an errand. Can some one take me over, Adèle, or
must I walk?"

"I'll go with you," said Daisy, who was of no mind to be left out of
Patty's escapades, if she could help it.

"All right, Daisy, but you mustn't tell what I buy, because it's a
secret."

"Everything's a secret at Christmas time," said Mr. Kenerley; "but,
Patty, you can have the small motor, and go over to the village any
time you like."

As there was room for them all, Daisy and Mona both accompanied Patty
on her trip to the village, and Hal Ferris volunteered to drive the
car. But when they reached the country shop, Patty laughingly refused
to let any of the party go inside with her, saying that her purchases
would be a Christmas secret.

She bought a great many yards of the material known as Turkey red, and
also a whole piece of white illusion. Some gilt paper completed her
list, and she ran back to the car, the shopkeeper following with her
bundles. They attended to some errands for Adèle, and then whizzed
back to the house just in time to see the Christmas tree being put
into place.

"We're going to have the tree at five o'clock," said Adèle, "on
account of baby May. It's really for her, you know, and so I have it
before dinner."

"Fine!" declared Patty. "And where do we put our presents?"

"On these tables," and Adèle pointed to several small stands already
well heaped with tissue-papered parcels.

"Very well, I'll get mine," and Patty went flying up to her room. Mona
followed, and the two girls returned laden with their bundles.

"What fascinating looking parcels," said Adèle, as she helped to
place them where they belonged. "Now, Patty, about the tree; would you
have bayberry candles on it, or only the electric lights?"

"Oh, have the candles. They're so nice and traditional, you know.
Unless you're afraid of fire."

"No; all the decorations are fireproof. Jim would have them so. See,
we've lots of this Niagara Falls stuff."

Adèle referred to a decoration of spun glass, which was thrown all
over the tree in cascades, looking almost like the foam of a
waterfall. This would not burn, even if the flame of a candle were
held to it.

"It's perfectly beautiful!" exclaimed Patty. "I never saw anything
like it before."

They scattered it all over the tree, the men going up on step-ladders
to reach the top branches.

The tree was set in the great, high-vaulted hall, and was a noble
specimen of an evergreen. Hundreds of electric lights were fastened to
its branches; and the thick bayberry candles were placed by means of
holders that clasped the tree trunk, and so were held firmly and safe.

Adèle's prognostications had been correct. For, soon after luncheon,
it began to snow. Fine flakes at first, but with a steadiness that
betokened a real snowstorm.

"I'm so glad," exclaimed Patty, dancing about. "I do love a white
Christmas. It won't interfere with your guests, will it, Adèle?"

"No; if Mr. Van Reypen and Mr. Farrington get up from New York without
having their trains blocked by snowdrifts, I imagine our Fern Falls
people will be able to get here for the dinner and the dance."

The two men arrived during the afternoon, and came in laden with
parcels and looking almost like Santa Claus himself.

"Had to bring all this stuff with us," explained Roger, "for fear of
delays with expresses and things. Presents for everybody,--and then
some. Where shall we put them?"

Adèle superintended the placing of the parcels, and the men threw off
their overcoats, and they all gathered round the blazing fire in the
hall.

"This is right down jolly!" declared Philip Van Reypen. "I haven't had
a real country Christmas since I was a boy. And this big fire and the
tree and the snowstorm outside make it just perfect."

"I ordered the snowstorm," said Adèle. "I like to have any little
thing that will give my guests pleasure."

"Awfully good of you, Mrs. Kenerley," said Philip. "I wanted to
flatter myself that I brought it with me, but it seems not. Have you a
hill anywhere near? Perhaps we can go coasting to-morrow."

"Plenty of hills; but I don't believe there's a sled about the
place--is there, Jim?"

"We'll find some, somehow, if there's any coasting. We may have to put
one of the motor cars on runners and try that."

"They had sleds at the country store. I saw them this morning," said
Patty. "And that reminds me I have a little work to do on a Christmas
secret, so if you'll excuse me, I'll run away."

Patty ran away to the nursery, where Fräulein, the baby's governess,
was working away at the materials Patty had brought home that morning.

"Yes, that's right," said Patty, as she closed the door behind her.
"You've caught my idea exactly, Fräulein. Now, I'll try on mine, and
then, afterward, we'll call up Mr. Ferris to try on his."

                  *       *       *       *       *

At five o'clock the sounding of a Chinese gong called everybody to
come to the Christmas tree.

The grown people arrived first, as the principal part of the fun was
to see the surprise and delight of baby May when she should see the
tree.

"Let me sit by you, Patty," said Philip Van Reypen, as they found a
place on one of the fireside benches. "I've missed you awfully since
you left New York."

"Huh," said Patty, "I've only been gone twenty-four hours."

"Twenty-four hours seems like a lifetime when _you're_ not in New
York."

"Hush your foolishness; here comes the baby."

The tree had been illuminated; the electric lights were shining and
the candles twinkling, when little May came toddling into the hall.
She was a dear baby, and her pretty hair lay in soft ringlets all over
the little head. Her dainty white frock was short, and she wore little
white socks and slippers. She came forward a few steps, and then spied
the tree and stood stock still.

"What a booful!" she exclaimed, "oh, _what_ a booful!"

Then she went up near the tree, sat down on the floor in front of it,
clasped her little fat hands in her lap, and just stared at it.

"I yike to yook at it!" she said, turning to smile at Patty, in a
friendly way. "It's so booful!" she further explained.

"Don't you want something off it?" asked Patty, who was now sitting on
the floor beside the baby.

"Zes; all of ze fings. Zey is all for me! all for baby May!"

As a matter of fact, there were no gifts on the tree, only decorations
and lights, but Patty took one or two little trinkets from the
branches, and put them in the baby's lap. "There," she said. "How do
you like those, baby May?"

"Booful, booful," said the child, whose vocabulary seemed limited by
reason of her excited delight.

And then a jingle, as of tiny sleighbells, was heard outside. The door
flew open, and in came a personage whom May recognised at once.

"Santa Claus!" she cried. "Oh, Santa Claus!" And jumping up from the
floor, she ran to meet him as fast as her little fat legs could carry
her.

"Down on the floor!" she cried, tugging at his red coat. "Baby May's
Santa Claus! Sit down on floor by baby May!"

Jim Kenerley, who was arrayed in the regulation garb of a St.
Nicholas, sat down beside his little girl, and taking his pack from
his back, placed it in front of her.

"All for baby May!" she said, appreciating the situation at once.

"Yes, all for baby May," returned her mother, for in the pack were
only the child's presents.

One by one the little hands took the gifts from their wrappings, and
soon the baby herself was almost lost sight of in a helter-skelter
collection of dolls and teddy bears and woolly dogs and baa lambs and
more dolls. To say nothing of kittens and candies, and balls, and
every sort of a toy that was nice and soft and pleasant.

The doll Patty had brought, with its wonderful wardrobe, pleased the
baby especially, and she declared at once that the doll's name should
be Patty.

Having undone all her treasures, the baby elected to have a general
romp with Santa Claus, whom she well knew to be her father. Jim had
made no attempt to disguise lest it should frighten the child, and so
his own gay young face looked out from a voluminous snow-white wig and
long white beard. His costume was the conventional red, belted coat,
edged with white fur, and a fur-trimmed red cap with a bobbing tassel.

Among the toys was a pair of horse lines with bells on it, and soon
May had her good-natured father transformed into a riding-horse and
galloping madly round the hall.

Then all present must needs play games suited to the calibre of the
little one, and Ring around a Rosy and London Bridge proved to be her
favourites.

After these unwonted exertions, everybody was ready for tea, which was
then brought in. As a special dispensation, May was allowed to have
her bread and milk at the same time, with the added indulgence of a
few little cakes.

"Isn't she a perfect dear?" said Patty, as she stood with the baby in
her arms, after tea was finished.

"She is," declared Philip, who stood near. "I'm not much up on
kiddies, but she's about the best-natured little piece I ever saw. I
thought they always cried after a big racket like this."

"She must say good-night now," said Adèle. "It's quite time, and
beside, I want her to go away while her reputation is good. Now,
Maisie May, go to Fräulein and go beddy."

"Patty take May beddy."

"No, dear, Patty must stay here with mother."

"Patty take May beddy! _Zes!_" The finality of this decision was
unmistakable. The most casual observer could see that unless it were
complied with the scene might lose something of its sunshine and
merriment.

"I should say," judicially observed Philip, "that unless Miss May has
her way this time, there will be one large and elegant ruction."

"But I _must_ make her obey me," said Adèle, a little uncertainly.

"Fiddlestrings, Adèle," returned Patty; "this is no time for
discipline. The poor baby is about worn out with fatigue and
excitement. You know, it has been her busy day. Let's humour her this
time. I'll take her away, and I'll return anon."

"Anon isn't a very long time, is it?" said Adèle, laughing, and Hal
remarked, "If it is, we'll all come after you, Miss Fairfield."

So Patty went away, carrying the now smiling baby, and Fräulein went
along with her, knowing the little thing would soon drop to sleep,
anyway, from sheer fatigue.



CHAPTER XI

THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT


Patty soon returned, saying the country was saved, and now she was
ready for her presents.

And then everybody began untying things, and soon the whole place was
knee-deep in tissue papers and ribbons.

All exclaimed with delight at their own gifts, and then exclaimed with
delight at the others' gifts.

Mr. and Mrs. Kenerley gave Patty one of those Oriental garments known
as a Mandarin coat. It was of pale blue silk, heavy with elaborate
embroidery and gold braiding, and Patty was enchanted with it.

"Just what I wanted!" she exclaimed, "and I don't care if that _is_
what everybody always says, _I_ mean it! I've wanted one a long time.
They're so heavenly for party wraps or opera cloaks. Mona has a
beauty, but this is handsomer still."

"Yes, it is," admitted Mona; "and now open that box, Patty. It's my
gift to you, and I want to see if you like it."

"Oh, I know I shall like it, of course. Why, Mona Galbraith, if it
isn't a lace scarf! Real Brussels point! You generous girl, it's _too_
beautiful!"

"Isn't it lovely?" cried Daisy. "Now, this is mine to you, Patty. It
isn't nearly as handsome; it's just a bag."

"But what a grand one!" exclaimed Patty, as she unwrapped the
beautiful French confection. "I simply adore bags. I can't have too
many of them. My goodness! I'm getting as many presents as baby May!"

Sure enough, Patty was surrounded with gifts and trinkets of all
sorts. Philip's present was a small but exquisite water-color in a
gilded frame. Roger gave her a glass and silver flower-basket.

"I gave each of you girls exactly the same thing," he said, "because I
didn't want you scrapping over me. Mrs. Kenerley, I included you, too,
if you will accept one of them."

They were beautiful ornaments, and the four together were so effective
that Adèle declared she should use them that night for a dinner table
decoration at their Christmas feast.

Hal Ferris gave each of the girls a beautiful book, and everybody had
so many presents of all sorts that it was almost impossible to
remember who gave anything.

"What I need is a card catalogue," said Patty. "I never can remember
which is which, I know."

"And I know another thing," said Adèle. "If you girls don't scamper
off and dress, you won't be ready for dinner at eight o'clock. And
there are lots of guests coming. And more this evening for the country
dance. Now, disperse, all of you, and put on your prettiest frocks for
Christmas Eve."

Patty had a new gown for the occasion, of an exquisite shade of pink
chiffon, which just matched her cheeks. She did up her hair simply,
with a pink ribbon around it, and a pink rose tucked over one ear.

After she was all dressed, she flew to the nursery for a little confab
with Fräulein, who was working away on the Turkey red.

"Will it be done?" asked Patty, anxiously.

"Oh, yes, indeed, Miss Patty; in ample time. And the crowns, too."

"Everything all right?" inquired a voice in the doorway, and Hal
Ferris stepped into the nursery.

"Yes," said Patty, her eyes sparkling. "Fräulein will have them all
ready by the time dinner's over. Oh, I do _love_ to dress up!"

"You can't look any sweeter than you do this way," said Ferris,
glancing approvingly at the little pink dancing frock.

"You are so nice and complimentary," said Patty, flashing a smile at
him, and then they went downstairs together.

Dinner was a real Christmas feast. The table was properly decorated
with red ribbons and red candles and holly, and everybody had
souvenirs and Christmassy sort of trinkets, and everybody was very gay
and festive, and an air of Christmas jollity pervaded the atmosphere.

After dinner they all returned to the great hall, where the Christmas
tree was again lighted to add to the holiday effect.

Then Patty and Hal, who had let Adèle into their secret, slipped away
from the crowd, and ran up to the nursery, where Fräulein was
awaiting them.

The baby was asleep in the next room, so they must needs be careful
not to awaken her, and they tiptoed about as Fräulein helped them to
don the robes she had made.

The Turkey red she had fashioned into a full-draped cloak, which she
adjusted around Hal's broad shoulders. It was trimmed with white fur,
and was caught up on one shoulder, toga fashion, with a spray of
holly. A massive gilt pasteboard crown she put on his head, and gave
him a long wand or sceptre covered with gilt paper and topped with a
cap and bells.

"I wonder if they'll know I'm Lord of Misrule," whispered Hal, as he
stalked up and down before the mirror, swishing his draperies about in
regal fashion.

"If they don't, I'll tell 'em," said Patty. "I wonder if they'll know
what I am."

"You look like an angel," said Hal, as he gazed at her.

The garment Fräulein had made for Patty was simply straight, flowing
breadths of the white illusion, which fell straight from her
shoulders, her pink gown beneath giving it a faint rosy tinge. From
her head the illusion rippled in a long veil, floating down behind,
and there were long angel sleeves of the same material.

On her head was a small crown of gilt paper, with a large gilt star in
front, and she carried a gilt wand with a star on the end.

But the masterpiece of the costume, and one that did great credit to
the ingenuity of Fräulein, was a pair of wings that were fastened to
Patty's shoulders. They were made of fine net, covered with fringed
tissue paper, which had the effect of soft white feathers.

Altogether Patty was a lovely vision, and it is doubtful if "The
Christmas Spirit" was represented more beautifully anywhere on earth
that Christmas Eve.

She floated about the room, delighted to be "dressed up."

Then, flying into the hall, she listened over the banister till she
heard Adèle's signal from the piano.

Still listening, she heard Adèle begin to sing softly a carol called
"The Christmas Spirit."

Slowly, in time to the music, Patty came down the great staircase. She
paused on the landing, which was but a few steps from the bottom, and
standing there, motionless as a picture, joined her voice to Adèle's.

She sang the beautiful carol, Adèle now singing alto, and the vision
of the beautiful Christmas Spirit, and the tones of Patty's exquisite
voice, gave the guests assembled in the hall a Christmas memory that
they could never forget.

As the last notes died away, there was a significant pause, and then a
storm of applause broke out.

They insisted on another song, but Patty shook her head laughingly,
and the next moment Adèle played a merry, rollicking march on the
piano and the Lord of Misrule came bounding downstairs. He had a long
trumpet in his hand, upon which he sounded a few notes, and then waved
his sceptre majestically.

"I'm the Lord of Misrule," he announced, "and I have come to direct
our Christmas revels. To-night my word is law; you are all my
subjects, and must obey my decrees!"

A shout of applause greeted this gay banter, and then as Adèle played
a lively strain, the Lord of Misrule gave a clever clog dance on the
staircase landing.

Then he sprang down the steps, and clasping the Christmas Spirit, the
two tripped away into a gay impromptu dance.

"Everybody dance!" shouted the Lord of Misrule, brandishing his
sceptre aloft, and obedient to his orders, the others caught the gay
spirit, and soon they were all dancing.

Later they had the country dances--Virginia reel, Sir Roger, and
others which Patty had never heard of before, but which she had no
difficulty in learning.

It was not long, however, before she laid aside her somewhat
uncomfortable wings, and also the illusion draperies, which did not
well survive the intricacies of the figure dances.

So, once again in her pretty pink frock, she entered into the dances
with the zest she always felt for that amusement.

"I think it's my turn," said Roger, coming up to her at last.

"And I'm glad to be with a friend again, after all these strangers,"
she said, as they danced away. "Though they're awfully nice men, and
some of them are very good dancers. You and Mona are all right, aren't
you, Roger?"

Patty said this so suddenly that he was caught off his guard.

"Not all right," he said, "and never will be until she'll consent to
cut the acquaintance of that Lansing!"

"She'll never do that!" and Patty wagged her head positively.

"Then she can get along without my friendship."

"Now, Roger, what's the use of acting like that? Mona has a right to
choose her friends."

"Patty, I believe you like that man yourself!"

"I don't dislike him; at least, not as much as you do. But I don't see
any reason for you to take the matter so seriously. At any rate, while
you're up here, forget it, won't you, and be good to Mona."

"Oh, I'll be good to her fast enough, if she'll be good to me. I think
a heap of that girl, Patty, and I don't want to see her in the
clutches of a bad man like Lansing."

"You don't know that he's a bad man."

"Well, he's a fortune-hunter,--that's bad enough."

"Pooh, every man that looks at a girl doesn't want to marry her for
her money."

"But that man does."

"Then cut him out! Why, Roger, you're worth a dozen Lansings, and if
you want to marry Mona, why don't you tell her so?"

"Oh, Patty, do you think I'd have the ghost of a chance?"

"I certainly do. That is, if Mona has a grain of sense in that pretty
head of hers."

"Well,--say, Patty,--this sounds queer, I know,--but you and I are
such pals,--couldn't you just say a good word for----"

"Roger Farrington! the idea! I never supposed you were _bashful_!"

"I never was before,--but I'm a little afraid of Mona. She's so,--so
decided, you know."

"Very well. Make her decide in your favour. But, mark my words, young
man, you'll never win her by getting grumpy and sour just because she
smiles on another man. In fact, you'd better praise Mr. Lansing. That
would be the best way to make her lose interest in him."

"Patty Fairfield! I'm ashamed of you. I always knew you were a flirt,
but anything like that would be downright deception."

"Oh, fiddle-de-dee! All's fair in love and war. You're too
matter-of-fact, Roger,--too staid and practical. Brace up and tease
Mona. Get her guessing--and the game will be all in your own hands."

"How do you know these things, Patty? You're too young for such
worldly wisdom."

"Oh, women are born with a spirit of contrariness. And, anyway, it's
human nature. Now, you jolly Mona up, and stop looking as if you'd
lost your last friend,--and then see how the cat jumps. Why, what is
Hal Ferris doing?"

The Lord of Misrule had jumped up on a table, and was flourishing his
sceptre, and announcing that he would now issue a few decrees, and
they must immediately be obeyed.

He said the audience wished to see some well-acted plays, and he would
ask some of the guests present to favour them.

"As these dramas are necessarily impromptu," he said, "you will please
come forward and do your parts as soon as your names are called. Any
delay, hesitation, or tardiness will be punished to the full extent of
the Law of Misrule. The first play, ladies and gentlemen, will be a
realistic representation of the great tragedy of 'Jack and Jill.' It
will be acted by Mr. Van Reypen and Miss Fairfield. Ready! Time!"

Philip and Patty went forward at once, for though they had had no
intimation of this act, they were quite ready to take their part in
the merriment.

Philip caught up one of the glass baskets which he had brought up for
gifts, and declared that represented their pail.

"It isn't mine!" cried Daisy. "I don't want mine smashed!"

"No matter what happens," returned Philip, "we must be realistic."

"Here, take this instead," said Jim Kenerley, offering an antique
copper bucket, which was one of his pet pieces.

"All right, it _is_ better. Now, the play begins. This is an
illustrated ballad, you know. Will somebody with a sweet voice kindly
recite the words?"

"I will," volunteered Hal, himself. "My voice is as sweet as taffy."

He began intoning the nursery rhyme, and Patty and Philip strolled
through the hall, swinging the bucket between them, and acting like
two country children going for water. They climbed the stairs,
laboriously, as if clambering up a steep hill, and as they went up,
Philip hastily whispered to Patty how they were to come down.

She understood quickly, and as the second line was drawled out they
stood at the top of the stairs. Then when Hal said, "Jack fell
down----" there was a terrific plunge and Philip tumbled, head over
heels, all the way downstairs, with the big copper bucket rolling
bumpety-bump down beside him. He was a trained athlete, and knew how
to fall without hurting himself, but his mad pitching made it seem
entirely an accidental fall. In the screams of laughter, the last line
could scarcely be heard, but when Hal said, "And Jill came tumbling
after," Patty poised on the top step, leaning over so far that it
seemed as if in a moment she must pitch headlong. Her fancy dance
training enabled her to hold this precarious position, and as she
stood, motionless, a beautiful tableau, everybody applauded.

"All over!" cried the Lord of Misrule, after a moment. "Curtain's
down!"

There was only an imaginary curtain, so considering herself dismissed,
Patty came tripping downstairs, and the broken-crowned Jack stood
waiting to receive her.

"Good work!" he commented. "How could you stand in that breakneck
position?"

"How could you take that breakneck fall?" she queried back, and then
they sought a nearby seat to witness the next "play."

"Now," said the Lord of Misrule, "we will have a thrilling drama by
Miss Dow and--well, she may select her own company."

"I choose Jim Kenerley," said Daisy, suddenly remembering a little
trick they used to do in school. A whispered word was enough to recall
it to Jim's mind, and in a twinkling he had snatched a gay silk
lamp-shade from an electrolier and clapped it on his head, and draped
around him a Bagdad couch cover. Then he caught up a big bronze dagger
from a writing-table, and he and Daisy went to the staircase landing,
which was almost like a stage. Seemingly, Jim was a fearful bandit,
dragging a lady, who hung back with moans and cries.

