"Don't let that worry you none," and Mrs. Fay swung back and forth complacently in her plush patent-rocker. "We got two spare bedrooms, and I'll just be tickled to death to put you up over night. You're just like a streak of sunshine in the house, Miss Fairfield, and I'm glad to have you as long as you'll stay."
"I wish you'd call me a streak of sunshine," said Philip. "I'd love to be called that."
"Well, you're bright enough," and Mrs. Fay looked at him, serenely. "But you're a different kind of a streak."
"A streak of lightning, I guess, if need be," said Miss Winthrop, nodding her head at Philip, as if she appreciated his capabilities.
"I'm quick at some things," said Philip, modestly. "But, jiminy crickets! I don't believe we're going to be very quick getting away from here! Just look at the storm, now!"
The fury of the elements had increased. The wind was a raging northern blast, and the snow was already piled in drifts. It was, in fact, a blizzard in a small way, and was rapidly growing.
"But never mind the weather, so long as we're together," sang Patty with a little trill, as she danced about the room. Then she seated herself at the old, square piano, and began to sing snatches of gay songs.
"My land! How pretty you do sing," said Miss Winthrop, who was leaning on the end of the piano, listening delightedly. "Oh, sing more, won't you? I don't know when I've had such a treat."
So Patty sang several of her prettiest songs, and the two old ladies were enchanted. Moreover, Eliza, the maid-of-all-work, and 'Kiah, the hired man, appeared in the doorway of the sitting-room and listened too.
"Come on, Philip; let's give them a duet," and Patty broke into some rollicking college songs, in which Philip joined.
Glad to be able to please their kind entertainers, they kept on singing for an hour or more.
"Well, that was great!" exclaimed Mrs. Fay, as Patty rose at last from the piano stool. "I used to sing some, and he used to sing bass. My, but we had nice times singing together there at that same piano. You two just made me think of it all over again. I think it's awful nice for two to sing together."
"Yes, we're awfully fond of singing together," said Philip, with a glance at Patty, half mischievous, half tender, whereat Patty blushed.
"You needn't tell me," said Mrs. Fay, nodding her head. "I see just how it is with you two. You can't hide it, you know, so you needn't to try."
"Oh, I don't want to hide anything, I'm sure," said Philip. But Patty said, "Don't be foolish, Philip; there's nothing to hide! You're mistaken, Mrs. Fay, if you think we're anything more than friends."
"Oh, land, child, I know what that means! Maybe you ain't ready to say yes yet, but you will soon. Well, it ain't none of my business, but I'm free to confess you are as proper-lookin' a young couple as I'd want to meet; and mighty well suited to each other."
"That's what I think," began Philip, but Patty turned the subject and went back to the weather, which was always a safe ground for conversation, if not safe to go out into.
"Well," she said, going to the window for the fourteenth time; "it's perfectly hopeless to think of starting. And it's after four now, and it's blowing great guns and snowing like all possessed! Mrs. Fay, we'll simply have to accept your hospitality for the night. Now I think I'll telephone Adele that we're stormbound."
But though Patty called and called, she could get no answer from the telephone Central.
"Guess the wires must be down," said Miss Winthrop. "They broke down last winter with a snow that came sudden, just like this, and 'twas a week before we got it fixed."
"Let me try," and Philip took the receiver from Patty's hand. But it made no difference who tried, they could get no answer of any kind.
"Oh, well," said Philip, as he hung up the receiver again, "it doesn't matter much. They know we're safe, and they know where we are, and they know we couldn't start out in a storm like this."
"Maybe they'll come for us with a motor," suggested Patty.
"They might if we were nearer. But a motor would get stalled before it could get over here and back again in these drifts. It's an awful storm, Patty, and the sooner you make up your mind that we can't go home to-night, the better for all concerned."
"My mind's made up, then," and Patty danced about the room. "I don't mind a bit! I think it's a lark. Do you have feather beds, Mrs. Fay?—I mean the kind you climb up to with step-ladders."
"Land no, child! We ain't old-fashioned folks, you know. We have springs and mattresses just like you do at home. Well, I'm sorry if your folks are worried, but I'm glad to have you young people stay the night. Maybe this evening, you'll sing for us some more."
"We will," said Philip. "We'll sing everything we know, and then make up some."
Once having made up her mind to the inevitable, Patty ceased bothering about it, and proceeded to enjoy herself and to entertain everybody else. She chatted pleasantly with the old lady, she coquetted with Philip, and finally wandered out into the kitchen to make friends with Eliza.
"Let me help you get supper," she said, for, to tell the truth, the novelty of the situation had passed, and Patty began to feel a little bored.
"Supper ain't nothin' to get, miss," returned Eliza, a rawboned, countrified girl who was shy in the presence of this city lady.
"Well, let me help you, anyway. Mayn't I set the table?"
"I'm afraid you wouldn't know where the things was. Here, take this dish and go down cellar for the butter, if so be's you have to do somethin'. It's in a kag, underneath the swing-shelf."
"Swing-shelf?" said Patty, interested—"what is a swing-shelf?"
"Why, a shelf hanging from the ceiling, to keep things on."
"But why does it hang from the ceiling? I never heard of such a thing."
"Why, so the rats or mice can't get at the things."
"Rats or mice!" and Patty gave a wild scream. "Here, take your plate, Eliza. I wouldn't go down there for a million billion dollars!"
Patty ran back to the sitting-room. "Oh, Philip," she cried, "they have rats and mice! Can't we go home? I don't mind the storm!"
"There, there, Patty," said Philip, meeting her half-way across the room, and taking her hand in his. "Don't be silly!"
"I'm not silly! But I can't stay where they keep rats and mice! Why, Philip, they expect them. They build high shelves on purpose for them."
"You must excuse this little girl, Mrs. Fay," said Philip. "She's really sensible in most ways, but she's an absolute idiot about mice, and she can't help it. Why, the other night——"
Patty drew her hand away from Philip's clasp, and put it over his mouth. "Stop!" she said, blushing furiously. "Don't you say another word! I'm not afraid of mice, Mrs. Fay."
"There, there, child; I know you are, and I don't blame you a mite. I am, too, or leastways, I used to be. I've kinder got over it of late years. But I know just how you feel. Now, let me tell you; honest, never a mouse dares show the tip of his nose outside the cellar! If you don't go down there, you're as safe as you would be up in a balloon. And I don't count none the less on you for acting skittish about 'em."
"I don't mind it, either," said Philip, who was still holding Patty's hand by way of reassurance. "I shouldn't mind if you acted skittisher yet."
But Patty drew her hand away, declaring that Mrs. Fay had quieted her fears entirely, and that if Eliza would promise to keep the cellar door shut, she wouldn't give another thought to the dreaded animals.
After supper, the four played a game of old-fashioned whist, which delighted the two old ladies, though it seemed strange to Patty and Philip, who were both good bridge players. Then there was more music, and at ten o'clock Miss Winthrop informed them that it was bedtime.
With considerable pride she took Patty up to the best spare room.
"Now, I hope you'll be comfortable," she said, "and I'm sure you will be. Here's my best night-gown for you, and a dressing-gown and slippers. I don't need 'em,—I can get along. And here's a brush and comb. And now, that's everything you want, isn't it?"
Patty was touched at the kindliness of the old lady, and though inwardly amused at the meagerness of her night appointments, she said, gratefully, "You're so kind to me, Miss Winthrop. Truly, I do appreciate it."
"You sweet little thing," returned the old lady. "Now let me unhook you,—I should admire to do so."
So Miss Winthrop assisted Patty to undress, and finally, after minute directions about the turning down and blowing out of the kerosene lamp, she went away.
When Patty surveyed herself in the mirror, she almost laughed aloud. The night-dress was of thick, unbleached muslin, made with tight bands to button around the neck and wrists. These bands were edged with a row of narrow tatting; and it was this trimming, Patty felt sure, that differentiated Miss Winthrop's best night-gown from her others. Then Patty tried on the dressing-gown, which was of dark grey flannel. This, too, was severely plain, though voluminous in shape; and the slippers were of black felt, and quite large enough for Patty to put both feet in one. She arrayed herself in these things and gave way to silent laughter as she pirouetted across the room. But her amusement at the unattractive garments in no way lessened her real appreciation of the gentle kindliness and hospitality that had been accorded to her.
At last she tucked herself into bed, and rolling over on the nubbly mattress and creaky springs, she almost wished that it had been a feather bed. But she was soon asleep, and thought no more about anything until morning.
Breakfast was at half-past seven, and after that, the long morning dragged. The fun and novelty had worn off, and Patty was anxious to get back to Fern Falls. She was bright and entertaining as ever, but the spontaneous enthusiasm of the day before had vanished.
But it was impossible to start that morning, Philip said. The roads were piled high with drifts, and almost impassable.
"But why can't we break the roads?" asked Patty. "Somebody has to do it, and I'm sure Jim's horses are as good as anybody's."
"Little girls mustn't advise on matters which they know nothing about," said Philip, unable to resist the temptation to tease her.
Patty pouted a little, and then, with a sudden resolution, was her own sunny self again. "All right, Philip," she said, smiling at him. "I know you'll start as soon as it's possible. When will that be?"
"Perhaps we can go this afternoon, dear; right after dinner, maybe. The man thinks the roads will be broken by that time."
The storm had ceased, and it was cloudy most of the morning, but about noon the sun came out, and by two o'clock they prepared to start.
The two kind old ladies were sorry to see them go, and begged them to come again some time to visit them.
Patty said good-bye with expressions of real and honestly meant gratitude, for surely Mrs. Fay and her sister had been kindness itself to their young guests.
"But goodness, gracious, Philip," Patty exclaimed, as they went flying down the road, "if I had had to stay there another night, I should have died!"
"Why, Patty, it wasn't so bad. Of course, they are primitive and old-fashioned people; but they are true ladies, even if not very highly educated. And their hospitality was simply unlimited."
"Yes, I know all that," said Patty, impatiently; "but I was bored to death."
