HotFreeBooks.com
Patty's Friends
by Carolyn Wells
Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Then let me show it to you, please. I'll come over to-morrow morning for a stroll. May I?"

"I don't know," said Patty, hesitatingly, for she was uncertain what she ought to do in the matter. "You see, I'm with Lady Hamilton, and whatever she says——"

"Oh, nonsense! She'll spare you from her side for an hour or two. There's really a lot to see."

Again poor Patty realised her anomalous position. But for her piled-up hair and her trained gown, the man would never have dreamed of asking her to go for a walk unchaperoned. Patty had learned the ethics of London etiquette for girls of eighteen, but she was not versed in the ways of older young women.

"We'll see about it," she said, non-committally, and then she almost laughed outright at the sudden thought of Mr. Snowden's surprise should he see her next day in one of her own simple morning frocks of light muslin. Lady Hamilton's morning gowns were Paris affairs, with trailing frills and long knotted ribbons.

"It seems to amuse you," said Mr. Snowden, a trifle piqued at her merriment.

"You'll be amused, too," she said, "if you see me to-morrow."

Then something in the man's pleasant face seemed to invite confidence, and she said, impulsively:

"I may as well tell you that I'm masquerading. I'm not a grown-up lady at all. I'm not much more than a schoolgirl—not quite eighteen years old. But—but my box didn't come, and—and I had to wear Lady Hamilton's gown. It makes me seem a lot older, I know, but I had to do it, or stay away from dinner."

Mr. Snowden looked first amazed, and then he burst into laughter.

"I beg your pardon, I'm sure," he said, "but I had no idea! And so Lady Hamilton is your chaperon? I see. Of course. Well, we'll have the stroll just the same, if you will, and we'll ask her to go with us."

"Isn't she the dearest thing?" exclaimed Patty, looking at Lady Kitty across the table, and feeling much more at her ease now that she had confessed her position.

"She is a beautiful and charming woman," agreed Mr. Snowden.

And then it was time for Patty to turn back to Mr. Merivale, for she had learned that one must divide the time fairly between dinner neighbors.

"I didn't offend you, did I?" said young Merivale, eagerly. "You turned so quickly—and—and you—er—blushed, you know, and so I was afraid—er——"

But Patty was of no mind to confess the fewness of her years to everybody, and her mischievous spirit returned as she determined to chaff this amusing young man.

"What!" she said, reproachfully, "an Englishman, and afraid!"

"Afraid of nothing but a fair lady's displeasure. All true Englishmen surrender to that."

"I'm not displeased," said Patty, dimpling and smiling; "in fact, I've even forgotten what you said."

"That's good! Now we can start fresh. Will you save a lot of dances for me to-night?"

"Oh, will there be dancing?" exclaimed Patty, delighted at the prospect.

"Yes, indeed; in the big ballroom. Will you give me all the waltzes?"

Patty looked at him in amazement. "You said you were going to 'start fresh,'" she said, "and now you've certainly done so!"

But the American phrase was lost on the Englishman, who only proceeded to repeat his request.

Meantime, Mr. Snowden was asking Patty for a dance.

"Certainly," she said, "I shall be pleased to dance with you."

"You'll give me more than one dance or you needn't give me any," grumbled young Merivale.

"All right," said Patty, quickly. "Mr. Snowden, I've just had a dance 'returned with thanks,' so you can have that, if you wish it."

"I do indeed," he replied, enthusiastically, and Mr. Merivale relapsed into a sulky silence.

Then Lady Herenden rose from the table, and the ladies all rose and followed her up to one of the beautiful salons, where coffee was served to them. Patty managed to secure a seat on a divan beside Lady Hamilton.

"You quite take my breath away, little Patty," said her friend, in a low voice. "You are already a favourite, and in a fair way to become the belle of the ball."

"I try not to act too old, Kitty," said Patty, earnestly, "but truly everybody thinks I'm a society lady. They don't even look on me as a debutante."

"Never mind, dearie; have all the fun you can. Enjoy the dancing, and don't care what anybody thinks."

Encouraged by Lady Hamilton's approval, Patty ceased to think about her demeanour and proceeded to enjoy the conversation of those about her.

Lady Herenden was especially kind to her, and singled out the young American for her special favour and attention.



CHAPTER VIII

THE EARL OF RUTHVEN

After a time the men came from the dining-room and rejoined the ladies.

Patty was chatting with a group of young women, and when she glanced around, it was to see Lord Ruthven standing at her side.

"I was miles away from you at dinner," he said, "but now there is an opportunity, let us begin our lessons in English at once."

"Do," said Patty, smiling; "where shall be our classroom?"

"We'll pre-empt this sofa," said Lord Ruthven, indicating, as he spoke, a gold-framed Louis XIV. tete-a-tete. "We'll pretend that it is a real schoolroom, with four walls hung with maps and charts—just such as you used to have when you were a little girl."

Patty smiled at this reference to her far-away school-days, but fell in with his mood.

"Yes," she said, "and you must be the stern schoolmaster, and I the stupid pupil who has been kept in after school."

But their merry game was interrupted by Lady Herenden's invitation to the ballroom.

Escorted by Lord Ruthven, Patty followed the others to the great hall where they were to dance.

It was a resplendent apartment, with balconies and boxes, from which the spectators could look down upon the dancers. A fine orchestra furnished the music, and Patty, who loved to dance, found her feet involuntarily keeping time to the harmonious strains.

"Shall we have a try?" said Lord Ruthven, and in a moment they were gliding over the smooth floor.

Patty already knew that English dancing is not like the American steps, but she was so completely mistress of the art, that she could adapt herself instantly to any variation.

"I won't compliment your dancing," said the Earl, as the waltz was finished, "for you must have been told so often how wonderfully well you dance. But I must tell you what a pleasure it is to dance with you."

Patty thought this a very pretty speech, and graciously gave his lordship some other dances for which he asked, and then, leaving her with Lady Herenden, he excused himself and went away. Then Patty was besieged with would-be partners. Her dancing had called forth the admiration of everybody, and the young men crowded about, begging to see her dance-card.

Only Mr. Merivale stood aloof. He was still sulky, and he looked so like a cross schoolboy that Patty took pity on him.

She slightly nodded her head at him by way of invitation, and he came slowly toward her.

"Which two do you want?" she said, demurely.

Merivale's face lighted up. "You are indeed kind," he said, in a low voice. "I will take any you will give me. My card is blank as yet."

So Patty arranged the dances, and the young man went away looking much happier. The evening was all too short. Patty whirled through dance after dance, and between them was restored to Lady Herenden or Lady Hamilton, only to be claimed the next minute by another partner.

"What a belle it is!" said Lady Herenden, patting the girl's shoulder affectionately. "You have made a real sensation, Miss Fairfield."

"But I'm Cinderella, to-night," she said, gaily.

"Wait till to-morrow, and see all my popularity vanish."

Lady Herenden did not understand, but took it as merry chaff and paid no heed.

Then Lord Ruthven came for the last dance.

"This is an extra, Miss Fairfield," he said; "will you give it to me?"

Patty agreed, but as they walked away, his Lordship said:

"You look really tired; would you not rather sit on the terrace than dance?"

"I am tired," said Patty, honestly; "I think it's carrying this heavy train around. I've never before danced in a long gown."

"Then you shall rest. Let us sit on the terrace, and I'll send for an ice for you."

Lord Ruthven was very kind and courteous. He found a delightful corner of the terrace unoccupied, and he arranged two wicker easy-chairs, where they might be just out of the way of the promenaders. He asked a footman to bring the ices, and then seated himself beside Patty.

"Is it not beautiful," he said, "the rose garden in the moonlight? One can almost fancy the roses opening beneath the moon's light as in daytime by the sun's warm rays."

"Yes," said Patty, falling in with his fanciful mood, "and I think, perhaps, at night, the white roses and the pale yellow ones bloom. Then at daybreak, the pink or blush roses open, and at midday the deep red ones."

"You have the mind of a poet, Miss Fairfield. Where do you get those graceful conceits?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Patty, carelessly; "I think they are the result of this beautiful moonlight night, and these picturesque surroundings."

"Yes, I am sure that is true. You have a soul that responds to all beauty in art or nature. Let us take a short turn in the rose garden, and get a view of this noble old house with the moonlight full upon it."

"But I want my ice cream," objected Patty, who still had her schoolgirl appetite.

"We'll stay but a moment, and we'll return to find it awaiting us," gently insisted Lord Ruthven, and Patty amiably went down the terrace steps and along the garden path with him.

Near a clump of cedars, only a short distance away, they turned to look at the beautiful old house. Herenden Hall was always a splendid picture, but especially at night, backgrounded by a gray sky full of racing clouds, and touched at every gable by the silver moonlight, it was enchanting.

"Oh," said Patty, drawing a sigh, "it is the most wonderful effect I ever saw. See that great, quiet roof sloping darkly away, and beneath, the gay lights of the terrace, and the laughter of happy people."

"It is a beautiful picture," said Lord Ruthven, looking steadily at Patty, "but not so beautiful as another one I see. A lovely face framed in soft, shining curls, against a background of dark cedar trees."

His tone, even more than his words, alarmed Patty. She was not used to such speeches as this, and she said, gravely: "Take me back to the house, please, Lord Ruthven."

"Not just yet," pleaded the nobleman. "Dear Miss Fairfield, listen to me a moment. Let me tell you something. Let me justify myself. I oughtn't to talk to you like this, I know—but the fact is—oh, the fact is you've completely bowled me over."

"What?" said Patty, not at all comprehending his meaning.

