For a time the S. A. S. flourished with the natural health of youth, but as the novelty wore off, the business of becoming beautiful grew onerous. Mae and Rosalie continued to study the beauty book with dogged perseverance,—the subject lay along the line of their natural ambitions—but Patty felt other matters calling. Spring field sports had commenced, and the nearness of the annual match with Highland-Hall, crowded out her interest in cold cream and almond meal. She and Mae were not naturally simpatica, and in spite of Mae's insistence, Patty became an apathetic siren.
One Saturday just after the spring recess, Patty received permission to lunch in town with "Uncle Bobby." He was an uncle by courtesy only, but Patty had failed to inform the Dowager that the title was not his by natural right. She knew well what the result would be. It is quite proper to have luncheon with an uncle; and quite improper with even the oldest and baldest of family friends.
When the "hearse" returned from the station at dusk with Mademoiselle and the city contingent, Rosalie Patton was waiting the arrival on the porte-cochere. She separated Patty from the group and whispered in her ear.
"The most awful thing has happened!"
"What?" Patty demanded.
"The S. A. S. All is discovered!"
"Not really!" cried Patty, aghast.
"Yes! Come in here."
Rosalie drew her into the empty cloak-room and shut the door.
"You mean—they've found out the name—and everything?" Patty demanded breathlessly.
"Not quite everything, but they would have if it hadn't been for Lordy. She saved us for once."
"Lordy saved us!" There was incredulity mixed with Patty's horror. "What do you mean?"
"Well, yesterday, Mae went shopping in the village with Miss Wadsworth—and you know what kind of a chaperone Waddy makes." Patty nodded impatiently. "Anybody could fool her. And Mae, right under her very nose, commenced a flirtation with the Soda-Water Clerk."
"Oh!" said Patty hotly. "How perfectly horrid!"
"She didn't care anything about it, really. She was just trying to put the principles of the S. A. S. into practice."
"She might at least have picked out somebody decent!"
"Well, he is quite decent. He's engaged to the girl at the underwear counter in Bloodgood's, and he didn't want to be flirted with a bit. But you know how persistent Mae Mertelle is, when she makes up her mind. The poor young man just couldn't help himself. He was so embarrassed that he didn't know what he was doing. He gave Hester Pringle half chocolate and half sarsaparilla, and she says it was a perfectly awful combination. It made her feel so sick that she couldn't eat any dinner. And all this time Waddy just sat and smiled into space and saw nothing; but all the girls saw,—and so did the drugstore man!"
"Oh!" said Patty breathlessly.
"And this morning Miss Sallie went to the drugstore to get some potash for Harriet Gladden's sore throat, and he told her all about it."
"What did Miss Sallie do?" Patty asked faintly.
"Do! She came back with blood in her eye, and told the Dowager, and they called up Mae Mertelle and then—" Rosalie closed her eyes and shuddered.
"Well," said Patty impatiently. "What happened?"
"The Dowager was perfectly outraged! She told Mae that she had disgraced the school and that she would be expelled. And she wrote a telegram to Mae's father to come and take her away. And she asked Mae if she had anything to say for herself, and Mae said it wasn't her fault. That you and I were to blame just as much as she, because we were all in a society together, but that she couldn't tell about it because she'd sworn."
"Beast!" said Patty.
"So then they sent for me and commenced asking questions about the S. A. S. I tried not to tell, but you know the way the Dowager looks when she's angry. Even a sphinx would break down and tell everything it knew, and I never did pretend to be a sphinx."
"All right," said Patty, bracing herself for the shock. "What did they say when they heard?"
"They didn't hear! I was just on the point of breaking my vows and telling all, when who should pop in but Lordy. And she was perfectly splendid! She said she knew all about the S. A. S. That it was a very admirable institution, and that she was a member herself! She said it was a branch of the Sunshine Society, and that Mae had never meant to flirt with the young man. She had just meant to smile and be kind to everybody she came in contact with, and he had taken advantage. And Mae said, yes, that was the way of it, and she shoved off all the blame on that poor innocent soda-water clerk."
"Just like her," Patty nodded.
"And now Mae is perfectly furious with him for getting her into trouble. She says that he's a horrid little thing with a turn-up nose, and that she'll never drink another glass of soda-water as long as she stays in St. Ursula's."
"And they're going to let her stay?"
"Yes. The Dowager tore up the telegram. But she gave Mae ten demerits, and made her go without dessert for a week, and learn Thanatopsis by heart. And she can't ever go shopping in the village any more. When she needs new hair ribbons or stockings or anything, she must send for them by some of the other girls."
"And what's the Dowager going to do to us?"
"Nothing at all—and if it hadn't been for Lordy, we'd all three have been expelled."
"And I've always detested Lordy," said Patty contritely. "Isn't it dreadful? You simply can't keep enemies. Just as you think people are perfectly horrid, and begin to enjoy hating them, they all of a sudden turn out nice."
"I hate Mae Mertelle," said Rosalie.
"So do I!" Patty agreed cordially.
"I'm going to leave her old society."
"I'm already out." Patty glanced toward the mirror. "And I'm not freckled and I'm not squint-eyed."
"What do you mean?" Rosalie stared; she had for the moment forgotten the dread nature of the oath.
"I've told Uncle Bobby."
"Oh, Patty! How could you?"
"I—I—that is—" Patty appeared momentarily confused. "You see," she confessed, "I thought myself that it would be sort of interesting to practice on somebody, so I—I—just tried—"
"And did he—"
Patty shook her head.
"It was awfully uphill work. He never helped a bit. And then he noticed my bracelet and wanted to know what S. A. S. meant. And before I knew it, I was telling him!"
"What did he say?"
"First he roared; then he got awfully sober, and he gave me a long lecture—it was really very impressive—sort of like Sunday School, you know. And he took the bracelet away from me and put it in his pocket. He told me he'd send me something nicer."
"What do you s'pose it will be?" asked Rosalie interestedly.
"I hope it won't be a doll!"
Two days later the morning mail brought a small parcel for Miss Patty Wyatt. She opened it under her desk in geometry class. Buried in jeweler's cotton she found a gold linked bracelet that fastened with a padlock in the shape of a heart. On the back of one of Uncle Bobby's cards was written:—
"This is your heart. Keep it locked until the chap turns up who has the key."
Patty deflected Rosalie as she was turning into French and privately exhibited the bracelet with pride.
Rosalie regarded it with sentimental interest.
"What has he done with the key?" she wondered.
"I s'pose," said Patty, "he's got it in his pocket."
"How awfully romantic!"
"It sounds sort of romantic," Patty agreed with the suggestion of a sigh. "But it isn't really. He's thirty years old, and beginning to be bald."
The Reformation of Kid McCoy
Miss McCoy, of Texas, had been subjected to the softening influences of St. Ursula's School for three years, without any perceptible result. She was the toughest little tomboy that was ever received—and retained—in a respectable-boarding-school.
"Margarite" was the name her parents had chosen, when the itinerant bishop made his quarterly visit to the mining-camp where she happened to be born. It was the name still used by her teachers, and on the written reports that were mailed monthly to her Texas guardian. But "Kid" was the more appropriate name that the cowboys on the ranch had given her; and "Kid" she remained at St. Ursula's, in spite of the distressed expostulation of the ladies in charge.
Kid's childhood had been picturesque to a degree rarely found outside the pages of a Nick Carter novel. She had possessed an adventurous father, who drifted from mining-camp to mining-camp, making fortunes and losing them. She had cut her teeth on a poker chip, and drunk her milk from a champagne glass. Her father had died—quite opportunely—while his latest fortune was at its height, and had left his little daughter to the guardianship of an English friend who lived in Texas. The next three turbulent years of her life were spent on a cattle range with "Guardie," and the ensuing three in the quiet confines of St. Ursula's.
The guardian had brought her himself, and after an earnest conference with the Dowager, had left her behind to be molded by the culture of the East. But so far, the culture of the East had left her untouched. If any molding had taken place, it was Kid herself who shaped the clay.
Her spicy reminiscences of mining-camps and cattle ranches made all permissible works of fiction tame. She had given the French dancing master, who was teaching them a polite version of a Spanish waltz, an exposition of the real thing, as practised by the Mexican cow-punchers on her guardian's ranch. It was a performance that left him sympathetically breathless. The English riding master, who came weekly in the spring and autumn, to teach the girls a correct trot, had received a lesson in bareback riding that caused the dazed query:
"Was the young lady trained in a circus?"
The Kid was noisy and slangy and romping and boisterous; her way was beset with reproofs and demerits and minor punishments, but she had never yet been guilty of any actual felony. For three years, however, St. Ursula's had been holding its breath waiting for the crash. Miss McCoy, from her very nature, was bound to give them a sensation sometime.
When at last it came, it was of an entirely unexpected order.