"Well, you didn't show it; you were sweet as a peach to those two people, and they'll always love you for it."
"Oh, of course I wouldn't be impolite; but I'm glad we're started for home."
"Well, I'm not. Patty, I just enjoyed every minute,—because I was there with you. Dear, you don't know what it meant to me."
"Now, Philip," and Patty turned to flash a twinkling smile at him, "we have a twelve-mile drive ahead of us, besides gathering the eggs. Now, if you're going to say things like that to me all that twelve miles, I'm going to jump right out into this snowbank and stay there till somebody comes along and picks me up."
"But, Patty, I must say these things to you."
"Then, I must jump."
"But wait a minute, dear; before you jump, won't you just tell me that I may have a little hope that some day you'll promise to be my own little Patty forever?"
"Philip, I can't say anything like that, and I wish you wouldn't tease me. If those snowbanks didn't look so dreadfully cold——"
"But they are cold. If you don't believe it, I will wait while you try one. But, Patty, anyway, tell me this. If I stop teasing you now, will you give me an answer when I come back at New Year's? You know, I must take that five-thirty train this afternoon, and I shan't see you again till next week. Will you give me an answer then?"
"'Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do!'" sang Patty, with a saucy smile at him.
"No, I don't want Daisy's answer, I want yours. Now, you think it over through the week, and when I come up next Tuesday, you be ready to say, 'Yes, Philip, you may hope, and some day I'll make your hope come true.'"
"That's an awful long speech to learn by heart," said Patty, musingly.
"But you needn't learn it word for word; just say something from your own heart that means the same."
"Well," said Patty, "next Tuesday I'll look into my heart and see what's there; and if there's anything for you, I'll tell you."
Philip was forced to be content with this, for Patty suddenly changed the subject, and began to chatter merry nonsense that afforded no opportunity for romance. The roads were only a little broken, and the going was hard, because of occasional big drifts, but along some wind-swept stretches they made fairly good time.
"But I say," said Philip; "we'll have to cut out the butter and egg chapter! I simply must get that five-thirty, and I can't do it if we go around by Hatton's Corners."
"All right," returned Patty. "I'll put it up to Adele that we just couldn't do it; and I'll tell you what, Philip, we'll go right to the station, and you take the train there without going to the Kenerleys' at all. They'll send your things down to-morrow."
"That would be the safer way. But how will you get home from the station?"
"Oh, I'll telephone from the station office, and they'll send Martin, or somebody, after me."
"But you have to wait so long. Here's a better plan. Let's stop at the Barclay Inn, and telephone from there. Then when we reach the station, Martin or somebody will be there for you."
Patty agreed, and when they reached the Barclay Inn, a few miles from Fern Falls, they went in to telephone.
"We're on our way home," said Patty, after she had succeeded in getting a connection.
"Well, I should think it was time!" exclaimed Adele. "You don't know what you've missed! Where are you?"
"At Barclay Inn; and we're in an awful hurry. Philip is going to take the five-thirty from the station, and you send somebody there to meet me and drive the horses home, will you! And what did I miss? And you'll miss the butter and eggs, because we didn't get them."
"But where have you been? We tried all yesterday to get you on the telephone, and all this morning, too."
"Yes, I know; the wires broke down. But everything's all right. We stayed at Mrs. Fay's. I'll tell you all about it when I see you. Be sure to have me met at the station. Good-bye."
Patty hung up the receiver and hurried back to Philip. "We'll have to hustle to catch that train," he said, as he tucked her in the sleigh. "Did you get Adele?"
"Yes; she'll send some one to meet me. She says I missed something. Do you suppose they had a party last night in all that blizzard?"
"Well, it's just as well for you to miss a party once in a while; you have plenty of them. And I like the party I was at better than any I ever went to."
The roads were much better where they were travelling now, and they reached the station in time for Philip's train. But it was a close connection, for the train was already in the station, and as Philip swung aboard, he saw Martin and Hal Ferris coming in another sleigh.
"There they are!" he called to Patty. "It's all right, good-bye."
"Good-bye," she called back, and then the train pulled out.
"Well, you did cut up a pretty trick!" exclaimed Hal Ferris, as he came up to her. "Now, you jump in here with me, and I'll drive you home, and let Martin look after your horses. They must be pretty well done up. I would have brought a motor, but the sleighing's fine, and the motoring isn't. Hop in."
Patty hopped in, and in a moment they were flying along toward home.
"What did I miss?" she asked. "Did you have a party last night?"
"Party! in that storm! Rather not."
"Well, what did I miss?"
"What makes you think you missed anything?"
"Adele told me so, over the telephone."
"Well, then, let Adele tell you what it was. How could I possibly know?"
"But what did you do last night?"
"Nothing much; sat around, sang a little, and talked,—and I guess that's all."
"Who was there? Didn't Roger go home?"
"Yes; Roger went down on the morning train, just after you started on your wild career."
"Well, who was there? Chub, I know you're keeping something from me. Now, tell me what it is!"
"Do you really want to know, Patty? Well, Bill Farnsworth was there."
"What!" and Patty nearly fell out of the sleigh in astonishment. "Bill Farnsworth?"
"Yes; he came unexpectedly yesterday afternoon. Could only stay twenty-four hours, and went back to-day on the two o'clock train."
Patty wondered to herself why she felt as if something awful had happened. She couldn't realise that Bill had been there, and had gone away, and she hadn't seen him! What a cruel coincidence that it should have been just at the time when she was away. But her pride came to her rescue. She had no intention of letting Hal Ferris or anybody else know that she cared.
So she said, lightly: "Well, of all things! Didn't anybody expect him?"
"No; he thought he'd surprise us. He was awfully cut up that you weren't there."
"Oh, he was! Well, why didn't you send for me?"
"Send for you! And you miles away, and a blizzard blizzing like fury! But we spent hours hanging over the telephone, trying to get word to you."
"The wires were down," said Patty, thinking of the uninteresting evening she had spent, when she might have been talking to Little Billee.
"They sure were! We tried and tried, but we couldn't get a peep out of you. Daisy said it was because you were so wrapped up in Philip that you wouldn't answer the old telephone."
Patty's pretty face hardened a little as she thought how Daisy would delight in making such a speech as that before Farnsworth.
"I say, Patty, are you cut up about this? Did you want to see Big Bill, specially?"
"Oh, no, no," said Patty, smiling again. "I only thought it seemed funny that he happened to come when I happened to be away."
"Yes, I know; but of course nobody could help it. He came East on a flying business trip. Tried to get here for Christmas, but couldn't make it. He waited over a day, just to skip up here and back; said he wanted to see us all. But he had to take the two o'clock back to New York to-day, and I believe he starts to-night for Arizona. He's a great fellow, Bill is. You like him, don't you, Patty?"
"Yes, I like him," said Patty, simply.
"I've known him for years, you know. Giant Greatheart, we used to call him. So big and good, you know. Always doing something for somebody, and generous as he can be. Well, he's making good out in the mines. I don't know exactly what he's doing, but he's in a fair way to be a rich man. He's connected with some big company, and he's working with all his might. And when you say that about Big Bill Farnsworth, it means a good deal."
THE COUNTRY CLUB BALL
Before her mirror, Patty was putting the last touches to her Bo-Peep costume, and it must be confessed she was viewing the effect with admiration.
The gilt-framed glass gave back a lovely picture. The costume was one of the prettiest Patty had ever worn, and was exceedingly becoming. There was a short, quilted skirt of white satin and a panniered overdress of gay, flowered silk, caught up with blue bows. A little laced bodice and white chemisette completed the dress. Then there was a broad-leafed shepherdess hat, trimmed with flowers, and under this Patty's gold curls were bunched up on either side and tied with blue ribbons. She wore high-heeled, buckled slippers, and carried a long, white crook, trimmed with blossoms and fluttering ribbons.
She pranced and turned in front of the mirror, decidedly satisfied with the whole effect. Then she caught up her basket of flowers, which she carried because it added a pretty touch, and went downstairs.
It was a gay-looking party that waited for her in the hall. The two Misses Crosby had been there to dinner, and also Mr. Hoyt and Mr. Collins, and these, with the house party, were now all arrayed in their fancy dress. As they had agreed on Christmas Day, they were all in pairs, and as of course there could be no secrecy among them, they had not yet put on their masks.
Mona and Roger were very magnificent as Queen Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh. Though Mona was not at all the type of the red-haired queen, she looked very handsome in the regal robes and great, flaring collar, while Roger was a veritable courtier in his picturesque garb.
Daisy and Mr. Collins were Pierrette and Pierrot. Their costumes were black and white, Frenchy-looking affairs, with tossing pompons and peaked caps.
The elder Miss Crosby and Jim Kenerley were Indians; and the warlike brave and the young Indian maiden looked as if they might have stepped out of the earliest pages of our country's history.
The other Miss Crosby and Hal Ferris were Italian peasants in national costume.
Adele and Mr. Hoyt were the most simply dressed of all, but in their plain Puritan garb they were effective and distinguished looking.
Perhaps, however, it was Philip Van Reypen whose costume received the greatest applause. He had copied a picture of Bobby Shafto that had been painted by a frivolous-minded artist, and his embroidered and belaced coat of light blue silk was remindful of the period of the gayest Louis. He wore white satin knee-breeches, white silk stockings, and black slippers with enormous buckles. In accordance with the song, there were large silver buckles at his knees; and his tri-corne hat was a very marvel of gold lace and feathers. Full lace ruffles flapped at his throat and wrists, and altogether he was an absolute dandy.
"You look like a valentine," said Patty, "or a birthday cake."
"You do look good enough to eat," declared Adele, as she took in the gorgeous costume.
"Yes, I flatter myself it's the very last touch of Shaftoism," said Philip, strutting about with an affected gait. "I say, Patty, you're all kinds of a peach yourself."
"Yes, this frock is all right," said Patty, "but you simply take my breath away, Phil. I didn't know anybody could look so beautiful! I wish men dressed that way nowadays."