On the landing, he brandished the dagger fearsomely, and Daisy knelt
before him, begging for mercy. At least, her attitude denoted that,
but all she said was: "A B C D," in a low, pleading voice. "E F G!"
shouted Jim, dancing about in a fierce fury.

Daisy threw out her arms and fairly grovelled at his feet, begging, "H
I J K." "L M!" shouted Jim; "N O!"

Then Daisy's pretty hair became loosened from its pins, and fell, a
shining mass, down her back.

Jim clutched it. "P Q R!" he yelled, as he waved the dagger aloft.

"S T!" moaned Daisy, swaying from side to side, as if in an agony of
fear.

"U! V! W!" and the blade of the dagger rested against the fair neck,
as the dreadful brigand, with a fierce shout, attacked his victim.

"X Y!" Daisy shrieked, and then toppled over, as if killed, while Jim,
with a frenzied yell of "Z!" towered, triumphant, above his slain
captive.

How they all laughed; for it was good acting, though of course greatly
burlesqued. But both had a touch of dramatic genius, and they had
often given this little exhibition in their old school days.

"Fine!" said Adèle, who was shaking with laughter. "You never did it
better, Daisy. You ought to go on the stage."

Daisy smiled and bowed at the applause, and began to twist up her
hair.

"My beloved subjects," said the Lord of Misrule, "you are sure some
actors! I didn't know I had so much talent concealed about my kingdom.
I shall now aim for a higher touch of histrionic art. Let us stop at
nothing! Let us give the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. I will
command Miss Galbraith to play the part of Juliet, and if no one
volunteers as Romeo, I'll modestly remark that I'm a ripping good
actor myself."

"Too late," said Roger, calmly; "I've already signed for the part,"
and taking Mona's hand, he led her toward the staircase.

"I can't!" protested Mona. "I don't know a word of it!"

"Can't! Won't!" cried the Lord of Misrule, in stentorian tones. "Those
words are not allowed in this my Court. Ha, maiden, dost desire the
dungeon for thine? Dost hanker after prison fare? Fie! Get to thy
place and take thy cue."

Mona flung her lace handkerchief on her head for a little Juliet cap,
and accepting a large lace scarf which a lady offered her as she
passed, and an enormous bunch of roses, which Jim hastily took from a
vase and gave her, they all agreed she was perfectly costumed for
Juliet.

Upstairs she went, and drawing a chair to the railing, looked over at
Roger below. He had hastily opened a small cupboard, and caught up a
broad black hat of Adèle's, with a long, willowed ostrich plume. He
put it on, so that the feather hung straight down his face, and he
kept blowing it out of his eyes. Daisy had offered him a gay, flowered
chiffon scarf as he passed her, and he tied it round his waist like a
sash.

"'Oh, Romeo! Romeo! Romeo!'" began Mona.

"'Wherefore,'" prompted Roger in a stage whisper.

"'Wherefore,'" said Mona, obediently, "whence, whither, why----"

"Never mind," said Roger, calmly. "I'll say the lines you forget.
'Wherefore art thou Romeo?' Now for the second act. I wish to goodness
I could be a glove upon that paw of yours."

"Why?" queried Mona.

"So you wouldn't give me the mitten. Pardon, good friends, merely an
interpolation. Back to work now. It was the nightingale and not a poll
parrot that hit you in the ear."

"Oh, Romeo, Romeo," Mona broke in. "I'd like to cut you up into little
bits of stars, and decorate the sky with you."

"Call me but Star, and I'll be baptised all over again. Friends, as
we're a little shy on lines, the rest of this will be pantomime."

Roger then sneaked cautiously upstairs, motioned to Mona to make no
sound, picked up various impedimenta, including books, vases, a
statuette, and such things as he could find on the hall tables, added
a good-sized rug, and then, also picking Mona up in his arms, he
stealthily made his way downstairs again, and the elopement was
successful.

"Roger, you strong giant!" cried Patty. "How _could_ you carry all
those things downstairs?"

"My warriors are all strong men!" said the Lord of Misrule. "They can
carry off anything, and carry on like everything."

And then, as Christmas Eve was well past, and Christmas Day had begun,
the merry guests went away, and the house party congratulated itself
all round, wished everybody Merry Christmas, and went away to rest.



CHAPTER XII

COASTING


Christmas morning was as white as the most picturesque imagination
could desire. A heavy snow had fallen in the night and lay, sparkling,
all over the fields and hills, so that now, in the sunshine, the whole
earth seemed powdered with diamonds.

Patty came dancing downstairs, in a dainty little white morning frock.

"Merry Christmas, everybody!" she cried, as she found the group
gathered round the fireplace in the hall. "Did you ever see such a
beautiful day? Not for skating," and she smiled at Hal, "but for
snow-balling or coasting or any old kind of fun with snow."

"All right," cried Roger. "Who's for a snow frolic? We can build a
fort----"

"And make a snow-man," put in Daisy, "with a pipe in his mouth and an
old hat on his head. Why do snow-men always have to have those two
things?"

"They don't," said Jim Kenerley. "That's an exploded theory. Let's
make one this morning of a modern type, and let him have anything he
wants except a pipe and a battered stove-pipe hat."

"We'll give him a cigarette and a Derby," said Patty. "Oh, here comes
the mail! Let's have that before we go after our snow-man."

The chauffeur came in from a trip to the post-office, with his hands
and arms full of mail,--parcels, papers, and letters,--which he
deposited on a table, and Jim Kenerley sorted them over.

"Heaps of things for everybody," he said. "Belated gifts, magazines,
letters, and post cards. Patty, this big parcel is for you; Daisy,
here are two for you."

"May take letters! Let baby May be postman!" cried the infant
Kenerley.

"Let her, Jim,--she loves to be postman," and Adèle put the baby down
from her arms, and she toddled to her father.

"Great scheme!" said Hal. "Wait a minute, midget; I'll make you a
cap."

With a few folds, a newspaper was transformed into a three-cornered
cap and placed on the baby's head.

"Now you're a postman," said her uncle. "Go and get the letters from
the post-office."

"Letters, p'ease," said the baby, holding out her fat little hands to
her father.

"All right, kiddums; these parcels are too big for you; you're no
parcel-post carrier. But here's a bunch of letters; pass them around
and let every one pick out his own."

Obediently, the baby postman started off, and passing Daisy first,
dumped the whole lot in her lap.

"Wait a minute, Toddles," said Daisy. "I'll pick out mine, then you
take the rest on."

Daisy selected half a dozen or more, and gave the rest of the lot back
to the little one, who went on round the circle, letting each pick out
his own letters.

Patty had about a dozen letters, and cards and greetings of various
sorts. Some she tore open and read aloud, some she read to herself,
and some she kept to open when she might be alone.

"Have you opened all your letters, Patty?" asked Jim, looking at her,
quizzically.

"No; I saved father's and Nan's to read by myself, you people are so
distracting."

"Oho! Father's and Nan's! Oho! aha! And are those the only ones you
saved to read by yourself, young lady?"

"I saved Elise's, also," said Patty, looking at him, a little
surprised. "Aren't you the inquisitive gentleman, anyway!"

"Elise's! Oh, yes, Elise's! And how about that big blue one,--what
have you done with that?"

"I don't see any big blue one," said Patty, innocently. "What do you
mean, Jim?"

"Oho! _what_ do I mean? What, _indeed_!"

"Now, stop, Jim," said his wife. "I don't know what you're teasing
Patty about, but she shan't be teased. If she wants to keep her big
blue letter to herself, she's going to keep it, that's all."

"Of course I shall," said Patty, saucily. "That is, I should, if I had
any big blue letter, but I haven't."

"Never mind big blue letters," said Roger, "let's all go out and play
in the snow."

So everybody put on wraps and caps and furs and out they went like a
parcel of children to frolic in the snow. Snow-balling was a matter of
course, but nobody minded a lump of soft snow, and soon they began to
build the snow-man.

He turned out to be a marvel of art and architecture, and as his
heroic proportions were far too great for anybody's hat or coat, they
draped an Indian blanket around him and stuck a Japanese parasol on
the top of his head to protect him from the sun.

Roger insisted on the cigarette, and as the snow gentleman had been
provided with a fine set of orange-peel teeth, he held his cigarette
jauntily and firmly.

"I want to go coasting," said Patty.

"And so you shall," said Jim. "I sent for a lot of sleds from the
village, and I think they've arrived."

Sure enough, there were half a dozen new sleds ready for them, and
snatching the ropes, with glee, they dragged them to a nearby hill.

It was a long, easy slope, just right for coasting.

"Want to be pioneer?" asked Roger of Patty. And ever-ready Patty
tucked herself on to a sled, grasped the rope, Roger gave her a push,
and she was half-way down the hill before any one knew she had
started. The rest followed, and soon the whole party stood laughing at
the bottom of the long hill.

"The worst is walking up again," said Patty, looking back up the hill.

"Do you say that because it's what everybody says,--or because you're
lazy?" asked Philip.

"Because I'm lazy," returned Patty, promptly.

"Then get on your sled, and I'll pull you up."

"No, I'm not lazy enough for that, I hope! But I'll tell you what I'll
do; I'll race you up."

"Huh! as if I couldn't beat you up, and not half try!"

"Oh, I don't _know_! Come on, now, do your best! One, two, three, go!"

Each pulling a sled, they started to run uphill; at least, Philip
started to run, and at a good rate; but Patty walked,--briskly and
evenly, knowing full well that Philip could not keep up his gait.

And she was right. Half-way up the hill, Philip was forced to slow
down, and panting and puffing,--for he was a big man,--he turned to
look for Patty. She came along, and swung past him with an easy
stride, flinging back over her shoulder, "Take another sprint, and you
may catch me yet!"

"I'll catch you, no matter how much I have to sprint," Philip called
after her, but he walked slowly for a few paces. Then, having regained
his breath, he strode after her, and rapidly gained upon her progress.
Patty looked over her shoulder, saw him coming, and began to run. But
running uphill is not an easy task, and Patty's strength began to give
out. Philip saw this, and fell back a bit on purpose to give her an
advantage. Then as they were very near the top, Patty broke into a
desperate run. Philip ran swiftly, overtook her, picked her up in his
arms as he passed, and plumped her down into a soft snowbank at the
very top of the hill.

"There!" he cried; "that's the goal, and you reached it first!"

"With your help," and Patty pouted a little.

"My help is always at your disposal, when you can't get up a hill."

"That would be a fine help, if I ever had hills to climb. But I never
do. This is a great exception."

"But there are other hills than snow hills."

"Oh, I suppose now you're talking in allegories. I never _could_
understand those."

"Some day, when I get a real good chance, I'll explain them to you.
May I?"

Philip's face was laughing, but there was a touch of seriousness in
his tone that made Patty look up quickly. She found his dark eyes
looking straight into her own. She jumped up from her snowbank,
saying: "I want to go down again. Where's a sled?"

"Come on this one with me," said Hal, who had a long, toboggan sort of
an affair.

"This is great!" said Patty. "Where did you get this double-rigged
thing?"

"It's been here all the time, but you've been so wrapped up in that
Van Reypen chap that you had no eyes for anybody else, or anybody
else's sled! I'm downright jealous of that man, and I'll be glad when
he goes home."

"Ah, now, Chub," said Patty, coaxingly, "don't talk to me scoldy!
Don't now; will you, Chubsy?"

"Yes, I will, if you like him better than you do me."

"Why, goodness, gracious, sakes alive! I've known him for _years_, and
I've only known you a few days!"

"That doesn't matter. I've only known you a few days, and I'm head
over heels in love with you!"

"Wow!" exclaimed Patty, "but this is sudden! Do you know, it's so
awful swift, I don't believe it can be the real thing!"

"Do you know what the Real Thing is?"

"Haven't a notion."

"Mayn't I tell you?"

"No, sir-ee. You see, I don't want to know for years yet! _Why_ can't
people let me alone?"

"Who else has been bothering you?" demanded Hal, jealously.

"I don't call it a bother! I supposed it was part of the game. Don't
all girls have nice compliments, and flattery kind of speeches from
the young men they know?"

"I don't know whether they do or not," growled Hal.

"Well, I know; they do, and they don't mean a thing; it's part of the
game, you know. Now, I'll tell you something. I've known Philip Van
Reypen ever so much longer than I have you, and yet I like you both
exactly the same! And Roger just the same,--and Jim just the same!"

"And Martin, the chauffeur, just the same, I suppose; and Mike, the
gardener, just the same!"

"Yep," agreed Patty. "_Everybody_ just the same! I think that's the
way to do in this world, love your neighbour as yourself, and look
upon all men as free and equal."

"Well, I don't think all girls are equal,--not by a long shot. To my
mind they're divided into two classes."

"What two?" said Patty, with some curiosity.

"One class is Patty Fairfield, and the other class is everybody else."

They had reached the bottom of the hill before this, and were sitting
on the sled, talking. Patty jumped up and clapped her hands. "That's
about the prettiest speech I ever had made to me! It's a beautiful
speech! I'm going right straight up the hill and tell it to everybody!"

"Patty, _don't_!" cried Hal, his honest, boyish face turning crimson.

"Oh, then you didn't mean it!" and Patty was the picture of
disappointment.

"I did! _Of course_ I did! But girls don't run and tell everything
everybody says to them!"

"Don't they? Well, then, _I_ won't. You see, I haven't had as much
experience in these matters as you have! Mustn't I _ever_ tell
anything nice that _anybody_ says to me?"

"Not what _I_ say to you, anyhow! You see, they're confidences."

"Well, I don't want any more of them just now. I came out here for
coasting, not for confidences."

"I fear, my dear little girl, you're destined all through life to get
confidences, whatever you may go for."

"Oh, what a horrible outlook! Well, then, let me gather my coasting
while I may! Come on, Chubsy, let's go up the hill." And putting her
hand in Hal's, Patty started the upward journey.

At the top she declared she was going for one more ride downhill, and
this time with Jim. "For," she said to herself, "I would like _one_
ride without 'confidences.'"

"Off we go!" said Jim, as he arranged her snugly on the toboggan sled,
and took his place in front of her. They had a fine ride down, and Jim
insisted on pulling Patty up again. She rode part way, and then
decided it was too hard work for him, and jumped off.

"I guess I'm good for some walk," she said, as she tucked her arm
through his, and they climbed the hill slowly.

"I guess you are, Patty. You're strong enough, only you're not as
hardy as Daisy and Adèle. I believe our Western girls are heartier
than you New Yorkers. By the way, Patty, speaking of the West at
large, what made you tell a naughty story this morning?"

"I didn't!" and Patty looked at him with wide-open eyes. "I have a few
faults, Jim, a _very_ few, and _very_ small ones! but truly,
storytelling isn't among them."

"But you said you didn't get a big blue letter," pursued Jim.

"And neither I did," protested Patty. "What do you mean, Jim, by that
big blue letter? I didn't see any."

"Patty, it's none of my business, but you seem to be in earnest in
what you say, so I'll tell you that there certainly was in the mail a
big blue letter for you, addressed in Bill Farnsworth's handwriting. I
wasn't curious, but I couldn't help seeing it; and I know the dear old
boy's fist so well, that I was moved to tease you about it."

"It didn't tease me, Jim, for I didn't get any such letter."

"Well, then, where is it?"

"I don't know, I'm sure. Perhaps baby May kept it."

"Perhaps some of the boys got it and kept it to tease you."

"I don't believe they'd do that. Perhaps Adèle saved it for me. Well,
we'll look around when we get home, but don't say anything about it."

But when they reached the house, neither Jim nor Patty could find the
blue letter. Adèle said she had not seen it, and Patty insisted that
no one else should be questioned. Privately, she thought that Hal
Ferris had received it by mistake from baby May, and had kept it,
because he, too, knew Bill's handwriting, and because,--well, of
course, it _was_ foolish, she knew,--but Hal had said he was jealous
of any other man, and he might have suppressed or destroyed Bill's
card for that reason. She felt sure it was not a letter, but merely a
Christmas card. However, she wanted it, but she wanted to ask Hal for
it herself, instead of letting the Kenerleys ask him.

                  *       *       *       *       *

"Dinner will be at two o'clock," Adèle made announcement. "It's
considered the proper thing to eat in the middle of the day on a
holiday, though why, I never could quite understand."

"Why, of course, the reason is, so the children can eat once in a
while," suggested her brother.

"Baby can't come to the table. She's too little, and her table manners
are informal, to say the least. However, the tradition still holds, so
dinner's at two o'clock, and you may as well all go and get dressed,
for it's after one, now. There'll be a few extra guests, so you girls
will have somebody to dress up for."

"I like that," said Roger; "as if we boys weren't enough for any girls
to dress up for!"

"But you've seen all our pretty frocks," laughed Patty. "It's only
strangers we can hope to impress with them now. I shall wear my most
captivating gown, if Mr. Collins is coming. Is he, Adèle?"

"Yes, and Mr. Hoyt, too; and two more girls. Skip along, now, and
don't dawdle."

But Patty dawdled on the staircase till Ferris came along, and then
she spoke to him in a low tone. "Chub, you didn't see a stray letter
of mine this morning, did you?"

"'M--what kind of a letter?"

"Oh, a blue envelope, with probably a card inside. I hadn't opened it,
so I don't know what was in it."

"Who was it from?"

"Why, how could I tell, when I hadn't opened it! In fact, that's just
what I want to know."

"What makes you think I know anything about it?"

"Oh, Chub, don't tease me! I haven't time, now; and truly, I want that
letter! Do you know anything about it?"

"No, Patty, I don't. I didn't see any letters addressed to you, except
the bunch you had in your hand. Have you really lost one?"

"Yes," said Patty, seeing that Hal was serious. "Jim told me there was
one for me from Mr. Farnsworth, and I want it."

"Bill Farnsworth! What's he writing to you for? I didn't know you knew
him."

"I don't know him very well; I only met him last summer. And I don't
know that he did write to me; it was probably just a card. But I want
it."

"Yes, you seem to. Why, Patty, you're blushing."

"I am not any such thing!"

"You are, too! You're as pink as a peach."

"Well, I only blushed to make you call me a peach,--and now that I've
succeeded, I'll run away."

So blushing and laughing both, Patty ran upstairs to her own room. Hal
had been so frank that she was convinced he knew nothing about the
letter, and she began to fear it must have been tossed into the fire,
with the many waste papers that were scattered about.



CHAPTER XIII

HIDE AND SEEK


All the time Patty was dressing she wondered about that letter; and
when Mona, ready for dinner, stopped at her door, Patty drew her into
the room.

"Mona," she said, "did you get a Christmas card from Mr. Farnsworth?"

"Yes," said Mona, "in a big blue envelope. Daisy had one, too. Didn't
you get one?"

"No; Jim said there was one for me, but it got lost somehow. Thrown in
the fire, I shouldn't wonder."

"Well, don't mind," said Mona, cheerfully. "You can have mine. It
isn't very pretty, and Daisy's isn't either, but I suppose they're the
best Bill could find out there in Arizona. Do you want it now, Patty?"

"I don't want it at all, Mona. What would I want with your card, or
Daisy's either? But if Little Billee sent one to me, I'd like to have
it, that's all."

"Of course you would; but truly, they don't amount to much."

"Jim must have been mistaken about there being one for me," said
Patty, and then the two girls went downstairs.

The Christmas dinner was practically a repetition of the feast of the
night before; but as Adèle said, how could that be helped if people
would have two Christmas celebrations on successive days?

There were four extra guests, who proved to be merry and jolly young
people, and after dinner Hal declared that his reign as Lord of
Misrule was not yet over.

"Don't let's do any more stunts like we had last night," said Mona.
"They wear me out. Let's play easy games, like blindman's buff, or
something."

"Or Copenhagen," said Hal, but Patty frowned at him.

"We're too grown-up for such things," she declared, with dignity.
"What do you say to a nice, dignified game of hide and seek?"

"All over the house!" cried Roger. "May we, Mrs. Kenerley?"

"The house is yours," said Adèle. "I reserve no portion of it. From
cellar to attic, from drawing-room to kitchen, hide where you will and
seek where you like,--if you'll only promise not to wake the baby.
She's taking her afternoon nap."

"She doesn't seem to mind noise," said Roger. "We do make an awful
racket, you know."

"Oh, no, I don't mean that," said Adèle. "I've trained her not to
mind noise. But I mean if your hiding and seeking takes you into the
nursery quarters, do go softly."

"Of course we will," said Philip. "I'm specially devoted to that baby,
and I'll see that her nap isn't disturbed, even if I have to stand
sentry at her door. But what larks to have the whole house! I've never
played it before but what they wouldn't let you hide in this room or
that room. Who'll be It?"

"Oh, that's an old-fashioned way to play," said Hal. "Here's a better
way. Either all the men hide and the girls find them, or else the
other way around; and, anyway, don't you know, whoever finds who, has
to be her partner or something."

"For life?" asked Jim, looking horrified.

"Mercy, no!" said his brother-in-law. "This is a civilised land, and
we don't select life partners that way!"

"You mean just partners for a dance," said Patty, trying to help him
out.

"Well, you see," said Hal, "it ought to be more than just a dance; I
mean more like a partner for a,--for a junketing of some kind."

"I'll tell you," said Adèle. "There's to be a masquerade ball at the
Country Club on New Year's Eve, and we're all going."

"Just the thing!" cried Hal. "Now, whichever seeker finds whichever
hider, they'll go in pairs to the ball, don't you see? Romeo and
Juliet, or anything they like, for costumes."

"But we won't be here," and Philip Van Reypen looked ruefully at
Roger. "We go back to town to-morrow."

"But you can come up again," said Adèle, hospitably. "I hereby invite
you both to come back the day before New Year's, and stay as long as
you will."

"Well, you are _some_ hostess!" declared Roger, looking grateful. "I
accept with pleasure, but I doubt if my friend Van Reypen can get
away."

