Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Patty's Fortune
Author: Wells, Carolyn
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 Fortune" ***

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



generously made available by the Google Books Library Project
(http://books.google.com)



      Images of the original pages are available through
      the Google Books Library Project. See
      https://books.google.com/books?id=Qj9AAAAAYAAJ



[Illustration: Patty knew that a momentous decision lay
before her       (_Page_ 292)]


PATTY’S FORTUNE

by

CAROLYN WELLS

Author of
The Patty Books, The Marjorie Books,
Two Little Women Series, etc.

Illustrations by E. C. Caswell



[Illustration]

New York
Dodd, Mead and Company
1916

Copyright, 1916
By Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc.



CONTENTS

                  CHAPTER                                PAGE

              I   AN INVITATION                             9

             II   THE HOTEL                                23

            III   A MIDNIGHT MESSAGE                       37

             IV   BLUE ROCK LAKE                           52

              V   M’LLE FARINI!                            64

             VI   MAUDE’S CONFIDENCES                      78

            VII   THE FORTUNE TELLER                       93

           VIII   A RIDE TOGETHER                         107

             IX   THE “SHOWER”                            123

              X   GOOD-BYE, SWEETHEART                    136

             XI   A BUBBLE BURST                          150

            XII   MIDDY                                   166

           XIII   CHICK’S PLAN                            179

            XIV   A GREAT SUCCESS                         193

             XV   PATTY’S FUTURE                          208

            XVI   THE PROMISE                             224

           XVII   THE CRISIS                              237

          XVIII   PATTY’S FORTUNE                         251

            XIX   A DISTURBING LETTER                     265

             XX   BETTER THAN ANYBODY ELSE                279



ILLUSTRATIONS

        PATTY KNEW THAT A MOMENTOUS             _Frontispiece_
          DECISION LAY BEFORE HER (Page
          292)

        A MOMENT PATTY THOUGHT. THEN SHE      Facing page   60
          SAID, “NO THANK YOU, BILLEE, I
          DON’T”

        PATTY’S SWEET VOICE CHARMED BY ITS       “     “    86
          SYMPATHY

        “TELL ME IF YOU TOLD AUNTY VAN THAT      “     “   274
          YOU WOULD LEARN TO LOVE ME”



                               CHAPTER I


                             AN INVITATION

“I think Labour Day is an awfully funny holiday,” remarked Patty. “It
doesn’t seem to mean anything. It doesn’t commemorate anybody’s birth or
death or heroism.”

“It’s like Bank Holiday in England,” said her father. “Merely to give
the poor, tired business man a rest.”

“Well, you don’t specially need one, Daddy; you’ve recreated a lot this
summer; and it’s done you good,—you’re looking fine.”

“Isn’t he?” said Nan, smiling at the finely tanned face of her husband.

The Fairfields were down at “The Pebbles,” their summer home at the
seashore, and Patty, who had spent much of the season in New England,
had come down for a fortnight with her parents. Labour Day was early
this year and the warm September sun was more like that of midsummer.

The place was looking lovely, and Patty herself made a pretty picture,
as she lounged in a big couch hammock on the wide veranda. She had on a
white summer frock and a silk sweater of an exquisite shade of salmon
pink. Her silk stockings were of the same shade, and her white pumps
were immaculate.

Mr. Fairfield looked at the dainty feet, hanging over the edge of the
hammock, and said, teasingly, “I’ve heard, Patty, that there are only
two kinds of women: those who have small feet, and those who wear white
shoes.”

Patty surveyed the feet in question. “You can’t start anything, Dad,”
she said; “as a matter of fact, there’s only one kind of women today for
they all wear white shoes. And my feets are small for my age. I wear
fours and that’s not much for a great, big girl like me.”

“’Deed it isn’t, Patty,” said Nan; “your feet are very slender and
pretty; and your white shoes are always white, which is not a universal
condition, by any means.”

“You’re a great comfort, Nan,” and Patty smiled at her stepmother.
“Dunno what I’d do without you, when the Governor tries to take a rise
out of me.”

“Oh, I’ll buy your flowers, little girl,” and Nan smiled back, for there
was great friendship and chumminess between these two. “Are you tired,
Pats? You look—well,—interestingly pale.”

“Washed out, you mean,” and Patty grinned. “No, I’m not exactly tired,
but I’ve been thinking——”

“Oh, then of course you’re exhausted! You oughtn’t to think, Patty!”

“Huh! But listen here. This is Monday, and between now and Saturday
night I’ve got to go to fourteen different functions, of more or less
grandeur and gaiety. Fourteen! And not one can I escape without making
the other thirteen mad at me!”

“But, Patty,” said Mr. Fairfield, “that’s ridiculous. Of course, you can
refuse such invitations as you choose.”

“Of course I can’t, Lord Chesterfield. I’ve got to show up at every
blessed one,—or not at any. I’d like to cut the whole caboodle!”

“Why don’t you?” asked Nan. “Just retire into solitude, and I’ll say
you’re suffering from—from——”

“Temporary mental aberration!” laughed Patty. “No, that wouldn’t suit me
at all. Why, this afternoon, I’m going to a Garden Tea that I wouldn’t
miss for a farm. There’s to be a new man there!”

“Well, just about the last thing you need on this earth is a new man!”
declared her father. “You’ve a man for every day in the week now, with
two thrown in for Sunday.”

Patty looked demure. “I can’t help it,” she said. “I’m that
entertaining, you know. But this new man is a corker!”

“My child, what langwich, what langwich!”

“’Tisn’t mine. That the way he was described to me. So, of course, I
want to see if he _is_ any good. And, you won’t believe it, but his name
is Chick Channing!”

“What!”

“Yes, it is. Chickering Channing, for long, Chick for short.”

“What _was_ his mother thinking of?”

“Dunno. Prob’ly he was named for a rich uncle, and she couldn’t help the
combination.”

“Who is he?”

“One of Mona’s Western friends. Arrives today for a week or so. Mona’s
Tea is in his honour, though she was going to have it anyway.”

“Well,” said Mr. Fairfield, judicially, “of course you must go to that
Tea, and subjugate that young man. Then have him over here and I’ll size
him up. If you want him, I’ll buy him for you.”

“Thank you, dear Father, but I have toys enough. Well, then, tonight is
the Country Club Ball. And I do hate that, for there are so many
uninteresting people at it, and you have to dance with most of them. And
tomorrow there’s a poky old luncheon at Miss Gardiner’s. I _don’t_ want
to go to that. I wish I could elope!”

“Why don’t you, Patty?” said Nan, sympathetically; “cut it all, and run
up to Adele’s, or some nice, quiet place.”

“Adele’s a quiet place! Not much! Even gayer than Spring Beach. And,
anyway, it isn’t eloping if you go alone. I want to elope with a Romeo,
or something exciting like that. Well! for goodness gracious sakes’
alive! Will you _kindly_ look who’s coming up the walk!”

They followed the direction of Patty’s dancing blue eyes and saw a big
man, very big and very smiling, walking up the gravel path, with a long,
swinging stride.

“Little Billee!” Patty cried, jumping up and holding out both hands.
“Wherever did you descend from?”

“Didn’t descend; came up. Up from the South, at break of day,—Barnegat,
to be exact. How do you do, Mrs. Fairfield? How are you, sir?”

Farnsworth’s kindly, breezy manner, condoned his lack of conventional
formality, and with an easy grace, he disposed his big bulk in a deep
and roomy wicker porch chair.

“And how’s the Giddy Butterfly?” he said, turning to Patty. “Still
making two smiles grow where one was before? Still breaking hearts and
binding them up again?”

“Yes,” and she dimpled at him. “And I have a brand-new one to break this
afternoon. Isn’t that fine?”

“Fine for the fortunate owner of the heart, yes. Any man worthy of the
name would rather have his heart broken by Patty Fairfield
than—than—to die in a better land!”

“Hobson’s choice,” said Mr. Fairfield, drily. “Are you here for a time,
Farnsworth? Glad to have you stay with us.”

“Thank you, sir, but I’m on the wing. I expected to spend the holiday
properly, fishing at Barnegat. But a hurry-up telegram calls me up to
Maine, instanter. I just dropped off here over one train, to catch a
glimpse of Little Sunshine, and make sure she’s behaving herself.”

“I’m a Angel,” declared Patty, with a heavenward gaze. “And, Bill, what
do you think! I was just saying I wanted to elope. Now, here you are!
Why don’t I elope with you?”

“If it must be some one, it might as well be me,” returned Farnsworth,
gravely; “have you a rope ladder handy?”

“Always keep one on hand,” returned Patty, gaily. “When do we start?”

“Right away, now, if you’re going with me,” and Bill laughed as Patty
sat up straight and tied her sweater sash and pretended to get ready to
go.

“But this is the strange part,” he went on; “you all think I’m fooling,
but I’m not! I do want to carry Patty off with me, on this very next
train.”

“This is so sudden!” said Patty, still taking it as a joke.

“You keep still a minute, Milady, and let me explain to your elders and
betters.” Patty pouted at this, but Bill went on. “You see, Mr.
Fairfield, I’m involved in some big business transactions, which, not to
go into details, have made it necessary for me to become the owner of a
large hotel up in Maine,—in the lake region.”

“I thought all Maine was lakey,” put in Patty.

“Well, this is a smallish lake, not far from Poland Spring. And it’s a
big hotel, and it’s to close tomorrow, and all the guests will leave
then. And I’ve got to go up there and look after it.”

“How did you happen to acquire this white elephant?” asked Fred
Fairfield, greatly interested.

“Had to take it for a debt. Man couldn’t pay,—lost his money in war
stocks.—I’ll tell you all about it while Patty’s getting her bag
packed.”

“What do you mean?” cried Nan, seeing Farnsworth’s apparent sincerity.

“Oh, Lord, I forgot I haven’t told you yet! Well, as I have to go up
there for a week or two, and as the hotel is all in running order, and
as all the guests are going off in a hurry, and the servants are still
there, I thought it would be fun to have a sort of a house party up
there—”

“Gorgeous!” cried Patty, clapping her hands, “Who’s going, Bill?”

“That’s the rub! I haven’t asked anybody yet, and I doubt if I can get
many at this time of year.”

“Haven’t asked anybody! I thought you had planned this house party!”

“Well, you see, I just got the telegram last night, and it was on the
train coming up here this morning that I planned it—so the plans
aren’t—aren’t entirely completed as yet.”

“Oh, you fraud! You made it all up on the spur of the moment——”

“Yes’m, I did. But what a spur the moment is! Now, see here, it’s clear
sailing. We can get the Kenerleys and they’ll be the chaperons. Now, all
we have to do, is to corral a few guests. You and I are two. How about
Mona Galbraith?”

“She’d go if she could,” said Patty, “but she’s having a party this
afternoon. Chick Channing is over there.”

“Chick Channing! Is he really? Well! Well! I haven’t seen that boy for
years. We must make them come. And Daisy? Is she there?”

“Yet, but don’t get too many girls——”

“Don’t be alarmed, you little man-eater, you! The Farringtons will go,
maybe; and Kit Cameron and his pretty cousin. Oh, I’ve a list of
possibles, and we’ll get enough for a jolly little crowd. You’ve no
objections, have you?” and Farnsworth looked anxiously at the elder
Fairfields.

“N-no,” began Nan, “but it isn’t all clear to me yet. Suppose the
Kenerleys can’t go?”

“That puts the whole plant out of commission. Unless,—oh, by Jove!
wouldn’t you two go? That would be fine!”

But Mr. Fairfield and Nan refused to be drawn into any such crazy
scheme. It was all right for young people, they said, but not for a
comfort-loving, middle-aged pair.

“Well, I’ll tell you,” said Farnsworth, after a moment’s thought. “I’ll
get the Kens on the long distance, and find out for sure. Meantime,
Butterfly, you be packing a few feathers, for sumpum tells me Adele will
go, anyway, whether old Jim does or not.”

“Might as well throw some things in a suitcase I s’pose,” said Patty;
“it’s better to be ready and not go than to go and not be ready.”

After a long session at the telephone, Bill announced a triumphant
success. The Kenerleys would be glad to go. Moreover, Adele would meet
Patty and Bill in New York that very day in time for a late luncheon.
Then they would get the Farringtons and the others by telephone. Then
Patty would go home with Adele for the night, and they would all go to
Maine the next day.

“You see it’s very simple,” said Bill, with such an ingenuous smile that
Nan went over to his side at once.

“Of course it is,” she agreed. “It’s simply lovely! And Patty wanted to
get away from the giddy whirl down here. She’ll have the time of her
life!”

But Mr. Fairfield was not so sure. “I think it’s a wild goose chase,” he
said. “What sort of a place are you going to? You don’t know! What sort
of service and creature comforts? You don’t know! What will you get to
eat? You don’t know! That’s a nice sort of outlook, I must say!”

“Oh, easy now, sir. It isn’t as bad as all that. I’ve had rather
definite and detailed reports, and if it weren’t all comfy and certain,
I wouldn’t take Patty up there. It’s a Lark, you see, a Lark,—and I’m
sure we’ll get a lot of fun out of it. And, incidentally, I know it’s a
fine section of country,—healthful, invigourating, and all that. And
the house is a modern up-to-date hotel. They always close soon after
Labour Day, but this year, owing to circumstances, it’s the very day
after. That’s where the fun comes in, having a whole hotel all to
ourselves. But we must be getting on. The train leaves in twenty
minutes.”

“I’m all ready,” said Patty, as she re-appeared, miraculously
transformed into a lady garbed for travelling. A silk pongee coat
protected her gown and a small hat and veil completed a smart costume.

“I don’t altogether like it——” began Mr. Fairfield, as they got into
the motor to go to the train.

“Run along, Patty,” said Nan. “I’ll see to it that he does like it,
before you leave the station. Going to Mona’s?”

“Yes, just for a minute. You see her as soon as we’re gone, and tell her
all about it. We can only say the barest facts.”

They flew off, Patty’s veil streaming behind, until she drew it in and
tied it round her neck.

At Red Chimneys, several young people were playing tennis, but Patty
called Mona to her and told her briefly of the plan.

“Glorious!” cried Mona. “If it were not for that old Tea, we could go
right along now. But we’ll come tomorrow. Where shall we meet you?”

Quickly Farnsworth told her, and then turned to see his old friend,
Channing.

“Chick, old boy!” he cried. “My, but it’s good to see you again!”

Channing was presented to Patty, who looked at him in amazement. He was
the biggest man she had ever seen, even taller than Bill Farnsworth. He
looked enormously strong, and when he smiled, his large mouth parted to
show two rows of big, white, even teeth, that somehow made Patty feel
like Red Ridinghood before the wolf. But there was little time for
getting acquainted, for it was almost train time.

A few words between the two men as to meeting next day, and then the
motor flew to the station.

And only just in time, for though Bill handed Patty on to the steps with
care, he had to scramble up himself as the train was about to start.

“How do you like eloping?” he said, smilingly, as they rolled away.

“Fine,” said Patty, dimpling, “but must it always be done in quite such
a hurry?”

“Not always; next time we’ll take it easier. Now, let’s make a list of
our house guests.”

Farnsworth took out a notebook and pencil, and they suggested various
names, some of which they decided for and some against.

At last Patty said, in an assured tone, “And Phil Van Reypen.”

“Not on your life!” exclaimed Bill. “If he goes _I_ don’t!”

“Why, Little Billee, we couldn’t have the party at all without _you_!”

“Then you’ll have it without _him_! See?”

Patty pouted. “I don’t see why. He’s an awfully nice man, I think.”

“Oh, you do, do you? Why don’t you stay home, then, and have him down at
the seashore to visit you?”

“Oh, that wouldn’t be half as much fun. But up there is that lovely
place, all woodsy and lakey and sunsetty, I could have a splendid time,
if I had all my friends around me.” Patty’s sweet face looked very
wistful, and Farnsworth scanned it closely.

“Does it mean so much as that to you, Patty? If it does, you shall have
him invited.”

“Oh, I don’t care. It’s your party, do just as you like.”

“Because it’s my party, I want to do just as _you_ like.” Bill spoke
very kindly, and Patty rewarded him with a flash of her blue eyes, and
the subject was dropped.



                               CHAPTER II


                               THE HOTEL

“This is a little like a real eloping, isn’t it?” and Bill gave
Patty’s suitcase to a porter, whom they followed across the big
Pennsylvania station in New York.

“A _very_ little,” said Patty, shaking her head. “You see it lacks the
thrill of a real out-and-out elopement, because people know about it. An
elopement, to be any good, must be a secret. If ever I get married, I’m
going to elope, that’s one thing certain!”

“Why, Patty, how unlike you! I thought you’d want a flubdub wedding with
forty-’leven bridesmaids and all the rest of it.”

“Oh, I s’pect I shall when the time comes. I often change my mind, you
know.”

“You bet you do! You change it oftener than you make it up!”

“Why, I couldn’t——” began Patty, and just then they reached the
taxicab rank, and Bill put Patty into a car.

They went to the Waldorf, where they were to meet the Kenerleys, and
found that Jim and Adele had just arrived.

“What a perfect scheme!” exclaimed Adele, as soon as greetings had been
exchanged. “Who all are going?”

“Let us go to luncheon,” said Bill, “and then we can thrash out things.
I reserved a table—ah, here we are,” as the head waiter recognised the
big Westerner.

“I love to go round with Bill,” said Patty, “he always has everything
ready, and no fuss about it.”

“He sure does,” said Jim Kenerley, in hearty appreciation. “But the way
he scoots across the country and back, every other day or two, keeps him
in trim. He lives on the jump.”

“I do,” agreed Farnsworth. “But some day I hope to arrange matters so I
can stay in the same place twice running.”

Laughing at this sally, they took their places at the table, which
Bill’s foresight had caused to be decorated with a low mound of white
asters and maidenhair fern.

“How pretty!” cried Patty. “I hate a tall decoration,—this is just
right to talk over. Now, let’s talk.”

And talk they did.

“I just flew off,” Patty declared, as she told Adele about it. “Nan’s
going to pack a trunk and send it, when she knows we’re truly there. I
think she feared the plan would fizzle out.”

“Indeed it won’t,” Bill assured them. “We’ve got the nucleus of our
party here, and if we can’t get any more, we can go it alone.”

But it was by no means difficult to get the others. Some few whom they
asked were out of town, but they responded to long distance calls, and
most of them accepted the unusual invitation.

Farnsworth had a table telephone brought, and as fast as they could ring
them up, they asked their guests.

The two Farringtons were glad to go; Marie Homer and Kit Cameron jumped
at the chance. Mona and Daisy, with Chick Channing, would come up from
the shore the next day, and that made eleven.

“Van Reypen?” asked Kenerley, as they sought for some one to fill out
the dozen.

“Up to Patty,” said Bill, glancing at her.

“No,” and Patty shook her golden head, slowly; “no, don’t let’s ask Phil
this time.”

“Why not?” said Adele in astonishment. “I thought you liked him.”

“I do; Phil’s a dear. But I just don’t want him on this picnic. Besides,
he’s probably out of town. And likely he wouldn’t care to go.”

“Reasons enough,” said Farnsworth, briefly. “Cross off Van Reypen. Now,
who for our last man?”

“Peyton,” said Jim. “Bob Peyton would love to go, and he’s a good
all-’round chap. How’s that, Bill?”

“All right, Patty?” and Bill looked inquiringly at her.

“Yes, indeed. Mr. Peyton’s a jolly man. Do you think he’d go, Adele?”

“Like a shot!” Kenerley replied, for his wife. “Bob’s rather gone on
Patty, if you know what I mean.”

“Who _isn’t_ gone on Patty?” returned Farnsworth. “Well, that’s a round
dozen. Enough!”

“Plenty,” Patty decreed. And then the talk turned to matters of trains
and meetings and luggage.

“I’ll arrange everything for the picnic,” said Bill. “You girls see
about your clothes and that’s all you need bother about. You’ll want
warmish togs, it gets cool up there after sundown. Remember, it’s
Maine!”

Patty and Adele at once began to discuss what to take, and Patty made a
list to send to Nan for immediate shipment.

“What an enormous piece of humanity that Chicky is!” said Patty,
suddenly remembering the stranger. “Do you know him, Jim?”

“Yes; known him for years. He’s true blue, every inch of him. Don’t you
like him, Patty?”

“Can’t say yet. I only saw him half a jiffy. But, yes, I’m sure I shall
like him. Bill says he’s salt of the earth.”

“He’s all of that. And maybe a little pepper, as well. But you and old
Chick will be chums, I promise you. Now we’ll pack you two girls off to
Fern Falls, and I’ll do a few man’s size errands, and Bill, here, will
make his will and dispose of his estate, before going off into the
wilderness with a horde of wild Indians. Then tomorrow, he’ll pick us up
at Fern Falls, and we’ll all go on our way rejoicing.”

“Not so fast,” said Adele, after Jim finished his speech. “You two men
can go where you like, Patty and I will take a taxi, and do some last
fond lingering bits of shopping, before we go home. Don’t you s’pose we
want some shoes and veils and——”

“Sealing-wax?” asked Farnsworth, laughing. “All right, you ladies go and
buy your millinery, and I’ll see you again tomorrow on the train.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

As might have been expected, with such capable management, everything
went on smoothly, and it was a clear, bright afternoon when they
completed the last stage of their journey, and the train from Portland
set them down at their destination.

Not quite at their destination, however, for motorbuses were in waiting
to take them to the hotel itself.

For more than an hour they bumped or glided over the varying roads, now
through woods, and now through clearing.

At last, a vista suddenly opened before them, and they saw a most
picturesque lake, its dark waters touched here and there by the setting
sun. It was bordered by towering pines and spruces, and purple hills
rose in the distance.

“Stunning!” cried Patty, standing up in the car to see better. “I never
saw such a theatrical lake. It’s like grand opera! Or like the castled
crag of Drachenfels, whatever that is.”

“I used to recite that at school,” observed Chick Channing; “so it must
be all right, whatever it is.”

And then, as they turned a corner, the hotel itself appeared in sight.
An enormous structure, not far from the lake, and set in a mass of
brilliant salvias and other autumn flowers and surrounded by well-kept
velvety greensward.

“What a peach of a hotel!” and Patty’s eyes danced with enthusiasm and
admiration. “All for us, Little Billee?”

“All for we! Room enough?”

“I should say so! I’m going to have a suite,—maybe two suites.”

“Everybody can have all the rooms he wants, and then some. I believe
there are about five hundred——”

“What?” cried Daisy Dow, “five hundred! I shall have a dozen at least.
What fun!”

The cars rolled up to the main entrance. Doormen, porters, and hallboys
appeared, and the laughing crowd trooped merrily up the steps.

“I never had such a lark!” declared Mona. “Oh, I’ve seen hotels as
big,—even bigger,—but never had one all to myself, so to speak. Isn’t
it just like Big Bill to get up this picnic!”

Marie Homer looked a little scared. The vastness of the place seemed to
awe her.

“Chr’up, Marie,” laughed her cousin, Kit Cameron. “You don’t have to use
any more rooms than you want. How shall we pick our quarters,
Farnsworth?”

“Well, let me see. Mr. and Mrs. Kenerley must select their rooms first.
Then the ladies of the party; and, if there are any rooms left after
that, we fellows will bunk in ’em.”

So, followed by the whole laughing troop, Adele and Jim chose their
apartments. They selected two elaborate suites on the second floor, for
Bill told them that there were scores of servants, and they were better
off if they had work to do.

“Isn’t it heavenly?” sighed Elise Farrington, dropping for a moment on a
cushioned window-seat, in Adele’s sitting-room, and gazing at the
beautiful view. “I want my rooms on this side of the house, too.”

“All the girls on this side,” decreed Adele, “and all the men on the
other. Or, if the men want a lake view, they can go up on the next
floor. If I have to comfort you girls, when you’re weeping with
homesickness, I want you near by. Marie, you’re most addicted to
nostalgia, I recommend you take this suite next to mine.”

So Marie was installed in a lovely apartment, next Adele’s and with
practically the same view of the lake and hills.

Daisy’s came next, then Mona’s, and Patty’s last. This brought Patty at
the other end of the long house, and just suited her. “For,” she said,
“there’s a balcony to this suite, and if I feel romantic, I can come out
here and bay the moon.”

“You’ll do nothing of the sort, young woman,” said Adele, severely. “You
do that moon-baying act, and you’ll be kidnapped again.”

“No, thank you,” and Patty shuddered, “I’ve had quite enough of that!”

The rooms were beautifully furnished, in good taste and harmonious
colourings. The hotel had been planned on an elaborate scale, but for
some reason, probably connected with the management, had not been
successful in this, its first season; and in swinging a business deal of
some big lumber tracts in that vicinity, it had fallen into Farnsworth’s
hands. He had no intention of keeping it, but intended to sell it to
advantage. But at present, it was his own property and he had conceived
the whim of this large-sized picnic.

“Boom! Boom!” sounded Channing’s deep bass voice in the hall. “That’s
the dressing-gong, people. Dinner in half an hour. No full dress
tonight. Just a fresh blouse and a flower in your hair, girls.”

“Isn’t he great?” said Patty to Mona, as they responded through their
closed doors.

But the girls’ suites of rooms could all be made to communicate, and
they ran back and forth without using the main hall.

“He is,” agreed Mona, who was brushing her hair at Patty’s
dressing-table. “And the more you see of him, the better you’ll like
him. He’s shy at first.”

“Shy! That great, big thing shy?”

“Yes; he tries to conceal it, but he is. Not with men, you know,—but
afraid of girls. Don’t tease him, Patty.”

“Me tease him!” and Patty looked like an injured saint. “I’m going to be
a Fairy Godmother to him. I’ll take care of him and shield him from you
hoydens, with your wiles. Now, go to your own rooms, Mona. I should
think, with half a dozen perfectly good rooms of your own, you might let
me have mine.”

“I can’t bear to leave you, Patty. You’re not much to look at,—I
know,—but somehow I forget your plainness, when——”

Mona dodged a powder-puff that Patty threw at her, and ran away to her
own rooms.

Half an hour later, Patty went slowly down the grand staircase.

Adele had decreed no evening dress that first night, so Patty wore a
little afternoon frock of flowered Dresden silk. It was simply made,
with a full skirt and many little flounces, and yellowed lace ruffles
fell away from her pretty throat and soft dimpled arms. Its pale
colouring and crisp frilliness suited well her dainty type, and she
looked a picture as she stood for a moment halfway down the stairs.

“Well, if you aren’t a sight for gods and little fishes!” exclaimed a
deep voice, and Patty saw Chickering Channing gazing at her from the
hall below. “Come on down,—let me eat you.”

As Patty reached the last step, he grasped her lightly with his two
hands and swung her to the floor beside him.

“Well!” exclaimed Patty, decidedly taken aback at this performance.
“Will you wait a minute while I revise my estimate of you?”

“For better or worse?”

“That sounds like something—I can’t think what—Declaration of
Independence, I guess.”

“Wrong! It’s from the Declaration of Dependence. But why revise?”

“Oh, I’ve ticketed you all wrong! Mona said you were shy! _Shy!_”

“Methinks the roguish Mona was guying you! Shyness is _not_ my strong
point. But, if you prefer it should be, I’ll cultivate it till I can shy
with the best of them. Would you like me better shy?”

“Indeed I should, if only to save me the trouble of that revision.”

“Shy it is, then.” Whereupon Mr. Channing began to fidget and stand on
one foot, then the other, and even managed to blush, as he stammered
out, “I s-say, Miss F-Fairfield,——”

It was such a perfect, yet not overdone burlesque of an embarrassed
youth, that Patty broke into peals of laughter.

“Don’t!” she cried. “Be yourself, whatever it is. I can’t revise back
and forth every two minutes! I say, Mr. Chickering Channing, you’re
going to be great fun, aren’t you?”

“Bid me to live and I will live, your Funnyman to be. Whatever you
desire, I’m it. So you see, I am a nice, handy man to have in the
house.”

“Indeed you are. I foresee we shall be friends. But what can I call you?
That whole title, as I just used it, is too long,—even for this big
house.”

“You know what the rest call me.”

Patty pouted a little. “I never call people what other people call
them.”

“Oh, Lord, more trouble!” and Chick rolled his eyes as if in despair.
“Well, choose a name for yourself——”

“No, I want one for you!”

“Oh, what a _funny_ young miss! Well, choose, but don’t be all night
about it. And I warn you if I don’t like it, I won’t let you use it.”

“‘_Shy!_’ Oh, my!” murmured Patty. “Well, I shall call you Chickadee,
whether you like it or not.”

“Oh, I like it,—I _love_ it! But, nearly as many people call me that as
Chick!”

“And I thought it was original with me! All right, I’ll think up
another, and I shan’t speak to you again until I’ve thought of it.”

Nonchalantly turning aside, Patty walked across the great hall to where
a few of the others had already gathered.

“Pretty Patty,” said Kit Cameron, in his wheedling way; “wilt thou
stroll with me, after dinner, through the moonlight?”

“She wilt not,” answered Adele, for her. “Look here, young folks, if I’m
to chaperon you, I’m going to be pretty strict about it. No strollings
in moonlights for yours! If you want gaiety, you may have a dance in the
ballroom. The strolling can wait till tomorrow, and then we’ll all go
for a nice walk round the lake.”

“A dance!” cried Patty, “better yet! Who would go mooning if there’s a
dance on? I’ll give you the first one, Kit. Oh, you haven’t asked for
it, have you?”

“But _I_ have, Patty,” said Farnsworth’s voice over her shoulder, “will
you give it to me?”

“I promised Kit,” said Patty, shortly, and then she turned to speak to
Bob Peyton about a golf game next day.



                              CHAPTER III


                           A MIDNIGHT MESSAGE

Dinner in the big dining-room was great fun. A large, round table had
been prepared for the party, and the smaller, unoccupied tables all
about, were also decorated with flowers to give a festive atmosphere.

As there were scores of idle waiters, each of the party could have one,
or more, if desired.

Farnsworth seated his guests.

“I’ll sit here,” he announced, “and I’ll ask Mrs. Kenerley to sit at my
right. The rest of you may sit where you choose, alternating, of course,
the girls and the men. Now, here’s my plan. At every meal, the men sit
as we do tonight, and the ladies move one seat to the right. This gives
us new companions each time, and prevents monotony.”

“Here’s me,” said Patty, dropping into the chair at Bill’s left hand,
while Channing sat the other side of Patty. Laughingly, they all found
places, and dinner was served.

It was an unusual experience. The hotel dining-room was ornate in design
and appointments, and its green and gold colouring and soft glow of
silk-shaded lights made a charming setting for the merry party round the
big table. The other tables, and there were many of them, looked as if
they might be occupied by the ghosts of the departed guests.

“It’s like being castaways on a beautiful and very comfortable desert
island,” said Patty, as she looked appreciatively at a huge tray of hors
d’œuvre offered her by a smiling waiter. “I do love these pickly-wickly
things, and never before have I felt that I might take my time in
choosing. But, here at——what’s the name of the hotel, Bill?”

“Never mind the name on its letter-heads,” he returned, “we’ll call it
Freedom Castle. Everybody is to follow his or her own sweet will,—or
somebody else’s if that seems pleasanter.”

“Who has the pleasantest will?” asked Patty, looking around; “I want to
follow it.”

“I have,” said Chick, promptly. “My will is something fierce in the way
of pleasantness. I daresay every one here will fall all over themselves
in their haste to follow it. Ha, do I hear a familiar strain? I do!”

He did, for just then the hotel orchestra, a fine one, struck up a
popular air.

“Music, too!” exclaimed Mona. “All the comforts of home, and none of the
cares. This is just too perfect! Billy Boy, you’re a wonder!”

“To think of it being Bill’s hotel!” said Daisy, in an awed voice.

“To think of our being here without any bills,” put in Roger Farrington.
“That’s the best part of it. It’s like being given the freedom of the
city!”

“The freedom of the country,” Adele corrected; “that’s much better.”

The orchestra, on a platform, gorgeous in scarlet, gold-braided coats,
began a fascinating fox-trot.

Kit Cameron looked across the table at Patty, with a nod of invitation.

Smiling assent, Patty rose, flinging her napkin on the table. Kit came
round to her, and in a moment they were dancing to the music that had
called them. Skilfully, Kit guided her among the maze of tables and
chairs, for they were the two best dancers in the crowd, and they had no
difficulty in avoiding obstacles.

“Have a turn, Adele?” asked Bill, laying down his fork.

“No, thank you; it’s all very well for the girls, but your chaperon is
too nearly middle-aged for such capers.”

“Nonsense; but maybe you’re wise to save your energies for an evening
dance.”

Several of the young people did dance a few turns, but Chick Channing
speedily caused them to halt by announcing the arrival of mushrooms
under glass.

“Whoosh!” cried Kit, “back to nature! We can dance at any old time, but
mushrooms under glass are an event! I say, Bill, I’m glad the cook
didn’t leave with the guests.”

“The whole serving force is under contract for a fortnight longer,”
explained Farnsworth. “You can live on mushrooms, if you like.”

“It’s Paradise,” said Marie Homer, ecstatically; “I don’t ever want to
go home. Does the mail come regularly?”

Everybody laughed at Marie’s look of anxiety, and Bill replied, “Yes, my
child, you can get your daily letter from him up here.”

“He doesn’t write _every_ day,” said Marie, so innocently that they all
roared again.

“I wish _I_ had somebody to write love-letters to me,” sighed Patty. “It
must make life very interesting.”

“I’ll write them to you,” offered Chick. “It’s no trouble at all, and
I’m the little old complete love-letter writer.”

“You’re right here in the spot, though, so that’s no fun. I mean
somebody who isn’t here,—like Marie’s somebody.”

“Well, you must have plenty of absent adorers. Can’t you encourage their
correspondence?”