And then everybody admired everybody else until it was time to start. Then each put on a little mask, which they were to wear at the ball until supper-time. Patty's was of light blue silk with a short fall of lace, and Philip's was of black satin.
"I can't wear this thing all the way there," declared Patty, taking hers off again.
"Well, put it on just before you get there," enjoined Adele. "I've taken great care that no one should know a word about our costumes, and now if we are well masked they won't be able to guess who we are. Even though they know we all came from our house, there are so many of us, they can't tell us apart."
The Country Club was a handsome, spacious building, well away from the outskirts of the town. But the motors took them there swiftly, and soon they joined the large party of maskers in the Club ballroom. There were perhaps a hundred people there, and Patty felt there was little risk of being recognised. She did not know many of the Fern Falls people, anyway, and they would scarcely know her in her disguise.
"Of course the first dance is mine," said Philip, as the music began.
But after that dance was over, Patty was besieged by would-be partners. Historical characters, foreigners, clowns, monks, and knights in armour begged for dances with Little Bo-Peep. Patty was so engrossed in looking at these wonderful personages, that she scarcely noticed who put their names on her card. And in truth it made little difference, as none of the men put their real names, and she hadn't the slightest idea who they were.
"Help yourselves," she said, laughing, "to the dances before supper; but don't touch the other side of the card. After the masks are off, I shall have some say, myself, as to my partners!"
So the first half of the dances were variously signed for by Columbus and Aladdin and Brother Sebastian and Jack Pudding and other such names.
During each dance Patty would try to discover the identity of her partner, but as she only succeeded in one or two cases, she gave it up.
"For it doesn't make the slightest difference who you are," she said, as she danced with Brother Sebastian, who was garbed as a Friar of Orders Grey.
"No," he returned, in a hollow, sepulchral voice, which he seemed to think suited to his monk's attire.
"And you needn't try to disguise your voice so desperately," said Patty, laughing gaily, "for probably I don't know you, anyhow. And you don't know me, do you?"
"I don't know your name," said the monk, still in hollow tones, "but I know you're a dancer from the professional stage, and not just a young woman in private life."
"Good gracious!" cried Patty, horrified. "I'm nothing of the sort! I'm a simple-minded little country girl, and I dance because I can't help it. I love to dance, but I must say that a monk's robe on one's partner is a little troublesome. I think all the time I'm going to trip on it."
"Oh, all right; I'll fix that," said the monk, and he held up the skirts of his long robe until they cleared the floor.
"That's better," said Patty, "but it does spoil the picturesqueness of your costume. Let's promenade for a while, and then you can let your robes drag in proper monkian fashion."
"Much obliged to you for not saying monkey fashion! I certainly do feel foolish, dressed up in this rig."
"Why, you ought not to, in that plain gown. Just look at the things some of the men have on!"
"I know it. Look at that court jester; he must feel a fool!"
"But that's his part," laughed Patty; "rather clever, I think, to dress as a fool, and then if you feel like a fool, you're right in your part."
"I say, Miss Bo-Peep, you're clever, aren't you?"
"Not so very; but when talking to a learned monk, I try to be as wise as I can. Oh, look at that stunning big man,—who is he?"
"Looks like one of the patriarchs; but I guess he's meant for King Lear. See the wreath of flowers on his white hair."
"Did Lear wear flowers? I thought he wore a crown."
"Tut! tut! Little Bo-Peep, you must brush up your Shakespeare. Don't you know King Lear became a little troubled in his head, and adorned himself with a garland?"
"Well, he's awfully picturesque," said Patty, quite undisturbed by her ignorance of the play, and looking admiringly at Lear's magnificent court robes of velvet and ermine, and his long, flowing white hair and beard, and the garland of flowers that lay loosely on the glistening white wig and trailed down behind.
As they neared the picturesque figure, King Lear bowed low before Patty, and held out his hand for her dance card.
It was the rule of the ball not to speak, but to indicate invitations by gestures.
However, Patty had no reason to keep silent, as they were nearly all strangers, so she laughed, and spoke right out: "I'd gladly give you a dance, King Lear, but I haven't one left."
With another courtly bow, King Lear still seemed to insist on his wish, and he took up her card, which she had tied to her crook by a narrow ribbon. With surprise he saw the whole second page blank, and pointed to it with an accusing gesture.
"Ah, yes," returned Patty, smiling, "but those are for my friends after I know them. We unmask at supper-time, and then I shall use some discrimination in bestowing my dances. If you want one of those you must ask me for it after supper."
King Lear bowed submissively to Patty's decree, and was about to move away, when a sudden thought struck him. He picked up Patty's card again, and indicated a space between the last dance and the supper.
"Oh, I know what you mean," cried Patty. "You mean an 'extra.' But I don't think they'll have any. And, anyway, I never engage for extras. If they do have one, and you happen to be around, I'll give it to you;—that's all I can say." And then Patty's next partner came, and she danced away with him, leaving King Lear making his sweeping, impressive bows.
"Who is he?" asked Patty, of Roger, who chanced to be her partner this time.
"Don't know, I'm sure; but I know scarcely any of the people up here. They seem to be a fine crowd, though. Have you noticed the Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra? There she is now. Isn't she stunning?"
Patty looked round, to see a tall, majestic woman, dressed as Zenobia. Her tiny mask hid only her eyes, and her beautiful, classic face well accorded with the character she had chosen.
"She's beautiful!" declared Patty, with heartfelt admiration. "I wish I was big and stunning, Roger, instead of a little scrap of humanity."
"What a silly you are, Patty Pink! Now, I've no doubt that tall, majestic-looking creature wishes she could be a little fairy, like you."
"But a big woman is so much more graceful and dignified."
"Patty, I do believe you're fishing! And I know you're talking nonsense! Dignified isn't just the term I should apply to you,—but if there's anybody more graceful than you are, I've yet to see her."
"Oh, Roger, that's dear of you. You know very well, I hate flattery or compliments, but when a real friend says a nice thing it does me good. And, truly, it's the regret of my life, that I'm not about six inches taller. There, look at Zenobia now. She's walking with that King Lear. Aren't they a stunning couple?"
"Yes, they are. But if I were you, I wouldn't be envious of other women's attractions. You have quite enough of your own."
"Never mind about me," said Patty, suddenly realising that she was talking foolishly. "Let's talk about Mona. She's looking beautiful to-night, Roger."
"She always does," and Roger had a strange thrill in his voice, that struck a sympathetic chord in Patty's heart.
"What about her, Roger? Isn't she good to you?"
"Not very. She's capricious, Patty; sometimes awfully kind, and then again she says things that cut deep. Patty, do you think she really cares for that Lansing man?"
"I don't know, Roger. I can't make Mona out at all, lately. She used to be so frank and open with me, and now she never talks confidences at all."
"Well, I can't understand her, either. But here comes Mr. Collins, looking for you, Patty. Is only half of this dance mine?"
"Yes, Roger. I had to chop up every one, to-night. You may have one after supper, if you like."
Patty whirled through the various dances, and at the last one before supper she found herself again with Philip Van Reypen.
"Why, I didn't know this was yours!" she cried, looking at her card, where, sure enough, she saw the initials B. S.
"It sure is mine," returned Bobby Shafto; "but we're not going to dance it."
"Why not, and what are we going to do?"
"We're going to wander away into the conservatory."
"There isn't any conservatory. This is a club-house, you know."
"Well, they've fixed up the gymnasium, so it's almost a conservatory. It's full of palms and flowers and things, and it makes a perfectly good imitation."
"But why do we go there?" asked Patty, as Philip led her away from the dancing-room.
"Oh, to settle affairs of state." He led her to the gymnasium, and sure enough, tall palms and flowering plants had been arranged to form little nooks and bowers, which were evidently intended for tete-a-tete conversations.
"You know," Philip began, as they found a pleasant seat, under some palms, "you know, Patty, you promised me something."
"Yes, you did, and I'm going to hold you to your promise. You promised——"
"'Rose, you promised!'" sang Patty, humming a foolish little song that was an old-fashioned favourite.
"Yes, you did promise, you exasperating little Rose, you! And I'm going to keep you prisoner here, until you make it good! Patty, you said you'd look into your heart, and tell me what you found there."
"Goodness me, Philip, did I really say that? Well, it will take me an awful long while to tell you all that's in it."
"Really, Patty? Did you find so much?"
"Yes, heaps of things."
"But I mean about me."
"Oh, about you! Why, I don't know that there's anything there at all about you."
"Oh, yes, there is; you can't fool me that way. Now, Patty, do be serious. Look in your heart, and see if there isn't a little love for me?"
Patty sat very still, and closed her eyes, as Philip could see through the holes in her blue mask.
Then she opened them, and said, with a smile: "I looked and hunted good, Philip, and I can't find a bit of love for you. But there's an awful big, nice, warm friendship, if you care about that."
"I do care about that, Patty. I care very much for it, but I want more."
Just at that moment King Lear and Zenobia strolled past them, and Patty almost forgot Philip as she gazed after the two majestic figures.
"Patty," he said, recalling her attention, "Patty, dear, I say I want more."
"Piggy-wig!" exclaimed Patty, with her blue eyes twinkling at him through the mask. "More what? I was looking at King Lear, and I lost the thread of your discourse, Philip."
"Patty Fairfield, I'd like to shake you! Don't you know what I'm asking of you?"
"Well, even if I do, I must say, Philip, that I can't carry on a serious conversation with a mask on. Now, you know, they take these things off pretty soon, and then——"
"And then may I ask you again, Patty, and will you listen to me and answer me?"
"Dunno. I make no promises. Philip, this dance is over. I expect they're going to unmask now. Come on, let's go back to our crowd."
But just as they rose to go, Jim Kenerley approached, and King Lear was with him.
"Little Bo-Peep," said the big Indian, "King Lear tells me that you half promised him an extra, if there should be one."
"As it was only half a promise, then it means only half a dance," said Patty, turning her laughing blue eyes to the majestic, flower-crowned King. "Is there going to be an extra, Jim,—I mean Chief Mudjokivis, or whatever your Indian name is?"