"Can he!" cried Philip. "Well, I rather guess he can! Mrs. Kenerley,
you're all sorts of a darling, and you'll see me back here on the
first train after your invitation takes effect."

"Then hurrah for our game of hide and seek," Hal exclaimed. "Jim and
Adèle, you must be in it, too. You needn't think you can go as Darby
and Joan,--you must take your chances with the rest. If you find each
other, all right, but if you find anybody else, that's your fate,--see?"

"I'm willing," said Adèle, laughing. "I'm sure I'd be glad to go with
any of you beautiful young men."

"Now, will you listen to _that_!" cried her husband. "Well, I won't be
outdone in generosity. I'll be proud to escort any one of this galaxy
of beauty," and he looked at the group of pretty girls.

"Now, we must do it all up proper," said Hal. "In the first place, we
must draw lots to see whether the girls shall hide or we shall. We
must have it all very fair."

He tore two strips of paper, one longer than the other, and holding
them behind him, bade Adèle choose.

"Right!" she said, and Hal put forth his right hand and gave her a
paper on which was written "Girls."

"All right," went on the master of ceremonies. "Now you girls must
hide. We'll give you fifteen minutes to tuck yourselves away, and then
we're all coming to look for you. As soon as any man finds any girl,
he brings her back here to the hall to wait for the others. Now,
there's no stipulation, except that you must not go out of the house.
Scoot! and remember, in fifteen minutes we'll be after you!"

The six girls ran away and made for various parts of the house. The
two Misses Crosby, who had come as dinner guests, looked a little
surprised at this unusual game, and Patty said to them, kindly: "You
don't mind, do you? You know, you needn't really go with the man who
finds you, if you don't want to."

"Oh, we don't mind," said the elder Miss Crosby. "I think it's
fun,--only if I should draw that dignified Mr. Van Reypen I'd be
scared to death!"

"Oh, he isn't so awfully dignified," laughed Patty. "That's just his
manner at first. When you know him better, he's as jolly as anything.
But hurry up, girls, the minutes are flying."

The girls scampered away, some running to the attic, others going into
wardrobes or behind sofas, and Patty ran to her own room.

Then she bethought herself that that was one of the most likely places
they would look for her, and she was seized with an ambition to baffle
the seekers. With a half-formed plan in her mind, she slipped out of a
side door of her own room that opened on a small passage leading to
the nursery. In the nursery, she found the baby asleep in her crib,
and the Fräulein lying down on a couch with a slumber-robe thrown
over her, though she was not asleep.

Like a flash, Patty's plan formed itself. She whispered to the
Fräulein, and with a quick understanding the good-natured German girl
took off her rather voluminous frilled cap, with its long muslin
streamers, and put it on Patty's head. Then Patty lay down on the couch,
with her face toward the wall, and deep buried in the pillows. Fräulein
tucked the slumber-robe over her, and then herself disappeared down into
the kitchen quarters.

The search was rather a long one, for the house was large, and the
girls had chosen difficult hiding-places.

The two Crosby girls were found first, because not knowing the house
well, they had simply gone into hall closets, and stood behind some
hanging dresses. They were discovered by Jim Kenerley and Hal; and if
the latter was disappointed in his quarry, he gave no sign of it.

The four returned to the hall, and after a while they were joined by
Roger and Mona.

"Oho," said Jim, who loved to tease, "what a coincidence that you two
should find each other!"

"Easy enough," said Roger. "I knew Mona would choose the very hardest
place to find; so I went straight to the attic to the very farthest,
darkest corner, and there she was, waiting for me!"

"There I was," said Mona, "but I wasn't waiting for _you_!"

"No, you were waiting for me, I know," said Jim, ironically. "But
never mind, Mona, we'll be partners next time. Hello, Adèle, is that
_your_ terrible fate?" and they all laughed as Adèle and Mr. Hoyt
came in together, with cobwebs on their hair and smudges of black on
their faces.

"I thought I'd be so smart, Jim, and I hid in the coal-bin; but Mr.
Hoyt found me! By the way, we must have that place cleaned; it's a
disgrace to the house!"

"But you know, my dear, we don't often use it to receive our guests
in."

"Well, I don't care, it must be cleaned. There's no excuse for
cobwebs. Now I must go and tidy up. I hope they haven't wakened the
baby. Oh, here's Daisy."

Daisy and Mr. Collins came in, laughing, and Mr. Collins declared he
had found Miss Dow hanging out the third-story window by her
finger-tips.

"Nothing of the sort," said Daisy. "I was out on a kind of little
balcony place, that's on top of a bay-window or something,--but I put
my hands over the sill inside, so that I could say I was still in the
house. Wasn't that fair?"

"Well, it's fair enough, as long as I found you," said Mr. Collins.
"But when I saw your hands, I really thought you were hanging from the
sill!"

"Where's Patty?" asked Daisy, "and Mr. Van Reypen? Are they still
finding each other?"

"I saw Phil," said Roger, "standing guard at the nursery door, as he
said he would. He let us each go in and look around, on condition that
we wouldn't wake the baby. And the baby's nurse was also asleep on the
sofa, so I looked around and sneaked out as fast as I could."

Just then Van Reypen came downstairs. "I've been delayed," he said,
"because I held the fort for the baby, until every man-jack of you had
been in the nursery. Now I'm going to begin _my search_. Who is there
left to find?"

"Oh, who, _indeed_?" said Jim, looking wise. "Oh, _nobody_ in
particular! Nobody but that little Fairfield girl, and _of course_ you
wouldn't want to find _her_!"

"Patty!" exclaimed Philip, as he looked around at the group. "Why, she
isn't here, is she? Where can that little rascal be? You fellows have
been all over the house, I suppose?"

"Every nook and cranny," declared Mr. Hoyt. "It was as a very last
resort that I went to the coal-bin and captured Mrs. Kenerley."

"Been through the kitchens?" asked Philip, looking puzzled.

"I have," said Mr. Collins. "They're full of startled-looking servants
who seemed to think I was a lunatic, or a gentleman burglar,--I don't
know which."

"Well, of course she's got to be found," said Philip. "There's no use
looking in the obvious places, for Patty's just cute enough to pick
out a most unexpected hiding-place. Come on, Roger; you found your
girl,--help me with mine."

"Oh, it isn't fair to have help," said Hal. "Alone upon your quest you
go!"

"Here I go, then." And Philip ran upstairs three at a time. He went
first to the attics, and made a systematic search of every hall, room,
and closet. He even peeped into the great tank, as if Patty might have
been transformed into a mermaid. Then followed a thorough search of
the second story, with all its rambling ells and side corridors; he
tiptoed through the nursery, smiling at the sleeping baby and casting
a casual glance at the still figure on the couch with the long, white
cap-strings falling to the floor.

On he went, through the various rooms, and at last, with slow step,
came down into the hall again.

"I think she had one of those contraptions like the Peter Pan
fairies," he said, "and flew right out through the roof and up into
the sky! But I haven't searched this floor yet. May I go into the
dining-room and kitchens, Mrs. Kenerley?"

"Everywhere," said Adèle. "You know I made no reservations."

Philip strode through the rooms, looked under the dining-room table
and into the sideboard cupboards; on through the butler's pantry, and
into the kitchens. Needless to say, he found no Patty, and returned,
looking more puzzled than ever.

"I'm not going down cellar," he said. "Something tells me that Patty
couldn't possibly stay down there all this time! It's more than an
hour since she hid."

"What are you going to do about it?" inquired Jim. "Give it up? I'll
ring the Chinese gong for her to come back to us. That was to be a
signal in case of an emergency."

"No," said Philip. "I'm going to reason this thing out. Give me a few
minutes to think, and I believe I can find her."

"Don't anybody disturb him, let him think!" said Mona, gaily, and
going to the piano, she began to play "Alice, where art thou?" in
wailing strains that made them all laugh.

All at once Philip jumped up. "I know where she is!" he exclaimed.
"Sit still all of you, and I'll bring her back with me!"

"Wait a minute," said Adèle, curiously. "How did you find it out?"

"Do _you_ know where she is?" and Philip looked at her intently.

"No, I haven't the slightest idea," said Adèle, honestly. "But I
wondered how you could know, just from thinking about it."

"It's clairvoyance," said Philip, with a mock air of mystery. "You
see, I know all the places where she _isn't_, so the one place I have
in mind must be where she _is_. By the way, Mrs. Kenerley; baby always
takes an afternoon nap, doesn't she?"

"Yes, always."

"And does the Fräulein, her nurse, always take a nap at the same
time?"

"Oh, no! She never naps in the daytime."

"She did to-day," began Roger, but Philip was already flying upstairs
again.

He went softly into the nursery. The baby was still asleep, the figure
on the couch still lay quietly beneath the knitted afghan.

Philip went over and stood beside the couch. The face was buried in
the pillow, but beneath the edge of the cap he saw some stray golden
curls.

"H'm!" he mused, in a low voice, but entirely audible to Patty. "I
thought baby May's nurse had dark hair. She must have bleached it!"

Patty gave no sign that she heard, but cuddled her head more deeply in
the soft pillows.

"Why, it isn't the Fräulein at all!" said Philip, in tones of great
surprise. "It's the Sleeping Beauty!"

Still Patty gave no intimation of being awake, though, of course, she
was.

Then Philip leaned down over her and murmured: "And I'm the Prince;
and when the Prince finds the Sleeping Beauty, there's only one course
for him to pursue."

At this, Patty opened her eyes and prepared to spring up, but she was
not quite quick enough, and Philip lightly kissed the top of her
little pink ear, before she could elude him.

"How dare you!" she cried, and her eyes flashed with indignation.

But Philip stood calmly smiling at her.

"It's entirely permissible," he said, "when any Prince finds a
Sleeping Beauty, to kiss her awake."

"But I wasn't asleep!" stormed Patty, "and you knew it!"

"You gave such a successful imitation of it, that I consider myself
justified," he returned. "And, anyway, it was only a little bit of a
butterfly kiss, and it doesn't really count."

"No," agreed Patty, rather relieved, "it doesn't count."

"But it counts that I have found you," went on Philip. "You know the
rest of the story, after the Prince kissed the Sleeping Beauty?"

"She had to go to the Country Club ball with him," said Patty,
laughing, as she danced away from him. "Be careful, Philip; we'll wake
baby May. Come on downstairs."

"I found her," announced Philip, somewhat unnecessarily; "and I was a
blooming idiot not to know she was there all the time!"

"You sure were!" said Roger, when he heard the story. "Did you get a
good rest, Patty?"

"Yes; only it was interrupted so soon," and Patty returned Philip's
meaning glance with a saucy smile.

"Well," Roger went on, "now you two will have to go to the masquerade
together. I suppose you'll go as Jack and Jill?"

"No," said Philip, "I think fairy tales are much prettier than Mother
Goose rhymes. We're going as the Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, and the
Fairy Prince. Only, of course, the Sleeping Beauty will be awake for
the occasion. Shall I bring up your costume when I return next week,
Patty?"

"I might like to have a voice in deciding on the part I shall take,"
said Patty, with a show of spirit.

"But you _did_ decide it! I never should have thought of appearing as
'Prince Charming,' if you hadn't----"

"That will do, Philip!" said Patty, turning very pink.

"Go on, Phil!" cried Roger. "If she hadn't what?"

"If she hadn't said I'd look so sweet in a light blue satin coat,"
replied Philip, pretending to look confused.

"Oh, pshaw! She didn't say that," declared Roger. "And beside, you
won't!"

"Oh, yes, he will," said Patty. "Those court suits are lovely,--all
silver lace and cocked hats! Oh, Philip, do wear one of those! And
I'll write to Nan, to get me a costume. What are you going to wear,
Mona?"

"But we mustn't tell!" said Adèle, in dismay. "This is a masquerade,
not merely a fancy dress ball."

"Oh!" said Patty. "Then we'll have to change our plans, Philip. The
Sleeping Beauty game is all off!"

"Only for the moment!" And Philip threw her a challenging glance.



CHAPTER XIV

A PROPOSAL


It was after midnight when the Christmas guests went away, and Patty
declared her intention of going to bed at once.

"I coasted and danced and played hide and seek till I'm utterly worn
out," she said, "and I think I shall sleep for a week!"

"But I'm going away to-morrow," said Philip, detaining her a moment.

"But you're coming back next week. I'll promise to be awake by then.
But now I'm going to hibernate, like a bear! Good-night, everybody!"
and Patty ran upstairs without further ceremony.

But as, in her pretty blue négligée, she sat before the mirror
brushing her long hair, Mona, Daisy, and Adèle all came into her
room, quite evidently with a determination to chat.

"You're an old sleepy-head, Patty," declared Adèle. "You may sleep as
late as you like in the morning, but we want to have a little confab
now, about lots of things."

"Nicht, nein, non, no!" cried Patty, jumping up and brandishing her
hair-brush. "I know perfectly well what your confabs mean,--an hour or
more of chattering and giggling! Come in the morning,--I'm going to
have my chocolate upstairs to-morrow,--and I'll give you all the
information you want. But as for to-night, skip, scoot, scamper, and
vamoose, every dear, sweet, pretty little one of you!"

Laughingly, Patty pushed the three out of her room, and closing the
door after them, turned its key, unheeding their protests, and
returned to her hair-brushing.

"It's no use, Patricia," she said, talking to herself in the mirror,
as she often did, "letting those girls keep you up till all hours! You
need your beauty sleep, to preserve what small pretence to good looks
you have left."

Patty was not really vain of her pretty face, but she well knew that
her delicate type of beauty could not stand continuous late hours
without showing it, and Patty was not mistaken when she claimed for
herself a good share of common sense.

But as she brushed away at the golden tangle of curls, she heard a light
tap at her door, which sounded insistent, rather than mischievous.

"Who is it?" she asked, as she rose and went toward the door.

"It's Daisy," said a low voice. "Let me in, Patty, just for a minute."

So Patty opened the door, and Daisy Dow came in.

"I want to tell you something," she said, as Patty stood waiting,
brush in hand. "I don't really want to tell you a bit,--but Jim says I
must," and Daisy looked decidedly cross and ill-tempered.

Patty realised that it was a bother of some kind, and she said,
gently, "Leave it till morning, Daisy; we'll both feel brighter then."

"No; Jim said I must tell you to-night. Oh, pshaw, it's nothing,
anyway! Only there _was_ a letter for you from Bill Farnsworth, and I
took it from May, and kept it for a while, just to tease you. I was
going to give it to you to-morrow, anyway; but Jim came and asked me
about it, and made _such_ a fuss! Men are so _silly_!"

"Why, no, Daisy, it isn't anything much; only you know people _do_
like to have letters that belong to them! But, as you say, it's
nothing to make a fuss about. Incidentally, I believe it's a State's
prison offence,--or would be if you opened it. You didn't, did you?"

"Of course not!" said Daisy; "but I knew it was only a card, like
ours, and I just kept it back for fun."

"It doesn't seem to me an awfully good joke,--but never mind that.
Give me the letter, and we'll call it square, and I won't have you
arrested or anything."

Patty spoke lightly, but really she was deeply annoyed at this foolish
trick of Daisy's. However, since Jim had found out the truth and made
Daisy own up, there was no great harm done.

"I haven't got the letter," said Daisy. "I left it downstairs, but we
can get it in the morning. I'm sure it's only a card; it is just the
same size and shape as ours."

"Daisy, what did you do it for?" And Patty looked the girl in the
eyes, in a real curiosity to know why she should descend to this petty
meanness.

"Because you're such a favourite," said Daisy, truthfully. "Everybody
likes you best, and everybody does everything for you, and you get
everything, and I wanted to tease you!"

Patty grasped the girl by her shoulders, and shook her good-naturedly,
while she laughed aloud. "Daisy, you _do_ beat the dickens! You know
that foolish little temper of yours is too silly for anything, and if
you'd conquer it you'd be a whole lot nicer girl! You're just as
pretty as anybody else, and just as jolly and attractive, but you get
a notion that you're slighted when you're _not_; and that makes you
ill-tempered and you lose half your charm. Don't you know that if you
want people to love you and admire you, you must be sunshiny and
pleasant?"

"Huh, that isn't my nature, I s'pose. I can't help my quick temper.
But, anyway, Patty, you're a dear not to get mad,--and I'll give you
the letter the first thing in the morning."

"Where is it, Daisy?"

"Oh, I just stuck it between two volumes of a cyclopædia, on a shelf
in the library. So, you see, we can't get it till morning; but it will
be safe there, don't worry."

"I'm not worrying," and Patty smiled, as Daisy said a somewhat abrupt
good-night, and went away.

There were still a few embers of a wood fire glowing on the hearth,
and Patty sat down before it in a big arm-chair.

"I don't know why I'm so glad," she said to herself, her weariness all
gone now. "But I did feel neglected to have Little Billee send the
other girls cards, and leave me out. I'd like to see it; I hardly
glanced at theirs,--though I remember, they weren't very pretty. I'd
like to see Little Billee again, but I don't suppose I ever shall.
Well, there are plenty of other nice boys in the world, so it doesn't
matter much. All the same, I'd like to see that card. I believe I'll
go down and get it. There's always a low light in the hall, and I can
feel it between the books."

Patty hesitated for some time, but finally her impatience or curiosity
got the better of her, and she softly opened her door and peeped out.
There were low lights in the halls, and as she listened over the
banister and heard no sounds, Patty began to creep softly down the
stairs. Her trailing robe of light blue crêpe de chine was edged with
swansdown, and she drew it about her, as she noiselessly tiptoed along
in her slippered feet.

The hall light shone dimly into the library, through which Patty could
see a brighter light in the smoking-room beyond. She listened a
moment, but hearing no voices, concluded she could creep into the
library, capture her card, and return undiscovered.

"And, anyway," she thought to herself, "there can't be anybody in the
smoking-room, or I would hear them talking."

It was easy to proceed without a sound by stepping softly along the
thick rugs, and as Patty knew exactly where the cyclopædias were
shelved, she made straight for that bookcase. It was next to the
smoking-room doorway, and as Patty reached it, she peeped around the
portière to make sure that the next room was unoccupied.

But to her surprise, she saw Philip Van Reypen stretched out in a big
arm-chair in front of the fire. His eyes were closed, but Patty saw he
was not asleep, as he was slowly smoking a cigar. Patty saw him
sidewise, and she stood for a second contemplating the handsome
profile and the fine physique of the man, who looked especially
graceful in his careless and unconscious position.

Almost holding her breath, lest he should hear her, Patty moved
noiselessly to the shelves, being then out of sight behind a
portière.

By slow, careful movements, it was easy enough to move the books
silently, and at last she discovered the blue envelope, tucked between
two of them. She drew it out without a sound,--careful lest the paper
should crackle,--and started to retrace her stealthy steps upstairs
again, when she saw the hem of the portière move the veriest trifle.

"A mouse!" she thought to herself, with a terrified spasm of fear, for
Patty was foolishly afraid of mice.

Unable to control herself, she sprang up into a soft easy-chair and
perched on the back of it.

The springs of the chair gave a tiny squeak, scarcely as loud as a
mouse might make, yet sufficient to arouse Van Reypen from his
reverie.

He sprang up, and pushing aside the portière, switched on the light,
to see Patty sitting on the low, tufted back of the chair, her hair
streaming about her shoulders, and her face expressing the utmost fear
and horror.

"Well!" he observed, looking at her with a smile,--"_well_!"

"Oh, Philip," whispered Patty, in a quaking voice, "it's a mouse! an
_awful_ mouse!"

"Well, what are you going to do about it?" and Philip folded his arms,
and stood gazing at the pretty, frightened figure on the chair back.

His amused calm quieted Patty's nerves, which had really been put on
edge by her uncontrollable aversion to mice, and she returned,
cheerfully, "I suppose I shall have to stay up here the rest of my
life, unless you can attack and vanquish the fearsome brute."

"I shall not even try," said Philip, coolly, as he turned to throw
away his cigar, "because I like to see you sitting up there. However,
as there may be danger of another attack from the enemy, and as this
chair is almost entirely unoccupied, I shall camp out here at your
feet, and keep guard over your safety."

He seated himself on the arm of the same chair, while Patty sat on its
low, cushioned back. She drew her blue gown more closely about her,
and cast wary glances toward the corner, where the enemy was
presumably encamped.

"I think perhaps the danger is over," she said. "And if you'll go back
to the smoking-room, I will make a brave effort to get away unharmed."

"Watch me go," said Philip, showing no signs of moving. "However, if
it will set your mind at rest, I'll tell you that it _wasn't_ a mouse.
I don't believe they have such things in this well-regulated
household."

"But I _saw_ it!" declared Patty, positively.

"Saw a mouse?"

"Well, not _exactly_ that, but I saw that little tassel on the
portière wiggle, so it _must_ have been a mouse."

"Patty, you are the most ridiculous little goose on the face of this
earth! Your imagination is something marvellous! Now I'll inform you
that the reason that tassel moved, was because I threw a match at it.
I aimed for a waste-basket and hit the curtain, but I had no idea that
I should find myself so surprised at the result!"

Patty dimpled and giggled. "It _is_ surprising, isn't it?" she said,
feeling much more light-hearted since her fears were relieved
regarding the mouse. "And I'm not sure it's altogether correct, that
you and I should be down here alone after midnight."

"Fiddlestrings!" exclaimed Philip. "Don't be a silly! And besides, Jim
is about somewhere, and Adèle has been bobbing in and out."

"There was no one in the halls when I came down. And I think, Philip,
I'd better go back."

"What did you come down for, anyhow?"

For some unexplained reason, Patty suddenly felt unwilling to tell
what she had come for. Bill's letter was hidden in the folds of her
voluminous blue gown, and she couldn't quite bring herself to tell
Philip that she came down for that.