"Yes; I'm done for—and at first sight! And by an American! But it's a fact. I adore you, Miss Fairfield—I'm so desperately in love with you that I can't down it. Oh, I know I oughtn't to be talking to you like this. I ought to see your father, and all that. And I will, as soon as I can, but—oh, I say, Patty, tell me you like me a little!"

It suddenly dawned on Patty that she was having a proposal! And from an English Earl! And all on account of her grown-up gown! The absurdity of it impressed her far more than the romantic side of it, and though a little frightened, she couldn't help smiling at the Earl's tragic tones.

"Nonsense, Lord Ruthven," she said, though her cheeks were pink; "don't talk like that. Please cut me that lovely cluster of roses, and then take me back to Lady Hamilton."

The Earl drew a penknife from his pocket, and cut the flowers she asked for. Then he stood, trimming off the thorns, and looking down at her.

Patty had never looked so winsome. Her garb made her seem a grown woman, and yet the situation alarmed her, and her perplexed face was that of a troubled child.

"Tell me," he repeated, "that you like me a little."

"Of course I like you a little," returned Patty, in a matter-of-fact voice. "Why shouldn't I?"

"That's something," said the Earl, in a tone of satisfaction, "and now will you accept these flowers as a gift from me? As, for the moment, I've nothing else to offer."

Patty took the flowers in both hands, but Lord Ruthven still held them, too, saying: "And will you let them mean——?"

"No," cried Patty, "they don't mean anything—not anything at all!"

Lord Ruthven clasped Patty's two hands, roses and all, in his own.

"They do," he said quietly; "they mean I love you. Do you understand?"

He looked straight into the troubled, beseeching eyes that met his own.

"Please let me go, Lord Ruthven—please!" said Patty, her hands trembling in his own.

"You may go, if you will first call me by some less formal name. Patty, dearest, say Sylvester—just once!"

This desperate request was too much for Patty's sense of humour.

"Why can't I say it twice?" she said in a low tone, but her voice was shaking with laughter.

"You little witch!" exclaimed the Earl, and his clasp tightened on her hands. "Now you shan't go until you have said it twice!"

"Sylvester—Sylvester—there!" said Patty, her eyes twinkling with fun, and her lips on the verge of laughter. Then, gently disengaging her hands from his, she gathered up her long white train, and prepared to run away.

The Earl laid a detaining hand on her arm. "Miss Fairfield," he said, "Patty, I won't keep you now, but to-morrow you'll give me an opportunity, won't you? to tell you——"

"Wait till to-morrow, my lord," said Patty, really laughing now. "You will probably have changed your mind."

"How little you know me!" he cried, reproachfully, and then they had reached the terrace, and joined the others.

Soon after the guests all retired to their own rooms, and the moonlight on Herenden Hall saw no more the gay scene on the terrace.

Patty, passing through her own room, discovered that her two trunks had arrived and had been unpacked. She went straight on and tapped at Lady Hamilton's door. "Get me out of this gown, please, Marie; I've had quite enough of being a grown-up young woman!"

"What's the matter, Patty?" said Lady Kitty, looking round. "Didn't you have a good time this evening?"

"The time of my life!" declared Patty, dropping into her own graphic speech, as she emerged from the heap of lace and silk. "I'll see you later, Kitty," and without further word she returned to her own room.

And later, when Marie had been dismissed, Patty crept back to Lady Hamilton, a very different Patty, indeed. Her hair fell in two long braids, with curly tails; a dainty dressing-gown enveloped her slight figure; and on her bare feet were heelless satin slippers. She found Lady Kitty in an armchair before the wood fire, awaiting her.

Patty threw a big, fat sofa pillow at her friend's feet, and settled herself cosily upon it.

"Well, girlie," said Lady Hamilton, "come to the story at once. What happened to you as a grown-up?"

"What usually happens to grown-ups, I suppose," said Patty, demurely; "the Earl of Ruthven proposed to me."

"What!" cried Lady Hamilton, starting up, and quite upsetting Patty from her cushion.

"Yes, he did," went on Patty, placidly; "shall I accept him?"

"Patty, you naughty child, tell me all about it at once! Oh, what shall I say to your father and mother?"

Patty grinned. "Yes, it was all your fault, Kitty. If I hadn't worn your gown, he would never have dreamed of such a thing."

"But, Patty, it can't be true. You must have misunderstood him."

"Not I. It's my first proposal, to be sure; but I know what a man means when he says he loves me and begs me to call him by his first name. And I did—twice."

Patty went off in shrieks of laughter at the remembrance of it, and she rocked back and forth on her cushion in paroxysms of mirth.

"Patty, behave yourself, and tell me the truth. I've a mind to shake you!"

"I am shaking," said Patty, trying to control her voice. "And I am telling you the truth. His first name is Sylvester. Lovely name!"

"Where did this occur?"

"In the rose garden. Oh, right near the terrace. Not a dozen yards away from you all. I'm sure if you'd been listening, you could have heard me say, 'Sylvester—Sylvester!'"

Again Patty went off in uncontrollable merriment at this recollection, and Lady Kitty had to laugh too.

"What did you tell him?"

"I told him to wait till to-morrow, and he'd probably change his mind. And I see my trunks have come, so he surely will. You see he proposed to that long-tailed gown and jewelled tiara I had on——"

"It wasn't a tiara."

"Well, it looked something like one. I'm sure he thought it was. He doubtless wants a dignified, stately Lady Ruthven, and he thought I was it. Oh, Kitty! if you could have heard him."

"I don't think it's nice of you, to take him that way."

"All right, I won't. But I'm not going to take him at all. Why, Kitty, when he sees me to-morrow in my own little pink muslin, he won't know me, let alone remembering what he said to me."

"Patty, you're incorrigible. I don't know what to say to you. But I hope your parents won't blame me for this."

"Of course they won't, Kitsie. You see it was an accident. A sort of case of mistaken identity. I don't mind it so much now that it's over, but I was scared stiff at the time. Only it was all so funny that it swallowed up my scare. Now I'll tell you the whole story."

So Patty told every word that the Earl had said to her during the evening, in the ballroom and on the terrace. And Lady Hamilton listened attentively.

"You were not a bit to blame, dear," she said, kindly, when the tale was finished. "I don't think you even flirted with him. But it's truly extraordinary that he should speak so soon."

"It was on the spur of the moment," declared Patty, with conviction. "You know, moonlight and roses and a summer evening have a romantic influence on some natures."

"What do you know of a romantic influence, you baby. Hop along to bed, now, and get up in the morning your own sweet, natural self—without a thought of Earls or moonlight."

"I will so," said Patty; "I didn't like it a bit, except that it was all so funny. Won't Nan howl?"

"She may, but I'm afraid your father will be annoyed. You know you're in my care, Patty."

"Don't you worry. I'll tell Daddy all about it. And I rather guess it will make him laugh."



CHAPTER IX

AN IMPORTANT DOCUMENT

It was the custom at Herenden Hall to serve morning tea to the guests in their rooms.

When Patty's tray was brought, she asked to have it taken into Lady Hamilton's room, and the two friends chatted cosily over their toast and teacups.

Lady Kitty, with a dainty dressing-jacket round her shoulders, was still nestled among her pillows, while Patty, in a blue kimono, curled up, Turk-fashion on the foot of the bed.

"It's a gorgeous day," observed Patty, stirring her tea, which she was trying to sip, though she hated it. "I'll be glad to explore that lovely rose garden without horrid old moonlit Earls."

"It's a wonderfully fine place, Patty; you really must go over the estate. I'll show you round myself."

"Thank you," said Patty, airily, "but I believe I have an engagement. Mr. Snowden, or Snowed on, or Snowed under, or whatever his name is, kindly offered to do that same."

"Yes, and he'll kindly withdraw his offer when he sees you in your own rightful raiment. I've a notion to put you in a pinafore, and give you a Teddy Bear to carry. There's no keeping you down any other way."

"Oh, don't be alarmed. I've no designs on the young men. I like the boys better, anyhow. That Jack Merivale is a chummy kind of a youth. That's the sort I like. Rest assured I won't trouble that wretched Earl. I won't even speak to him, and I'll make over to you whatever interest he may deign to show in me."

"As one Humpty Dumpty said, 'I'd rather see that on paper.'"

"So you shall," said Patty, and setting down her unfinished tea, she flew to the writing table.

Perching herself on the corner of the desk chair, she laid out a sheet of Lady Herenden's crested note paper, and took up a pen. "Shall I write the agreement as I please?" she said, "or will you dictate it?"

"I'll dictate," said Lady Kitty, smiling lazily at the foolery. But as she paused between sentences, Patty put in parentheses of her own, and when finished the remarkable document read thus:

"I, the undersigned, being of (fairly) sound mind, do hereby of my own free will (coerced by one Lady Hamilton) relinquish all interest or concern in the (illustrious) personage known as Sylvester, Earl of Ruthven (but I do think he has a lovely name), and should he show any interest in me, personally, I promise (gladly) to refer him to (the aforesaid) Lady Hamilton (though what she wants of him, I don't know!), and I hereby solemnly promise and agree, not to seek or accept any further acquaintance or friendship with the (Belted) gentleman above referred to.

"Furthermore, I (being still of sound mind, but it's tottering) promise not to talk or converse with the (Sylvester! Sylvester!) Earl of Ruthven, beyond the ordinary civilities of the day (whatever that may mean!), never to smile at him voluntarily (I can't help laughing at him), and never to wave my eyelashes at him across the table. (Why does she think I'd do that?)

"Witness my hand and seal,

"PATRICIA FAIRFIELD."