Rosalie Patton was the Kid's latest room-mate—- she wore her room-mates out as fast as she did her shoes. Rosalie was a lovable little soul, the essence of everything feminine. The Dowager had put the two together, in the hope that Rosalie's gentle example might calm the Kid's tempestuous mood. But so far, the Kid was in her usual spirits, while Rosalie was looking worn.
Then the change came.
Rosalie burst into Patty Wyatt's room one evening in a state of wide-eyed amazement.
"What do you think?" she cried. "Kid McCoy says she's going to be a lady!"
"A what?" Patty emerged from the bath towel with which she had been polishing her face.
"A lady. She's sitting down now, running pale blue baby ribbon through the embroidery in her night gown."
"What's happened to her?" was Patty's question.
"She's been reading a book that Mae Mertelle brought back."
Rosalie settled herself, Turk fashion, on the window seat, disposed the folds of her pink kimono in graceful billows about her knees, and allowed two braids of curly yellow hair to hang picturesquely over her shoulders. She was ready for bed and could extend her call until the last stroke of the "Lights-out" bell.
"What kind of a book?" asked Patty with a slightly perfunctory note in her voice.
Rosalie was apt to burst into one's room with a startling announcement and then, having engaged everybody's attention, settle down to an endless, meandering recital sprinkled with anti-climaxes.
"It's about a sweet young English girl whose father owned a tea estate in Asia—or maybe Africa. But anyway, where it was hot, and there were a lot of natives and snakes and centipedes. Her mother died and she was sent back home to boarding-school when she was a tiny little thing. Her father was quite bad. He drank and swore and smoked. The only thing that kept him from being awfully bad, was the thought of his sweet little golden-haired daughter in England."
"Well, what of it?" Patty inquired, politely suppressing a yawn. Rosalie had a way of trailing off into golden-haired sentiment if one didn't haul her up sharp.
"Just wait! I'm coming to it. When she was seventeen she went back to India to take care of her father, but almost right off he got a sunstroke and died. And in his death-bed he entrusted Rosamond—that was her name—to his best friend to finish bringing up. So when Rosamond went to live with her guardian, and took charge of his bungalow and made it beautiful and homelike and comfortable—she wouldn't let him drink or smoke or swear any more. And as he looked back over the past—"
"He was eaten with remorse at the thought of the wasted years," Patty glibly supplied, "and wished that he had lived so as to be more worthy of the sweet, womanly influence that had come into his wicked life."
"You've read it!" said Rosalie.
"Not that I know of," said Patty.
"Anyway," said Rosalie, with an air of challenge, "they fell in love and were married—"
"And her father and mother, looking down from heaven, smiled a blessing on the dear little daughter who had brought so much happiness to a lonely heart?"
"Um—yes," agreed Rosalie, doubtfully.
There was no amount of sentiment that she would not swallow, but she knew from mortifying experience that Patty was not equally voracious.
"It's a very touching story," Patty commented, "but where does Kid McCoy come in?"
"Why, don't you see?" Rosalie's violet eyes were big with interest. "It's exactly Kid's own story! I realized it the minute I saw the book, and I had the awfulest time making her read it. She made fun of it at first, but after she'd really got into it, she appreciated the resemblance. She says now it was the Hand of Fate."
"Kid's story? What are you talking about?" Patty was commencing to be interested.
"Kid has a wicked English guardian just like the Rosamond in the book. Anyway, he's English, and she thinks probably he's wicked. Most ranchmen are. He lives all alone with only cow-punchers for companions, and he needs a sweet womanly influence in his home. So Kid's decided to be a lady, and go back and marry Guardie, and make him happy for the rest of his life."
Patty laid herself on the bed and rolled in glee. Rosalie rose and regarded her with a touch of asperity.
"I don't see anything so funny—I think it's very romantic."
"Kid exerting a sweet womanly influence!" Patty gurgled. "She can't even pretend she's a lady for an hour. If you think she can stay one—"
"Love," pronounced Rosalie, "has accomplished greater wonders than that—you wait and see."
And the school did see. Kid McCoy's reformation became the sensation of the year. The teachers attributed the felicitous change in her deportment to the good influence of Rosalie, and though they were extremely relieved, they did not expect it to last. But week followed week, and it did last.
Kid McCoy no longer answered to "Kid." She requested her friends to call her "Margarite." She dropped slang and learned to embroider; she sat through European Travel and Art History nights with clasped hands and a sweetly pensive air, where she used to drive her neighbors wild by a solid hour of squirming. Voluntarily, she set herself to practising scales. The reason she confided to Rosalie, and Rosalie to the rest of the school.
They needed the softening influence of music on the ranch. One-eyed Joe played the accordion, and that was all the music they had. The school saw visions of the transformed Margarite, dressed in white, sitting before the piano in the twilight singing softly the "Rosary," while Guardie watched her with folded arms; and the cowboys, with bowie knives sheathed in their boots, and lariats peacefully coiled over their shoulders, gathered by the open window.
Lenten services that year, instead of being forcibly endured by a rebellious Kid, were attended by a sweetly reverent Margarite. The entire school felt an electric thrill at sight of Miss McCoy walking up the aisle with downcast eyes, and hands demurely clasping her prayer book. Usually she looked as much in place in the stained-glass atmosphere of Trinity Chapel as an unbroken broncho colt.
This amazing reform continued for seven weeks. The school was almost beginning to forget that there was ever a time when Kid McCoy was not a lady.
Then one day a letter came from Guardie with the news that he was coming East to visit his little girl. Subdued excitement prevailed in the South Corridor. Rosalie and Margarite and an assemblage of neighbors held earnest conferences as to what she should wear and how she should behave. They finally decided upon white muslin and blue ribbons. They pondered a long time over whether or not she should kiss him, but Rosalie decided in the negative.
"When he sees you," she explained, "the realization will sweep over him that you are no longer a child. You have grown to womanhood in the past three years. And he will feel unaccountably shy in your presence."
"Um," said Margarite, with a slightly doubtful note. "I hope so."
It was on a Sunday that Guardie arrived. The school—in a body—flattened its nose against the window watching his approach. They had rather hoped for a flannel shirt and boots and spurs, and, in any case, for a sombrero. But the horrible truth must be told. He wore a frock coat of the most unimpeachable cut, with a silk hat and a stick, and a white gardenia in his buttonhole. To look at him, one would swear that he had never seen a pistol or a lariat. He was born to pass the plate in church.
But the worst is still to tell.
He had planned a surprise for his little ward. When she should come back to the ranch, it would be to a real home. A sweet, womanly influence would have transformed it into a fitting abode for a young girl. Guardie was not alone. He was accompanied by his bride—a tall, fair, beautiful woman with a low voice and gracious manners. She sang for the girls after dinner, and as sixty-four pairs of eyes studied the beautiful presence, sixty-four—no, sixty-three—of her auditors decided to grow up to be exactly like her. Margarite did the honors in a state of dazed incomprehension. Her make-believe world of seven weeks had crumbled in an hour, and she had not had time to readjust herself. Never—she realized it perfectly—could she have competed in femininity with Guardie's wife. It wasn't in her, not even if she had commenced to practise from the cradle.
They went back to the city in the evening, and before the entire school, Guardie patted her on the head and told her to be a good little kiddie and mind her teachers. His wife, with a protecting arm about her shoulders, kissed her forehead and called her "dear little daughter."
After evensong on Sundays, came two hours of freedom. The teachers gathered in the Dowager's study for coffee and conversation, and the girls presumably wrote letters home. But that night, the South Corridor followed no such peaceful occupation. Margarite McCoy experienced a reversion to type. In her own picturesque language, she "shot up the town."
The echoes of the orgie at last reached the kaffee klatsch below. Miss Lord came to investigate—and she came on her tiptoes.
Miss McCoy, arrayed in a sometime picture hat cocked over one ear, a short gymnasium skirt, scarlet stockings and a scarlet sash, was mounted upon a table, giving an imitation of a clog dance in a mining-camp, while her audience played rag-time on combs and clapped.
"Margarite! Get down!" someone suddenly warned in frightened tones above the uproar.
"You needn't call me Margarite. I'm Kid McCoy of Cripple Creek."
Her eye caught sight of Miss Lord towering above the heads crowded in the doorway and she quite suddenly climbed down. For once, Miss Lord was without words. She stared for a space of three minutes; finally, she managed to articulate:
"Sunday evening in a Church school!"
The audience dispersed, and Miss Lord and Miss McCoy remained alone. Rosalie fled to the farthermost reaches of Paradise Alley and discussed possible punishments with Patty and Conny for a trembling hour. "Lights-out" had rung before she summoned courage to steal back to the darkened South Corridor. The sound of smothered sobbing came from Margarite's bed. Rosalie sank down on her knees and put her arm around her room-mate. The sobbing ceased while Margarite rigidly held her breath.
"Kid," she comforted, "don't mind Lordie—she's a horrid, snooping old thing! What did she say?"