"Oh, I was wakeful," she said, "and I came down to get a--a book."

"H'm; and you thought you'd take a volume of the Britannica back with
you, to read yourself to sleep?"

Patty had to laugh at this, for in the corner where they were, the
shelves contained nothing but cyclopædias and dictionaries.

"But they're really very interesting reading," she declared.

"And this is the little girl who was so sleepy she had to run off to
bed as soon as the party was over! Patty, Patty, I'm afraid you're not
telling me the truth! Try again."

"Well, then,--well, then, I came down because,--because I was hungry!"

"Ah, that's better. Anybody has a right to be hungry, or even afraid
of mice,--but no one has a right to lug a whole cyclopædia upstairs
to read oneself to sleep."

"I wasn't going to take _all_ the volumes," said Patty, demurely, and
then she jumped down from her perch. "I'll just see which one I do
want," and pretending to read the labels, she deftly slipped her
letter back between the volumes, unseen by Van Reypen.

"You little goose, you," said Philip, laughing. "Stop your nonsense,
and let's go and forage in the dining-room for something to eat. We
might as well have some good food while we're about it."

"But I'm not exactly in proper dinner garb," said Patty, shaking out
her blue folds, and trailing her long robe behind her.

"Nonsense! I don't know much about millinery, but you never wore
anything more becoming than all that fiddly-faddly conglomeration of
blue silk and white fur."

"It isn't fur,--it's down."

"Well, I said you were a goose,--so it's most appropriate."

"But it's swansdown."

"Well, be a swan, then! Be anything you like. But come on, let's make
for the dining-room. We'll probably find Jim there, but don't make any
noise, or everybody upstairs will think we're burglars and shoot us."

Philip switched off the library light, and taking Patty's hand, led
her through the dim hall and into the dining-room. At the end of this
room was a wide bay window, which let in a perfect flood of moonlight.

"Oh," exclaimed Patty, "what a picture! From my room you couldn't tell
it was moonlight at all."

The picture from the window was a far sweep of hills, white with snow,
and glistening in the moonlight. In the foreground, evergreen trees,
laden with snow, stood about like sentinels,--and a big, yellow
three-quarter moon was nearing the western horizon.

"Isn't it wonderful, Philip?" whispered Patty, almost awed at the
sight.

"Yes, dear," he said, still holding her hand in both his own. "Patty,
you have a wonderful appreciation of the beautiful."

"Nobody could help loving such a sight as that."

"And nobody could help loving such a girl as you!" exclaimed Philip,
drawing her into his arms. "Patty, darling, you know I love you!
Patty, _do_ care for me a _little_ bit, won't you?"

"Don't, Philip," and Patty drew gently away from him. "_Please_ don't
talk to me like that! Oh, I oughtn't to be here! Let me go, Philip,--I
_know_ this isn't right."

"It _is_ right, Patty, darling; because I love you, and I want you for
all my own. Say you love me, and that will make _everything_ all
right!"

"But I don't, Philip." And Patty's voice carried a hint of tears.

"But you will, dear; you _must_, because I love you _so_. Patty, I
have always loved you, I think, since I first saw you on the stairs at
Aunty Van's that evening. Do you remember?"

"Yes, I remember; but please, Philip, let me go now, and _don't_ talk
to me this way. I don't _want_ you to!"

"You're frightened, Patty, that's all; and perhaps I ought not to have
spoken just now; but you looked so sweet, in the moonlight, with that
wonderful hair of yours curling about your shoulders, that I just
couldn't help it."

"I'll forgive you, Philip, if you'll forget this whole occurrence."

"Forget it? Why, Patty, what do you mean? I never forget it for a
single moment! I was sitting there to-night, dreaming of _you_. I
wasn't asleep, you know, I was just thinking about you, and wondering
how soon I might tell you my thoughts. You're so young, dear,--I'm
half a dozen years older than you are,--but I want you, my little
Patty. Mayn't I hope?"

"You're quite right, Philip. I _am_ too young to think of such things.
So cut it out for a couple of years, and then I'll see about it!"

"Patty, you rogue, how _can_ you speak like that? Don't you love me a
least little bit?"

"Not a teenty weenty speck! And if you don't give me something to eat,
I won't even _like_ you."

"Well, here's a bargain, then,--if I find something nice for you to
eat, will you like me a whole lot?"

"I do like you a whole lot, anyway; but I don't love you and I'm not
going to love _anybody_, _ever_! I do think being grown-up is a
regular nuisance, and I wish I was a little girl again, with my hair
down my back!"

"Incidentally, your hair _is_ down your back."

"Well, I don't care," and Patty shook her curly mane. "I wear it that
way in tableaux and things, so what's the difference?"

"There _isn't_ any difference. We'll pretend you're a tableau."

"All right, I'll be Patience on a Monument, waiting for some supper."

"That was Little Tommy Tucker."

"No; _he_ sang for his supper. I'm not going to sing."

"For Heaven's sake, _don't_! Your top notes would bring the whole
crowd down here! Patty, if you'll promise to love me _some time_, I'll
stop teasing you _now_."

"Oh, Philip, I'd do 'most anything to have you stop teasing me now!
But how _can_ I tell who I'm going to love when I get old enough to
love anybody?"

"Well, you don't love anybody yet, do you?"

"I do _not_!" and Patty shook her head with great emphasis.

"Then I have a fair show, anyway." And Philip drew the curtain that
shut out the moonlight, and switched on the electric light.

"Exit Romance!" he said, "and enter Comedy! Now, Patty, you're my
little playmate; we're just two kiddies in the pantry, stealing
jam,--that is, if we can find any jam."

"The pantry's the place," said Patty; "there's nothing in the
sideboard but biscuit and raisins."

"They don't sound very good to me. To the pantry!"

Into the pantries they went, and there, in cupboards and iceboxes,
found all sorts of good things.

Cold turkey, game pâté, jellies, custards, cakes, and all varieties
of food.

"This is ever so much more fun than moonlight," said Patty, as she
perched herself on a table, there being no chair, and held a partridge
wing in one hand and a macaroon in the other. "Could you find me a
glass of milk, Philip?"

"Yes, indeed; anything you want, my Princess."

"I thought you said Jim was about," Patty remarked.

"He was," returned Philip, calmly. "I saw him go upstairs as we came
in the dining-room."

"Did he see us?"

"Sure! He grinned at me and I grinned at him. I didn't invite him to
come with us,--so being a polite gentleman, he didn't come. He doesn't
mind our eating up his food. He's awful hospitable, Jim is."

"Well, I've had enough of his food, and now I'm going back to my downy
couch. If I don't see you to-morrow before you leave,--good-bye,
Philip."

"That's a nice, casual way to say good-bye to a man who has just
proposed to you!"

"Good gracious! _Was_ that a proposal?"

"Well, rather! What did you think it was? A sermon, or just a bit of
oratory?"

"Do you know, Philip, truly I didn't realise it at the time," and
Patty's smile was very provoking, as she looked up into his face.

"Would your answer have been different if you had?" he asked, eagerly.

"Oh, no, not that! But I just want you to understand that I don't
consider it a real proposal," and Patty laughed and ran away, leaving
Philip to "clear up" the pantry.

She stopped a moment in the library, long enough to get her blue
letter, and then scuttled up the stairs and into her own room.



CHAPTER XV

A CHRISTMAS CARD


Once safely behind her locked door, Patty tore open her blue envelope.
It was only a card,--but not an ordinary printed Christmas card.

In the upper corner was a spray of apple blossoms, exquisitely
painted; and on the card were some verses, written in a hand that was
small and fine, but unmistakably the same as the address on the
outside of the envelope.

With a little sigh of pleasure, Patty cuddled up in her arm-chair to
read the Christmas message.

But it proved to be not very Christmassy, after all; for this is what
she read:

                         "MY LADY OF DELIGHT

    "My Lady of Delight's a dainty, winsome thing;
    She's Queen of Summertime, and Princess of the Spring.
    Her lovely, smiling lips are roses set to rhyme,
    She has a merry, lilting laugh, like Bluebells all a-chime.
    The radiance of her smile, the sunshine in her eyes,
    Is like the Dawn of breaking Day upon the summer skies.

    "With roguish glances bright, all on a Summer Day,
    My Lady of Delight she stole my heart away;
    And though I humbly beg and plead with her, alack!
    My Lady of Delight, she will not give it back.
    I seem to see her now, with tangled golden curl,
    With dancing eyes, and smiling lips,--My Apple Blossom Girl!

    "Oh, Lady of Delight, I pray you, smile on me;
    Oh, Lady of Delight, your Knight I fain would be;
    Oh, Lady of Delight, you set my heart aglow.
                I only know
                I love you so,
            Dear Lady of Delight!"

Patty read the verses over twice, with shining eyes.

"I wonder if he wrote them himself," she mused. "I don't believe he
did; he must have copied them. He knows an awful lot of pretty poetry
like that. And yet it doesn't sound like a real poet's poetry, either.
And he used to call me Apple Blossom,--such a pretty name. Philip
would never think of such a thing as that. I wonder if I like Little
Billee better than I do Philip. I wonder if he likes me better. But of
course he can't, or he would have written to me in all this time. I
haven't seen him since August, and he never wrote a word, except the
stiffest kind of a line with those flowers he sent me. I thought he'd
forgotten all about me! But I can't think so now,--unless he just came
across this poem, and it recalled me to his mind. Well, I came awfully
near not getting it! I don't see how Daisy _could_ have been so mean;
I don't like that kind of a joke a bit. But of course she thought it
was just a printed card, like hers and Mona's. Well, she'll never know
it _isn't_,--that's one thing sure!"

And then Patty tucked her card of verses under her pillow and went to
sleep.

The next morning, as Patty had prophesied, she slept late. Daisy
peeped into her room two or three times before she finally found
Patty's blue eyes open.

"At last!" she said, sitting down on the edge of the bed. "I thought
you'd never wake up! Patty, what do you think? I've been down in the
library, and I can't find that card! I'm awfully sorry, truly I am;
I'll give you mine if you want it."

"Thank you, Daisy," and Patty smiled at the recollection of Mona's
similar offer. "Bill's cards seem to be a drug in the market! But you
may keep yours, and also set your mind at rest about mine; for I
sneaked downstairs last night in the dark, and fished it out for
myself."

"You did! Oh, Patty, weren't you frightened to prowl around like that,
late at night?"

Patty shook with laughter. "I _was_ frightened," she said, "when I
thought I saw a mouse,--but it wasn't a mouse, after all."

"Oh, I wouldn't be afraid of a mouse! But you might have met a,--a
burglar or something?"

"No," and Patty still grinned. "I didn't meet any _burglar_. But I got
the card, Daisy, so that's all right."

"Was it like mine? Let me see it."

"It wasn't exactly like yours, and I won't let you see it. You kept it
away from me, and now it's my turn to keep it away from you. And by
the way, Daisy, that was a mean thing to do, and I don't want you to
do anything like that to me again!" Patty's sweet face showed an
unusually stern expression, and her blue eyes looked straight into
Daisy's as she spoke.

"I won't, Patty; truly, I won't. I'm awfully sorry, but I did it on a
sudden impulse."

"I know it; and, Daisy, I want you to try not to give way to those
'sudden impulses' when they're mean ones. You have enough good,
generous impulses to keep you busy. Now, you mustn't mind if your Aunt
Patty lectures you a little bit, because as the teachers always say,
'it's for your own good.' And if you'll please take a chair, instead
of sitting all over my feet, I'd like to have my breakfast; for I hear
my pretty little Swedish Hedwig bringing it in."

The smiling maid appeared with Patty's breakfast tray, followed by
Mona and Adèle.

"Company already!" exclaimed Patty, sitting up in bed. "Hedwig, quick,
my breakfast cap,--the pink one,--and the nightingale to match."

The maid threw the silken wrap around Patty's shoulders, and tucked
her hair into the lace-frilled cap, which was of a Dutch shape, and
made Patty look like the pictures of Holland's pretty queen.

"You don't seem hungry," said Mona, as Patty toyed with her chocolate.
"Now, I ate a most astonishing breakfast, because I forgot to eat my
supper last night."

"Well, you see," returned Patty, dropping her lashes to hide her
twinkling eyes, "I didn't forget to eat my supper."

The recollection of that supper in the pantry was too much for her,
and she burst into laughter.

"What _is_ the matter with you, Patty?" said Adèle. "You're acting
like a harmless lunatic! However, I'm sent to tell you to hop up and
get dressed, for one of your admirers below stairs wants you to go for
a sleighride with him."

"Jim?" asked Patty, looking up with a smile.

"No; Mr. Van Reypen."

"Oh, good gracious! I don't care about going riding with Philip; I can
see _him_ in New York. I hoped it was Hal,--that's why I said Jim."

"Patty," said her hostess, "you're a born coquette, and always will
be! But your wiles are wasted on me. Save them for your suitors. But,
truly, Mr. Van Reypen is going on an errand for me, and he said that
he wanted to show you _some_ little attention while he was here, and
he guessed he'd let you go along with him in the cutter."

"Oh, a cutter ride," and Patty began to scramble out of bed. "That
sounds rather good fun. But I'd rather go with Hal."

"Well, you're candid, at any rate," said Daisy. "But as it happens,
Hal and I are going to practise some music this morning."

"Oh, in that case, I've nothing more to say." And Patty smiled
good-naturedly at Daisy. "And I suppose Mona and Roger are going
somewhere to play by themselves."

"Nothing of the sort," said Mona. "Roger's going back to the city this
morning, and I'm going to write letters."

"But I thought Philip was going back to the city," said Patty, looking
at Adèle.

"He's going on the afternoon train. Go on and get dressed, Patty, and
don't waste any more time."

"All right," and Patty made an expeditious toilette and in little more
than half an hour went downstairs equipped for her ride.

She was enveloped from head to foot in a raccoon fur coat, with a
jaunty hat of the same, trimmed only with a bright quill feather.

"Why do we go?" she demanded, presenting herself before Philip, who
was waiting in the hall.

"To get butter and eggs," he returned, gravely. "The Kenerley larder
is entirely empty of those two very necessary ingredients."

"But why do _we_ go for them? Are there no servants to send?"

"Little girls shouldn't ask questions," and without further ceremony
Philip tucked her into the waiting sleigh, sprang in beside her, and
took up the lines.

"My, this is great!" exclaimed Patty, as the pair of fine horses went
dashing down the drive, and the clear, keen winter air blew against
her face.

"Yes; I thought the sleighride would brace you up. And, really, there
seemed to be nobody to send on this errand, so I said we'd go."

"Is it far?"

"No; only about five miles; we'll be back for luncheon. How did you
sleep, after your late supper?"

"All right," and Patty smiled back into Philip's face. "But I wasn't
hungry for my breakfast."

"I should say not! You ate enough last night for two little girls like
you!"

"There aren't two little girls like me!" said Patty, with twinkling
eyes, and Philip exclaimed: "Indeed, there aren't! I say, Patty, my
Princess Patty, _do_ be engaged to me, won't you?"

"No, you ridiculous boy, I won't! And if you say another word on the
subject, I'll be real downright mad at you!"

"Very well, I won't. Now, see here, Princess, do you mean to go to
this masquerade ball with me? For, if not, I'm not coming back here
for New Year's."

"Why, of course, I'm going with you. Who else?"

"I don't know, I'm sure. But there would be plenty glad to take you."

"Pooh! I know that. But I want to go with you. What shall we wear?"

"I was thinking of some foolish thing, like Little Bo-Peep, you know."

"Oh, I'd love to be that! A shepherdess costume, and a crook with
ribbons on. But I want you to wear a satin coat and knee-breeches."

"Well, I'll be Old King Cole."

"No, I don't like that. I'll tell you! You be Little Boy Blue."

"The Gainsborough picture?"

"No, that won't do either. Oh, you be Bobby Shafto! He wears 'silver
buckles on his knee,' don't you know?"

"Yes, I _do_ know! And what's the next line?"

"Never mind," said Patty, turning pink. "I want you to wear a real
Bobby Shafto costume. So you will, won't you?"

"Of course, if my Princess commands. I'll have it made at once. Can I
help about yours?"

"Well, you might go to see Nan, and tell her what I want, and she'll
get it and send it up here. A shepherdess rig is easy enough, and
there's nothing prettier."

"It will be lovely. I say, which way do we turn here?"

"To go to Hatton's Corners? Oh, to the right."

"I think it's the left."

"No, it isn't. I remember distinctly, Jim said, be sure to take the
right road."

"He meant right, not wrong."

"Nonsense! he didn't. He meant right, not left. Turn right, Philip."

They turned right, into a wide, straight road. The sleighing was fine,
though not yet sufficiently packed. But, with the light cutter, and
two good horses, they spun along in great shape.

"There's something about sleighing that's different from anything
else," remarked Patty, with the air of one expounding a great truth.

"It's the exhilaration. Spinning along like this, with the snow
crunching under us, beats motoring, I think."

"Yes; for an occasional ride. But for all the year round, motoring is
best."

"That's so. Sleighing isn't much fun in July or August."

"Huh! don't be silly. But, I say, Philip, where are we? Jim said we'd
pass Little Falls, and then we must follow the trolley line all the
way to the butter and egg house. I don't see any trolley."

"Neither do I, yet. But we'll soon strike it. Ah, here we are!"

"No; this is a railroad,--a steam railroad, I mean. Philip, we're off
the road."

"I think we are. I'm sorry I insisted on turning to the right at that
corner."

"You _didn't_ insist. _I_ did! But I thought it was right."

"It _is_ right, dear. Anything is right, where you are."

"You'd better stop talking foolishness, and find the right road."

"Oh, if you call that _foolishness_!"

"Well, I do! I'd rather you'd get to the egg house and back before it
begins to storm. And by the looks of the sky, I'm sure it _is_ going
to storm."

"Oh, no! nothing like that. But I say! Princess! it's after one
o'clock! Now, who would have thought it? And they expect us back to
luncheon!"

"After one! Oh, Philip, it _can't_ be!"

"Yes, it is! Well, Patty Pink, the best thing to do, _I_ think, is to
go to that house I see in the dim distance, and ask our way. The last
two or three signposts have shown names _I_ never heard of."

"I either," said Patty, in a meek voice. "I noticed them, but I didn't
say anything, because it's my fault we went astray."

"Well, never mind. We're in for a lark, that's all. 'Afar in the
desert I love to ride'--what comes next, Patty?"

"'With the silent Bushboy alone by my side----'"

"Yes, that's it; but thank goodness, you're not silent----"

"Nor a Bushboy, either. But I don't like this, Philip. We're----"

"We're far frae our hame, and all that. But don't you worry, my
Princess. You're with me, and so you're not lost. You know, it's
better to be loved than lost."

"Now, Philip, stop talking about love! It's bad enough to be
lost,--and we _are_ lost,--without having somebody harping about love
all the time."

"Well, this isn't much of a time or place, is it? So, suppose we invade
this peaceful dwelling, and inquire our latitude and longitude."

They drove up a winding road to a large, old-fashioned house, and
Philip jumped out at the front door.

His summons on the big, brass knocker was answered by a prim little
lady, with grey hair and bright, dark eyes.

"Pardon me, madame," said Philip, in his best manner. "We have lost
our way. Will you tell me how to reach Hatton's Corners?"

"Hatton's Corners! Why, that's a good ten miles from here. Where'd you
come from?"

"From Fern Falls."

"Then you took the wrong road at the Big Tree Fork. You'd oughter 'a'
gone to the left."

"H'm; you may be right. But must we go back there, or is there a
shorter cut?"

"No; there ain't no shorter cut. But your young lady looks cold. Won't
you two come in and take a bite o' dinner, and get warm before you go
on?"

"Why, this is true hospitality, madame. What do you say, Patty?"

Patty looked uncertain. "I don't know what to say," she replied,
hesitatingly. "I _am_ cold; but I'm afraid it would delay us so long
that Adèle will worry about us. I think we'd better jog along."

But then another old lady appeared. She was rounder, rosier, plumper,
and jollier than the first, and she cried out, heartily: "Jog along?
Well, I reckon not! I jest waited to slip into my shoes,--my feet's
awful tender,--and then I come right out here to see what's goin' on.
Now, you two young folks come right in, and set a spell. 'Tain't often
we get a chance to have comp'ny,--and on chicken pie day, too!"

"Whew, chicken pie!" exclaimed Philip. "How about it, Patty?"

"Have you a telephone?" asked Patty, with a sudden inspiration.

"Yes, miss. Now you jest come along. 'Kiah, the hired man, he'll look
after your horses, and I'm free to confess they need a rest and a
feed, even if you don't."

"That's so," said Philip. "We must have come twelve or fifteen miles."

"It's all o' that from Fern Falls. My, I'm right down glad to look
after you two. You do seem to need it."

The speaker's twinkling dark eyes looked at her two visitors with such
comprehension that Patty blushed and Philip smiled.

"We're from Mr. Kenerley's house," he explained,--"guests there, you
know. And we started for Hatton's Corners to get some butter and
eggs--and somehow, we took the wrong turn----"

"It was all my fault," confessed Patty. "I insisted on coming this
way, though Mr. Van Reypen thought the other was right."

"Well, well, never mind! It'll jest be a nice, smart trip back after
dinner. I'm Mrs. Fay, and this is my sister, Miss Wilhelmina Winthrop.
She's got a longer name than I have, but I've got a longer head."

They were ushered into the old-fashioned sitting-room, with its
Brussels carpet showing huge baskets of flowers; its heterogeneous
furniture, some chairs haircloth and black walnut, and others
cane-seated, with rep cushions tied on; marble tables, of course; and
an old sofa, with well-worn pillows and rugs.

