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

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

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

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

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

"So do I," said Patty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Very well; I will," said Patty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER X

A PLEASANT EVENING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Who was it?"

"My next-door neighbour, Miss Daggett."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XI

PREPARATIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marian looked at her curiously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XII

A TEA CLUB TEA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, and better," said Elsie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XIII

A NEW FRIEND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You seem to like that picture."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And mine is Patricia Fairfield, but I'm usually called Patty."

"I should think you would be, it suits you to a dot. Of course the boys call me Ken. I'm a Columbia student."

"Oh, are you?" said Patty. "I've never known a college boy, and I've always wanted to meet one."

"Well, you see in me a noble specimen of my kind," said young Harper, straightening up his broad shoulders and looking distinctly athletic.

"You must be," said Patty; "you look just like all the pictures of college boys I've ever seen."

"And I flattered myself that my beauty was something especial and individual."

"You ought to be thankful that you're beautiful," said Patty, "and not be so particular about what kind of beauty it is."

"But some kinds of beauty are not worth having," went on young Harper; "look at that man over there with a lean pale face and long lank hair. That's beauty, but I must say I prefer a strong, brave, manly type, like this good-looking chap just coming toward us."

"Oh, you do?" said Patty. "Well, as that good-looking chap happens to be my father, I'll take pleasure in introducing you."

"I am glad to see you, sir," said Kenneth Harper, as Patty presented him to her father, "and I may as well own up that I was just making remarks on your personal appearance, which accounts for my blushing embarrassment."

"I won't inquire what they were," said Mr. Fairfield, "lest I, too, should become embarrassed. But, Patty, my girl, if we're going back to Vernondale on the six-o'clock train, it's time we were starting."

"Oh, do you live in Vernondale?" inquired Kenneth. "I have an aunt there. I wonder if you know her. Her name is Daggett—Miss Rachel Daggett."

"Indeed I do know her," said Patty. "She is my next-door neighbour."

"Is she really? How jolly! And don't you think she's an old dear? I'm awfully fond of her. I run out to see her every chance I can get, though I haven't been much this winter, I've been digging so hard."

"She is a dear," said Patty. "I've only seen her once, but I know I shall like her as a neighbour."

"Yes, I'm sure you will, but let me give you a bit of confidential advice. Don't take the initiative, let her do that; and the game will be far more successful than if you make the overtures."

Patty smiled. "Miss Daggett told me that herself," she said; "in fact, she was quite emphatic on the subject."

"I can well believe it," said Kenneth, "but I'm sure you'll win her heart yet."

"I'm sure she will too," said Mr. Fairfield, with an approving glance at his pretty daughter; "and whenever you are in Vernondale, Mr. Harper, I hope you will come to see us."

"I shall be very glad to," answered the young man, "and I hope to run out there soon."

"Come out when we have our play," said Patty; "it's going to be beautiful."

"What play is that?"

"We don't know yet, we haven't decided on it."

"I know an awfully good play. One of the fellows up at college wrote it, and so it isn't hackneyed yet."

"Oh, tell me about it," said Patty. "Papa, can't we take the next later train home?"

"Yes, chick, I don't mind if you don't; or, better still, if Mr. Harper can go with us, I'll take both of you children out to dinner in some great, glittering, noisy hotel."

"Oh, gorgeous!" cried Patty. "Can you go, Mr. Harper?"

"Indeed I can, and I shall be only too glad. College boys are not overcrowded with invitations, and I am glad to say I have no other for to-night."

"You'll have to telephone to Emancipation Proclamation, papa," said Patty, "or she'll get out all the bell-ringers, and drag the river for us."

"So she will," said Mr. Fairfield. "I'll set her mind at rest the first thing."

"That's our cook," explained Patty.

"It's a lovely name," observed Kenneth, "but just a bit lengthy for every-day use."

"Oh, it's only for Sundays and holidays," said Patty; "other days we contract it to Mancy."

Seated at table in a bright and beautiful restaurant, Patty and her new friend began to chatter like magpies while Mr. Fairfield ordered dinner.

"Now tell me all about your friend's play," said Patty, "for I feel sure it's going to be just what we want"

"Well, the scene," said Kenneth, "is on Mount Olympus, and the characters are all the gods and goddesses, you know, but they're brought up to date. In fact, that's the name of the play, 'Mount Olympus Up to Date.' Aurora, you know, has an automobile instead of her old-fashioned car."

"But you don't have the automobile on the stage?"

"Oh, no! Aurora just comes in in her automobile rig and talks about her 'bubble.' Mercury has a bicycle; he's a trick rider, and does all sorts of stunts. And Venus is a summer girl, dressed up in a stunning gown and a Paris hat. And Hercules has a punching-bag—to make himself stronger, you know. And Niobe has quantities of handkerchiefs, dozens and dozens of them; she's an awfully funny character."

"Oh, I think it would be lovely!" said Patty. "Where can we get the book?"

"I'll send you one to-morrow, and you can see if you like it; and then if you do, you can get more."

"Oh, I'm sure the girls will all like it; and will you come out to see it?"

"Yes, I'd be glad to. I was in it last winter. I was Mercury."

"Oh, can you do trick work on bicycles?"

"Yes, a little," said Kenneth modestly.

"I wish you'd come out and be Mercury in our play."

"Aren't you going ahead rather fast, Patty, child?" said her father. "Your club hasn't decided to use this play yet."

"I know it, papa, and of course I mean if we do use it; but anyway, I'm president of the club, and somehow, if I want a thing, the rest of the girls generally seem to want it too."

"That's a fine condition of affairs that any president might be glad to bring about. You ought to be a college president."

"Perhaps I shall be some day," said Patty.

The dinner hour flew by all too quickly. Patty greatly enjoyed the sights and sounds of the brilliant, crowded room. She loved the lights and the music, the flowers and the palms, and the throngs of gaily dressed people.