"I don't know, Bo-Peep. I'll go and see."
Jim went away, and as Philip had already gone, Patty was left alone with the white-haired King.
With a slow, majestic air, he touched her gently on the arm, and motioned for her to be seated. Then he sat down beside her, and through the eyeholes of his mask, he looked straight into her eyes.
At his intent gaze, Patty felt almost frightened, but as her eyes met his own, she became conscious of something familiar in the blue eyes that looked at her, and then she heard King Lear whisper, softly: "Apple Blossom!"
Patty fairly jumped; then, seeing the smile that came into his eyes, she put out both hands to King Lear, and said, gladly: "Bill! Little Billee! Oh, I am glad to see you!"
"Are you, really?" And Bill Farnsworth's voice had a slight tremor in it. "Are you sure of that, my girl?"
"Of course I am," and Patty had regained her gay demeanour, which she had lost in her moment of intense surprise. "Oh, of course I am! I was so sorry to have missed you last week. And Jim said you went back to Arizona."
"I did expect to, but I was detained in New York, and only this morning I found I could run up here and stay till to-morrow. I couldn't get here earlier, and when I reached the house, you had all started. So I got into these togs, and came along."
"Your togs are wonderful, Little Billee. I never saw you look so stunning, not even as Father Neptune."
"That was a great show, wasn't it?" and Big Bill smiled at the recollection. "But I say, Little Girl, you're looking rather wonderful yourself to-night. Oh, Patty, it's good to see you again!"
"And it's good to see you; though it doesn't seem as if I had really seen you. That mask and beard completely cover up your noble countenance."
"And I wish you'd take off that dinky little scrap of blue, so I can see if you are still my Apple Blossom Girl."
"But I thought you wanted the extra dance."
"I don't believe there's going to be any extra, after all. I think the people are anxious to get their masks off, and if so we'll have our dance after supper."
BACK TO NEW YORK
Farnsworth was right. There was no extra before supper, and the guests were even now flocking to the supper-room.
Philip came toward them, looking for Patty, his mask already off.
"Oh, can we really take them off now?" cried Patty. "I'm so glad. They're horridly uncomfortable. I'll never wear one again. I love a fancy dress party, but I don't see any sense in a masquerade."
She took off her mask as she spoke, and her pretty face was flushed pink and her hair was curling in moist ringlets about her temples.
Farnsworth looked down on her as he removed his own mask. "Apple Blossom!" he exclaimed again, and the comparison was very apt, for the pink and white of Patty's face was just the color of the blossoms.
Then the two men looked at each other, and Patty suddenly realised that they had never met.
"Oh, you don't know each other, do you?" she exclaimed. "And you my two best friends! Mr. Farnsworth, this is Mr. Van Reypen. And now, which of you is going to take me to supper?"
As each offered an arm at once, Patty accepted both, and walked out demurely between the two big men. The men were exceedingly polite and courteous, but each was annoyed at the other's presence. As a matter of fact, Farnsworth had chanced to overhear a few words that Philip said to Patty a short time before. It was by merest chance that King Lear and Zenobia had walked by just as Philip was asking Patty to give him more than friendship. Zenobia, uninterested in the two under the palms, didn't even hear the words; but Farnsworth, who had found out from Jim Kenerley all the members of the house party, had scarcely taken his eyes from Little Bo-Peep since he arrived at the ball. With no intention of eavesdropping, he had followed her about, hoping to get a chance to see her first alone. He managed this only with Kenerley's help, and meantime he had discovered that Van Reypen was very seriously interested in Little Bo-Peep.
Philip himself knew little of Farnsworth, save for a few chance remarks he had heard at the Kenerleys', but he realised at once that Patty and the big Westerner were great friends, if nothing more.
However, the three went to supper together, and joined the group in which they were most interested.
Great was the surprise of Daisy and Mona when Patty appeared with Mr. Farnsworth.
Big Bill was in the merriest of spirits. He greeted everybody heartily, he joked and laughed, and was at his most entertaining best. Patty was very proud of him, for without his mask he looked very handsome as King Lear, and his stalwart figure seemed to dwarf the other men.
After supper he claimed Patty for the promised dance.
"Would you rather dance with King Lear?" he said, smiling, "with all these heavy velvet draperies bothering us, or shall I go and shed this robe, and just be plain Bill?"
Patty looked at him, thoughtfully. "We'd have a better dance if you took off that flapping robe. But then, of course, you'd have to take off your wigs and things, and you wouldn't be half so beautiful."
"Well, then, don't let's dance, but just stroll around and talk. And there's another reason why I'd rather keep on my wig and wreath."
"Because the wreath means that I am mad."
"Mad at me?"
"Oh, not that kind of mad! I mean crazy, demented, loony,—what was the old King, anyway?"
"A little touched?"
"Yes, that's it; and so, you see, he could say anything he wanted to. You know, people forgive crazy people, no matter what they say."
"Are you going to say crazy things to me?"
"Very likely; you've completely turned my head."
"Do you know, I didn't even know King Lear ever went crazy," said Patty in an endeavour to change the subject.
"Why, fie, fie, Little Girl, I thought you knew your Shakespeare; but I suppose you're too busy socially to read much poetry."
"I read one poem this winter that I liked," said Patty, demurely.
"Did you? What was it?"
"It came to me in a blue envelope."
"It did! Why, Patty, Jim told me you never got that."
"Jim is mistaken; I did get it."
"And did you like it?"
"Where did you get it, Bill?"
"Did you like it?"
"Yes, I liked it lots. Who wrote it?"
"Did you, really? You clever man! I thought possibly you might have done it, but it sounded so,—so finished."
"Oh, no, it didn't, Patty. It was crude and amateurish; but it was written to you and about you, so I did the best I could. Patty, are you in love with Van Reypen?"
"What!" and Patty stood still and looked at Farnsworth, indignantly. "You have no right to ask such a question!"
"I know I haven't, Patty, and I apologise. I can't seem to get over my Western bluntness. And, Little Girl, I don't blame you a bit if you do care for him. He's a good-looking chap, and an all-round good man."
"You seem to have sized him up pretty quickly. Why, you've only just met him."
"Yes, but you know I was at the Kenerleys' last week, and Jim told me all about him."
"Why did you want to know all about him?"
"Shall I tell you why?" And Farnsworth's blue eyes looked straight into Patty's own. "I inquired about him, because Daisy said you were just the same as engaged to him."
"Daisy said that, did she?" Patty rarely lost her temper, but this unwarranted speech of Daisy Dow's made her exceedingly angry. But what hurt her even more, was that Bill should believe Daisy's assertion, and should take it so calmly. His attitude piqued Patty; and she said, coldly: "Well, if Daisy says so, it must be so."
"I know it, Little Girl," and Farnsworth's voice was very tender. "He can give you everything that you ought to have,—wealth, social position, and a life of luxury and pleasure. Moreover, he is a thorough gentleman and a true man. I hope you will be very happy with him, Patty."
For some reason this speech exasperated Patty beyond all measure. It seemed as if her friends were settling her affairs for her, without giving her any voice in the decision. "You are a little premature, Bill," she said, without a smile. "I'm not engaged to Mr. Van Reypen, and I do not know that I shall be."
"Oh, yes, you will, Patty; but don't be hasty, dear child. Think it over before you decide, for you know there are other things in the world beside wealth and social position."
"What, for instance?" said Patty, in a flippant tone.
"Love," said Farnsworth, very seriously.
And then Patty was moved by a spirit of perversity. She thought that if Farnsworth really cared for her, he was handing her over to Philip very easily, and she resented this attitude.
"Are you implying that Mr. Van Reypen is not capable of giving me love, as well as the other advantages you enumerate?"
"No, Patty, I am not implying anything of the sort. I only know that you are too young yet to be engaged to anybody, and I wish for your own sake you would wait,—at least until you are perfectly sure of your own affections. But if they are given to Mr. Van Reypen, I shall be glad for you that you have chosen so wisely."
Patty looked at Farnsworth in amazement. Remembering what he had said to her last summer, it was strange to hear him talk this way. She could not know that the honest, big-hearted fellow was breaking his own heart at the thought of losing her; but that he unselfishly felt that Van Reypen, as a man of the world, was more fitting for pretty Patty than himself. He knew he was Western, and different from Patty's friends and associates, and he was so lacking in egotism or in self-conceit that he couldn't recognise his own sterling merits. And, too, though he was interested in some mining projects, they had not yet materialised, and he did not yet know whether the near future would bring him great wealth, or exactly the reverse of fortune.
But Patty couldn't read his heart, and she was disappointed and piqued at his manner and words. Without even a glance into his earnest eyes, she said: "Thank you, Bill, for your advice; I know it is well meant, and I appreciate it. Please take me back to Philip now."
Farnsworth gave her a pained look, but without a word turned and led her back to the group they had left.
Philip was waiting there, and Patty, to hide the strange hurt she felt in her own heart, was exceedingly kind in her manner toward him.
"Our dance, Philip," she said, gaily, and though it hadn't been engaged, Philip was only too glad to get it.
Soon afterward, the ball was over, and they all went home. As Patty came from the cloak room, wrapped in her fur coat, Philip stepped up to her in such a possessive way, that Farnsworth, who had also been waiting for her, turned aside.
"That's a foregone conclusion," said Jim Kenerley to Farnsworth, as he glanced at Patty and Philip.
"Nonsense," said Adele. "Patty isn't thinking of conclusions yet. But I must say it would be a very satisfactory match."
"Yes, Mr. Van Reypen seems to be a fine fellow," agreed Farnsworth.
When they reached home, Patty said good-night, declaring she was weary enough to go straight to bed at once.
"Will you come down again later, if you're hungry?" said Philip, smiling at the recollection of Christmas Eve.
"No," and Patty flashed her dimples at him; and knowing that Farnsworth was listening, she added, "There's no moonlight to-night!"
"Moonlight does help," said Philip. "Good-night, Little Bo-Peep."