But the place had a hospitable air, and the two hostesses were fairly
beaming with delight at this opportunity for entertainment. Miss
Winthrop carried Patty off to her own bedroom.

"You're jest all tuckered out, I can see," she said, hovering around
her like a clucking hen; "but a wash-up and a good dish o' chicken pie
will put you all to rights again."

"But I must telephone before we eat dinner," said Patty.

"So you shall,--so you shall. Now, don't you worry the leastest mite
about anything."

"How kind you are!" exclaimed Patty, smiling on the happy little old
lady. "I suppose you belong to the real old New England Winthrops?"

"Yes, and we're mighty proud of our name. I was so much so that I
never would change it,"--and she chuckled. "Sister, though, she
thought Fay was prettier."

"Fay _is_ pretty," said Patty, cordially, "and now, if I may, I'll
telephone, for I know our people will be wondering where we are."

"All right, Miss Fairfield; come right along." But in returning to the
sitting-room, Patty found Philip was already at the telephone.

"Yep," he was saying, "lost our way; took wrong turning at Big Tree
Fork. Brought up, somehow, at Mrs. Fay's. Accepted invitation to
dinner,--chicken pie!--Start back immediately after the E in Pie! See?
Expect us when we get there. Will accumulate a butter and a egg or
two, on our way home. Love to all. Philip." He concluded his harangue,
and turned to Patty.

"All serene on the Potomac, Patty Pink! I told them all it was
necessary for them to know; and if they desire further information,
they can call us up. They know where we are. Me for the chicken pie!"



CHAPTER XVI

STORMBOUND


The two old ladies were not of the quaint type, nor was their home
picturesque. The place and the people were merely old-fashioned, and
they were almost primitive in their ways. They were kind-hearted and
hospitable, but they were of the rugged New England class that has
lost the charm of its Colonial ancestry.

The dinner was wholesome and plentiful, but with no variety, and
served in the plainest fashion. The chicken pie was delicious, but it
had no accompaniments except home-made hot biscuit and coffee with
thick, rich, country cream.

"I always say," said Miss Winthrop, as she settled herself at the
table, "that chicken pie is a whole meal in itself, without any
bothersome side-dishes. I say it's meat and drink both; but sister
says she just can't enjoy it 'thout she has a cup of coffee alongside
of it. Well, I've no objections to the coffee, I'm sure, but I'm free
to admit it does seem superfluous. Still, with company so, it ain't so
much out of place."

"I'm sorry if we've made you any extra trouble," said Patty, giving
Miss Winthrop one of her best smiles; "but _I'm_ free to confess that
this is the most wonderful coffee that I've ever tasted, and I think
it goes specially well with the pie. And as for these light biscuit,
they're just puffs of lusciousness! Aren't they, Philip?"

"They are, indeed! All you say is true, but both coffee and biscuit
pale beside the glory of this chicken pie! There never _was_ such
another!"

Mrs. Fay beamed with delight at these generous compliments, and said,
complacently, "Yes, they ain't many can make chicken pie like mine, if
I do say it. My, ain't it lucky you young people happened along,
to-day of all days! And land knows, I don't want you to go away right
off. I'd like you to set a spell after dinner. But I feel it my
bounden duty to tell you that 'Kiah says there's a storm a-brewin'.
But I don't think you need start off before, say, three o'clock,
anyway."

"Three o'clock will do nicely," returned Philip, gaily. "That will
give us time to stop at Hatton's Corners and get home before dark.
Personally, I'm not in a bit of a hurry."

"No?" And Mrs. Fay looked quizzically at her guests. "I just reckon,
young man, that you ain't one mite sorry that you lost your way and
had this little outing with your young lady?"

"Indeed I'm not sorry, Mrs. Fay; and beside our little outing, we're
having a pleasant visit with you, and we're enjoying every minute of
it."

"Indeed we are," said Patty, glancing out of the window as she spoke.
"But it's beginning to snow already, and I don't think we'd better
wait until three o'clock."

"Land's sake!" and Miss Winthrop turned to look out of the window
behind her. "So it is snowing! And when it begins that way, with fine
flakes, slanting crossways, it means business! I dunno as you can
hardly dare venture on a twelve-mile ride in the face of this. 'Pears
to me it's going to be a blizzard."

"Nonsense, Mina; you do always look on the dark side," expostulated
her sister. "Now _I_ think 'tain't nothing but a flurry, and by then
dinner is over, it'll be bright sunshine again. Now, have your plates
filled up, friends, and try and make out a meal."

Mrs. Fay fairly beamed with hospitality as she urged more viands upon
her guests. The table appointments were of the plainest, being thick
white china and coarse table napery, with plated silverware. Patty had
expected thin little old teaspoons of hall-marked silver, and old blue
or perhaps copper-lustre teacups, but this household was not of that
sort. Everything seemed to date from the early seventies, and Patty
wondered why there were no old Winthrop heirlooms in the family.

She brought the conversation round to antiques, and Mrs. Fay remarked,
decidedly: "I just can't bear old-fashioned things. I come into quite
a lot of old mahogany furniture and pewter and dishes and things when
my grandfather died. But when I got married, I had an auction and sold
everything. Then I took the money and bought a whole new outfit. I
believe in going right along with the times. 'Course those old things
were all right for grandfather, but when I married, I'm free to
confess, I wanted things that were in style then. So I bought a real
tasty outfit, and I've kept it careful, and it's pretty near as good
as new now."

She looked around with pride at her dining-room furnishings, which
seemed to Patty about the worst she had ever seen.

But she smiled at her hostess, and said, cordially: "I _do_ think it's
nice to have just what you want; and I think we do get attached to our
own things. Have you lived here long?"

"Land, yes! Nearly all my life. Mr. Fay, he's been dead twenty-five
years; so sister and me we live here together, as contented as you
please. We have a telephone and a rural delivery, so you see it's just
the same as if we were right in town. Now, if you really won't eat any
more pie, let's go into the sittin'-room a spell."

From the sitting-room windows the view of the storm seemed more
serious. The sky was black, the wind was blowing a gale, and the
snow-flurry had grown thicker. In fact, it was a hard snowstorm, and
Miss Winthrop's fear of a blizzard did not seem entirely unfounded.

The young people took it lightly, however. "There's no use worrying,"
said Patty. "We ought to be thankful, Philip, that we're under
shelter, and with such kind friends. You'll keep us till the storm is
over, won't you, Mrs. Fay?"

"Yes, and glad to. You just can't think of starting now, so you might
as well settle down and make the best of it. Want to telephone to your
people again?"

"We will after a while; but there's no use calling them up now. Let's
wait and see whether the storm grows worse or better. Why, if it's a
blizzard, we may have to stay here all night!"

"Don't let that worry you none," and Mrs. Fay swung back and forth
complacently in her plush patent-rocker. "We got two spare bedrooms,
and I'll just be tickled to death to put you up over night. You're
just like a streak of sunshine in the house, Miss Fairfield, and I'm
glad to have you as long as you'll stay."

"I wish you'd call me a streak of sunshine," said Philip. "I'd love to
be called that."

"Well, you're bright enough," and Mrs. Fay looked at him, serenely.
"But you're a different kind of a streak."

"A streak of lightning, I guess, if need be," said Miss Winthrop,
nodding her head at Philip, as if she appreciated his capabilities.

"I'm quick at some things," said Philip, modestly. "But, jiminy
crickets! I don't believe we're going to be very quick getting away
from here! Just look at the storm, _now_!"

The fury of the elements had increased. The wind was a raging northern
blast, and the snow was already piled in drifts. It was, in fact, a
blizzard in a small way, and was rapidly growing.

"But never mind the weather, so long as we're together," sang Patty
with a little trill, as she danced about the room. Then she seated
herself at the old, square piano, and began to sing snatches of gay
songs.

"My land! How pretty you do sing," said Miss Winthrop, who was leaning
on the end of the piano, listening delightedly. "Oh, sing more, won't
you? I don't know when I've had such a treat."

So Patty sang several of her prettiest songs, and the two old ladies
were enchanted. Moreover, Eliza, the maid-of-all-work, and 'Kiah, the
hired man, appeared in the doorway of the sitting-room and listened
too.

"Come on, Philip; let's give them a duet," and Patty broke into some
rollicking college songs, in which Philip joined.

Glad to be able to please their kind entertainers, they kept on
singing for an hour or more.

"Well, that was great!" exclaimed Mrs. Fay, as Patty rose at last from
the piano stool. "I used to sing some, and he used to sing bass. My,
but we had nice times singing together there at that same piano. You
two just made me think of it all over again. I think it's awful nice
for two to sing together."

"Yes, we're awfully fond of singing together," said Philip, with a
glance at Patty, half mischievous, half tender, whereat Patty blushed.

"You needn't tell me," said Mrs. Fay, nodding her head. "I see just
how it is with you two. You can't hide it, you know, so you needn't to
try."

"Oh, I don't want to hide anything, I'm sure," said Philip. But Patty
said, "Don't be foolish, Philip; there's nothing to hide! You're
mistaken, Mrs. Fay, if you think we're anything more than friends."

"Oh, land, child, I know what that means! Maybe you ain't ready to say
yes yet, but you will soon. Well, it ain't none of my business, but
I'm free to confess you are as proper-lookin' a young couple as I'd
want to meet; and mighty well suited to each other."

"That's what I think," began Philip, but Patty turned the subject and
went back to the weather, which was always a safe ground for
conversation, if not safe to go out into.

"Well," she said, going to the window for the fourteenth time; "it's
perfectly hopeless to think of starting. And it's after four now, and
it's blowing great guns and snowing like all possessed! Mrs. Fay,
we'll simply have to accept your hospitality for the night. Now I
think I'll telephone Adèle that we're stormbound."

But though Patty called and called, she could get no answer from the
telephone Central.

"Guess the wires must be down," said Miss Winthrop. "They broke down
last winter with a snow that came sudden, just like this, and 'twas a
week before we got it fixed."

"Let me try," and Philip took the receiver from Patty's hand. But it
made no difference who tried, they could get no answer of any kind.

"Oh, well," said Philip, as he hung up the receiver again, "it doesn't
matter much. They know we're safe, and they know where we are, and
they know we couldn't start out in a storm like this."

"Maybe they'll come for us with a motor," suggested Patty.

"They might if we were nearer. But a motor would get stalled before it
could get over here and back again in these drifts. It's an awful
storm, Patty, and the sooner you make up your mind that we can't go
home to-night, the better for all concerned."

"My mind's made up, then," and Patty danced about the room. "I don't
mind a bit! I think it's a lark. Do you have feather beds, Mrs.
Fay?--I mean the kind you climb up to with step-ladders."

"Land no, child! We ain't old-fashioned folks, you know. We have
springs and mattresses just like you do at home. Well, I'm sorry if
your folks are worried, but I'm glad to have you young people stay the
night. Maybe this evening, you'll sing for us some more."

"We will," said Philip. "We'll sing everything we know, and then make
up some."

Once having made up her mind to the inevitable, Patty ceased bothering
about it, and proceeded to enjoy herself and to entertain everybody
else. She chatted pleasantly with the old lady, she coquetted with
Philip, and finally wandered out into the kitchen to make friends with
Eliza.

"Let me help you get supper," she said, for, to tell the truth, the
novelty of the situation had passed, and Patty began to feel a little
bored.

"Supper ain't nothin' to get, miss," returned Eliza, a rawboned,
countrified girl who was shy in the presence of this city lady.

"Well, let me help you, anyway. Mayn't I set the table?"

"I'm afraid you wouldn't know where the things was. Here, take this
dish and go down cellar for the butter, if so be's you have to do
somethin'. It's in a kag, underneath the swing-shelf."

"Swing-shelf?" said Patty, interested--"what is a swing-shelf?"

"Why, a shelf hanging from the ceiling, to keep things on."

"But why does it hang from the ceiling? I never heard of such a
thing."

"Why, so the rats or mice can't get at the things."

"Rats or mice!" and Patty gave a wild scream. "Here, take your plate,
Eliza. I wouldn't go down there for a million billion dollars!"

Patty ran back to the sitting-room. "Oh, Philip," she cried, "they
have rats and mice! Can't we go home? I don't mind the storm!"

"There, there, Patty," said Philip, meeting her half-way across the
room, and taking her hand in his. "Don't be silly!"

"I'm _not_ silly! But I _can't_ stay where they keep rats and mice!
Why, Philip, they _expect_ them. They build high shelves on purpose
for them."

"You must excuse this little girl, Mrs. Fay," said Philip. "She's
really sensible in most ways, but she's an absolute idiot about mice,
and she can't help it. Why, the other night----"

Patty drew her hand away from Philip's clasp, and put it over his
mouth. "Stop!" she said, blushing furiously. "Don't you say another
word! I'm _not_ afraid of mice, Mrs. Fay."

"There, there, child; I know you are, and I don't blame you a mite. I
am, too, or leastways, I used to be. I've kinder got over it of late
years. But I know just how you feel. Now, let me tell you; _honest_,
never a mouse dares show the tip of his nose outside the cellar! If
you don't go down there, you're as safe as you would be up in a
balloon. And I don't count none the less on you for acting skittish
about 'em."

"I don't mind it, either," said Philip, who was still holding Patty's
hand by way of reassurance. "I shouldn't mind if you acted skittisher
yet."

But Patty drew her hand away, declaring that Mrs. Fay had quieted her
fears entirely, and that if Eliza would promise to keep the cellar
door shut, she wouldn't give another thought to the dreaded animals.

After supper, the four played a game of old-fashioned whist, which
delighted the two old ladies, though it seemed strange to Patty and
Philip, who were both good bridge players. Then there was more music,
and at ten o'clock Miss Winthrop informed them that it was bedtime.

With considerable pride she took Patty up to the best spare room.

"Now, I hope you'll be comfortable," she said, "and I'm sure you will
be. Here's my best night-gown for you, and a dressing-gown and
slippers. I don't need 'em,--I can get along. And here's a brush and
comb. And now, that's everything you want, isn't it?"

Patty was touched at the kindliness of the old lady, and though
inwardly amused at the meagerness of her night appointments, she said,
gratefully, "You're so kind to me, Miss Winthrop. Truly, I do
appreciate it."

"You sweet little thing," returned the old lady. "Now let me unhook
you,--I should admire to do so."

So Miss Winthrop assisted Patty to undress, and finally, after minute
directions about the turning down and blowing out of the kerosene
lamp, she went away.

When Patty surveyed herself in the mirror, she almost laughed aloud.
The night-dress was of thick, unbleached muslin, made with tight bands
to button around the neck and wrists. These bands were edged with a
row of narrow tatting; and it was this trimming, Patty felt sure, that
differentiated Miss Winthrop's best night-gown from her others. Then
Patty tried on the dressing-gown, which was of dark grey flannel.
This, too, was severely plain, though voluminous in shape; and the
slippers were of black felt, and quite large enough for Patty to put
both feet in one. She arrayed herself in these things and gave way to
silent laughter as she pirouetted across the room. But her amusement
at the unattractive garments in no way lessened her real appreciation
of the gentle kindliness and hospitality that had been accorded to
her.

At last she tucked herself into bed, and rolling over on the nubbly
mattress and creaky springs, she almost wished that it had been a
feather bed. But she was soon asleep, and thought no more about
anything until morning.

Breakfast was at half-past seven, and after that, the long morning
dragged. The fun and novelty had worn off, and Patty was anxious to
get back to Fern Falls. She was bright and entertaining as ever, but
the spontaneous enthusiasm of the day before had vanished.

But it was impossible to start that morning, Philip said. The roads
were piled high with drifts, and almost impassable.

"But why can't we break the roads?" asked Patty. "Somebody has to do
it, and I'm sure Jim's horses are as good as anybody's."

"Little girls mustn't advise on matters which they know nothing
about," said Philip, unable to resist the temptation to tease her.

Patty pouted a little, and then, with a sudden resolution, was her own
sunny self again. "All right, Philip," she said, smiling at him. "I
know you'll start as soon as it's possible. When will that be?"

"Perhaps we can go this afternoon, dear; right after dinner, maybe.
The man thinks the roads will be broken by that time."

The storm had ceased, and it was cloudy most of the morning, but about
noon the sun came out, and by two o'clock they prepared to start.

The two kind old ladies were sorry to see them go, and begged them to
come again some time to visit them.

Patty said good-bye with expressions of real and honestly meant
gratitude, for surely Mrs. Fay and her sister had been kindness itself
to their young guests.

"But goodness, gracious, Philip," Patty exclaimed, as they went flying
down the road, "if I had had to stay there another night, I should
have died!"

"Why, Patty, it wasn't so bad. Of course, they are primitive and
old-fashioned people; but they are true ladies, even if not very
highly educated. And their hospitality was simply unlimited."

"Yes, I know all that," said Patty, impatiently; "but I was bored to
death."

"Well, you didn't show it; you were sweet as a peach to those two
people, and they'll always love you for it."

"Oh, of course I wouldn't be impolite; but I'm glad we're started for
home."

"Well, I'm not. Patty, I just enjoyed every minute,--because I was
there with you. Dear, you don't _know_ what it meant to me."

"Now, Philip," and Patty turned to flash a twinkling smile at him, "we
have a twelve-mile drive ahead of us, besides gathering the eggs. Now,
if you're going to say things like that to me all that twelve miles,
I'm going to jump right out into this snowbank and stay there till
somebody comes along and picks me up."

"But, Patty, I _must_ say these things to you."

"Then, I _must_ jump."

"But wait a minute, dear; before you jump, won't you just tell me that
I may have a little hope that some day you'll promise to be my own
little Patty forever?"

"Philip, I _can't_ say anything like that, and I _wish_ you wouldn't
tease me. If those snowbanks didn't look so dreadfully cold----"

"But they _are_ cold. If you don't believe it, I will wait while you
try one. But, Patty, anyway, tell me this. If I stop teasing you now,
will you give me an answer when I come back at New Year's? You know, I
must take that five-thirty train this afternoon, and I shan't see you
again till next week. Will you give me an answer then?"

"'Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do!'" sang Patty, with a saucy
smile at him.

"No, I don't want Daisy's answer, I want yours. Now, you think it over
through the week, and when I come up next Tuesday, you be ready to
say, 'Yes, Philip, you may hope, and some day I'll make your hope come
true.'"

"That's an awful long speech to learn by heart," said Patty, musingly.

"But you needn't learn it word for word; just say something from your
own heart that means the same."

"Well," said Patty, "next Tuesday I'll look into my heart and see
what's there; and if there's anything for you, I'll tell you."

Philip was forced to be content with this, for Patty suddenly changed
the subject, and began to chatter merry nonsense that afforded no
opportunity for romance. The roads were only a little broken, and the
going was hard, because of occasional big drifts, but along some
wind-swept stretches they made fairly good time.

"But I say," said Philip; "we'll have to cut out the butter and egg
chapter! I simply _must_ get that five-thirty, and I can't do it if we
go around by Hatton's Corners."

"All right," returned Patty. "I'll put it up to Adèle that we just
couldn't do it; and I'll tell you what, Philip, we'll go right to the
station, and you take the train there without going to the Kenerleys'
at all. They'll send your things down to-morrow."

"That would be the safer way. But how will you get home from the
station?"

"Oh, I'll telephone from the station office, and they'll send Martin,
or somebody, after me."

"But you have to wait so long. Here's a better plan. Let's stop at the
Barclay Inn, and telephone from there. Then when we reach the station,
Martin or somebody will be there for you."

Patty agreed, and when they reached the Barclay Inn, a few miles from
Fern Falls, they went in to telephone.

"We're on our way home," said Patty, after she had succeeded in
getting a connection.

"Well, I should think it was time!" exclaimed Adèle. "You don't know
what you've missed! Where are you?"

"At Barclay Inn; and we're in an awful hurry. Philip is going to take
the five-thirty from the station, and you send somebody there to meet
me and drive the horses home, will you! And what did I miss? And
_you'll_ miss the butter and eggs, because we didn't get them."

"But where have you been? We tried all yesterday to get you on the
telephone, and all this morning, too."

"Yes, I know; the wires broke down. But everything's all right. We
stayed at Mrs. Fay's. I'll tell you all about it when I see you. Be
sure to have me met at the station. Good-bye."

Patty hung up the receiver and hurried back to Philip. "We'll have to
hustle to catch that train," he said, as he tucked her in the sleigh.
"Did you get Adèle?"

"Yes; she'll send some one to meet me. She says I missed something. Do
you suppose they had a party last night in all that blizzard?"

"Well, it's just as well for you to miss a party once in a while; you
have plenty of them. And I like the party I was at better than any I
ever went to."

The roads were much better where they were travelling now, and they
reached the station in time for Philip's train. But it was a close
connection, for the train was already in the station, and as Philip
swung aboard, he saw Martin and Hal Ferris coming in another sleigh.

"There they are!" he called to Patty. "It's all right, good-bye."

"Good-bye," she called back, and then the train pulled out.

"Well, you _did_ cut up a pretty trick!" exclaimed Hal Ferris, as he
came up to her. "Now, you jump in here with me, and I'll drive you
home, and let Martin look after your horses. They must be pretty well
done up. I would have brought a motor, but the sleighing's fine, and
the motoring isn't. Hop in."

Patty hopped in, and in a moment they were flying along toward home.

"What did I miss?" she asked. "Did you have a party last night?"

"Party! in that storm! Rather not."

"Well, what _did_ I miss?"

"What makes you think you missed anything?"

"Adèle told me so, over the telephone."

"Well, then, let Adèle tell you what it was. How could I possibly
know?"

"But what did you do last night?"

"Nothing much; sat around, sang a little, and talked,--and I guess
that's all."

"Who was there? Didn't Roger go home?"