“But then I’d have to write first, and I hate to do that, it’s so—so
sort of forward.”

“That, to be sure. But it’s better to be forward than forlorn.”

“Oh, I’m not exactly forlorn!” said Patty, indignantly. “I can be happy
with all these others, if t’other dear charmer _is_ away.”

“Can you, Patty?” whispered Bill. “Are you happy here?”

“Oho, Little Billee, I am beatifically happy! Just see that confection
Louis is bringing in! Could I be anything but happy with that ahead of
me?”

The dessert that had just appeared was indeed a triumph of the
confectioner’s art. Composed of ice cream, meringue and spun sugar, it
was built into an airy structure that delighted the sight as well as the
palate. Everybody applauded, and Adele declared it was really a shame to
demolish it.

“It would be a shame not to,” said Patty, her blue eyes dancing in
anticipation of the delicious sweet.

“What a little gourmande you are,” said Chick, watching Patty help
herself bountifully to the dessert.

“’Deed I am. I love sweet things, they always make me feel at peace with
the world. I eat them mostly for their mental and moral effect on me,
for my disposition is not naturally sweet, and so I do all I can to
improve it.”

“And yet you give the effect of a sweet dispositioned person.”

“She is,” spoke up Daisy, overhearing. “Why, Chick, Patty is the
sweetest nature ever was. Don’t you believe her taradiddles.”

“I know the lady so slightly, I’m not much of a judge. But I feel sure
she’ll improve on acquaintance,” and Chick looked hopeful.

“I hope so, I’m sure,” and Patty’s humble expression of face was belied
by the twinkle in her eye.

Then dinner was over, and Adele rose and led the way to the great salon
or drawing-room.

“Come for a little walk on the veranda,” said Chick to Patty. “Let’s get
more acquainted.”

Patty caught up a rose-coloured wrap from the hall rack, and they went
out and strolled the length of the long veranda that went round three
sides of the house.

“Splendid crowd,” said Chick, enthusiastically; “and right down fine of
old Bill to do this thing.”

“He _is_ fine,” said Patty, impulsively; “whatever he does is on a big
scale.”

“His friendships are, I have reason to know that. He’s done heaps for
me, dear old chap.”

“Have you known him long?”

“Three or four years. Met him through Mona. Good sort, Mona.”

“Yes, Mona’s a dear. She’s the sort that wears well. Where is your home,
Mr. Chick?”

“Nowhere, at present. I’ve lived in Arizona, but I’ve come East to grow
down with the country. I’m a mining engineer, at your service.”

“I’d love to employ you, but, do you know, I seldom have need of the
services of a first-class mining engineer.”

“Oh, I’m not so awfully first-class. Bill thinks he can use me in his
manœuvres. We talked it over a bit on the way up, and I hope so, I’m
sure.”

“Then I hope so, too.”

“Thank you. You’re a kind lady. Shall we sit in this glassy nook and
flirt a bit?”

They had reached a portion of the veranda, glass-enclosed, and arranged
with seats among tall palms and jars of flowers. There were shaded
lights and a little illuminated fountain in the centre.

“I’ll stop here a moment, but I can’t flirt,” said Patty, demurely; “my
chaperon won’t allow it.”

“Allowed flirting is no fun, anyway. Forbidden fruit is sweetest.”

“But sour grapes are forbidden fruit. How can sour be sweet?”

“Oh, it’s all according to your nature. If you have a sour nature, the
grapes are sour. If a sweet disposition, then all fruits are sweet.”

“Even a lemon?”

“Nobody hands a lemon to sweet people.”

“Then they can’t have any lemonade, and I love it! I guess I’ll stop
being so sweet——”

“Good gracious, Patty, you couldn’t do _that_ if you tried!”

This remark was made by Kit Cameron, who just then put his head in at
the doorway and overheard Patty’s laughing decision.

“Hello, you two,” he went on; “you’ll have to stop your introspective
conversation, and come and join the dance. Will you, won’t you come and
join the dance? We’re only to have one, our dragon chaperon declares,
and then we must all go by-by. So come and trip it, Patty of the fairy
toes!”

The trio returned to the drawing-room, and after the one dance had been
extended to half a dozen, Adele collected her headstrong charges and
carried them off to bed.

“And you’re not to have kimono confabs all night, either,” she ordered.
“Patty, you’ll be good for nothing tomorrow, if you don’t get some rest.
And the others, too.”

But there was more or less chattering and giggling before the girls
separated for the night. It seemed natural for them to drift into
Patty’s boudoir and in their pretty negligées they dawdled about while
Patty brushed her hair.

“What goldilocks!” exclaimed Marie, in admiration. And truly, Patty’s
hair was a thing to admire. Thick and curling, it hung well below her
waist, and shone with a golden glimmer as the light touched its rippling
lengths.

“It’s an awful nuisance,” Patty declared; “there’s such a lot of it, and
it does snarl so.”

“Let me help you,” cried Daisy, springing up and taking the brush from
Patty’s hand. “Mona, do the other side.”

Mona seized another brush and obeyed, and as the two brushed most
vigorously, Patty’s little head was well pulled about.

“Thank you, girls, oh, _thank_ you _ever_ so much, but truly, I _don’t_
mind doing it myself! Oh, _honestly_, I don’t!”

Patty rescued her brushes, and soon had the rebellious locks in two long
pigtails for the night.

“Now, scoot, all of you,” she said, “this is the time I seek repose for
my weary limbs, on beds of asphodel—or—whatever I mean.”

“Beds of nothing,” said Mona, “I’m not a bit sleepy. Let us stay a
little longer, Patty, dear,—sweet Patty, ah, _do_ now.”

“_I_ can’t,” and Marie started toward the door. “I’m awfully sleepy.”

“You don’t fool me, my infant,” said Patty, wisely. “Your eyes are like
stars burned in a blanket! _I_ know what you’re going to do! But don’t
be alarmed, I won’t tell.”

Marie blushed and with murmured good-nights, ran away.

“Going to write a letter, of course.” And Daisy wagged her sapient head.
“Who is the man, Pat?”

“Fie, Daisy! You heard me say I wouldn’t tell!”

“You only said you wouldn’t tell what she’s going to do. And we know
that. Do tell us who he is!”

“I won’t do it. If Marie chooses, she will tell you herself. And anyway,
Daisy, it’s no one you know. I don’t think you ever saw him and I doubt
if you ever even heard of him.”

“Is he nice?”

“Charming. Full of capers, though. And Marie is so serious. But he’s
very attractive.”

“Are they engaged? Oh, Patty, _do_ tell us about it!”

“I can’t. I don’t know so very much about it myself; but what I do know
is a sacred trust, and not to be divulged to a horde of rattle-pates.
Now, will you make yourselves scarce? Go and write letters, go and darn
stockings,—anything, but let me go to bed.”

Finally, Patty shooed the girls away, and locking her door against their
possible return, she began to make ready for bed.

She glanced at her watch as she sat at her toilette-table. It was
exactly midnight.

And at that moment her telephone rang.

“Those girls!” she thought to herself. “I’ll not answer it!”

But the bell kept ringing, and Patty took down the receiver with a soft
“Hello.”

“That you, Patty?” and her astonished ears recognised Philip Van
Reypen’s voice.

“For mercy’s sake! Where are you, Phil?”

“Home. In New York. Can you hear me all right?”

“Yes, plainly. How did you know I was here?”

“Learned it from your father. Say, girlie, why didn’t you get me a bid
up there, too?”

“Do you want to come?”

“_Do_ I! Aren’t _you_ there!”

“Is that a reason?”

“The best in the world. Do get Farnsworth to invite me.”

“I can’t, Phil. He doesn’t want any—any more than we have here now.”

“You mean he doesn’t want _me_.”

“Why, doesn’t he like you?” Patty’s voice was full of innocent surprise.

“It isn’t that, but he wants you all to himself.”

“Nonsense! There are a dozen of us up here.”

“Well, I mean he’s afraid to have _me_ there. By Jove, Patty, that’s a
sort of a compliment. He’s afraid of me.”

“Don’t be silly, Philip. How’s Lady Van?”

“She’s all right. She’s at Newport, just now. I’m in town for a day or
two, so thought I’d call up Spring Beach and maybe run down there to see
you. And this is the immediate result. Well, look here, Patty, if I
can’t get invited to Farnsworth’s Palace Hotel, for I hear it’s that,
I’m going to Poland Spring, and then I can run over and see you anyway.”

“Oh, Philip, _don’t_ do that!”

“Why not? Haven’t I a right to go to Poland Spring, if I like?”

“Yes, but don’t come over here.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t exactly explain it, myself; at least not over the telephone,
but I don’t think it would be nice for you to come here when you were
not invited.”

“Oh, I was spoken of, then?”

“Well,—yes,—since you will have it.”

“And Farnsworth wouldn’t have me?”

“Well,—I said not to have you.”

“Oh, you _did_! What a nice friend you are!”

“Now, Phil, don’t talk like that. I said—I said——”

“Bless your heart, I know just how it was. Or nearly. But you could have
had me asked—and you didn’t! Now, my lady, just for that, I _am_ going
to Poland Spring—start tomorrow. And,—listen, now,—if you really
don’t want me to come over to the Farnsworth House, then you must come
over to the Poland Spring House to see me! Get that?”

“Why, Phil, absurd! How could I go alone?”

“You needn’t come alone. Bring a chaperon, or another girl or a crowd of
people if you like, or even a servant, but _come_! That’s all, so
good-night, little girl. Pleasant dreams!”

The telephone clicked as Phil hung up, and with a little gasp, Patty
hung up her receiver and threw herself on a couch to think it over. She
couldn’t help laughing at the coil she was in, for she well knew she
couldn’t go to Poland Spring House, unless with the whole crowd,—or
nearly all of them. She pictured Bill reaching there to be greeted by
Philip Van Reypen! Dear old Bill; after all he had done to make it
pleasant for them, to hurt his feelings or to annoy him in any way,
would be mean. She wished Phil had kept out of it. She wished there
wasn’t any Phil nor any Little Billee, nor—nor—anybody,—and somehow
Patty’s long, brown lashes drooped over her pansy blue eyes,—and, still
robed in her chiffon and lace peignoir, and all curled up on the soft,
spacious couch,—she fell sound asleep.



                               CHAPTER IV


                             BLUE ROCK LAKE

In a blaze of September glory, the sun shone across the lake. The
leaves had not yet begun to turn, and the summer trees were as green as
the stalwart evergreens, but of varying shades. From deep, almost black,
shadowy forests, the range ran to brilliant, light green foliage, in a
gamut of colour. Some of the younger and more daring trees crept down to
the water’s edge, but much of the lake shore was rocky and more or less
steep. Here and there a picturesque inlet had a bit of sandy coast, but
the main effect was rugged and wild.

But even the intrusive sun could only peep into Patty’s boudoir through
a chink or two between the drawn shades and the window frames. And so
his light was not enough to wake the sleeper, still cuddled among the
couch pillows.

But she was awakened by a bombardment of raps on the door.

“Patty!” called Daisy’s impatient voice; “whatever _are_ you doing? Open
this door!”

The blue eyes flew open. But Patty was the sort of person who never
wakes all at once. Nan always said Patty woke on the instalment plan.
Slowly, and rubbing her eyes, she rose and unlocked the door.

“Why, Patty Fairfield!” Daisy exclaimed, “your lights are still burning!
You—why, _look_ at you! You didn’t undress at all! You have on your
evening petticoat and slippers! and the very same boudoir robe I left
you in last night. And”—Daisy looked in at the bedroom door,—“your bed
hasn’t been slept in! What _is_ the matter?”

Daisy rattled on so, that Patty, still half asleep, was bewildered. “I
don’t know——” she began, “Philip called——”

“Philip called! Patty, are you crazy? Wake up!” Daisy shook her a little
and under this compulsion Patty finished waking up.

“Good gracious!” she exclaimed, laughing, “did I sleep there all night?
No wonder I feel like a boiled owl.”

“But why,—_why_ did you do it?”

“Fiddlesticks, I don’t know. It’s no crime, I suppose. I lay down there
for a few minutes, after you hoodlums cleared out, and I suppose I fell
asleep and forgot to wake up. That’s all. Lemme alone, and a bath and a
cup of hot chocolate will restore my senses.”

“You dear little goose! I’ll run your tub for you. Though I suppose
there are a string of maids waiting outside your door. Want ’em?”

“No, rather have you. But send half a dozen of them for some choclit,
please.”

Still yawning, Patty began to take off her slippers and stockings.
“Thank you, Daisykins,” she said, as Daisy returned from the bathroom.
“Now, you light out, and I’ll make a respectable toilette. My, how I did
sleep. I was worn out. But I feel fine now. Good-bye, Daisy.”

But Daisy was slow to take the hint.

“I say, Patsy, what did you mean by saying Philip called?”

Patty hesitated for the fraction of a second, and then decided it were
wiser to keep her own counsel regarding that matter.

“Dreaming, I s’pose. Certainly, there was no Philip here in reality.”

“But you said distinctly that Philip called,” Daisy persisted.

“Well, s’pose I did? What could it have been but a dream? Do you imagine
I had a real, live caller?”

“No; but it must have been a vivid dream!”

“It was,” said Patty. “Now scoot!”

Daisy scooted, and Patty locked her door again.

“Well, you’re a pretty one!” she said to herself; “the idea of sleeping
all night without going to bed. Adele will be terribly exercised over
it. But I have other things to worry about. I wonder if Philip will
really come up here, and if he does, what Bill will do. Would I better
tell Bill about it? Or, just let the situation develop itself? Oh, what
troubles some poor little Pattys do have! Come in!”

This last in response to a gentle tap at the hall door.

A trim maid entered with a tray.

“Oh, joy!” cried Patty; “I’m simply starving,——Mary, is it?”

“Sarah, ma’am,” returned the girl, gazing admiringly at pretty Patty,
who was now in a kimono of light blue silk, edged with swans-down.

“Well, Sarah, stay a few moments, and you can help me dress. Sit down
there.”

Sarah obediently took the small chair Patty designated, and folded her
hands on her immaculate frilled apron.

“Tell me about the hotel, Sarah,” said Patty, as she crunched the crisp
toast between her white teeth, and smiled at the maid.

“What about it, ma’am?”

“Well, let me see; how did you maids feel when you found the guests were
leaving?”

“At first we feared we’d lose our money, miss; then we were told that
our contracts held till the end of this month, and if we would stay as
long as we were asked to, we’d get paid in full.”

“Wasn’t that nice?”

“Fine, ma’am. I’m using mine for my little sister’s schooling, and I’d
sore miss it.”

“So all the servants were willing to stay?”

“Oh, yes, ma’am. You see, none could get good places up here. The hotels
all have their own, and many of them will close the first of October.”

“I see. Isn’t it funny to have a dozen guests, and the rest of this big
place empty?”

“It is, indeed, miss. Shall I get you some hotter chocolate?”

“No, I’ve finished, thank you. Now, you call somebody else to take the
tray, and you stay to help me. I’ve taken a fancy to you, Sarah, and I
want you for my personal maid while I’m here. Is that all right?”

“Yes, indeed, miss. I’m proud to do for you. But I’m not a trained
lady’s maid.”

“Never mind, I’ll train you.”

Patty had a nice way with servants. She was always kind, and treated
them as human beings, yet never was she so familiar that they presumed
on her kindness. She soon discovered that Sarah, though untrained, was
deft and quick to learn, and she instructed the maid in the duties
required.

And so, when Adele came tapping at the door, she found Patty seated
before the mirror, while Sarah was coiling the golden hair according to
directions.

“Well, girlie, what’s this I hear about your sleeping on a couch, when a
perfectly good bed was all turned down for you?”

“Oh, just one of my whimsies,” returned Patty, airily. “Don’t bother
about it, Adele.”

And Adele was wise and kind enough not to bother.

Soon, arrayed in a most becoming white serge, with emerald green velvet
collar and cuffs and a pale green silk blouse, Patty descended the great
staircase to find most of the party grouped there, about to start for a
ramble round the lake.

“’Course I’ll go,” she said in answer to eager inquiries. “My hat and
gloves, Sarah, please.”

“Yes, Miss Patty,” and the maid, who had been following her, returned
upstairs.

“I’ve adopted Sarah as my personal bodyguard,” Patty said. “You don’t
mind, Bill, do you?”

“Not a bit!” he replied heartily. “The house is yours and the fulness
thereof. I hope all of you ladies who want maids, or keepers of any
sort, will call on the service force for them.”

Sarah came down then, bringing Patty’s hat, a soft felt, green, and
turned up on one side with a Robin Hood feather. It was most becoming,
as Patty tilted it sideways on her head, adjusting it before a large
mantel mirror.

“Now we’re off,” she said, gaily; “but we ought to have Alpenstocks, or
swagger-sticks.”

“Here are some,” said Bill, opening a cupboard door, and disclosing a
lot of long sticks. Everybody selected one, and they set forth.

“Such a wonder-place!” exclaimed Marie, as at every fresh turn they
found some new bit of scenery or different view. “I could stay here
forever!”

“Me too!” agreed Mona. “What’s the name of the lake?”

“Something like Skoodoowabskooskis,” said Bill, laughing; “but for
short, everybody calls it Blue Rock Lake.”

“Because the rocks on the other side look so blue, I suppose,” suggested
Daisy.

“I believe you’re right!” cried Chick, in mock amazement at her quick
perception. Whereupon Daisy made a face at him.

“Don’t mind him, Daisy,” said Patty; adding, teasingly, “it’s perfectly
true, the distant rocks do look blue, hence the term, Blue Rock
Lake,—blue rocks and the lake, see?”

“Oh, you smarty!” and Daisy lost her temper a little, for she hated to
be made fun of; “if you tease me, I’ll tease you. What about a girl who
wakes up, babbling of some ‘Philip’ or other!”

“Babbling nothing!” cried Patty. “And anyway, I’m always babbling,
asleep or awake. Oh, see that bird! What a beauty!” As a matter of fact
there was no bird in sight, but canny Patty knew it would divert
attention from Daisy’s remark, and it did. After vainly looking for the
beautiful bird, other distractions arose, and Patty breathed more freely
that nobody had noticed Daisy’s fling.

But after they had walked all round the lake, and were nearing the hotel
again, Bill stepped to Patty’s side and falling in step with her, put
his strong, firm hand under her elbow, saying: “Want some help, little
girl, over the hard places?”

Channing, who had been at her other side, took the hint and fell behind
with some of the others.

“What’s this about your waking up with Philip’s name on your lips?” he
said; “do you want to see him so badly? If so, I’ll ask him up here?”

Patty hesitated; here was her chance to get the invitation that Phil so
coveted, and yet, she knew Bill Farnsworth didn’t want him. Nor was she
sure that she wanted him, herself, if he and Little Billee weren’t going
to be friendly. A nice time she would have, if the two men were cool or
curt to each other.

So she said, “No, I don’t want him, especially. I daresay I was dreaming
of him. I dream a lot anyway, of everything and everybody.”

[Illustration: A moment Patty thought. Then she said, “No thank you,
Billie, I don’t.”]

“Dreaming?” said Farnsworth, in a curious voice; “is that all, Patty?”

“All? What do you mean?”

“Is that all the communication you had with Van Reypen last night? In
dreams?”

Patty looked up, startled. Did Bill know of the telephone message? Would
he care? Patty felt a certain sense of guilt, though, as she told
herself, she had done nothing wrong. Moreover, the only reason she had
for not telling Farnsworth frankly of Phil’s message, was merely to
spare him annoyance. She knew he would be annoyed to learn that Phil had
called her at midnight on the long distance, and if he didn’t already
know it, she would rather he shouldn’t. But did he, or not?

“Pray, how else could I talk to him?” she said, laughingly. “Do you
suppose I am a medium and had spirit rappings?”

“I suppose nothing. And I know only what you choose to tell me.”

“Which is nothing, also. Why, Little Billee, you’re in a mood this
morning, aren’t you?”

She glanced up into the face of the man who strode beside her. It was a
fine face. Strong, well-cut features made it interesting rather than
handsome. It was also a determined face, and full of earnestness of
purpose. But in the blue eyes usually lurked a glint of humour. For the
moment, however, this was not noticeable, and Farnsworth’s lips were
closed rather tightly,—a sure sign with him, of seriousness.

“Since you choose to tell me nothing, I accept your decision. But once
more I ask you, for the last time, do you wish me to invite Van Reypen
up here?”

A moment Patty thought. Then she said, “No, thank you, Billee, I don’t.”

Farnsworth’s brow cleared, and with a sunny smile down at her, he said:
“Then the incident is closed. Forget it.”

“All right,” and Patty smiled back, well pleased that she had decided as
she did.

“You little goose!” said he, “I know perfectly well that you called up
Van Reypen on the telephone last night.”

“I did not!” declared Patty, indignantly.

“Now, Apple Blossom, don’t tell naughty stories. I say, I _know_ you
did.”

“All right, Mr. Farnsworth, if you doubt my word, there’s nothing more
to be said.”

Patty was thoroughly angry, and when she was angry she looked about as
fierce as a wrathy kitten. But, also, when Patty was angry, a few
foolish tears _would_ crowd themselves into her eyes, and this only
served to make her madder yet. She turned from him, wanting to leave him
and join some of the others, but she couldn’t, with those silly drops
trembling on her eyelashes.

“Look up, Apple Blossom,” said a gentle voice in her ear. Farnsworth’s
voice was one of his chief charms, and when he modulated it to a
caressing tone, it would cajole the birds off the trees.

Patty looked up, and something in her blue eyes glistened through the
tears, that somehow made her look incapable of “telling a naughty
story.”

“Forgive me, Posy-Face,” Farnsworth murmured, “I _will_ believe you,
whatever you tell me. I will believe you, whether I think you’re telling
the truth or not!”

At this rather ambiguous statement, Patty looked a little blank. But
before she could ask further explanation, they had reached the hotel and
they all went in.



                               CHAPTER V


                             M’LLE FARINI!

According to Farnsworth’s plan, at luncheon, each girl moved her seat
one place to the left. This put Adele at the host’s left, and moved
Patty on farther, so that she was between Jim Kenerley and Chick
Channing.

“Welcome, little stranger,” said Chick, as they sat down. “I’ll have you
now, and again tonight at dinner, sitting by me side, and then life will
be a dreary blank, while you slowly jog all round the table, getting
back to me, two days after tomorrow. How the time will drag!”

“You’re so flattering!” and Patty pretended to be terribly pleased. But,
as a matter of fact, she was wishing she could sit next Little Billee,
and find out whether he was really angry at her. Also, she decided she
would tell him all about the telephone message, for he apparently
believed she had told him a falsehood. And, too, it occurred to her,
that he might not make any great distinction between calling and being
called on the telephone.

“What do you think about it? Shall us go?” said Chick, and Patty
realised, with a start, that she had been so lost in her thoughts, that
she hadn’t heard the talk at table.

“Go where?” she asked, looking blank.

“Oh, come back from dreamland, and learn what’s going on. Cameron knows
of a wonderful hermit, who lives in a shack in the woods and tells
fortunes. Do you want to snatch the veil from the hidden future, and
learn your fate?”

“Yes, indeed; I just love fortune tellers! Where is he, Kit?”

“Off in the woods, in a tumble-down old shanty. But he’s the real thing
in seers! I was out for an early morning prowl, and I discovered him.
Bobbink, that’s my pet bellhop, says he’s greatly patronised by the
populace, but though he gets lots of coin, he won’t move into better
quarters or disport himself more as a man of means.”

“Well, I want to go to see him,” Patty declared. “Will you go, Billee?”

“Can’t go this afternoon, Patty; I’m sorry, but I have another
engagement.”

“So have I,” said Daisy, looking a little conscious. “Let’s leave Mr.
Fortune Teller till tomorrow morning.”

All agreed to this, and after luncheon was over, they proceeded to plan
various sports.

“Tennis, Patty?” asked Chick.

“No; too poky.” And Patty gave a restless gesture, most unusual with
her, and only indulged in when she was bothered about some trifle. She
wanted to get a moment alone with Farnsworth and tell him about Phil.
She knew from the way Little Billee looked at her, or, rather, didn’t
look at her, that he was hurt or offended, or both.

“Golf then?” Chick went on.

“No, too slow.”

“Well, how ’bout lawn bowls?”

“What are they?”

“Never tried lawn bowls! Oh, they’re lots of fun. Come on.”

In a short time they had collected half a dozen people and were in the
midst of a gay game, when Farnsworth suddenly appeared, riding a big,
black horse. Very stunning he looked, for his riding togs were most
becoming and he sat his horse with all the grace and easy carelessness
of the Western rider.

“Oh, Billee,” cried Patty, dropping the bowling ball she was about to
roll, “I want to go riding!”

And then she was covered with chagrin, for Daisy came out of the hotel,
also garbed in the trimmest of riding costumes, and a groom led a horse
for her to mount.

“Do you, Patty?” said Bill, not unkindly, but with a disinterested air.
“You may. There are lots of horses in the stables.”

Patty quickly recovered her poise. “Thank you,” she cried, gaily; “a
little later, then. Will you go, Chick?”

“Will I! Just try me!”

“Well, we’ll finish this game, and then there will be time enough.”

The game over, they went for a ride. Patty’s riding habit was dark
green, of modish cut and style. She was a good horsewoman, though she
seldom rode. Channing, likewise, was a good rider, but he made no such
picturesque effect in the saddle as Big Bill.

“Whither away?” he said, as they started.

“Is it too far to go over to Poland Spring House?”

“Not a bit. It’s a goodish distance, but the road is splendid, and it
isn’t four yet.”

So they set off briskly for that destination. The exhilarating air and
exercise quite restored Patty’s good humour, and she cast off all
thought of petty botherations and enjoyed herself thoroughly.

“Great!” she exclaimed, smiling at Chick, as they flew along.

“Yes, isn’t it? And it’s not so very far, we’re nearing the approach to
the place now. We’ll have time for tea, and get back well before dark.”

“Lovely! Oh, what a big hotel! And _will_ you look at the squirrels!”

Sure enough, the lawn and verandas were dotted with fat gray squirrels.
They were very tame and had no fear of people or horses. They welcomed
Patty and Chick, by sitting up and blinking at them as they dismounted
and grooms took their horses away.

Asking for the tea room, they were shown the way, and ushered to a
pleasant table.

“Chocolate for me, please,” said Patty, as the waiter stood with poised
pencil. “I hate tea. So chocolate, and dear little fussy cakes.”

“Chocolate is mine, too, then. Whatsoever thou eatest that will I eat
also. Well, by Jove, will you look over there!”

Patty looked in the direction that Chick’s eyes indicated, and there, at
a small table, busily eating cakes and tea, sat Farnsworth and Daisy
Dow.

“Shall we join them?” asked Chick.

“Join them! Oh, no, they don’t want joiners. They’re absorbed in each
other.”

They did look so. Bill was earnestly talking and Daisy was listening
with equal intentness. Her face was bright and animated, while
Farnsworth’s was serious and thoughtful.

Patty was angry at herself for being one whit disturbed at sight of
them, thus chummily having their tea, and she tossed it off with a gay
laugh. “Besides, I’d rather chat with you alone than to have a
foursome.”

“Good girl, Patty,” and Chick nodded approvingly. “Do you know I think
you’re about as nice as anybody, after all.”

“So do I you,” and Patty sipped her chocolate with an air of
contentment. “This is a much bigger hotel than ours, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but ours is more beautiful, I think, and quite big enough for our
party.”

“Of course. Oh, what a stunning-looking woman! See, Chick, over toward
your left.”

Channing turned slightly to see a very handsome dark-eyed woman, who
smiled at him as their glances met.

“Why, bless my soul!” he exclaimed; “if it isn’t Maudie Kent. I say,
Patty, don’t you want to meet her? She’s an actress, or was, and she’s a
dear. Awfully good form and all that, and really worth while.”

“Yes, I’d love to know her,” said Patty, looking with interest at the
stunning gown the lady wore. It was of flame-coloured silk, veiled with
black net, and was matched by a wide hat of black with flame-coloured
plumes.

“Excuse me a moment, then,” and Channing rose and went over to where the
lady stood. She was alone, and he had no difficulty in persuading her to
come to their table.

“You dear child,” said Miss Kent, as Channing introduced them; “how
pretty you are! I’m so glad to know you. But what are you doing here
with Chick Channing?”

“Just having tea,” said Patty, smiling back into the big dark eyes that
looked at her so kindly.

“But are you staying here? Where are your people?”

“We are staying over at Freedom Hall,” she began, and then paused, for
with those eyes upon her, she couldn’t quite make it seem a rational
thing to do.

“Oh, it’s quite all right, Maudie,” Channing put in, “there’s a crowd of
us, with chaperons and things, and our good host, by the way, is right
across the room, at a tea-table.”

“That good-looking chap with the pretty girl? Oh, it’s Mr. Farnsworth!
Mayn’t I know her, too?”

“Now, see here, Maudie, you can’t know everybody that I do. Be content
with Miss Fairfield, at least for the present.”

“Oh, I am, more than content. No, I’ll have coffee, please. Chocolate is
only for the very slim.”

“Surely you are that,” ventured Patty, glancing at the graceful form of
the new acquaintance.

“But I wouldn’t be, if I indulged in sweet things. Enjoy them while you
may, my dear, in after years you’ll be glad you did.”

“What are you doing here, Maudie?” asked Channing. “Are you alone?”

“Yes; I’m having a concert tonight, and I’m in such trouble. You see,”
she turned to Patty, “I’m a sort of professional entertainer. I give
concerts or recitals, and I get performers of the very best and usually
they are most dependable and reliable. But tonight I have a concert
scheduled, and my prima donna is lacking. If she doesn’t come on this
next train, I don’t know what I shall do. I suppose I shall have to give
back the ticket money, and call the affair off, and that means a great
loss to me. For I have to pay the other performers their price just the
same.”

“That’s a shame,” said Channing, sympathetically. “But she’ll surely
come.”

“I’m afraid not. I’ve telegraphed and I can’t get her anywhere. I can’t
help thinking she deliberately threw me down because she received a
better offer, or something of the sort. But I mustn’t bore you with my
troubles. Forget it, Miss Fairfield, and don’t look so concerned.”

“I’m so sorry for you,” said Patty, “to go to all that trouble and
expense, and have it all for nothing.”

“Less than nothing,” said Chick, “for you stand to lose considerable, I
suppose.”

“Yes, well over five hundred dollars. Oh, here are the motorbuses from
the train. Now we’ll see.”

But though many guests arrived at the hotel the singer was not amongst
them.

“No,” said Miss Kent, scanning them sadly, “she isn’t here. Oh, what
shall I do?”

Patty’s mind was working fast. She knit her brows as she tried to think
calmly of a wild project that had come into her mind.

“Miss Kent,” she began, and stopped; “I wonder—that is——”

“Well, my dear, what is it? Do you want to ask something of me? Don’t
hesitate, I’m not very terrifying, am I, Chick?”

“No, indeed. What is it, Patty?”

“Oh, of course, it wouldn’t do,—I hate to suggest it, even,—but you
see, Miss Kent, I can sing——”

“And Patty can impersonate the absent singer! And nobody would ever know
the difference! Great!” cried Channing. “Oh, Maudie, your trouble is at
an end!”

“Now wait,” said Patty, blushing. “I am not a professional singer, but I
have studied with good masters, and I have a voice, not so very big, but
true. Forgive this plain speaking, but if I could help you out, Miss
Kent, I should be so glad.”

“You’re a little darling!” exclaimed Maud Kent; “I wonder if we _could_
carry off such a thing. You see, your coming here, as you just did, a
stranger, and talking to me only, looks quite as if you were the
arriving singer. That part’s all right. As to your voice, I have no
doubts about that, for you _didn’t_ say you sang ‘a little.’ And any
way, even a fair singer would do, in addition to the talent I have. But
Miss Fairfield, I can’t accept this from you. Will you take just the
price I expected to give M’lle Farini?”

“I couldn’t accept money, Miss Kent. That would be impossible. I’m glad
to do this to help you out, for it’s no trouble for me to sing, I love
to do it. And don’t bother about the payment. Give it to some charity,
if you like.”

“Oh, I can’t accept your services without pay! But if you knew what a
temptation it is!”

“Yield to it, then,” and Patty smiled at the troubled face. “But first,
you must hear my voice. You can’t decide before that. Where can we go?”

“Come up to my apartment, no one will hear us there, and if they should,
it’s no great harm. One may practise, I suppose. You may come too,
Chick, if you like.”

The three left the tea-room, and as they disappeared through the door,
Farnsworth caught sight of Patty’s face.

“What does that mean?” he cried, so angrily that Daisy was startled.

“What does what mean?”

“Did you see who went out that door?”

“No; who?”

“Patty and Chick Channing and Maudie Kent.”

“I know the first two, but who is Maudie Kent?”

“An actress! A woman Channing and I knew in San Francisco a good while
ago. What can she be doing here? And how did she get hold of Patty?
Though of course, Chick is responsible for that. But what are they up
to? I’m going after them.”

“Bill, don’t do anything so foolish! Patty has a right to visit the lady
if she wants to. It isn’t your business.”

“But Patty—with that woman!”

“Why, isn’t she a nice woman?”

“She’s an actress, I tell you.”

“Well, lots of actresses are lovely ladies. Isn’t this one?”

“Yes, of course, she’s a lovely lady. But Patty oughtn’t to be racing
round with her.”

“Patty wasn’t racing! She wouldn’t do such a thing in Poland Spring
House. Now, Bill, put it out of your mind. There’s no occasion for you
to get stirred up because Patty has made a new acquaintance. And I guess
Chick Channing can take care of her, he wouldn’t let her know anybody
who wasn’t all right.”

“Chick is thoughtless. He likes Maudie, and so do I. But she’s no fit
companion for Patty.”