"I'm not to leave bounds for a month, have to learn five psalms by heart and take f-fifty demerits."
"Fifty! It's a perfect shame! You'll never work them off. She had no right to make a fuss when you'd been good so long."
"I don't care!" said Kid, fiercely, as she struggled to free herself from Rosalie's embrace. "She'll never have a chance again to call me her sweet little daughter."
Onions and Orchids
"The perimeters of similar polygons are as their homologous sides."
Patty dreamily assured herself of this important truth for the twentieth time, as she sat by the open schoolroom window, her eyes on the billowing whiteness of the cherry tree which had burst into blossom overnight.
It was particularly necessary that she should finish her lessons with dispatch, because it was Saturday, and she was going to the city with Mademoiselle's party to spend an hour in the dentist's chair. But the weather was not conducive to concentrated effort. After an hour of half-hearted study, she closed her geometry, and started upstairs to dress, leaving the stay-at-homes to another hour of work.
She started upstairs; but she did not get very far on the way. As she passed the open door that led to the back porch, she stepped outside to examine the cherry tree at close range; then she strolled the length of the pergola to see how the wistaria was coming on; from there, it was just a step to the lane, with its double row of pink-tipped apple trees. Before she knew it, Patty found herself sitting on the stone wall at the end of the lower pasture. Behind her lay the confines of St. Ursula's. Before her the World.
She sat on the top of the wall, and dangled her feet out of bounds. The very most scandalous crime one could commit at St. Ursula's was to go out of bounds without permission. Patty sat and gazed at the forbidden land. She knew that she had no time to waste if she were to catch the hearse and the train and the dentist's chair. But still she sat and dreamed. Finally, far across the fields on the highroad, she spied the hearse bowling merrily to the station. Then it occurred to her that she had forgotten to report to Mademoiselle that she was going, and that Mademoiselle, accordingly, would not be missing her. At the school, of course, they would think that she had gone, and likewise would not be missing her. Without any premeditated iniquity, she was free!
She sat a few moments longer to let the feeling penetrate. Then she slid over the wall and started—a joyous young mutineer, seeking adventure. Following the cheery course of the brook, she dipped into a tangled ravine and stretch of woodland, raced down a hillside and across a marshy meadow, leaping gaily from hummock to hummock—occasionally missing and going in. She laughed aloud at these misadventures, and waved her arms and romped with the wind. In addition to the delicious sense of feeling free, was added the delicious sense of feeling bad. The combination was intoxicating.
And so, always following the stream, she came at last to another wood—not a wild wood like the first, but a tame, domesticated wood. The dead limbs were cut away, and the ground was neatly brushed up under the trees. The brook flowed sedately between fern-bordered banks, under rustic bridges, and widened occasionally into pools carpeted with lily pads. Mossy paths set with stepping-stones led off into mysterious depths that the eye could not penetrate: the leaves were just out enough to half hide and to tantalize. The grass was starred with crocuses. It looked like an enchanted wood in a fairy tale.
This second wood, however, was bordered by a solid stone wall, and on top of the wall, by four strands of barbed wire. Signs appeared at intervals—three were visible from where Patty stood—stating that these were private grounds, and that trespassers would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Patty knew well to whom it belonged; she had often passed the front gates which faced on the other road. The estate was celebrated in the neighborhood, in the United States, for the matter of that. It comprised 500 acres and belonged to a famous—or infamous—multi-millionaire. His name was Silas Weatherby, and he was the originator of a great many Wicked Corporations. He had beautiful conservatories full of tropical plants, a sunken Italian garden, an art collection and picture gallery. He was a crusty old codger always engaged in half-a-dozen lawsuits. He hated the newspapers, and the newspapers hated him. He was in particularly bad repute at St. Ursula's, because, in response to a politely couched note from the principal, asking that the art class might view his Botticelli and the botany class his orchids, he had ungraciously replied that he couldn't have a lot of school girls running over his place—if he let them come one year, he would have to let them come another, and he didn't wish to establish a precedent.
Patty looked at the "No Trespassing" signs and the barbed wire, and she looked at the wood beyond. They couldn't do anything if they did catch her, she reasoned, except turn her out. People weren't jailed nowadays for taking a peaceable walk in other people's woods. Besides, the millionaire person was attending a directors' meeting in Chicago. This bit of neighborhood gossip she had gleaned that morning in her weekly perusal of the daily press—Saturday night at dinner they were supposed to talk on current topics, so Saturday morning they glanced at the headlines and an editorial. Since the family were not at home, why not drop in and inspect the Italian garden? The servants were doubtless more polite than the master.
She selected a portion of the wall where the wire seemed slack, and wriggled under, stomach-wise, tearing only a small hole in the shoulder of her blouse. She played with the enchanted wood half an hour or so; then following a path, she quite suddenly left the wood behind, and popped out into a garden—not a flower garden, but a kitchen garden on an heroic scale. Neat plots of sprouting vegetables were bordered by currant bushes, and the whole was surrounded by a high brick wall, against which pear trees were trained in the English fashion.
A gardener was engaged, with his back toward Patty, in setting out baby onions. She studied him dubiously, divided between a prompting to run, and a social instinct of friendliness. He was an extremely picturesque gardener, dressed in knickerbockers and leather gaiters, with a touch of red in his waistcoat, and a cardigan jacket and a cap on the side of his head. He did not look very affable; but he did look rheumatic—even if he chased her, she was sure that she could run faster than he. So she settled herself on his wheelbarrow and continued to watch him, while she pondered an opening remark.
He glanced up suddenly and caught sight of her. The surprise nearly tipped him over.
"Good morning!" said Patty pleasantly.
"Ugh!" grunted the man. "What are you doing there?"
"Watching you plant onions."
This struck Patty as a self-evident truth, but she was perfectly willing to state it.
He grunted again as he straightened his back and took a step toward her.
"Where'd you come from?" he demanded gruffly.
"Over there." Patty waved her hand largely to westward.
"Humph!" he remarked. "You belong to that school—Saint Something or Other?"
She acknowledged it. Saint Ursula's monogram was emblazoned large upon her sleeve.
"Do they know you're out?"
"No," she returned candidly, "I don't believe they do. I am quite sure of it in fact. They think I've gone to the dentist's with Mam'selle, and she thinks I'm at school. So it leaves me entirely at leisure. I thought I'd come over and see what Mr. Weatherby's Italian garden looks like. I'm interested in Italian gardens."
"Well I'll be—!" He commenced, and came a trifle nearer and stared again. "Did you happen to see any 'No Trespassing' signs as you came through?"
"Mercy, yes! The whole place is peppered with 'em."
"They don't seem to have impressed you much."
"Oh, I never pay any attention to 'No Trespassing' signs," said Patty easily. "You'd never get anywhere in this world if you let them bother you."
The man unexpectedly chuckled.
"I don't believe you would!" he agreed. "I've never let them bother me," he added meditatively.
"Can't I help you plant your onions?" Patty asked politely. It struck her that this might be the quickest route to the Italian garden.
"Why, yes, thank you!"
He accepted her offer with unexpected cordiality, and gravely explained the mode of work. The onions were very tiny, and they must be set right-side up with great care; because it is very difficult for an embryonic onion to turn itself over after it has once got started in the wrong direction.
Patty grasped the business very readily, and followed along in the next row three feet behind him. It turned out sociable work; by the end of fifteen minutes they were quite old friends. The talk ranged far—over philosophy and life and morals. He had a very decided opinion on every subject—she put him down as Scotch—he seemed a well-informed old fellow though, and he read the papers. Patty had also read the paper that morning. She discoursed at some length upon whether or not corporations should be subject to state control. She stoutly agreed with her editor that they should. He maintained that they were like any other private property, and that it was nobody's damned business how they managed themselves.
"A penny, please," said Patty, holding out her hand.
"A penny?—what for?"
"That 'damn.' Every time you use slang or bad grammar you have to drop a penny in the charity box. 'Damn' is much worse than slang; it's swearing. I ought to charge you five cents, but since this is the first offense, I'll let you off with one."
He handed over his penny, and Patty gravely pocketed it.
"What sort of things do you learn in that school?" he inquired with a show of curiosity.
She obligingly furnished a sample:
"The perimeters of similar polygons are as their homologous sides."
"You will find that useful," he commented with the suggestion of a twinkle in his eye.
"Very," she agreed—"on examination day."
After half an hour, onion-planting grew to be wearying work; but Patty was bound to be game, and stick to her job as long as he did. Finally, however, the last onion was in, and the gardener rose and viewed the neat rows with some satisfaction.
"That will do for to-day," he declared; "we've earned a rest."
They sat down, Patty on the wheelbarrow, the man on an upturned tub.
"How do you like working for Mr. Weatherby?" she inquired. "Is he as bad as the papers make out?"
The gardener chuckled slightly as he lighted his pipe.