"Good-night, Bobby Shafto," and Patty started upstairs, then turned, and holding out her hand to Farnsworth, said "Good-night, King Lear; shall I see you in the morning?"
"No; I leave on the early train," said Farnsworth, abruptly. "Good-night, Patty, and good-bye."
He turned away, toward Daisy, and Patty went on upstairs.
Farnsworth had spoken in a kind voice, but Patty knew that he had heard what she and Philip had said about coming down in the moonlight.
"I think he's a horrid, mean old thing!" said Patty to herself, when she reached her own room. "His manners are not half as good as Philip's, and he's rude and unkind, and I just hate him!"
Whereupon, as if to prove her words, she took from her portfolio the poem in the blue envelope, and read it all over again; and then put it under her pillow and went to sleep.
* * * * *
A few days later Patty was back in New York. She gave her father and Nan glowing accounts of the delightful times she had had at Fern Falls and the jollities of a country house party in the winter time. She told them all about the pleasant people she had met up there, about her experience at Mrs. Fay's, and about Farnsworth's flying visits.
"I'd like to meet that man," said Nan. "I think he sounds attractive, Patty."
"He is attractive," said Patty, frankly; "but he's queer. You never know what mood he's going to be in. Sometimes he's awfully friendly, and then again he gets huffy over nothing."
"I'm afraid you tease him, Patty," said her father, smiling at her. "You're getting to be such a popular young person that I fear you're getting spoiled."
"Not Patty," said Nan, kindly. "Go ahead, my child, and have all the fun you can. The young men all adore you, and I don't wonder."
"Why, Nancy Bell, how complimentary you are!" and Patty gave her stepmother an affectionate pat.
"But now," said Mr. Fairfield, "if I may have the floor for a minute, I'd like to make an announcement. We have a plan, Patty, which we made while you were away, and which I hope will meet with your approval."
"As if I ever disapproved of any of your plans, my dear daddy. Consider my approval granted before you begin."
"Well, it's this: I think Nan is looking a little bit pale, and I feel a trifle pale myself, so I think we two will run away down South for a fortnight or so, and leave you here."
"Alone?" asked Patty, in surprise.
"Well, no; hardly that. But how would you like to have Mrs. Allen, Nan's mother, come and stay with you?"
"I think that will be lovely," exclaimed Patty. "I'm awfully fond of Mrs. Allen, and I haven't seen her for a long time."
"She's not a very sedate matron," said Nan, laughing. "I dare say she'll keep you on the go, Patty. She's fond of opera and concerts, and she likes gaiety. But father will come over for the week-ends, and look after you both."
Nan's parents lived in Philadelphia, and as they had just returned from a trip abroad, the Fairfields hadn't seen them lately. But it had seemed to them that the arrangement they had planned would be satisfactory all round, for Mrs. Allen liked to spend a few weeks in New York each winter.
About a week later the elder Fairfields departed, and Mrs. Allen arrived.
She was a fine-looking lady of a youthful middle age, and looked forward with pleasure to her visit with Patty.
"Now, you mustn't let me be a burden to you in any way, my dear," Mrs. Allen said, after the two were left alone. "Whenever I can help you, or whenever you want a chaperon, I'm entirely at your service; but when I'm not necessary to your plans, don't consider me at all,—and don't think about entertaining me, for I can look after myself. I'm never lonely or bored."
"Thank you, Mrs. Allen," said Patty. "I'm sure we shall get on most beautifully together, and anything you want or want to do, I want you to give your own orders, just as if you were in your own home."
And so the two had many pleasant times together. They went to matinees, teas, and concerts, to picture exhibitions, and to card parties. Mrs. Allen did not care for dances, but went gladly when it was a party where Patty required a chaperon.
All of the young people liked Mrs. Allen, and she became well acquainted with all of Patty's friends.
Bill Farnsworth was still in New York. His plans were uncertain, and often changed from day to day, owing to various details of his business.
He called on Patty occasionally, but not often, and his calls were short and formal.
"I like that big Western chap," Mrs. Allen said to Patty one day; "but he seems preoccupied. Sometimes he sits as if in a brown study, and says nothing for quite some minutes. And then, when you speak to him, he answers abruptly, as if bringing his mind back from faraway thoughts."
"I daresay he's very much wrapped up in his business, Mrs. Allen," said Patty. "They say he's trying to swing a big mining proposition,—whatever that means."
"It may mean a great many things," said Mrs. Allen, thoughtfully. "I hope he's all right, Patty."
"All right! Big Bill Farnsworth all right? Well, I rather guess he is!"
"There, there," and Mrs. Allen laughed. "You needn't take up the cudgels so desperately. I didn't mean to accuse him of anything."
"No, of course you didn't," and Patty laughed, too; "but whatever big Bill may lack in the way of polish or culture, he's absolutely honest and honourable, even to an absurd degree."
"I don't think he lacks culture, Patty. His manners are all right."
"Yes, they're all right, but he hasn't quite the correct ease of a man like Philip Van Reypen."
"I know what you mean, and I suppose it's the effect of the aristocratic Van Reypen ancestry. But Mr. Farnsworth has such a splendid big air of real nobility about him that I think a more formal and conventional demeanour would quite spoil him."
"Maybe it would," said Patty, simply.
That very afternoon Farnsworth came to call, and told Patty he had come to say good-bye.
"I know you think my farewells never mean anything," he said, smiling; "and I don't wonder, for I often say I am going, and then a telegram obliges me to change my plan. But I think it is positive this time that I shall leave to-night for Arizona."
"Have you been successful in your undertakings?" asked Patty, with a sympathetic interest.
"Yes, I believe I have. I don't want to be over sanguine, and matters are not yet entirely settled, but I think I have conquered the obstacles which I came to conquer, and I hope all will go well."
"I hope so, Little Billee," said Patty, looking at him with earnest good will. "I want you to succeed."
"Thank you for that," said Farnsworth, simply.
"And when are you coming East again?"
"I can't tell; I may have to come back in February; but if that is not necessary, I shall not come for a year or more. You will be married and settled by that time."
"Indeed, I shan't! In fact, I've about made up my mind that I'll never marry anybody."
"Girls have said that before, and been known to change their minds. But whatever you do, I wish you all happiness and joy throughout your whole life,—Little Apple Blossom."
Farnsworth had risen to go, and he held Patty's hands in both his, as he looked straight into her eyes.
Patty's own eyes fell beneath his gaze, and she said, "And I wish you happiness wherever you are, Little Billee."
"Thank you, dear," he said, and then with a final handclasp he went away.
AN EXCITING CHASE
Farnsworth had left Patty about two o'clock, and it was only a few moments later that her telephone rang.
Her response was answered by a tearful, wailing voice, that said, "Oh, Miss Patty, oh, can't you come here at once? Come right away!"
"Come where? Who are you?" said Patty, bewildered, for she did not recognise the voice, and it sounded like some one in deep distress.
"Oh, don't wait a minute! Every moment is precious! Just come at once!"
"But how can I come, if I don't know who you are? I can help you better, if you'll control yourself and tell me something about yourself and your trouble. First of all, who are you?"
"I'm Anne, Miss Galbraith's maid. You know me, Miss Patty. Oh, come quick; Miss Mona has gone!"
"Gone! Where? Now, listen to me, Anne! Stop your crying, and tell me what you mean, and then I will go to you at once. Where are you? And where has Miss Mona gone?"
"I'm in her apartment, and I don't like to tell you over the telephone where she's gone. But,—Miss Patty,—I think,—Oh, I fear,—she has eloped with Mr. Lansing!"
The last sentence came in an explosive burst, as if the girl could keep her secret no longer.
"What!" exclaimed Patty. And then, suddenly realising that it was a desperate situation, she said, "Don't say another word, Anne! I will go right straight to you. Stay there till I come."
She knew the excitable character of the girl, and feared she might get hysterical if she talked further over the telephone. Patty hung up the receiver, and sat still for a moment, thinking deeply.
"I won't tell Mrs. Allen," she finally decided, "but I must have some one to help me,—to go with me. I believe I'll call up Roger."
But she couldn't bear to do that. It seemed too dreadful to tell Roger what had happened. She thought next of Kenneth, who was a standby as a loyal friend, but he was far downtown in his office, and might be busy with an important case.
"Philip, of course," she said to herself; but even with her hand on the receiver, another thought flashed through her mind. "No one could help me to save Mona like Big Bill!" she thought, and on a sudden impulse she called up his hotel.
"Bill,—it's Patty," she said, her voice trembling.
"Yes, dear; what is it? What is the matter?"
The kind, quiet voice, with its deep tones of sympathy and capability, made Patty realise that she had appealed to the right one. "Oh, Bill," she went on, "there's awful trouble, and you must help me."
"Of course I will, Little Girl! Steady now; tell me what it's all about. Do you want me to come there?"
"But you're just starting for the West," cried Patty, as she remembered this for the first time.
"That doesn't matter, if you want me. I'll be right over."
"And wait a minute; tell me what you think we ought to do. I've heard from Anne that Mona is eloping with that awful Lansing man!"
"Then there's no time to be lost! Take your little car, and go to The Plaza as fast as you can spin! I'll meet you there, in the Galbraiths' apartment."
Bill hung up the receiver, without even a good-bye, and Patty gave a little sigh of relief, for it seemed as if he had taken the responsibility from her shoulders, and would manage the matter himself. She ordered her car, flung on her hat and coat, and with a hasty word to Mrs. Allen that she was going out, she drove her little electric herself down to the hotel.
When she entered the Galbraiths' apartment, she found Farnsworth already there.
"It's true," he said, looking at her with a grave face. "That is, I think it must be. Mona went away half an hour ago, and took a suit case with her. She went in a motor with Mr. Lansing. Anne is worried, because this morning she overheard the two telephoning."
"I wasn't listening, Miss Patty," said the tearful maid. "That is, I didn't mean to, but Miss Mona was excited like, and her voice was so loud I couldn't help hearing."
"I'm glad you did, Anne," said Patty, "it may help us to save Miss Mona yet. What else can you tell us?"
"Nothing, except that Miss Mona left a note on her father's desk, and I thought maybe it might be to tell him she had gone."
Big Bill strode over to the desk, and there, under a paperweight, lay a note, addressed to Mr. Galbraith. He picked it up, and looked at it, thoughtfully.
"Patty," he said, "this isn't sealed. Considering all things, I think it is our duty to read it, but you know more about such matters than I do. What do you think?"
Patty hesitated. She had always thought it little less than a crime to read a note addressed to another, but the circumstances made this case seem an exception. "We might telephone to Mr. Galbraith and ask his permission," she suggested.
But Big Bill seemed suddenly to have made up his mind.
"No!" he declared, "I'll take the responsibility of this thing. To telephone would frighten Mr. Galbraith, and would delay matters too much, beside. I shall read this note, and if I can't square my action with Mr. Galbraith afterward, I'll accept the consequences."
The impressive manner of the big man, his stern, set face, and honest, determined blue eyes convinced Patty that he was right, and together they read the note.
In it, as they had feared, Mona told her father that she was going away to marry Mr. Lansing, because her father would not allow her to marry him otherwise. She expressed regret at the sorrow she knew this would bring to her father, but she said she was old enough to decide for herself whom she wished to marry, and she felt sure that after it was over he would forgive her, and call his two children back to him.
"Mona never wrote that note of her own accord," exclaimed Patty, indignantly. "That man made her do it!"
"Of course he did!" agreed Bill, in a stern voice. "I know Lansing,—and, Patty, the man is a scoundrel."
"You know him? I didn't know you did."
"Yes, I do! And I ought to have warned Mona more against him. I did tell her what his real nature is, but she wouldn't listen, and I never dreamed she was so deeply infatuated with him. But we mustn't blame her, Patty. She was simply under the influence of that man, and he persuaded her to go with him against her better judgment. But we must go after them and bring them back."
"But you're going West to-night."
"Not unless we rescue Mona first! Why, Patty, she mustn't be allowed to marry that man! I tell you he's a scoundrel, and I never say that about a man unless I know it to be true. But this is no time to discuss Lansing. We must simply fly after them."
"But how do you know where they've gone?"
"I don't know! But we must find out, somehow. Perhaps the men at the door can tell us. Perhaps Anne can."
"I only know this, sir," said Anne, who was wringing her hands and weeping; "when Miss Mona was telephoning, she said something about Greenwich."
"Of course!" cried Bill. "That's exactly where they'd go! But wait, they would have to go for a license first."
"Telephone the license man," said Patty, inspired by Bill's manner and tones.
"Right-O!" and after some rather troublesome telephoning, Bill announced, "They did! they got a license, and they started in a motor for Greenwich about half an hour ago! Come on, Patty! Anne, you stay right here, in case we telephone. If Mr. Galbraith comes home, don't tell him a word about it. Leave it to me. I'll be responsible for this note." Bill put the note in his pocket, and almost pushing Patty out of the door, he had her in the elevator and downstairs almost before she knew it.
"Shall we take my little car?" she asked, as Bill strode through the lobby, and Patty hurried to keep up with him.
"Good Heavens, no! We want a racer. I'll drive it myself."
By the power of sheer determination, the big Western man procured a fast car in an incredibly short time, and in a few moments he and Patty were flying up Broadway.
"Now if you want to talk you may," said Bill, and his voice was quiet and composed, though he was alertly threading his swift way through the traffic. "I had to be a little short with you while we were hurrying off, because I didn't want to lose a minute. But now, all I have to do is to keep just inside the speed limit while we're in the city, and then I rather guess there'll be one big chase!"
"Oh, Bill, you are just splendid!" exclaimed Patty, with shining eyes, unable to repress her admiration of his capability and strength.
"But we haven't accomplished anything yet, Patty; we're only starting out to try. You know, it's a hundred to one shot that we miss them,—for we've very little idea where they've gone."
"But it's a straight road to Greenwich."
"Yes, but they may have turned off anywhere. They may change their minds a dozen times about their destination."
"No, they won't," said Patty, positively; "not unless they think they're pursued, and of course they've no idea of that. Speed her up, Bill; the way is clear now! I don't believe they're going at this pace."
"Patty, you're a good pal! I don't believe any other girl would be as plucky as you are in such a case."
"Why, I haven't done anything," and Patty opened her eyes wide, in surprise. "You've done it all—Little Billee."
"You've helped me more than you know. With you by my side, I'm bound to succeed." Big Bill bent to his wheel, and the swift machine flew along so fast that conversation became impossible.
As they neared Greenwich, Patty's sharp eyes descried a dark red car ahead of them.
"That's it!" she cried. "That's Mona's car! Chase 'em, Bill!"
"The nerve of him, to elope in her own car!" growled Bill, through his clenched teeth. "I told you he was a scoundrel, Patty!"
They were rapidly gaining on the red car, when, as it turned the corner, one of its occupants saw their pursuers, and Patty heard a shriek.
"That's Mona's yell," she cried, in dismay. "They've seen us, Bill, and now they'll get away from us!"
Sure enough, the pursuing car was swift, but the big Galbraith car was a speed wonder, and the elopers darted ahead with renewed determination to escape capture.
"Oh, what a shame!" wailed Patty. "They recognised us, and now they'll get away."
"Not if I know it!" and Farnsworth set his teeth hard. "Sit tight, Patty; we're going to go faster!"
It didn't seem as if they could go any faster, but they did, and if it had been anybody driving except Farnsworth, Patty would have felt frightened. But she knew his skill, and too, she knew that he never let excitement or enthusiasm run away with his judgment. So she sat as still as she could, striving to catch her breath in the face of the wind; and refraining from speech, lest she distract Bill's attention even for a second.
At last, when they had a long, clear view ahead, and they saw the red car ever increasing the distance between them, Bill gave up.
"It's no use, Patty; we can't catch them! I've done all I can, but that car they're in is a world-beater! They went through Greenwich like a streak. They would have been arrested, but no one could stop them. Oh, I say, My Little Girl,—I have an idea!"
"Is your idea faster than their car, Little Billee?"
"You bet it is! Just you wait and see; Patty, we've got 'em!"
Farnsworth turned around and drove rapidly back to Greenwich, which they had just passed through.
At a hotel there, he jumped out, told Patty to wait, and rushed into the office.
It was nearly ten minutes before he returned, and Patty could scarcely believe that whatever plan he had could be of any use after such delay.
He jumped in beside her, turned around, and in a minute they were again whizzing along, following the direction of the other car.
"I'll tell you what I did, Patty," he said, chuckling. "I telephoned to the Stamford Chief of Police, and asked him to arrest those people for speeding as they crossed the city limit!"
"Will they be speeding?"
"Will they be speeding? You bet they will! And even if they aren't, they'll be arrested, all the same, and held without bail until we get there! Oh, Patty, if the situation were not so serious, I could laugh at this joke on Lansing!"
On they went, at their highest speed, and reached Stamford not very much later than the red car they were following.
At the city line, they found this car standing, with two or three policemen forbidding its further progress.
Horace Lansing was in a violent fit of temper, and was alternating bribes with threats of vengeance, but the policemen were imperturbable, having been told the facts of the case by Farnsworth over the telephone.
Mona was weeping bitterly, and though Patty went to her with affectionate words, she stormed back, "Go away, Patty Fairfield! You have no right to interfere in my affairs! It was your prying that found this out. Go away; I won't speak to you!"
"By what right have you followed us, Miss Fairfield?" began Mr. Lansing, looking at Patty, angrily.
But Farnsworth strode over to the speaker, and spoke to him, sternly but quietly. "Lansing," he said, "it's all up, and you know it! Now, I don't want to have a scene here and now, so you have my permission to go away wherever you like, on condition that you never enter the presence again, of Miss Galbraith or Miss Fairfield."
"Ho!" said Lansing, with an attempt at bravado. "You give me your permission, do you? Let me tell you that Miss Galbraith is my promised wife. We have the license, and we're about to be married. It will take more than you to stop us!"
"Indeed," said Farnsworth, and putting his hands in his pockets, he gave Lansing a contemptuous glance. "Well, then, I shall have to request assistance. If I tell this constable a good reason why he should detain you long enough to prevent your marriage to Miss Galbraith, would such an argument have any weight with you?"
There was an instantaneous change in Horace Lansing's demeanour. From a blustering braggart, he became a pale and cringing coward. But with a desperate attempt to bluff it out, he exclaimed, "What do you mean?" but even as he spoke, he shivered and staggered backward, as if dreading a blow.
"Since you ask me," said Farnsworth, looking at him, sternly, "I'll answer frankly, that unless you consent to go away and never again enter the presence of these ladies, I shall inform these policemen of a certain little bank trouble that happened in Chicago——"
It was unnecessary to go on. Lansing was abject, and begged in pleading tones that Farnsworth would say no more. "I am going," Lansing stammered, and without a word of farewell to Mona or even a glance at Patty, he walked rapidly away.
"Let him go," said Farnsworth. "I can't tell you girls about it, but I'll explain to Mr. Galbraith. Mona, that man is not fit for you to know! He is guilty of forgery and robbery."
"I don't believe it!" declared Mona, angrily.
"You do believe it," and Farnsworth looked at her steadily, "because you know I would not tell you so unless I knew it to be true."
Mona was silent at this, for she did know it. She knew Bill Farnsworth well enough to know that if he made an accusation of that sort, he knew it to be the truth.
"But I love him so," she said, sobbing.
"No, Mona, you don't love him." Bill spoke very gently, and as he laid his hand on Mona's shoulder, she raised her eyes to look into his kind, serious face. "You were not much to blame, Mona; the man fascinated you, and you thought the foolish infatuation you felt for him was love. But it wasn't, and you'll soon forget him. You don't want to remember a man who was a wrong-doer, I'm sure; nor do you want to remember a man who goes away and deserts you because he has been found out. Mona, is not his going away as he did, enough proof of his guilt?"
But Mona was sobbing so that she could not speak. Not angry sobs now, but pathetic, repentant sorrow.
"Now, it's up to you, Patty," said Farnsworth, cheerily. "You and Mona get into the tonneau of this Galbraith car, and I'll drive you home. You chirk her up, Patty, and tell her there's no harm done, and that all her friends love her just the same. And tell her if she'll stop her crying and calm herself before she gets home, nobody need ever know a thing about this whole affair."
Mona looked up at this, and said, eagerly, "Not father?"
"No, Mona dear," said Patty. "Sit here by me and I'll tell you all about it. How we read the note and kept it, and everything. And, Mona, we won't even let Roger know anything about all this, because it would hurt him very much."
"But Anne," said Mona, doubtfully. "You say she told you where I went."
"I'll attend to Anne," said Farnsworth, decidedly. "Can't you go home to dinner with Patty, Mona? I think that would do you good."
"Yes, do," said Patty. "And stay over night with me. We'll telephone your father where you are, and then, to-morrow, you can go home as if nothing had ever happened."
"It's a justifiable deception, Mona," said Bill, "for I know how it would grieve the poor man if he knew about your foolish little escapade,—which is all over now. It's past history, and the incident is closed forever. Don't you be afraid Lansing will ever appear against you. He's too thoroughly frightened ever to be seen in these parts again."
"You come to dinner, too, Bill," said Patty, as they took their places; "though I fear we'll all be rather late."
Farnsworth hesitated a moment, then he said, decidedly, "No, Patty, I can't do it. I was to take the seven o'clock train to-night, but though I'll miss that, I can take the nine o'clock, and I must go."
"But, Little Billee, I want to thank you for helping me as you did. I want to thank you, not only for Mona's sake, but my own."
"That would be worth staying for, Little Girl, but it is a case of duty, you see. Won't you write me your thanks,—Apple Blossom?"
"Yes," said Patty, softly, "I will."
Early in February Christine was to be married, and the Fairfields had persuaded her to accept the use of their house for the occasion.
Christine had demurred, for she wanted a simple ceremony with no reception at all. But the Fairfields finally made her see that Mr. Hepworth's position as an artist of high repute made it desirable that his many friends should be invited to his wedding.
So Christine agreed to the plan, and Patty was delighted at the thought of the festivities in her home.
The elder Fairfields had returned from their Southern trip, but Mrs. Allen was still with them, and there were other house guests from Christine's Southern home.
The day of the wedding, Patty, assisted by Elise and Mona, was superintending the decorations. Christine had insisted that these should be simple, and as Mr. Hepworth, too, was opposed to the conventional work of a florist, the girls had directed it all themselves.
"It does look perfectly sweet," said Patty, as she surveyed the drawing-room. "Personally, I should prefer all those dinky white telegraph poles stretched with ribbon and bunched up with flowers to make an aisle for the happy couple to walk through. But as it isn't my wedding, I suppose we must let the bride have her own way."
"I'm tired of those tied up poles," said Elise, decidedly. "I think this is a lot prettier, and all this Southern jasmine is beautiful, and just like Christine."
"She is the sweetest thing!" said Patty. "Every new present that comes in, she sits and looks at it helplessly, as if it were the very last straw!"
"Well, of course, most of the presents are from Mr. Hepworth's friends," said Mona, "and they are stunning! I don't wonder Christine is overcome."
"She has lots of friends of her own, too," said Patty. "All the girls gave her beautiful things, and you two quite outdid yourselves. That lamp of yours, Mona, is a perfect dream; and, Elise, I never saw such gems as your silver candlesticks. Christine's path through life will be well lighted! Well, everything's finished, and I think it's about time we went to dress. The ceremony's at four, and as I'm going to be a bridesmaid for the first time in my mad career, I don't want to be late at the party."
"How beautiful the drawing-room looks," said Mrs. Allen, coming along just then. "Patty dear, doesn't this all remind you of the day Nan was married?"
"Yes, Mrs. Allen; only the weddings are quite different. But Christine would keep this as simple as possible, so of course I let her have her own way."
"Yes, Patty, that's the privilege of a bride. But some day you can have your own way in the direction of your own wedding, and I rather fancy it will be an elaborate affair. I hope I'll be here to see."
"I hope you will, Mrs. Allen," laughed Patty; "but don't look for it very soon. My suitors are so bashful, you know; I have to urge them on."
"Nonsense!" cried Elise. "Patty's greatest trouble is to keep her suitors off! She tries to hold them at arm's length, but they are so insistent that it is difficult."
"I think you girls are all too young to have suitors," commented Mrs. Allen, smiling at the pretty trio.
"Oh, Mrs. Allen," said Patty; "suitors doesn't mean men who want to marry you. I suppose it's sort of slang, but nowadays, girls call all their young men suitors, even the merest casual acquaintances."
"Oh, I see," said Mrs. Allen. "I suppose as in my younger days we used to call them beaux."
"Yes, just that," said Patty. "Why, Mr. Hepworth used to be one of our favourite suitors, until he persuaded Christine to marry him; but we have lots of them left."
"Is that big one coming to the wedding?" asked Mrs. Allen.
"She means Bill Farnsworth," said Patty to the others. "She always calls him 'that big one.' I don't know whether he's coming or not. He said if he possibly could get here, he would."
"He'll come," said Elise, wagging her head, sagely. "He'll manage it somehow. Why, Mrs. Allen, he worships the ground Patty walks on!"
"So do all my suitors," said Patty, complacently. "They're awful ground worshippers, the whole lot of them! But so long as they don't worship me, they may adore the ground as much as they like. Now, you people must excuse me, for I'm going to get into that flummery bridesmaid's frock,—and I can tell you, though it looks so simple, it's fearfully and wonderfully made."
Patty ran away to her own room, but paused on the way to speak to Christine, who was already being dressed in her bridal robes.
"You sweet thing!" cried Patty, flinging her arms round her friend's neck. "Christine dear, you know I'm not much good at sentimental expressions, but I do want to wish you such a heap of joy that you'll just almost break down under it!"
Christine smiled back into Patty's honest eyes, and realised the loving friendship that prompted the words.
"Patty," she said, "I can't begin to thank you for all you've done for me this past year, but I thank you most,"—here she blushed, and whispered shyly,—"because you didn't want him, yourself!"
"Oh, Christine!" said Patty, "I do want him, something dreadful! I shall just pine away the rest of my sad life because I can't have him! But you wrested him from me, and I give him to you with my blessing!" And then Patty went away, and Christine smiled, knowing that Patty's words were merely jesting, and knowing too, with a heart full of content, that Gilbert Hepworth really wanted her, and not the radiant, mischievous Patty.
* * * * *
Promptly at four o'clock, the old, well-known music sounded forth, and Patty came slowly downstairs. Her gown was of white chiffon, over pink chiffon, and fell in soft, shimmering draperies, that looked like classic simplicity, but were in reality rather complicated. Christine had designed both their gowns, and they were marvels of beauty. On Patty's head was perched a coquettish little cap of the style most approved for bridesmaids, and she carried a clustered spray of pink roses. As she entered the drawing-room, intent on walking correctly in time to the music, she chanced to glance up, and saw Bill Farnsworth's blue eyes fixed upon her. Unthinkingly, she gave him a radiant smile, and then, with the pink in her cheeks deepened a little, she went on her way toward the group of palms, where the wedding party would stand.
Not even the bride herself looked prettier than Patty; though Christine was very sweet, in her soft white chiffon, her misty veil, and her shower bouquet of white flowers, which she had expressly requested should be without ribbons.
Only the more intimate friends had been invited to the ceremony, but immediately after, the house was filled with the reception guests. Patty was in gay spirits, which was not at all unusual for that young woman. She fluttered about everywhere, like a big pink butterfly, but ever and again hovering back to Christine, to caress her, and, as she expressed it, "To keep up her drooping spirits." Christine had never entirely overcome her natural shyness, and being the centre of attraction on this occasion greatly embarrassed her, and she was glad of Patty's gay nonsense to distract attention from herself.
Kenneth Harper was best man, and, as he told Patty, the responsibility of the whole affair rested on himself and her. "We're really of far greater importance than the bride and groom," he said; "and they depend on us for everything. Have you the confetti all ready, Patty?"
"Yes, of course; do you have to go to the train with them, Ken?"
"No; my duties are ended when I once get them packed into a motor at the door. But Christine looks as if she couldn't survive much longer, and as for old Gilbert, he's as absent-minded as the conventional bridegroom."
"Christine's all right," said Patty. "I'm going to take her off, now, to get into her travelling clothes. Oh, Ken, she has the loveliest suit! Sort of a taupe colour, you know, and the dearest hat——"
"Patty! Do you suppose I care what she's going to wear away? But do see to it that she's ready on time! You girls will all get to weeping,—that's the way they always do,—and you'll spin out your farewells so that they'll lose their train! Run along with Christine, now; Hepworth is fidgeting like the dickens."
So the pretty bridesmaid took the pretty bride away, and Patty begged Christine to make haste with her dressing, lest she might lose the train.
"And Mr. Hepworth will go away without you," Patty threatened. "Now, you do always dawdle, Christine; but this time you've got to hustle,—so be spry,—Mrs. Hepworth."
Christine smiled at Patty's use of the new name, and she tried to make the haste Patty demanded. But she was slow by nature, and Patty danced around her in terror, lest she should really be late.
"Here's your coat, Christine,—put your arms in, do! Now the other one. Now sit down, and I'll put your hat on for you. Oh, Mrs. Hepworth, do hold your head still! Here, stick this pin in yourself, or I may jab it through your brain,—though I must confess you act as if you hadn't any! or if you have, it's addled. And Ken says that husband of yours is acting just the same way. My! it's lucky you two infants had a capable and clever bridesmaid and best man to get you off! There! take your gloves,—no, don't hold them like that! put them on. Wake up, Christine; remember, the show isn't over yet. You've got to go downstairs, and be showered with confetti, and, oh, Christine, don't forget to throw your bouquet!"
"I won't do it!" and Christine Hepworth woke up suddenly from her dreaming, and clasped her bridal bouquet to her heart.
"Nonsense! of course you will! You've simply got to! I'm not going to run this whole wedding, and then have the prima donna balk in the last act. Now, listen, Christine, you throw it over the banister just as you start downstairs! Will you?"
"Yes," was the meek response; "I will."
"And wait a minute; don't you throw it till I get down there myself, for I might catch it."
"Do catch it, Patty, and then you can give it back to me. I want to keep it all my life."
"Well, you can't, Christine; it isn't done! You'll have to direct your sentimentality in some other direction. Or, here, I'll give you a flower out of it, and that's plenty for you to keep for a souvenir of this happy occasion."
"Why do I have to throw it, anyway?" persisted Christine, as she tucked the flower away for safe keeping.
"First and foremost, because I tell you to! and, incidentally, because it's the custom. You know, whoever catches it will be married inside of a year. Now, I'm going on down, and then you come along with Nan, and I expect you'll find Mr. Hepworth down there somewhere,—if Ken hasn't lost him."
Patty cast a final critical glance at Christine, and seeing that she was all right in every respect, she gave her one last kiss, and hurried downstairs. She found a group of laughing young people standing in the hall, all provided with confetti, and the girls all looking upward to watch for the descending bouquet.
"Here's a good place for you, Patty Pink and White," and Farnsworth guided her to a place directly under the banister.
At that moment Christine appeared at the head of the stairs. She stood a moment, her bouquet held at arm's length, and looked at it as if she couldn't quite bring herself to part with it.
"There, now she's going to toss it! Quick, Patty, catch it!" Big Bill whispered in her ear, and Patty looked upward. Then, seeing the direction in which the flowers fell,—for Christine really tossed them straight at her,—Patty whirled round and sprang aside, so that the bouquet was picked up by a girl who stood next to her.
"Oh, Patty! you muffed it!" cried Farnsworth; "and what's more, you did it on purpose!"
"'Course I did!" declared Patty. "I don't want to be married this year, thank you. But it was all I could do to dodge it!"
And then the confetti was showered on the departing couple, Kenneth tucked them into the motor car, Patty jumped in too, for a last rapturous hug of Christine, and Kenneth almost had to pull her out.
"Come, come, Patty," he cried. "Let them make their getaway! I think they've missed the train as it is. There, now, they're off! My, a best man's lot is not a happy one! But our trials are over now, Patty girl, and we can take a little rest! Let's go back and receive the congratulations of the audience on our good work."
They went back to the house, laughing, and Patty succeeded in obtaining a few more blossoms from the bridal bouquet to save for Christine until she came back.
"Why didn't you catch it, Patty?" said Kenneth. "Do you want to be an old maid?"
"'Nobody asked me, sir, she said,'" and Patty dropped her eyes, demurely.
"You mean there's nobody that hasn't asked you!" returned Kenneth. "I'm going to ask you, myself, some day; but not to-night. I've had enough to do with matrimonial alliances for one day!"
"So have I," laughed Patty. "Let's put it off for a year, Ken."
"All right," was the laughing response, and then they rejoined the other young people.
After the reception was over, a few of Patty's more intimate friends were invited to remain to dinner with the Fairfields.
"Can you stay, Little Billee?" asked Patty, dancing up to him, as he seemed about to leave.
"I have to take a midnight train," he said, "and I have some business matters that I must attend to first. So if I may, I'll run away now, and come back this evening for a dance with you."
"All right; be sure to come," and Patty flashed him a smiling glance, and danced away again.
It was after eleven before Farnsworth returned, and Patty had begun to fear he would not come at all.
"What are you looking at?" asked Philip Van Reypen, as Patty continued to glance over her shoulder toward the hall, while they were dancing.
"Nothing," was the non-committal answer.
"Well, then, you may as well look at me. At least, I'm better than nothing."
"Much better!" said Patty, with exaggerated emphasis; "ever so much better! Oh, say, Philip, take me over to the hall, will you?"
"What for? This dance has just begun."
"Never mind!" said Patty, impatiently. "Lead me over that way!"
Patty turned her own dancing steps in that direction, and when they reached the hall, there was Big Bill Farnsworth, smiling at her.
"This is what I was looking for!" said Patty, gaily. "Run away now, Philip. Little Billee can only stay a minute, and we'll finish our dance afterward."
Van Reypen was decidedly annoyed, but he didn't show it, for he knew Patty's caprices must be obeyed. So he bowed politely, and walked away.
"He's mad as hops," said Patty, calmly; "but I had to see you for a few minutes, if you're really going on that midnight train. Are you, Little Billee?"
"Yes, Apple Blossom, I am. I've time for just one turn round the room. Will you dance?"
For answer, Patty put her hand in his, and they waltzed slowly round the room.
"You are the busiest business man I ever saw," Patty said, pouting a little.
"Yes, I am very busy just now. Indeed, matters are rapidly coming to a crisis. It was only because I suddenly found that I must be in Boston to-morrow, that I could stop here to-day. And if matters turn out to-morrow as I hope they will, I must start back immediately to Arizona. But some day I hope to be less hurried, and then——"
"And then?" asked Patty.
"Then I hope to live in New York, and learn good manners and correct customs, and make myself fit to be a friend of yours."
"Oh, Little Billee, you are a friend of mine."
"Well, something more than a friend, then. Patty,—I must ask you,—are you engaged to Van Reypen?"
"Goodness, no!" and Patty flashed a glance of surprise.
"Then, Patty, mayn't I hope?"
"That's a question I never know how to answer," said Patty, demurely; "if you mean that I'm to consider myself bound by any sort of a promise, I most certainly won't!"
"No, I don't mean that, dear, but,——well, Patty, won't you wait?"
"Of course I'll wait. That's exactly what I mean to do for years and years."
"You mean to,—but you're so capricious."
"Oh, no! not that, of all things! And, anyway, what does capricious mean?"
"Well, it means like a butterfly, hovering from one flower to another——"
"Oh, you think you're like unto a flower?"
"I'll be any kind of a flower you wish, if you'll hover around me like a butterfly."
"Well, be a timid little forget-me-not,—that will be lovely."
"I'll forget-you-not, all right; but I can't be timid, it isn't my nature." And now they had stopped dancing, and stood in the hall, near the door, for it was almost time for Farnsworth to go.
"It isn't because I'm timid," and the six feet three of humanity towered above her, "that I don't grab you up and run away with you, but because——"
"Well, because what?" said Patty, daringly.
"Because, Apple Blossom," and Bill spoke slowly, "when I see you here in your rightful setting, and surrounded by your own sort of people, I realise that I'm only a great, big——"
"Bear," interrupted Patty. "You are like a big bear, Bill! But such a nice, gruff, kind, woolly bear,—and the best friend a girl ever had. But I wish you'd be more of a chum, Little Billee. I like to be good chums with every one of my suitors! It's all very well for Christine to marry; she doesn't care for society, she just only loves Mr. Hepworth."
"Some day you'll forget your love for society, because you'll get to love just only one man."
"'And it might as well be you,'" hummed Patty, to an old tune.
"Patty!" cried Farnsworth, his blue eyes lighting up with sudden joy; "do you mean that?"
"No, I never mean anything! Of course, I don't mean it,—but if I did, I'd say I didn't."
"Patty Pink and White! you little scamp! if you tease me like this, how do you suppose I'm ever going to tear myself away to catch that midnight train to Boston?"
"Why, you can't get that, Little Billee! it's too late, now!"
"No, it isn't; and beside, I must make it." He looked at his watch. "I've just exactly two minutes longer to stay with you."
"Two minutes is a long time," said Patty, flippantly.
"Yes, it is! it's just long enough for two things I have to do."
"What have you to do?" asked Patty, wonderingly, looking up at him, as they stood alone in the hall.
Farnsworth's strong face wore a determined look, but his blue eyes were full of a tender light, as he answered:
"Two very important things,—Apple Blossom,—this,—and this!"
He kissed her swiftly on one pink cheek and then on the other, and then, like a flash, he was gone.
"Oh!" said Patty, softly, to herself, "Oh!"
* * * * * *
THE CAROLYN WELLS BOOKS FOR GIRLS
Fresh, spirited stories that the modern small girl will take to her heart, these well known books by a famous author have won an important place in the field of juvenile fiction.
Patty, with her beauty and frank good nature, and Marjorie full of vitality and good spirits, are two lovable characters well worth knowing, and their adventures will stir the eager imaginations of young readers.
THE FAMOUS "PATTY" BOOKS
Patty Fairfield Patty's Motor Car Patty at Home Patty's Butterfly Days Patty in the City Patty's Social Season Patty's Summer Days Patty's Suitors Patty in Paris Patty's Romance Patty's Friend Patty's Fortune Patty's Pleasure Trip Patty Blossom Patty's Success Patty—Bride
THE MARJORIE BOOKS
Marjorie's Vacation Marjorie in Command Marjorie's Busy Days Marjorie's Maytime Marjorie's New Friend Marjorie at Seacote
GROSSET & DUNLAP Publishers NEW YORK
* * * * * *
There is the high, happy spirit of youth in these famous
BOOKS FOR GIRLS by JANE D. ABBOTT
The charming story of a young girl, child of the circus, and the adventures which led to her goal of happiness.
A school story of Jerry Travis and her chum Gyp Westley. A thread of romance and mystery in Jerry's life runs through the tale.
How Keineth Randolph kept a secret—a war secret—for a whole year makes one of the best stories ever written for girls.
In attempting to bring happiness into the lives of mill workers, Robin Forsythe, heir to a fortune, has many strange adventures.
Twenty-three! The heyday of life. Jay, a small town girl, finds happiness in New York.
Especially interesting to any Girl Scout because it is the story of a Girl Scout who is poor and has to help her mother.
How an old family quarrel is healed through a misunderstanding and an old homestead becomes a "happy house" in reality.
GROSSET & DUNLAP Publishers NEW YORK