“Why? Is Patty Fairfield better than us common people? Is she made of
finer clay? Wouldn’t you want _me_ to meet the Maudie lady?”

“Oh, you. Why, that wouldn’t matter so much.”

“Bill Farnsworth! What a speech! I guess I’m every bit as good as Patty
Fairfield.”

“Of course you are, Daisy. Don’t be silly. But you’re more—more
experienced, you know, and a little less—less conventional. Patty has
never had half the experience of the world that you have. I don’t want
her mixed up with that sort of people, and I won’t have it!”

“Well,” and Daisy spoke coldly, “I don’t see how you can help it.
They’ve gone off, and you can’t very well follow them, or have them
arrested. Probably Chick and Patty are starting for home. And I’m sure
it’s time we did.”

“But I can’t go off and leave Patty here!”

“You can’t do anything else. You’re not Patty’s keeper, Bill, and it’s
silly to act as if you were.”

“That’s so, Daisy.” Farnsworth’s fine face looked anxious and his eyes
were sad. “Come on, I suppose we had better be going. I’ll order the
horses round.”

Farnsworth kept a sharp eye out, but he saw no more of the trio who had
left the tea room, and who had so disturbed him. In quiet mood he rode
off at Daisy’s side, and they went back to the hotel.



                               CHAPTER VI


                          MAUDE’S CONFIDENCES

Meantime, Patty, in Miss Kent’s parlour, was singing her best. The
scheme appealed to her very strongly. She was glad to assist the kind
and beautiful lady, and moreover, she enjoyed an escapade of any sort,
and this surely was one.

Miss Kent was delighted with her voice, and predicted an ovation for
her. They selected several of Patty’s best songs, and had the
accompanist in to rehearse with her.

“What about dress?” said Patty, after it was positively settled that she
was to sing at the concert.

“I’ll ride over and get you whatever you want,” said Channing, anxious
to be of service.

“Oh, no,” said Miss Kent, “that would be a shame for you to go to all
that trouble. I have a little white tulle gown that can be made just
right in a jiffy. I am a bit taller than Miss Fairfield, but a tuck will
fix that. Now, here’s an important point. You see, the notices and the
programmes all say M’lle Farini will sing. Shall we let it go at that? I
mean, let Miss Fairfield impersonate M’lle Farini, or shall we have an
announcement made at the opening of the concert, that Miss Fairfield is
acting as substitute?”

“I’d rather let it go without the use of my name,” said Patty. “I don’t
know as it would be quite right, but I’d love to let people think I was
the Farini lady. It would be such fun.”

“Well,” said Miss Kent, “let’s just leave it. If we don’t say anything
of course the audience will take it for granted that you are M’lle
Farini. And if any objections are raised, or if it comes out afterward,
I can say that I had to substitute you at the last moment, and there was
no time to have new programmes printed.”

“That will be fine,” Patty declared; “I do love a joke, and this is
really a good one, I think. Yes, let me be M’lle Farini, for one night
only, and if the real owner of that name objects, why, it will be all
over then, and she’ll have to take it out in objecting. But I shan’t
disgrace her, even if I don’t sing as well as she does.”

“But you do, Miss Fairfield,” exclaimed Miss Kent; “she has a fuller,
stronger voice, but yours has more melody and sweetness. You will remain
here over night, of course.”

“Oh, I never thought about that!” and Patty looked a little alarmed. “I
don’t know what Adele will say.”

“Oh, please do. You really must. I have two bedrooms in my suite, and I
can make you very comfortable.”

“Well,” and Patty hesitated; “I’ll have to talk this thing over with
Mrs. Kenerley. I’ll telephone her now, and if she is willing, I will
stay here all night.”

So Patty called up Adele and told her the whole story.

Adele listened, and then she laughed, good-naturedly, and told Patty she
could do as she liked. “I think it’s a harum-scarum performance,” she
said, “but Jim says, go ahead, if you want to. You stay with your new
friend all night. Of course you couldn’t come home after the concert. I
suppose Mr. Channing will stay at that hotel, too. And then he can bring
you home in the morning. What will you wear?”

Patty told her, and then she asked Adele not to tell the others what she
was up to. “I’m afraid they’ll come over,” she said; “and I can carry it
through all right before strangers, but if all you people sat up in
front of me, giggling, I couldn’t keep my face straight, I know; so
don’t tell them till after it’s over.”

“All right, girlie, I will keep your fateful secret locked in my heart
till you bid me speak. Have a good time, and sing your sweetest.”

“Now that’s all right,” and Patty looked enchanted at the prospect of
fun ahead. “I’m going to have the time of my life! You go away now,
Chick, and Miss Kent and I will see about my frock. Shall we meet at
dinner?”

“Yes, I want you two girls to dine with me. Do you know anybody, Maudie,
to make a fourth?”

“No, wait, Chick. I don’t want to dine in public. Nor do I want Miss
Fairfield to be bothered with a company dinner. I’ll tell you a better
plan. She and I will dine alone, here in my little parlour. You get your
dinner downstairs, by yourself, and then, after the concert is over, you
can invite us to supper and we can talk it over.”

Channing acquiesced, and then he went away, not to see them again until
supper time.

“You are so good, Miss Fairfield——”

“Oh, do call me Patty. I like it so much better.”

“I’ll be glad to. And you must call me Maude. It is a perfect Godsend,
your helping me out like this. May I tell you just a little bit about
myself?”

“I wish you would. And I’m so glad I can be of service to you.”

But first they must needs attend to the all-important matter of Patty’s
frock, and sure enough, a white tulle of Maude’s was easily and quickly
altered till it just fitted Patty. It was new and modish, made with full
skirts and tiers of narrow frills. There was no lace or other trimming,
save the soft tulle ruffles, and Maude decreed no jewelry of any sort,
merely a few yellow roses at the belt,—the tiny mignon roses. These she
ordered from the office, and by that time their dinner was served.

As they sat enjoying the few but well-chosen dishes that Maude had
selected, she told Patty somewhat of her life, and Patty listened with
interest.

“I have to support myself, my mother and a crippled sister,” Maude said,
“and I had ambition to become a great actress. But after a fair trial, I
found I could be at best only a mediocre actress. I found, however, that
I had talent for organizing and arranging entertainments, and I
concluded I could make more money that way than on the stage. So I took
it up as a regular business, and I have succeeded. But this year has not
been a very good one. I’ve had some misfortunes, and twice I didn’t get
the money due me, because of dishonest assistants. And, I tell you
truly, Patty, if I had lost five or six hundred dollars tonight, it
would have been a hard blow. You have saved me from that, and I bless
and thank you. Do you realize, little girl, what you are doing for me?”

“I’m so glad I can. Tell me about your sister.”

“Clare? Oh, she is the dearest thing! She never has walked, but in spite
of her affliction she is the happiest, cheeriest, sweetest nature you
ever saw. I love her so, and I love to be able to get little delicacies
and comforts for her. See, here is her picture.”

Patty took the case and saw the portrait of a sweet-faced girl, little
more than a child.

“She is a dear, Maude. I don’t wonder you love her. Oh, I’m so glad I
happened over here today. Do you know Bill Farnsworth?”

“I met him once or twice the same winter I met Chick Channing. Mr.
Farnsworth seemed very stiff and sedate. Chick is much more fun.”

“Chick is gayer, but Bill is an awfully nice man.”

“I was with a vaudeville troupe that year. It wasn’t very nice,—hard
work and small pay. It was my last attempt on the stage. If I couldn’t
be a big and fine actress I didn’t want to be any at all. So I’m glad I
gave it up for this sort of work. This season is about over now, and I
shall have entertainments in New York this winter. I’ve lots of
influential patrons, and I hope for success. But I shall never forget
your heavenly kindness in helping me out tonight. Now, perhaps, we had
better be getting dressed.”

Patty made a careful toilette, for she wanted to look her best, and she
succeeded. The soft dainty white tulle was exceedingly becoming, and she
had done her hair the prettiest way she knew. Maude’s slippers were the
least bit loose, but they looked all right, and Patty refused a loan of
a pair of long white gloves.

“They’re not wearing them with evening gowns this season,” she said,
“and I hate them, anyhow.”

“You’re right,” and Maude surveyed her critically. “Your arms are
lovely,—so soft and dimpled. You are more effective without gloves.”

Through the opening numbers of the concert, Patty sat in the ante-room
waiting her turn. She was not nervous or apprehensive, and when the time
came, she walked out on the platform and bowed gracefully, with a
cordial little smile.

She was to sing almost exactly the selections of M’lle Farini. But she
had substituted others in one or two instances, and, of course, for
encores, she could make her own choice.

And there were plenty of encores. Patty’s sweet voice charmed by its
sympathy and grace, rather than by volume. And it made a very decided
hit with the audience. They applauded continuously until Patty was
forced to respond a second and a third time, after each of her numbers.

Channing, sitting in the audience, heard people saying, “Who is this
Farini? I never heard of her before. Her voice is a little wonder!”

Miss Kent was delighted with Patty’s success. She had felt sure the
hearers would like Patty’s music, but she did not expect such unanimous
approval nor such enthusiasm.

Four times Patty was announced to sing, and as each was encored at least
once, it made a good many songs. At the last appearance she was very
tired, but she bravely endeavoured not to show it. She went through the
number beautifully, but the deafening applause made it impossible for
her not to give them one more.

“I can’t,” said Patty, as Maude came to her with entreaties. “I’m all
in, as the boys say. Oh, well, I’ll sing one more little thing. No
accompaniment at all, please, Maude.”

Then Patty returned to the platform and when the enthusiastic welcome
ceased, she sang very softly a little cradle song. The haunting
sweetness of the notes and the delicate languor of Patty’s tired voice
made an exquisite combination more effective even than her other work.
She finished in a pure, fine minor strain, and with a little tired bow,
walked slowly from the stage.

Then the house went wild. They clapped and shouted brava! and demanded
more. But the concert was over; Miss Kent made a little speech of
thanks, and the footlights went out. Reluctantly, the people rose from
their seats, but hung around, hoping to get a glimpse of M’lle Farini.

[Illustration: Patty’s sweet voice charmed by its sympathy]

“It isn’t so much her voice,” Chick overheard somebody say, “as the way
she has with her. She’s charming, that’s what she is, charming!”

“We can’t have supper in the dining-room,” Maude said, laughingly, to
Channing. “Patty would be mobbed. Those people are just lying in wait
for her.”

“But I want to,” cried Patty. “I’ve done the work, now I want the fun.
Let’s have supper there. They won’t really come up and speak to me, when
they don’t know me.”

“Won’t they!” said Maude. “But indeed you shall have supper wherever you
like. You deserve anything you want. Come on, Chick, it’s to be just as
Patty says.”

So to the supper-room they went, and there Patty became the observed of
all. At first, she didn’t mind, and then it became most embarrassing.
She could hear her name mentioned on all sides, and though it was always
coupled with compliments, it made her uncomfortable to be so
conspicuous.

“Though of course,” she said gaily, “they’re not talking about me, but
about M’lle Farini. Well, I’m pretty hungry, Chick. Maude made me eat a
light dinner, as I was going to sing. Now I want to make up. Can I have
some bouillon, and some chicken _à la_ king, and some salad, and some
ice cream?”

“Well, well, what a little gourmande! Why, you’d have nightmare after
all that!”

“No, I wouldn’t. I’m fearfully hungry. Honest I am.”

So Patty had her selection, and though she ate little of each course,
she took small portions with decided relish.

“I feel like a new lady!” she declared when she had finished. “Is there
dancing? Can I have a turn? I don’t want to go to bed yet.”

“Of course you can dance,” said Maude. “But you must remain M’lle Farini
for the evening. Can you remember?”

“’Course I can. It’ll be fun. Besides, I’m only going to have one trot
with Chick and then I’ll go by-by, like a good little girl.”

But, as might have been expected, after her one dance, Patty was
besieged by would-be partners, clamouring for an introduction. The
manager of the hotel was bribed, cajoled, and threatened in the various
efforts of his guests to get introductions to Patty and to Miss Kent.

“Just one or two,” Patty whispered to Maude, and so two or three young
men won the coveted presentation, and Patty was urged to dance.

But this she refused. She wanted to chat a little with these strangers,
but she didn’t care to dance with men so lately made acquainted.

Channing acted as bodyguard, and his close inspection would have barred
out any one he did not altogether approve of. But they were a nice class
of men, polite and well-bred, and they were entertaining as well. Patty
had a right down good time, and not the least part of the fun was the
masquerading as another.

“You are staying here long, M’lle Farini?” asked Mr. Gaunt, an
attractive man of musical tastes.

“No,” Patty replied, “I have to leave early in the morning. I’m due to
sing at another hotel tomorrow night.”

“Ah, a near-by house?”

“Not very. Do you sing, Mr. Gaunt?”

“Yes, baritone. I’d like to sing with you. I’ve an idea our voices would
blend.”

“I’m sure they would. I love to sing duets. But,” and pretty Patty
looked regretful, “it cannot be. We will never meet again.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“I feel it. But tomorrow I’m going to have my fortune told. If the seer
says anything about our future meeting, then I’ll look for you later
on.”

“If the seer is a true soothsayer, and no fake, he can’t help telling
you we will meet again; because it is a foregone conclusion.”

“Then I shall expect you and look forward to the meeting,” and Patty
held out her hand to say good-night, for it was after midnight, and
Maude was making signs for her to come with her.

But just then a clerk came toward them with a puzzled face. “There’s a
telephone call for a Miss Fairfield,” he said; “and the speaker says
she’s here with Mr. Channing. Are you Mr. Channing, sir?”

“Yes,” said Chick. “It’s all right. M’lle Farini has occasion to use
different names in her profession. Which booth?”

“This way, sir.”

Channing, beckoning to Patty, followed the man, and whispered to her to
take the message, as it must be from some of the Freedom Castle people.

Patty went into the booth, and to her surprise was greeted by Philip Van
Reypen.

“Well,” she exclaimed, a little annoyed, “is this a habit? Do you expect
to call me up every night at midnight?”

“Now, Pattykins, don’t get mad. I called you up to apologize for what I
said last night. I take this hour, ’cause I know you’re all wrapped up
in people all day, and only at night do you have a moment to waste on
me, and I _must_ tell you how sorry I am that I was rude to you.”

“Rude, how?”

“Why, telling you I was coming up there whether you asked me or not. You
don’t want me to, do you?”

“No, Phil, since you ask me plainly, I _don’t_. Not but that _I’d_ like
to see you, but I’m here on Bill Farnsworth’s invitation, and since he
didn’t ask you,——”

“Yes, I know. And it’s all right. I don’t want to butt in where I’m not
asked. And I’m sorry I called you up, if it bothered you. And——”

“All right, Phil. Now if you’ve any more to say, can’t you write it? For
I’m just going to bed. Good-night.” And Patty hung up the receiver.



                              CHAPTER VII


                           THE FORTUNE TELLER

Next morning Patty and Maude had a cosy little breakfast in the
latter’s apartment, and then, arrayed in her riding habit, Patty went
down, to find Channing waiting for her on the veranda.

“Good morning, M’lle Farini,” he said gaily, “ready for a ride? Come
along with us, won’t you, Maude?”

“No, thank you, Chick. I’m not altogether certain that Patty’s friends
will forgive this performance and I’d be afraid to see them. But, oh, I
can’t tell you both what it has meant to me, and I do hope you’ll have
no cause to regret it.”

“Not a bit of it! I’ll fix it up all right,” and Chick looked very big
and powerful. “If anybody goes for Patty, he’ll hear from me! See?”

“But I do want to see you again, Maude,” said Patty, as they bade
farewell. “Shall you be here long?”

“Only two or three days, at most. I have another concert here tomorrow
night, but I’m sure of my artists for that. Do ride over again, both of
you.”

“We will,” promised Channing, and then the two cantered away.

                 *        *        *        *        *

“Here they come!” cried Daisy, as from the porch of Freedom Castle she
spied the two equestrians.

Jim Kenerley was at the block to help Patty alight, and as she ran up
the steps, Adele clasped her in a welcoming embrace.

“You dear child!” she said. “What an experience you have had. Sit down
here and tell us all about it.”

So Patty told the whole story, exactly as it had happened, and Channing
added details here and there.

Everybody was interested and asked all sorts of questions.

“Is it a nice hotel?” asked Mona. “Did you have any fun after the
concert?”

“There was dancing,” said Patty, “but I was too scared, when people
called me M’lle Farini, to enjoy it much. I wanted to get away. I’m glad
I did it for Miss Kent, but—never again!”

“If she’s the Maude Kent I once knew, you had no business to have
anything to do with her,” put in Farnsworth, in a gruff voice.

“She’s the Miss Kent Chick Channing knows, and that’s enough for me!”
retorted Patty, and a little pink spot showed in either cheek, a sure
sign that she was annoyed.

“Well, shall we go to the hermit’s?” said Elise, anxious to avert the
impending scene. “What _do_ you think, Patty, Kit has a toothache, and
can’t go, after all.”

“Toothache!”

“Yes, a bad ulceration. He sent down word by Bobbink, that pet bellboy
of his, that we were to go on without him. The boy will show us the
way.”

“How ridiculous! Why not wait till tomorrow?”

“No, Kit says the hermit man expects us and we must go. You’ll go along,
won’t you?”

“Yes, of course. Shall I change this rigging,—or go as I am?”

“Go as you are. It’s time we were off. Roger and Mona have gone on
ahead, but as they went in the opposite direction, I am not sure they’ll
get there before we do.”

“Those two have a fancy for going in the opposite direction,” laughed
Patty; “ever notice it?”

“Not being stone blind, I have,” Elise admitted, and really the interest
Roger and Mona had for each other became more apparent each day.

The Kenerleys declined to go on the hermit expedition, saying that they
knew their “fortune,” and had no reason for questioning the future. So
the others started.

Channing took possession of Patty, and merely saying “which way?” he led
her across the wide lawn to the indicated path through the wood.

Elise followed, with Bob Peyton, who greatly admired the pretty New York
girl. Farnsworth and Daisy Dow brought up the rear of the procession,
and Bobbink, the ever useful courier, showed the way.

“Mr. Cameron says for you to do jes’ wot I says,” he announced,
evidently greatly pleased at his position of power.

“Go ahead, Bobbink,” said Bill; “show us the way, but don’t talk too
much.”

“Yassir. Dis way, ladies an’ gempmun.”

It was a beautiful walk, through the Autumn sunshine and forest shade.
Now they crossed a tiny brook or paused to admire a misty waterfall, and
again they found a long stretch of good State road.

And sooner than any one expected, they reached the shack.

“Dat’s de place,” announced Bobbink, and stood, pointing to the
dilapidated shanty at the side of the road.

“Who’ll go in first?” asked Patty; “I’m scared.”

“I’m not,” and Daisy stepped nearer and peered curiously in at the door.

“Come in, woman!” said a strange, cracked old voice, and there followed
a laugh like a cackle. “Come in, each and all.”

Daisy pushed in and Farnsworth stepped in, too, for he didn’t altogether
like the sound of that laugh. Then they all crowded in and saw the old
hermit, sitting in a hunched-up position on a pile of rugs in the corner
of the hut.

“Which one first?” he muttered; “which pretty lady first? All have
fortunes, wonderful fortunes coming to them.”

The old man’s garb was somewhat like that of a monk. A dingy robe was
girdled with a hempen rope, and a cowl-shaped hood fell well over his
brow. His face was brown and seamed and wrinkled with age, and he wore
queer-looking dark glasses. On his hands were old gloves that had once
been white, but were now a dingy grey, and he seemed feeble, and unable
to move without difficulty.

But he was alert, doubtless spurred by the hope of getting well paid.

“You go first, Daisy,” said Patty; “then we’ll see how it works.”

“All right, I’m not afraid,” and Daisy extended her palm to the old man.

“Here, wait!” she cried; “don’t touch me with those dirty old gloves!
Can’t I wrap my handkerchief round my hand?”

The hermit made no objection, and Daisy wound a fresh handkerchief about
her fingers, leaving the palm exposed for the seer to read.

He began, in a droning voice:

“Pretty lady, your home is far away. You are not of this end of the
country, but off toward the setting sun. You will return there soon, and
there you will meet your fate. He awaits you there, a man of brain and
brawn,— a man who has ambition to become the mayor of——”

“Hush!” cried Daisy, snatching her hand away from his gloved fingers;
“Don’t you say another word! That’s a secret! I don’t want any more
fortune! That man’s a wizard!”

Daisy moved across the room, putting all the distance possible between
her and the seer. With startled eyes, she gazed at him, as at a world
wonder.

“Pooh! That was a chance shot, Daisy,” said Elise. “Let me try, I’ve no
secrets that I’m afraid he’ll reveal.”

Nor was she afraid of the grimy old glove, but put her finger tips
carelessly into the old fellow’s hand.

“Pretty lady heart-whole,” declared the hermit. “Some day pretty lady
fall in love, but not today. Some ’nother day, too! Pretty lady marry
twice, two times! Ha, ha!”

“Silly!” said Elise, blushing a little, as she withdrew her hand. “I
hate fortune telling. Next.”

Patty, a little reluctantly, surrendered her hand to the seer, who took
it lightly in his own. “Pretty lady all upset,” he began. “So many
suitors, all want pretty lady. But the fates have decree! The lady must
marry with the—” he drew his hand across his eyes,—“I cannot see
clearly! I see a cat! Ha, no! I have it! the pretty lady must marry with
the Kit, ha, yes; the Kit!”

“Good gracious!” exclaimed Patty, laughing, “have I really got to marry
Kit! Kit who?”

“That the wizard cannot tell. Only can I read the name Kit. It is
written in the lady’s fate.”

“But s’pose I don’t want to? S’pose I don’t like Kit as much as somebody
else?”

“That makes nothing! It is fate. It may not be denied.”

“Well, all right. But I don’t care so much about my future husband. He’s
a long way off. Tell me what will happen to me before he arrives.”

“Many adventures. You will today receive a letter——”

“Goodness, I get letters every day! Any particular letter?”

“Yes, a letter from one you love.”

“Ah, Daddy, I expect.”

“Nay, ’tis a younger man than your honourable parent. Then, soon the
pretty lady will inherit fortune.”

“Now, that’s more interesting. Big fortune?”

“Oh,—my, yes! Large amount of moneys! And a journey,—a far journey.”

“I don’t care about the journey. Tell me more about the fortune. Who
will leave it to me? Not my father, I hope.”

“Nay, no near relative.”

“That’s good; I don’t want my people to die. Well, anything more, Mister
Hermit?”

“Beware of a dark lady——”

“Now I know you’re the real thing!” and Patty laughed merrily. “I’ve
been waiting for the ‘dark lady’ and the ‘light-complected gentleman’
who always figure in fortunes. Well, what about the dark lady?”

“If the pretty miss makes the fun, there is no more fortune for her,”
said the hermit, sulkily.

“I don’t mind, so long as you don’t take the money away.”

“Tell mine, then,” said Channing, as Patty resigned her place.

“You, sir, are an acrobat. You were employed in the Big Circus, the
Hop—Hippodrome. When they discharged you, it was but temporary. Do not
fear, you will regain your position there.”

“Why, you old wiz! How did you know that!” and Channing stared in
pretended amazement; “I thought that episode in my career was a dead
secret!”

“No episodes are secrets to me,” declared the hermit. “Shall I tell
further?”

“No, I guess that will be about all,” and Channing moved quickly away
from the strange old man.

Bob Peyton declined to have his past exposed to the public gaze; and he
said he didn’t care to know what the future held for him, he’d far
rather be surprised at his life as it happened. So Bill Farnsworth was
the next to test the wizard’s powers.

“Big man,” said the hermit, solemnly, as he scanned the broad palm Bill
offered for inspection. “Big man, every way; body, heart, soul,—all.”

“Thanks,” said Farnsworth, “for the expansive if ambiguous compliment.
Be a little more definite, please. What am I going to have for dinner
today? Answer me that, and I’ll believe in your wizardry.”

“Big man is pleased to be sarcastic. The hermit does not waste his
occult powers on foolish questions. In a few hours you will know what
you will have for dinner. Why learn now?”

“Why, indeed? All right, old chap, tell me something worth while, then.”

“That will I, sir! I’ll tell you your fate in wedlock. You will yet wed
a lovely lady, who, like your noble self, is of the Western birth. She
is——”

“Drop it, man! Never mind what she is! Let me tell you what you are!
Friends, behold Mr. Kit Cameron!” With a swift movement, Farnsworth drew
off the old gloves from the hand that held his, and exposed the
unmistakable slim white hands of the musician, Kit.

“Oh, you fraud!” cried Patty. “I half suspected it all the time!”

“I didn’t,” exclaimed Daisy. “You fooled me completely!”

“Oh, my fortune!” wailed Elise. “Where are those two lovely fates of
mine?”

“And all my money!” groaned Patty. “I feel as if you had misappropriated
my funds, Kit.”

It had not been necessary further to remove Cameron’s disguise, it was
enough to see his hands, and hear his merry laugh.

“Hist!” cried Peyton, who had looked out along the road. “Here come
Roger and Mona. Let’s give them a song and dance.”

Kit drew on his old gloves again, and huddled into his crouched posture,
just as the two came in at the hut’s door.

“Just in time!” said Channing. “We’ve all had our fortunes told and were
just about to go home. Take your turn now.”

“I don’t like to,” said Mona, who was looking very happy and was
blushing a little.

Keen-eyed Kit spied this. “Pretty lady,” he began, in his droning tones,
and as he also had a slight knowledge of ventriloquism, he most
effectually disguised his own voice, “give me your little hand.”

“Go on, Mona, we all did,” said Patty, and wonderingly, Mona held out
her hand.

“Never saw I the future so plainly revealed!” declared the seer. “’Tis
written as in letters of fire! Lady, thy fate is sealed. It is bound up
with that of a true and noble knight, a loving soul, a faithful comrade.
I see the blush that mantles your rosy cheek, I see the trembling of
your lily hand, I see the drooped eyelashes that veil your dancing eyes,
and I see, stretching far into the future, years of happiness and joy.”

Kit released Mona’s hand, and the girls crowded round her.

“What does he mean?” Daisy cried; “he spoke so in earnest.”

“Stay!” and the seer raised his hand. “Now will I tell the fortune of
the noble gentleman who but now arrived. Your hand, fair sir.”

“Rubbish!” said Roger, disinclined for the performance.

“Go on, Farry,” said Farnsworth, smiling. “We all did. Go ahead.”

Roger gave over his hand, and the hermit rocked back and forth in glee.
“Another clear writing of the fates!” he exclaimed. “I read of a happy
future with the loved one. I read that only just now, within the hour,
has the Fair said ‘yes’ to repeated pleadings, and the betrothal took
place,——”

“Oh, I say!” and Roger tried to pull his hand from the hermit’s grasp.

“’Tis a fair tale I read,” went on the wizard, holding fast the hand he
read; “two young hearts, made for each other, plighted by the singing
brook—in the balmy sunshine—in a bower of roses by Bendemeer’s
stream—oh, hang it, old chap, let me be the first to congratulate you!”

Kit flung off his cowl with one hand, while with the other he gripped
Roger’s in a man-to-man grasp, and shook it heartily.

Then there was a small-sized pandemonium! The girls fell on Mona,
kissing her and asking questions, while the men joined hands in a sort
of war dance round Roger. Then they all made a circle round the engaged
pair, and sang “Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grows,” with the zest of a
crowd of children.

“Perfectly gorgeous! I think,” cried Patty, as the excitement calmed
down a little. “I sort of hoped it would be so, but I didn’t expect it
quite so soon.”

“Neither did I,” said Mona, shyly: “but, you see——”

“Oh, yes, we see,” said Kit. “The picturesque spot,—the murmuring
brook,—the whispering trees,—why, of course, you couldn’t help it!
Bless you, my children! and now, I want somebody to go out and get
engaged to me. Who will volunteer?”

“Not today, Kit,” said Patty, laughing. “Let troubles come singly for
once. Today for this, tomorrow for yours. Come on, people, I can’t wait
to get home and tell Adele!”



                              CHAPTER VIII


                            A RIDE TOGETHER

Adele was duly surprised and pleased to learn that Mona and Roger were
engaged and declared they should have an announcement dinner that very
night.

“Let’s make it a real party,” said Patty, “with a dance afterward.”

“As if we didn’t dance every night,” said Elise, laughing. “But it will
seem more like a party if we put on our best frocks.”

“And decorate the table,” added Daisy.

So the girls put their heads together to see what they could do in the
way of effective and appropriate decoration.

“We might give her a shower,” suggested Marie, after Mona had left the
room.

“What sort of a shower? What could we buy and where could we buy it?”

“There’s that little bazaar down in the village, but there’s nothing
decent there,” said Patty.

“No,” agreed Marie, “and we don’t want to give Mona cheap little
gimcracks.”

“Well, we can’t have a shower, that’s out of the question,” declared
Daisy.

“But I _want_ to have a shower,” persisted Patty; “it will be no fun at
all to give her a shower after we get back to New York. I’m going to
invent some way to give it to her here.”

“But there isn’t any way——”

“Yes, there is, Daisy; now listen. Suppose we each give her some pretty
trinket or thing of our own.”

“Huh! Worn out old things!”

“No, of course not! But I’ve a little pearl ring that Mona likes awfully
well, and I care a lot for it myself, too. So I think it would be a nice
gift, just because I _do_ like it myself.”

“That’s a good idea, Patty,” said Adele; “I have a white and silver
scarf that Mona just raves over. It’s Egyptian, you know, and of some
value. I think she’d like these things that we have personally used,
quite as well as new things. You know Mona can buy anything she wants,
but this personal note would touch her, I’m sure.”

“Perhaps you’re right,” Daisy said, thoughtfully. “I’ve an exquisite
lace handkerchief I’d like to give her. It’s one that was given to my
mother by a French Princess.”

“Oh, Daisy, you don’t want to give that up.”

“Yes, I do. I’m fond of Mona, and I’m glad for her to have it.”

“I’ve a lovely fan,” Elise said, “do you think she’d care for it? It’s
one of Duvelleroi’s,—signed.”

“Oh, she’d love it! We’ll have a wonderful shower. What have you,
Marie?”

“I can’t think of anything worth while. Oh, yes, I have a centrepiece
I’m embroidering for Christmas. It’s a beauty, and I can finish it this
afternoon, or, if I don’t get it quite done, I can give it to her
unfinished and put in the last stitches tomorrow.”

“Capital!” and Patty smiled at the success of her “shower” plan. “What
do you think, Chick?” she went on, as that individual, never very far
from Patty’s side, sauntered in, “we’ve the loveliest scheme!” And she
told him of the shower. “I suppose you boys can’t be in it, for Mona
wouldn’t want a jack-knife or pair of sleeve-links. And men don’t shower
engaged girls anyway.”

“No, I suppose not. But what’s the matter with us men showering old
Farrington? I’ll bet he’d love to be showered.”

“Oh, do!” and Patty clapped her hands. “Just the thing! Give him funny
gifts, will you, Chick?”

“Of course I will. And I’ll make the others come across, too.”

Soon after luncheon, Patty had a telephone call which proved to be from
Maude Kent. She begged Patty to come over to the hotel where she was, at
once.

“Oh, I can’t,” said Patty. “We’re getting up a party for Mona, she’s
just gone and got herself engaged to Roger Farrington, and we’ve got to
do something about it.”

“Well, you can come over for a short time. Truly, it’s most important.
Chick will whiz you over in a motor, and you can be back in two or three
hours. What time is the party?”

“Oh, not till dinner time.”

“Then come on. I want you terribly, and you’d want to come if you knew
what for. I can’t tell you on the telephone, it’s a secret.”

Chick was passing, and Patty beckoned to him. “Will you chauff me over
to see Maude?” she asked, as she still held the receiver.

“To the ends of the earth, if you’ve the slightest desire to go there,
my lady fair.”

“Well, all right, Maude. I’ll come, but only for a few minutes.”

“When do we start, queen of my heart?” and Channing bowed before her.

“In a few minutes. I’ll scoot and dress, and you meet me here at three
sharp.”

“Your word is my bond. I’ll be on deck.”

Patty flew to her room and rang for the treasure of a Sarah. The girl
was rapidly becoming a deft ladies’-maid, and when Patty merely said,
“Rose Crêpe, Sarah,” she took from the wardrobe the pretty afternoon
gown of rose-coloured crêpe de chine, and went at once to get silk
stockings and slippers to match, as well as the right hat, veil, and
accessories.

On time, Patty stood again in the hall. Channing appeared, and at the
same time Kit Cameron strolled in.

“Oh, Kit,” said Patty, “however _did_ you think of that crazy scheme of
fortune telling?”

“My brain is full of nonsense, Patty, and sometimes it strikes out like
that.”

“But about my fortune? Did you just make it all up out of the solid? Or
was there any——”

“Car’s ready, Patty,” interrupted Channing. “Leave that investigation
till we come back.”

“I don’t want to,” and Patty looked from one of the men to the other. “I
want to hear about it now. I say, Kit, you drive me, instead of Chick,
won’t you?”

“Oh, now, that isn’t fair!” and Channing looked decidedly annoyed. “You
promised me, Patty——”

“No, I didn’t. I asked you. That’s quite different from promising. Now,
don’t sulk, and I’ll give you an extra dance tonight.”

“Two?”

“Well, yes, two, then, you greedy boy. Now run away and play.”

“But is this all right?” said Kit, as he hesitated to take Channing’s
place.

“It doesn’t seem so to me,” Chick retorted, “But what Miss Fairfield
says, goes!”

He turned on his heel, very much out of sorts at Patty’s perverse ways,
and as she saw the look on his face and the uncertainty on Kit’s
countenance, Patty broke into a laugh.

“Where are you going, Patty?” said Farnsworth, coming out of the house.

“Over to Poland Spring House, if I can get anybody to drive me. These
boys are both unwilling. You drive me, Little Billee?”

Farnsworth looked at her a moment, with the expression of one who can
scarcely believe his own ears. Then, just as Kit began to exclaim in
indignation Big Bill took his place beside her and started the car.

“What possessed your kind heart to give me this pleasure?” he said, and
his voice was so gentle it took from the words all suggestion of sarcasm
or satire.

“The others were so tiresome. I don’t think it’s such a favour to allow
a man to drive a car for you. Do you?”

“It depends on the man and the one who grants the favour. To me this is
a decided boon. Do you realise, little girl, I never get a word with you
nowadays? You never allow it. You’re so wrapped up in Channing and
Cameron, you’ve no eyes or ears for any one else.”

“Oh, Little Billee, what a taradiddle! But when people don’t believe
what people say, people can’t expect people to——”

“Wait! So many people get me all mixed up! And I do believe you, always.
If I doubted your word about that telephone, it was because I was
misinformed. You see——”

“Yes, tell me how it was.”

Patty was thoroughly enjoying herself. She had Big Bill where she wanted
him, apologising for his abominable disbelief in her veracity. “Tell me
who told you stories about me.”

“Not stories, exactly. I wanted the long distance telephone that night,
and when I went to the desk, the telephone clerk said you were using it,
talking to a Mr. Van Reypen, and would I wait till you finished.”

“And of course you thought I called Phil, whereas he called me! All
right, Billee Boy, you’re forguv.”

“And then, he called you again, last night. Is this a habit of his?”

“Oh, Billee, that’s just what I asked him. But how did you know he
telephoned last night? Clerk again?”

“I was in the office, and as you weren’t home, and the New York call
might have been from your father, I answered. It was Van Reypen, and as
he wanted to know where you were, of course I told him. Patty, what
_did_ he want? _Why_ does he telephone you every night?”

“Well, let me see what he did want. He telephoned last night, I believe,
to apologise for telephoning the night before!”

“What nonsense!”

“Yes, he did! Don’t you disbelieve me again!”

“Of course, I won’t. All right, then, what did he say the first night,
that he had to apologise for?”

“Oh, fiddlestrings, Billee, it was nothing of any consequence. I may as
well tell you, though, he just wanted to be invited up here.”

“Oh, he _did_, did he?”

“Yes, he _did_, did he! And I told him,——”

“Yes, Patty, what did you tell him?”

Patty turned her pretty head, and smiled full in Farnsworth’s face. Her
blue eyes were sparkling, her golden curls were tossed by the wind, her
red lips wore a roguish expression, as she said, “I just told him I
didn’t want him.”

“Patty! Did you really?”

“I sure did, Little Billee, but it wasn’t quite true.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you see, really, I _did_ want him,—a little oh, only a _very_
little,—but I knew _you_ didn’t and so I told him _I_ didn’t.”

“Patty! what a torment you are!”

Patty’s eyes opened wide. “Well, I like that! A torment! Because I
headed him off for the simple reason that you don’t want him! If that
torments you, I’ll telephone him tonight to come on!”

“There, there, Blue Eyes, take it easy. _I_ don’t want him, and _you_
don’t want him, and _we_ won’t have him! Now, let it go at that.”

Big Bill smiled down happily at the flower-face that at first looked up
at him a little angrily, and then smiled back.

“And now, Peaches, the Van Reypen incident is closed. Next, will you
kindly tell me why you went in so strong for the Kent lady’s concert?”

“Two reasons, Billee,” said Patty, calmly. “First, and I hope most,
because I was sorry for her, and wanted to help her out in her trouble.
And second,——”

“Well?”

“Oh, because I’m a silly, vain thing, and I wanted to sing in public,
and have people think I was Madame Thingamajig, and I like to have my
voice praised,—and I’m just a little idiot!”

“You certainly are.”

“Why, Wil-yum Farns-worth! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”

“Not half so ashamed as you ought to be.”

“It isn’t a crime to be vain of your accomplishments, and I owned up I
was silly. Do you hate silly people?”

“Sometimes, not always. But look here, Patty, seriously, you don’t want
to be intimate with Maude Kent. She may be a nice girl, all right, but
she has been an actress, and that is not the sort of people for you to
associate with.”

“I guess you don’t know her very well, Bill; she is a noble
self-sacrificing spirit, and she devotes her life to earning a living
for herself and her mother and sister. I never knew a more devoted
daughter and sister, than she is, and I adore her.”

Farnsworth sighed. “I feared you’d fly off like that, Patty. You’re so
susceptible and impressionistic. But you must know that she is not the
sort of girl you’ve been accustomed to know.”

“So much the worse for the sort of girl I know, then. Idle, unoccupied
creatures, thinking of nothing but the fleeting pleasures of the hour!
Maude Kent is worth a dozen of them, when it comes to nobility of
purpose and energy of attainment. What do you know about her, Bill, that
_isn’t_ admirable?”

“Only that, Patty. That she has been on the vaudeville stage. I met her
personally only two or three times, and I took little interest in her.
But I hate to see you grow fond of her. Are you going to see her today?”

“I am. But you need not see her. You can wait for me in the hotel
parlour. I’m sorry I brought you.”

“No, you’re not, you’re glad. And I’ll not wait in any parlour. I’m
going with you all the way.”

As a matter of fact, Patty felt relieved, for she had no idea of what
Maude wanted, and she feared it might be to sing again. This she had no
intention of doing. Once was quite enough.

When they reached the hotel, they sent up their names, and Miss Kent
came down. She received them in a small reception room, where they could
be alone.

“You remember Mr. Farnsworth?” said Patty, after she had greeted Maude.

“Yes, indeed, very well. I’m so glad to see you again.”

Surely no one could criticise the gentle manner and soft voice, and Bill
Farnsworth looked at her more kindly than he had intended to.

“And now, what’s it all about?” asked Patty, when they were seated.
“For, Maude, I must not stay but a few minutes. It’s the night of the
announcement party, and I’ve a lot to do for the affair.”

“Very well, I’ll tell you in a few words. Mr. Stengel, the manager,
heard you sing here last night, and he wants an interview with you, with
an idea of your going on the stage in light opera.”

“What!” and Patty looked amazed, while Farnsworth bit his lips to
restrain what he wanted to say.

“Yes; he says you have a delightful voice, but more than that, you have
charm and a decided ability to make good in the parts for which he
should cast you.”

“Why, Maude, you must be crazy, to think for a minute that I’d consider
such a proposition! I wouldn’t dream of it, and I couldn’t do it,
anyway.”

“Yes, you could. And I knew you’d feel this way, at first, but after you
think it over——”

“Miss Kent,” and Farnsworth’s tones were cold and incisive, “I know Miss
Fairfield and her people quite well enough to speak with authority in
this matter, and I assure you it is worse than useless for you to
suggest such a thing.”

“I knew it _would_ strike you so at first, Mr. Farnsworth, and perhaps
Patty’s parents also. But I feel sure that if it were properly put
before them——”

“Miss Kent,” and Farnsworth rose, “there is no way of properly putting
it before them. They would not even listen. And now I must ask you to
excuse us. Come, Patty.”

“But, Bill,——”

“Come Patty, at once.”

“Must you obey him?” asked Miss Kent.

“She must,” said Farnsworth, sternly. “Come, Patty.”

“I must,” said Patty, and with a strange look in her eyes, she rose.
“I’ll see you again about this, Maude,” she said.

“She’ll never see you again, about this, or anything else,” Farnsworth
declared, and his face was set and his voice hard. “Good day, Miss
Kent.”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Farnsworth. _Au revoir_, Patty.”

The two started home in silence. Patty’s mind was full of conflicting
emotions. The idea of going on the stage was so ridiculously unthinkable
as to be of no importance, but the fact that she had been asked to do so
filled her with a strange pride and satisfaction.

It was after a long time that Farnsworth said, gently, “Patty, you’re so
_many_ kinds of a fool.”

“Yes, sir,” and Patty sighed, partly from relief that he wasn’t going to
scold and partly because she agreed with him.

“Now you see why I didn’t want you to have anything to do with that Kent
woman.”

“Well, I don’t see as she has done me any harm.”

“You don’t? Why, she has put that fool idea into your head. And you’ll
let it simmer and stew there until you begin to think that maybe it
_would_ be nice to go on the stage.”

“Oh, Billee, I wouldn’t do any such a thing!”

“No, not _now_, but after you mull over it, and especially if she ever
gets hold of you again, which pray heaven, she never will.”

“Goodness me! Little Billee, how would I look on the stage? Why, I’d be
lost among all the big girls they have nowadays.”

“You’d _look_ all right, that’s the worst of it. Now, see here, Patty,
make me a solemn promise, will you? Not that you won’t go on the stage,
but that if you ever _think_ of doing so, you’ll tell me first. Will you
promise me that?”

And Patty promised.



                               CHAPTER IX


                              THE “SHOWER”

The announcement party was great fun. In every way it was made to seem
like a formal party and not just the gathering of the clans.

Adele received the guests in the ballroom, with Mona by her side. Adele
was gorgeous in her best evening gown, a rose-coloured velvet, and Mona,
in white net, looked like a débutante.

Patty took especial pains with her toilette, though it was not entirely
necessary, for Patty looked well in anything. She chose a white crêpe,
whose bewildering masses of tulle ruchings veiled a skirt of silver
lace. The bodice of silver lace was ruched and draped with the soft
crêpe, and Patty’s pretty throat and dimpled arms emerged as from a wave
of sea foam. Her golden hair was massed in the prevailing fashion,
caught with two pins of carved jade.

“Verra good, Eddie!” Patty remarked to Sarah, as she viewed her
completed self in the mirror.

“Miss?” said the maid, unfamiliar with Patty’s nonchalant use of catch
phrases.

“I said you done noble,” Patty returned, absently, as she rearranged the
jade pins. She wore no other ornaments, and catching up a long floating
scarf of white tulle spangled with silver, she ran downstairs.

But, remembering the occasion, she made a most dignified entrance to the
reception room, and bowed exaggeratedly to Adele. “So pleased!” she
murmured, offering her fingertips. “And Miss Galbraith. May I wish you
all joy and felicity and happiness and good——”

“Come, come, Patty, give somebody else a chance. Don’t babble your good
wishes all night!” She turned to see Kit waiting his turn, and she
laughingly gave way to him.

“Isn’t it fine to see the men in their evening togs?” she exclaimed,
turning to Elise. “I’m so used to seeing them in flannels or golf
things, I scarcely recognise them.”

“_Do_ recognise me,” implored Channing, “I’m the sweet young thing you
promised three extra dances to.”

“Three nothing!” returned Patty, carelessly. “I’m not sure I shall dance
tonight, anyway. I shall spend my time admiring Mona, she looks so
sweet.”

Mona did look sweet. The occasion brought a look of shyness to her face,
which was as becoming as it was unusual. Roger stood by, proudly gazing
at her, as he was, in turn, congratulated and chaffed by the men.

Dinner was announced, and Jim Kenerley offered his arm to Mona, while
Adele followed the pair with Roger. The orchestra played the wedding
march, and Channing, who stood next to Patty, escorted her. The rotation
of the table seats had been changed for the occasion, and Adele and Jim
sat opposite one another with their guests of honour at their right
hands. The others sat where they chose, and Channing deftly manœuvred to
place Patty next to Kenerley, as he dropped into the chair at her left.

“Who’s the great little old Machiavelli!” he said, chuckling. “Didn’t I
arrange that just about right! You see, if I put you next to Kenerley,
you won’t give _him_ all your undivided attention, as you would, with
any of the others.”

“Well, if you aren’t the piggy-wig!”

“I am, as far as you are concerned. I cheerfully admit it. And I’ve
practically got you all to myself for the whole dinner time. You can’t
get away! Oh, joy!”

“Why is it such a feat? How do you know that I’m not equally crazy with
joy to sit by you?”

“Oh, Patty! If I could believe that! What things you _do_ say to a
fellow! Do you _mean_ it?”

“Considering I’ve only known you a few days, I couldn’t really mean it.
You see, I make friendships very slowly. Moreover, I never mean anything
I say at dinner. Table talk is an art. I’m proficient in it, and I know
the rules. And the first one is, never be sincere.”

“Yes, I know that, too. But after dinner, say, out on that moonlit
corner of the veranda——”

“There isn’t any moon now.”

“That’s why I refer to it at the dinner table. I don’t mean it, you see.
Well, out in that unmoonlit corner, then, will you tell me one
thing,—tell me truly?”

“Certainly. I’ll tell you two things truly, even three, if you like. But
they must be things of my own choosing.”

“First, yes. Then it will be my turn. And I shall ask you something very
important.”

“Then I shall run away. My mind is so full of important things just now,
that it simply won’t hold another one.”

“You don’t know me yet. I’m a man who always has his own way.”

“How interesting! I don’t think I ever knew one before. All the men I
have known have politely deferred to _my_ way.”

“Indeed? You must be longing for a change.”

“Not only that, but it is positively necessary that I talk to my
other-side man now. Where are your manners, that you have so long
neglected your other-side lady?”

“With thee conversing, I forgot all manners. Also, the fair Miss Homer
is absorbed in Mr. Peyton’s gay chat.”

“Well, give her a change, then. Marie, please turn this way. Mr.
Channing is dying to talk to you.”

Marie turned, with a pretty smile, and Patty gave her attention to Jim.

“You see, Jim,” she said, “this is a formal dinner, and you must observe
the fifteen minute rule. It isn’t like our every-day meals. Mona, how do
you like being guest of honour?”

“I’m a little embarrassed,” said Mona, who wasn’t at all; “but I’m
getting along somehow. Isn’t Roger splendid?”

The naïveté of Mona’s gaze at her newly betrothed made Jim Kenerley
chuckle. “You’ll do, Mona!” he said.

The table decorations were as appropriate as they could be made with
little to work with. Patty had contrived a chime of wedding bells, of
white tissue paper for the centrepiece, and at each plate was an orange,
cored and holding a few flowers of various sorts.

“These are orange blossoms,” Adele explained; “though not quite the
conventional style, they show our good intentions.”

The feast went on gaily, and after the dessert, the shower took place.

The head waiter brought in a tray on which were the gifts the girls had
collected for Mona. They were beautiful and worth-while things, and the
personal element they represented endeared them to the pleased
recipient.

“You darling people!” she exclaimed. “You couldn’t have done anything
that would please me more! It is heavenly kind of you and I love you for
it. I shall use them all, at once.”

So Mona slipped Patty’s ring on her finger, threw Adele’s scarf round
her shoulders, and tucking the wonderful lace handkerchief in her belt,
she waved the fan to and fro. The centrepiece, which Marie managed to
get finished in time, Mona calmly laid in place under her own dinner
plate, and she declared that she was perfectly happy.

“Now, for _our_ shower,” said Jim. “It isn’t fair that the bride-elect
should get all the loot, so we take pleasure in presenting to our
distinguished,—at least, distinguished-looking friend, and
fellow-traveller, some few tokens of our approval of his course. Myself,
I offer these dainty boudoir slippers, knowing that they will be
acceptable, not only for their artistic merit, but for their intrinsic
value. Take them, Farrington, with my tearful wish for your happiness.”

Kenerley gave Roger a good-sized parcel, tied up in tissue paper and
ribbons, which, when opened, disclosed a furiously gaudy and
old-fashioned pair of “worsted-work” slippers. He had unearthed them at
the bazaar in the village, where they had doubtless been on sale since
the early eighties.

Everybody laughed at the grotesque things, but Roger, in the mood of the
moment, made a gay and graceful speech of thanks.

Then Bob Peyton presented a smoking set. This was an impossible affair,
of “hand-painted” china. The ash tray bore the cheerful motto of “ashes
to ashes!” and the tobacco jar was so clouded with artistic smoke
wreaths, that Kit declared it ought to be labelled “Dust to Dust.”

Cameron’s gift was a tie case. Evidently fashioned by feminine fingers,
it was of pink silk, a little faded, embroidered with blue
forget-me-nots.

“Tasty, isn’t it?” said Kit, holding it up for general admiration. “I
hesitated a long time between this and a sponge bag. The other would be
more useful, but there’s something so fetching about this,—that I
couldn’t get away from it.”

“Don’t let _me_ get you away from it, Cameron,” said Roger; “I’d hate to
deprive you of anything you admire so sincerely. Take it from me——”

“No, Roger,” said Kit, firmly. “I cannot take it from you. I give it to
you,—a little grudgingly, ’tis true,—but I give it. I may never have
another chance to make you an announcement shower, and so, on this
’spicious ’casion, I stop at nothing.”

“You’re a noble fellow, Cameron,” and Roger’s voice was surcharged with
emotion of some sort. “I accept your gift in the spirit in which it is
given, and I trust I may some day have the opportunity to shower you in
return.”

“I hope to goodness you will, Farrington, and I now thank you in
advance.”

“Postpone those thanks, please,” broke in Channing; “your time’s up. I
say, Old Top, here’s the best prize yet. I offer you this picture frame.
But it is no ordinary picture frame. Observe. It is made of birch bark
in neat pattern, and decorated with real pine cones, securely glued on.
No danger of their fetching loose, I’ve tested ’em. Now, in this highly
artistic, if a trifle ponderous setting, you can place Miss Galbraith’s
portrait, and wear it next your heart or dream with it beneath your
pillow. To be sure, it is pretty big and heavy for either of these uses,
but’s what a bit of inconvenience compared to the sentiment of the
thing?”

Channing held out an enormous and cumbersome frame of heavy pine cones,
glued to a board back; a fright of a thing, made by some of the native
country people. As a matter of fact, these jesting gifts all came from
the little village shop, where native talent was more in evidence than
good taste.

“Heavenly!” exclaimed Roger, casting his eyes toward the ceiling. “Look,
Mona, is it not a peach? Will you give me a miniature of your sweet face
to grace it? Oh, _say_ you will!”

Roger’s absurd expression and exaggerated enthusiasm sent them all off
into paroxysms of laughter, and Mona had no need for reply.

“Farrington, old man,” said Bill Farnsworth then, “brace yourself. I
have the best gift yet, for you. The most appropriate, and combining a
graceful sentiment with a charming usefulness. Behold!”

From voluminous folds of white tissue paper, Bill shook out an Oriental
robe, of gold-embroidered silk. It was really gorgeous and looked as if
made for a Chinese mandarin. There were Dragons in raised work and
borders of chrysanthemums. Bill flung it round Roger, to whose stalwart
form the strange garb was most becoming.

Everybody exclaimed in admiration. Only foolish gifts had been looked
for and this was worthy of real praise. The long loose sleeves hung
gracefully down, and the obi or sash was fringed with silk tassels.

“A stunning thing!” exclaimed Adele. “Where _did_ you get it, Bill?”

“San Francisco,” returned Farnsworth, “but my heart is broken. You have
none of you noticed the real sentiment, the reason for the gift. Oh, how
dense you are!”

“What do you mean?” asked Adele, puzzled.

“Can’t you see?” cried Farnsworth. “Where are your wits? Why should I
give that thing to Farrington, _today_?”

They all looked blank, till suddenly it dawned on Patty.

“Oh, Little Billee!” she cried, “oh, you clever, clever thing! Oh,
girls, don’t you see? It’s a _Ki-Mona_!”

Then they did see, and they cheered and complimented Farnsworth on his
witty gift.

“It’s so clever and so beautiful, I think I shall take it myself,” Mona
declared, and Roger tossed it over to her. “With all my worldly
goods—may as well begin at once,” he said with a mock air of
resignation.

The shower over, they went to the ballroom to dance. Of course “Sir
Roger de Coverly” was first on the programme, and after that the more
modern dances.

Patty tried to evade Chick Channing, for he was growing a bit insistent
in his attentions.

“Take me for a veranda stroll, Kit,” she said, as she saw Channing
approaching. “I want you to tell me all about that fortune business. But
first, how did you ever come to think of it?”

“Oh, you know my fatal facility for practical jokes. Come, sit in this
palmy bower, and I’ll tell you all I know, and then some.”

They sauntered in to the pretty glass-enclosed nook, and sat down among
the palms. “You see,” Kit went on, “I haven’t played a joke in I dunno
when, and I just _had_ to get one off. So when I was prowling around,
and struck that empty shack, the idea sprang full-fledged to my o’er
clever brain. I fixed it up with Bobbink,—and the rest is history.
Bobsy is a great boy, though a little fresh. He got the make-up for my
face, and the rugs and things. He fixed them all in the old shanty, and
then he carried out the toothache farce in accordance with my orders.”

“Yes, he did very well. But I mean about the fortunes. How did you know
about the man Daisy is so interested in,—the one who wants to be Mayor
of——”

“Sh! that’s a state secret. I know lots of things, but I keep them to
myself.”

“All right,” said Patty, seeing he was in earnest. “But about somebody
leaving me money. Did you make _that_ up?”

“Not entirely,” and Kit still looked serious. “Perhaps you will receive
a legacy some day. But did you note what I told you about your fate?”

“No,” said Patty, as she ran away back to the house.



                               CHAPTER X


                          GOOD-BYE, SWEETHEART

The days sped all too quickly at Freedom Castle. And on one golden,
shining September afternoon, Patty realised that the next day they were
all to go home.

“I don’t want to go, Billy boy,” she said, wistfully.

She was sitting in a swing that she had herself contrived, and Chick had
achieved for her. It was a tangle of wistaria vine, pulled down from the
great oak tree that it had climbed, and fashioned into a loop. This they
had decorated with more sprays of the parent vine itself, and often
Patty, or the others, added autumn leaves or trailing creepers or
bunches of goldenrod or sumach till the swing was usually a rather
dressy affair. One couldn’t swing far in it, but then one didn’t want
to, and it was a charming place to sit.

Today, Patty, in a chic little suit of tan cloth, with a white silk
blouse and a crimson tie, sat in the swing, disconsolately poking into
the earth with her patent leather shoe tip.

“I’m sorry, Patty girl,” and Big Bill looked regretfully at her. “But
you see, the contract with the servants expires tomorrow, and they are
all anxious to get away. You know, I’ve staid longer than I intended,
now——”

“Yes, ’cause I begged you to,” and Patty smiled at him. “Now if I beg
you some more, will you stay some more?”

“In a min-nit! if I possibly could. But it’s _un_-possible. You know I
just came up for a few days to ratify the papers of transference and see
to some business matters, and I’ve all sorts of important duties
beckoning to me with both hands.”

“But if I beckon to you with both hands——”

Patty held out her pretty hands, and slowly beckoned with each slender
forefinger.

“Don’t tempt me, you little witch. You know I’d do anything in this
world for you, that didn’t conflict with duty——”

“Wouldn’t you conflict your duty—for me,—Little Billee?”

Patty’s voice was wheedlesome, and her face was very sweet.

“_My_ duty, yes, Patty.” Bill looked stern. “But my duty to
others,—no.”

“Oh, Billee-ee-_ee_——”

“I’m sorry, dear, but I must disappoint you. My employers expect me in
Boston tomorrow night, and I must not fail them.”

“Well, can’t we stay here, even if you go away? Jim and Adele could
manage things, and we don’t want servants. We could sort of camp out.
I’m a good cook, and we’d have a lovely time.”

Farnsworth considered. He looked far off and his fine brows knit as he
thought over Patty’s request. She looked at him and noted the cloud that
came over his blue eyes as he turned to her, and said: “No, Apple
Blossom, it can’t be done. This place is a trust to me, in a way, and
I’m responsible. I may not leave it to others. And I cannot remain
myself. So there’s no help for it, I must refuse you.”

There was an air of finality about Bill’s tones that told Patty there
was no use in further coaxing.

“What’s the matter, Patty?” he went on. “It isn’t like you to tease so.
I wish with all my heart I could give you what you ask, it hurts me
worse than you know to refuse you anything. But I wouldn’t be worthy of
the trust reposed in me, if I failed in my duty.”

“I hate duty,” said Patty, petulantly; “it’s a regular nuisance!”

“Gently, little girl, gently. What has happened to stir you up so? It’s
more than this ungratified whim of not staying here longer.”

“What makes you think that?”

“I don’t think, I know it. Why, Patty dear, I know every expression of
your flower face, every look in your blue eyes, every droop of your
sensitive mouth. And now it’s drooping like a—like a, well, more like a
perverse baby than anything else.”

Farnsworth laughed gently as Patty’s mouth suddenly curved upward in an
involuntary smile, then, as it drooped again, she said; “I believe I’ll
tell you.”

“Just as you think best. I wonder if you remember a promise you made me
once.”

“Oh, Little Billee, how did you know it referred to that?”

“Something seemed to hint it to me. Well, out with it. Are you still
stage-struck?”

“No, but that manager, Mr. Stengel, won’t give up the idea of putting me
on in light opera. He says——”

“He says? Has he written to you?”

“No, Maude wrote me what he said. Any way, he thinks I have remarkable
talent, and——”

“You haven’t, Patty. Not remarkable talent. You have a pretty,
light-weight voice, and a—h’m—shall we say an attractive appearance;
but more than that is required for an opera success, even light opera.
Forgive me, Apple Blossom, I know I am hurting your feelings, but it’s
better you should know the truth.”

“Then why does Mr. Stengel want to put me into his plays?”

“He thinks you would look graceful and pretty and would be a drawing
card for a time. Then, when your freshness wore off, as it would soon,
he would throw you over like a worn-out toy.”

“Well, _your_ freshness hasn’t worn off, Bill Farnsworth,” and Patty
stood up, her eyes dark with anger at his words. “And I don’t care for
any more of your opinions on a subject you know nothing about.”

Big Bill Farnsworth smiled. “Well, was it a little ruffled kitten! Did
it hate to be misjudged and misunderstood and all those horrid things!
Well, then, Patty, see here. I’ll let you off from your promise to tell
_me_ when you think of going on the stage, but you must tell your
father. Though I can’t think you would ever take such a step, without
consulting him.”

Patty’s sudden blush and a guilty look in her eyes made Bill stare at
her sharply, and then he said: “Oh, you _were_ thinking of just
that,—were you, Patty Fairfield? I can hardly believe it. You poor
little thing, you _must_ be infatuated! Is it all that Maude Kent’s
doing? Or, have you—Patty, you haven’t _seen_ Stengel, have you?”

“No,” and Patty looked astounded at Bill’s vehemence. “Why?”

“Thank heaven! I thought for the fraction of a second your infatuation
might be for him. All right. You go home and talk to your father and
your very sensible stepmother, and I’ll warrant you’ll forget this bee
in your bonnet in pretty short order. And I hope you’ll never see Maude
Kent again. She has a certain charm and I don’t wonder it appealed to a
poor little innocent like you. Promise, Patty, you’ll lay the case
before your parents, before you take a further step.”

“Of course I shan’t go against their wishes,” Patty spoke with great
dignity, “but I know I can get them to see it as I do.”

“Indeed? And just how do you see it?”

“Why, I see a fine and worthy career opening before me,” Patty scowled
as the grin on Bill’s face grew broader, “a more valuable career than
you are able to appreciate, a more—more——”

“Patty! Oh, you angel goose, you! _Do_ stop, you’ll finish me!” And
Farnsworth threw back his head and roared with laughter. “And does
this—er—valuable career shape itself to your clearer vision as being
in the front row of the chorus, or farther back——”

Bill paused, stopped by the look of horror on Patty’s face.

“Chorus!” she cried. “Why, you must be crazy! I shall be a prima donna,
one of the reserved, exclusive ones, that nobody ever knows much about.
I’m not going to have my picture all over the signboards, I can tell you
that?”

“Nor the ash barrels? Well, for _this_ relief, much thanks. Patty, I
could laugh at you till I cried, but I feel more like crying first. I’m
so sorry you’ve got this whimsey, for I know you’ll hang on to it, like
a puppy to a root; and I shan’t be here to look after you. But your
father will do that.”

“Why, where are you going?”

“West again. I don’t know just when, but very soon. Now, it may be
better for you to have this violently and get over it quicker, like
mental measles. But unless you promise me faithfully to tell it
all,—every word,—to your father and mother, I’ll write them myself,
all about it. Do you want me to do that?”

“Chick thinks it would be great fun for me to have a try at the stage.”

“Did Channing say that?” Bill’s face grew dark. “Did he, really, Patty?”

“Yes, he did. He said I’d make a screaming hit.”

“Chick’s only joking; don’t let him fool you.”

“No, he wasn’t joking, and you know it. He thinks, as I do, that such an
experience would broaden me——”

“Patty, stop! Do you want to be ‘broadened’ at the expense of all your
refinement, your loveliness, your dainty girlhood, your fresh sweet
youth,—oh, Patty, my little Patty, listen to me! If you never speak to
me again, if you scorn me utterly, at least take my word for this, you
must not, you _shall_ not, think of this thing! Patty, come to me,
instead. Come to me, dear, let me take care of you, and find pleasures
for you that will make you forget this foolishness——”

“It is not foolishness, but your talk is. I don’t care to hear any
more.”

“Wait, dear, wait a moment. You know I love you, Patty, more than life
itself; marry me, and let me teach you to forget this whim of yours——”

“It isn’t a whim. And I don’t _want_ to marry you. This idea of mine is
not a whim,—but a career, a splendid opportunity that calls to me—that
promises wonderful things,—that——”

“Patty,” and Farnsworth’s face was white, “is that true,—what you said
just now, that you—you don’t _want_ to marry me?”

“Yes, it’s true,” and Patty’s angry blue eyes met his own sad ones.

“Then, that’s all, Apple Blossom. You may go now. I’ve no fear that you
will do anything further in this other matter, without your father’s
knowledge and no fear that he will allow it. So that’s all right.
Good-bye—Sweetheart!”

“Good-bye,” and Patty flounced off. Yes, flounced is the word, for angry
and chagrined, she let go of the swing she was holding, with a quick
push, and whirling about, walked quickly toward the house.

                 *        *        *        *        *

The next morning the whole party left for New York.

“It’s been perfectly lovely,” Adele said to Farnsworth; “and if it were
not for my baby girlie, I’d like to stay another week. But I hear her
calling me!”

At Boston they were to stay over night. The party really broke up there,
for several of the men were going in different directions.

But Adele gathered her brood of girls under her wing and carried them
off to a hotel. And in the hotel lobby good-byes were said.

“I’ve had my long-feared telegram,” said Farnsworth, “and I have to go
to Arizona at once. Wasn’t it lucky it didn’t come before we left our
happy hunting grounds?”

“Yes, indeed,” said Adele, “it’s been a beautiful party, Bill, and we
just love you for giving it to us. Don’t we, girls?”

“Yes!” they chorused, and laughingly interrupting their thanks,
Farnsworth shook hands with everybody in hasty farewell.

Somehow, Patty was the last, and as he held out his hand to her, a gay
voice was heard calling out, “Oh, here you are, people! How do you all
do?”

They looked up to see Philip Van Reypen’s smiling face, as he cordially
greeted one after another.

“The most perfect time,” Mona was saying, when Daisy caught her up; “Oh,
yes, the _most perfect_ time! What do you think, Phil, we had an
engagement up there! A real live engagement! Guess the guilty parties!”

“Guess us!” exclaimed Roger, taking Mona’s hand and looking mock
sentimental.

“There’s no use,” said Daisy, “you can’t get a rise out of them! They
forestall you every time!”

“Congratulations, all the same,” said Van Reypen, cordially. “Patty, how
are you? Sunburned? Not very much.” His manner was so cheery and his
chatter so gay, nobody could be very serious, and the farewells became
short and perfunctory.

Roger and Elise were taking Mona with them to Newport, where Mrs.
Farrington was, and Bob Peyton was going directly home.

“Well,” said Van Reypen, “it’s lucky I came along, Mrs. Kenerley, to
help you care for your charges. Cameron, you and I must look after
things.”

“I’m on the job, too,” said Channing. “You can’t shake me till the last
bell rings. Your train time, Farnsworth! So long, old man. See you when
you return. You’re always turning and returning. And all thanks for a
bully time!”

“Good-bye, everybody,” cried Bill, in his most genial way. “Glad you
enjoyed it, and hope we can try it again some time. Good-bye, Patty,”
and with a swift hand clasp, and a quick look in her eyes, Bill swung
off and was lost to sight in the crowd.

Something seemed to snap in Patty’s heart. A cloud swam before her eyes,
and she swayed a little where she stood.

“All right, girl,” said a strong, calm voice in her ear, and Van Reypen
grasped her elbow and steadied her. Immediately, she was ashamed of her
passing emotion, and laughed gaily, as she met his eyes.

“I’m here,” he said simply; “you’ll be taken care of.”

“Wherever _did_ you drop from?” and Patty suddenly realised the
queerness of his presence.

“Oh, I’m the little busybody who finds out things. I found out what
train you people came down on, and I met it. Or rather, I tried to, but
I reached it just as you left the station for this hostelry, so
perforce, I followed you up. Now, may I attach myself to your cortège,
Mrs. Kenerley? I can make myself useful, I assure you. Are you staying
here over night?”

“Some of us are,” replied Adele, who liked Phil, and was glad to see
him.

“Then be my guests for the evening. We’ll have dinner in great shape,
and do a show, and just round up Boston generally.”

The Kenerleys agreed, and soon the festivities began by the party
sitting down for afternoon tea in the hotel tea room.

Daisy told Phil of Patty’s escapade enacting the singer, M’lle Farini.

“What a lark!” said Van Reypen. “But I daresay you gave the audience a
greater treat than if the lady herself had been there.”

“Sure she did!” declared Channing. “I tell you, we’ll see Patty on the
stage yet. And a charming prima donna she would make, too. I believe it
would be a great success. Farnsworth says——”

But then some interruption occurred and the sentence was never finished.

In the evening, they all went to see a new light opera that was
exceedingly popular. It was a dainty, pretty piece of foolery, full of
Dresden china-looking ladies, and knights in theatrical armour, and the
principal singer was a slight fairy-like person, much like Patty
herself.

“You could give that Diva cards and spades,” declared Chick, as they
discussed her at an after theatre supper. “Why, Patty, you’re more of an
actress than she is, this minute.”

“And a thousand times better-looking,” said Philip.

“Bill Farnsworth says I’m good-looking enough,” began Patty, slowly, and
then she stopped short and changed the subject. She wanted to think it
out for herself, before there was any more talk about it. So, if any one
recurred to the matter, she quickly spoke of something else, and the
evening passed merrily away.



                               CHAPTER XI


                             A BUBBLE BURST

One afternoon, about a week later, Philip Van Reypen called at the
Fairfields home in New York. Being informed that Patty was out, he asked
to see Mrs. Fairfield, and Nan received him in the library.

“So sorry Patty isn’t here,” she said, as she greeted him cordially.
“She’ll be sorry, too.”

“Perhaps it’s just as well,” returned Philip. “I’d like a little talk
with you. Look here, Mrs. Nan, has Patty said anything to you about
going on the stage?”

“Unless you mean a Fifth Avenue stage, she certainly has not,” and Nan
smiled at the idea.

“No, don’t laugh, it’s serious. You know I met the crowd coming down
from Maine, at Boston, and I was with them one evening. Well, they
talked,—jestingly, it’s true,—but they talked about Patty being in
light opera some time,——”

“Why, Philip, how perfectly ridiculous! It was entirely a joke, of
course.”

“I don’t think so. It seems, as near as I can make out, that Farnsworth
put her up to it.”

“Bill Farnsworth! Oh, I can’t think he would.”

“Well, Patty herself said to me that Farnsworth said she was
good-looking enough, and then, somehow, she got mixed up with a
singing-person of some sort, who used to be an actress. Farnsworth knew
her in San Francisco, I believe. And she infatuated Patty to such an
extent that——”

“I never heard such nonsense! Why hasn’t Patty told me all this?”

“That’s just the point. If there were nothing to it, she would have told
you. That’s why I fear she has taken the notion seriously.”

“I can’t think it yet. I’ll ask her when she comes home.”

“I’m not sure that would be wise. Why don’t you wait, and see if she
does anything in the matter. Elise Farrington said that a manager had
asked to see Patty regarding the subject.”

“A manager!” Nan fairly gasped. “Why, this is awful! What would her
father say?”

“But wait a minute, let’s look at the thing rationally. You know how
susceptible Patty is to a new idea or a new influence. I think this
ex-actress had bewitched the child, and to chide her would only make her
more determined to stand by her new friend. Why not deal more
diplomatically. Watch Patty, and if she does anything queer or
inexplicable, follow it up, and see what it means. Of course, you know,
Mrs. Nan, that I’m actuated only by honest interest in Patty’s welfare.”

“Oh, I know that, Philip; and I’m very glad you came to me with this
story first. Perhaps it won’t be necessary to speak of it to Mr.
Fairfield, at least, not yet. He’s busy, and a little bothered just now
with some business matters; and if I could straighten out this
foolishness without letting it worry him, I’d be glad.”

“We’ll do it,” and Phil spoke heartily. “We’ll save that little goosie
from herself. Of course, you know, I worship the ground she walks on,
and I’m going to win her yet. You think I’ve a chance, don’t you?”

“I don’t see why not, Phil. There’s nobody I’d rather see Patty marry
than you, but she is determined she won’t listen to such a thing yet.
She says she has too much fun being a belle, to tie herself down to any
one man. And perhaps she is right. She’s only twenty, and while that’s
quite old enough to marry, if she wants to, yet it’s young enough to
wait a while if she prefers.”

“I quite agree to that. It’s only that I want to be on the spot when she
does make up her mind to marry. Of course she will, eventually.”

“Of course. And you have every chance. Now, as to this other matter, do
you think Mr. Farnsworth instigated the idea?”

“I gathered that from different things that were said. And the actress
person was his friend. And I know that he took Patty over to Poland
Spring House to see her.”

“What’s her name?”

“Kent,—Maude Kent. They call her Maudie.”

“Queer Patty hasn’t mentioned her. I agree with you, that looks as if
she took the thing seriously.”

“Oh, perhaps not,” and Philip rose to go. “It may be I exaggerate the
danger. But I’m so fearful of that capricious nature of hers,—you never
can tell what whim she’ll fly at next.”

“That’s true, and I’m so much obliged to you for putting me on my
guard.”

Nan said nothing to her husband on this subject, but she watched Patty
more carefully. She was clever enough not to let the supervision be
apparent, but it was unremittent.

However, nothing transpired to rouse her suspicions in any way. Patty
was her own gay, sunny self, planning all sorts of gaieties and
employments for the winter season. She had by no means given up or
neglected her club, that was for the purpose of giving pleasure to
shop-girls or other working women, and she thought up plans for raising
money for that philanthropic purpose.

She kept up her membership in the Current Events Club and in the Musical
Society to which she belonged, and she showed no undue interest in the
new light operas that were successively put upon the stage. She attended
most of these, but she had always had a liking for them and that did not
seem to Nan a special indication of histrionic intent.

But one evening, as the three Fairfields sat at dinner, Patty was called
to the telephone. She left the table and after a time returned with
sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks.

“Dear people,” she said, smiling at her parents, “I’ve a surprise to
spring on you. Will you be astounded to learn that your foolish little
Patty had a chance to make good in the world? To have a career that will
mean fame and celebrity.”

Nan almost choked. An icy hand seemed to clutch at her throat. The hour
had struck, then. And with all her watchfulness she had not succeeded in
preventing it!

“It perfectly wonderful,” Patty was rattling on, “you can hardly believe
it,—I hardly can, myself, but I’m going to be a great singer.”

“You’re that now, Kiddie,” said her father, who had no idea of what lay
back of this introduction.

“Yes, but more than that! Oh, Nan, it’s too glorious! Daddy, what _do_
you think? I’m going to sing in light opera!”

“You’ve often done that,” he returned, thinking of her amateur
performances. “One of your favourite Gilbert and Sullivan ones, or more
modern this time?”

Patty laughed happily. “You don’t get it yet, Dadsy. I mean in a real
opera, on the real stage.”

“What! Just say that again! My old ears must be failing me.”

“I’m going to be a real prima donna! On the stage of a real theatre!”

“Not if I see you first. But elucidate this very extraordinary
statement.”

“I will.” But even as she began to speak, Patty caught sight of Nan’s
face, and the lack of sympathy, nay, more, the look of positive
disapproval she saw there, made her pause a moment. Then she went on, a
little defiantly, “I suppose it will strike you queer at first, but
you’ll get used to it. Why, Dads, I found out, while I was up in
Maine——”

“Down in Maine,” corrected her father.

“Well, any old way to Maine, but I discovered that I have a voice! and
more, I have a knack, a taste, a talent, even, for the stage. And,—I’m
going to devote my life to it.”

“Devote your life to it!” And Mr. Fairfield’s tone was scathing. “If
you’re so anxious for a life of devotion, I’ll put you in a convent. But
on the stage! Not if the Court knows herself!”

Patty smiled tolerantly. “I was afraid you’d talk like that at first. It
shall now be my duty and my pleasure to make you change your intelligent
mind. Nan, you’ll help me, won’t you?”

Patty asked this with some misgiving, for Nan did not look entirely
helpful.

“Help you to go on the stage?” was the smiling retort, for Nan quickly
decided to keep the discussion in a light key, if possible. “Yes,
indeed, after some reputable physician has signed a certificate of your
lunacy,—but _not_ while you’re in your right mind.”

“Now, Nancy, don’t go back on me! I depend on you to talk father over,
though he won’t need much argument, I’m sure.”

“Look here, Patty,” and her father spoke seriously; “tell me just what
you’re driving at.”

“Only this, Dad. I’ve a chance to go on the stage in a new light opera
and I want to go.”

“Whose opera?”

“Do you mean the composer?”

“I do not. I mean the manager or owner, or whoever is getting you mixed
up with it.”

“Well, the manager is Mr. Stengel——”

“Stengel! Why, Patty, he’s a—a _real_ manager!”

“That’s what I said,” and Patty beamed at him. “And he is coming here
tonight to see me,—to see _us_ about it.”

“Coming here!”

“Yes, don’t be so overcome. You didn’t know your little goose girl would
turn out a swan, did you?”

“But there’s a misapprehension somewhere. You see, Mr. Stengel is _not_
coming here tonight.”

“Yes, he is, I’ve just telephoned that he might.”

“You telephoned Stengel!”

“Well, not directly to him, but I told my friend, Miss Kent, that she
might bring him.”

“Who? What friend?”

“Miss Kent. I met her up—down in Maine. She’s a musical—oh, Daddy
Fairfield, _don’t_ look as if you’d been struck by lightning!”

“But I have, and I’m trying to crawl out from under the débris. Now the
first thing you do, my child, you fly back to that telephone, and call
off that little engagement for this evening. Tell your Maine friend that
circumstances over which you have _no_ control make it impossible for
you to receive her and the illustrious manager this evening.”

“But, Father,——”

“At once, Patty, please.”

Mr. Fairfield spoke in a tone that Patty had not heard since she was a
little girl, but she well remembered it. She rose without a word and did
as she was bid.

“Be very gentle with her, Fred,” Nan murmured, as soon as Patty was out
of hearing.

“I will,” and Mr. Fairfield flashed a glance of amused understanding at
his wife. “Did you know about this thing?”

“Only vaguely. I’ll tell you some other time. But quash the scheme
decidedly, won’t you?”

“_Rather!_”

Patty came back, her face a little flushed, her lips a little pouting,
but quite evidently ready for the fray.

“I did as you told me, Father,” she began, “but I think you’ll be sorry
for the stand you’ve taken.”

“Perhaps so, girlie, but I don’t want my sorrow to interfere with my
digestion. So let’s drop the whole subject till after dinner.”

It had always been a rule in the Fairfield household never to discuss
unpleasant subjects at table. So Patty tacitly agreed and during the
rest of the meal there was only gay conversation on light matters.

“Now, then,” said Mr. Fairfield, when dinner was over, and the three
were cosily settled in the pleasant library, “tell me over again and
tell me slow.”

And so, quietly, but still with that air of determination, Patty told
about Maude Kent, and the concert at Poland Spring and how Mr. Stengel
was interested and wanted to see her with a view to starring her in
light opera.

Mr. Fairfield sighed, for he foresaw no easy task in trying to persuade
his wilful daughter to his own point of view.

“Patty, dear,” he said, “do you remember when you were a little girl, I
gave you a lecture on proportion?”

“I do, Daddy, and I’ve never forgotten it!”

“Well, put it in practice now, then. Can’t you see that it is out of all
proportion to think of an ignorant, untrained girl like you stepping all
at once into the rôle of a successful prima donna?”

“But more experienced people than you think I can.”

“No, they don’t, dear. This manager knows your limitations, he knows you
have no stage lore or experience, and if he wants you, it is only
because of your dainty and charming personality, and because there is a
certain prestige in the fact of a society girl going on the stage. But,
as soon as the novelty was over, he would fling you aside like a
worn-out glove.”

“How do you know? You never were a manager?”

“Patty, men of experience in this world don’t have to adopt a profession
to know many salient points regarding it. I shall have to ask you to
take my word that I do know enough of managers and their ways to know my
statement is true. Nor are the managers altogether wrong. It is their
business to get performers who interest the public, and they have a
right to use their efforts toward that end. But I don’t want my daughter
to be sacrificed to their business acumen. Now, will you drop this wild
scheme without further argument, or shall we thresh it out further?”

“Why, I’ve no intention of dropping it, Dad,” and Patty looked amazed at
the idea.

“Oh, Lord, then I suppose we must go through with the farce. All right,
go back to the telephone and have the Stengel man come, right here and
now.”

“May I? Oh, Dadsy, I knew you’d give in!”

“Give in nothing! I want to show you what a little ninny you are.”

“Wait a minute,” said Nan, as Patty rose and walked toward the telephone
table; “suppose we don’t ask Mr. Stengel, at first,—but just have Miss
Kent come and tell us about it.”

“Good!” agreed Mr. Fairfield. “She can’t come alone,—Patty, tell her
we’ll send the car for her. I’d like to go straight ahead with this
interesting matter.”

So Patty telephoned and Maude Kent said she would come. The car was
despatched and in a tremor of impatience Patty waited for her friend’s
arrival.

The elder Fairfields made no further allusion to the subject, but talked
on other matters till the guest was announced.

Maude Kent bustled in, and greeted Patty effusively, kissing her on both
cheeks. She acknowledged introduction to the other two with gay
cordiality, and seated herself in the middle of a sofa, flinging open
her satin evening wrap. She wore a light-coloured gown, with a profusion
of lace and a great deal of jewelry. Patty looked at her a little
surprised, for she gave a different impression from the girl she had
seen before. She couldn’t herself quite define the difference, but Maude
seemed less refined, louder, somehow, here in the Fairfield home, than
she had in the big hotel.

And Patty wished she would act more reserved and less chatty and
familiar.

“You see, Mr. Fairfield,” Maude ran on, “we just _must_ have our Patty
in the profesh. We need her, and I assure you she’ll make good.”

“In just what way, Miss Kent?” asked Fred Fairfield, his keen eyes
taking in the visitor’s every move.

“Oh, she can sing, you know; and she’s a looker, all right; and she has
charm—oh, yes, decided charm.”

“And is this enough, you think, to assure Mr. Stengel’s giving her, say,
a ten-year contract as a prima donna?”

“Well, hardly that!” and Maude laughed, heartily. “You men will have
your little joke. But he would give her a good place in the chorus to
start with, and doubtless Patty would work up. Oh, yes, she could work
up, I feel sure. Patty is not afraid of hard work, are you, dearie?”

“And it is as a chorus girl that Mr. Stengel wishes to engage Patty?”
Fred Fairfield’s voice was quiet, but his eyes shot gleams of
indignation.

“Why, yes, Mr. Fairfield; she couldn’t expect a higher position at
first.”

“And would she be assured of having it in time?”

“If she caught on with the public,—or, if Mr. Stengel took a liking to
her personally——”

“That will do, Miss Kent. I’m sure you will forgive me if I decline to
pursue this subject further. My daughter most certainly will not go into
any venture of Mr. Stengel’s, or accept any other position on the stage.
The incident is closed.”

There was something in Fred Fairfield’s face that forbade the indignant
rejoinder Maude Kent was about to make. And it was with a sudden
accession of dignity that she rose to her feet and drew her wrap about
her.

“Very well,” she said; “it is closed. As a matter of explanation, let me
say that my interest in the thing is a legitimately financial one. Mr.
Stengel gives me a fair commission on the young ladies I persuade to
join his chorus. As I am self-supporting, this means something to me.
Moreover, I am personally fond of Miss Fairfield, and I am sorry not to
have achieved the triumph of her consent. But since it is impossible, I
can only bid you all good evening.”

With the air of an offended queen, Maude Kent swept from the room, and
the Fairfield chauffeur took her back to her home.

“Patty, you everlasting little goose!” said Fred Fairfield as he took
his daughter in his arms, “forget it! There’s no harm done, and nobody
need ever know how foolish you were. Your bubble’s burst, your air
castle is in ruins, but your old father is still here to look after you,
and laugh with you over your ridiculous schemes. Now, forget this one
and start another!”



                              CHAPTER XII


                                 MIDDY

“Whither away, Patty?” asked Nan, as Patty came downstairs one bright
morning in late October, hatted and gowned for the street.

“I’m going out on multifarious errands. First, I shall make a certain
florist I wot me of, wish he had never been born. What _do_ you think? I
ordered pink chrysanthemums and he sent yellow? Could villainy go
further? And then I’ve some small shopping to do. Any errands?”

“No, unless you stop in at the photographer’s and see if my pictures are
done.”

“All right I will. By, by.”

Patty got into the big car, with its open top, and drew in long breaths
of the crisp autumn air.

“To Morley, the florist’s, first, Martin,” she told the chauffeur.

As they drove down Fifth Avenue, Patty nodded to acquaintances now and
then. She was very happy, for she was planning a pleasant outing for her
club of working girls, and it greatly interested her. She had long ago
gotten over her foolish notion about the stage, and was now able to
laugh at the recollection of her silly idea. But she occasionally sang
at a concert for charity or for the entertainment of her friends, and
her voice, by reason of study and practice, was growing stronger and
fuller.

When she reached Morley’s the florist’s doorman assisted Patty from the
car, and she went into the shop.

Though she had threatened to reprove him severely for his error about
the flowers, Patty was really very polite, and merely called his
attention to the mistake, which he promised to rectify at once. Then,
selecting a small bunch of violets to pin on her coat, Patty went out.

The doorman, who had been looking in the window, to see when she
started, sprang to attention, and then, as Patty stepped toward her car,
she stood stock-still in amazement. For there, on the back seat, sat a
smiling baby, a chubby rosy-cheeked child about two years old.

“Why, you cunning Kiddy!” exclaimed Patty, “where in the world did you
come from? What are you doing in my car?”

The baby smiled at her, and holding out a little white-mittened hand,
said: “F’owers? F’owers for Middy?”

“Who is she, Martin?” asked Patty of the chauffeur. “How did she get
here?”

Martin looked around. The car was a long one, and he had not turned to
look back since Patty went into the shop.

“Why, Miss Patty, I don’t know! Maybe some of your friends left her?”

“No, of course, no one would do that, and besides, I don’t know the
child. Who are you, baby?”

“Middy,” said the little one. “I Middy.”

“You are, are you? Well, that doesn’t help much. Who brought you here,
Middy?”

“Muddy.”

“Muddy, Middy. Your vocabulary seems to be limited! Well, what shall I
do with you?”

The baby gurgled and smiled and reiterated a demand for “f’owers.”

“Yes, you may have the flowers,” and Patty gave her the violets, “but I
don’t understand your presence here.”

Apparently it mattered not to the baby what Patty understood, and she
smelled the flowers with decided evidences of satisfaction.

Patty turned to the doorman, who had followed her from the shop.

“What do you make of it?” she said.

The man stared. “I don’t know, ma’am. There was no baby in the car when
you arrived here.”

“That there was not,” agreed Patty. “Well, how did she get there?”

“I’m sure I’ve no idea, ma’am.”

“Weren’t you here while I was in the store?”

“Yes, ma’am, but I was looking in at you, so’s to be ready to open your
car door as soon as you came out.”

“Well, I never heard of anything so queer. I wonder what I’d better do.”

“Shall I call a policeman, ma’am?”

“Policeman? Gracious, no! This is a nice child. See how pretty she is,
and how well dressed.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Patty looked up and down the street, but saw no one whom she could
connect with the baby’s presence. A policeman drew near, and his
expression was questioning. He hadn’t realised that there was a strange
baby in the case, but he saw the lady was in a dilemma of some sort, and
he was about to ask why.

But Patty jumped in the car beside the child, and said, “Home, Martin,”
so quickly, that the policeman wandered on without a word.

“It’s ridiculous to take you home, baby,” Patty said; “but what can I do
with you?”

“F’owers,” said the little voice, and the stranger offered them to Patty
to smell.

“Yes, nice flowers,” returned Patty, absently, as she stared hard at her
visitor. “Who are you, dear?”

“Middy,—des Middy,” and the little face dimpled in glee.

“Well, Middy, you’re one too many for me!” and they went on toward home.

“Oh, Nan!” cried Patty, as she took her new friend indoors, “look who’s
here!”

“Who is she?” asked Nan, looking up from her book, as Patty deposited
the small morsel of humanity on a sofa.

“Dunno. She was wished on me while I was in at Morley’s. Came out of the
shop to find her sitting bolt upright in the car.”

“Really? Did somebody abandon her?”

“Can’t say. She wasn’t there,—and then, she _was_ there! That’s all I
know. Want her?”

“Certainly not. But what are you going to do with her?”

The stranger seemed to sense a lack of welcome, and putting up a
pathetic little red lip, said in tragic tones. “Middy ’ants Muddy.”

“You poor little thing!” cried Patty, catching her up in her arms. “Did
your mother put you there?”

“Ess, Muddy frowed Middy in au’mobile. Middy ’ant do home.”

“Where is your home?”

The baby’s face smiled beatifically, but the midget only said “Vere?”

“Don’t you know yourself?” and the baby shook her head.

“It’s clear enough, Patty, somebody has abandoned the little thing. How
awful! And such a pretty baby!”

“And beautifully dressed. Look, Nan, see the little white kid shoes, and
fine little handkerchief linen frock. And her cap is all
hand-embroidered.”

“And her coat is of the best possible quality. Look at the fineness of
the cloth.”

“Well, what about it?”

“I can’t make it out. If it were a poor child, I’d think it a case of
abandonment. Oh, Patty, I’ll tell you! Somebody kidnapped a rich child,
and then they became frightened, and slipped her into your car to save
themselves from discovery.”

“Why, of course that’s it! How clever you are, Nan, to think it out! For
she is a refined, sweet baby, not a bit like a slum child.”

This was true. The dark curls that clustered on the baby’s brow were
fine and soft, her little hands were well cared for, and her raiment was
immaculate and of the best. But they searched in vain for any name or
distinguishing mark on her clothes. Even the coat and cap had no maker’s
tag in them, though it was evident that there had been.

“See,” said Patty, “they’ve ripped out the store tag! The kidnappers did
that. Did the bad mans take you, baby?”

“No, Muddy b’ing baby. Des Muddy.”

“Muddy is, of course, her mother. Now, we know her mother never put the
child in the car, so I guess we can’t depend on her story.”

“Ess,” and the little one grew emphatic. “Muddy did b’ing Middy. An’
Muddy _did_ put Middy in au’mobile.”

“Well, I give it up. She seems to know what she’s talking about, but I
do believe she was kidnapped. We’ll have to keep her for a day or two.
It’ll be in the papers, of course.”

“Perhaps she’s hungry, Nan; what ought she to eat?”

“Anything simple. Ask Louise for some milk and crackers.”

But Middy did not seem hungry. She took but a sip of the milk and a mere
nibble of the cracker. She seemed happy, and though she beamed
impartially on everybody, she said little.

“She ought to have something to play with,” decreed Patty. “There isn’t
a thing in the house. I ransacked the attic rooms for that last
missionary box. I haven’t any favours or toys left. Nan, I’m going to
take her out to buy some, and maybe we’ll meet her distracted mother
looking for her.”

“Maybe you won’t! But go along, if you like. I’ll go with you as far as
Gordon’s.”

Putting on the baby’s wraps again, Patty started off. The child was
delighted to go in the car.

“Nice au’mobile,” she said, patting the cushions.

“Hear her patronising tone!” laughed Nan. “Middy have au’mobile at
home?” she inquired.

“No, no,” was the reply as the tiny white teeth showed in a sunny smile.

“You’re a lovely-natured little scamp, anyway,” declared Patty, hugging
the morsel to her, and Middy crowed in contentment.

Patty took her to a large toyshop. As they entered, a clerk came forward
to wait on them. “What can I show you?” he asked.

“Wait a minute,” said Patty. “Let the baby choose. Now, Middy, what do
you like best?”

The child looked around deliberately. Then, spying some dolls, she made
a rush for them. “Middy ’ant Dolly-baby! Ess!”

“Very well, you shall have a dolly-baby. This one, or this one?”

“No. ’Reat bid one! See!”

She pointed to the largest doll of all, a very magnificent affair,
indeed.

“Oh, that’s too big for a little girl like Middy! Have a dear little,
cunning, baby doll.”

But, no, the child was self-willed, and insisted on the big doll.

“Well,” said Patty, “I suppose she might as well have it,” so the big
doll was put into the outstretched little arms, and peace reigned.

“An’ a dolly vadon,” the small tyrant went on. This was translated to
mean dolly wagon, by the clerk, who was more versed than Patty in baby
language.

“Good gracious, sister! You’ll bankrupt me!” and Patty inquired the
price of the little coaches.

Moreover, the wilful purchaser declined all but the best and biggest,
and when it was ordered sent home, Patty hurried her charge out of the
store lest she demand further booty.

With the big doll they went back home, and Patty set herself to work to
get further knowledge of the child’s antecedents.

But here efforts were vain. She learned only the age of her guest and no
other statistics.

“Mos’ two ’ears old,” Middy declared she was, but except for that, no
information was forthcoming.

Inquiries regarding her father brought only blank looks.

“Haven’t you any father at all?” urged Patty.

“No; no fader. Poor Middy dot no fader!”

But the bid for sympathy was so clearly insincere, and the accompanying
smile so merry that Patty concluded she had no father of her
recollection.

It soon transpired that the wily mite called for sympathy on all
occasions. “Poor Middy,” was her constant plea, if she wanted anything.

“Poor Middy hung’y,” she said at last, and this time she eagerly
welcomed the milk and crackers.

“Now, Poor Middy s’eepy,” she announced, when her meal was over, and
willingly she allowed Patty to bathe her hands and face and put her to
rest on the couch in the living-room.

“Did you ever see anything so pretty?” exclaimed Patty to Nan, as the
latter returned. “She’s been sleeping nearly two hours. See her little
hand, just like a crumpled rose-leaf. What _will_ Dad say?”

They let the baby sit up until Mr. Fairfield’s arrival, anxious to know
his opinion of the strange circumstance.

“Well, bless my soul!” he exclaimed. “Patty, what queer jinks will you
cut up next?”

“But, Dads, it surely wasn’t my fault! It was none of _my_ doing!”

“Of course not, child. I expect you’re one of those cut out for queer
happenings. There are such people, you know.”

“Well, but what do you think about it? How do you explain it? Do you
think, as Nan does, that kidnappers put her in the car, because they
were frightened for their own safety, if found with the little thing?”

“Not altogether likely. I think it’s more probable the mother abandoned
it.”

“Oh, how could she! That angel child. She _is_ a beauty, isn’t she,
Daddy?”

“Very pretty, very pretty, indeed. But a problem. The end is not yet,
Pattykins. I’m sorry this has happened. There’s been no kidnapping. If
there had it would have been in the papers. This is, it seems to me, a
deep laid plot of some sort. Well, we must await developments.”

Patty went away with Louise to make the baby a bed for the night, in her
own dressing-room. With pillows and some guarding chairs, they
improvised a crib, and the process of undressing the baby proved such a
gala time that the whole house rang with merriment.

As they took off one little white shoe, a folded paper dropped out. It
was addressed to Patty herself,—but with a feeling of apprehension as
to what it might contain, she ran downstairs with it, before she looked
inside at all.



                              CHAPTER XIII


                              CHICK’S PLAN

“Here’s a note,” said Patty to her parents. “It was in the baby’s
shoe! I haven’t read it. Open it, Dad.”

Mr. Fairfield took the paper Patty handed him, and read aloud:

    _To Miss Fairfield_:—Will you not adopt my little girl? I am a
    woman of your own class in society. I married my father’s
    chauffeur, and my family disowned me. Now, I am in most
    unfortunate circumstances, but I have tried to keep my baby
    well-nurtured and well-dressed. I can do it no longer, and
    though it breaks my heart to give her up, I want her to have a
    home of refinement and comfort. You are rich, and you are
    devoted to charitable work. Will you not keep her for your own?
    Or, if you are unwilling to do this, will you not find a good
    kind friend who will take her? Her name is Millicent, but I call
    her Milly. She is a year and ten months old, and she has a
    lovely disposition. Do not attempt to seek me out. I will never
    try to see the child nor will I make trouble in any way about
    the adoption. Please keep her yourself.

                                             From MILLY’S MOTHER.

    P. S.—She loves custards and hates oatmeal.

“Well,” said Patty, “here’s a state of things! Mrs. Milly must think I’m
anxious to start an orphan asylum? The kiddy is a dear,—but I’m not
sure _I_ care to adopt her.”

“I should say _not_!” and Nan looked indignant. “I never heard of such
nerve!”

“Now, now,” broke in Mr. Fairfield, “the poor mother is not so much to
be blamed. I feel very sorry for her. Think of the circumstances. She
married the chauffeur,—ran away with him, likely,—and now he has
doubtless deserted her, or worse, remained with her and treats her
cruelly. Poor girl, it’s only natural that she should want her baby to
grow up in a home having the advantages she herself enjoyed. If I were
you, Patty-girl, I’d try to find a good home for the little waif; that
is, unless you wish to keep her here.”

“No,” replied Patty, thoughtfully, “I don’t believe I do. You can’t take
a baby as you would a lapdog. There is a responsibility and a care that
you would have to assume, and I’m sure I don’t want to devote the better
part of my existence to bringing up a child that doesn’t belong to me.”

“Of course you don’t,” agreed Nan. “The idea is absurd. But the question
is, who would take her?”

“I can’t think of anybody,” declared Patty, wrinkling her brows. “Could
we advertise?”

“No,” said Mr. Fairfield, “that wouldn’t do at all. You’ll have to keep
the baby for a little while, and ask your friends if they know of a
possible home for her. When it is noised around, I’m sure some one will
come forward to want her.”

“And meantime, Daddy, you can look after her! I’m planning a busy
winter, and I’ve no time for stray lambs.”

“Can’t you get a nurse?” suggested Mr. Fairfield.

“Oh, yes,” and Nan sighed. “But we’ve as many servants as the house will
easily accommodate now; and a nurse and a nursery and the nurse’s room
will necessitate rearranging everything. It’s no joke to introduce a
baby member into a household, I can tell you!”

“You can keep my dressing-room for a nursery,” offered Patty; “I can get
along without it for a time.”

“It isn’t really big enough,” objected Nan. “The child must have lots of
fresh air, and—oh, I never _did_ have any patience with those idiot
people who say, ‘Why do women waste their affection on dogs? Why not
adopt a dear little baby?’ It’s a very different proposition, I can tell
you! Of course, we’ll have to have a nurse, if the child stays here at
all, but where we’ll put her _I_ don’t know.”

“Well,” said Patty, hopefully, “perhaps we can find a home for her
quickly. And, too, I’d like to have her here a few weeks. I think she’s
a darling plaything, but I don’t want to keep her all her life. I wonder
who the mother is. Do you suppose she knows me?”

“Of course she knows of you,” said her father; “your name is often in
the papers in connection with various charities as well as in the social
notes. She chose you, probably, as being too kind-hearted to shift the
responsibility of the affair.”

“And I am! I’ll accept the responsibility of finding Milly a home, but
it can’t be here, of that I’m certain.”

“How shall you go about it?” asked Nan, looking helpless and rather
hopeless.

“With energy and promptness,” returned Patty. “And the promptness begins
right now.”

She seated herself at the telephone table and called up a wealthy and
childless woman of her acquaintance.

“Oh, Mrs. Porter,” she began, “I’ve the most wonderful opportunity for
you! Don’t you want to adopt a baby girl, a real Wonder-Child, all big,
dark eyes and curly hair and the sweetest little hands and feet?”

“Oh, thank you, no,” replied the amused voice at the other end of the
line; “it is, indeed, a chance of a thousand, I am sure; but we’re going
South for the winter, and we shall be bobbing about, with no settled
abode for a baby. Where did you get the paragon?”

“I have it on trial, and I want to dispose of it advantageously. Don’t
you know of any one who might take her?”

“Let me see. I believe Mrs. Bishop did say something about some friend
of hers who knew of somebody who was about to take a child from an
orphan asylum; but I remember now, she especially wanted a blonde.”

“Oh, but brunettes are _ever_ so much nicer! I’m a blonde myself, and
it’s awfully monotonous! Do tell me the name of the friend’s friend,—or
whoever it was.”

“I don’t know, really. It was about a month ago I heard of it. But Mrs.
Bishop can tell you,—Mrs. Warrington Bishop.”

“I don’t know her,” said Patty, “may I use your name as an
introduction?”

“Certainly. And if I can think up anybody else I’ll let you know.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

That was but the first of a hundred similar conversations that Patty
held. She used the telephone, as it meant far less time wasted than
personal visits would consume, and she hoped each call would bring
indirect results, if not immediate success. But everybody was too
engrossed in society or philanthropy or some hobby or travelling about,
to consider for a moment the acquisition of a new charge.

Two or three times there was a glimmer of a hope of success and Patty
would go flying off to call on a possible client. But always it proved a
vain chimera. One lady wanted a baby to adopt, but would only take a
boy. Another was most desirous of an infant, but it must be not more
than six weeks old. Another had intended adopting a child, but had
suddenly turned to settlement work instead.

The days went by, and Patty became almost disheartened. Nan and her
father tried to help her, but they, too, met with no success. Mr.
Fairfield spoke to several business friends of his, but they either
laughed at him or politely expressed their lack of interest in the
matter.

A nurse had been engaged, a skilled and capable trained nurse; for Patty
argued that if they wanted to find a good home for Milly they must keep
her in the pink of condition.

But though the nurse was most efficient, she was dictatorial and
high-tempered, and her superior air offended the other servants, and
caused Housekeeper Nan no end of trouble. They thought of changing the
nurse, but Miss Swift took such good care of her charge that they
continued to keep her.

The small cause of all the excitement went on her sunny-faced
merry-hearted way, unknowing what turmoil she had stirred up.

“Middy lub Patty,” she would say, toddling to Patty’s side as she sat at
her everlasting telephone conversations. “Middy fink Patty booful!”

“Yes, and Patty finks Middy is booful,” catching the baby up in her
arms, “but you are a terrible responsibility!”

“Fot is tebble spombilty?”

“Well, it’s what you are. I don’t know what to do with you!”

“Lub me,” suggested Milly, twining her chubby arms around Patty’s neck
till she nearly choked her. “Tell me I’s your pressus baby-kins.”

“Yes, you’re all of that; and, as a matter of fact, I’m getting too fond
of you, you little fat rascal!”