("Lady Patricia would sound great! Wouldn't it?")

"There, Kitty Cat," said Patty, tossing the paper to Lady Hamilton, "there's your agreement, and now, my dreams of glory over, I'll go and 'bind my hair and lace my bodice blue.' I always wondered how people bind their hair. Do you suppose they use skirt braid?"

But Lady Kitty was shaking with laughter over Patty's foolish "document" and offered no reply.

An hour or so later, Patty presented herself for inspection.

She wore a pale blue dimity, whose round, full blouse was belted with a soft ribbon. The skirt, with its three frills edged with tiny lace, came just to her instep, and disclosed dainty, patent-leather oxfords.

Her golden braids, crossed and recrossed low at the back of her head, were almost covered by a big butterfly bow of wide white ribbon. In fact, she was perfectly garbed for an American girl of eighteen, and the costume was more becoming to her pretty, young face than the trained gown of the night before.

Lady Hamilton was still at her dressing table.

"I feel quite at ease about you now," she said, looking up. "Nobody will propose to you in that rig. They'll be more likely to buy you a doll. I'm not nearly ready yet, but don't wait. Run along downstairs, you'll find plenty of people about."

Slowly Patty descended the great staircase, looking at the pictures and hanging rugs as she passed them.

"For mercy's sake, who is that?" was Lady Herenden's mental exclamation as the girl neared the lower floor.

"Good-morning, Lady Herenden," cried Patty, gaily, as she approached her hostess. "Don't look so surprised to see me, and I'll tell you all about it."

"Why, it's Miss Fairfield!" exclaimed the elder lady, making room for Patty on the sofa beside her.

"Yes, and I really owe you an explanation. You see, my boxes didn't come last night, and I had to wear one of Lady Hamilton's gowns at dinner. I couldn't tell you so, before all the guests, and so you didn't know me this morning in my own frock."

"It's astonishing what a difference it makes! You look years younger."

"I am. I'm not quite eighteen yet, and I wish you'd call me Patty, won't you?"

"I will, indeed," said Lady Herenden, answering the pretty smile that accompanied the request. "I knew Kitty Hamilton said you weren't out yet, and so, when I saw you last night, I just couldn't understand it. But I do now. Have you breakfasted, dearie?"

"Yes, thank you. And now, I want to go out and see the flowers, and the dogs. May I?"

"Yes, indeed. Run around as you like. You'll find people on the terrace and lawn, though there are no girls here as young as yourself."

"That doesn't matter. I like people of all ages. I've friends from four to forty."

"I'm not surprised. You're a friendly little thing. Be sure to go through the rose orchard; it's back of the rose garden, and you'll love it."

Hatless, Patty ran out into the sunshine, and, strolling through the rose garden, soon forgot all else in her delight at the marvellous array of blossoms.

As she turned a corner of a path, she came upon two men talking together. They were Lord Ruthven and Lord Herenden's head gardener.

"Yes," his lordship was saying, "you've done a good thing, Parker, in getting that hybrid. And this next bush is a fine one, too. Is it a Baroness Rothschild?"

"No," said Patty, carelessly joining in the conversation, "it's a Catherine Mermet."

"So it is, Miss," said the gardener, turning politely toward her, but Lord Ruthven, after a slight glance, paid no attention to the girl.

"Are you sure, Parker?" he said. "The Mermets are usually pinker."

"He doesn't know me! What larks!" thought Patty, gleefully. "I'll try again."

"Where is the rose orchard, Parker?" she asked, turning her full face toward the gardener, and leaving only the big white bow to greet the Earl.

Something in her voice startled Lord Ruthven, and he wheeled quickly about. "It is—it can't be—Miss Fairfield?"

"Good-morning, my lord," said Patty, with cool politeness. "This, of course," she thought to herself, "is the civility of the day."

"I will show you the rose orchard," went on the Earl. "Come with me."

"No, thank you," said Patty, turning again to the gardener. She was absurdly placed, and she felt a little embarrassed. But, on the other hand, she had pledged her word, and a silly performance it was! But she would keep it, at least until Lady Hamilton released her from her promise. Patty's ideas of honour were, perhaps, a little strained, but she took the promise of that burlesque document as seriously as if it had been of national importance. And now she was in a dilemma. To refuse to walk with the Earl was so rude, and yet to talk with him was to break her pledged word.

The gardener went on about his work, and the other two stood silent. For the first time in her life, Patty had a really difficult situation to cope with. If she could have laughed and talked naturally, it would have been easy to explain matters. But that absurd paper sealed her lips. Oh, why had she been so foolish?

She did not look at the Earl, but he gazed fixedly at her.

"I don't understand," he said. "Why are you so changed from last evening?"

Patty thought hard. She was allowed the "civilities of the day," so she must depend on those.

"Isn't it a charming morning?" she said, without, however, turning toward the man at her side.

"It is indeed. But why are you such an enigma? Are all Americans so puzzling?"

"And isn't the rose garden wonderful?" went on Patty, still looking off in the distance.

"Wonderful, of course. Please look at me. I believe, after all, you're Miss Fairfield's younger sister! Ah, I have guessed you at last!"

Patty still looked straight ahead, but an irrepressible smile dimpled the corners of her mouth.

"Do you think it will rain?" she said.

"By Jove, I won't stand this!" cried the Earl, impetuously. "I know you are yourself—the Miss Fairfield I talked with last night—but why you're masquerading as a schoolgirl, I don't know!"

At this Patty could restrain her mirth no longer, and her pretty laughter seemed to appease the Earl's irritation.

"Am I not fit to be looked at, or spoken to?" he said, more gently; "and if not, you must at least tell me why."

"I can't tell you why," said Patty, stifling her laughter, but still gazing at the far-away hills.

"Why can't you? Have you promised not to?" The Earl meant this as a jest, little thinking it was the truth, but Patty, now nearly choking with merriment, said demurely, "Yes, sir."

"Nonsense! I'm not going to eat you! Look at me, child."

"I can't," repeated Patty, in a small voice, and holding her wilful, golden head very straight, as she stared firmly ahead.

"Whom did you promise?"

"You have no right to ask."—"That," said Patty to herself, "is an ordinary incivility, but I can't help it!"

"I have a right to ask! And I don't care whether I have or not. You're a mischief, and I won't stand any more of your chaff. Who made you promise not to speak to me, or look at me?"

The Earl, quietly, but with a decided air, moved around until he faced Patty, and the laughing blue eyes were so full of fun that he laughed too.

"You ridiculous baby!" he cried; "what are you, anyway? One night, a charming young woman, the next day, a naughty child."

"I'm not naughty! Nobody made me promise. I did it of my own free will."

"But whom did you promise?"

"Lady Hamilton," said Patty, remembering all at once that the matter was to be referred to her.

"Oho! Well, now, see here. You just break that promise, as quick as you can, and I'll make it square with Lady Hamilton."

"Will you?" said Patty, drawing a long sigh of relief. "And will you blot out last evening, and pretend it never was, and begin our acquaintance from now?"

"I will," said the Earl, looking at her, curiously, "if you will tell me why you seem to have a dual personality."

Then Patty explained her appearance at dinner in Lady Hamilton's gown, and to her pleased surprise, the Earl laughed long and loudly.

"Best joke ever!" he declared; "a baby like you giving an imitation of the 'belle of the ball'!"

"I'm not so infantile," said Patty, pouting a little, for the Earl now treated her as if she were about twelve.

"You are!" he declared. "You ought to be in the schoolroom eating bread and jam."

"I'd like the bread and jam well enough, for I'm getting hungrier every minute."

"Well, it's an hour yet to luncheon time; come along and I'll show you the rose orchard. It may make you forget your gnawing pangs of hunger."

On pleasant terms, then, they went through the gate in the high hedge that surrounded the enclosure. The rose orchard was unique. It had originally been a fruit orchard, and as most of the trees were dead, and many of them fallen, roses had been trained over their trunks and branches. The gorgeous masses of bloom covered the old gnarled wood, and the climbing roses twined lovingly around branches and boughs. Here and there were rustic seats and arbours; and there were many bird-houses, whose tiny occupants were exceedingly tame and sociable. Several other guests were walking about, and Patty and the Earl joined a group which included their host and hostess.

"How do you like it?" said Lady Herenden, drawing Patty's arm through her own.

"It's the most beautiful place since the Garden of Eden," said Patty, so enthusiastically that everybody laughed.

Then Mr. Snowden sauntered up, and reminded Patty of her promise to go walking with him.

"You haven't seen the deer park yet," he said, "nor the carp pond; though I believe the carp are merely tradition. Still, the pond is there."

"Run along, child!" said Lady Herenden. "You'll just about have time for a pleasant stroll before luncheon."

Patty was greatly relieved when Mr. Snowden made no reference to her age or her costume. He treated her politely and chatted gaily as he led her around to see all the picturesque bits of woodland and meadow. The magnificent old place showed its age, for it had not been unduly renovated, though everything was in good order.

They went into the old church, which was on the estate, they visited the farmhouses and stables, and Patty found Mr. Snowden a kind and entertaining guide.



CHAPTER X

A MOMENTOUS INTERVIEW

The rest of their stay at Herenden Hall passed off delightfully. Patty fitted into her own niche, and everybody liked the natural, unaffected young girl.

She and Jack Merivale became good chums, and went fishing together, and rowing on the pond like old cronies.

It was Patty's nature to make friends quickly, and during her stay in Kent, she had a royal good time. Lord Ruthven talked over the matter with Lady Hamilton, and as he chose to consider it all a great joke on himself, she also took his view of it. As for Patty, she was so engrossed with other people that she nearly forgot all about the moonlight episode.