Kenneth Harper enjoyed it too, and thought he had rarely met such attractive people as the Fairfields.

When he took his leave he thanked Mr. Fairfield courteously for his pleasant evening, and promised soon to call upon them at Boxley Hall.

They reached home by a late train, and Patty went up to her pretty bedroom, with her usual happy conviction that she was a very fortunate little girl and had the best father in the world.



CHAPTER XIV

THE NEIGHBOUR AGAIN

Kenneth Harper did send the book, and, as Patty confidently expected, the girls of the club quite agreed with her that it was the best play for them to use.

At a meeting at Marian's, plans were made and parts were chosen. The goddesses were allotted to the members of the club, and the gods were distributed among their brothers and friends.

Guy Morris, being of gigantic mould, was cast for Hercules, and Frank Elliott for Ajax. When Patty told the girls that Kenneth Harper could do trick riding on a bicycle, they unanimously voted to invite him to take part in their entertainment.

It was decided to have the play about the middle of February, and the whole Tea Club grew enthusiastic over the plans for the wonderful performance.

One morning Patty sat in the library studying her part. She was very happy. Of course, Patty always was happy, but this morning she was unusually so. Her housekeeping was going on smoothly; the night before her father had expressed himself as being greatly pleased with the system and order which seemed everywhere noticeable in the house. It was Saturday morning, and she didn't have to go to school.

Moreover, she was very much interested in the play and in her own part in it, and had already planned a most beautiful gown, which the dressmaker, Madame LaFayette, was to make for her.

Patty's part in the play was that of Diana, and her costume was to be a beautiful one of hunter's green cloth with russet leather leggings and a jaunty cap. Being up-to-date, instead of being a huntress she was to represent an agent of the S.P.C.A.

This suited Patty exactly, for she had a horror of killing live things, and very much preferred doing all she could to prevent such slaughter. Moreover, the humour of the thing appealed to her, and the funny effect of the huntress Diana going around distributing S.P.C.A. leaflets, and begging her fellow-Olympians not to shoot, seemed to Patty very humourous and attractive.

This Saturday, then, she had settled down in the library to study her lines all through the long cosey morning, when, to her annoyance, the doorbell rang.

"I hope it's none of the girls," she thought. "I did want this morning to myself."

It wasn't any of the girls, but Pansy announced that a messenger had come from Miss Daggett's, and that Miss Daggett wished Miss Fairfield to return her call at once.

Patty smiled at the unusual message, but groaned at the thought of her interrupted holiday.

However, Miss Daggett was not one to be ignored or lightly set aside, so Patty put on her things and started.

Although Miss Daggett's house was next door to Boxley Hall, yet it was set in the middle of such a large lot, and was so far back from the street, and so surrounded by tall, thick trees, that Patty had never had a really good view of it.

She was surprised, therefore, to find it a very large, old-fashioned stone house, with broad veranda and steps guarded by two stone lions.

Patty rang the bell, and the door was opened very slightly. A small, quaint-looking old coloured man peeped out.

"Go 'way," he said, "go 'way at once! We don't want no tickets."

"I'm not selling tickets," said Patty, half angry and half amused.

"Well, we don't want no shoelacers, nor lead pencils, nor nuffin! You must be selling something."

"I am not selling anything," said Patty. "I came over because Miss Daggett sent for me."

"Laws 'a' massy, child, why didn't you say so before you spoke? Be you Miss Fairfield?"

"Yes," said Patty; "here's my card."

"Oh, never mind the ticket; if so be you's Miss Fairfield, jes' come right in, come right in."

The door was flung open wide and Patty entered a dark, old-fashioned hall. From that she was led into a parlour, so dark that she could scarcely see the outline of a lady on the sofa.

"How do you do, Miss Daggett?" she said, guessing that it was probably her hostess who seemed to be sitting there.

"How do you do?" said Miss Daggett, putting out her hand, without rising.

"I'm quite well, thank you," said Patty, and her eyes having grown a little accustomed to the dark, she grasped the old lady's hand, although, as she told her father afterwards, she was awfully afraid she would tweak her nose by mistake.

"And how are you, Miss Daggett?"

"Not very well, child, not very well, but you won't stay long, will you? I sent for you, yes, I sent for you on an impulse. I thought I'd like to see you, but I'd no sooner sent than I wished I hadn't. But you won't stay long, will you, dearie?"

"No," said Patty, feeling really sorry for the queer old lady. "No, I won't stay long, I'll go very soon; in fact, I'll go just as soon as you tell me to. I'll go now, if you say so."

"Oh, don't be silly. I wouldn't have sent for you if I'd wanted you to go right away again. Sit down, turn your toes out, and answer my questions."

"What are your questions?" said Patty, not wishing to make any rash promises.

"Well, first, are you really keeping that big house over there all alone by yourself?"

"I'm keeping house there, yes, but I'm not all alone by myself. My father's there, and two servants."

"Don't you keep a man?"

"No; a man comes every day to do the hard work, but he doesn't live with us."

"Humph, I suppose you think you're pretty smart, don't you?"

"I don't know," said Patty slowly, as if considering; "yes, I think I'm pretty smart in some ways, and in other ways I'm as stupid as an owl."

"Well, you must be pretty smart, because you haven't had to borrow anything over here yet."

"But I wouldn't borrow anything here, anyway, Miss Daggett; you specially asked me not to."

Miss Daggett's old wrinkled face broke into a smile.

"And so you remember that. Well, well, you are a nice little girl; you must have had a good mother, and a good bringing-up."

"My mother died when I was three, and my father brought me up."

"He did, hey? Well, he made a fairly good job of it. Now, I guess you can go; I'm about tired of talking to you."