“I must beg of you, Miss Fairfield, not to caress the child so much,”
said the cold voice of Nurse Swift. “It is conceded by all authorities
that kissing is most harmful——”

“Fudge!” said Patty; “I’m only kissing the back of her neck. Microbes
don’t hurt back there. Do they, Doodlums?” and she cuddled the baby
again, while Miss Swift looked on in high dudgeon.

“Of course,” she said, primly, “if my advice, based on experience and
knowledge, is not to be considered at all, it might be well if you
employed some other——”

“There, there, Nurse,” interrupted Patty, “we’re not going to employ
anybody else. Take the kiddy-wid, and put her in a glass case. Then she
won’t get kissed and cuddled by bad, naughty, ignorant Pattys. By-by,
Curly-head!”

“No, no! Middy ’tay wiv Patty. Middy not go wiv bad Nursie!”

“Listen, Dearie Girl. Go away with Nursie now, and get nice bread and
milk, and come back to see Patty some ’nother time.”

This reasoning worked well and the baby went off smiling and throwing
kisses back to Patty.

“Oh, me, oh, my,” sighed Patty, “what can I do, what _can_ I do?”

That evening Chick Channing called. To him Patty narrated her
difficulties.

“Don’t you know of anybody who wants a perfectly angel child?” she said.
“Truly there never was such a little ray of sunshine, such a sweet
disposition and intelligent mind.”

But Channing didn’t know of a single applicant for such a treasure.

“But I’ll tell you what,” he said; “let’s peddle her. Tomorrow I’ll come
for you in my runabout, and you have the kiddy all dolled up fine, and
we’ll take her round from house to house and offer her to the highest
bidder.”

“There won’t be any bidders,” said Patty, disconsolately.

“Oh, I don’t know. We can exploit her, and her appearance will be all to
the good. Anyway, we can try it, and it’ll give the poor little scrap an
outing, if nothing more. And give her overworked nurse a chance for an
hour off.”

So Patty agreed, and the next afternoon Chick came for them. The baby
looked a dream, in her white coat and hat, her clustering curls showing
a glimpse of pink hair-ribbon.

“Where first?” asked Chick, as they started off in gay spirits.

“Mercy, _I_ don’t know!” returned Patty. “I thought you were running
this scheme, and that you had places in view.”

“Not I. But if you haven’t either, I suggest we just stop, hit or miss,
at any house that looks hospitable.”

“Nonsense, we can’t do that.”

“Well, then let’s take her to an orphan asylum or children’s home and
just leave her there.”

“No, indeed!” and Patty clasped Milly close. “She shan’t go to any such
place! Why, they mightn’t be kind to her!”

“Probably not. But what, then?”

“Oh, dear, I don’t know. What good are you, Chick, if you can’t suggest
something? I’m worn out pondering on the subject.”

“Well, if it’s as bad as that, I _must_ invent something. Let me see.
Oh, by the way, are you going to the Meredith tea this afternoon?”

“I meant to go, till you trumped up this plan, which, if you’ll excuse
me, is the biggest wild-goose chase I ever saw!”

“Not unless you’re the wild goose. I assure you I’m not. And to prove
it, here’s a plan. Let’s go to the tea, and take this little exhibit.
There will be hundreds of people there, and you can auction her off
easily enough.”

“Chick! What a crazy idea! It would never do!”

“Why not?”

“Well, first, Mrs. Meredith would be highly indignant at such a
performance.”

“Not she! You know very well, Patty, she’s a climber; and she’s most
anxious to know you better, and count you as her friend. Oh, I know all
this inside information, I do! So, if you do something a bit eccentric,
perhaps, but pretty and effective it will give her tea a certain
prestige, a unique interest that will tickle her to death.”

Patty considered. “It might work,” she said, thinking hard; “but I’ll
have to go back and dress.”

“So shall I. But the Belle of the Ball, here, is all right, isn’t she?”

“Yes; or,—no,—I’ll put on her very bestest frock, all lace and frills.
Well, turn back home, then and come for us again at five. It’s Milly’s
bed-time at six, but no matter, if we provide her a home and a career.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

At five, then, Chick returned, and found a resplendent pair awaiting
him. Patty wore one of her prettiest afternoon frocks, of Dolly Varden
silk, and Milly was in gossamer linen and laces, hidden beneath her
white cloth coat.

She was in effervescent spirits and babbled continuously in her merry
little way.

At the house, the maid in the cloak-room stared hard at the baby, but
said no word as she drew off the little coat sleeves.

Patty looked Milly over, critically, perked up her enormous pink
hair-bow, and shook out her frills, then they went to the drawing-room,
meeting Chick at the door.

“I feel a mad desire to giggle,” he said, as he caught sight of Patty,
and Milly toddling beside her.

“I feel a mad desire to run away,” she returned. “Stand by me, Chick.”

“_A la mort!_” he replied, and they entered the reception.

“How do you do, Mrs. Meredith?” said Patty, in her most dulcet tones. “I
took the liberty of bringing a little friend of mine. Though she wasn’t
invited, I feel sure you can spare her a little bit of your welcome and
hospitality.”

Mrs. Meredith, a young woman of great dignity, looked at Milly in
astonishment. As Patty had carefully taught her, the midget dropped a
dainty courtesy, and smiled up in her hostess’ face.

Remembering the great desirability of Patty’s friendship, Mrs. Meredith
retained her composure, and laughed. “You dear girl, how original you
are! Who else would have thought of bringing a baby to my reception? Is
she a relative of yours?”

“Not that,” said Patty, smiling, “but a very dear friend.”

And then Channing stepped up to greet Mrs. Meredith, and others quickly
followed, so that our trio could drift away into the crowd of chatting,
laughing people.

“What shall we do with Middy?” said Patty, anxiously. “The little thing
will be smothered down there, among all those full skirts and floating
sashes!”

For already the tiny mite was entangling her little fingers in the
fringed ends of a lady’s scarf.

“I’ll take her,” and Chick leaned down, and picking up Middy, seated her
on his broad shoulder.

It made a bit of a sensation, for Channing’s towering height made him
always a conspicuous figure, and the laughing baby attracted every one’s
attention.

“Now’s your chance!” he whispered suddenly. “Everybody is looking at us.
Step up on this chair and auction her off! I _dare_ you to!”



                              CHAPTER XIV


                            A GREAT SUCCESS

Patty always declared afterward, that Chick hypnotised her, and that
she _never_ would have done it, had she been in her right mind.

But, on the spur of the moment, carried away with the spirit of the
thing, knowing that it was then or never, and taunted by the “_dare_,”
Patty stepped up on the low chair, and said, “People Dear” before she
realised what she was about. Then, like a flash, an acute realisation of
what she had done, came over her, followed with lightning-like swiftness
by the knowledge that she _must_ go on. To go on was the only possible
justification for having gone so far. So, go on, she did.

“Dear People, listen a minute. This is unconventional and all that, I
know,—but just hark. Here is a little girl, a beautiful and well-born
child, for somebody’s adoption. Who wants her? Surely among all of you
there is some woman-heart who could love this dear baby enough to give
her a home. Look at her! Is she not charming? And as bright and
affectionate as she is pretty. Kiss your hand to the people, Milly.”

Milly always obeyed the slightest wish of her beloved Patty, and with
the most adorable smiles, and coy glances from her big, dark eyes, she
blew kisses from her tiny fingertips.

“Now love Mr. Chick,” went on Patty, shaking in her shoes, lest this
might try Channing’s endurance beyond its limit.

But he was game, and when Milly’s dimpled arms went round his neck and
she laid her soft cheek against his hair, and crooned a few little love
notes, the audience applauded with delight.

“You see,” went on Patty, “this baby is homeless. I want to give her to
a kind, wise and loving woman. No others need apply. I will say no more
now, but any one who is interested may speak to me about it either here
and now, or at my home. I will tell all particulars to any one who wants
the baby, and will be the right mother for her.”

Flushed with the excitement of the moment, Patty made a deprecating
little bow, and stepped down from the low chair.

There was a moment’s silence, and then Milly’s high, thin little voice
piped out: “Me fink Patty booful!”

This disarmed criticism and everybody laughed, while a ripple of
applause floated through the room. And then half a dozen of the ladies
moved toward the end of the room where Patty and Milly were.

They were followed by others, for all wanted to see more closely the
interesting mite, and the unusual circumstance roused curiosity even
among those who had no thought of taking the child.

But it seemed several did want her, or at least wanted to investigate
the matter.

Channing, by Patty’s side, helped to answer questions. He was an
invaluable aid, for his quick wit and pleasant personality made for a
clear understanding of the case.

“Nonsense, Mrs. Fanning,” he said to a gay young matron, “you don’t want
another olive branch! You’ve five at home, now!”

“I know it, but this is such a heavenly baby, and my youngest is eight.
I’d love to have this cherub, though I don’t know what Mr. Fanning would
say——”

“Now, you musn’t be greedy,” said Chick, smiling; “be content with your
own little brood, and let somebody take Milly, who really needs an angel
in the house.”

Milly did not become frightened at the amount of curious attention she
received, but serene and sweet, smiled happily at all, and cuddled close
to Patty.

It was not difficult to discover who was really in earnest among the
inquirers. Some were charmed by the baby’s attractions, but had no
thought of taking her to keep. Others looked at her wistfully, but for
one reason or another were unable to adopt her. But there were three who
were positive of their desire for the child, and each of the three was
determined to have her.

“I offered first,” argued Mrs. Chaffee, a haughty dame, whose dark eyes
blazed angrily, as she noted Patty’s indifference to her claim. “I wish
to have the child, and I can give her every advantage.”

“So can I,” said Miss Penrose, a delightful middle-aged spinster, who
wanted an heir to her fortune and a pet to lavish her affection upon. “I
want her very much. I can devote all my time and attention to her. She
shall have the best of education and training, and my wealth shall all
be hers.”

Patty considered. Miss Penrose was of aristocratic family, and her
prestige was undeniable. She would give all care and study to a most
careful, correct bringing up of the baby, and Milly’s future would be
assured. But, and Patty did not herself realise at first why she
objected to Miss Penrose, until it suddenly dawned on her that it was
because the lady had no sense of humour! Patty was sure she would take
the upbringing of Milly so seriously that the sunny baby would become a
little automaton. This was instinctive on Patty’s part, for she knew
Miss Penrose only slightly, but the earnestness of the lady was very
apparent.

Smilingly holding the question in abeyance, Patty listened to the plea
of the third applicant. This was Mrs. Colton, a sad-faced, sweet-eyed
young widow. Two years before, a motor accident had snatched from her
her husband and baby girl, and had left her for a time hovering between
life and death. Only of late, had she listened to her friends’ urging to
go among people once more, and this tea was almost her first appearance
in society since her tragic affliction.

With tears in her eyes, she said to Patty: “I _must_ have the baby. She
is not unlike my little Gladys, and she would be to me a veritable
Godsend. I have thought often of adopting a child, and this is the one I
want. I love her already. Will you come to me, Milly?”

Milly eyed her. For a moment the two looked at each other intently.
There was a breathless pause, and all who were near felt the dramatic
intensity of the moment. Mrs. Colton smiled, and it may have been that
Milly read in that smile all the pent-up mother-love and longing, for
she dropped Patty’s hand and walked slowly toward the lady,—her little
arms outstretched. Reaching her, she threw her arms about her neck,
exclaiming, “I fink you’s booful!”

This phrase was her highest praise, and as Mrs. Colton’s arms closed
round the child, no one could doubt that these two hearts were forever
united.

“I hope you _will_ take her, Mrs. Colton,” said Patty, earnestly; “you
are made for each other.”

“Indeed, I will take her, if I may. In fact, I cannot let her go!” and
the tear-dimmed eyes, full of affection, gazed at the little cherub.

“But _I_ want her,” declared Mrs. Chaffee. “I asked for her first, and I
think it most unfair——”

“I’m not auctioning the baby, Mrs. Chaffee,” said Patty, smiling at the
determined lady; “it isn’t a question of who asked first. Milly and Mrs.
Colton are too perfectly suited to each other to let me even consider
any other mother for the child. Please give up all thought of it, for I
have made up my mind.”

Miss Penrose was more acquiescent, and nonchalantly presumed she could
get an equally pretty baby from an asylum. To which Patty heartily
agreed.

It was arranged that Patty should take Milly home with her for a few
days, till Mrs. Colton could prepare for her reception. Also, she
promised to call in her lawyer and see about the legal processes of
adoption in this most unusual case.

All unwitting of the plans for her destiny, Milly beamed impartially on
everybody, and went with Patty to make adieux to the hostess.

“I do apologise,” said Patty, smiling, “for this eccentric performance.
But when you know me better, dear Mrs. Meredith, you will expect strange
happenings when I’m about. All my friends know this.”

The speech was a clever one, for Mrs. Meredith greatly desired to be
classed among the friends of Patty Fairfield, the society belle.

“It was charming of you,” she returned, “to choose my drawing-room for
your pretty project. I trust you will always feel free to avail yourself
of any opportunity I can offer.”

Milly made her dear little curtsey; Channing murmured polite phrases,
and they went away.

“Well!” said Chick, as they whirled along homeward, “we came, we saw,
and you bet we conquered! How about it?”

“I should say we did!” and Patty’s face glowed with satisfaction and
happiness. “There’s nobody I’d rather give Milly to than Mrs. Colton.
She’s a perfect dear, and her great sorrow has left her with an aching,
hungry heart, that this little scrap of happiness can fill.”

“You were a brick, Patty! I didn’t think you’d dare do it.”

“I couldn’t have, if I’d stopped to think. But you dared me—and I never
could refuse a dare!”

“Then I claim some of the credit of the success of our scheme.”

“All of it, Chick. I never should have dreamed of such an unheard of
performance! What _will_ Nan say?”

“Let’s go in and see; may I come in?”

“Yes, do. I want you to back me up, if they jump on me.”

But they didn’t. Though Nan and Mr. Fairfield were utterly astounded at
the story they heard, they had only praise for the result.

“The very one!” declared Nan. “Mrs. Colton is a lovely woman, and her
wealth and education and refined tastes will insure Milly exactly the
right kind of a home for life. Oh, Patty, it’s fine! But what _did_ Mrs.
Meredith think?”

“Oh,” said Patty, airily, “as it was the illustrious Me, she was
overjoyed to have her house turned into an auction room! She would have
been equally delighted if I’d made a bear garden of it.”

“You conceited little rascal,” said her father, shocked at this
self-esteem.

“No, it wasn’t _my_ idea. You all know _my_ overweening modesty. But
Chick, here, said that the parvenu element in the lady’s soul would be
kindly disposed toward,—well, let us say, toward the daughter of
Frederick Fairfield.”

This turning of the tables made them all laugh, but Channing said, “It’s
quite true. I know the Meredith type, and I was sure that to be made
conspicuous by an acknowledged social power, like our Patty, would be
unction to her soul.”

“Well, it was a crazy piece of business,” said Mr. Fairfield, “but as it
turned out so admirably, we can’t complain. It is right down splendid,
to get the little one taken by such a fine woman as Mrs. Colton. I’m
sure it will be a most successful arrangement. And we owe you a vote of
thanks, Channing, for bringing it about.”

“Oh, I’m only accessory before the fact. Patty did it. I wish you could
have seen her when she mounted that chair! It was as good as a play. Her
do-or-die expression, concealed beneath a society smile, was a whole
show!”

“I don’t care, I accomplished my purpose,” and Patty beamed with
satisfaction; “but it was mostly because Chick dared me!”

“Let us hope I’ll always be present at any crisis in your life to dare
you!” said Channing. “It’s an easy way to achieve great results.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

When Patty’s friends heard of her episode, they bombarded her with
telephone messages and notes and calls concerning it. Some chaffed her
and others praised, but all were agog over the matter. Even Mrs. Van
Reypen telephoned to know if the report she had heard were true.

“What did you hear?” asked Patty.

“That you went to a tea and auctioned off a baby.”

“No, that isn’t quite the true version of what happened. Now, I’ll tell
you.”

“No, don’t. I can’t bear to talk over the telephone. Come and see me,
and bring that child along. I want to see it.”

Mrs. Van Reypen’s wish was usually looked upon as a command, and the
next afternoon Patty started off with Milly to call on her elderly
friend.

“What a baby! Oh, _what_ a baby!” was the greeting the child received,
for Mrs. Van Reypen was most enthusiastic. “Why didn’t you keep her
yourself? How can you let her go? I never saw such a lovely baby!”

“She is,” agreed Patty, smiling, as Milly curtsied to Mrs. Van Reypen
over and over again. “But I couldn’t keep her. I don’t want the care and
responsibility of a kiddy. Would you have liked to take her?”

“I believe I would, if you had offered me the chance. But no, I am too
old to train a baby now. Do you know, though, Patty, the care of orphan
children has always appealed to me as one of the best of philanthropies.
I sometimes think even yet I will start a home for such little waifs. I
mean a real homelike sort of a place,—not the institution usually
founded for such a purpose.”

“It would be a splendid thing, Lady Van. Go ahead, and do it. I will
help you, if I can.”

“Would you, Patty? Would you give of your time and interest to help
establish the thing, and be one of the workers for it?”

“Yes, I would. I don’t want the entire responsibility of little Milly,
but I am glad I’ve found a good home for her. And if there are other
similar little unfortunates, and of course there are, I’d be more than
willing to help you in a project to make them happy and cared for.”

“Well, I’ll remember that, and I think I’ll set about planning for it.
I’m getting older all the time, and what I do, ought to be begun soon.
Patty, you are very dear to me,—you know that?”

“It’s kind of you to say so, Lady Van, and I do appreciate and greatly
value your affection for me. I wish I could do something to show my love
in return, and if you decide to go into this scheme of yours, call on me
for any help I can give.”

“Thank you, dear. But, Patty, there is another way in which you could
greatly please me,—if you—but I think you know.”

Patty did know what was coming, but she affected ignorance. “’Most any
way, Lady Van, I’m glad to please you, but I think this Orfling Home
plan the most feasible and practicable. When shall us begin?”

“But I’m not thinking of that just now. Patty, you dear girl,—don’t
you—_can’t_ you bring yourself to care for Philip?”

“Oh, I do care for Phil. I care for him a lot. We’re the greatest chums.
He’ll help us with the new scheme, won’t he?”

“But I mean to care for him, especially. The way he cares for you.”

“Now, dear Lady Van, let’s not discuss that today. I’m so busy getting
this matter of Milly fixed up, I can’t turn to other topics. Don’t you
think it would be nice for me to get a sort of wardrobe together for
her, before she goes to Mrs. Colton’s?”

“No. I think it would be ridiculous! Mrs. Colton has plenty of means,
and she has taste and knows what is right and proper for the child far
better than you do. Give the baby a parting gift if you like—I’ll give
her one myself. I’ll give her a silver porringer. She’s ’most too big
for a porringer, but she can keep it for an heirloom. The one I mean to
give her is an old Dutch one of real value. But, Patty, as to Philip.”

“Not now, please, Lady Van, dear,” and Patty put her fingers to her
ears.

“Well, some other time, then. But, Patty, if you could learn to care for
my boy, I’d—I’d make you my heir.”

“Oh, fie, fie, Lady Van! You’re trying to buy my young affections? Now,
you mustn’t do that. And, too, don’t you know that the best way to make
me dislike Phil is to continually urge him upon me.”

Mrs. Van Reypen looked a little taken aback at this, and immediately
dropped the subject, for which Patty was devoutly thankful. She did like
Philip, but she did not want his aunt arranging affairs for her, for
Patty was an independent nature, and especially so where her plans for
her own future were concerned.

So she gladly turned the conversation back to the matter of the
Children’s Home, and soon realised that Mrs. Van Reypen was greatly in
earnest about it, and that it might soon become a reality.



                               CHAPTER XV


                             PATTY’S FUTURE

One day Patty was at a matinée with some of the girls, when Mrs. Van
Reypen called at the Fairfield home. It being Saturday afternoon, Mr.
Fairfield was at home, and the visitor asked to see him as well as his
wife.

After greetings were exchanged, the straight-forward old lady went at
once to her subject.

“I’ve come to see you about Patty,” she began, “and if you choose to
tell me I’m a meddlesome old woman and concerning myself with what is
none of my business, you will be quite within your rights.”

“I doubt we shall do that, Mrs. Van Reypen,” said Fred Fairfield,
pleasantly. “What is it about Patty?”

“Only this. To put it in plain words, I want her to marry my nephew
Philip.”

“I should make no objections to that. Indeed, I should be glad and proud
to have my daughter become the wife of your nephew. He is a fine man. I
feel that I know him well and there is no one to whom I would rather
entrust Patty’s happiness.”

“Thank you, Mr. Fairfield. Phil _is_ a good boy, and I have yet to learn
a mean or ignoble thing about him. What is your opinion, Mrs.
Fairfield?”

“I quite agree with my husband,” returned Nan. “Philip has always been
one of my favourites among Patty’s friends, and I, too, should hear of
their engagement with pleasure. But, Mrs. Van Reypen, we cannot answer
for Patty herself. She is, as you perhaps know, a self-willed young
person, and not to be driven or even advised, against her will.”

“But that’s just it. Patty doesn’t know her own will. She takes for
granted all the attentions and favours of the young men, and, goodness
knows she gets enough of them, but it never seems to occur to her that
it’s time she thought about making a choice of one in particular.”

“Oh, come, now, Mrs. Van Reypen, Patty is not yet climbing up on the
traditional shelf.”

“I know that, Mr. Fairfield, but the point is, that she is heart-whole
and fancy-free, and while she is, I desire to influence her mind toward
Philip. Yes, just that. It is not wrong; on the contrary, it is a wise
thing to do. In France the girls’ betrothals are always arranged by
their elders. In England they frequently are. And there is no reason the
plan shouldn’t obtain in our country. We all have Patty’s best interests
at heart, and if we can help this thing along,—without letting the
child know it, of course,—it is our duty as well as our pleasure to do
it.”

“But how, Mrs. Van Reypen?” asked Nan. “Patty would quickly resent any
interference or dictation in her affairs; and, too, any hint that we
were helping Philip’s cause along, would, I assure you, react
disastrously to our effort.”

“Oh, certainly, if she _knew_ it,” and Mrs. Van Reypen spoke
impatiently; “but she needn’t know it.”

“How, then, shall it be done?”

“In lots of ways. Let us throw them together whenever possible. See to
it that she accepts his invitations here and there. Place them next each
other at dinners; in a word, make it clear to the other members of their
circle, that they are definitely _for_ each other, and it will shortly
be recognized and accepted as a fact. I will give opera parties and
dinner parties, and I will see to it, that they are conspicuously paired
as partners.”

“That sounds plausible, Mrs. Van Reypen,” and Nan shook her head; “but
it is not so easy. You, of course, see them together often, but Patty
goes to many parties where Philip is not invited, or if he _is_ there,
where she is escorted by some one else.”

“That’s just it!” and the old lady’s tone was vibrant with enthusiasm;
“we must see to it that she is invited everywhere first by Philip, and
then she can’t accept these other invitations.”

Nan smiled at the thought of thus ordering headstrong Patty’s engagement
calendar, but she only said, “I’m sure if you can accomplish this, I
shall be but too glad. For I, too, want to see Patty happily married. I
am in no haste for the event to occur, but I would like to rest assured
that her choice will be a wise one, and one that will mean her lifelong
happiness.”

“All that would be insured by her betrothal to Philip,” and Philip’s
aunt looked complacent. “And I am sure the dear girl would be willing to
say yes to him, if she were convinced that it was time for her to make a
choice. Will you not, both of you, do all you can to bring this about?”

“With pleasure,” said Mr. Fairfield, “but, as my wife says, it is not
easy to force or coerce my daughter.”

“Oh, not force or coerce! Have you people no idea of diplomacy? Of
strategy, even, if necessary?”

“Just how may diplomacy be directly employed?”

“Principally, perhaps, by inducing propinquity. The more they are
together, the more they will care for one another. Though to be sure,
Philip is deeply in love with Patty, now. He has, I am sure, asked her
to marry him already.”

“Then if he has, and she has refused him,” said Nan, “what more can we
do?”

“Refused him? Nothing of the sort! She hasn’t accepted him, of course,
or we would know of it; but you know how girls, nowadays, play fast and
loose with a man, if they are sure of his devotion. Indeed, if Philip
could be persuaded to slight Patty a little, now and then, it would soon
pique her into an acceptance. But he will never do that,—I know him too
well. Philip is a dear boy, but a straightforward nature, with no
thought of trifling or deception. No, we must devote our efforts toward
Patty’s attitude, not Philip’s. He is all right as he is. If Patty will
consent to marry my nephew, I am considering making her my heiress.”

“Mrs. Van Reypen!” Fred Fairfield exclaimed in indignation, “I beg you
will not use any such argument or bribe in connection with my daughter’s
name!”

“Hoity-toity, now! Don’t get excited. ’Tis no bribe. ’Tis but the fact;
if so be that Patty will become my niece, I shall divide my wealth
equally between her and my nephew. She shall have half in her own right.
If she will not, half is still Philip’s and the other half will go to a
charity. I don’t want to give it all to Philip. He is already a rich
man, and I don’t approve of too big fortunes for young men.”

“Never mind about the money part of it,” said Nan. “I am quite willing
to espouse Mrs. Van Reypen’s cause, irrespective of her will. And, too,
if Patty does marry Philip, it is quite right and proper that she should
inherit this wealth. If not, there is no question of her having it. So
the fortune element settles itself. But what I can’t see is how we’re
going about this thing. I’m somewhat practical, Mrs. Van Reypen, and I
confess I can see no practical way to bring these two hearts to beat as
one. If you can instruct me, I shall be glad to obey orders.”

Nan looked very pretty and sweet as she spoke in earnest on the subject.
She meant just what she said. She would be very glad to have Patty marry
Philip, very glad to do anything she could to help bring it about, but
for the life of her she couldn’t see anything to do.

“Well,” Mrs. Van Reypen defended her stand, “when I took them on that
motor trip together with me, that was a step in the right direction.
They were thrown so much in one another’s company, that it became
inevitable to them to be together. I always thought if that Mr.
Farnsworth hadn’t joined us up at Lake Sunapee, the matter would have
been settled then and there.”

“You think Mr. Farnsworth interfered?” asked Nan.

“I’m not sure. Do you think Patty cares for him?”

“No, I think not,” said Fred Fairfield. “They seem to have little tiffs
when they’re together, and I doubt they are very congenial.”

“I used to like Bill Farnsworth,” said Nan, “but since I learned that he
tried to bring about Patty’s going on the stage, I’ve not cared so much
for him. You see, he’s a Westerner, and he has different ideas from
ours. Imagine Patty on the stage! And it was unpardonable in him to put
the idea in her head.”

“Did he do that?”

“Yes, Philip said he heard that Mr. Farnsworth took Patty over to the
hotel where that actress was staying, to talk the matter over. And he
says that Patty herself said that Bill said she was good-looking enough
to go on the stage! Fancy!”

“It’s an outrage! That whole stage business makes my blood boil!” and
Mrs. Van Reypen’s very bonnet strings shook in righteous indignation.
“That’s what you get for letting her associate with a man like that.”

“Oh, come now,” said Mr. Fairfield, “Farnsworth is a good sort. I think
he’s very much of a man.”

“A fine type of a man to try to get a nice girl like Patty to become a
common actress!” The aristocratic visitor’s face expressed the deepest
scorn of the theatrical profession as a whole. “But she’s all over that,
isn’t she?”

“Yes, thank goodness!” answered Nan. “Well, all I can see to do, is, to
incline Patty toward Philip in any subtle way we can. Praise him to her,
judiciously, not too much. Compare him favourably with other men,
especially Mr. Farnsworth, for I’m not sure that Patty doesn’t like him
quite a little. Then let Philip come here often and we will make him
very welcome, and the rest I think he will have to accomplish himself.”

“You have expressed it very well, Mrs. Fairfield,” and the visitor rose
to go. “And I’m sure other ways and means will suggest themselves to you
as time goes on. If you would sometimes ask him to dinner quite _en
famille_, I will do the same by Patty. Such things,—letting them be
alone together of an evening now and then,—will do wonders.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

And so the plans were made, and the schemers, who were all actuated by
an honest desire for Patty’s happiness, began to watch for
opportunities.

As Mrs. Van Reypen had surmised, in her wise, canny mind, there were
ways, unobtrusive and delicate, by which the two young people could be
thrown together more frequently and none of these was neglected. Nothing
insistent or noticeable was ever attempted, but after a time, Patty
found herself relying on Philip’s advice and judgment, and unconsciously
referring questions to him for settlement.

Mrs. Van Reypen and the elder Fairfields noted this approvingly, and the
whole circle of young people came gradually to look on Philip as Patty’s
special property.

Van Reypen was by no means averse to this, and he adopted an attitude of
ownership, which, as it became definite, was quickly resented by Patty.

“Look here, Phil,” she said one day; “you needn’t act as if I belonged
to you. Don’t decide things for me without my consent.”

“Forgive me, Patty. I’ve no wish to offend. But you will belong to me
some day, and I suppose I’m too impatient for the day to come.”

“How do you know I will?”

“It’s written in the stars. We were made for each other. You’ll wake up
to the fact some day, perhaps soon.”

“I ha’e me doots,” said Patty, in roguish mood, and her light laughter
checked the more serious words that rose to Philip’s lips. He was
content to bide his time.

One day he telephoned to Patty that Mrs. Van Reypen was not well and
begged she would come over.

“Is she ill?” asked Patty in surprise, for the hale old lady was a
valetudinarian.

“Not quite that, but she has a cold, and she wants cheering up.”

So Patty ordered the car and went right over. She found that Mrs. Van
Reypen did, indeed, have a cold, and a severe one. Patty was alarmed and
insisted on calling the doctor, who pronounced it a case of grip, and
ordered the patient to bed.

Patty remained over night, for Mrs. Van Reypen was feverish and too
nervous and worried about herself to be left to the care of servants.
Late in the evening, however, she became quieter, and begged Patty to
leave her to herself for a time, and go downstairs and sit with Philip
and cheer up the poor boy.

So, having made the sick lady as comfortable as she could, Patty ran
downstairs for a while.

She was garbed in a boudoir robe of Mrs. Van Reypen’s. She had discarded
her street gown as being out of place in the sick room, and had rummaged
in her hostess’ wardrobe until she selected one of the many house gowns
and negligées that hung there.

It was utterly inappropriate for the girl, being made of purple silk,
with a wide berthé of Duchess lace. But it made Patty look very quaint
and sweet,—like a maid of olden time. She had twisted her curls up
high, and added a large carved ivory comb, from the dressing table.

“The Puritan Maiden, Priscilla,” she had said, laughingly as she
pirouetted before her hostess.

“A very fetching garb,” remarked the old lady. “You may have it to keep.
You can use it in your amateur theatricals, or such dressings up, and
the berthé is of valuable old lace.”

Patty thanked her kind friend, but to tell the truth, she was so
accustomed to receiving gifts from Mrs. Van Reypen that one more was but
as a drop in the bucket.

So, on being dismissed from the sick room, Patty ran lightly downstairs,
and into the library. Only a shaded table light was turned on, and in
the glow of the firelight Philip sat, in an easy chair, smoking. When he
heard Patty enter, he threw his cigar in the fire, and holding out his
arm, he drew her down to the broad tufted arm of the great chair he sat
in.

“How goes it upstairs?” he asked, casually.

“Not very well,” said Patty, soberly. “I don’t want to be a ‘calamity
howler,’ but I think Lady Van is more ill than she knows. This grip is a
treacherous thing, and liable to take sudden turns for the worse. And,
too, she is not as young as she once was, and so, Philip, I want you to
take all precautions. I will look after her tonight, but tomorrow you
must get a nurse.”

“Of course I will. Send for one now, if you say so.”

“No, I can manage for tonight. She is resting quietly now. She is bright
and cheery, you understand, but she is weak, and the disease has a
strong hold on her.”

“Patty, what a dear girl you are!” Philip spoke in a fine, honest, manly
way, and Patty thrilled at his so sincere praise. “You are one in a
thousand! Indeed, I’m sure there never was another like you.”

“Go ’way wid yer blarney,” laughed Patty, a least bit embarrassed
because she knew it was not mere blarney.

“It’s the truth, dear, and you know it. Oh, Patty, wouldn’t it be nice
if you lived here all the time?”

“So I could take care of Lady Van?” and her light laugh rang out.

“Yes, and so you could take care of me. I need taking care of,—that is,
I need you to take care of me.”

“Why, Philip, you’re the most capable person I know. You can take care
of yourself.”

“Well, then, I wish you lived here so I could take care of you. Would
you like that, you little Colonial Dame?”

“I’m pretty independent. I’m not sure I’d take kindly to being taken
care of.”

“You would like the way _I’d_ take care of you, I promise you that!”

“Why, how would it be?”

Patty knew she was playing with fire. She knew that unless she meant to
encourage Philip Van Reypen, she ought not to lead him on in this way.
But Patty was very feminine, and the temptation to know just what he
meant was very strong.

“Well,” Philip laid his warm hand gently on hers, “in the first place,
you should never know a care or a trouble that I could bear for you.”

“H’m,” said Patty, “that’s comforting, but not so very entertaining.”

“You little witch! Do you want entertainment? Well, then, I’d make it my
life work to invent new entertainments for you every day. How’s that?”

“That’s better,” and naughty Patty showed animated delight at the
prospect. “What would the entertainments be like?”

“That’s telling. They’d be surprises, and I can’t divulge their secrets
till you do come to live here?”

“I did live here once,” said Patty, smiling at the recollection. “As
Lady Van’s companion.”

“And now won’t you come and live here as my companion?”

“Oh, are you getting old enough to need a companion?”

“I sure am! I’m twenty-six, and that’s the very exact age when a man
wants a companion, or, at any rate, this man does. Will you, Patty
Precious?”

“I dunno. Tell me more about these entertainments.”

“Well, they should comprise all the best ones that are to be found on
the face of the earth. And when you tired of them, I would make up new
ones.”

“Parties?”

“Yes, parties of every sort. Dances, theatre parties, motor parties,
dinner parties,——”

“And little twosy parties,—just you and me all alone?”

“Patty! you witch! do you want to drive me crazy? Now, just for that,
you’ve got to say yes, and live here with me, and have all the little
twosy parties you want!”

“But, Philip, _I_ proposed them, you didn’t!” and Patty pouted until her
scarlet lips looked like a cleft cherry.

“Because I didn’t dare. Do you suppose I let myself think that you would
care for such?”

“Well, I don’t know as I do. I’ve never tried them!” And Patty ran out
of the room.



                              CHAPTER XVI


                              THE PROMISE

On returning to Mrs. Van Reypen’s room, Patty found that lady sleeping
quietly, so she herself went to bed on a couch in the dressing-room
adjoining. Next morning, the patient was weak and ill, and when the
doctor arrived he sent at once for two nurses. Patty went home, feeling
sad, for she feared her kind old friend might not survive this illness.

But Nan cheered her up, saying that while grip was sometimes a serious
matter, more often, it was light and of short duration.

“But it is contagious,” Nan went on, “and I don’t want you to catch it,
Patty. Don’t go over there again, until Mrs. Van Reypen gets better.”

Patty agreed to this, but a few days later, there came such an
imperative summons from Mrs. Van Reypen that Patty felt she must respond
to the call.

“Well, don’t go very near her,” begged Nan, as Patty started. “You are
susceptible to colds, and if you get grip, it will wear you out.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

Reaching the house, Patty was shocked at the appearance of Mrs. Van
Reypen. She was emaciated and her face had a waxen pallor. But her dark
eyes were feverishly bright, and she greeted Patty with an eager smile.
Then she sent the nurse from the room, with peremptory orders not to
return until called.

“Patty, I want to talk to you,” the old lady began.

“All right, Lady Van,” said Patty, lightly, “but you musn’t talk much.
If it’s an important subject, you’d better wait till you are stronger.”

“I shall never be stronger, my dear. This is my last illness,——”

“Oh, now, don’t talk like that. Grip always makes its patients
discouraged, but you are too sensible to be fooled by it. Brace up, and
resolve to get well, and then you will get well.”

Patty was arguing against her own convictions, for she saw the ravages
the disease had made, and she feared the worst. But she did all she
could to cheer and encourage.

“It’s useless for you to talk like that,” the invalid went on, “for I
know what I know. Now listen to me. I am going to die. I know it, and I
am not afraid. I am seventy years old, I have had a happy life, and if
my time has come, I am willing to die. Life is sweet, but we must all
die, and it is only a coward who fears death. I am going to leave you a
fortune, Patty. I have made my will and in it, I bequeath you a hundred
thousand dollars.”

“Oh, Lady Van,” Patty gasped, “don’t, _don’t_ leave me all that money! I
should be overcome with the responsibility of it.”

“Nonsense! But listen to the plan. I want you to have half of it
absolutely for yourself, and the other half, use to build a Children’s
Home. I know you will enjoy doing this, and I trust you to do it well.
Thus, you see, your own share of the money is, in a way, payment for
your work and responsibility of the Home. You may build, rent, or buy a
house for the purpose. Your father and Philip will help you as to the
business matters. But the furnishing and house planning will be your
work. Will you do this?”

“I’d love to do it!” and Patty’s eyes shone at the idea. “If I am
capable.”

“Of course you’re capable. Not a big Home, you understand, but as large
as the money will properly pay for. Then, have it bright and pretty, and
if it only accommodates a dozen children, I don’t care. I know this is
your favourite form of philanthropy and it is also mine. I wish we could
have done it together, but it is too late for that now. But Philip will
help you, and if more money is necessary, he will give it to you, from
his own inheritance. Phil is a rich man, but I shall leave him all my
fortune except what I give you. So don’t hesitate to ask him if you need
more funds.”

“All right, but I shall put your whole bequest into the scheme. I don’t
want to be paid for doing what will be a great pleasure.”

“Don’t be a little simpleton! You will take your own half for your
individual use, and not a cent of it is to go toward the Home. There is
money enough for that. And it isn’t payment. I give it to you, because I
am really very fond of you. You have made sunshine in my life ever since
I first found you, and I am glad to give you a small fortune. When you
marry, as you will some day, you will find it very nice to be able to
buy what you want for your trousseau. You can buy worth-while jewels
with it, or, if you prefer, put it out at interest and have a stated
income. But accept it you must, or I shall think you don’t love me at
all.”

“Oh, yes, I do. Dear Lady Van, you know I do.”

“Then don’t upset my last hours by refusing what I offer.”

Patty almost laughed at the snappish tone, so incongruous in one who was
making a splendid gift. But Mrs. Van Reypen was getting more and more
excited. A red spot burned in either cheek, and her eyes blazed as she
gesticulated from her pillows.

“And there’s another thing, Patty Fairfield, that you are to do for me.
You are to marry my boy, Philip.”

“Well,” and Patty laughed lightly, “we won’t discuss that now.”

“But we will discuss it now. I want your promise. Do you suppose I got
you over here just to tell you about my will? No. I want you to promise
me that you will grant me this happiness before I die. Philip loves you
deeply. He wants you for his wife and he has told you so. Where could
you find a better man? A more honourable, a kinder, a more generous and
loving heart? And he worships you. He would always be gentle and tender
with you. He is of fine old stock, there is no better family tree in the
country than the Van Reypens. Now, will you give me your promise?”

“Oh, Lady Van, I can’t promise offhand, like this. You must let me think
it over.”

“You’ve had time enough for that. Tell me,—you care for Philip, don’t
you?”

“Yes, indeed I care for him a great deal,—as a friend. But I don’t
think I love him as I ought to—as I want to love the man I marry.”

“Fiddlesticks! You don’t know your own mind, that’s all. You’re a
foolish, sentimental child. Now, look here, you marry Philip soon,—and
you’ll find out that you do love him. Why, who could help it? He’s such
a splendid fellow. He would make you as happy as the day is long. Patty,
he’s a man of a thousand. He hasn’t a bad trait or an unworthy thought
in his mind. You don’t know how really fine he is. And he adores you
so,—he would give you every wish of your heart.”

“I know he would. He has told me so. But I can’t feel sure that I care
for him in the right way. And I can’t promise——”

“You mean you won’t! You are willing to trifle with Philip’s affections
and lead him on and lure him with false hopes and then——”

“Stop, stop! That’s not fair! I never led him on! We have been good
friends for years, but I never even imagined his wanting to marry me
until he told me so last summer.”

“Last summer! And you haven’t given him a definite answer yet! You keep
him on tenter-hooks without the least consideration or care as to his
feelings. If he were not such a patient man, he would have given up all
idea of wanting you. Do you know what you are, Patty Fairfield? You’re a
little flirt, that’s what you are! You ought to be ashamed of yourself!
How many other men have you on a string? Several, I dare say.”

“Lady Van, you have no right to talk to me like this? If you were not
ill, I’d be very angry with you. But as you are, I ascribe your harsh
speeches to the illness that is racking you. Now, let us drop the
subject and talk of something pleasanter.”

“We’ll do nothing of the sort! I sent for you to get your promise, and
I’m going to get it!” Mrs. Van Reypen sat upright in her bed, and shook
her clenched hand at Patty. “You little fool!” she cried, “any girl in
her senses would be only too glad to get such a man as my nephew! You
are honoured by his wanting you. I am very fond of you myself,—you are
so pretty and sunny-faced. But if you refuse me this wish of my heart, I
shall cease to love you. I won’t leave you that money, I——”

The old lady’s voice rose nearly to a shriek, and she glared at Patty
with a fairly malevolent gaze.

That last speech was too much for Patty.

“I don’t want your money,” she said, rising to go. “I cannot stay and
listen to such unjust remarks as you have been making. I’m sorry, but I
can’t give you the promise you ask, and as I can’t please you I think
I’d better go.”

“Sit down,” begged Mrs. Van Reypen, and now her anger was gone, and her
tones were wheedlesome. “Forgive me, dear, I have no right to force your
will. But please, Patty Girl, think it over, here and now. You can
easily learn to love Phil,—you’re not in love with anybody else, are
you?”

“No,” replied Patty.

“Then, as I say, you can easily learn to love him, he is such a dear.
And he would treat you like a princess. He would shower you with gifts
and pleasures. You could live in this house, or he would buy you or
build you whatever home you fancied. Then, together, you could carry out
my project for the Children’s Home. Your life would be a heaven on
earth. Don’t you think so, Patty,—dear Patty?”

When Lady Van chose she could be very sweet and ingratiating. And she
seemed to hypnotize Patty. The girl looked at her with a hesitating
expression.

“Say yes,” pleaded the old lady. “Please, Patty, say yes. You’ll never
regret it, and you will be happy all your life. And you will have the
satisfaction of knowing that you eased the last hours of a dying woman
and sent her out of the world happy and contented to go. For I am dying,
Patty. You do not know all of my ills. I may live a few days, but not
longer. The doctor knows and so do the nurses. I haven’t told Philip,
for I hate to cause him pain. But if I can tell him of your promise to
marry him, it will mitigate his grief at saying farewell to me. Now you
will say yes, won’t you, my dear little Patty Girl?”

“But——”

“No buts now. You couldn’t have the heart to refuse the dying request of
one who has always loved you like a daughter. I would gladly have
adopted you, Patty, had your people been willing to spare you. I went to
see your parents not long ago. Your father said there is no man in the
world he would rather see you marry than Philip. And Mrs. Nan said the
same. Why do you fight against it so? Is it merely shyness? Just
maidenly reserve? If that’s it, I understand and appreciate. But waive
all that, for my time is short. You needn’t marry him at once if you
don’t wish, but promise me that he shall be your choice. That he will be
the man you will some day wed and make happy. Won’t you promise, Patty?”

“I—can’t——”

“Yes, you can!” Mrs. Van Reypen leaned out of her bed, and grasped
Patty’s arm in a vise-like clutch. “You can and you shall! Now,—at
once! Promise!”

The black eyes of the old lady bored into Patty’s own. Her firm, hard
mouth was set in a straight line. And with both hands she gripped
Patty’s arms and shook her slightly. “Promise, or I shall die on the
spot!”

“I promise,” said Patty, faintly, urged on by the older woman’s force of
intensity of will.

Mrs. Van Reypen fell back exhausted. She seemed unconscious, but whether
in a faint, or stunned by sudden reaction, Patty did not know.

She flew to the door and called the nurse.

“Goodness! What happened?” inquired Miss French. “Has she had any sort
of mental shock?”

“She has given me one,” returned Patty, but the nurse was busy
administering restoratives, and paid no heed.

Patty went slowly downstairs and out into the street. She walked home in
a daze. What had she done? For to Patty a promise was a sacred thing and
not to be broken. She hoped Mrs. Van Reypen would get better and she
would go and ask to be released from a promise that was fairly wrung
from her. She was undecided whether to tell Nan about it or not, but
concluded to wait a day or two first. And then, she thought to herself,
why wasn’t she prepared to fulfill the promise? Why didn’t she want to
marry Phil, big, kind-hearted Phil, who loved her so deeply? At times it
almost seemed as if she did want to marry him, and then again, she
wasn’t sure.

“I’ll sleep over it,” she thought, “and by tomorrow I’ll know my own
mind better. I must be a very wobbly-brained thing, anyhow. Why don’t I
know what I want? But I suppose every girl feels like this when she
tries to make up her mind. Philip is a dear, that’s certain. Maybe I’m
worrying too much over it. Well, I’ll see by tomorrow.”

But the next day and the next, Patty was equally uncertain as to whether
she was glad or sorry that she had made that promise.

And after another day or two she went down herself with the grip.

“I told you you’d catch it from Mrs. Van Reypen,” scolded Nan. “You had
no business to go there and expose yourself.”

“But I had to go when she sent for me,” said Patty.

“What did she want of you? you never told me.”

“Well, for one thing, she thinks she’s going to die, and she wants to
leave me a hundred thousand dollars in her will.”

“A hundred thousand! Patty, you must be crazy.”

“Well, it isn’t all for me, only half.” And then Patty told about the
plan for the Children’s Home, but she said nothing about the promise she
had given.

Nan was greatly excited over the bequest. “But,” she said, “I don’t
believe Mrs. Van is going to die. She’s better today. I just
telephoned.”

“I hope she won’t die,” said Patty fervently. “I don’t want her money,
and if she gets well she can run that Home project herself, and I’ll
willingly help. Oh, Nan, I do feel horrid.”

Grip has the reputation of making people feel horrid. The doctor came
and sent Patty to bed, and for several days she had a high fever, which
was aggravated by her mental worry over the promise she had made to Mrs.
Van Reypen.



                              CHAPTER XVII


                               THE CRISIS

And then the day came when the doctor said Patty had pneumonia. Rooms
were darkened; nurses went around silently; Nan wandered about, unable
to concentrate her mind on anything and Mr. Fairfield spent much of his
time at home.

The telephone was continually ringing, as one friend after another asked
how Patty was, and the rooms downstairs were filled with the gifts of
flowers that the patient might not even see.

“What word, Doctor?” asked Mona Galbraith, as the physician came
downstairs, one morning. The girls came and went as they chose. Always
some one or more of them were sitting in the library or living-room,
anxiously awaiting news.

“I think I can say she’s holding her own,” replied the doctor,
guardedly; “if she had a stronger constitution, I should feel decidedly
hopeful. But she is a frail little body, and we must be very, very
careful.”

He hurried away, and Mona turned back to where Elise sat.

“I know she’ll die,” wailed Elise. “I just _know_ Patty will die. Oh, it
seems _such_ a shame! I can’t _bear_ it!” and she broke down in a tumult
of sobbing.

“Don’t, Elise,” begged Mona. “Why not hope for the best? Patty isn’t
strong,—but she’s a healthy little piece, and that doctor is a calamity
howler, anyway. Everybody says so.”

“I know it, but somehow I have a presentiment Patty never will get
well.”

“Presentiments are silly things! They don’t mean a thing! I’d rather
have hope than all the presentiments in the world. Here comes Roger.”

Knowing his sister and his fiancée were there, Roger came in. They told
him what the doctor had said.

“Brace up, girls,” he said, cheeringly. “The game’s never out till it’s
played out. I believe our spunky little Patty will outwit the old
pneumonia and get the better of it. She always comes out top of the heap
somehow. And her holding on so long is a good sign. Don’t you want to go
home now, Mona? You look all tired out.”

“Yes, do go, Mona,” said Elise, kindly. “But it isn’t tiredness, Roger,
it’s anxiety. Go on, you two, I’ll stay a while longer.”

The pair went, and Elise sat alone in the library.

Presently, through the stilled house, she heard Patty’s voice ring out,
high and shrill.

“I don’t _want_ it!” Patty cried; “I don’t _want_ the fortune! And I
don’t want to marry _anybody_! Why do they make me _promise_ to marry
everybody in the whole world?”

The voice was that of delirium. Though not really delirious, Patty’s
mind was flighty, and the sentences that followed were disjointed and
incoherent. But they all referred to a fortune or to a marriage.

“What can she mean?” sobbed Nan, who, with her husband, sat in an
adjoining room.

“Never mind, dear, it’s her feverish, disordered imagination talking. If
she were herself, she wouldn’t know what those words meant. Perhaps it
is better that her mind wanders. Some say that’s a good sign. Keep up
hope, Nan, darling, if only for my sake.”

“Yes, Fred. And we have cause for hope. Doctor is by no means
discouraged, and if we can tide over another twenty-four hours——”

“Yes—if we can——”

“We will! Something tells me Patty will get well. The clear look in her
eyes this morning——”

“Were they clear, Nan? Did they seem so to you?”

“Yes, dear, they did. And the nurse said that meant a lot.”

“But the specialist doctor—he said Patty is so frail——”

“So she is, and always has been. But that’s in her favour. It’s often
the strong, robust people that go off quickest with pneumonia. Patty has
a wiry, nervous strength that is a help to her now.”

“You’re such a comfort, Nan. But I don’t want Patty to die.”

“Nor I, Fred. She is nearly as dear to me as to you. You know that, I’m
sure. And Patty is a born fighter. She’s like you in that. I know she’ll
battle with that disease and conquer it,—I _know_ she will!”

“Please God you’re right, dearest. Let us hope it with all our hearts.”

Alone, Patty fought her life and death battle. Doctors, nurses, friends,
all did what they could, but alone she grappled with the angel of death.
All unconsciously, too, but with an involuntary struggle for life
against the grim foe that held her. Now and again her voice cried out in
delirium or murmured in a babbling monotone.

Now racked with fever, now shivering with a chill, the tortured little
body shook convulsively or lay in a death-like stupor.

Once, when Kit Cameron was downstairs, they heard Patty shriek out about
the fortune.

“Oh,” said Kit, awestruck; “can she mean that fortune-telling business
we had? Don’t you remember I told her she’d inherit a fortune. Of
course, I was only joking. Fortune-tellers always predict a legacy. I
hope _that_ hasn’t worried her.”

“No,” said Nan, shaking her head, “it isn’t that. She’s been worrying
about that fortune ever since she’s been flighty. I know what she means.
Never mind it.”

Glad that it was not an unfortunate result of his practical joke, Kit
dropped the subject.

“I want her to get well so terribly,” he went on. “I just _can’t_ have
it otherwise. I’ve always cherished a sort of forlorn hope that I could
win her yet. Do you think I’ve a chance, Mrs. Nan?”

“When we get her well again, we’ll see,” and Nan tried to speak
cheerfully. “But it’s awfully nice of you boys to come round so often.
You cheer us up a good deal. Mr. Fairfield is not very hopeful. You see
Patty’s mother died so young, and Patty is very like her, delicate,
fragile, though almost never really ill. And here comes another of my
boys.”

Nan always called Patty’s friends her boys; and they all liked the
pleasant, lively young matron, and affectionately called her Mrs. Nan.

This time it was Chick Channing, and he came to inquire after Patty, and
also to bring the sad news that Mrs. Van Reypen was dead.

Though not entirely unexpected, for the old lady had been very ill, it
was a shock, and cast a deeper gloom over the household.

“I’m so sorry for Philip,” said Nan. “He was devoted to his aunt, and
she idolised him. Of late, he practically made his home with her.”

“I suppose he is her heir,” observed Channing.

“I suppose so,” returned Nan, listlessly. And then she suddenly
remembered what Patty had said about Mrs. Van’s bequest to her. But she
decided to make no mention of it at present.

“She was a wealthy old lady,” said Cameron. “Van Reypen will be well
fixed. He’s a good all-round man, I like him.”

“I don’t know him well,” said Chick, “I met him a few times. A thorough
aristocrat, I should say.”

“All of that. They’re among the oldest of the Knickerbockers. But
nothing of the snob about him. A right down good fellow and a loyal
friend. Well, I must go. Command me, Mrs. Nan, if I can do the least
thing for our Patty Girl. Keep up a good heart, and——”

Kit’s voice choked, and he went off without further words.

Channing soon followed, but all day the young people kept calling or
telephoning, for Patty had hosts of friends and they all loved her.

Nan went to her room to write a note of sympathy to Philip. Her own
heart full of sorrow and anxiety, she felt deeply for the young man
whose home death had invaded, and her kindred trouble helped her to
choose the right words of comfort and cheer.

The day of Mrs. Van Reypen’s funeral, Patty was very low indeed. Doctor
and nurses held their breath as their patient hovered on the borderland
of the Valley of Shadow, and Patty’s father, with Nan sobbing in his
arms, awaited the dread verdict or the word of glorious hope.

Patty stirred restlessly, her breathing laboured and difficult.
“I—did—promise,” she said in very low, but clear tones, “but I
didn’t—oh, I didn’t—_want_ to—I didn’t——” her voice trailed away to
silence.

“What _is_ that promise?” whispered the doctor to Nan. “It’s been
troubling her——”

“I don’t know at all. She usually tells me her troubles, but I don’t
know what this means.”

There was a slight commotion below stairs. The doctor looked at a nurse,
and she moved noiselessly out to command quiet.

Patty’s eyes opened wide, they looked very blue, and their glance was
more nearly rational than it had been.

“Sh!” she said, weakly. “Listen! It _is_! Yes, it _is_. Tell him to come
up, I want to see him.”

“Who is it?” asked the doctor. “She mustn’t see anybody.”

“I must,” whimpered Patty, beginning to cry; “it’s Little Billee; I want
him now.”

“For heaven’s sake, she’s rational!” exclaimed the doctor. “Bring him
up, whoever he is, if she says so! No matter if it’s an elephant, bring
him at once!”

Half frightened, Nan went out into the hall. Sure enough, big Bill
Farnsworth was halfway upstairs.

“I heard her!” he said, in a choked voice, “she said she wanted me——”

“Come,” said Nan, and led the way.

Softly Farnsworth stepped inside the door, gently as a woman he took
Patty’s thin little hand in his two big strong ones, as he sat down in a
chair beside her bed.

“Little Billee,” and Patty smiled faintly, “I want somebody to strong
me—I’m so weak—you can——”

“Yes, dear,” and firmly holding her hand in one of his, Farnsworth
softly touched her eyelids with his fingertips, and the white lids fell
over the blue eyes, and with a contented little sigh, Patty sank into a
natural sleep, the first in many days.

Released from his nervous tension, the doctor’s set features relaxed. He
looked in gratified amazement at the sleeping girl, and at the two
astonished nurses.

“She will live,” he said, softly. “But it is like a miracle. On no
account let her be awakened; but you may move, sir. She is in a sound
sleep of exhaustion.”

Farnsworth rose,—laying down Patty’s hand lightly as a snowflake,—and
soundlessly left the room.

Nan and Mr. Fairfield followed, after a moment.

They found the big fellow looking out of the hall window. At their
footsteps, he turned, making no secret of the fact that he was wiping
the tears from his eyes.

“I didn’t know—” he said, brokenly, “until yesterday. I was in
Chicago,—I made the best connections I could, and raced up here. Have
I—is she—all right now?”

“Yes,” and Fred Fairfield grasped Farnsworth’s hand. “Undoubtedly you
saved her life. It was the crisis. If she could sleep—they said,—and
she is sleeping.”

“Thank God!” and the honest blue eyes of the big Westerner filled again
with tears.

“Thank _you_, too,” cried Nan, and she shook his hand with fervour.
“Come into my sitting-room, and tell me all about it. How did Patty know
you were here?”

“Didn’t you tell her?” Bill looked amazed.

“No; she must have heard your voice—downstairs——”

“But I scarcely spoke above my breath!”

“She heard it,—or divined your presence somehow, for she said you were
there and she wanted you,—the first rational words she has spoken!”

“Bless her heart! Perhaps she heard me, perhaps it was telepathy. I
don’t know, or care. She wanted me, and I was there. I am glad.”

The big man looked so proud and yet so humble as he said this, that Nan
forgot her dislike and distrust of him, and begged him to stay with
them.

“Oh, no,” he said. “That wouldn’t do. I’ll be in New York a few weeks
now, at the Excelsior. I’ll see you often,—and Patty when I may,—but I
won’t stay here, thanks. I’m so happy to have been of service, and
always command me, of course.”

Farnsworth bowed and went off, and the two Fairfields looked at each
other.

“What an episode!” exclaimed Nan. “Did he really save her life, Fred?”

“He probably did. We can never say for certain, but at that crisis, a
natural sleep is a Godsend. He induced it, whether by a kind of
mesmerism, or whether because Patty cares so much for him, I can’t say.
I hate to think the latter——”

“Why?”

“Well, for one thing, you know that story Van Reypen tells, about
Farnsworth trying to get Patty to go on the operatic stage——”

“I never was sure about that—we didn’t hear it so very straight.”

“Well, and Farnsworth is not altogether of—of our own sort——”

“You mean, not the aristocrat Phil is?”

“Something like that.”

“Well, all that doesn’t matter just now. If the doctor says Bill saved
Patty’s life, I shall always adore him, and I shall erect a very high
monument to his honour. So there, now!”

Nan was almost gay. The revulsion of feeling brought about by Patty’s
improved condition made her so joyous she had to express it in some way.

First, she tiptoed to the door, and beckoned the nurse out. From her she
demanded and received assurance that Patty was really past the present
danger, and barring relapse or complication, would get well.

Then she flew to the telephone and told Mona, leaving her to pass the
glad news on to the others.

She wanted to call up Van Reypen, but was uncertain whether to do so or
not. He was but just returned from his aunt’s burial, and the time
seemed inopportune. Yet, he would be so anxious to hear, and perhaps no
one else would tell him.

So she called him, telling the servant who answered, who she was, and
saying Mr. Van Reypen might speak to her or not, as he wished.

“Of course I want to speak to you,” Phil’s deep voice responded; “how is
she?”

“Better, really better. She will get well, if there are no setbacks.”

“Oh, _I am_ so glad. Mrs. Nan, I have been so saddened these last few
days. I couldn’t go to you as I wished, because of affairs here. Now,
dear old aunty is laid to rest, and soon I must come over. I don’t hope
to see Patty, but I want a talk with you. May I come tonight?”

“Surely, Philip. Come when you will, you are always welcome.”

“But I don’t know,” Nan said to Fred Fairfield, “what Philip will say
when he knows who it was that brought about Patty’s recovery.”

“Need he know? Need anybody know? Perhaps when Patty can have a say in
the matter, she will not wish it known. The nurses won’t tell. Need we?”

“Perhaps not,” said Nan, thoughtfully.



                             CHAPTER XVIII


                            PATTY’S FORTUNE

Though Patty’s recovery was steady, it was very, very slow. The utmost
care was taken against relapse; and so greatly had the disease sapped
her strength, that it seemed well-nigh impossible for her to regain it.
But skilled nursing proved effectual in the end, and the day came at
last when Patty was allowed to see one or two visitors.

Adele was the first to be admitted to the presence of the convalescent.
She had come down from Fern Falls as soon as the welcome word reached
her that she might see Patty. She was to remain with her but a few
moments, and then, if no harm resulted, the next day Mona was to be
admitted.

Patty herself was eager to see her friends, and showed decided interest
in getting arrayed for the occasion of Adele’s visit. This greatly
pleased Nurse Adams for until now, Patty had turned a deaf ear to all
news or discussion of the outer world, and had shown a listless apathy
when Nan or her father told her of the doings of the young people of her
set. This had been partly due to her weakened condition and partly to
her brooding in secret over the promise she had given Mrs. Van Reypen.
She had never mentioned this subject to Nan, nor had they yet told Patty
of Mrs. Van Reypen’s death. The doctor forbade the introduction of any
exciting topic, and this news of her dear old friend would surely
startle her.

“I’ll wear my blue _crêpe de chine_ negligée,” Patty directed; “the one
with lace insets. And the cap with Empire bows and rosebuds.”

“Delightful!” said Miss Adams. “It will be a pleasant change to see you
dressed up for company.”

“I haven’t been dolled up in so long, I ’most forget how to primp, but I
daresay it will come back to me, for I’m a very vain person.”

“That’s good,” and Nurse Adams laughed. “It’s always a good sign when a
patient revives an interest in clothes.”

“I doubt if I ever lost mine, really. It was probably lying dormant all
through the late unpleasantness. Now, please, my blue brocade mules and
some blue stockings,—or, no,—white ones, I think.”

Miss Adams brushed the mop of golden curls, that had been so in the way
during the severe illness, and massed them high on the little head,
crowning all with the dainty cap of lace and ribbons.

“Now, I will gracefully recline on my boudoir couch, and await the
raising of the curtain.”

“You darling thing!” cried Adele, as she entered, “if you aren’t the
same old Patty!”

“’Course I am! Who did you think I would be? Oh, but it’s good to see
you! I haven’t seen a soul but the Regular Army for weeks and months and
years!”

Patty had never referred to Farnsworth’s presence, and no one had spoken
of it to her. They had concluded that she was really unconscious of it,
or it had lapsed from her memory.

“And you’re looking so well. Your cheeks are quite pink, and, why, I do
declare, you look almost pretty!”

“_I_ think I look ravishingly beautiful. I’ve consulted a mirror today
for the first time, and I was so glad to see myself again, it was quite
like meeting an old friend. How’s Jim?”

“Fine. Sent you so many loving messages, I decline to repeat them.”

“Dear old Jim. Give him my best. Tomorrow I’m to see Mona. Isn’t that
gay?”

“Yes, but I’d rather you’d be more interested in my call than to be
looking forward to hers.”

“You old goose! Do you s’pose I’d had you first, if I didn’t love you
most?”

“Now, I know you’re getting well. You’ve not lost your knack of making
pretty speeches.”

“It’s a comfort to have somebody to make them to. The doctors were most
unimpressionable, and I can’t bamboozle Miss Adams with flattery. She
won’t stand for it!”

The white-garbed nurse smiled at her pretty patient.

“And,” Patty went on, “after Mona, I’m to see Elise and the other girls,
and then if you please, I’m to be allowed to see some of my boy
friends!”

“Oh, you coquette! You’re just looking forward with all your eyes to
having Chick and Kit and all the rest come in and tell you how well
you’re looking.”

“Yes,” and Patty folded her hands demurely. “It’s such pleasant hearing,
after weeks of looking like a holler-eyed mummy, all skin and bone.”

“Patty, you’re incorrigible,” and Adele laughed fondly at the girl she
loved so well. “But you’re certainly looking the part of interesting
invalid, all right. Isn’t she, Mrs. Fairfield?”

“Rather!” said Nan, who had just appeared in the doorway. “And your
visit is doing her a lot of good. Why, she looks quite her old self.”

“A sort of reincarnated version of her old self, all made over new. By
the way, Patty, I saw Maude Kent yesterday.”

“Did you, Adele? What is she doing now?”

“Concerts as usual. I heard about her session with your father!” and
Adele laughed. “The idea of her thinking you’d dream of the stage!”

“But think what a great tragedienne is lost to the world!” said Patty.
“I know I have marvelous talent, but my stern parents refused to let me
prove it.”

“The most outrageous ideal!” declared Nan. “Nobody but that Mr.
Farnsworth would have suggested such a thing! I suppose Westerners have
a different code of conventions from ours.”

“Bill Farnsworth suggest it!” cried Patty. “Why, Nan, you’re crazy! He’s
the one who kept me from it. Wasn’t he, Adele?”

“Why, yes, Mrs. Nan. It was he who went over to Poland Spring with
Patty——”

“Yes, that’s what I heard. Took Patty over there to see this Kent person
about the matter.”

“Goodness, gracious me!” Patty exclaimed; “wherever did you get such a
mixup, Nansome? Why, it was Little Billee who gave Maude whatfor,
because she mentioned the idea! He told her never to dream of it, and
made me go straight home.”

Nan looked puzzled. “Why,” she said, “Philip Van Reypen told me that Mr.
Farnsworth put you up to it, and said you were good-looking enough——”

Patty laughed outright. “Oh, Nannie, I remember that! _I_ said I was
good-looking enough, and Bill said yes, I was _that_,—of course, he had
to agree!—but he said that had nothing to do with the matter. And as to
Phil, he knew nothing about it. He wasn’t there.”

“No. Somebody told him, that day he met you all in Boston.”

“Oh, fiddle-de-dee! Somebody said that somebody else heard that
somebody—Now, listen here, Nan, nobody put me up to that stage business
’ceptin’ my own little self, and, of course, Maude, who told me about
it. But she did nothing wrong in giving me the chance. And it’s all past
history, only don’t you say Little Billee egged me on, because he most
emphatically egged me off. Didn’t he, Adele?”

“Yes, he did. You told me all about it at the time. Bill Farnsworth was
most indignant at Miss Kent, but she was a friend of Chick Channing’s
and so Bill wouldn’t say anything against her.”

“There isn’t anything against her,” declared Patty, “and Little Billee
wouldn’t say it if there were. But you just remember that he was on the
other side of the fence. If anybody sort of approved of it, it was
Chick. He thought it would be rather fun, but he didn’t take it
seriously at all. So you just cross off that black mark you have against
Big Bill!”

“I will,” promised Nan, and Adele said, “Where is Bill now? Have you
seen him of late?”

“No,” said Patty; “not since before I was ill. I don’t know where he
is.”

Nan looked at her closely, but it was evident she was speaking in
earnest. As they thought, then, she had forgotten the incident of his
appearance at her bedside. Perhaps she never really knew of it, as she
was so nearly unconscious at the time.

“He is in New York,” said Nan, covertly watching Patty.

“Is he?” said Patty, with some animation. “After I get well enough to
see men-people, I’d like to have him call.”

“Very well,” returned Nan, “but now I’m going to take Adele away. The
nurse has been making signals to me for five minutes past. You mustn’t
get overtired with your first visitor, or you can’t have others.”

But visitors seemed to agree with Patty. Once back in the atmosphere of
gay chatter and laughter with her friends, she grew better rapidly, and
the roses came back to her cheeks and the strength to her body.

And so, when they thought she could bear it, they told her of Mrs. Van
Reypen’s death.

“I suspected it,” said Patty, her eyes filling with tears, “just because
you didn’t say anything about her, and evaded my questions. When was
it?”

They told her all about it, and then Mr. Fairfield said, “And, my child,
in her will was a large bequest for you.”

“I know,” said Patty, and her fingers locked nervously together. “A
hundred thousand million dollars! Or it might as well be. I don’t want
the money, Daddy.”

“But it is yours, and in your trust. You can’t well refuse it. Half is
for——”

“Yes, I know,—for a Children’s Home. But I can’t build a house now.”

“Don’t think about those things until you are stronger. The Home project
will keep,—for years, if need be. And when the time comes, all the
burdensome details will be in the hands of a Board of Trustees and you
needn’t carry it on your poor little shoulders.”

“It isn’t that that’s bothering me, but my own half. You don’t know
_why_ she gave me that.”

“Why did she?” said Nan, quickly, her woman’s mind half divining the
truth.

“She made me promise, the last time I saw her, that—that I would marry
Philip. And when I said I wouldn’t promise, she was very angry, and said
then she wouldn’t leave me the money. And I was madder than she was, and
said I didn’t want her old money, and neither I don’t, with Philip or
without him.”

“But what an extraordinary proceeding!” exclaimed Mr. Fairfield. “She
tried to buy you!”

“Oh, well, of course she didn’t put it that way, but she was all honey
and peaches and leaving me fortunes and building Children’s Homes until
I refused to promise, _then_ she turned and railed at me.”

“And then——” prompted Nan.

“Then I was mad and I tried to start for home. Then she calmed down and
was sweet again, and said she didn’t mean to balance the money against
the promise, but, well—she kept at me until she _made_ me give in.”

“And you promised?”

“Yes.”

“You poor little Patty,” cried Nan; “you poor, dear, little thing! How
could she torture you so?”

“It was, Nan,” cried Patty, eagerly; “it was just that,—torture. Oh,
I’m so glad you can see it! I didn’t know _what_ to do. She said I
mustn’t refuse the request of a dying woman, and she grabbed my arm and
shook me, and she looked like a—oh, she just looked _terrifying_, you
know, and she—well, I guess she hypnotised me into promising.”

“Of course she did! It’s a perfect shame!” and Nan gathered Patty into
her arms.

“It _is_ a shame,” agreed Mr. Fairfield, smiling at his daughter, “but
it won’t be such an awfully hard promise to keep, will it, Little Girl?
Of course you hated to have it put to you in that manner, but there are
less desirable men in this world than Philip Van Reypen.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” said Patty, and she burst into tears on
Nan’s shoulder.

“And you sha’n’t,” returned Nan, caressing her. “Go away, Fred. A man
doesn’t know how to deal with a case like this. Patty isn’t strong
enough yet to think of bothersome things. You go away and we’ll tell you
later what we decide.”

Mr. Fairfield rose, grumbling, laughingly, that it was the first time he
had ever been called down by his own family. But he went away, saying
over his shoulder, “You girls just want to have a tearfest, that’s all.”

“Tell me all about it, dear,” said Nan, as Patty smiled through her
tears.

“That’s about all, Nancy. But it was such a horrid situation. I do like
Phil, but I don’t want to make any such promise as that. Of course, Phil
has asked me himself, several times, but I’ve never said yes——”

“Or no?”

“Or no. I don’t have to till I get ready, do I? And I surely don’t have
to give my promise to the aunt of the person most interested. Oh, I’m so
sorry she died. I wanted to ask her to let me off. I dreamed about it
all the time I was sick. It was like a continual nightmare. Has Phil
been here?”

“Yes, two or three times. He wants to see you as soon as you say so.”

“How can I see him? Do you suppose he knows of my promise?”

“Very likely she told him. I don’t know. But, Patty, don’t blame her too
much. You know, she was very fond of you, and she worshipped him. It was
the wish of her heart,—but, no, she _hadn’t_ any right to force your
promise!”

“That’s what she did, she forced it. Nan, am I bound by it?”

“Why, no; that is, not unless you want to be. Or unless——”

“Unless I consider a promise made to a dying person sacred. Well, I’m
afraid I do. I’ve thought over this thing, day in and day out, and it
seems to me I’d be _wicked_ to break a promise given to one who is
gone.”

“Maybe Philip will let you off.”

“No, he won’t. I know Phil wants me to marry him, _awfully_, and he’d
take me on any terms. This sounds conceited, but I _know_, ’cause he’s
told me so.”

“Well, Patty, why not?”

“That’s just it. I don’t know why not. Sometimes I think it’s just
because I don’t want to be made to do a thing, whether I choose or not.
And then sometimes,——”

“Well?”

“Sometimes I think I don’t love Phil enough to marry him. He’s a dear,
and he’s awfully kind and generous and good. And he adores me,—but I
don’t feel—say, Nan, were you _terribly_ in love with father when you
married him?”

“I was, Patty. And I still am.”

“Yes, I know you are now. But were you before the wedding day?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’m not _terribly_ in love with Phil. But he says that will come
after we’re married. Will it, Nan?”

“It’s hard to advise you, Patty. I daren’t say the greater love will
come to you,—for I don’t know. But don’t marry him unless you are sure
he is the only man in the world you can love.”

“I’ve got to marry him,” said Patty, simply; “I promised.”



                              CHAPTER XIX


                          A DISTURBING LETTER

Then the days came when Patty could see anybody and everybody who
called upon her. When she could be downstairs in the library or the big
cheery living-room, and, as she expressed it, be “folks” once more.

Still flowers were sent to her, still candies and fruit and dainty
delicacies arrived in boxes and baskets, and friends sent books,
pictures, and letters. Her mail was voluminous, so much so that Nurse
Adams who still tarried, was pressed into service as amanuensis and
general secretary.

The men had begun to be allowed to call, and Patty saw Cameron and
Channing, who happened to call first.

“My, but it’s good to gaze on your haughty beauty again!” said Chick;
“I’ve missed you more than tongue can tell!”

“Me too,” said Kit. “I wanted to telephone, but they wouldn’t let me.
Said I was too near and dear to be heard without being seen,—like the
children, or whoever it is.”

“I wish you had,” and Patty laughed. “I was longing to babble over a
telephone, as we used to do, Kit.”

“Yes, in the early days of our courtship, when we were twenty-one!”

“Speak for yourself, John! I’ll leave it to Chick,—_do_ I look
twenty-one!”

“I should say not! You look sweet sixteen, or thereabouts.”

He was right, for Patty did look adorably young and sweet. She had on a
Frenchy tea-gown of pale green silk, bubbling over with tulle frills of
the same shade, touched here and there with tiny rosebuds. A fetching
cap of matching materials, was, Nan declared, a mere piece of
affectation, but it accented her invalidism, and was vastly becoming.
Her face, still pale from her illness, was of a waxen hue, but a warm
pink had begun to glow in her cheeks and her blue eyes were as twinkling
and roguish as ever.

“And what’s more,” Patty went on, “I won’t be twenty-one till next
May,—and that’s ages away yet.”

“Yes, about half a year!” retorted Kit, “so I’m not so very far out, my
little old lady! Did you get all the tokens I sent you?”

“Guess I did. I’m acknowledging ’em up as fast as I can. I had such
oodles of stuff. I begrudge the flowers that came while I was too lost
to the world to see them, but enough have come since to make up. You’ll
get your receipts in due time.”

“Thanks. I was afraid mine were lost in the shuffle. I say, Patty, when
can you go out for a spin?”

“Not this week. Next, maybe.”

“Go with me first?”

“No, me,” put in Chick. “I’ve a limousine, he has only a runabout.”

“Lots more fun in a runabout. Besides, I asked you first.”

“What fun!” cried Patty, clapping her hands. “It’s like a dance. I’m
going to have a programme. Wait, here’s one.”

Patty found an old dance programme in the desk near her, and Kit kindly
essayed to rub off the names. Then with his fountain pen he wrote over
the dances, “Limousine Ride.” “Runabout Spin.” “Walk.” “Skate.” “Opera.”
“Dance.” “Matinée,” and a host of other pleasures to which Patty might
reasonably expect to be invited soon.

But she would only allow them one each, and after they had written their
names after the motor-car rides, they were shooed away by ever watchful
Nan, who would not allow Patty to become overtired.

Then, one morning, in the mail came a communication from Mrs. Van
Reypen’s lawyer. It informed Patty of the legacy left her. As Mrs. Van
Reypen had said, there was a bequest of fifty thousand dollars to Patty
herself, and another fifty thousand in trust for a fund for a Children’s
Home. The details of the institution were left entirely to Patty’s
discretion, and she was instructed, if in need of more funds, to apply
to Philip Van Reypen.

Also was enclosed a note which Mrs. Van Reypen had written and directed
to be given to Patty after her death.

“I’m afraid to open it, Nan,” said Patty, trembling as she looked at the
sealed epistle.

“I don’t wonder you feel so, dear. Let me read it first.”

Gladly Patty passed it over, for she had no secrets from Nan, and her
nerves were not yet as strong as before her illness.

Nan read it, and then said. “You need have no fear, Patty, it’s a dear
note. Listen:

    “My Dear Little Patty:

    “I am afraid I made you sorrowful when I talked to you and urged
    you to promise the thing I asked of you. But don’t feel hard
    toward me. I have your interests at heart as well as Philip’s,
    and I know that what you have promised will mean your life’s
    happiness. Now, about the Children’s Home. If you feel that
    after all it is too great a tax on your time or strength to take
    it in charge, don’t do so. Turn it all over to some one else.
    You and Philip can decide on the right person for the work. But
    I trust you will have an interest in it, and see to it that the
    furnishings and little comforts are as you and I would choose
    were we working together. This note, dear, is to say good-bye. I
    shall not see you again, but I die content, knowing you will
    love and look after my boy. It seemed strange at first to your
    girl heart, but you will come to love him as your own, and your
    life together will be filled with joy and peace. Good-bye, my
    child, have a kindly remembrance in your heart for your old
    friend,

                                                      “LADY VAN.”

Patty was crying as Nan finished. It so brought back the fine but
eccentric old lady, and so renewed that dreadful promise, that the girl
was completely upset.

“You see,” she sobbed, “I’ve got to marry him. This is like a voice from
the grave, holding me to my vow. Isn’t it, Nan?”

“Patty, look here. Do you want to marry Phil, or don’t you?”

At the quick, sharp question, Patty looked up with a start.

“Honest, Nan, I don’t know.”

“Then you ought to find out. It’s this way, Patty. If you do want to
marry him, or if you are willing to, there’s no use in fussing over this
promise business. If you don’t, and if you are sure you don’t, then you
must break that promise. But, you’ve got to be sure first.”

“How can I be sure?”

“Is there anybody else you care for?”

“N—no.”

“Kit Cameron is very much in love with you, Patty. He asked me when you
were ill, if I thought he had a chance. Has he?”

“Not the ghost of a chance! Kit’s an old dear, and I like him a heap,
but he’s a worse flirt than I am. Mercy, Nan, I wouldn’t marry him for a
minute!”

“Chick Channing?”

“No. He’s a lovely boy to play around with, but not to take for a life
partner. Oh, well, I s’pose it’ll have to be Phil, after all.”

“Your father and I would like that.”

“And Mrs. Van Reypen seemed to think she’d like it; and I feel quite
sure Phil would like it; and it doesn’t matter about little old me!”

“Patty! stop talking like that! You know nobody wants you to do a thing
you don’t want to do! And don’t get mad at your Nan, who has only your
best interests at heart!”

“’Deed I won’t! I’m a brute! A big, ugly, horrid brute! Nansome, you’re
my good angel. Now, let’s drop this subject for a time,—or I’ll get so
nervous I’ll fly to the moon!”

“Of course you will! And you’re not going to be bothered out of your
life, either. You put it all out of your mind, and come with me, out for
a ridy-by. Then back and have a nice little nap. Then a ’normous big
luncheon; and then dress yourself all up pretty for callers.”

“What an entrancing programme! Nan, sometimes I think you’re a genius! I
sure do!”

The enticing programme was carried out, and that afternoon Van Reypen
came to call. It was the first time he had seen Patty since her illness,
and she rather dreaded the meeting.

But Philip was so cheery and kindly that Patty felt at ease at once.

“Dear little girl,” he said, taking both her hands, “how good to see you
looking so well. I’ve been _so_ anxious about you.”

“Needn’t be any more,” said Patty, smiling up at him. “I’m all well now,
and never going to be sick again. But I’ve been feeling very sorry for
you, Phil.”

“Thank you, dear. It is hard, the old house seems so empty and lonely.
But Aunty Van rather wanted to go, and she bade me think of her only
with pleasant memories, and not with mourning.”

“She was always thoughtful of others’ feelings. And, Phil, how she did
love you.”

“She did. And you, too; why, I never supposed she could care for any one
outside our family as she cared for you.”

“She was awfully kind to me.”

“And you were to her. You were mighty good, Patty, to put up with her
queer little notions the way you always did. And I say, do you know what
she told me just before she died? She told me that you said you would
learn to love me. Oh, Patty, did you? I don’t doubt her word, but
sometimes she thought a thing was so, when really it was only her strong
wish. So I _must_ ask you. I didn’t mean to ask you today,—I meant to
wait till you are strong and well again. But, darling, you look so sweet
and dear, and I haven’t seen you for so long, I can’t wait. Tell me,
Patty, _did_ you tell Aunty Van that?”

Patty hesitated. A yes or no here meant so much,—and yet she couldn’t
put him off.

“Tell me,” he urged; “you must have said something of the sort. Even if
she exaggerated, she wouldn’t make it _all_ up. What did you tell her,
dear?”

The two were alone in the library. The dusk was just beginning,—the
lights not yet turned on. Patty, in a great easy chair, sat near the
wood fire, which had burned down to a few glowing embers. Van Reypen,
restless, had been stalking about the room. Now, he came near to her,
and pushing up an ottoman, he sat down by her.

“You must tell me,” he said, in a low, tense voice.  “I can’t bear it if
you don’t. I won’t ask you anything more,—I’ll go right away, if you
say so,—but, Patty, dearest, tell me if you told Aunty Van that you
would learn to love me.”

Phil’s dark, handsome face looked into her own. With a feeling as of a
tightening round her heart, Patty realised that his eyes were very like
his aunt’s, that their impelling gaze would yet make her say yes. And,
fascinated, she gazed back, until, coerced, she breathed a low “yes.”

Then, appalled at the look that came to his face she covered her eyes
with her hands, whispering, “Go away, Phil. You said you’d go away if I
wanted you to, and I do want you to. Please go.”

Van Reypen leaned nearer. “I will go, Little Sweetheart. I can bear to
go now. You have made me so happy with that one little word. The rest
can wait. Good-bye, you will call me back soon, I know.”

Bending down he dropped a light kiss on the curly golden hair, and went
away, happy in the knowledge of Patty’s love, and almost amused at what
he thought was her shyness in acknowledging it.

When she heard the street door close, Patty looked up. Her face was
white, and she was nervously trembling.

[Illustration: “Tell me if you told Aunty Van that you would learn to
love me”]

“Nan,” she called; “Nan!”

Nan came in from another room. “What is it, Patty, dear? Where is
Philip?”

“He’s gone. Oh, Nan, I kept my promise.”

“You did! What do you mean? Are you engaged to Philip? Then why did he
go?”

Patty laughed, but it was a little hysterical. “I sent him away. No,
we’re not engaged, that is, I don’t think we are. But I suppose we will
be.”

“Patty, behave yourself. Brace up, now, and tell me what you’re talking
about. Any one would think getting engaged was a funeral or some such
occasion!”

Patty shook herself, and smiled at Nan.

“I am a goose, I suppose. I don’t know whether I’m glad or sorry, but I
told Phil I’d learn to love him.”

“H’m, I don’t see as you’ve bound yourself to anything very desperate!
You can doubtless learn, if you study hard enough.”

“Don’t tease me, Nan. I’m not sure I want to learn.”

“Then don’t! Patty, sometimes you’re perfectly ridiculous!”

“Huh! Just ’cause _you_ happened to get a perfectly splendid man like my
father, and didn’t have to think twice, you think _everybody_ can decide
in a hurry!”

Nan burst into laughter. “Oh, you are _too_ funny!” she cried, and Patty
had to laugh, too.

“I suppose I am,” she said, dolefully, “to you. But to me it doesn’t
seem funny a bit.”

“Forgive me, dear,” said Nan, repentantly; “I won’t laugh any more. Tell
me about it.”

“It’s that old promise thing. Mrs. Van told Phil I had told her I would
learn to love him, and he asked me if I did. And I had to say yes. And
of course I couldn’t tell him she _made_ me promise. Now, could I?”

“I don’t know. It _is_ a little serious, Patty, unless, as I said
before, unless you want to learn to love him. Do you?”

“I don’t know, but I don’t think so. I wish to goodness he wouldn’t
bother me about it!”

“He sha’n’t! Patty, it is a shame for you to be bothered if you don’t
want to be. Now, I’ll help you out. I’ll tell Phil, myself, that you’re
not well enough yet to be troubled about serious matters, and he must
wait till you are. He won’t be angry, I can explain it to him.”

“I don’t care whether he’s angry or not. It isn’t that, Nan. It’s that
just the little bit I said to him, he takes to mean—everything.”

“Of course he does, Patty. You can’t tell a man you’ll learn to love him
unless you mean that you expect to succeed and that you’ll marry him.
What else _could_ you mean?”

“Of course, if I said it of my own accord. But, don’t you see, Nan, that
I only said it because I promised her I would, and it doesn’t seem fair,
that I should have to say it because she made me.”

“You’re right, Patty, it _doesn’t_. And you ought not to be held by that
infamous performance! I just begin to see it as it is, and I am not
going to have you tortured. You don’t really love Phil, or you’d know
it; and this ‘promise’ and ‘learning to love him’ is all foolishness.
I’m going to tell him, or have Fred do so, of that promise business, and
then if he wants to ask you again, and let you answer of your own will,
and not by anybody’s coercion, very well.”

“Oh, Nan, what a duck you are! What would I ever do without you! Will
you really do that? I tried to tell Phil how it was, but he was
so—so——”

“Precipitate?”

“Yes, that; but I meant more that he was so glad to have me say that
_yes_, that it seemed too bad to tell him that awful story about his
aunt.”

“It _is_ an awful story, but he ought to know it. Why, he’d rather know
it. You two couldn’t live all your lives with that secret between
you—could you?”

“Of course we couldn’t.”

“And then, too, it isn’t fair to him. If you’re answering his question
under duress,—I never did know what duress meant,—but anyway, if
you’re answering his questions at his aunt’s commands, he certainly
ought to know it. It’s wrong to let him think it’s your own answer, if
it isn’t.”

“That’s so,” and Patty looked greatly relieved. “Say, Nan, when can you
tell him?”

“Oh, I can’t do it. I’ll get your father to. He’s the proper one,
anyway.”

“Yes, I guess he is,” sighed Patty. “Oh, what do poor little girls do
who haven’t such kind parents? And now I wonder if it isn’t time for my
beef tea!”



                               CHAPTER XX


                        BETTER THAN ANYBODY ELSE

It was the next afternoon that Farnsworth called. He had not seen
Patty since the day she was so very ill, but he had telephoned or called
every day to inquire after her. Today he was allowed to see her, and as
he entered the library, his face was radiant with sunny smiles.

Patty looked up, smiling too, and held out her hands in greeting. From
the lace cap that crowned her hair, to the tips of her dainty slippers,
she was all in white, and her pale face and waxen hands made her look so
like an angel that big, strapping Bill held his breath as he looked at
her.

“Are you really there?” he asked; “are you fastened to earth? I somehow
feel afraid you’ll waft off into the ether, you look so ethereal.”

“No, indeed! I’m here to stay. I’ve a pretty strong liking for this old
world and I’ve no desire to flee away just yet.”

“Good! It’s great to see you again,” and Farnsworth took a seat beside
her. “I’m thinking you’ll be getting out of doors soon.”

“I hope so. But I’m having a beautiful time convalescing. Everybody is
so good to me, and I’m showered with presents, as if I were—engaged!”

“And I hear that you are.” Bill looked at her steadily. “I’m told that
you’re betrothed to Van Reypen, and I want to be among the first to wish
you all the joy there is in the world.”

“Who told you?” and Patty looked startled.

“A little bird,” Farnsworth smiled at her gently. “I am very glad for
you, dear. Philip is a big, strong-hearted chap, and he can give you all
you want and deserve.”

“’Most anybody could do that,” said Patty, a little shortly, for it
seemed to her that Farnsworth took the news of her engagement rather
easily.

“No. I couldn’t. There are not many men like Van Reypen; rich,
well-born, intellectual, and kind. Moreover, he has prestige and an
acknowledged place in the best society; all of which goes to make up the
atmosphere of life that best suits you,—you petted butterfly.”

Bill’s smile robbed the words of any effect of satire or reproof.

“Am I a feather-headed rattlepate?” and Patty treated the young man to
her best and prettiest pout.

“Not entirely. But you like to have all about you in harmony and good
taste. Nor are you to blame. You are born to the purple,—and all that
that signifies.”

“Aren’t you?”

“I?” Farnsworth looked amazed. “No, Patty; I am what they call a
self-made man. My people are plain people, and my childhood was one of
rough experiences,—even hardships.”

“All the more credit to you, Little Billee, for turning out a polished
gentleman.”

“But I’m not, dear. I’ve picked up enough of social customs not to make
awkward mistakes, but I have not the innate breeding of the Van
Reypens.”

Farnsworth was not looking at Patty, he was staring into vacancy, and
looked as if he were talking more to himself than to her.

“Rubbish!” said Patty, gaily, annoyed at herself for feeling the truth
of his words. “You’re a splendid old Bill, and whoever says a word
against you is no friend of mine! So be careful, sir, what you say
against yourself.”

“You’re a loyal little friend, Patty, and I’m more glad than you can
realise to know that it is so. Now, you’re going to do all you can to
grow stronger, aren’t you? It hurts me to see you so white and
wan-looking. I wish I could give you some of my big strength,—I’ve more
than I know what to do with.”

At this speech Patty blushed a rosy crimson, and Farnsworth’s remark
about her wan looks lost its point.

“Why the apple blossoms in your cheeks, Little Girl?” and he smiled at
her evident confusion.

“Would you give me of your strength, Bill,—if—if I
were—were—dying——”

“Wouldn’t I! I’d snatch you back from old Charon, if you had one foot in
his boat!”

Patty looked at him, with a queer uncertainty in her eyes. Twice she
tried to say something, and couldn’t; and then Farnsworth said softly:

“As I did,—although I doubt if you knew it.”

“Did you, Billee? _Really?_ I thought it was a dream,—wasn’t it?”

“You mean—that day——”

“Yes.”

“No, Patty, it was not a dream. I chanced to come in, and when I asked
about you, you must have heard my voice, for you called out to me——”

“And you came.”

“Yes. And you wanted some of my strength,—I gave it to you by putting
you to sleep. That was what you needed most.”

“Was that the crisis, Bill?”

“They said so, dear. I am glad I could help.”

“You saved my life.”

“I’m not sure of that, but I wish I had, for you know there is a
convention that gives saved lives to the savers.”

“Take it, then,” said Patty, impulsively.

Farnsworth gave her a long look. “I wouldn’t want it because you thought
you _ought_ to give it to me.”

“Yet that is why I’m giving it to Philip.”

“He didn’t save your life!”

“No, I mean I’m giving it to him because I think I ought to.”

“What _do_ you mean?”

And then Patty told him the whole story of her promise to Mrs. Van
Reypen, and her consequent enforced betrothal to Philip.

Farnsworth’s blue eyes opened wide. “And he takes you on those terms!”

“Oh, he doesn’t know about the promise. But what else can I do, Little
Billee? I can’t break a promise made to a dying woman, and—too—I like
Phil——”

“Like isn’t enough,” said Farnsworth, sternly. “Do you love him, Patty?”

“I—I guess so——” she stammered, a little frightened at his vehemence.

And at that very moment Philip Van Reypen appeared.

“Hello, Peaches,” he said gaily to Patty. “How do, Farnsworth? And how’s
our interesting invalid today?”

“I’m fine,” returned Patty. “Getting better by the minute. ’Spect to go
out coasting soon. Better get your sleds ready, we may have snow any
day——”

Patty was babbling on to cover a certain constraint in the attitude of
the two men. But almost immediately, Farnsworth took his leave, gently
declining Patty’s plea to stay longer.

“Let him go,” said Philip, as the street door closed behind Bill; “I
want to see you alone. See here, Patty, what’s this about a promise to
Aunty Van?”

“Who told you?”

“Your father. Sent and asked me to come to his office, so I went, and he
told me the whole story. You poor little girl! I’m _so_ sorry it
happened, and I’ve come to ask you to forgive Aunty Van. She was all
wrong to do such a thing, but honestly, she was actuated by right
motives. She loved you so, and she loved me, and she was so sure we were
made for each other. I’m sure of that, too,—but if you’re not, you’re
to say so, and not think you’re bound by a promise to _anybody_.”

“But I did promise her——”

“Forget it! In your dealings with me, you’re to deal only with me.
There’s no go-between or dictator or even adviser; only just our two
selves. But before we begin on our affairs, I want this other matter
settled for all time. Promise me that you will never again even think of
that promise that she wrung from you. You _must_, or I can’t have loving
memories of Aunty Van. Also, I want you to tell me truly, whether you
want to look after the Children’s Home scheme or not. If it’s a burden,
you’re not to have anything to do with it. See?”

“How kind you are, Phil. Yes, I do want to help with the Home project,
but I don’t want to be at the head of the Board,—or whatever has charge
of it. I want to tend to the furnishings and little comforty things for
the kiddies, but can’t somebody else build it?”

“Of course they can! You dear Baby, do you think you’re to have all that
on your poor little shoulders? It shall all be just as you say. And you
are to do as much or as little as you like. Of course, you’re not even
to think of it, till you’re all well and strong again. Now, as to your
own bequest from Aunty Van. I can’t tell you how glad I am she left you
a little pin-money——”

“A little pin-money!” exclaimed Patty, raising her eyes heavenward.

“Well, an enormous fortune,—if you like that better. But at any rate,
it’s yours, to do as you please with. I don’t suppose you really need
it, but——”

“I don’t need it for myself, Phil, but oh, I’m going to do such lovely
things with it for my girls! I shall use it for their vacation trips
and—that is, part of it. Part of it, I’m going to spend on myself—oh,
I have the delightfullest plans!”

“All right, Pattykins, do what you will, as long as it pleases your own
dear self. And now, we come to what interests me most. I decline to have
you for my very own, if you consent _only_ because Aunty Van made you
promise to do so. Cut that all out,—and let’s begin again. Will you
promise me,—_me_, mind you,—not any one else _for_ me,—to learn to
love me?”

And now Patty was her own roguish self again. The release from the
bugbear promise was so great, that she considered gaily what Phil was
asking now.

“Well,” she began, looking provokingly pretty, “suppose I say I’ll _try_
to learn to love you——”

“Oh, try—to endeavour—to attempt—to make a stab at it! But, all
right, I’ll take that crumb of a promise. You’ll _try_ to learn to love
me. Patty, _I’m_ going to be the teacher, and if you’ll try,—and you’ll
have to, since you’ve promised,—by Jove, I’ll _make_ you learn!”

“Very well,” and Patty’s eyes danced; “when you going to begin?”

“Right off, this minute. And never stop, short of success?”

Van Reypen looked very handsome, his dark hair tossed back from his
broad forehead, his dark eyes alight with love and determination. He was
the sort of man who meets any circumstances with graceful
un-selfconscious ease, and he sat back in his chair, looking at Patty
with an air of assured proprietorship, that amused rather than irritated
her.

“But I’m not engaged to you,” and Patty shook her lace-capped head till
her curls bobbed.

“No? Oh, _do_ be! Let’s be _that_, at least.”

“What! engaged before I’ve learned to love you! Nevaire!”

“All right, Sweetness. I’ll wait. But it won’t be long. The poet babbles
of ‘love’s protracted growing,’ but ours won’t be so terribly
protracted, I promise you! I’ll give you a week to decide in,—and
that’s too long——”

“A week! I couldn’t begin to get ready to think about it in that time!
Give me a month, and I’ll go you.”

“All right, your wish is law. A month from today, then, you’re to
complete your lessons, and graduate a full-fledged ladylove of your
humble servant.”

“I don’t think you’re so awfully humble, Philip.”

“Can’t be, while I have you to be proud of! Oh, Patty, do decide
quicker’n a month! That seems a century! Say a fortnight.”

“Nope. A month it is, before I need to say yes or no to your question.
One more month of gay girlish freedom. Oh, Phil, I couldn’t be tied down
to any one man! I want to flirt with all of them!”

“Do it in this month, then. For I warn you, after thirty-one more days,
your flirtations must be laid aside, with your wax doll and Britannia
teaset.”

“You seem pretty positive!”

“Faint heart never won fair lady. I’ve lots of faults, but a faint heart
isn’t one of them. You’re the girl for me, but you don’t quite know it
for sure,—_yet_. So I’m going to show you the truth, and gently but
firmly lead you to it!”

Philip kept the conversation in this light key, and when he went away,
Patty retained the impression of a very charming afternoon with him.

“He _is_ nice,” she said to Nan, after telling her all about it; “You
feel so sort of sure of him all the time. He always does the right
thing.”

“Yes,” said Nan.

Next day brought many visitors, but among the most welcome was Baby
Milly, or Middy, as she called herself, and as Patty always called her.

“Such a booful Patty!” the child exclaimed, delighted at seeing her
again after so long a time. “Middy loves you drefful! See, Middy b’inged
lot o’ Naws!”

“She means Noahs, ma’am,” explained the nurse who had Milly in charge.
“They’re the dolls from her Noah’s Ark.”

Sure enough, the baby had the four straight-garmented puppets that
represent in painted wood, the patriarch and his three sons.

They were up in Patty’s boudoir and the little one gaily stood her
cherished toys round among the small ferns in the window-box.

Suddenly Patty grabbed her up and carried her off to have a feast of
bread and jam and milk.

“Nice party,” the guest remarked. “Des Patty an’ Middy. Ve’y nice
party.”

After the party, the little one was taken home, and so it was not until
she went to her room that night, that Patty discovered the four “Naws”
still marching through her ferns.

“Blessed baby!” she said to herself, as she collected the illustrious
quartette, and laid them on the table to be returned to their owner the
next day.

Then Patty threw herself in a big chair, to think over her problems. She
hadn’t told Farnsworth that she was not now engaged to Philip, and she
didn’t quite like to tell him, though why, she couldn’t say.

“I wonder who I like best of anybody in all the world,” she mused, as
she played idly with Middy’s toys. “I’m as uncertain of that, as I am
which of these four statuettes I prefer.”

She looked critically at the Noah, and at Shem, Ham and Japheth; a
little undecided as to which was which, so similar were they in every
respect save as to the colours of their long one-piece gowns.

She stood them in a row on the table. “That’s Philip,” looking at one of
them; “that’s Little Billee; that’s Kit, and the yellow one is Chick
Channing. I’ve come to like Chick a lot,—more’n Kit, I believe. Now,
let’s see. S’pose I had to lose one of these four forever; which could I
best spare.”

The game grew exciting. Patty, sitting on one foot, leaned toward the
table, middle finger-tip caught against her thumb, ready to snap the
least desirable into limbo.

“Sorry,” she said, “but old Kit must go.” She snapped her fingers, and
luckless Kit flew across the room.

Patty’s face fell. “It’s a hard world! But I’m going to fight this thing
to a finish. And there’s no use mincing matters, if another had to
go—it would, of course, be Chick.”

Another flick of her slender fingers, and Channing flew up in the air
and landed on the high mantel.

“Now then,” and Patty knew that a momentous decision lay before her.
There remained Philip and Bill Farnsworth.

Patty clasped her hands, rested her chin upon them and stared at the
brown and red-coated gentlemen still standing before her.

“Phil is such a dear,” she reasoned, as if trying to convince herself;
“and he certainly does worship the ground I walk on. But there’s
something about Bill—dear Little Billee! I wonder what it is about
him—And he _did_ save my life—I think I like him for his strength. I
never saw anybody so strong—he always makes me think of Sir
Galahad;—‘His strength was as the strength of ten because his heart was
pure.’ Little Billee’s heart is pure,—pure gold. I—somehow, I know it
by a sort of intuition. And yet, Phil—oh, Philip is a gentleman, of
course, I know that, but Bill is nature’s nobleman—well any way, just
at this minute, I like Little Billee better than anybody in the world!
So, there now!”

With a well-aimed flick of her fingertips, Patty set Philip spinning,
and it was a week later that she found him in her work-basket.

She had the grace to look a little ashamed of herself, but the fire of
determination was in her eye, and a rosy flush tinted her cheeks.

Then a mischievous smile came to the corners of her mouth, and on an
impulse she caught up the telephone from the stand, and called the
Excelsior Hotel.

In a few moments Farnsworth’s “Hello” sounded in her ear.

“It’s Patty,” she said, in a small, timid voice.

“Well, I’m glad. Are we to have a little chat?”

“No,—I just wanted to tell you—to tell you——”

“Yes; dear Little Girl,—what is it?”

“I can’t seem to tell you after all.”

“Shall I come over there?”

“Oh, no, it’s too late. I only wanted to say that—that I’m not really
engaged to anybody—now.”

“Thank heaven! and,—do you want to be?”

“Oh, no! Not for a month. I’ve got that long to make up my mind in.”

“Good! May I see you in the meantime?”

“Not unless you take that laugh out of your voice! I do believe you’re
making fun of me.”

“I can’t help a laugh in my voice when the dull world has suddenly
turned to rosy sunlight! Tell me, Apple Blossom, is that all you called
up to say?”

“No,” and Patty’s eyes grew luminous; “I _was_ going to say something
else——”

“What was it,—tell me,—Patty-sweet,——”

“Only—that at this present moment,—just for _one little minute_, you
know, I like—you—better—than—anybody else in all the world!”

And with a sudden click, Patty hung up the receiver, and buried her
burning face in her hands.



                 *        *        *        *        *



Transcriber’s note:

Hyphenation and spellings have been retained as in the original.

Punctuation and type-setting errors have been corrected without note.

Other errors have been corrected as noted below:

page 164, something in Fred Fairchild’s ==> something in Fred Fairfield’s

page 226, I have have had a ==> I have had a





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Patty's Fortune" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home