Only sometimes, when she chanced to catch sight of Lord Ruthven, she would say to herself, "Sylvester, Sylvester!" and then turn away to hide her laughter.

They stayed over until Tuesday, and then took the noon train back to London, Lady Herenden expressing an earnest wish that Patty would visit her again. Lady Kitty and Patty reached the Savoy duly, and Mr. Fairfield invited the returned travellers to dinner in the great Restaurant. This was a treat in itself, and Patty gleefully ran up to her room to dress for dinner.

"Lend me one of your gowns to wear, Kitty?" she said, roguishly, looking in at her friend's door.

"Go away, you bad child. You're not in my care, now. I shall confess all to your father to-night at dinner, and then I've done with you."

"You've chosen a wise time," said Patty, sagely. "Father's always especially good-natured at dinner."

"Let us hope he will be," said Lady Hamilton, who was really a little anxious about it all. But she need not have been, for when the story was told, both Mr. and Mrs. Fairfield looked upon it as a huge joke.

Nan, especially, was almost convulsed with laughter at the account Patty gave of the moonlight scene, and her tragic repetition in a stage whisper of "Sylvester, Sylvester!" was truly funny of itself.

"It couldn't be helped," said Mr. Fairfield, "and it was in no way your fault, Lady Hamilton. It would have been a pity to shut Patty in her room on such a gala occasion, and no one could foresee that she was going to throw herself at the Earl's head!"

"Father!" exclaimed Patty, "I didn't do any such thing! He threw himself at my feet, if you please."

"Well, it's all right, chickabiddy, but don't let it happen again. At least, not for many years, yet. I suppose some time, in the far future, I shall be asked to be a father-in-law to a Duke or a Count, but let's put it off as long as possible."

"Then Nan will be Dowager Duchess," cried irrepressible Patty, "won't that be fun!"

"I can do it," said Nan, with an air of self-satisfaction that made them all laugh.

"I'm glad you exonerate me," said Lady Hamilton, with a sigh of relief. "And since I let Patty appear too old, I'm going to average matters in this way. Next week is the child's birthday, and I want to give her a children's party, if I may. You and your husband may come, Mrs. Fairfield, if you'll both dress as children of tender years."

"We'll do it," cried Mr. Fairfield. "This is an inspiration of yours, Lady Hamilton, and will, as you say, quite even things up."

Then plans were speedily made for the children's party. It was only a week to Patty's birthday, but Lady Kitty said that was long enough ahead to send invitations to an afternoon affair.

For the party was to be held from three to six, and each guest was asked to dress as a small child. Patty put considerable thought on her own costume, for she said her eighteenth birthday was an important occasion, and she must do it honour.

She finally decided on a quaint little Kate Greenaway dress, and big-brimmed hat of dark green velvet with white feathers tumbling over its brim. The frock was ankle length and short-waisted and she wore old-fashioned little slippers, with crossed ribbons, and black lace mitts. A shirred silk workbag hung at her side, and she carried a tiny parasol.

A few days before the party, Patty had an inspiration. It came to her suddenly, as most inspirations do, and it was so startling that it almost took her breath away.

"I can't do it," she said to herself, one minute; and "I will do it," she said to herself the next.

Not daring to think long about it lest she lose her determination, she started that very afternoon on her surprising errand.

She had the carriage to herself, for she had been to tea with a friend, and on her way home she asked the coachman to stop at a house in Carlton Terrace.

Reaching the house, Patty sent her card in by the footman, and awaited results with a beating heart.

The footman returned to the carriage door, saying, Sir Otho Markleham would be pleased to see Miss Fairfield, and resolutely crushing down her timidity, Patty went in.

She was ushered into a large and formal drawing-room, and waited there a few moments alone.

She wished she had been asked into a library, or some more cosy room, for the stiff hangings, and massive furniture were oppressive. But she had no time for further thought, for Sir Otho entered the room.

He bowed with exceeding courtesy, but with a surprised air, which was indeed only natural.

Frightened almost out of her wits, Patty extended her hand, and though she tried to conquer her embarrassment, her voice trembled, as she said: "How do you do, Sir Otho? I've come to see you."

She tried to speak jauntily, but there was a queer little break in her voice.

"So I perceive," said Sir Otho, coldly. "May I ask why I have this honour?"

This was too much for Patty. Her nerves were strained almost to the breaking point, and when Sir Otho spoke so repellently, she realised how foolish her little plan had been, and how hopeless was her dream of reconciling this dreadful old man and his daughter. Partly, then, because of her overwrought nerves, and partly because of the downfall of her cherished hopes, Patty burst into tears.

She rarely cried, almost never, unless at some injustice or undeserved unkindness. But when she did cry, it was done as she did everything else, with a whole-souled enthusiasm.

Utterly unable to control herself, for a few moments she sobbed, and shook in paroxysms of emotion.

The old gentleman fairly danced around.

"Bless my soul!" he exclaimed; "what is the matter? What does this mean? Did you come into my house for the purpose of having a fit of hysterics?"

Now Patty wasn't a bit hysterical; it was merely a sudden blow of disappointment, and she would have been over it in a moment, but that Sir Otho made matters worse by storming at her.

"Stop it, do you hear? I won't have such goings on in my house! You are a madwoman!"

As Patty's sobs grew quieter, and she sat softly weeping into an already soaked handkerchief, her host's mood seemed to change also.

"When I consented to see Miss Patricia Fairfield," he said, quoting her name as it appeared on the card she had sent in, "I didn't know I was to be subjected to this extraordinary treatment."

"I d-didn't know it e-either," said Patty, wiping her eyes, and trying to smile. Then, as she saw Sir Otho's hard old face beginning to soften a little, she smiled at him through her tears.

"There, there, my dear, don't cry," he said, with a clumsy imitation of gentleness. "Shall I ring for a maid? Will you have some sal volatile?"

"No," said Patty, trying hard to check her sobs; "no, I will go away."

"But what's it all about?" said the bewildered old man. "What made you cry?"

"You did," said Patty, with such suddenness that he nearly fell over.

"I? Bless my soul! What did I do?"

"You were so c-cross," said Patty, weeping afresh at the remembrance of his cold looks.

"Well, never mind, child, I won't be cross again. Tell me all about it."

Surely Sir Otho was melting! Patty sagaciously believed he was touched by her tears, so made no desperate effort to stop them.

"I c-can't tell you now. You're not in a k-kind m-mood."

"Yes, I am; try to tell me, my dear child."

Patty thought she had never known any one who could turn from anger to kindness so suddenly, but she resolved to strike while the iron was hot.

"It's about K-Kitty," she said, still sobbing, but peeping out from behind her handkerchief to see how he took this broadside.

"I supposed so," he said, with a sigh. "Well, what about her?"

"She's your daughter, you know," went on Patty, growing more daring, as she slyly watched the old gentleman's expression.

"Is she, indeed? I'd forgotten the fact."

This, though in a sarcastic tone, was better than his usual disavowal of the relationship.

"And did you stop in here, and treat me to this absurd scene, just to inform me concerning my family tree?"

"N-no," said Patty, resorting to tears again. "I stopped in, to—to ask you s-something."

"Well, out with it! Are you afraid of me?"

This nettled Patty.

"No," she said, starting to her feet. Her tears had stopped now, and her eyes were blazing. "No! I am not afraid of you! I'm sorry I broke down. I was foolishly nervous. But I'm over it now. I came in here, Sir Otho Markleham, to ask you to make peace with your daughter, and to propose to you a pleasant way to do so. But you have been so cross and ugly, so sarcastic and cruel, that I see the utter hopelessness of trying to reconcile you two. I was foolish even to think of it! Lady Kitty is gentle and sweet in many ways, but she has inherited your obstinate, stubborn——"

"Pigheaded," suggested Sir Otho, politely.

"Yes! Pigheaded disposition, and though, as the older, you ought to make the advance, you'll never do it—and she never will—and—so——"

Patty broke down again, this time from sheer sadness of heart at the irrevocable state of things.

Her face buried in her handkerchief, to her great surprise she felt a kindly touch on her shoulder.

"Don't condemn me too soon, little one; and don't condemn me unheard. Suppose I tell you that some of my ideas have undergone a change since Miss Yankee Doodle has taken it upon herself to scold me."

"Oh!" said Patty, rendered almost breathless with amazement at the kind tone and the gentle touch.

"But suppose it's very hard for an old man like me to uproot some feelings that have grown and strengthened with the passing years."

"But if they're bad and unworthy feelings, you want to uproot them!" cried Patty.

"Yes," said Sir Otho, "I do. And though my irascible and taciturn nature won't let me admit this to any one else, I'll confess to you, Miss Yankee Doodle, I do want to pull them up, root and branch."

Sir Otho looked so brave and manly as he made this confession, which was truly difficult for him, that Patty grasped his hand in both hers, and cried: "Oh, what a splendid man you are! I'll never be afraid of you again!"

"You weren't afraid of me, child. That's why your words had weight with me. You fearlessly told me just what I was, and I had the grace to be ashamed of myself."

"Never mind that now," said Patty, eagerly. "Do you want to be friends again with Kitty?"

"More than anything on earth."

"Well, then, let me manage it; and do it the way I want you to, will you?"

Patty's voice and smile were very wheedlesome, and Sir Otho smiled in response, as he said:

"You've surely earned the right to manage it. How shall it be done? Will Kitty meet me halfway?"

"I think she will," said Patty, slowly. "But she's not very tractable, you know. Indeed, Sir Otho, she's such a contrary-minded person, that if she knew you wanted to be kind to her, she'd likely run away."