"Yes; Roger went down on the morning train, just after you started on
your wild career."

"Well, who _was_ there? Chub, I know you're keeping something from me.
Now, tell me what it is!"

"Do you really want to know, Patty? Well, Bill Farnsworth was there."

"What!" and Patty nearly fell out of the sleigh in astonishment. "Bill
Farnsworth?"

"Yes; he came unexpectedly yesterday afternoon. Could only stay
twenty-four hours, and went back to-day on the two o'clock train."

Patty wondered to herself why she felt as if something awful had
happened. She couldn't realise that Bill had been there, and had gone
away, and she hadn't seen him! What a cruel coincidence that it should
have been just at the time when she was away. But her pride came to
her rescue. She had no intention of letting Hal Ferris or anybody else
know that she cared.

So she said, lightly: "Well, of all things! Didn't anybody expect
him?"

"No; he thought he'd surprise us. He was awfully cut up that you
weren't there."

"Oh, he was! Well, why didn't you send for me?"

"Send for you! And you miles away, and a blizzard blizzing like fury!
But we spent hours hanging over the telephone, trying to get word to
you."

"The wires were down," said Patty, thinking of the uninteresting
evening she had spent, when she might have been talking to Little
Billee.

"They sure were! We tried and tried, but we couldn't get a peep out of
you. Daisy said it was because you were so wrapped up in Philip that
you wouldn't answer the old telephone."

Patty's pretty face hardened a little as she thought how Daisy would
delight in making such a speech as that before Farnsworth.

"I say, Patty, are you cut up about this? Did you want to see Big
Bill, specially?"

"Oh, no, no," said Patty, smiling again. "I only thought it seemed
funny that he happened to come when I happened to be away."

"Yes, I know; but of course nobody could help it. He came East on a
flying business trip. Tried to get here for Christmas, but couldn't
make it. He waited over a day, just to skip up here and back; said he
wanted to see us all. But he had to take the two o'clock back to New
York to-day, and I believe he starts to-night for Arizona. He's a
great fellow, Bill is. You like him, don't you, Patty?"

"Yes, I like him," said Patty, simply.

"I've known him for years, you know. Giant Greatheart, we used to call
him. So big and good, you know. Always doing something for somebody,
and generous as he can be. Well, he's making good out in the mines. I
don't know exactly what he's doing, but he's in a fair way to be a
rich man. He's connected with some big company, and he's working with
all his might. And when you say that about Big Bill Farnsworth, it
means a good deal."



CHAPTER XVII

THE COUNTRY CLUB BALL


Before her mirror, Patty was putting the last touches to her Bo-Peep
costume, and it must be confessed she was viewing the effect with
admiration.

The gilt-framed glass gave back a lovely picture. The costume was one
of the prettiest Patty had ever worn, and was exceedingly becoming.
There was a short, quilted skirt of white satin and a panniered
overdress of gay, flowered silk, caught up with blue bows. A little
laced bodice and white chemisette completed the dress. Then there was
a broad-leafed shepherdess hat, trimmed with flowers, and under this
Patty's gold curls were bunched up on either side and tied with blue
ribbons. She wore high-heeled, buckled slippers, and carried a long,
white crook, trimmed with blossoms and fluttering ribbons.

She pranced and turned in front of the mirror, decidedly satisfied
with the whole effect. Then she caught up her basket of flowers, which
she carried because it added a pretty touch, and went downstairs.

It was a gay-looking party that waited for her in the hall. The two
Misses Crosby had been there to dinner, and also Mr. Hoyt and Mr.
Collins, and these, with the house party, were now all arrayed in
their fancy dress. As they had agreed on Christmas Day, they were all
in pairs, and as of course there could be no secrecy among them, they
had not yet put on their masks.

Mona and Roger were very magnificent as Queen Elizabeth and Sir Walter
Raleigh. Though Mona was not at all the type of the red-haired queen,
she looked very handsome in the regal robes and great, flaring collar,
while Roger was a veritable courtier in his picturesque garb.

Daisy and Mr. Collins were Pierrette and Pierrot. Their costumes were
black and white, Frenchy-looking affairs, with tossing pompons and
peaked caps.

The elder Miss Crosby and Jim Kenerley were Indians; and the warlike
brave and the young Indian maiden looked as if they might have stepped
out of the earliest pages of our country's history.

The other Miss Crosby and Hal Ferris were Italian peasants in national
costume.

Adèle and Mr. Hoyt were the most simply dressed of all, but in their
plain Puritan garb they were effective and distinguished looking.

Perhaps, however, it was Philip Van Reypen whose costume received the
greatest applause. He had copied a picture of Bobby Shafto that had
been painted by a frivolous-minded artist, and his embroidered and
belaced coat of light blue silk was remindful of the period of the
gayest Louis. He wore white satin knee-breeches, white silk stockings,
and black slippers with enormous buckles. In accordance with the song,
there were large silver buckles at his knees; and his tri-corne hat
was a very marvel of gold lace and feathers. Full lace ruffles flapped
at his throat and wrists, and altogether he was an absolute dandy.

"You look like a valentine," said Patty, "or a birthday cake."

"You do look good enough to eat," declared Adèle, as she took in the
gorgeous costume.

"Yes, I flatter myself it's the very last touch of Shaftoism," said
Philip, strutting about with an affected gait. "I say, Patty, you're
all kinds of a peach yourself."

"Yes, this frock is all right," said Patty, "but you simply take my
breath away, Phil. I didn't know anybody could look so beautiful! I
wish men dressed that way nowadays."

And then everybody admired everybody else until it was time to start.
Then each put on a little mask, which they were to wear at the ball
until supper-time. Patty's was of light blue silk with a short fall of
lace, and Philip's was of black satin.

"I can't wear this thing all the way there," declared Patty, taking
hers off again.

"Well, put it on just before you get there," enjoined Adèle. "I've
taken great care that no one should know a word about our costumes,
and now if we are well masked they won't be able to guess who we are.
Even though they know we all came from our house, there are so many of
us, they can't tell us apart."

The Country Club was a handsome, spacious building, well away from the
outskirts of the town. But the motors took them there swiftly, and
soon they joined the large party of maskers in the Club ballroom.
There were perhaps a hundred people there, and Patty felt there was
little risk of being recognised. She did not know many of the Fern
Falls people, anyway, and they would scarcely know her in her
disguise.

"Of course the first dance is mine," said Philip, as the music began.

But after that dance was over, Patty was besieged by would-be
partners. Historical characters, foreigners, clowns, monks, and
knights in armour begged for dances with Little Bo-Peep. Patty was so
engrossed in looking at these wonderful personages, that she scarcely
noticed who put their names on her card. And in truth it made little
difference, as none of the men put their real names, and she hadn't
the slightest idea who they were.

"Help yourselves," she said, laughing, "to the dances before supper;
but don't touch the other side of the card. After the masks are off, I
shall have some say, myself, as to my partners!"

So the first half of the dances were variously signed for by Columbus
and Aladdin and Brother Sebastian and Jack Pudding and other such
names.

During each dance Patty would try to discover the identity of her
partner, but as she only succeeded in one or two cases, she gave it
up.

"For it doesn't make the slightest difference who you are," she said,
as she danced with Brother Sebastian, who was garbed as a Friar of
Orders Grey.

"No," he returned, in a hollow, sepulchral voice, which he seemed to
think suited to his monk's attire.

"And you needn't try to disguise your voice so desperately," said
Patty, laughing gaily, "for probably I don't know you, anyhow. And you
don't know me, do you?"

"I don't know your name," said the monk, still in hollow tones, "but I
know you're a dancer from the professional stage, and not just a young
woman in private life."

"Good gracious!" cried Patty, horrified. "I'm nothing of the sort! I'm
a simple-minded little country girl, and I dance because I can't help
it. I love to dance, but I must say that a monk's robe on one's
partner is a little troublesome. I think all the time I'm going to
trip on it."

"Oh, all right; I'll fix that," said the monk, and he held up the
skirts of his long robe until they cleared the floor.

"That's better," said Patty, "but it does spoil the picturesqueness of
your costume. Let's promenade for a while, and then you can let your
robes drag in proper monkian fashion."

"Much obliged to you for not saying monkey fashion! I certainly do
feel foolish, dressed up in this rig."

"Why, you ought not to, in that plain gown. Just look at the things
some of the men have on!"

"I know it. Look at that court jester; he must feel a fool!"

"But that's his part," laughed Patty; "rather clever, I think, to
dress as a fool, and then if you feel like a fool, you're right in
your part."

"I say, Miss Bo-Peep, you're clever, aren't you?"

"Not so very; but when talking to a learned monk, I try to be as wise
as I can. Oh, look at that stunning big man,--who is he?"

"Looks like one of the patriarchs; but I guess he's meant for King
Lear. See the wreath of flowers on his white hair."

"Did Lear wear flowers? I thought he wore a crown."

"Tut! tut! Little Bo-Peep, you must brush up your Shakespeare. Don't
you know King Lear became a little troubled in his head, and adorned
himself with a garland?"

"Well, he's awfully picturesque," said Patty, quite undisturbed by her
ignorance of the play, and looking admiringly at Lear's magnificent
court robes of velvet and ermine, and his long, flowing white hair and
beard, and the garland of flowers that lay loosely on the glistening
white wig and trailed down behind.

As they neared the picturesque figure, King Lear bowed low before
Patty, and held out his hand for her dance card.

It was the rule of the ball not to speak, but to indicate invitations
by gestures.

However, Patty had no reason to keep silent, as they were nearly all
strangers, so she laughed, and spoke right out: "I'd gladly give you a
dance, King Lear, but I haven't one left."

With another courtly bow, King Lear still seemed to insist on his
wish, and he took up her card, which she had tied to her crook by a
narrow ribbon. With surprise he saw the whole second page blank, and
pointed to it with an accusing gesture.

"Ah, yes," returned Patty, smiling, "but those are for my friends
after I know them. We unmask at supper-time, and then I shall use some
discrimination in bestowing my dances. If you want one of those you
must ask me for it after supper."

King Lear bowed submissively to Patty's decree, and was about to move
away, when a sudden thought struck him. He picked up Patty's card
again, and indicated a space between the last dance and the supper.

"Oh, I know what you mean," cried Patty. "You mean an 'extra.' But I
don't think they'll have any. And, anyway, I never engage for extras.
If they do have one, and you happen to be around, I'll give it to
you;--that's all I can say." And then Patty's next partner came, and
she danced away with him, leaving King Lear making his sweeping,
impressive bows.

"Who is he?" asked Patty, of Roger, who chanced to be her partner this
time.

"Don't know, I'm sure; but I know scarcely any of the people up here.
They seem to be a fine crowd, though. Have you noticed the Zenobia,
Queen of Palmyra? There she is now. Isn't she stunning?"

Patty looked round, to see a tall, majestic woman, dressed as Zenobia.
Her tiny mask hid only her eyes, and her beautiful, classic face well
accorded with the character she had chosen.

"She's beautiful!" declared Patty, with heartfelt admiration. "I wish
I was big and stunning, Roger, instead of a little scrap of humanity."

"What a silly you are, Patty Pink! Now, I've no doubt that tall,
majestic-looking creature wishes she could be a little fairy, like
you."

"But a big woman is so much more graceful and dignified."

"Patty, I do believe you're fishing! And I _know_ you're talking
nonsense! Dignified isn't just the term I should apply to you,--but if
there's anybody more graceful than you are, I've yet to see her."

"Oh, Roger, that's dear of you. You know very well, I hate flattery or
compliments, but when a real friend says a nice thing it does me good.
And, truly, it's the regret of my life, that I'm not about six inches
taller. There, look at Zenobia now. She's walking with that King Lear.
Aren't they a stunning couple?"

"Yes, they are. But if I were you, I wouldn't be envious of other
women's attractions. You have quite enough of your own."

"Never mind about me," said Patty, suddenly realising that she was
talking foolishly. "Let's talk about Mona. She's looking beautiful
to-night, Roger."

"She always does," and Roger had a strange thrill in his voice, that
struck a sympathetic chord in Patty's heart.

"What about her, Roger? Isn't she good to you?"

"Not very. She's capricious, Patty; sometimes awfully kind, and then
again she says things that cut deep. Patty, do you think she really
cares for that Lansing man?"

"I don't know, Roger. I can't make Mona out at all, lately. She used
to be so frank and open with me, and now she never talks confidences
at all."

"Well, I can't understand her, either. But here comes Mr. Collins,
looking for you, Patty. Is only half of this dance mine?"

"Yes, Roger. I had to chop up every one, to-night. You may have one
after supper, if you like."

Patty whirled through the various dances, and at the last one before
supper she found herself again with Philip Van Reypen.

"Why, I didn't know this was yours!" she cried, looking at her card,
where, sure enough, she saw the initials B. S.

"It sure is mine," returned Bobby Shafto; "but we're not going to
dance it."

"Why not, and what are we going to do?"

"We're going to wander away into the conservatory."

"There isn't any conservatory. This is a club-house, you know."

"Well, they've fixed up the gymnasium, so it's almost a conservatory.
It's full of palms and flowers and things, and it makes a perfectly
good imitation."

"But why do we go there?" asked Patty, as Philip led her away from the
dancing-room.

"Oh, to settle affairs of state." He led her to the gymnasium, and sure
enough, tall palms and flowering plants had been arranged to form little
nooks and bowers, which were evidently intended for tête-à-tête
conversations.

"You know," Philip began, as they found a pleasant seat, under some
palms, "you know, Patty, you promised me something."

"Didn't, neither."

"Yes, you did, and I'm going to hold you to your promise. You
promised----"

"'Rose, you promised!'" sang Patty, humming a foolish little song that
was an old-fashioned favourite.

"Yes, you _did_ promise, you exasperating little Rose, you! And I'm
going to keep you prisoner here, until you make it good! Patty, you
said you'd look into your heart, and tell me what you found there."

"Goodness me, Philip, did I really say that? Well, it will take me an
awful long while to tell you all that's in it."

"Really, Patty? Did you find so much?"

"Yes, heaps of things."

"But I mean about me."

"Oh, about you! Why, I don't know that there's anything there at all
about you."

"Oh, yes, there is; you can't fool me that way. Now, Patty, do be
serious. Look in your heart, and see if there isn't a little love for
me?"

Patty sat very still, and closed her eyes, as Philip could see through
the holes in her blue mask.

Then she opened them, and said, with a smile: "I looked and hunted
good, Philip, and I can't find a bit of love for you. But there's an
awful big, nice, warm friendship, if you care about that."

"I do care about that, Patty. I care very much for it, but I want
more."

Just at that moment King Lear and Zenobia strolled past them, and
Patty almost forgot Philip as she gazed after the two majestic
figures.

"Patty," he said, recalling her attention, "Patty, dear, I say I want
more."

"Piggy-wig!" exclaimed Patty, with her blue eyes twinkling at him
through the mask. "More what? I was looking at King Lear, and I lost
the thread of your discourse, Philip."

"Patty Fairfield, I'd like to shake you! Don't you _know_ what I'm
asking of you?"

"Well, even if I do, I must say, Philip, that I can't carry on a
serious conversation with a mask on. Now, you know, they take these
things off pretty soon, and then----"

"And then may I ask you again, Patty, and will you listen to me and
answer me?"

"Dunno. I make no promises. Philip, this dance is over. I expect
they're going to unmask now. Come on, let's go back to our crowd."

But just as they rose to go, Jim Kenerley approached, and King Lear
was with him.

"Little Bo-Peep," said the big Indian, "King Lear tells me that you
half promised him an extra, if there should be one."

"As it was only half a promise, then it means only half a dance," said
Patty, turning her laughing blue eyes to the majestic, flower-crowned
King. "Is there going to be an extra, Jim,--I mean Chief Mudjokivis,
or whatever your Indian name is?"

"I don't know, Bo-Peep. I'll go and see."

Jim went away, and as Philip had already gone, Patty was left alone
with the white-haired King.

With a slow, majestic air, he touched her gently on the arm, and
motioned for her to be seated. Then he sat down beside her, and
through the eyeholes of his mask, he looked straight into her eyes.

At his intent gaze, Patty felt almost frightened, but as her eyes met
his own, she became conscious of something familiar in the blue eyes
that looked at her, and then she heard King Lear whisper, softly:
"Apple Blossom!"

Patty fairly jumped; then, seeing the smile that came into his eyes,
she put out both hands to King Lear, and said, gladly: "Bill! Little
Billee! Oh, I _am_ glad to see you!"

"Are you, really?" And Bill Farnsworth's voice had a slight tremor in
it. "Are you sure of that, my girl?"

"Of course I am," and Patty had regained her gay demeanour, which she
had lost in her moment of intense surprise. "Oh, of course I am! I was
so sorry to have missed you last week. And Jim said you went back to
Arizona."

"I did expect to, but I was detained in New York, and only this
morning I found I could run up here and stay till to-morrow. I
couldn't get here earlier, and when I reached the house, you had all
started. So I got into these togs, and came along."

"Your togs are wonderful, Little Billee. I never saw you look so
stunning, not even as Father Neptune."

"That was a great show, wasn't it?" and Big Bill smiled at the
recollection. "But I say, Little Girl, you're looking rather wonderful
yourself to-night. Oh, Patty, it's good to see you again!"

"And it's good to see you; though it doesn't seem as if I had really
seen you. That mask and beard completely cover up your noble
countenance."

"And I wish you'd take off that dinky little scrap of blue, so I can
see if you are still my Apple Blossom Girl."

"But I thought you wanted the extra dance."

"I don't believe there's going to be any extra, after all. I think the
people are anxious to get their masks off, and if so we'll have our
dance after supper."



CHAPTER XVIII

BACK TO NEW YORK


Farnsworth was right. There was no extra before supper, and the guests
were even now flocking to the supper-room.

Philip came toward them, looking for Patty, his mask already off.

"Oh, can we really take them off now?" cried Patty. "I'm so glad.
They're horridly uncomfortable. I'll never wear one again. I love a
fancy dress party, but I don't see any sense in a masquerade."

She took off her mask as she spoke, and her pretty face was flushed
pink and her hair was curling in moist ringlets about her temples.

Farnsworth looked down on her as he removed his own mask. "Apple
Blossom!" he exclaimed again, and the comparison was very apt, for the
pink and white of Patty's face was just the color of the blossoms.

Then the two men looked at each other, and Patty suddenly realised
that they had never met.

"Oh, you don't know each other, do you?" she exclaimed. "And you my
two best friends! Mr. Farnsworth, this is Mr. Van Reypen. And now,
which of you is going to take me to supper?"

As each offered an arm at once, Patty accepted both, and walked out
demurely between the two big men. The men were exceedingly polite and
courteous, but each was annoyed at the other's presence. As a matter
of fact, Farnsworth had chanced to overhear a few words that Philip
said to Patty a short time before. It was by merest chance that King
Lear and Zenobia had walked by just as Philip was asking Patty to give
him more than friendship. Zenobia, uninterested in the two under the
palms, didn't even hear the words; but Farnsworth, who had found out
from Jim Kenerley all the members of the house party, had scarcely
taken his eyes from Little Bo-Peep since he arrived at the ball. With
no intention of eavesdropping, he had followed her about, hoping to
get a chance to see her first alone. He managed this only with
Kenerley's help, and meantime he had discovered that Van Reypen was
very seriously interested in Little Bo-Peep.

Philip himself knew little of Farnsworth, save for a few chance
remarks he had heard at the Kenerleys', but he realised at once that
Patty and the big Westerner were great friends, if nothing more.

However, the three went to supper together, and joined the group in
which they were most interested.

Great was the surprise of Daisy and Mona when Patty appeared with Mr.
Farnsworth.

Big Bill was in the merriest of spirits. He greeted everybody
heartily, he joked and laughed, and was at his most entertaining best.
Patty was very proud of him, for without his mask he looked very
handsome as King Lear, and his stalwart figure seemed to dwarf the
other men.

After supper he claimed Patty for the promised dance.

"Would you rather dance with King Lear?" he said, smiling, "with all
these heavy velvet draperies bothering us, or shall I go and shed this
robe, and just be plain Bill?"

Patty looked at him, thoughtfully. "We'd have a better dance if you
took off that flapping robe. But then, of course, you'd have to take
off your wigs and things, and you wouldn't be half so beautiful."

"Well, then, don't let's dance, but just stroll around and talk. And
there's another reason why I'd rather keep on my wig and wreath."

"What's that?"

"Because the wreath means that I am mad."

"Mad at me?"

"Oh, not that kind of mad! I mean crazy, demented, loony,--what was
the old King, anyway?"

"A little touched?"

"Yes, that's it; and so, you see, he could say anything he wanted to.
You know, people forgive crazy people, no matter what they say."

"Are you going to say crazy things to me?"

"Very likely; you've completely turned my head."

"Do you know, I didn't even know King Lear ever went crazy," said
Patty in an endeavour to change the subject.

"Why, fie, fie, Little Girl, I thought you knew your Shakespeare; but
I suppose you're too busy socially to read much poetry."

"I read one poem this winter that I liked," said Patty, demurely.

"Did you? What was it?"

"It came to me in a blue envelope."

"It did! Why, Patty, Jim told me you never got that."

"Jim is mistaken; I did get it."

"And did you like it?"

"Where did you get it, Bill?"

"Did you like it?"

"Yes, I liked it lots. Who wrote it?"

"I did."

"Did you, really? You clever man! I thought possibly you might have
done it, but it sounded so,--so finished."

"Oh, no, it didn't, Patty. It was crude and amateurish; but it was
written to you and about you, so I did the best I could. Patty, are
you in love with Van Reypen?"

"What!" and Patty stood still and looked at Farnsworth, indignantly.
"You have no right to ask such a question!"