"Then I will go. But, first, Miss Daggett, let me tell you that I met your nephew the other day."

"Kenneth! For the land's sake! Well, well, sit down again. I don't want you to go yet; tell me all about him. Isn't he a nice boy? Hasn't he fine eyes? And gentlemanly manners? And oh, the lovely ways with him!"

"Yes, Miss Daggett, he is indeed a nice boy; my father and I both think so. His eyes and his manners are fine. He says he wants to come out to see you soon."

"Bless his heart, I hope he'll come! I do hope he'll come."

"Then you like to have him come to see you?" said Patty, a little roguishly.

"Yes, and I like to have you, too. Land, child! you mustn't mind my quick ways."

"I don't mind how quick you are," said Patty; "but when you tell me to be sure and not come to see you, of course I don't come."

"Oh, that's all right," said Miss Daggett, "that's all right; I'll always send for you when I want you.

"But perhaps I can't always come," said Patty. "I may be busy with my housekeeping."

"Now, wouldn't that be annoying!" said Miss Daggett. "I declare that would be just my luck. I always do have bad luck."

"Perhaps it's the way you look at it," said Patty. "Now, I have some things that seem like bad luck, at least, other people think they do; but if I look at them right—happy and cheerful, you know—why, they just seem like good luck."

"Really," said Miss Daggett, with a curious smile; "well now, you are a queer child, and I'm not at all sure but I'd like to have you come again. Do you want to see around my house?"

"I'd like to very much, but it's so dark a bat couldn't see things in this room."

"But I can't open the shades, the sun would fade all the furniture coverings."

"Well, then, you could buy new ones," said Patty; "that would be better than living in the dark."

"Dark can't hurt anybody," said Miss Daggett gloomily.

"Oh, indeed it can," said Patty earnestly. "Why, darkness—I mean darkness in the daytime—makes you all stewed up and fidgety and horrid; and sunshine makes you all gay and cheerful and glad."

"Like you," said Miss Daggett.

"Yes, like me," said Patty; "I am cheerful and glad always. I like to be."

"I would like to be, too," said Miss Daggett.

"Do you suppose if I opened the shutters I would be?"

"Let's try it and see," said Patty, and running to the windows, she flung open the inside blinds and flooded the room with sunshine.

"Oh, what a beautiful room!" she exclaimed, as she turned around. "Why, Miss Daggett, to think of keeping all these lovely things shut up in the dark. I believe they cry about it when you aren't looking."

Already the old lady's face seemed to show a gentler and sunnier expression, and she said:

"Yes, I have some beautiful things, child. Would you like to look through this cabinet of East Indian curiosities?"

"I would very much," said Patty, "but I fear I can't take the time this morning; I have to study my part in a play we're going to give. It's a play your nephew told us about," she added quickly, feeling sure that this would rouse the old lady's interest in it.

"One of Kenneth's college plays?" she said eagerly.

"Yes, that's just what it is. A chum of his wrote it, and oh, Miss Daggett, we're going to invite Mr. Harper to come to Vernondale the night of the play, and take the same part that he took at college last year; you see, he'll know it, and he can just step right in."

"Good for you! I hope he'll come. I'll write at once and tell him how much I want him. He can stay here, of course, and perhaps he can come sooner, so as to be here for one or two rehearsals."

"That would be a good help. I hope he will do that; he could coach the rest of us."

"I don't know just what coach means, but I'm sure Kenneth can do it, he's a very clever boy; he says he can run an automobile, but I don't believe it. Run away home now, child, I'm tired of having company; and besides I want to compose my mind so I can write a letter to Kenneth."

"And will you leave your blinds open till afternoon?" said Patty, who was beginning to learn her queer old neighbour.

"Yes, I will, if I don't forget it. Clear out, child, clear out now; run away home and mind you're not to borrow anything and you're not to come back till I send for you."

"All right," said Patty. "Good-bye, and mind, you're to keep bright and cheerful, and let the sunlight in all the time."



CHAPTER XV

BILLS

Patty's plans for systematic housekeeping included a number of small Russia-leather account books, and she looked forward with some eagerness to the time when the first month's bills should come in, and she could present to her father a neat and accurate statement of the household expenses for the month.

The 1st of February was Sunday, but on Monday morning the postman brought a sheaf of letters which were evidently bills.

Patty had no time to look at these before she went to school, so she placed them carefully in her desk, determined to hurry home that afternoon and get her accounts into apple-pie order before her father came home. After school she returned to find a supplementary lot of bills had been left by the postman, and also Mancy presented her with a number of bills which the tradesmen had left that morning.

Patty took the whole lot to her desk, and with methodical exactness noted the amounts on the pages of her little books. She and her father had talked the matter over, more or less, and Patty knew just about what Mr. Fairfield expected the bills to amount to.

But to her consternation she discovered, as she went along, that each bill was proving to be about twice as large as she had anticipated.

"There must be some mistake," she said to herself, "we simply can't have eaten all those groceries. Anybody would think we ran a branch store. And that butcher's bill is big enough for the Central Park menagerie! They must have added it wrong."

But a careful verification of the figures proved that they were added right, and Patty's heart began to sink as she looked at the enormous sum-totals.

"To think of all that for flowers! Well, papa bought some of them, that's a comfort; but I had no idea I had ordered so many myself. I think bills are perfectly horrid! And here's my dressmaker's bill. Gracious, how Madame LaFayette has gone up in her prices! I believe I'll make my own clothes after this; but the market bills are the worst I don't see how we could have eaten all these things. Mancy must be a dreadful waster, but it isn't fair to blame her; if that's where the trouble is, I ought to have looked after it myself. Hello, Marian, is that you? I didn't hear you come in. Do come here, I'm in the depths of despair!"

"What's the matter, Patsie? and what a furious lot of bills! You look like a clearinghouse."