"Miss Patricia," said Sir Otho, gravely, "you can't tell me anything about my daughter Catharine that I don't already know. And she is, indeed, contrary-minded, on occasion. As you so justly observed, she inherits my obstinate and cross-grained disposition."

"And yet she's so lovely to look at," sighed Patty.

"Ah, well, she didn't get her good looks from me, I'll admit."

"I think she did," said Patty, looking critically at the fine old face, with a thoughtful gaze that was very amusing.

"Well, are you going to detail to me the plan of this rather difficult campaign?"

"Yes, I am. And I hope you'll see it as I do."

"If I don't, I have little doubt but you can change my views. Will you have time to drink a cup of tea with me? We can plan so much more cosily over the teacups."

"Yes, I will," said Patty, consulting her watch.

"Then let us have it served in the library, and not in this depressing room, which you must associate with stormy outbursts of woe."

Patty laughed, and followed the stately old gentleman into the library, where tea was soon served.



"One lump?" said Patty, holding the sugar-tongs poised over a teacup, while she put her head on one side and smiled at her host.

"Two, please. It's delightful to have some one make my tea for me, and you do it very prettily."

"But, alas!" said Patty, in mock despair, "I'll soon be supplanted here, by that 'obstinate, cross-grained' Lady Kitty."

"Why are you so sure she'll come back here to live?"

"Just give her the chance, and see," said Patty, wagging her head sagaciously, as she poured her own tea.

"How much pleasanter this is than squabbling," she observed, glancing happily at her host.

"Yes, or crying," said he, a bit teasingly, and Patty blushed.

"That's past history," she said; "and now I'll tell you my plan."

The details of the plan kept them both talking for some time, and then Patty had to hurry away to reach home at her appointed hour.

"Now, I won't see you again until then," she said, as they parted at the door. "But I know you won't fail me."

"Not I!" said Sir Otho, and with his hand on his heart, he made a profound bow, and Patty drove homeward in the happiest mood she had known for many a day.



CHAPTER XI

THE BIRTHDAY PARTY

Patty's birthday party was a great success.

As a rule, young people love a "dress-up" party, and the guests all entered into the spirit of the thing.

Lady Hamilton was in her element.

For the occasion, she had engaged a large salon, and aside from the pretty floral decorations, there were dolls and Teddy Bears and rocking horses, and all sorts of children's toys and games. On the walls hung bright-colored prints, intended for nursery use, and little, low chairs and ottomans stood about.

Of course, Lady Hamilton, as hostess, did not dress like a child, but wore one of her own lovely, trailing white house-gowns.

When the guests arrived they were shown to dressing-rooms, where white-capped nurses awaited them, and assisted them to lay aside their wraps.

Then led to the salon by these same nurses, the guests were presented to Lady Hamilton and Patty. Such shouts of laughter as arose at these presentations! The young people, dressed as tiny children, came in with a shy air (not always entirely assumed), and made funny little, bobbing curtseys. Some, finger in mouth, could find nothing to say; others of more fertile brain, babbled childishly, or lisped in baby-talk.

Before many had arrived, Patty and Lady Kitty were in such roars of laughter they could scarcely welcome the rest.

Tom Meredith was a dear. Though a boy nearly six feet tall, he had a round, cherubic face, and soft, curly hair. He wore a white dress of simple "Mother Hubbard" cut, the fulness hanging from a yoke, and ending just below his knees, in lace-edged frills. White stockings, and white kid pumps adorned his feet, and his short curls were tied at one side with an immense white bow. He was such a smiling, good-natured chap, and looked so girlish and sweet in his white frock, that Patty at once called him Baby Belle, and the name exactly suited him.

"Did you come all alone?" asked Lady Hamilton.

"Yeth, ma'am," replied Tom, rolling up his eyes in pretended diffidence. "My nurthie went to a ball game, tho I had to come all by mythelf. But I'th a big dirl, now!"

"You are indeed," said Patty, glancing at his stalwart proportions, "but you're surely the belle of this ball."

Grace Meredith was a little Dutch girl, and was charming in the picturesque Holland headgear, and a tight-waisted, long-skirted blue gown, that just cleared the tops of her clattering wooden sabots. She talked a Dutch dialect, or rather, what she imagined was such, and if not real Hollandese, it was at least, very amusing and funny.

Mabel Hartley looked very sweet as Little Red Riding-Hood, and she carried a little basket on her arm, which contained a real pat of butter.

Sinclair and Bob Hartley were the Princes in the Tower, and the black velvet suits and white lace collars were exceedingly becoming to them. They wore wigs of long flaxen hair, and often fell into the pose of the celebrated picture, to the delight of all who saw them. But when not posing as a tableau, they were so full of antics that Patty told them they were more like Court Jesters than Princes.

"Clowns, you mean," said Bob, as with a flash of his black satin legs he leap-frogged over Sinclair's back.

"Behave yourselves, Princes!" admonished Patty, and in a second, the two stood motionless, side by side, as in the great painting.

"You certainly must be photographed like that," exclaimed Lady Hamilton; and then a brilliant idea came to her and she sent a message at once to a well-known photographer to send one of his men and a camera at once.

And so, the regular programme of the party was suspended while photographs of the guests were taken. Singly and in groups they were snapped off as fast as the camera could be adjusted, and Lady Hamilton promised to send copies to their homes later.

Some of the young people had hired very elaborate costumes and represented celebrated works of art.

Gainsborough's "Blue Boy," and Velasquez' "Maria Teresa," were truly beautiful, while Van Dyck's "Baby Stuart," made a lovely picture. But equally interesting were the less pretentious characters and costumes.

Simple Simon was a favourite with all. A faded blue smock frock, and a battered old hat formed his characteristic garb, and long, straight yellow locks, and a stupid, open-mouthed expression of face made him look like the traditional Simon. He was a boy of much original wit, and his funny repartee proved him, in reality, far from simple-minded.

Little Miss Muffet was present, and Struwelpeter, and "Alice," and a merry brother and sister had to cut up many roguish antics before they were recognised as "The Heavenly Twins."

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, wore a pretty Dolly Varden costume, and carried a watering-pot, while Little Boy Blue shyly blew his horn at her. There were several Lord Fauntleroys, and Buster Browns and Rollos, and also a great many who represented nobody in particular, but just a dear little child.

Mr. Fairfield and Nan, though they had said they would come to the party dressed as children, had changed their minds, and arrived later than the others, wearing the garb of elderly people.

They said they were the grandparents, come to look at the children enjoy themselves.

Nan made a very sweet old lady, with white wig, and gold glasses, while Mr. Fairfield pretended to be an old man, cross and gouty. But so funny was his ferocious crustiness that nobody felt in awe of him.

Led by Lady Hamilton, the boys and girls played all sorts of merry children's games.

"Ring Around a Rosy," "London Bridge is Falling Down," "Hide the Thimble," and other such infantile entertainments proved exceedingly mirth-provoking. The big babies were continually crying over fancied woes, and sometimes even the historic characters grew humorously quarrelsome.

At half-past four supper was served. The children were formed in pairs for a grand march. To the strains of "The Baby's Opera" they marched to another room, where a long table was set for them.

At each place was a bread-and-milk set, and a mug which was lettered in gilt, "For a Good Child."

The mugs were especially pretty ones, and were to be taken home as souvenirs. At each place was a bib with strings, and when these were tied around their necks, the big "children" looked absurd indeed.

In keeping with their assumed roles, their table manners were not impeccable, and many fists pounded on the table, while babyish voices said: "Me wants me thupper," or "Div me some beddy-butter!" But though the bowls and mugs betokened infantile fare, the supper really served included dainty salads and sandwiches, followed by ices, jellies and cakes, and was fully enjoyed by the healthy appetites which belong to young people of eighteen or thereabouts.

After supper, they returned to the drawing-room for a dance.

Delightful music was played, and it was a pretty sight to see the fancy costumes gracefully flit about in the dance.

When it was nearly time to go home, one of the "nurses" came to Lady Hamilton saying that a belated guest had arrived.

"Who is it?" asked Lady Hamilton, surprised that any one should arrive so late.

"He says he is Peter Pan," answered the maid.

"Show him in, at once," said Lady Hamilton, "we surely want to see Peter Pan—the boy who never could grow up."

And then through the doorway came a figure that unmistakably represented Peter Pan.

The well-known costume of russet browns and autumn-leaf tints, the small, close cap with its single feather, and the fierce-looking dagger were all there. To be sure, it was a much larger Peter Pan than any of them had seen in the play, but otherwise it was surely Peter.

At first, Lady Hamilton looked completely bewildered, and then, as she realised that it was really her own father, she turned pale and then very pink.

Patty stood near her, and though she didn't know what might happen, she felt sure Lady Hamilton would be quite able to cope with the situation.

And so she was. After the first dazed moment, she stepped forward, and offering her hand, said cordially:

"Welcome, Peter Pan! We are indeed glad to see you. We're sorry you couldn't come earlier, but pray fall right into place with the rest of our little guests."

It was the nature of Sir Otho Markleham to do thoroughly whatever he did at all.

So, now, throwing himself into the spirit of the moment, he made friends with the young people at once. He entertained them with stories of his thrilling adventures with the pirates; he told them how he lost his shadow, he explained all about Fairies, and soon the other guests were all crowded about him, listening breathlessly to his talk.

Lady Hamilton, standing a little to one side of the listening group, looked at her father. She realised at once what it all meant. She knew that Patty had persuaded him to come, and that it meant complete reconciliation between father and daughter. The whole matter could be discussed later, if they chose, but the mere presence of her father beneath her roof meant forgiveness and peace between them.