"I know I haven't, Patty, and I apologise. I can't seem to get over my
Western bluntness. And, Little Girl, I don't blame you a bit if you do
care for him. He's a good-looking chap, and an all-round good man."

"You seem to have sized him up pretty quickly. Why, you've only just
met him."

"Yes, but you know I was at the Kenerleys' last week, and Jim told me
all about him."

"Why did you want to know all about him?"

"Shall I tell you why?" And Farnsworth's blue eyes looked straight
into Patty's own. "I inquired about him, because Daisy said you were
just the same as engaged to him."

"Daisy said that, did she?" Patty rarely lost her temper, but this
unwarranted speech of Daisy Dow's made her exceedingly angry. But what
hurt her even more, was that Bill should believe Daisy's assertion,
and should take it so calmly. His attitude piqued Patty; and she said,
coldly: "Well, if Daisy says so, it must be so."

"I know it, Little Girl," and Farnsworth's voice was very tender. "He
can give you everything that you ought to have,--wealth, social
position, and a life of luxury and pleasure. Moreover, he is a
thorough gentleman and a true man. I hope you will be very happy with
him, Patty."

For some reason this speech exasperated Patty beyond all measure. It
seemed as if her friends were settling her affairs for her, without
giving her any voice in the decision. "You are a little premature,
Bill," she said, without a smile. "I'm not engaged to Mr. Van Reypen,
and I do not know that I shall be."

"Oh, yes, you will, Patty; but don't be hasty, dear child. Think it
over before you decide, for you know there are other things in the
world beside wealth and social position."

"What, for instance?" said Patty, in a flippant tone.

"Love," said Farnsworth, very seriously.

And then Patty was moved by a spirit of perversity. She thought that
if Farnsworth really cared for her, he was handing her over to Philip
very easily, and she resented this attitude.

"Are you implying that Mr. Van Reypen is not capable of giving me
love, as well as the other advantages you enumerate?"

"No, Patty, I am not implying anything of the sort. I only know that
you are too young yet to be engaged to anybody, and I wish for your
own sake you would wait,--at least until you are perfectly sure of
your own affections. But if they are given to Mr. Van Reypen, I shall
be glad for you that you have chosen so wisely."

Patty looked at Farnsworth in amazement. Remembering what he had said
to her last summer, it was strange to hear him talk this way. She
could not know that the honest, big-hearted fellow was breaking his
own heart at the thought of losing her; but that he unselfishly felt
that Van Reypen, as a man of the world, was more fitting for pretty
Patty than himself. He knew he was Western, and different from Patty's
friends and associates, and he was so lacking in egotism or in
self-conceit that he couldn't recognise his own sterling merits. And,
too, though he was interested in some mining projects, they had not
yet materialised, and he did not yet know whether the near future
would bring him great wealth, or exactly the reverse of fortune.

But Patty couldn't read his heart, and she was disappointed and piqued
at his manner and words. Without even a glance into his earnest eyes,
she said: "Thank you, Bill, for your advice; I know it is well meant,
and I appreciate it. Please take me back to Philip now."

Farnsworth gave her a pained look, but without a word turned and led
her back to the group they had left.

Philip was waiting there, and Patty, to hide the strange hurt she felt
in her own heart, was exceedingly kind in her manner toward him.

"Our dance, Philip," she said, gaily, and though it hadn't been
engaged, Philip was only too glad to get it.

Soon afterward, the ball was over, and they all went home. As Patty
came from the cloak room, wrapped in her fur coat, Philip stepped up
to her in such a possessive way, that Farnsworth, who had also been
waiting for her, turned aside.

"That's a foregone conclusion," said Jim Kenerley to Farnsworth, as he
glanced at Patty and Philip.

"Nonsense," said Adèle. "Patty isn't thinking of conclusions yet. But
I must say it would be a very satisfactory match."

"Yes, Mr. Van Reypen seems to be a fine fellow," agreed Farnsworth.

When they reached home, Patty said good-night, declaring she was weary
enough to go straight to bed at once.

"Will you come down again later, if you're hungry?" said Philip,
smiling at the recollection of Christmas Eve.

"No," and Patty flashed her dimples at him; and knowing that
Farnsworth was listening, she added, "There's no moonlight to-night!"

"Moonlight does help," said Philip. "Good-night, Little Bo-Peep."

"Good-night, Bobby Shafto," and Patty started upstairs, then turned,
and holding out her hand to Farnsworth, said "Good-night, King Lear;
shall I see you in the morning?"

"No; I leave on the early train," said Farnsworth, abruptly.
"Good-night, Patty, and good-bye."

He turned away, toward Daisy, and Patty went on upstairs.

Farnsworth had spoken in a kind voice, but Patty knew that he had
heard what she and Philip had said about coming down in the moonlight.

"I think he's a horrid, mean old thing!" said Patty to herself, when
she reached her own room. "His manners are not half as good as
Philip's, and he's rude and unkind, and I just hate him!"

Whereupon, as if to prove her words, she took from her portfolio the
poem in the blue envelope, and read it all over again; and then put it
under her pillow and went to sleep.

                  *       *       *       *       *

A few days later Patty was back in New York. She gave her father and
Nan glowing accounts of the delightful times she had had at Fern Falls
and the jollities of a country house party in the winter time. She
told them all about the pleasant people she had met up there, about
her experience at Mrs. Fay's, and about Farnsworth's flying visits.

"I'd like to meet that man," said Nan. "I think he sounds attractive,
Patty."

"He is attractive," said Patty, frankly; "but he's queer. You never
know what mood he's going to be in. Sometimes he's awfully friendly,
and then again he gets huffy over nothing."

"I'm afraid you tease him, Patty," said her father, smiling at her.
"You're getting to be such a popular young person that I fear you're
getting spoiled."

"Not Patty," said Nan, kindly. "Go ahead, my child, and have all the
fun you can. The young men all adore you, and I don't wonder."

"Why, Nancy Bell, how complimentary you are!" and Patty gave her
stepmother an affectionate pat.

"But now," said Mr. Fairfield, "if I may have the floor for a minute,
I'd like to make an announcement. We have a plan, Patty, which we made
while you were away, and which I hope will meet with your approval."

"As if I ever disapproved of any of your plans, my dear daddy.
Consider my approval granted before you begin."

"Well, it's this: I think Nan is looking a little bit pale, and I feel
a trifle pale myself, so I think we two will run away down South for a
fortnight or so, and leave you here."

"Alone?" asked Patty, in surprise.

"Well, no; hardly that. But how would you like to have Mrs. Allen,
Nan's mother, come and stay with you?"

"I think that will be lovely," exclaimed Patty. "I'm awfully fond of
Mrs. Allen, and I haven't seen her for a long time."

"She's not a very sedate matron," said Nan, laughing. "I dare say
she'll keep you on the go, Patty. She's fond of opera and concerts,
and she likes gaiety. But father will come over for the week-ends, and
look after you both."

Nan's parents lived in Philadelphia, and as they had just returned
from a trip abroad, the Fairfields hadn't seen them lately. But it had
seemed to them that the arrangement they had planned would be
satisfactory all round, for Mrs. Allen liked to spend a few weeks in
New York each winter.

About a week later the elder Fairfields departed, and Mrs. Allen
arrived.

She was a fine-looking lady of a youthful middle age, and looked
forward with pleasure to her visit with Patty.

"Now, you mustn't let me be a burden to you in any way, my dear," Mrs.
Allen said, after the two were left alone. "Whenever I can help you,
or whenever you want a chaperon, I'm entirely at your service; but
when I'm not necessary to your plans, don't consider me at all,--and
don't think about entertaining me, for I can look after myself. I'm
never lonely or bored."

"Thank you, Mrs. Allen," said Patty. "I'm sure we shall get on most
beautifully together, and anything you want or want to do, I want you
to give your own orders, just as if you were in your own home."

And so the two had many pleasant times together. They went to
matinées, teas, and concerts, to picture exhibitions, and to card
parties. Mrs. Allen did not care for dances, but went gladly when it
was a party where Patty required a chaperon.

All of the young people liked Mrs. Allen, and she became well
acquainted with all of Patty's friends.

Bill Farnsworth was still in New York. His plans were uncertain, and
often changed from day to day, owing to various details of his
business.

He called on Patty occasionally, but not often, and his calls were
short and formal.

"I like that big Western chap," Mrs. Allen said to Patty one day; "but
he seems preoccupied. Sometimes he sits as if in a brown study, and
says nothing for quite some minutes. And then, when you speak to him,
he answers abruptly, as if bringing his mind back from faraway
thoughts."

"I daresay he's very much wrapped up in his business, Mrs. Allen,"
said Patty. "They say he's trying to swing a big mining
proposition,--whatever that means."

"It may mean a great many things," said Mrs. Allen, thoughtfully. "I
hope he's all right, Patty."

"All right! Big Bill Farnsworth all right? Well, I rather guess he
_is_!"

"There, there," and Mrs. Allen laughed. "You needn't take up the
cudgels so desperately. I didn't mean to accuse him of anything."

"No, of course you didn't," and Patty laughed, too; "but whatever big
Bill may lack in the way of polish or culture, he's absolutely honest
and honourable, even to an absurd degree."

"I don't think he lacks culture, Patty. His manners are all right."

"Yes, they're all right, but he hasn't quite the correct ease of a man
like Philip Van Reypen."

"I know what you mean, and I suppose it's the effect of the aristocratic
Van Reypen ancestry. But Mr. Farnsworth has such a splendid big air of
real nobility about him that I think a more formal and conventional
demeanour would quite spoil him."

"Maybe it would," said Patty, simply.

That very afternoon Farnsworth came to call, and told Patty he had
come to say good-bye.

"I know you think my farewells never mean anything," he said, smiling;
"and I don't wonder, for I often say I am going, and then a telegram
obliges me to change my plan. But I think it is positive this time
that I shall leave to-night for Arizona."

"Have you been successful in your undertakings?" asked Patty, with a
sympathetic interest.

"Yes, I believe I have. I don't want to be over sanguine, and matters
are not yet entirely settled, but I think I have conquered the
obstacles which I came to conquer, and I hope all will go well."

"I hope so, Little Billee," said Patty, looking at him with earnest
good will. "I want you to succeed."

"Thank you for that," said Farnsworth, simply.

"And when are you coming East again?"

"I can't tell; I may have to come back in February; but if that is not
necessary, I shall not come for a year or more. You will be married
and settled by that time."

"Indeed, I shan't! In fact, I've about made up my mind that I'll never
marry anybody."

"Girls have said that before, and been known to change their minds.
But whatever you do, I wish you all happiness and joy throughout your
whole life,--Little Apple Blossom."

Farnsworth had risen to go, and he held Patty's hands in both his, as
he looked straight into her eyes.

Patty's own eyes fell beneath his gaze, and she said, "And I wish you
happiness wherever you are, Little Billee."

"Thank you, dear," he said, and then with a final handclasp he went
away.



CHAPTER XIX

AN EXCITING CHASE


Farnsworth had left Patty about two o'clock, and it was only a few
moments later that her telephone rang.

Her response was answered by a tearful, wailing voice, that said, "Oh,
Miss Patty, oh, _can't_ you come here at once? Come right away!"

"Come where? Who are you?" said Patty, bewildered, for she did not
recognise the voice, and it sounded like some one in deep distress.

"Oh, don't wait a _minute_! Every moment is precious! Just come _at
once_!"

"But how can I come, if I don't know who you are? I can help you
better, if you'll control yourself and tell me something about
yourself and your trouble. First of all, who are you?"

"I'm Anne, Miss Galbraith's maid. You know me, Miss Patty. Oh, come
quick; Miss Mona has gone!"

"Gone! Where? Now, listen to me, Anne! Stop your crying, and tell me
what you mean, and then I will go to you at once. Where are you? And
where has Miss Mona gone?"

"I'm in her apartment, and I don't like to tell you over the telephone
where she's gone. But,--Miss Patty,--I think,--Oh, I fear,--she has
eloped with Mr. Lansing!"

The last sentence came in an explosive burst, as if the girl could
keep her secret no longer.

"What!" exclaimed Patty. And then, suddenly realising that it was a
desperate situation, she said, "Don't say another word, Anne! I will
go right straight to you. Stay there till I come."

She knew the excitable character of the girl, and feared she might get
hysterical if she talked further over the telephone. Patty hung up the
receiver, and sat still for a moment, thinking deeply.

"I won't tell Mrs. Allen," she finally decided, "but I must have some
one to help me,--to go with me. I believe I'll call up Roger."

But she couldn't bear to do that. It seemed too dreadful to tell Roger
what had happened. She thought next of Kenneth, who was a standby as a
loyal friend, but he was far downtown in his office, and might be busy
with an important case.

"Philip, of course," she said to herself; but even with her hand on
the receiver, another thought flashed through her mind. "No one could
help me to save Mona like Big Bill!" she thought, and on a sudden
impulse she called up his hotel.

"Bill,--it's Patty," she said, her voice trembling.

"Yes, dear; what is it? What is the matter?"

The kind, quiet voice, with its deep tones of sympathy and capability,
made Patty realise that she had appealed to the right one. "Oh, Bill,"
she went on, "there's awful trouble, and you must help me."

"Of course I will, Little Girl! Steady now; tell me what it's all
about. Do you want me to come there?"

"But you're just starting for the West," cried Patty, as she
remembered this for the first time.

"That doesn't matter, if _you_ want me. I'll be right over."

"And wait a minute; tell me what you think we ought to do. I've heard
from Anne that Mona is eloping with that awful Lansing man!"

"Then there's no time to be lost! Take your little car, and go to The
Plaza as fast as you can spin! I'll meet you there, in the Galbraiths'
apartment."

Bill hung up the receiver, without even a good-bye, and Patty gave a
little sigh of relief, for it seemed as if he had taken the
responsibility from her shoulders, and would manage the matter
himself. She ordered her car, flung on her hat and coat, and with a
hasty word to Mrs. Allen that she was going out, she drove her little
electric herself down to the hotel.

When she entered the Galbraiths' apartment, she found Farnsworth
already there.

"It's true," he said, looking at her with a grave face. "That is, I
think it must be. Mona went away half an hour ago, and took a suit
case with her. She went in a motor with Mr. Lansing. Anne is worried,
because this morning she overheard the two telephoning."

"I wasn't listening, Miss Patty," said the tearful maid. "That is, I
didn't mean to, but Miss Mona was excited like, and her voice was so
loud I couldn't help hearing."

"I'm glad you did, Anne," said Patty, "it may help us to save Miss
Mona yet. What else can you tell us?"

"Nothing, except that Miss Mona left a note on her father's desk, and
I thought maybe it might be to tell him she had gone."

Big Bill strode over to the desk, and there, under a paperweight, lay
a note, addressed to Mr. Galbraith. He picked it up, and looked at it,
thoughtfully.

"Patty," he said, "this isn't sealed. Considering all things, I think
it is our duty to read it, but you know more about such matters than I
do. What do you think?"

Patty hesitated. She had always thought it little less than a crime to
read a note addressed to another, but the circumstances made this case
seem an exception. "We might telephone to Mr. Galbraith and ask his
permission," she suggested.

But Big Bill seemed suddenly to have made up his mind.

"No!" he declared, "_I'll_ take the responsibility of this thing. To
telephone would frighten Mr. Galbraith, and would delay matters too
much, beside. I shall read this note, and if I can't square my action
with Mr. Galbraith afterward, I'll accept the consequences."

The impressive manner of the big man, his stern, set face, and honest,
determined blue eyes convinced Patty that he was right, and together
they read the note.

In it, as they had feared, Mona told her father that she was going
away to marry Mr. Lansing, because her father would not allow her to
marry him otherwise. She expressed regret at the sorrow she knew this
would bring to her father, but she said she was old enough to decide
for herself whom she wished to marry, and she felt sure that after it
was over he would forgive her, and call his two children back to him.

"Mona never wrote that note of her own accord," exclaimed Patty,
indignantly. "That man made her do it!"

"Of course he did!" agreed Bill, in a stern voice. "I know
Lansing,--and, Patty, the man is a scoundrel."

"You know him? I didn't know you did."

"Yes, I do! And I ought to have warned Mona more against him. I did
tell her what his real nature is, but she wouldn't listen, and I never
dreamed she was so deeply infatuated with him. But we mustn't blame
her, Patty. She was simply under the influence of that man, and he
persuaded her to go with him against her better judgment. But we must
go after them and bring them back."

"But you're going West to-night."

"Not unless we rescue Mona first! Why, Patty, she _mustn't_ be allowed
to marry that man! I tell you he's a scoundrel, and I never say _that_
about a man unless I _know_ it to be true. But this is no time to
discuss Lansing. We must simply fly after them."

"But how do you know where they've gone?"

"I don't know! But we must find out, somehow. Perhaps the men at the
door can tell us. Perhaps Anne can."

"I only know this, sir," said Anne, who was wringing her hands and
weeping; "when Miss Mona was telephoning, she said something about
Greenwich."

"Of course!" cried Bill. "That's exactly where they'd go! But wait,
they would have to go for a license first."

"Telephone the license man," said Patty, inspired by Bill's manner and
tones.

"Right-O!" and after some rather troublesome telephoning, Bill
announced, "They did! they got a license, and they started in a motor
for Greenwich about half an hour ago! Come on, Patty! Anne, you stay
right here, in case we telephone. If Mr. Galbraith comes home, don't
tell him a word about it. Leave it to me. I'll be responsible for this
note." Bill put the note in his pocket, and almost pushing Patty out
of the door, he had her in the elevator and downstairs almost before
she knew it.

"Shall we take my little car?" she asked, as Bill strode through the
lobby, and Patty hurried to keep up with him.

"Good Heavens, no! We want a racer. I'll drive it myself."

By the power of sheer determination, the big Western man procured a
fast car in an incredibly short time, and in a few moments he and
Patty were flying up Broadway.

"Now if you want to talk you may," said Bill, and his voice was quiet
and composed, though he was alertly threading his swift way through
the traffic. "I had to be a little short with you while we were
hurrying off, because I didn't want to lose a minute. But now, all I
have to do is to keep just inside the speed limit while we're in the
city, and then I rather guess there'll be one big chase!"

"Oh, Bill, you are just splendid!" exclaimed Patty, with shining eyes,
unable to repress her admiration of his capability and strength.

"But we haven't accomplished anything yet, Patty; we're only starting
out to try. You know, it's a hundred to one shot that we miss
them,--for we've very little idea where they've gone."

"But it's a straight road to Greenwich."

"Yes, but they may have turned off anywhere. They may change their
minds a dozen times about their destination."

"No, they won't," said Patty, positively; "not unless they think
they're pursued, and of course they've no idea of that. Speed her up,
Bill; the way is clear now! I don't believe they're going at this
pace."

"Patty, you're a good pal! I don't believe any other girl would be as
plucky as you are in such a case."

"Why, I haven't done anything," and Patty opened her eyes wide, in
surprise. "You've done it all--Little Billee."

"You've helped me more than you know. With you by my side, I'm bound
to succeed." Big Bill bent to his wheel, and the swift machine flew
along so fast that conversation became impossible.

As they neared Greenwich, Patty's sharp eyes descried a dark red car
ahead of them.

"That's it!" she cried. "That's Mona's car! Chase 'em, Bill!"

"The nerve of him, to elope in her own car!" growled Bill, through his
clenched teeth. "I told you he was a scoundrel, Patty!"

They were rapidly gaining on the red car, when, as it turned the
corner, one of its occupants saw their pursuers, and Patty heard a
shriek.

"That's Mona's yell," she cried, in dismay. "They've seen us, Bill,
and now they'll get away from us!"

Sure enough, the pursuing car was swift, but the big Galbraith car was
a speed wonder, and the elopers darted ahead with renewed determination
to escape capture.

"Oh, what a shame!" wailed Patty. "They recognised us, and now they'll
get away."

"Not if I know it!" and Farnsworth set his teeth hard. "Sit tight,
Patty; we're going to go faster!"

It didn't seem as if they could go any faster, but they did, and if it
had been anybody driving except Farnsworth, Patty would have felt
frightened. But she knew his skill, and too, she knew that he never
let excitement or enthusiasm run away with his judgment. So she sat as
still as she could, striving to catch her breath in the face of the
wind; and refraining from speech, lest she distract Bill's attention
even for a second.

At last, when they had a long, clear view ahead, and they saw the red
car ever increasing the distance between them, Bill gave up.

"It's no use, Patty; we can't catch them! I've done all I can, but
that car they're in is a world-beater! They went through Greenwich
like a streak. They would have been arrested, but no one could stop
them. Oh, I say, My Little Girl,--I have an idea!"

"Is your idea faster than their car, Little Billee?"

"You bet it is! Just you wait and see; Patty, we've _got_ 'em!"

Farnsworth turned around and drove rapidly back to Greenwich, which
they had just passed through.

At a hotel there, he jumped out, told Patty to wait, and rushed into
the office.

It was nearly ten minutes before he returned, and Patty could scarcely
believe that whatever plan he had could be of any use after such
delay.

He jumped in beside her, turned around, and in a minute they were
again whizzing along, following the direction of the other car.

"I'll tell you what I did, Patty," he said, chuckling. "I telephoned
to the Stamford Chief of Police, and asked him to arrest those people
for speeding as they crossed the city limit!"

"Will they be speeding?"

"_Will_ they be speeding? You _bet_ they will! And even if they
aren't, they'll be arrested, all the same, and held without bail until
we get there! Oh, Patty, if the situation were not so serious, I could
laugh at this joke on Lansing!"

On they went, at their highest speed, and reached Stamford not very
much later than the red car they were following.

At the city line, they found this car standing, with two or three
policemen forbidding its further progress.