"Oh, Marian, it's perfectly fearful! Every bill is two or three times as much as I thought it would be, and I'm so sorry, for I meant to be such a thrifty housekeeper."

"Jiminetty Christmas!" exclaimed Marian, looking at some of the papers, "I should think these bills were big! Why, that's more than we pay a month for groceries, and look at the size of our family."

"I know it," said Patty hopelessly. "I don't see how it happened."

"You are an extravagant little wretch, Patty, there's no doubt about it."

"I suppose I am; at least, I suppose I have been, but I'm not going to be any more. I'm going to reform, suddenly and all at once and very thoroughly! Now, you watch me. We're not going to have any more fancy things, no more ice cream from Pacetti's. Why, that caterer's bill is something fearful."

"And so you're going to starve poor Uncle Fred?"

"No, that wouldn't be fair, would it? The economy ought to fall entirely on me. Well, I've decided to make my own clothes after this, anyway."

"Oh, Patty, what a goose you are! You couldn't make them to save your neck, and after you made them you couldn't wear them."

"I could, too, Marian Elliott! Just you wait and see me make my summer dresses. I'm going to sew all through vacation."

"All right," said Marian, "I'll come over and help you, but you can't make any dresses this afternoon, so put away those old bills and get ready for a sleigh ride. It's lovely out, and father said he'd call for us here at four o'clock."

"All right, I will, if we can get back by six. I want to be here when papa comes home."

"Yes, we'll be back by six. I expect Uncle Fred will shut you up in a dark room and keep you on bread and water for a week when he sees those bills."

"That's just the worst of it," said Patty forlornly. "He's so good and kind, and spoils me so dreadfully that it makes me feel all the worse when I don't do things right."

A good long sleigh ride in the fresh, crisp winter air quite revived Patty's despondent spirits. She sat in front with Uncle Charley, and he let her drive part of the way, for it was Patty's great delight to drive two horses, and she had already become a fairly accomplished little horsewoman.

"Fred tells me he's going to get horses for you this spring," said Uncle Charley. "You'll enjoy them a lot, won't you, Patty?"

"Yes, indeed—that is—I don't know whether we'll have them or not."

For it just occurred to Patty that, having run her father into such unexpected expense in the household, a good way to economise would be to give up all hopes of horses.

"Oh, yes, you'll have them all right," said Uncle Charley, in his gay, cheery way, having no idea, of course, what was in Patty's mind. "And you must have a little pony and cart of your own. It would give you a great deal of pleasure to go out driving in the spring weather."

"I just guess it would," said Patty, "and I'm sure I hope I'll have it."

She began to wonder if she couldn't find some other way to economise rather than on the horses, for she certainly did love to drive.

Promptly at six o'clock Uncle Charley left her at Boxley Hall, and as she entered the door Patty felt that strange sinking of the heart that always accompanies the resuming of a half-forgotten mental burden.

"I know just how thieves and defaulters and forgers feel," she said to herself, as she took off her wraps. "I haven't exactly stolen, but I've betrayed a trust, and that's just as bad. I wonder what papa will say?"

At dinner Patty was subdued and a little nervous.

Mr. Fairfield, quick to notice anything unusual in his daughter, surmised that she was bothered, but felt sure that in her own time she would tell him all about it, so he endeavoured to set her at her ease by chatting pleasantly about the events of his day in the city, and sustaining the burden of the conversation himself.

But after dinner, when they had gone into the library, as they usually did in the evening, Patty brought out her fearful array of paper bugbears and laid them before her father.

"What are these?" said Mr. Fairfield cheerily. "Ah, yes, I see. The 1st of the month has brought its usual crop of bills."

"I do hope it isn't the usual crop, papa; for if they always come in like this, we'll have to give up Boxley Hall and go to live in the poor-house."

"Oh, I don't know. We haven't overdrawn our bank account yet Whew! Pacetti's is a stunner, isn't it?"

"Yes," said Patty, in a meek little voice.

"And Fisher & Co. seem to have summed up quite a total; and Smith's flower bill looks like a good old summer time."

"Oh, papa, please scold me; I know I deserve it. I ought to have looked after these things and kept the expenses down more."

"Why ought you to have done so, Patty? We have to have food, don't we?"

"Yes; but, papa, you know we estimated in the beginning, and these old bills come up to about twice as much as our estimate."

"That's a fact, baby, they do," said Mr. Fairfield, looking over the statements with a more serious air. "These are pretty big figures to represent a month's living for just you and me and our small retinue of servants."

"Yes; and, papa, I think Mancy is rather wasteful. I don't say this to blame her. I know it is my place to see about it, and be careful that she utilises all that is possible of the kitchen waste."

Patty said this so exactly with the air of a Young Housekeeper's Guide or Cooking School Manual, that Mr. Fairfield laughed outright.

"Chickadee," he said, "you'll come out all right. You have the true elements of success. You see where you've fallen into error, you're willing to admit it, and you're ready to use every means to improve in the future. I'm not quite so surprised as you are at the size of these bills; for, though we made our estimates rationally, yet we have been buying a great many things and having a pretty good time generally. I foresaw this experience at the end of the month, but I preferred to wait and see how we came out rather than interfere with the proceedings; and another thing, Patty, which may comfort you some, is the fact that I quite believe that some of these tradespeople have taken advantage of your youth and inexperience and padded their bills a little bit in consequence."

"But, papa, just look at Madame LaFayette's bill. I don't think she ought to charge so much."

"These do seem high prices for the simple little frocks you wear; but they are always so daintily made, and in such good taste, that I think we'll have to continue to employ her. Dressmakers, you know, are acknowledged vampires."

"I like the clothes she makes, too," said Patty, "but I had concluded that that was the best way for me to economise, and I thought after this I would make my own dresses."

"I don't think you will, my child," said Mr. Fairfield decidedly. "You couldn't make dresses fit to be seen, unless you took a course of instruction in dressmaking, and I'm not sure that you could then; and you have quite enough to do with your school work and your practising. When did you propose to do this wonderful sewing?"

"Oh, I mean in vacation—to make my summer dresses."

"No; in vacation you're to run out of doors and play. Don't let me hear any more about sewing."

"All right," said Patty, with a sigh of relief. "I'm awfully glad not to, but I wanted to help somehow. I thought I'd make my green cloth costume for Diana in the play."

"Yes, that would be a good thing to begin on," said Mr. Fairfield. "Broadcloth is so tractable, so easy to fit; and that tailor-made effect can, of course, be attained by any well-meaning beginner."

Patty laughed. "I know it would look horrid, papa," she said, "but as I am to blame for all this outrageous extravagance, I want to economise somewhere to make up for it."

"And do you call it good proportion to buy a great deal too much to eat and then go around in botchy, home-made clothes to make up for it?"

"No," said Patty, "I don't believe it is. What can I do? I want to do something, and I don't—oh, papa, I don't want to give up those horses that you said you'd buy."

"Well, we'll fix it up this way, Patty, girl; we'll just pay off all these bills and start fresh. The extra expense we'll charge to experience account—experience is an awfully high-priced commodity, you know—and next month, while we won't exactly scrimp ourselves, we'll keep our eye on the accounts and watch them as they progress. As I've told you before, my darling, I don't expect you to become perfect, or even proficient, in these things all at once. You will need years of experience before the time can come when your domestic machinery will run without a flaw, if, indeed, it ever does. Now, never think of these January bills again. They are things of the past. Go and get your play-book, and let me hear you speak your piece."



CHAPTER XVI

A SUCCESSFUL PLAY

Mr. Hepworth came again to visit Boxley Hall, and while there heard about the play, and became so interested in the preparations that he offered to paint some scenery for it.

Patty jumped for joy at this, for the scenery had been their greatest stumbling-block.

And so the Saturday morning before the performance the renowned New York artist, Mr. Egerton Hepworth, walked over to Library Hall, escorted by a dozen merry young people of both sexes.

As a scenic artist Mr. Hepworth proved a great success and a rapid workman beside, for by mid-afternoon he had completed the one scene that was necessary—a view of Mount Olympus as supposed to be at the present date.

Though the actual work was sketchily done, yet the general effect was that of a beautiful Grecian grove with marble temple and steps, and surrounding trees and flowers, the whole of which seemed to be a sort of an island set in a sea of blue sky and fleecy clouds.

At least, that is the way Elsie Morris declared it looked, and though Mr. Hepworth confessed that that was not the idea he had intended to convey, yet if they were satisfied, he was. The young people declared themselves more than satisfied, and urged Mr. Hepworth so heartily to attend the performance—offering him the choicest seats in the house and as many as he wanted—that he finally consented to come if he could persuade his friends at Boxley Hall to put him up for the night. Patty demurely promised to try her best to coax her father to agree to this arrangement, and though she said she had little hope of succeeding, Mr. Hepworth seemed willing to take his chances.

At last the great day arrived, and Patty rose early that morning, for there were many last things to be attended to; and being a capable little manager, it somehow devolved on Patty to see that all the loose ends were gathered up and all the minor matters looked after.

Kenneth Harper had been down twice to rehearsals, and had already become a favourite with the Vernondale young people. Indeed, the cheery, willing, capable young man couldn't help getting himself liked wherever he went. He stayed with his aunt, Miss Daggett, when in Vernondale, which greatly delighted the heart of the old lady.

The play was to be on Friday night, because then there would be no school next day; and Friday morning Patty was as busy as a bee sorting tickets, counting out programmes, making lists, and checking off memoranda, when Pansy appeared at her door with the unwelcome announcement that Miss Daggett had sent word she would like to have Patty call on her. Unwelcome, only because Patty was so busy, otherwise she would have been glad of a summons to the house next-door, for she had taken a decided fancy to her erratic neighbour.

Determining she would return quickly, and smiling to herself as she thought that probably she would be asked to do so, she ran over to Miss Daggett's.

"Come in, child, come in," called the old lady from the upper hall, "come right up here. I'm in a terrible quandary!"

Patty went upstairs, and then followed Miss Daggett into her bedroom.

"I've decided," said the old lady, with the air of one announcing a decision the importance of which would shake at least two continents, "I've decided to go to that ridiculous show of yours."

"Oh, have you?" said Patty, "that's very nice, I'm sure."

"I'm glad you're pleased," said the old lady grimly, "though I'm not going for the sake of pleasing you."

"Are you going to please your nephew, Mr. Harper?" said Patty, not being exactly curious, but feeling that she was expected to inquire.

"No, I'm not," said Miss Daggett curtly. "I'm going to please myself; and I called you over here to advise me what to wear. Here are all my best dresses, but there's none of them made in the fashions people wear nowadays, and it's too late to have them fixed over. I wish you'd tell me which one you think comes nearest to being right."

Patty looked in amazement at the great heap of beautiful gowns that lay upon the bed. They were made of the richest velvets and satins and laces, but were all of such an antiquated mode that it seemed impossible to advise anyone to wear them without remodeling. But, as Miss Daggett was very much in earnest, Patty concluded that she must necessarily make some choice.

Accordingly, she picked out a lavender moire silk, trimmed with soft white lace at the throat and wrist. Although old-fashioned, it was plain and very simply made, and would, Patty thought, be less conspicuous than the more elaborate gowns.

"That's just the one I had decided on myself," said Miss Daggett, "and I should have worn that anyway, whatever you had said."

"Then why did you call me over?" said Patty, moved to impatience by this inconsistency.

"Oh, because I wanted your opinion, and I wanted to ask you about some other things. Kenneth is coming to-night, you know."

"Yes, I know it," said Patty, "and I am very glad."

This frank statement and the clear, unembarrassed light in Patty's eyes seemed to please Miss Daggett, and she kissed the pretty face upturned to hers, but she only said: "Run along now, child, go home, I don't want company now."

"I'm glad of it," Patty thought to herself, but she only said: "Good-bye, then, Miss Daggett; I'll see you this evening."

"Wait a minute, child; come back here, I'm not through with you yet."

Patty groaned in spirit, but went back with a smiling face.

Miss Daggett regarded her steadily.

"You're pretty busy, I suppose, to-day," she said, "getting ready for your play."

"Yes, I am," said Patty frankly.

"And you didn't want to take the time to come over here to see me, did you?"

"Oh, I shall have time enough to do all I want to do," said Patty.

"Don't evade my question, child. You didn't want to come, did you?"

"Well, Miss Daggett," said Patty, "you are often quite frank with me, so now I'll be frank with you, and confess that when your message came I did wish you had chosen some other day to send for me; for I certainly have a lot of little things to do, but I shall get them all done, I know, and I am very glad to learn that you are coming to the entertainment."

"You are a good girl," said Miss Daggett; "you are a good girl, and I like you very much. Good-bye."

"Good-bye," said Patty, and she ran downstairs and over home, determined to work fast enough to make up for the time she had lost.

She succeeded in this, and when her father came home at night, bringing Mr. Hepworth with him, they found a very charming little hostess awaiting them and Boxley Hall imbued throughout with an air of comfortable hospitality.

After dinner Patty donned her Diana costume and came down to ask her father's opinion of it. He declared it was most jaunty and becoming, and Mr. Hepworth said it was especially well adapted to Patty's style, and that he would like to paint her portrait in that garb. This seemed to Mr. Fairfield a good idea, and they at once made arrangements for future sittings.

Patty was greatly pleased.

"Won't it be fine, papa?" she said. "It will be an ancestral portrait to hang in Boxley Hall and keep till I'm an old lady like Miss Daggett."

When they reached Library Hall, where the play was to be given, Patty, going in at the stage entrance, was met by a crowd of excited girls who announced that Florence Douglass had gone all to pieces.

"What do you mean?" cried Patty. "What's the matter with her?"

"Oh, hysterics!" said Elsie Morris, in great disgust. "First she giggles and then she bursts into tears, and nobody can do anything with her."

"Well, she's going to be Niobe, anyway," said Patty, "so let her go on the stage and cut up those tricks, and the audience will think it's all right."

"Oh, no, Patty, we can't let her go on the stage," said Frank Elliott; "she'd queer the whole show."

"Well, then, we'll have to leave that part out," said Patty.

"Oh, dear!" wailed Elsie, "that's the funniest part of all. I hate to leave that part out."

"I know it," said Patty; "and Florence does it so well. I wish she'd behave herself. Well, I can't think of anything else to do but omit it. I might ask papa; he can think of things when nobody else can."

"That's so," said Marian, "Uncle Fred has a positive genius for suggestion."

"I'll step down in the audience and ask him," said Frank.

In five minutes Frank was back again, broadly smiling, and Mr. Hepworth was with him.

"It's all right," said Frank. "I knew Uncle Fred would fix it. All he said was, 'Hepworth, you're a born actor, take the part yourself'; and Mr. Hepworth, like the brick he is, said he'd do it."

"I fairly jumped at the chance," said the young artist, smiling down into Patty's bright face. "I was dying to be in this thing anyway. And they tell me the costume is nothing but several hundred yards of Greek draperies, so I think it will fit me all right."

"But you don't know the lines," said Patty, delighted at this solution of the dilemma, but unable to see how it could be accomplished.

"Oh, that's all right," said Mr. Hepworth merrily. "I shall make up my lines as I go along, and when I see that anyone else wants to talk, I shall stop and give them a chance."

It sounded a little precarious, but as there was nothing else to do, and Florence Douglass begged them to put somebody—anybody—in her place and let her go home, they all agreed to avail themselves of Mr. Hepworth's services.

And it was fortunate they did, for though the rest of the characters were bright and clever representations, yet it was Mr. Hepworth's funny impromptu jokes and humourous actions in the character of Niobe that made the hit of the evening. Indeed, he and Kenneth Harper quite carried off the laurels from the other amateurs; but so delighted were the Vernondale young people at the success of the whole play that they were more than willing to give the praise where it belonged.

Perhaps the only one in the audience who failed to appreciate Mr. Hepworth's clever work was Miss Rachel Daggett. She had eyes only for her beloved nephew, with an occasional side glance for her pretty young neighbour.

After the entertainment there was a little dance for the young people; and Patty, as president of the club, received so many compliments and so much congratulation that it's a wonder her curly head was not turned. But as she walked home between her father and Mr. Hepworth, she declared that the success of the evening was in no way consequent upon her efforts, but depended entirely on the talents of the two travelling comedians from the city.



CHAPTER XVII

ENTERTAINING RELATIVES

Spring and summer followed one another in their usual succession, and as the months went by, Boxley Hall became more beautiful and more attractively homelike, both inside and out. Mr. Fairfield bought a pair of fine carriage horses and a pony and cart for Patty's own use. A man was engaged to take care of these and also to look after the lawn and garden.

Patty, learning much from experience and also from Aunt Alice's occasional visits, developed into a sensible and capable little housekeeper. So determined was she to make the keeping of her father's house a real success that she tried most diligently to correct all her errors and improve her powers.

Patty had a natural aptitude for domestic matters, and after some rough places were made smooth and some sharp corners rounded off, things went quite as smoothly as in many houses where the presiding genius numbered twice Patty's years.