Softly Patty came up beside her and clasped her hand. "You're a witch," whispered Lady Hamilton, as she warmly returned the pressure. "How did you ever accomplish this?"

"Never mind that, now," said Patty, her eyes shining. "Are you glad?"

"Glad! Yes, only that's a short word to express my joy and my gratitude to you. But you took a risk! Suppose I had fainted, or done something foolish in my great surprise."

"Oh, I knew you better than that," returned Patty. "Isn't he a dear in that Peter Pan suit? And, only think, he took off his beloved 'sideboards,' so he'd look the character better."

"They'll soon grow again," said Lady Hamilton, carelessly; "but what I can't understand is why he came at all."

"Because he loves you," whispered Patty, "and you love him. And you've both been acting like silly geese, but now that's all over."

"Yes, it is!" And Lady Hamilton gave a soft sigh of relief. Then, following her father's example, she devoted herself to her young guests, and the time passed pleasantly until their departure.

Of course, these young people knew nothing of the state of affairs between "Peter Pan" and his hostess, though they soon discovered the identity of Sir Otho.

Soon after six, the "children" went away, declaring that it had been the event of the season, and they had never enjoyed a party more. The three Fairfields took leave at the same time, and Lady Hamilton was left alone with her father.

Exactly what was said in the next half hour neither of them ever told, but when it was past, the two were entirely reconciled, and Lady Kitty had consented to return to her father's house to live. Then she sent a note to the Fairfields, asking them all to dine with herself and her father that evening.

"And meantime, Kitty," said Sir Otho, "I'll go and get out of this foolish toggery."

"Yes, but save that suit to be photographed in. I must have your picture to put with those of the other 'children.'"

Sir Otho went away, enveloped in a long raincoat, and promising to return at the dinner hour. It was a merry dinner party that night.

Patty had a new frock in honour of the occasion, and as she donned the pretty demi-toilette of pale green gauze, Nan said it was the most becoming costume she had ever worn.

"Now that you're really eighteen, Patty," she said, "I think you might discard hair-ribbons."

"No, thank you," said Patty, as Louise tied her big, white bow for her. "I'll wear them a little longer. At least as long as I'm in this country where Dukes and Earls run wild. When I get back to New York, I'll see about it."

"Good-evening, Miss Yankee Doodle," said Sir Otho, as he met her again at dinner. "Once more the American has conquered the English, and I would be greatly honoured by your kind acceptance of this tiny memento of the occasion."

As Sir Otho spoke, he handed Patty a small jeweller's box. She opened it and saw a dear little brooch in the form of an American flag. The Stars and Stripes were made of small sparkling brilliants of the three colours, and the twinkling effect was very beautiful.

"It is lovely!" she exclaimed; "how can I ever thank you! This is one of my very choicest birthday gifts, and I have received a great many."

"It is nothing," said Sir Otho, "compared to what you have given me," and he glanced affectionately toward his daughter.

And this was all he ever said by way of expressing his gratitude to Patty, but it was enough, for the deep tone of his voice, and the suggestion of tears in his eyes, proved his inexpressible appreciation of Patty's achievement.

Then the matter was dropped entirely, and the conversation became general and gay. Sir Otho proved to be as entertaining to older people as he had been to the children at the party, and Lady Kitty was in her most charming mood. Mr. and Mrs. Fairfield quite did their share toward the general entertainment, but Patty was queen of the feast. She enjoyed it all, for she dearly loved a festivity of any sort, but to-night she was specially happy to think that her plan had succeeded, and that she had given to her dear friend Kitty what she most wanted in all the world.

"And I trust it will not be long," said Sir Otho, "before you will all accept an invitation to dine with me in Carlton Terrace, with Lady Hamilton presiding at my table."

This invitation was delightedly accepted, and then they all went up to the Fairfields' drawing-room, and Patty sang songs, and they all sang choruses, and then, as a final surprise, came a great, beautiful birthday cake, with eighteen lighted candles.

Then Patty cut the cake, and there were more congratulations and good wishes all round, and for pretty nearly the eighteenth time in her life Patty declared it was the best birthday she had ever had.



CHAPTER XII

SUMMER PLANS

"As usual," said Mr. Fairfield, smiling, "the question is, what is to be done with Patty?"

"Yes," agreed Patty, complacently, "you and Nan are usually trying to dispose of me in some way. It's lucky I'm good-natured and don't mind being left behind."

"That's a pretty speech!" exclaimed Nan, "after we've begged and coaxed you to go with us!"

"So you have, my pretty little Stepmother—so you have; and I'm just ungrateful enough not to want to go."

It was about a week after the birthday party, and the Fairfields were making their plans for the summer. The elders wanted to travel in Switzerland and Germany. Patty did not want to go with them, but her dilemma was, which of several delightful invitations to accept.

"You see," she went on, "I'm invited to spend June in five separate places, each one lovelier than the other. Now I can't chop myself up into five pieces."

"You can chop June up into five pieces," suggested Nan.

"Yes, but if I go to a country house to make a good long visit, I want to stay about a month. A week here and then a week there is so unsatisfactory. However, after much thoughtful brooding over the question, I've cut out three, and that brings my quandary down to only two places to decide between."

"Lady Hamilton's being one," observed her father.

"Yes, Kitty's is one; and Mabel Hartley's is the other. Of course, if I spend June with Kitty, we'll be right here in London all the time, and though I love it, yet I love the country too. Now, if I go to Mabel's, I'll have a beautiful experience of real English country life."

"You would enjoy it, I'm sure," said Nan; "and I think you'd better decide to go to Cromarty Manor, and then, if for any reason, you don't like it, come back, and put in the rest of your time with Lady Kitty."

"Nan, that's an inspiration!" cried Patty, running across the room, and clasping Nan in one of her rather strenuous embraces.

"Look out! You'll break her!" cried Mr. Fairfield, in great pretence of fear.

"No, indeed!" said Patty, "she's too substantial. And anyway, such a clever suggestion deserves ample recognition."

Patty sat on the arm of Nan's chair, and amused herself by twisting Nan's curly hair into tight little spirals.

"Stop that, Patty," said her father; "you make Nan look like a pickaninny."

"No matter what she looks like, if it's becoming," said Patty, serenely. "But truly, Nan, you ought to wear your hair like that; it's awfully effective!"

The spirals now stood out all round Nan's face, like a spiky frame, but the good-natured victim only laughed, as she said, "Never mind me, let's get these great questions settled."

So, after some more talk and discussion, it was settled that Patty should accept the Hartleys' urgent invitation to Cromarty Manor, for, at least, a part of June, and then, if she cared to, stay also a time with Lady Hamilton.

"It may sound silly," said Patty, thoughtfully, "but I can't help feeling that Mabel not only wants me to visit her this summer, but she needs me. Now, I don't mean to be conceited, but, don't you know, you can tell when people seem to need you, if only in a trivial way."

"I understand," said Nan, quickly; "and you're not conceited a bit, Patty. Mabel does need you. She is a sweet girl, but sometimes she seems to me the least bit morbid; no, not quite that, but verging that way. She adores you, and I'm perfectly sure that your companionship will do her a world of good."

"I hope so," said Patty; "I love Mabel, but there is something about her I can't quite understand."

"You'll probably find out what it is, when you're staying with her," said her father, "and I know, Patty, you'll do all in your power to brighten her up. The Merediths live near them, don't they?"

"Yes; only a mile or two away. And the Merediths are gay enough for anybody. If they're at home this summer, there'll be plenty of fun going on, I'm sure."

"Lady Hamilton will miss you a lot," said Nan; "what does she say to your going?"

"Oh, she says she'll miss me," said Patty, "and so she will, some, but it's not like it was when she was here, alone. Now that she's settled in her father's house again, she has so much to occupy her time and attention she's never lonely. Of course, she's just as fond of me, and I am of her, but since she's gone away from here, I don't see so much of her. And, truly, she doesn't need me, and Mabel does. So I'll go to Mabel's first, and I shouldn't be surprised if I stay there until you people come back from your trip. Mrs. Hartley asked me for the whole summer, you know, but you won't be gone more than a month or six weeks, will you?"

"Not more than two months," answered her father, "and you know, chickabiddy, if ever you want to join us, I'll send for you, or come for you myself, whenever you say the word. Just telegraph me, and I'll respond at once."

"All right; I will if I want to. But there's too much fun for me in civilization to want to go wandering off to the ends of the earth."

"And you may decide to go to Herenden Hall for a time."

"Yes, I may. I'd love to visit Lady Herenden again, if I thought that Earl gentleman wouldn't be there."

"He probably won't be," said Nan. "I daresay you scared him away from there forever."

"Even so, I didn't scare him as much as he scared me," returned Patty, "but I do hope there won't be any Earls at Cromarty. I like plain, big boys better."

"Those Hartley boys are fine fellows," observed Mr. Fairfield. "Young Meredith has more fun and jollity, but the Hartleys are of a sterling good sort. I like the whole family, and I'm glad, Patty girl, that you've decided to go there. I'll willingly leave you in Mrs. Hartley's care, and I'm sure you'll have a good time."

"Of course I shall, Daddy, and I'll write you every day, if you want me to."

"Not quite so often, my dear. Twice a week, will be all you'll find time for, I'm certain."

"Quite likely," said Patty, who was not very fond of writing letters.

Only a week later, Patty was to go away with the Hartleys. And a week was not a very long time for her preparations. There was shopping to do, and calling, and, as Nan and Mr. Fairfield were leaving at the same time, they were to give up their hotel apartment for the present.