Horace Lansing was in a violent fit of temper, and was alternating
bribes with threats of vengeance, but the policemen were imperturbable,
having been told the facts of the case by Farnsworth over the
telephone.

Mona was weeping bitterly, and though Patty went to her with
affectionate words, she stormed back, "Go away, Patty Fairfield! You
have no right to interfere in my affairs! It was your prying that
found this out. Go away; I won't speak to you!"

"By what right have you followed us, Miss Fairfield?" began Mr.
Lansing, looking at Patty, angrily.

But Farnsworth strode over to the speaker, and spoke to him, sternly
but quietly. "Lansing," he said, "it's all up, and you know it! Now, I
don't want to have a scene here and now, so you have my permission to
go away wherever you like, on condition that you never enter the
presence again, of Miss Galbraith or Miss Fairfield."

"Ho!" said Lansing, with an attempt at bravado. "You give me your
permission, do you? Let me tell you that Miss Galbraith is my promised
wife. We have the license, and we're about to be married. It will take
more than you to stop us!"

"Indeed," said Farnsworth, and putting his hands in his pockets, he
gave Lansing a contemptuous glance. "Well, then, I shall have to
request assistance. If I tell this constable a good reason why he
should detain you long enough to prevent your marriage to Miss
Galbraith, would such an argument have any weight with you?"

There was an instantaneous change in Horace Lansing's demeanour. From
a blustering braggart, he became a pale and cringing coward. But with
a desperate attempt to bluff it out, he exclaimed, "What do you mean?"
but even as he spoke, he shivered and staggered backward, as if
dreading a blow.

"Since you ask me," said Farnsworth, looking at him, sternly, "I'll
answer frankly, that unless you consent to go away and never again
enter the presence of these ladies, I shall inform these policemen of
a certain little bank trouble that happened in Chicago----"

It was unnecessary to go on. Lansing was abject, and begged in
pleading tones that Farnsworth would say no more. "I am going,"
Lansing stammered, and without a word of farewell to Mona or even a
glance at Patty, he walked rapidly away.

"Let him go," said Farnsworth. "I can't tell you girls about it, but
I'll explain to Mr. Galbraith. Mona, that man is not fit for you to
know! He is guilty of forgery and robbery."

"I don't believe it!" declared Mona, angrily.

"You _do_ believe it," and Farnsworth looked at her steadily, "because
you know I would not tell you so unless I knew it to be true."

Mona was silent at this, for she did know it. She knew Bill Farnsworth
well enough to know that if he made an accusation of that sort, he
knew it to be the truth.

"But I love him so," she said, sobbing.

"No, Mona, you don't love him." Bill spoke very gently, and as he laid
his hand on Mona's shoulder, she raised her eyes to look into his
kind, serious face. "You were not much to blame, Mona; the man
fascinated you, and you thought the foolish infatuation you felt for
him was love. But it wasn't, and you'll soon forget him. You don't
want to remember a man who was a wrong-doer, I'm sure; nor do you want
to remember a man who goes away and deserts you because he has been
found out. Mona, is not his going away as he did, enough proof of his
guilt?"

But Mona was sobbing so that she could not speak. Not angry sobs now,
but pathetic, repentant sorrow.

"Now, it's up to you, Patty," said Farnsworth, cheerily. "You and Mona
get into the tonneau of this Galbraith car, and I'll drive you home.
You chirk her up, Patty, and tell her there's no harm done, and that
all her friends love her just the same. And tell her if she'll stop
her crying and calm herself before she gets home, nobody need ever
know a thing about this whole affair."

Mona looked up at this, and said, eagerly, "Not father?"

"No, Mona dear," said Patty. "Sit here by me and I'll tell you all
about it. How we read the note and kept it, and everything. And, Mona,
we won't even let Roger know anything about all this, because it would
hurt him very much."

"But Anne," said Mona, doubtfully. "You say she told you where I
went."

"I'll attend to Anne," said Farnsworth, decidedly. "Can't you go home
to dinner with Patty, Mona? I think that would do you good."

"Yes, do," said Patty. "And stay over night with me. We'll telephone
your father where you are, and then, to-morrow, you can go home as if
nothing had ever happened."

"It's a justifiable deception, Mona," said Bill, "for I know how it
would grieve the poor man if he knew about your foolish little
escapade,--which is all over now. It's past history, and the incident
is closed forever. Don't you be afraid Lansing will ever appear
against you. He's too thoroughly frightened ever to be seen in these
parts again."

"You come to dinner, too, Bill," said Patty, as they took their
places; "though I fear we'll all be rather late."

Farnsworth hesitated a moment, then he said, decidedly, "No, Patty, I
can't do it. I was to take the seven o'clock train to-night, but
though I'll miss that, I can take the nine o'clock, and I _must_ go."

"But, Little Billee, I want to thank you for helping me as you did. I
want to thank you, not only for Mona's sake, but my own."

"That would be worth staying for, Little Girl, but it is a case of
duty, you see. Won't you write me your thanks,--Apple Blossom?"

"Yes," said Patty, softly, "I will."



CHAPTER XX

BRIDESMAID PATTY


Early in February Christine was to be married, and the Fairfields had
persuaded her to accept the use of their house for the occasion.

Christine had demurred, for she wanted a simple ceremony with no
reception at all. But the Fairfields finally made her see that Mr.
Hepworth's position as an artist of high repute made it desirable that
his many friends should be invited to his wedding.

So Christine agreed to the plan, and Patty was delighted at the
thought of the festivities in her home.

The elder Fairfields had returned from their Southern trip, but Mrs.
Allen was still with them, and there were other house guests from
Christine's Southern home.

The day of the wedding, Patty, assisted by Elise and Mona, was
superintending the decorations. Christine had insisted that these
should be simple, and as Mr. Hepworth, too, was opposed to the
conventional work of a florist, the girls had directed it all
themselves.

"It does look perfectly sweet," said Patty, as she surveyed the
drawing-room. "Personally, I should prefer all those dinky white
telegraph poles stretched with ribbon and bunched up with flowers to
make an aisle for the happy couple to walk through. But as it isn't my
wedding, I suppose we must let the bride have her own way."

"I'm tired of those tied up poles," said Elise, decidedly. "I think
this is a lot prettier, and all this Southern jasmine is beautiful,
and just like Christine."

"She is the sweetest thing!" said Patty. "Every new present that comes
in, she sits and looks at it helplessly, as if it were the very last
straw!"

"Well, of course, most of the presents are from Mr. Hepworth's
friends," said Mona, "and they are stunning! I don't wonder Christine
is overcome."

"She has lots of friends of her own, too," said Patty. "All the girls
gave her beautiful things, and you two quite outdid yourselves. That
lamp of yours, Mona, is a perfect dream; and, Elise, I never saw such
gems as your silver candlesticks. Christine's path through life will
be well lighted! Well, everything's finished, and I think it's about
time we went to dress. The ceremony's at four, and as I'm going to be
a bridesmaid for the first time in my mad career, I don't want to be
late at the party."

"How beautiful the drawing-room looks," said Mrs. Allen, coming along
just then. "Patty dear, doesn't this all remind you of the day Nan was
married?"

"Yes, Mrs. Allen; only the weddings are quite different. But Christine
would keep this as simple as possible, so of course I let her have her
own way."

"Yes, Patty, that's the privilege of a bride. But some day you can
have your own way in the direction of your own wedding, and I rather
fancy it will be an elaborate affair. I hope I'll be here to see."

"I hope you will, Mrs. Allen," laughed Patty; "but don't look for it
very soon. My suitors are so bashful, you know; I have to urge them
on."

"Nonsense!" cried Elise. "Patty's greatest trouble is to keep her
suitors off! She tries to hold them at arm's length, but they are so
insistent that it is difficult."

"I think you girls are all too young to have suitors," commented Mrs.
Allen, smiling at the pretty trio.

"Oh, Mrs. Allen," said Patty; "suitors doesn't mean men who want to
marry you. I suppose it's sort of slang, but nowadays, girls call all
their young men suitors, even the merest casual acquaintances."

"Oh, I see," said Mrs. Allen. "I suppose as in my younger days we used
to call them beaux."

"Yes, just that," said Patty. "Why, Mr. Hepworth used to be one of our
favourite suitors, until he persuaded Christine to marry him; but we
have lots of them left."

"Is that big one coming to the wedding?" asked Mrs. Allen.

"She means Bill Farnsworth," said Patty to the others. "She always
calls him 'that big one.' I don't know whether he's coming or not. He
said if he possibly could get here, he would."

"He'll come," said Elise, wagging her head, sagely. "He'll manage it
somehow. Why, Mrs. Allen, he worships the ground Patty walks on!"

"So do all my suitors," said Patty, complacently. "They're awful
ground worshippers, the whole lot of them! But so long as they don't
worship me, they may adore the ground as much as they like. Now, you
people must excuse me, for I'm going to get into that flummery
bridesmaid's frock,--and I can tell you, though it looks so simple,
it's fearfully and wonderfully made."

Patty ran away to her own room, but paused on the way to speak to
Christine, who was already being dressed in her bridal robes.

"You _sweet_ thing!" cried Patty, flinging her arms round her friend's
neck. "Christine dear, you know I'm not much good at sentimental
expressions, but I _do_ want to wish you such a heap of joy that
you'll just almost break down under it!"

Christine smiled back into Patty's honest eyes, and realised the
loving friendship that prompted the words.

"Patty," she said, "I can't begin to thank you for all you've done for
me this past year, but I thank you most,"--here she blushed, and
whispered shyly,--"because you didn't want him, yourself!"

"Oh, Christine!" said Patty, "I _do_ want him, something dreadful! I
shall just _pine_ away the rest of my sad life because I can't have
him! But you wrested him from me, and I give him to you with my
blessing!" And then Patty went away, and Christine smiled, knowing
that Patty's words were merely jesting, and knowing too, with a heart
full of content, that Gilbert Hepworth really wanted _her_, and not
the radiant, mischievous Patty.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Promptly at four o'clock, the old, well-known music sounded forth, and
Patty came slowly downstairs. Her gown was of white chiffon, over pink
chiffon, and fell in soft, shimmering draperies, that looked like
classic simplicity, but were in reality rather complicated. Christine
had designed both their gowns, and they were marvels of beauty. On
Patty's head was perched a coquettish little cap of the style most
approved for bridesmaids, and she carried a clustered spray of pink
roses. As she entered the drawing-room, intent on walking correctly in
time to the music, she chanced to glance up, and saw Bill Farnsworth's
blue eyes fixed upon her. Unthinkingly, she gave him a radiant smile,
and then, with the pink in her cheeks deepened a little, she went on
her way toward the group of palms, where the wedding party would
stand.

Not even the bride herself looked prettier than Patty; though
Christine was very sweet, in her soft white chiffon, her misty veil,
and her shower bouquet of white flowers, which she had expressly
requested should be without ribbons.

Only the more intimate friends had been invited to the ceremony, but
immediately after, the house was filled with the reception guests.
Patty was in gay spirits, which was not at all unusual for that young
woman. She fluttered about everywhere, like a big pink butterfly, but
ever and again hovering back to Christine, to caress her, and, as she
expressed it, "To keep up her drooping spirits." Christine had never
entirely overcome her natural shyness, and being the centre of
attraction on this occasion greatly embarrassed her, and she was glad
of Patty's gay nonsense to distract attention from herself.

Kenneth Harper was best man, and, as he told Patty, the responsibility
of the whole affair rested on himself and her. "We're really of far
greater importance than the bride and groom," he said; "and they
depend on us for everything. Have you the confetti all ready, Patty?"

"Yes, of course; do you have to go to the train with them, Ken?"

"No; my duties are ended when I once get them packed into a motor at
the door. But Christine looks as if she couldn't survive much longer,
and as for old Gilbert, he's as absent-minded as the conventional
bridegroom."

"Christine's all right," said Patty. "I'm going to take her off, now,
to get into her travelling clothes. Oh, Ken, she has the loveliest
suit! Sort of a taupe colour, you know, and the dearest hat----"

"Patty! Do you suppose I care what she's going to wear away? But _do_
see to it that she's ready on time! You girls will all get to
weeping,--that's the way they always do,--and you'll spin out your
farewells so that they'll lose their train! Run along with Christine,
now; Hepworth is fidgeting like the dickens."

So the pretty bridesmaid took the pretty bride away, and Patty begged
Christine to make haste with her dressing, lest she might lose the
train.

"And Mr. Hepworth will go away without you," Patty threatened. "Now,
you do always dawdle, Christine; but this time you've got to
hustle,--so be spry,--Mrs. Hepworth."

Christine smiled at Patty's use of the new name, and she tried to make
the haste Patty demanded. But she was slow by nature, and Patty danced
around her in terror, lest she should really be late.

"Here's your coat, Christine,--put your arms in, do! Now the other
one. Now sit down, and I'll put your hat on for you. Oh, Mrs.
Hepworth, _do_ hold your head still! Here, stick this pin in yourself,
or I may jab it through your brain,--though I must confess you act as
if you hadn't any! or if you have, it's addled. And Ken says that
husband of yours is acting just the same way. My! it's lucky you two
infants had a capable and clever bridesmaid and best man to get you
off! There! take your gloves,--no, don't hold them like that! put them
on. Wake up, Christine; remember, the show isn't over yet. You've got
to go downstairs, and be showered with confetti, and, oh, Christine,
_don't_ forget to throw your bouquet!"

"I won't do it!" and Christine Hepworth woke up suddenly from her
dreaming, and clasped her bridal bouquet to her heart.

"Nonsense! of course you will! You've simply _got_ to! I'm not going
to run this whole wedding, and then have the prima donna balk in the
last act. Now, listen, Christine, you throw it over the banister just
as you start downstairs! Will you?"

"Yes," was the meek response; "I will."

"And wait a minute; don't you throw it till I get down there myself,
for I might catch it."

"Do catch it, Patty, and then you can give it back to me. I want to
keep it all my life."

"Well, you can't, Christine; it isn't done! You'll have to direct your
sentimentality in some other direction. Or, here, I'll give you a
flower out of it, and that's plenty for you to keep for a souvenir of
this happy occasion."

"Why do I have to throw it, anyway?" persisted Christine, as she
tucked the flower away for safe keeping.

"First and foremost, because I tell you to! and, incidentally, because
it's the custom. You know, whoever catches it will be married inside
of a year. Now, I'm going on down, and then you come along with Nan,
and I expect you'll find Mr. Hepworth down there somewhere,--if Ken
hasn't lost him."

Patty cast a final critical glance at Christine, and seeing that she
was all right in every respect, she gave her one last kiss, and
hurried downstairs. She found a group of laughing young people
standing in the hall, all provided with confetti, and the girls all
looking upward to watch for the descending bouquet.

"Here's a good place for you, Patty Pink and White," and Farnsworth
guided her to a place directly under the banister.

At that moment Christine appeared at the head of the stairs. She stood
a moment, her bouquet held at arm's length, and looked at it as if she
couldn't quite bring herself to part with it.

"There, _now_ she's going to toss it! _Quick_, Patty, catch it!" Big
Bill whispered in her ear, and Patty looked upward. Then, seeing the
direction in which the flowers fell,--for Christine really tossed them
straight at her,--Patty whirled round and sprang aside, so that the
bouquet was picked up by a girl who stood next to her.

"Oh, Patty! you muffed it!" cried Farnsworth; "and what's more, you
did it on purpose!"

"'Course I did!" declared Patty. "I don't want to be married this
year, thank you. But it was all I could do to dodge it!"

And then the confetti was showered on the departing couple, Kenneth
tucked them into the motor car, Patty jumped in too, for a last
rapturous hug of Christine, and Kenneth almost had to pull her out.

"Come, come, Patty," he cried. "Let them make their getaway! I think
they've missed the train as it is. There, now, they're off! My, a best
man's lot is not a happy one! But our trials are over now, Patty girl,
and we can take a little rest! Let's go back and receive the
congratulations of the audience on our good work."

They went back to the house, laughing, and Patty succeeded in
obtaining a few more blossoms from the bridal bouquet to save for
Christine until she came back.

"Why didn't you catch it, Patty?" said Kenneth. "Do you want to be an
old maid?"

"'Nobody asked me, sir, she said,'" and Patty dropped her eyes,
demurely.

"You mean there's nobody that hasn't asked you!" returned Kenneth.
"I'm going to ask you, myself, some day; but not to-night. I've had
enough to do with matrimonial alliances for one day!"

"So have I," laughed Patty. "Let's put it off for a year, Ken."

"All right," was the laughing response, and then they rejoined the
other young people.

After the reception was over, a few of Patty's more intimate friends
were invited to remain to dinner with the Fairfields.

"Can you stay, Little Billee?" asked Patty, dancing up to him, as he
seemed about to leave.

"I have to take a midnight train," he said, "and I have some business
matters that I must attend to first. So if I may, I'll run away now,
and come back this evening for a dance with you."

"All right; be sure to come," and Patty flashed him a smiling glance,
and danced away again.

It was after eleven before Farnsworth returned, and Patty had begun to
fear he would not come at all.

"What are you looking at?" asked Philip Van Reypen, as Patty continued
to glance over her shoulder toward the hall, while they were dancing.

"Nothing," was the non-committal answer.

"Well, then, you may as well look at me. At least, I'm better than
nothing."

"_Much_ better!" said Patty, with exaggerated emphasis; "_ever_ so
much better! Oh, say, Philip, take me over to the hall, will you?"

"What for? This dance has just begun."

"Never mind!" said Patty, impatiently. "Lead me over that way!"

Patty turned her own dancing steps in that direction, and when they
reached the hall, there was Big Bill Farnsworth, smiling at her.

"This is what I was looking for!" said Patty, gaily. "Run away now,
Philip. Little Billee can only stay a minute, and we'll finish our
dance afterward."

Van Reypen was decidedly annoyed, but he didn't show it, for he knew
Patty's caprices must be obeyed. So he bowed politely, and walked
away.

"He's mad as hops," said Patty, calmly; "but I had to see you for a
few minutes, if you're really going on that midnight train. Are you,
Little Billee?"

"Yes, Apple Blossom, I am. I've time for just one turn round the room.
Will you dance?"

For answer, Patty put her hand in his, and they waltzed slowly round
the room.

"You are the busiest business man I ever saw," Patty said, pouting a
little.

"Yes, I _am_ very busy just now. Indeed, matters are rapidly coming to
a crisis. It was only because I suddenly found that I must be in
Boston to-morrow, that I could stop here to-day. And if matters turn
out to-morrow as I hope they will, I must start back immediately to
Arizona. But some day I hope to be less hurried, and then----"

"And then?" asked Patty.

"Then I hope to live in New York, and learn good manners and correct
customs, and make myself fit to be a friend of yours."

"Oh, Little Billee, you _are_ a friend of mine."

"Well, something more than a friend, then. Patty,--I _must_ ask
you,--are you engaged to Van Reypen?"

"Goodness, no!" and Patty flashed a glance of surprise.

"Then, Patty, mayn't _I_ hope?"

"That's a question I _never_ know how to answer," said Patty,
demurely; "if you mean that I'm to consider myself bound by any sort
of a promise, I most certainly won't!"

"No, I don't mean that, dear, but,----well, Patty, won't you wait?"

"Of course I'll wait. That's exactly what I mean to do for years and
years."

"You mean to,--but you're so capricious."

"Oh, no! not _that_, of all things! And, anyway, what does capricious
mean?"

"Well, it means like a butterfly, hovering from one flower to
another----"

"Oh, you think you're like unto a flower?"

"I'll be any kind of a flower you wish, if you'll hover around me like
a butterfly."

"Well, be a timid little forget-me-not,--that will be lovely."

"I'll forget-you-not, all right; but I can't be timid, it isn't my
nature." And now they had stopped dancing, and stood in the hall, near
the door, for it was almost time for Farnsworth to go.

"It isn't because I'm timid," and the six feet three of humanity
towered above her, "that I don't grab you up and run away with you,
but because----"

"Well, because what?" said Patty, daringly.

"Because, Apple Blossom," and Bill spoke slowly, "when I see you here
in your rightful setting, and surrounded by your own sort of people, I
realise that I'm only a great, big----"

"Bear," interrupted Patty. "You _are_ like a big bear, Bill! But such
a nice, gruff, kind, woolly bear,--and the best friend a girl ever
had. But I wish you'd be more of a chum, Little Billee. I like to be
good chums with every one of my suitors! It's all very well for
Christine to marry; she doesn't care for society, she just only loves
Mr. Hepworth."

"Some day you'll forget your love for society, because you'll get to
love just only one man."

"'And it might as well be you,'" hummed Patty, to an old tune.

"Patty!" cried Farnsworth, his blue eyes lighting up with sudden joy;
"do you mean that?"

"No, _I_ never mean anything! Of _course_, I don't mean it,--but if I
_did_, I'd say I didn't."

"Patty Pink and White! you little scamp! if you tease me like this,
how do you suppose I'm ever going to tear myself away to catch that
midnight train to Boston?"

"Why, you can't get that, Little Billee! it's too late, now!"

"No, it isn't; and beside, I _must_ make it." He looked at his watch.
"I've just exactly two minutes longer to stay with you."

"Two minutes is a long time," said Patty, flippantly.

"Yes, it is! it's just long enough for two things I have to do."

"What have you to do?" asked Patty, wonderingly, looking up at him, as
they stood alone in the hall.

Farnsworth's strong face wore a determined look, but his blue eyes
were full of a tender light, as he answered:

"Two very important things,--Apple Blossom,--this,--and this!"

He kissed her swiftly on one pink cheek and then on the other, and
then, like a flash, he was gone.

"Oh!" said Patty, softly, to herself, "Oh!"



      *      *      *      *      *      *



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