With June came vacation, and Patty was more than glad, for she was never fond of school, and now could have all her time to devote to her beloved home.

And, too, she wanted very much to invite her cousins to visit her, which was only possible in vacation time.

"I think, papa," she said, as they sat on the veranda one June evening after dinner, "I think I shall have a house party. I shall invite all my cousins from Elmbridge and Philadelphia and Boston and we'll have a grand general reunion that will be most beautiful."

"You'll invite your aunts and uncles, too?" said Mr. Fairfield.

"Why, I don't see how we'd have room for so many," said Patty.

"And, of course," went on her father, "you'd invite the whole Elliott family. It wouldn't be fair to leave them out of your house-party just because they happen to live in Vernondale."

Then Patty saw that her father was laughing at her.

"I know you're teasing me now, papa," she said, "but I don't see why. Just because I want to ask my cousins to come here and return the visits I made to them last year."

"But you didn't visit them all at once, my child, and you certainly could not expect to entertain them here all at once. Your list of cousins is a very long one, and even if there were room for them in the house, the care and responsibility of such a house party would be enough to land you in a sanitarium when it was over, if not before."

"There are an awful lot of them," said Patty.

"And they're not altogether congenial," said her father. "Although I haven't seen them as lately as you have, yet I can't help thinking, from what you told me, that the Barlows and the St. Clairs would enjoy themselves better if they visited here at different times, and I'm sure the same is true of your Boston cousins."

"You're right," said Patty, "as you always are, and I don't believe I'd have much fun with all that company at once, either. So I think we'll have them in detachments, and first I'll just invite Ethelyn and Reginald down for a week or two. I don't really care much about having them, but Ethelyn has written so often that she wants to come that I don't see how I can very well get out of it."

"If she wants to come, you certainly ought to ask her. You visited there three months, you know."

"Yes, I know it, and they were very kind to me. Aunt Isabel had parties, and did things for my pleasure all the time. Well, I'll invite them right away. Perhaps I ought to ask Aunt Isabel, too."

"Yes, you might ask her," said Mr. Fairfield, "and she can bring the children down, but she probably will not stay as long as they do."

So Patty wrote for her aunt and cousins, and the first day of July they arrived.

Mrs. St. Clair, who was Patty's aunt only by marriage, was a very fashionable woman of a pretty, but somewhat artificial, type. She liked young people, and had spared no pains to make Patty's visit to her a happy one. But it was quite evident that she expected Patty to return her hospitality in kind, and she had been at Boxley Hall but a few hours before she began to inquire what plans Patty had made for her entertainment.

Now, though Patty had thought out several little pleasures for her cousins, it hadn't occurred to her that Aunt Isabel would expect parties made for her.

She evaded her aunt's questions, however, and waited for an opportunity to speak alone with her father about it.

"Why, papa," she exclaimed that evening after their guests had gone to their rooms, "Aunt Isabel expects me to have a tea or reception or something for her."

"Nonsense, child, she can't think of such a thing."

"Yes, she does, papa, and what's more, I want to do it. She was very kind to me and I'd rather please her than Ethelyn. I don't care much for Ethelyn anyway."

"She isn't just your kind, is she, my girl?"

"No, she isn't like Marian nor any of the club girls. She has her head full of fashions, and beaux, and grown-up things of all sorts. She is just my age, but you'd think she was about twenty, wouldn't you?"

"Yes, she does look almost as old as that, and she acts quite as old. Reginald is a nice boy."

"Yes, but he's pompous and stuck-up. He always did put on grand airs. Aunt Isabel does, too, but she's so kind-hearted and generous nobody can help liking her."

"Well, have a party for her if you want to, chicken. But don't take the responsibility of it entirely on yourself. I should think you might make it a pretty little afternoon tea. Get Aunt Alice to make out the invitation list; she knows better than you what ladies to invite, and then let Pacetti send up whatever you want for the feast. I've no doubt Pansy will be willing to attend to the floral decoration of the house."

"I've no doubt she will," said Patty, laughing. "The trouble will be to stop her before she turns the whole place into a horticultural exhibit."

"Well, go ahead with it, Patty. I think it will please your aunt very much, but don't wear yourself out over it."

Next morning at breakfast Patty announced her plan for an afternoon tea, and Aunt Isabel was delighted.

"You dear child," she exclaimed, "how sweet of you! I hate to have you go to any trouble on my account, but I shall be so pleased to meet the Vernondale ladies. I want to know what kind of people my niece is growing up among."

"I'm sure you'll like them, Aunt Isabel. Aunt Alice's friends are lovely. And then I'll ask the mothers of the Tea Club girls, and my neighbour, Miss Daggett, but I don't believe she'll come."

"Is that the rich Miss Daggett?" asked Aunt Isabel curiously; "the queer one?"

"I don't know whether she's rich or not," said Patty. "I dare say she is, though, because she has lovely things; but she certainly can be called queer. I'm very fond of her, though; she's awfully nice to me, and I like her in spite of her queerness."

"But you'll ask some young ladies, too, won't you?" said Ethelyn. "I don't care very much for queer old maids and middle-aged married ladies."

"Oh, this isn't for you, Ethel," said Patty. "I'll have a children's party for you and Reginald some other day."

"Children's party, indeed," said Ethelyn, turning up her haughty little nose. "You know very well, Patty, I haven't considered myself a child for years."

"Nor I," said Reginald.

"Well, I consider myself one," said Patty. "I'm not in a bit of hurry to be grown-up; but we're going to have a lovely sailing party, Ethelyn, on Fourth of July, and I'm sure you'll enjoy that."

"Are any young men going?" said Ethelyn.

"There are a lot of boys going," said Patty. "But the only young men will be my father and Uncle Charley and Mr. Hepworth."