But Lady Hamilton insisted that Patty must look upon Sir Otho's big house in Carlton Terrace as her own home. If she cared to run up to London for a few days at any time, she would be more than welcome at Lady Kitty's. Or she could leave there any trunks or other belongings that she wished. This greatly pleased Mr. Fairfield, for he felt more comfortable at leaving Patty, to know that she had a foothold in London, and somebody to look after her, should she care to leave Cromarty before her parents' return.

At last the day of departure came, and Mr. Fairfield accompanied Patty to the station to meet the Hartleys for the journey.

It was with a homesick heart that Patty bade her father good-bye. Somehow, she suddenly felt that she was leaving her own people to go away with strangers. But she knew she must not be foolish, so she bravely kept back the tears and said good-bye with a tender, if not a gay, smile.

"It is the loveliest thing," said Mabel, after they were settled in the train, "to think that you're really going with us. I wanted you to, so dreadfully, but I didn't urge it very much, for fear you wouldn't enjoy yourself with us."

"I always enjoy myself," said Patty, "but I know I shall be happy with you."

"We'll try to make you so, Miss Fairfield," said Bob, earnestly, and Patty smiled at him, and said:

"Then the first thing you can do toward it, is to drop that formal name, and call me Patty. I'm not really grown-up enough for the other."

"No, I don't think you are," said Bob, as he looked at her critically. "So, as we're all to live under one roof for a time, we'll be first namers all round."

"Good!" said Sinclair, "that suits me; and now, Mater, when you're ready, we'll go in to luncheon."

Patty thought luncheon in the dining car was great fun. Only four could sit at a table, but as Mrs. Hartley had a slight headache and did not care to talk, she and Grandma Cromarty sat at another table, and left the four young people to chatter by themselves.

Everything interested Patty, from the unusual things she found on the menu to the strange sights she saw from the window.

This was her first trip in this direction, for they were travelling toward Leicester, and the scenes were all new to her.

The boys were full of fun and nonsense, and Mabel was so gay and jolly that Patty began to think she had imagined the girl was of a sad nature. They all told funny stories, and made absurd jokes, and poked fun at each other, and Patty concluded she was likely to have a very jolly summer with the Hartleys. Back they went after luncheon to their funny parlour car, which had double seats facing each other, with a small table between.

"Just the place for a game," said Sinclair, as the four took their seats, two on either side of the table.

"What sort of a game?" asked Patty.

"Oh, I don't know; I'll make one up." The boy took a bit of chalk from his pocket, and marked off the table into various sections, with a circle in each corner, and crosses here and there.

"Now," he explained, as he offered each player a coin, "this isn't money, you know. They're merely counters, for the time being. But when the game is over you must all give them back to me, because they'll be money again then."

"But what do we do with them?" asked Patty, who was greatly interested in any game.

"I'll show you. These places are homes, and these are wilderness. If you're in the wilderness you may be captured, but if you're at home, you can't be."

The game was really a mix-up of parcheesi, halma, and some others; to which were added some original rules out of Sinclair's own head. Patty and Bob were partners against the other two, and soon the quartette were deeply absorbed in the game.

"You are the cleverest boy, to make this up!" cried Patty, as her side won, and they prepared to begin over again.

"Oh, he often makes up games," said Mabel. "We all do, only Sinclair's are always the best."

"Mine are very good, though," observed Bob, modestly.

"Good enough, yes," said Sinclair; "only usually they're so difficult that nobody can win but yourself."

Bob made a profound bow at this compliment, and then the game went on. It seemed impossible that they had been about five hours on the train, when it was time to get out. They had reached Leicester, and from there were to drive to Cromarty Manor.

Two vehicles met them at the station.

Into one of these, a comfortable victoria, Sinclair assisted the four ladies, and in the other, the boys rode up with the luggage. The drive was beautiful, and Patty warmly expressed her gratitude to Mrs. Hartley, for inviting her to this delightful experience of English country life.

"It is beautiful," said Mrs. Hartley, looking about her. "I'm always glad to get back from London to the restful quiet of these great trees and the far-away, peaceful hills."

Mabel's mood had changed. She no longer laughed and jested, and though sweet and gentle as ever, the hint of sadness had again crept into her face, and her speech was slow and quiet. Patty adapted her mood to the other's, and it was almost in silence they drove along the country roads.

It was a long ride, and it was nearly dusk when at last they arrived at Cromarty Manor.

An old servant came out from the Porter's Lodge to open the high iron gates for them.

He gave them a warm greeting, which seemed a heart-felt welcome, and not merely the speech of a paid dependant, and then they drove on toward the house.

The whole effect was so beautiful that it almost took Patty's breath away. It was not a bit like Herenden Hall, it was more like an old feudal castle. The picturesque house was of gray stone, with towers and turrets almost entirely covered with ivy. From the ivy the birds flew in and out, and the darkness of the surrounding trees and tall shrubbery gave the place a weird and fairly mysterious appearance.

"You feel the charm of it, don't you?" said Mrs. Hartley, kindly, as she looked at Patty's rapt face and serious eyes.

"Yes, indeed," said Patty, softly; "I can't explain it, but it casts a spell over me. Oh, I don't wonder you love it!"

But the darkness of the outer world was soon dispelled by a broad gleam of light, as the great front doors were thrown open. An old, gray-haired butler stood on the threshold, and greeted them with rather pompous respect and punctilious deference. The interior was quite in keeping with the outside view of the house. But though the old carved rafters and wainscoting were dark and heavy, cheerful lamps were in abundance, and in the halls and drawing-rooms, wax candles were lighted also.

At the first view on entering there seemed to be an interminable vista of rooms, that opened one from another; this was partly the effect of the elaborate old architecture, and partly because of many long mirrors in various positions.

The furniture, tapestries and ornaments were all of an epoch two centuries back, and the whole picture fascinated Patty beyond all words.

"It's a wonderful place," she said at last; "and after a week or two, I'm going to examine it in detail. But at first I shall be satisfied just to bask in its atmosphere."

"You'll do!" cried Bob, who had just arrived. "If you hadn't appreciated Cromarty, we were going to pack you straight back to London; but you've acquitted yourself nobly. Nobody could make a better speech than you did, and I'll wager you didn't learn it beforehand either."

"I couldn't," said Patty, "because I didn't know what the place was like. What few remarks you made about it seem like nothing, now that I've begun to see it for myself."

"Yes, and you've only begun," said Sinclair. "To-morrow, when you get further into the heart of it, you'll surrender to its charm as we all do."

"I'm sure I shall," agreed Patty, "and, indeed, I think I have already done so."



CHAPTER XIII

CROMARTY MANOR

Life at Cromarty Manor was very pleasant indeed.

Although Patty had not definitely realised it, she was thoroughly tired out by her London gaieties, and the peaceful quiet of the country brought her a rest that she truly needed.

Also, the Hartleys were a delightful family to visit. There is quite as much hospitality in knowing when to leave guests to themselves as there is in continually entertaining them.

And while the Hartleys planned many pleasures for Patty, yet there were also hours in the morning or early afternoon, when she was free to follow her own sweet will.

Sometimes she would roam around the historic old house, pausing here and there in some of the silent, unused rooms, to imagine romances of days gone by.

Sometimes she would stroll out-of-doors, through the orchards and woods, by ravines and brooks, always discovering some new and beautiful vista or bit of scenery.

And often she would spend a morning, lying in a hammock beneath the old trees, reading a book, or merely day-dreaming, as she watched the sunlight play hide-and-seek among the leaves above her head.

One morning, after she had been at Cromarty Manor for about a week, Patty betook herself to her favourite hammock, carrying with her a book of Fairy Tales, for which she had never outgrown her childish fondness.

But the book remained unopened, for Patty's mind was full of busy thoughts.

She looked around at the beautiful landscape which, as far as the eye could reach included only the land belonging to the Cromarty estate. There were more than a thousand acres in all, much of which was cultivated ground, and the rest woodland or rolling meadows. Patty looked at the dark woods in the distance; the orchards nearer by; and, in her immediate vicinity, the beautiful gardens and terraces.

The latter, of which there were two, known as the Upper and Lower Terrace, were two hundred feet long and were separated by a sloping bank of green lawn, dotted with round flower beds.



Above the terraces rose the old house itself. The Manor was built of a grayish stone, and was of Elizabethan architecture.

More than two hundred years old, it had been remodelled and added to by its various successive owners, but much of its fine old, original plan was left.

Ivy clung to its walls, and birds fluttered in and out continually.

There was a tower on either side the great entrance, and Patty loved to fancy that awful and mysterious deeds had been committed within those frowning walls.

But there was no legend or tradition attached to the mansion, and all its history seemed to be peaceful and pleasant.

Even the quaint old yew-tree walk, with its strangely misshapen shrubbery, was bright and cheerful in the morning sunlight, and the lake rippled like silver, and gave no hint of dark or gloomy depths.

And yet, Patty couldn't help feeling that there was some shadow hanging over the Hartley family. They were never sad or low-spirited, but sometimes Mrs. Hartley would sigh, or Grandma Cromarty would look anxious, as if at some unrelievable sorrow.

The boys were always light-hearted and gay, but Mabel often had moods of despondency, which, while they never made her cross or irritable, were so pathetic that it worried Patty's loving heart.

And so she lay in her hammock, gazing at the beauty all about her, and wondering what was the secret grief that harassed her dear friends. It never occurred to her that it was none of her affair, for Patty was possessed of a healthy curiosity, and moreover she was innately of a helpful nature, and longed to know what the trouble was, in a vague hope that she might be of some assistance.