"Well," he said judiciously, "he's always been very decent to me, but I don't know as his enemies have any cause to love him."
"I think he's horrid!" said Patty.
"Why?" asked the man with a slight air of challenge. He was quite willing to run his master down himself, but he would not permit an outsider to do it.
"He's so terribly stingy with his old conservatories. The Dowager—I mean Mrs. Trent, the principal, you know—wrote and asked him to let the botany class see his orchids, and he was just as rude as he could be!"
"I'm sure he didn't mean it," the man apologized.
"Oh, yes, he did!" maintained Patty. "He said he couldn't have a lot of school girls running through and breaking down his vines—as if we would do such a thing! We have perfectly beautiful manners. We learn 'em every Thursday night."
"Maybe he was a little rude," he agreed. "But you see, he hasn't had your advantages, Miss. He didn't learn his manners in a young ladies' boarding-school."
"He didn't learn them anywhere," Patty shrugged.
The gardener took a long pull at his pipe and studied the horizon with narrowed eyes.
"It isn't quite fair to judge him the way you would other people," he said slowly. "He's had a good deal of trouble in his life; and now he's old, and I dare say pretty lonely sometimes. All the world's against him—when people are decent, he knows it's because they're after something. Your teacher, now, is polite when she wants to see his conservatories, but I'll bet she believes he's an old thief!"
"Isn't he?" asked Patty.
The man grinned slightly.
"He has his moments of honesty like the rest of us."
"Perhaps," Patty grudgingly conceded, "he may not be so bad when you know him. It's often the way. Now, there was Lordy, our Latin teacher. I used to despise her; and then—in the hour of trial—she came up to the scratch, and was per-fect-ly bully!"
He held out his hand.
Patty handed him back his own.
"She kept me from getting expelled—she did, really. I've never been able to hate her since. And you know, I miss it dreadfully. It's sort of fun having an enemy."
"I've had a good many," he nodded, "and I've always managed to enjoy them."
"And probably they're really quite nice?" she suggested.
"Oh, yes," he agreed, "the worst criminals are often very pleasant people when you see their right side."
"Yes, that's true," said Patty. "It's mainly chance that makes people bad—I know it is in my own case. This morning for instance, I got up with every intention of learning my geometry and going to the dentist's—and yet—here I am! And so," she pointed a moral, "you always ought to be kind to criminals and remember that under different circumstances you might have been in jail yourself."
"That thought," he acknowledged, "has often occurred to me. I—we—that is," he resumed after a moment of amused meditation, "Mr. Weatherby believes in giving a man a chance. If you have any convict friends, who are looking for a job, this is the place to send them. We used to have a cattle thief taking care of the cows, and a murderer in charge of the orchids."
"What fun!" cried Patty. "Have you got him now? I should love to see a murderer."
"He left some time ago. The place was too slow for him."
"How long have you been working for Mr. Weatherby?" she asked.
"A good many years—and I've worked hard!" he added, with a slight air of challenge.
"I hope he appreciates you?"
"Yes, I think on the whole that he does."
He knocked the ashes from his pipe and rose.
"And now," he suggested, "should you like me to show you the Italian garden?"
"Oh, yes," said Patty, "if you think Mr. Weatherby wouldn't mind."
"I'm head gardener. I do what I please."
"If you're head gardener, what makes you plant onions?"
"It's tiresome work—good for my character."
"Oh!" Patty laughed.
"And then you see, when I have a tendency to overwork the men under me, I stop and think how my own back ached."
"You're much too nice a man to work for him!" she pronounced approvingly.
"Thank ye, Miss," he touched his hat with a grin.
The Italian garden was a fascinating spot, with marble steps and fountains and clipped yew trees.
"Oh, I wish Conny could see it!" Patty cried.
"And who is she?"
"Conny's my room-mate. She's awfully interested in gardens this year, because she's going to get the botany prize for analyzing the most plants—at least, I think she's going to get it. It's between her and Keren Hersey; all the rest of the class have dropped out. Mae Van Arsdale is working against Conny, to spite me, because I wouldn't stay in an old secret society that she started. She gets orchids from the city and gives them to Keren."
"H'm," he frowned over this tangle of intrigue. "Is it entirely fair for the rest to help?"
"Oh, yes!" said Patty. "They have to do the analyzing, but their friends can collect and paste. Every time anybody goes for a walk, she comes back with her blouse stuffed full of specimens for either Conny or Keren. The nice girls are for Conny. Keren's an awful dig. She wears eye-glasses and thinks she knows everything."
"I'm for Miss Conny myself," he declared. "Is there any way in which I could help?"
Patty glanced about tentatively.
"You have quite a number of plants," she suggested, "that Conny hasn't got in her book."
"You shall take back as many as you can carry," he promised. "We'll pay a visit to the orchid house."
They left the garden behind, and turned toward the glass roofs of the conservatories. Patty was so entertained, that she had entirely forgotten the passage of time, until she came face to face with a clock in the gable of the carriage house; then she suddenly realized that St. Ursula's luncheon had been served three quarters of an hour before—and that she was in a starving condition.
"Oh, goodness gracious! I forgot all about luncheon!"
"Is it a very grave crime to forget about luncheon?"
"Well," said Patty, with a sigh, "I sort of miss it."
"I might furnish you with enough to sustain life for a short time," he suggested.
"Oh, could you?" she asked relievedly.
She was accustomed to having a table spread three times a day, and she cared little who furnished it.
"Just some milk," she said modestly, "and some bread and butter and—er—cookies. Then, you see, I won't have to go back till four o'clock when they come from the station, and maybe I can slip in without being missed."
"You just wait in the pavilion, and I'll see what the gardener's cottage can supply us."
He was back in fifteen minutes, chuckling as he lugged a big hamper.
"We'll have a picnic," he proposed.
"Oh, let's!" said Patty joyously. She did not mind eating with him in the least, for he had washed his hands, and appeared quite clean.
She helped him unpack the hamper and set the table in the little pavilion beside the fountain. He had lettuce sandwiches, a pat of cottage cheese, a jug of milk, orange marmalade, sugar cookies, and gingerbread hot from the oven.
"What a perfectly bully spread!" she cried.
He held out his hand.
Patty peered into an empty pocket.
"You'll have to charge it. I've used up all my ready money."
The spring sun was warm, the fountain was splashing, the wind was sprinkling the pavilion floor with white magnolia petals. Patty helped herself to marmalade with a happy sigh of contentment.
"The most fun in the world is to run away from the things you ought to do," she pronounced.
He acknowledged this immoral truth with a laugh.
"I suppose you ought to be working?" she asked.
"There are one or two little matters that might be the better for my attention."
"And aren't you glad you're not doing them?"
She held out her hand.
"Give it back."
The cent returned to her pocket, and the meal progressed gaily. Patty was in an elated frame of mind, and Patty's elation was catching. Escaping from bounds, trespassing on a private estate, planting onions, and picnicking in the Italian garden with the head gardener—she had never had such a dizzying whirl of adventures. The head gardener also seemed to enjoy the sensation of offering sanctuary to a runaway school girl. Their appreciation of the lark was mutual.
As Patty, with painstaking honesty, was dividing the last of the gingerbread into two exact halves, she was startled by the sound of a footstep on the gravel path behind; and there walked into their party a groom—a crimson-faced, gaping young man who stood mechanically bobbing his head. Patty stared back a touch apprehensively. She hoped that she hadn't got her friend into trouble. It was very possibly against the rules for gardeners to entertain runaway school girls in the Italian garden. The groom continued to stare and to duck his head, and her companion rose and faced him.
"Well?" he inquired with a note of sharpness. "What do you want?"
"Beg pardon, sir, but this telegram come, and Richard says it might be important, sir, and he says for me to find you, sir."
He received the telegram, ran his eyes over it, scribbled an answer on the back with a gold pencil which he extracted from his pocket, and dismissed the man with a curt nod. The envelope had fluttered to the table and lay there face up. Patty inadvertently glanced at the address, and as the truth flashed across her, she hid her head against the back of the stone seat in a gale of laughter. Her companion looked momentarily sheepish, then he too laughed.
"You have enjoyed the privilege of telling me exactly how rude you think I am. Not even the reporters always allow themselves that pleasure."
"Oh, but that was before I knew you! I think now that you have perfectly beautiful manners."
He bowed his thanks.
"I shall endeavor to have better in the future. It will be my pleasure to put my greenhouses at the disposal of the young ladies of St. Ursula's some afternoon soon."
"Really?" she smiled. "That's awfully nice of you!"
They repacked the hamper and divided the crumbs among the goldfish in the fountain.
"And now," he inquired, "which will you visit first—the picture gallery or the orchids?"
Patty emerged from the orchid house at four o'clock, her arms filled with an unprecedented collection for Conny's book. The big yellow four-in-hand coach was standing outside the stable being washed. She examined it interestedly.
"Should you like to have me drive you home on that?"
"Oh, I'd love it!" Patty dimpled. "But I'm afraid it wouldn't be wise," she added on second thought. "No, I am sure it wouldn't be wise," she firmly turned her back. Her eyes fell on the road, and an apprehensive light sprang to her face.
"There's the hearse!"
"Yes, the school wagonette. I think I'd better be going."
He accompanied her back, through the vegetable garden and the enchanted wood, and held her flowers while she crawled under the fence, tearing a hole in the other shoulder of her blouse.
They shook hands through the barbed wire.
"I've enjoyed both the onions and the orchids," said Patty politely, "and particularly the gingerbread. And if I ever have any convict friends in need of employment, I may send them to you?"
"Do so," he urged. "I will find them a job here."
She started off, then turned to wave good-by to him.
"I've had a perfectly bully time!"
"A penny!" he called.
Patty laughed and ran.
The Lemon Pie and the Monkey-Wrench
Evalina Smith was a morbid young person who loved to dabble in the supernatural. Her taste in literature was for Edgar A. Poe. In religion she inclined toward spiritualism. Her favorite amusement was to gather a few shuddering friends about her, turn out the gas, and tell ghost stories. She had an extensive repertoire of ghoulish incidents, that were not fiction but the actual experience of people she knew. She had even had one or two spiritual adventures herself; and she would set forth the details with wide eyes and lowered voice, while her auditors held one another's hands and shivered. The circle in which Evalina moved had not much sense of humor.
One Saturday evening St. Ursula's School was in an unusually social mood. Evalina was holding a ghost party in her room in the East Wing; Nancy Lee had invited her ten dearest friends to a birthday spread in Center; the European History class was celebrating the completion of the Thirty-Years War by a molasses-candy pull in the kitchen; and Kid McCoy was conducting a potato race down the length of the South Corridor—the entrance fee a postage stamp, the prize sealed up in a large bandbox and warranted to be worth a quarter.
Patty, who was popular, had been invited to all four of the functions. She had declined Nancy's spread, because Mae Van Arsdale, her particular enemy, was invited; but had accepted the other invitations, and was busily spending the evening as an itinerant guest.
She carried her potato, insecurely balanced on a teaspoon, over one table and under another, through a hoop suspended from the ceiling, and deposited it in the wastebasket at the end of the corridor, in exactly two minutes and forty-seven seconds. (Kid McCoy had a stop-watch.) This was far ahead of anyone else's record, and Patty lingered hopefully a few minutes in the neighborhood of the bandbox; but a fresh inrush of entries postponed the bestowal of the prize, so she left the judges to settle the question at their leisure, and drifted on to Evalina's room.
She found it dark, except for the fitful blue flare of alcohol and salt burning in a fudge pan. The guests were squatting about on sofa cushions, looking decidedly spotty in the unbecoming light. Patty silently dropped down on a vacant cushion, and lent polite attention to Evalina, who at the moment held the floor.
"Well, you know, I had a very remarkable experience myself last summer. Happening to visit a spiritualist camp, I attended a materializing seance."
"What's that?" asked Rosalie Patton.
"A seance in which spirits appear to mediums in the material form they occupied during life," Evalina condescendingly explained. Rosalie was merely an invited guest. She did not belong to the inner cult.
"Oh!" said Rosalie, vaguely enlightened.
"I didn't really expect anything to happen," Evalina continued, "and I was just thinking how foolish I was to have wasted that dollar, when the medium shut her eyes and commenced to tremble. She said she saw the spirit of a beautiful young girl who had passed over five years before. The girl was dressed in white and her clothes were dripping wet, and she carried in her hand a monkey-wrench."
"A monkey-wrench!" cried Patty. "What on earth—"
"I don't know any more than you do," said Evalina impatiently. "I'm just telling what happened. The Medium couldn't get her full name, but she said her first name commenced with 'S.' And instantly, it came over me that it was my Cousin Susan who fell into a well and was drowned. I hadn't thought of her for years, but the description answered perfectly. And I asked the medium, and after a little, she said yes, it was Susan, and that she had come to send me a warning."
Evalina allowed an impressive pause to follow, while her auditors leaned forward in strained attention.
"A warning!" breathed Florence Hissop.
"Yes. She told me never to eat lemon pie."
Patty choked with sudden laughter. Evalina cast her a look and went on.
"The medium shivered again and came out of the trance, and she couldn't remember a thing she had said! When I told her about the monkey-wrench and the lemon pie, she was just as much puzzled as I was. She said that the messages that came from the spirit world were often inexplicable; though they might seem to deal with trivial things, yet in reality they contained a deep and hidden truth. Probably some day I would have an enemy who would try to poison me with lemon pie, and I must never, on any account, taste it again."
"And haven't you?" Patty asked.
"Never," said Evalina sadly.
Patty composed her features into an expression of scientific inquiry.
"Do you think the medium told the truth?"
"I've never had any cause to doubt it."
"Then you really believe in ghosts?"
"In spirits?" Evalina amended gently. "Many strange things happen that cannot be explained in any other manner."
"What would you do if her spirit should appear to you? Would you be scared?"
"Certainly not!" said Evalina, with dignity. "I was very fond of Cousin Susan. I have no cause to fear her spirit."
The smell of boiling molasses penetrated from below; Patty excused herself and turned toward the kitchen. The spiritual heights on which Evalina dwelt, she found a trifle too rare for ordinary breathing.
The candy was on the point of being poured into pans.
"Here, Patty!" Priscilla ordered, "you haven't done any work. Run down to the storeroom and get some butter to keep our hands from sticking."
Patty obligingly accompanied the cook to the cellar, with not a thought in the world beyond butter. On a shelf in the storeroom stood to-morrow's dessert—a row of fifteen lemon pies, with neatly decorated tops of white meringue. As Patty looked at them, she was suddenly assailed by a wicked temptation; she struggled with it for a moment of sanity, but in the end she fell. While Nora's head was bent over the butter tub, Patty opened the window and deftly plumped a pie through the iron grating onto the ledge without. By the time Nora raised her head, the window was shut again, and Patty was innocently translating the label on a bottle of olive oil.
As they pulled their candy in a secluded corner of the kitchen, Patty hilariously confided her plan to Conny and Priscilla. Conny was always game for whatever mischief was afoot, but Priscilla sometimes needed urging. She was—most inconveniently—beginning to develop a moral nature, and the other two, who as yet were comfortably un-moral, occasionally found her difficult to coerce.
Priscilla finally lent a grudging consent, while Conny enthusiastically volunteered to acquire a monkey-wrench. Being captain of sports, she could manage the matter better than Patty. On a flying visit to the stables, ostensibly to consult with Martin as to a re-marking of the tennis courts, she singled out from his tool bench the monkey-wrench of her choice, casually covered it with her sweater, and safely bore it away. She and Patty conveyed their booty by devious secret ways to Paradise Alley. A great many alarms were given on the passage, a great deal of muffled giggling ensued, but finally the monkey-wrench and the pie—slightly damaged as to its meringue top, but still distinctly recognizable as lemon—were safely cached under Patty's bed to await their part in the night's adventure.
"Lights-out" as usual, rang at nine-thirty, but it rang to deaf ears. A spirit of restless festivity was abroad. The little girls in the "Baby Ward" larked about the halls in a pillow fight, until they were sternly ordered to bed by the Dowager herself. It was close to ten o'clock when the candy-pullers washed their sticky hands and turned upstairs.
Patty found a delegation of potato racers waiting with the news that she had won the prize. An interested crowd gathered to watch her open the box; it contained a tin funeral wreath that had been displayed that winter in the window of the village undertaker—Kid had bought it cheap, owing to fly specks that would not rub off. The wreath was hoisted on the end of a shinny stick and marched through the corridor to the tune of "John Brown's Body," while Mademoiselle ineffectually wrung her hands and begged for quiet.
"Mes cheres enfantes—it is ten o'clock. Soyez tranquilles. Patty—Mon Dieu—How you are bad! Margarite McCoy, you do not listen to me? Nous verrons! Go to your room, dis in-stant! You do not belong in my hall. Children! I implore. Go to bed—all—tout de suite!"
The procession cheered and marched on, until Miss Lord descended from the East and commanded silence. Miss Lord when incensed was effectual. The peace of conquest settled for a time over Paradise Alley, and she returned to her own camp. But a fresh hub-bub broke out, when it was discovered that someone had sprinkled granulated sugar, in liberal quantities, through every bed in the Alley. Patty and Conny would have been suspected, had their own sheets not yielded a plentiful harvest. It was another half hour before the beds were remade, and the school finally composed to sleep.
When the teacher on duty had made her last rounds, and everything was quiet, Patty turned back the covers of her bed and cautiously stepped to the floor. She was still fully clothed, except that she had changed her shoes for softer soled bedroom slippers, better fitted for nocturnal adventures. Priscilla and Conny joined her. Fortunately a full moon shone high in the sky, and they needed no artificial light. Aided by her two assistants, Patty draped the sheets of her bed about her into two voluminous wings, and fastened them securely with safety pins. A pillow slip was pulled over her head and the corners tied into ears. They hesitated a moment with scissors suspended.
"Hurry up and cut a nose," Patty whispered. "I'm smothering!"
"It seems sort of too bad to spoil a perfectly good pillow slip," said Priscilla, with a slight access of conscience.
"I'll drop some money in the missionary box," Patty promised.
The nose and eyes were cut; a grinning mouth and devilishly curved eyebrows were added with burnt cork. The pillow slip was tied firmly about her neck to allow no chance of slipping, the ears waved lopsidedly; she was the most amazing specter that ever left a respectable grave.
These preparations had occupied some time. It was already ten minutes of twelve.
"I'll wait till the stroke of midnight," said Patty. "Then I'll flutter into Evalina's room, and wave my wings, and whisper, 'Come!' The monkey-wrench and the pie, I'll leave on the foot of her bed, so she'll know she wasn't dreaming."
"What if she screams?" asked Priscilla.
"She won't scream. She loves ghosts—especially Cousin Susan. She said to-night she'd be glad to meet her."
"But what if she does scream?" persisted Priscilla.
"Oh, that's easy! I'll dash back and pop into bed. Before anybody wakes, I'll be sound asleep."
They made a reconnoitering excursion into the empty corridors to make sure that all was quiet. Only regular breathing issued from open doors. Evalina fortunately lived in a single, but unfortunately, it was at the extreme end of the East Wing in the opposite corner of the building from Patty's own domicile. Conny and Priscilla, in bedroom slippers and kimonos, tiptoed after Patty as she took her flight down the length of the Alley. She sailed back and forth and waved her wings in the moonlight that streamed through the skylight in the central hall. The two spectators clung together and shivered delightedly. In spite of having been behind the scenes and assisted at the make-up, they received a distinct sensation—what it would be to one suddenly wakened from sleep, to a believer in ghosts, they were a bit apprehensive to consider. At the entrance to the East Wing, they handed Patty her pie and monkey-wrench, and retreated to their own neighborhood. In case of an uproar, they did not wish to be discovered too far from home.
Patty flitted on down the corridor, past yawning doors, into Evalina's room, where she took up a central position in a patch of moonlight. A few sepulchral "Comes!" brought no response. Evalina was a sound sleeper.
Patty shook the foot of the bed. The sleeper stirred slightly but slept on. This was annoying. The ghost had no mind to make noise enough to disturb the neighbors. She laid the pie and the monkey-wrench on the counterpane, and shook the bed again, with the insistence of an earthquake. As she was endeavoring to resume her properties, Evalina sat up and clutched the bed clothes about her neck with a frenzied jerk. Patty just had time to save the pie—the monkey-wrench went to the floor with a crash; and the crash, to Patty's startled senses, was echoed and intensified from far down the hall. She had no chance to wave her wings or murmur, "Come." Evalina did not wait for her cue. She opened her mouth as wide as it would open, and emitted shriek after shriek of such ear-splitting intensity, that Patty, for a moment, was too aghast to move. Then, still hugging the pie in her arms, she turned and ran.
To her consternation the cries were answered ahead. The whole house seemed to be awake and shrieking. She could hear doors banging and frightened voices demanding the cause of the tumult. She was making a quick dash for her own room, trusting to the confusion and darkness to make good her escape, when Miss Lord, gaily attired in a flowered bath-robe, appeared at the end of the corridor. Patty was headed straight for her arms. With a gasp of terror, she turned back toward the shrieking Evalina.
She realized by now that she was in a trap.
A narrow passage led from the East Wing to the servants' quarters. She dived into this. If she could reach the back stairs it would mean safety. She pushed the door open a crack, and to her horror, was confronted by a worse uproar. The servants' quarters were in a state of panic. She saw Maggie dashing past, wrapped in a pink striped blanket, while above the general confusion rose Norah's rich brogue:
"Help! Murther! I seen a bur-r-gu-lar!"
She shut the door and shrank back into the passage. Behind her Evalina was still hysterically wailing:
"I saw a ghost! I saw a ghost!"
Before her the cry of "Burglars!" was growing louder.
Utterly bewildered at this double demonstration, Patty flattened herself against the wall in the friendly darkness of the passage, while she soulfully thanked Heaven that the proposed electric lights had not yet been installed. A dozen voices were calling for matches, but no one seemed to find any. She pantingly tugged at the pillowcase fastened about her neck; but Conny had tied it firmly with a white hair ribbon, and the knot was behind. In any case, even if she could remove her masquerade, she was lost if they found her; for she was still wearing the white dress of the evening, and not even Patty's imagination could compass an excuse for that at twelve o'clock at night.
The search was growing nearer; she caught the glimmer of a light ahead. At any moment they might open the door of the passage. The linen closet was the only refuge at hand—and that was very temporary. She felt for the door handle and slipped inside. If she could find a pile of sheets, she might dive to the bottom and hope to escape notice, being mostly sheet herself. But it was Saturday, and all the linen had gone down. A long, slippery, inclined chute connected the room with the laundry in the basement two floors below. Steps were already audible in the passage. She heard Miss Lord's voice say:
"Bring a light! We'll search the linen closet."
Patty did not hesitate. In imagination she could already feel the pressure of Miss Lord's grasp upon her shoulder. A broken neck was preferable.
Still hugging the lemon pie—in all her excitement she had clasped it firmly—she climbed into the chute, stretched her feet out straight in front, and pushed off. For two breathless seconds she dashed through space, then her feet hit the trap door at the bottom, and she shot into the laundry.
One instant earlier, the door from the kitchen stairs had cautiously opened, and a man had darted into the laundry. He had just had time to cast a glance of boundless relief about the empty, moonlit room, when Patty and the pie catapulted against him. They went down together in a whirl of waving wings. Patty being on top picked herself up first. She still clutched her pie—at least what was left of it; the white meringue was spread over the man's hair and face; but the lemon part was still intact. The man sat up dazedly, rubbed the meringue from his eyes, cast one look at his assailant, and staggered to his feet. He flattened himself against the wall with arms thrown wide for support.
"Holy gee!" he choked. "What in hell uv I got into?"
Patty excused his language, as he did not appear to know that he was addressing a lady. He seemed to be laboring under the impression that she was the devil.
Her pillow slip by now was very much askew; one ear pointed northward, the other southeast, and she could only see out of one eye. It was very hot inside and she was gasping for breath. For a palpitating moment they merely stared and panted. Then Patty's mind began to work.
"I suppose," she suggested, "you are the burglar they are screaming about?"
The man leaned back limply and stared, his wide, frightened eyes shining through a fringe of meringue.
"I," said Patty, completing the introduction, "am the ghost."
He muttered something under his breath. She could not make out whether he was praying or swearing.
"Don't be afraid," she added kindly. "I won't hurt you."
"Is it a bloomin' insane asylum?"
"Just a girl's school."
"Gosh!" he observed.
"Hush!" said Patty. "They're coming this way now!"
The sound of running feet became audible in the kitchen above, while bass voices were added to the shrill soprano that had sounded the former tocsin. The men had arrived from the stables. The burglar and the ghost regarded each other for a moment of suspended breathing; their mutual danger drew them together. Patty hesitated an instant, while she studied his face as it showed through the interstices of the meringue. He had honest blue eyes and yellow curls. She suddenly stretched out a hand and grasped him by an elbow.
"Quick! They'll be here in a minute. I know a place to hide. Come with me."
She pushed him unresisting down a passage and into a storeroom, boarded off from the main cellar, where the scenery of the dramatic society was kept.
"Get down on your hands and knees and follow me," she ordered, as she stooped low and dived behind a pile of canvas.
The man crawled after. They emerged at the farther end into a small recess behind some canvas trees. Patty sat on a stump and offered a wooden rock to her companion.
"They'll never think of looking here," she whispered. "Martin's too fat to crawl through."
A small barred window let in some faint moonlight and they had an opportunity to study each other more at leisure. The man did not yet seem comfortable in Patty's presence; he was occupying the farthest possible corner of his rock. Presently he rubbed his coat sleeve over his head and looked long and earnestly at the meringue. He was evidently at a loss to identify the substance; in the rush of events he had taken no note of the pie.
Patty brought her one eye to bear down upon him.
"I'm simply melting!" she whispered. "Do you think you could untie that knot?"
She bent her head and presented the back of her neck.
The man by now was partially reassured as to the humanness of his companion, and he obediently worked at the knot but with hands that trembled. At last it came loose, and Patty with a sigh of relief emerged into the open. Her hair was somewhat tousled and her face was streaked with burnt cork, but her blue eyes were as honest as his own. The sight reassured him.
"Gee!" he muttered in a wave of relief.
"Keep still!" Patty warned.
The hunt was growing nearer. There was the sound of tramping feet in the laundry and they could hear the men talking.
"A ghost and a burglar!" said Martin, in fine scorn. "That's a likely combination, ain't it now?"
They made an obligatory and superficial search through the coal cellar. Martin jocularly inquiring:
"Did ye look in the furnace, Mike? Here Osaki, me lad, ye're small. Take a crawl oop the poipes and see if the ghost ain't hidin' there."
They opened the door of the property-room and glanced inside. The burglar ducked his head and held his breath, while Patty struggled with an ill-timed desire to giggle. Martin was in a facetious mood. He whistled in the manner of calling a dog.
"Here, Ghostie! Here, Burgie! Come here, old fellow!"
They banged the door shut and their footsteps receded. Patty was rocking back and forth in a species of hysterics, stuffing the corner of the sheet into her mouth to keep from laughing audibly. The burglar's teeth were chattering.
"Lord!" he breathed. "It may be funny for you, Miss. But it means the penitentiary for me."
Patty interrupted her hysterics and regarded him with disgust.
"It would mean expulsion for me, or at least something awfully unpleasant. But that's no reason for going all to pieces. You're a nice sort of a burglar! Brace up and be a sport!"
He mopped his brow and removed another portion of icing.
"You must be an awful amateur to break into a house like this," she said contemptuously. "Don't you know the silver's plated?"
"I didn't know nuthin' about it," he said sullenly. "I see the window open over the shed roof and I clum up. I was hungry and was lookin' for somethin' to eat. I ain't had nothin' since yesterday mornin'."
Patty reached to the floor beside her.
"Have some pie."
The man ducked aside as it was poked at him.
"W-what's that?" he gasped.
He was as nervous as a mouse in a cage.
"Lemon pie. It looks a little messy but it's all right. The only thing the matter with it is that it has lost its meringue top. That's mostly on your head. The rest of it is spread over me and the laundry floor and Evalina Smith's bed and the clothes chute."
"Oh!" he murmured in evident relief, as he rubbed his hand over his hair for the fourth time. "I was wonderin' what the blame stuff was."
"But the lemon's all here," she urged. "You'd better eat it. It's quite nourishing, I believe."
He accepted the pie and fell to eating it with an eagerness that carried out the truth of his assertion as to yesterday's breakfast.
Patty watched him, her natural curiosity struggling with her acquired politeness. The curiosity triumphed.
"Do you mind telling me how you came to be a burglar? You make such a remarkably bad one, that I should think you would have chosen almost any other profession."
He told his story between bites. To one more experienced in police records, it might have sounded a trifle fishy, but he had an honest face and blue eyes, and it never entered her head to doubt him. The burglar commenced it sullenly; no one had ever believed him yet and he wasn't expecting her to. He would like to have invented something a little more plausible, but he lacked the imagination to tell a convincing lie. So, as usual, he lamely told the truth.
Patty listened with strained attention. His tale was somewhat muffled by lemon pie, and his vocabulary did not always coincide with her own, but she managed to get the gist of it.
By rights he was a gardener. In the last place where he worked he used to sleep in the attic, because the gentleman he was away a lot, and the lady she was afraid not to have a man in the house. And a gas-fitter, that he had always thought was his friend, give him some beer one night and got him drunk, and took away the key of the back door. And while he (the gardener) was sound asleep on the children's sand pile under the apple tree in the back yard, the gas-fitter entered the house and stole an overcoat and a silver coffee-pot and a box of cigars and a bottle of whisky and two umbrellas. And they proved it on him (the gardener) and he was sent up for two years. And when he come out, no one wouldn't give him no work.
"An' ye can't make me believe," he added bitterly, "that that beer wasn't doped!"
"Oh, but it was terrible of you to get drunk!" said Patty, shocked.
"'Twas an accident," he insisted.
"If you are sure that you'll never do it again," she said, "I'll get you a job. But you must promise, on your word of honor as a gentleman. You know I couldn't recommend a drunkard."
The man grinned feebly.
"I guess ye'll not be findin' anybody that will be wantin' a jailbird."
"Oh, yes, I will! I know exactly the man. He's a friend of mine, and he likes jailbirds. He realizes that it's only luck that made him a millionaire instead of a convict. He always gives a man a chance to start again. He used to have a murderer in charge of his greenhouses, and a cattle thief to milk the cows. I'm sure he'll like you. Come with me, and I'll write you a letter of introduction."
Patty gathered her sheets about her and prepared to crawl out.
"What are ye doin'?" he demanded quickly. "Y' aren't goin' to hand me over?"
"Is it likely?" She regarded him with scorn. "How could I hand you over, without handing myself over at the same time?"
The logic of this appealed to him, and he followed meekly on hands and knees. She approached the laundry door and listened warily; the search had withdrawn to other quarters. She led the way along a passage and up a flight of stairs and slipped into the deserted kindergarten room.
"We're safe here," she whispered. "They've already searched it."
She cast about for writing materials. No ink was to be found, but she discovered a red crayon pencil, and tore a sheet of paper from a copy book. "Honesty is the best policy," was inscribed in flowing characters at the top.
She hesitated with her crayon poised.
"If I get you a nice job in charge of onions and orchids and things, will you promise never again to drink any beer?"
"Sure," he agreed, but without much enthusiasm.
There was a light of uneasiness in his eye. Nothing in his past experience tallied with to-night's adventure; and he suspected an ambush.
"Because," said Patty, "it would be awfully embarrassing for me if you did get drunk. I should never dare recommend another burglar."
She wrote her note on the window ledge, by moonlight, and read it aloud:
"Dear Mr. Weatherby,—
"Do you remember the conversation we had the day I ran away and dropped into your onion garden? You said you thought criminals were often quite as good as the rest of us, and that you would find a job for any convict friend I might present. This is to introduce a burglar of my acquaintance who would like to secure a position as gardener. He was trained to be a gardener and much prefers it to burglaring, but finds it difficult to find a place because he has been in prison. He is faithful, honest and industrious, and promises to be sober. I shall appreciate any favor you may show him.
"Sincerely yours, "PATTY WYATT."
"P. S.—Please excuse this red crayon. I am writing at midnight, by moonlight in the kindergarten room, and the ink's all locked up. The burglar will explain the circumstances, which are too complicated to write.
"Yours ever, "P. W."
She enclosed her note in a large manila envelope that had contained weaving mats, and addressed it to Silas Weatherby, Esq. The man received it gingerly. He seemed to think that it might go off.
"What's the matter?" said Patty. "Are you afraid of it?"
"Ye're sure," he asked suspiciously, "that Silas Weatherby ain't a cop?"
"He's a railroad president."
"Oh!" The burglar looked relieved.
Patty unlocked the window, then paused for a final moral lecture.
"I am giving you a chance to begin again. If you are game, and present this letter, you'll get a job. If you're a coward, and don't dare present it, you can keep on being a burglar for the rest of your life for all I care—and a mighty poor one you'll make!"
She opened the window and waved her hand invitingly toward the outside world.
"Good-by, Miss," he said.
"Good-by," said Patty cordially. "And good luck!"
He paused, half in, half out, for a last reassurance.
"Ye're sure it's on the straight, Miss? Y' ain't pitchin' me no curve?"
"It's on the straight." She pledged her word. "I ain't pitchin' you no curve."
Patty crept upstairs the back way, and by a wide detour avoided the excited crowd still gathered in the East Wing. A fresh hub-bub had arisen, for Evalina Smith had found a monkey-wrench on the floor of her room. It was shown to the scoffing Martin as visible proof that the burglar had been there.
"An it's me own wrench!" he cried in wide-eyed amazement. "Now, what do ye think of his nerve?"
Patty hurriedly undressed and tumbled into a kimono. Sleepily rubbing her eyes, she joined the assemblage in the hall.
"What's happened?" she asked, blinking at the lights. "Has there been a fire?"
A chorus of laughter greeted the question.
"It's a burglar!" said Conny, exhibiting the wrench.
"Oh, why didn't you wake me?" Patty wailed. "I've wanted all my life to see a burglar."
* * * * *
Two weeks later, a groom arrived on horseback with a polite note for the Dowager.
Mr. Weatherby presented his compliments to Mrs. Trent, and desired the pleasure of showing the young ladies of the Senior class through his art gallery on Friday next at four o'clock.
The Dowager was at a loss to account for this gratuitous courtesy on the part of her hitherto unneighborly neighbor. After a moment of deliberation, she decided to meet him half way; and the groom rode back with an equally polite acceptance.
On Friday next, as the school hearse turned in at the gates of Weatherby Hall, the owner stood on the portico waiting to welcome his guests. If there were a shade more empressement in his greeting to Patty than to her companions, the Dowager did not notice it.
He made an exceptionally attentive host. In person he conducted them through the gallery and pointed out the famous Botticelli. Tea was served at little tables set on the western terrace. Each girl found a gardenia at her plate and a silver bonbonniere with the St. Ursula monogram on the cover. After tea their host suggested a visit to the Italian garden. As they strolled through the paths, Patty found herself walking beside him and the Dowager. His conversation was addressed to Mrs. Trent, but an occasional amused glance was directed toward Patty. They turned a corner behind a marble pavilion, and came upon a fountain and a gardener man, intent upon a border of maiden-hair ferns.
"I have a very remarkable new Swedish gardener," Mr. Weatherby casually remarked to the Dowager. "The man is a genius at making plants grow. He came highly recommended. Oscar!" he called. "Bring the ladies some of those tulips."
The man dropped his watering-can, and approached, hat in hand. He was a golden-haired, blue-eyed young chap with an honest smile. He presented his flowers, first to the elder lady and then to Patty. As he caught her interested gaze, a light of comprehension suddenly leaped to his eyes. Her costume and make-up to-day were so very dissimilar to those which she had assumed on the occasion of their first meeting, that recognition on his part had not been instantaneous.
Patty fell back a step to receive her flowers and the others strolled on.
"I have to thank ye, Miss," he said gratefully, "for the finest job I ever had. It's all right!"
"You know now," Patty laughed, "that I didn't pitch you no curves?"
The Gypsy Trail
"Heels together. Hips firm, one, two, three, four—Irene McCullough! Will you keep your shoulders back and your stomach in? How many times must I tell you to stand straight? That's better! We'll start again. One, two, three, four."
The exercise droned on. Some twenty of the week's delinquents were working off demerits. It was uncongenial work for a sunny Saturday. The twenty pairs of eyes gazed beyond Miss Jellings' head—across ropes and rings and parallel bars—toward the green tree tops and the blue sky; and twenty girls, for that brief hour, regretted their past badnesses.
Miss Jellings herself seemed to be a bit on edge. She snapped out her orders with a curtness that brought a jerkily quick response from forty waving Indian clubs. As she stood straight and slim in her gymnasium suit, her cheeks flushed with exercise, she looked quite as young as any of her pupils. But if she appeared young, she also appeared determined. No instructor in the school, not even Miss Lord in Latin, kept stricter discipline.
"One, two, three, four—Patty Wyatt! Keep your eyes to the front. It isn't necessary for you to watch the clock. I shall dismiss the class when I am ready. Over your heads. One, two, three, four." Finally, when nerves were almost at the breaking point, came the grateful order, "Attention! Right about face. March. Clubs in racks. Double quick. Halt. Break ranks."
With a relieved whoop, the class dispersed.
"Thank heaven, there's only one more week of it!" Patty breathed, as they regained their own quarters in Paradise Alley.
"Good-by to Gym forever!" Conny waved a slipper over her head. "Hooray!"
"Isn't Jelly awful?" Patty demanded, still smarting from the recent insult. "She never used to be so bad. What on earth has got into her?"
"She is pretty snappy," Priscilla agreed. "But I like her just the same. She's so—so sort of spirited, you know—like a skittish horse."
"Urn," growled Patty. "I'd like to see a good, big, husky man get the upper hand of Jelly once, and just make her toe the mark!"
"You two will have to hurry," Priscilla warned, "if you want to get into your costumes up here. Martin starts in half an hour."
"We'll be ready!" Patty was already plunging her face into an inky mixture in the wash bowl.
The fancy-dress lawn fete, which St. Ursula's School held on the last Friday in every May, had occurred the evening before; and this afternoon the girls were redonning their costumes to make a trip to the village photographer's. The complicated costumes, that required time and space for their proper adjustment, were to be assumed at the school and driven down in the hearse. Those more simple of arrangement were to go in the trolley car, and be donned in the cramped quarters of the gallery dressing-room.
Patty and Conny, whose make-up was a very delicate matter, were dressing at the school. They had gone as Gypsies—not comic opera Gypsies, but real Gypsies, dirty and ragged and patched. (They had daily dusted the room with their costumes for a week before the fete.) Patty wore one brown stocking and one black, with a conspicuous hole in the right calf. Conny's toes protruded from one shoe, and the sole of the other flapped. Their hair was unkempt and the stain on their faces streaked. They were the last word in realism.
They scrambled into their dresses to-day with little ceremony, and hitched them together anyhow. Conny caught up a tambourine and Patty a worn-out pack of cards, and they clattered down the tin-covered back stairs. In the lower hall they came face to face with Miss Jellings, clothed in cool muslin, and in a more affable frame of mind. Patty never held her grudges long; she had already forgotten her momentary indignation at not being allowed to look at the clock.
"You cross-a my hand with silver? I tell-a your fortune."
She danced up to the gymnasium teacher with a flutter of scarlet petticoats, and poked out a dirty hand.
"Nice-a fortune," Conny added with a persuasive rattle of the tambourine. "Tall, dark-a young man."
"You impudent little ragamuffins!" Miss Jellings took them each by the shoulder and turned them for inspection. "What have you done to your faces?"
"Washed 'em in black coffee."
Miss Jellings shook her head and laughed.
"You're a disgrace to the school!" she pronounced. "Don't let any policeman see you, or he'll arrest you for vagabonds."
"Patty! Conny!—Hurry up. The hearse is starting."
Priscilla appeared in the doorway and waved her gridiron frantically. Priscilla, late about finding a costume, at the last moment had blasphemously gone as St. Laurence, draped in a sheet, with the kitchen broiler under her arm.
"We're coming! Tell him to wait." Patty dashed out.
"Don't you want a coat?" Conny shrieked after her.
"No—come on—we don't need coats."
The two raced down the drive after the wagonette—Martin never waited for laggards; he let them run and catch up. They sprang onto the rear step; and half-a-dozen outstretched hands hauled them in, head first.
They found the photographer's waiting-room a scene of the maddest confusion. When sixty excited people occupy the normal space of twelve, the effect is not restful.
"Did anyone bring a button-hook?"
"Lend me some powder."
"That's my safety-pin!"
"Where'd you put the burnt cork?"
"Is my hair a perfect sight?"
"Fasten me up—please!"
"Does my petticoat show?"
Everybody babbled at once, and nobody listened.
"I say, let's get out of this—I'm simply roasting!"
St. Laurence seized the Gypsies by the shoulder and shoved them into the vacant gallery. They squeezed themselves, with a sigh of relief, onto a shaky flight of six narrow stairs before the breezes of an open window.
"I know exactly what ails Jelly!" Patty spoke with the air of carrying on a conversation.
"What?" asked the others, with interest.
"She's had a quarrel with that Laurence Gilroy man who is manager at the electric light place. Don't you remember how he used to be hanging about all the time? And now he never comes at all? He was out every day in the Christmas vacation. They used to go walking together—and without any chaperone, too! You would think the Dowager would have made an awful fuss, but she didn't seem to. Anyway, you should have seen the way Miss Jellings treated that man—it was per-fect-ly dreadful! The way she jumps on Irene McCullough is nothing to the way she jumped on him."
"He doesn't have to work off demerits. He's a fool to stand it," said Conny simply.
"He doesn't stand it any more."
"How do you know?"
"Well, I—sort of heard. I was in the library alcove one day in the Christmas vacation, reading the 'Murders in the Rue Morgue,' when Jelly and Mr. Gilroy walked in. They didn't see me, and I didn't pay any attention to them at first—I'd just got to the place where the detective says, 'Is that the mark of a human hand?'—but pretty soon they got to scrapping so that I couldn't help but hear, and I felt sort of embarrassed about interrupting."
"What did they say?" asked Conny, impatiently brushing aside her apologies.
"I didn't grasp it entirely. He was trying to explain about something, and she wouldn't listen to a word he said—she was perfectly horrid. You know,—the way she is when she says, 'I understand it perfectly. I don't care to hear any excuse. You may take ten demerits, and report on Saturday for extra gymnasium.'—Well, they kept that up for fifteen minutes, both of 'em getting stiffer and stiffer. Then he took his hat and went. And you know, I don't believe he ever came back—I've never seen him. And now, she's sorry. She's been as cross as a bear ever since."
"And she can be awfully nice," said Priscilla.
"Yes, she can," said Patty. "But she's too cocky. I'd just like to see that man come back, and show her her place!"
The masqueraders trooped in and the serious business of the day commenced. The school posed as a whole, then an infinity of smaller groups disentangled themselves and posed separately, while those who were not in the picture stood behind the camera and made the others laugh.
"Young ladies!" the exasperated photographer implored. "Will you kindly be quiet for just two seconds? You have made me spoil three plates. And will that monk on the end stop giggling? Now! All ready. Please keep your eyes on the stove-pipe hole, and hold your positions while I count three. One, two, three—thank you very much!"