"Who is Mr. Hepworth?"

"He's an artist friend of papa's, who comes out quite often, and who always goes sailing with us when we have sailing parties."

Aunt Alice was more than willing to help Patty with her project, and the result was a very pretty little afternoon tea at Boxley Hall.

"I'm so glad I brought my white crepe-de-chine," said Aunt Isabel, as she dressed for the occasion.

"I'm glad, too," said Patty; "for it's a lovely gown and you look sweet in it."

"I've brought a lot of pretty dresses, too," said Ethelyn, "and I suppose I may as well put on one of the prettiest to-day, as there's no use in wasting them on those children's parties you're talking about."

"Do just as you like, Ethelyn," said Patty, knowing that her cousin was always overdressed on all occasions, and therefore it made little difference what she wore.

And, sure enough, Ethelyn arrayed herself in a most resplendent gown which, though very beautiful, was made in a style more suited to a belle of several seasons than a young miss of sixteen.

Patty wore one of her pretty little white house dresses; and Aunt Alice, in a lovely gray gown, assisted her to receive the guests, and to introduce Mrs. St. Clair and her children.

Among the late arrivals was Miss Daggett. Her coming created a sensation, for, as was well known in Vernondale, she rarely attended social affairs of any sort. But, for some unknown reason, she chose to accept Patty's invitation, and, garbed in an old-fashioned brown velvet, she was presented to Mrs. St. Clair.

"I'm so glad to see you," said the latter, shaking hands effusively.

"Humph!" said Miss Daggett. "Why should you be glad to see me, pray?"

"Why, because—because—" Mrs. St. Clair floundered a little, and seemed really unable to give any reason.

"Because you've heard that I'm rich and old and queer?" said Miss Daggett.

This was exactly true, but Mrs. St. Clair did not care to admit it, so she said: "Why, no, not that; but I've heard my niece speak of you so often that I felt anxious to meet you."

"Well, I'm not afraid of anything Patty Fairfield said about me; she's a dear little girl; I'm very fond of her."

"Why do you call her little girl?" said Mrs. St. Clair. "Patty is in her seventeenth year; surely that is not quite a child."

"But she is a child at heart," said Miss Daggett, "and I am glad of it. I would far rather see her with her pretty, sunshiny childish ways than to see her like that overdressed little minx standing over there beside her, whoever she may be."

"That's my daughter," said Mrs. St. Clair, without, however, looking as deeply offended as she might have done.

"Oh, is it?" said Miss Daggett, sniffing. "Well, I see no reason to change my opinion of her, if she is."

"No," said Mrs. St. Clair, "of course we are each entitled to our own opinion. Now, I think my daughter more appropriately dressed than my niece. And I think your nephew will agree with me," she added, smiling.

"My nephew!" snapped Miss Daggett. "Do you know him?"

"Oh, yes, indeed; we met Mr. Harper at a reception in New York not long ago, and he was very much charmed with my daughter Ethelyn."

"He may have seemed so," said Miss Daggett scornfully. "He is a very polite young man. But let me tell you, he admires Patty Fairfield more than any other girl he has ever seen. He told me so himself. And now, go away, if you please, I'm tired of talking to you."

Mrs. St. Clair was not very much surprised at this speech, for Patty had told her of Miss Daggett's summary method of dismissing people; and so, with a sweet smile and a bow, the fashionable matron left the eccentric and indignant spinster.



CHAPTER XVIII

A SAILING PARTY

After Aunt Isabel had gone home, Patty devoted herself to the entertainment of her young cousins. And they seemed to require a great deal of entertainment—both Ethelyn and Reginald wanted something done for their pleasure all the time. They did not hesitate to express very freely their opinions of the pleasures planned for them, and as they were sophisticated young persons, they frequently scorned the simple gaieties in which Patty and her Vernondale companions found pleasure. However, they condescended to be pleased at the idea of a sailing party, for, as there was no water near their own home, a yacht was a novelty to them. At first Ethelyn thought to appear interesting by expressing timid doubts as to the safety of the picnic party, but she soon found that the Vernondale young people had no foolish fears of that sort.

Fourth of July was a bright, clear day, warm, but very pleasant, with a good stiff breeze blowing. Patty was up early, and when Ethelyn came downstairs, she found her cousin, with the aid of Mancy and Pansy, packing up what seemed to be luncheon enough for the whole party.

"Doesn't anybody else take anything?" she inquired.

"Oh, yes," said Patty, "they all do. I'm only taking cold chicken and stuffed eggs. You've no idea what an appetite sailing gives you."

Ethelyn looked very pretty in a yachting suit of white serge, while Patty's sailor gown was of more prosaic blue flannel, trimmed with white braid.

"That's a sweet dress, Ethelyn," said Patty, "but I'm awfully afraid you'll spoil it. You know we don't go in a beautiful yacht, all white paint and polished brass; we go in a big old schooner that's roomy and safe but not overly clean."

"Oh, it doesn't matter," said Ethelyn; "I dare say I shall spoil it, but I've nothing else that's just right to wear."

"All aboard!" shouted a cheery voice, and Kenneth Harper's laughing face appeared in the doorway.

"Oh, good-morning!" cried Patty, smiling gaily back at him; "I'm so glad to see you. This is my cousin, Miss St. Clair. Ethelyn, may I present Mr. Harper?"

Immediately Ethelyn assumed a coquettish and simpering demeanour.

"I've met Mr. Harper before," she said; "though I dare say he doesn't remember me."

"Oh, yes, indeed I do," said Kenneth gallantly. "We met at a reception in the city, and I am delighted to see you again, especially on such a jolly occasion as I feel sure to-day is going to be."

"Do you think it is quite safe?" said Ethelyn, with what she considered a charming timidity. "I've never been sailing, you know, and I'm not very brave."

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