"I know they're not rich," she said to herself, "for the whole place shows neglect and shabbiness; but there's something besides lack of money that makes Madam Cromarty sad."

The place was indeed in a state of unrepair. Though there were many servants, there were not enough to do all that should have been done. The two gardeners did their best to keep the flowers in order, but the elaborate conventional gardens, laid out in geometric designs, and intricate paths, called for a complete staff of trained workers, and in the absence of these, became overgrown at their borders and untidy in appearance.

It was the same indoors. The handsome old furniture, covered with silk brocades and tapestries, was worn and sometimes ragged in appearance. Some of the decorations showed need of regilding, and though the magnificent old carved woodwork, and tessellated floors could not be marred by time, yet many of the lesser appointments called for renovation or renewal. The Great Hall, as it was called, had best withstood the ravages of time, as it was wainscoted and ceiled in massive old oak.

It was a noble apartment, with recessed windows and panelled walls, and across one end was a raised platform from the back of which rose a wonderfully carved chimney-piece.

This apartment, in the palmier days of the Manor House, had been the Banqueting Hall, but as there was a smaller and more appropriate dining-room, the Hartleys used the Great Hall as a living room, and had gathered in it their dearest treasures and belongings. Grandma Cromarty had her own corner, with her knitting basket. In another corner was a grand piano, and many other musical instruments. In one north bay window was Mabel's painting outfit, and so large was the recess that it formed a good-sized studio. On the walls, hobnobbing with the ancient antlers and deers' heads, trophies of the chase, were the boys' tennis rackets, and in the outstretched arm of a tall figure in armour, a lot of golfsticks rested against the quartered shield.

"I suppose," Mabel had said, when they first showed this room to Patty, "a great many people would consider it desecration to fill up this fine old place with all our modern stuff. But we're modern, and so we make the carving and tapestries give way to us."

"They like it," Patty had replied. "They feel sorry for other houses where the carvings and tapestries have to stay back in their own old times. Now hear these old rafters ring to modern music," and seating herself at the piano, Patty began some rollicking songs that were of decidedly later date than the old rafters.

Opening from the old Banqueting Hall was the library. This had been left just as it was, and the shelves full of old books were a never-failing delight to Patty's browsing nature. A gallery ran round all four sides, which was reached by spiral iron staircases, and the deep-seated windows, with their old leather cushions, made delightful nooks in which to pore over the old volumes. There were many unused rooms in the Manor House. Many unexpected alcoves and corridors, and in these the old furniture was worn and decayed. The rooms that were lived in were kept in comfortable order, but Patty knew, had there been more house-servants, these other apartments would have been thrown open to light and air.

Surely, Patty decided, the Hartleys were pinched for money, but just as surely, she thought, that could not have the effect of casting that indefinite gloom over them which was now and then observable. And as she idly swung in her hammock, she made up her mind to ask about it.

"If they don't want to tell me, they needn't," she said to herself, "but they surely know me well enough now to know that I'm honestly interested in their life, and not merely trying to pry into their secrets."

But she could not quite decide which one of the family to ask about it. She would have preferred to ask Grandma Cromarty, but the old lady had a certain reserve, which, at times, was forbidding, and Patty stood a little in awe of her.

Mrs. Hartley was kindly and responsive, but Patty rarely saw her except when the whole family was present. In the morning Mrs. Hartley was busy with household duties, and afternoons Patty and Mabel were usually together. Patty felt sure she could never ask Mabel, for though the two girls were confidential friends, there was a sensitiveness in Mabel's disposition that made Patty shrink from touching on what she felt might be a painful subject. Then there were the boys. Bob, at home on his vacation from college was Patty's chum and merry comrade, but she imagined he would cleverly evade a serious question. He was always chaffing, and while Patty was always glad to meet him on this ground, she almost knew he wouldn't talk seriously on family subjects. This left only Sinclair. Patty really liked Sinclair Hartley. A young man of about twenty, he was studying law in a nearby town, where he went every morning, returning in mid-afternoon.

He was kindly and courteous, and though often grave, was always appreciative of a joke, and quite ready to join in any fun. But he had a serious side, and Patty had enjoyed many long talks with him on subjects that never would interest Mabel or Bob.

And so she concluded that at the first opportunity, she would ask Sinclair what was the nature of the mystery that seemed to hang over the House of Hartley.

"Ah, there, Pitty-Pat!" called a gay voice, and looking around, Patty saw Bob strolling toward her across the lawn. "Want to go out on the lake and fish for pond-lilies?"

"Yes, indeed," said Patty, twisting herself out of the hammock. "What are you going to do with them?"

"Oh, just for the lunch table. Mabel's so everlastingly fond of them, you know."

Patty thought it was nice of Bob to remember his sister's tastes, and she willingly went with him toward the lake.

"How beautiful it all is!" she said as they went down the terrace steps and along the lake path which led through a pergola and around a curved corner called "The Alcove."

This delightful nook was a small open court of marble, adorned with pillars and statues, and partly surrounding a fountain.

"Yes, isn't it?" exclaimed Bob, enthusiastically. "You know, Patty, this old place is my joy and my despair. I love every stick and stone of it, but I wish we could keep it up in decent order. Heigh-ho! Just wait until I'm out of college. I'll do something then to turn an honest shilling, and every penny of it shall go to fix up the dear old place."

"What are you going to be, Bob?"

"An engineer. There's more chance for a fellow in that than in any other profession. Old Sinclair's for being a lawyer, and he'll be a good one, too, but it's slow work."

"You ought to go to America, Bob, if you want to get rich."

"I would, like a shot, if I could take the old house with me. But I'm afraid it's too big to uproot."

"I'm afraid it is. I suppose you wouldn't like to live in a brown-stone front on Fifth Avenue?"

"Never having seen your brown-stone Avenue, ma'am, I can't say; but I suppose a deer park and lake and several thousand acres of meadow land are not included with each house."

"No; not unless you take the whole of Manhattan Island."

"Even that wouldn't do; unless I had taken it a few hundred years ago, and started the trees growing then."

"No, America wouldn't suit you," said Patty, thoughtfully, "any more than English country life would suit most of our American boys."

"But you like this life of ours?"

"I love it; for a time. And just now I am enjoying it immensely. Oh, what gorgeous lilies!"

They had reached the lake, and the quiet, well-behaved water was placidly rippling against the stone coping.

Bob untied the boat.

"It's an old thing," he said, regretfully; "but it's water-tight, so don't be afraid."

Patty went down the broad marble steps, and seated herself in the stern of the boat, while Bob took the rowing seat.

A few of his strong pulls, and they were out among the lily pads.

"Row around a bit before we gather them," suggested Patty, and Bob with long, slow strokes sent the boat softly and steadily along.

"Isn't it perfect?" said Patty, dreamily. "It seems as if nothing could stir me up on a day like this."

"Is that so?" said Bob, and with mischief in his eyes, he began to rock the boat from side to side.

"You villain!" cried Patty, rudely stirred from her calm enjoyment; "take that!"

She dashed light sprays of water at him from over the side of the boat, and he returned by cleverly sprinkling a few drops on her from the blade of his oar.

"Why did you want to kick up a bobbery, when everything was so nice and peaceful?" she said, reproachfully.

"I shall always kick up a bobbery," he returned, calmly, "when you put on that romantic, sentimental air."

"I didn't put on any sentimental air! I was just enjoying the dreamy spirit of the lake."

"Thank you! That's the same as saying my society makes you sleepy."

"Nothing of the sort. And anyway, the dreamy mood has passed."

"Yes, I intended it should. Now, let's sing."

"All right; what?"

"The 'Little Kibosh,' I think. That's a good song to row by."

The young people at Cromarty Manor had already composed several songs which seemed to them choicest gems of musical composition.

As a rule Patty and Bob made up the words, while Mabel and Sinclair arranged the tunes.

Sometimes the airs were adapted from well-known songs, and sometimes they were entirely original.

"The Little Kibosh" was one of their favourite nonsense songs, and now Patty and Bob sang it in unison as they rowed slowly about on the lake.

"It was ever so many years ago, On a prairie by the sea; A little Kibosh I used to know By the name of Hoppity Lee. His hair was as green as the driven snow, And his cheeks were as blue as tea.

"'Twas just about night, or nearly noon When Hoppity Lee and I Decided to go for a sail to the moon, At least, as far as the sky. But instead of taking the Big Balloon, sailed in a pumpkin pie.

"Dear little Hoppity Lee and I Were happy and glad and gay; But the Dog Star came out as we passed by, And began to bark and bay. And the little Kibosh fell out of the pie, And into the Milky Way!

"I fished and fished for a year and a week For dear little Hoppity Lee; And at last I heard a small faint squeak From the place where he used to be; And he said, 'Go home, and never more seek, Oh, never more seek for me!'"



CHAPTER XIV

UNCLE MARMADUKE

That very same evening Patty had a chance to speak to Sinclair alone.

It was just after dinner, and the lovely English twilight was beginning to cast long, soft shadows of the tall cypresses across the lawn. The various members of the family were standing about on the terrace, when Sinclair said, "You need some exercise, Patty; let's walk as far as the alcove."

Patty assented, and the two strolled away, while Mabel called after them, "Don't be gone long, for we're all going to play games this evening."

They all loved games, so Patty promised to return very soon.

"I never saw anything like this alcove before in my life," said Patty, as they reached the picturesque spot and sat down upon the curving marble seat.

"They are often found in the gardens of old English homes. Any arched or covered seat out of doors is called an alcove. But this is rather an elaborate one. The marble pillars are of fine design, and the whole thing is beautifully proportioned."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse