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Patty's Summer Days
by Carolyn Wells
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When she reached the schoolroom there were a thousand and one things to see to, and nearly all of them were going wrong.

Patty flew from one thing to another, straightening them out and bringing order from confusion, and though she held herself well in hand, the tension was growing tighter, and there was danger of her losing control of herself at any minute.

Hilda Henderson was the only one who realised this, and, taking Patty aside, she said to her, quietly, "Look here, girl, I'll attend to everything else; there's not much left that needs special attention. And I want you to go right straight home, take a hot bath, and then lie down and rest until time to dress for the afternoon programme. Will you?"

Patty looked at Hilda with a queer, uncomprehending gaze. She seemed scarcely to understand what was being said to her.

"Yes," she said, but as she turned she half stumbled, and would have fallen to the floor if Hilda had not caught her strongly by the arm.

"Brace up," she said, and her voice was stern because she was thoroughly frightened. "Patty Fairfield, don't you dare to collapse now! If you do, I'll—I don't know what I'll do to you! Come on, now, I'll go home with you."

Hilda was really afraid to let Patty go alone, so hastily donning her hat and coat she went with her to her very door.

"Take this girl," she said to Nan, "and put her to bed, and don't let her see anybody or say anything until the programme begins this afternoon. I'll look after everything that isn't finished, if you'll just keep her quiet."

Nan was thoroughly alarmed, but she only said, "All right, Hilda, I'll take care of her, and thank you very much for bringing her home."

Patty sank down on a couch in a limp heap, but her eyes were big and bright as she looked at Hilda, saying, "See that the stars are put on the gilt wands, and the green bay leaves on the white ones. Lorraine's spangled skirt is in Miss Oliphant's room, and please be sure,—" Patty didn't finish this sentence, but lay back among the cushions, exhausted.

"Run along, Hilda," said Nan; "do the best you can with the stars and things, and I'll see to it that Patty's all right by afternoon."



CHAPTER VIII

COMMENCEMENT DAY

Nan was a born nurse, and, moreover, she had sufficient common sense and tact to know how to deal with nervous exhaustion. Instead of discussing the situation she said, cheerily, "Now everything will be all right. Hilda will look after the stars and wands, and you can have quite a little time to rest before you go back to the schoolroom. Don't try to go up to your room now, just stay right where you are, and I'll bring you a cup of hot milk, which is just what you need."

Patty nestled among the cushions which Nan patted and tucked around her, and after taking the hot milk felt much better.

"I must get up now, Nan," she pleaded, from the couch where she lay, "I have so many things to attend to."

"Patty," said Nan, looking at her steadily, "do you want to go through with the commencement exercises this afternoon and the play to-night successfully, or do you want to collapse on the stage and faint right before all the audience?"

"I won't do any such foolish thing," said Patty, indignantly.

"You will," said Nan, "unless you obey me implicitly, and do exactly as I tell you."

Nan's manner more than her words compelled Patty's obedience, and with a sigh, the tired girl closed her eyes, saying, "All right, Nan, have your own way, I'll be good."

"That's a good child," said Nan, soothingly, "and now first we'll go right up to your own room."

Then Nan helped Patty into a soft dressing gown, made her lie down upon her bed, and threw a light afghan over her.

Then sitting beside her, Nan talked a little on unimportant matters and then began to sing softly. In less than half an hour Patty was sound asleep, and Nan breathed a sigh of relief at finding her efforts had been successful.

But there was not much time to spare, for the commencement exercises began at three o'clock.

So at two o'clock Patty found herself gently awakened, to see Nan at her bedside, arranging a dainty tray of luncheon which a maid had brought in.

"Here you are, girlie," said the cheery voice, "sit up now, and see what we have for you here."

Patty awoke a little bewildered, but soon gathered her scattered senses, and viewed with pleasure the broiled chicken and crisp salad before her.

Exhaustion had made her hungry, and while she ate, Nan busied herself in getting out the pretty costume that Patty was to wear at commencement.

But the sight of the white organdie frock with its fluffy ruffles and soft laces brought back Patty's apprehensions.

"Oh, Nan," she cried in dismay, "I'm not nearly ready for commencement! I haven't copied my poem yet, and I haven't had a minute to practice reading it for the last two weeks. What shall I do?"

"That's all attended to," said Nan,—"the copying, I mean. You've been so busy doing other people's work, that of course you haven't had time to attend to your own, so I gave your poem to your father, and he had it typewritten for you, and here it is all ready. Now, while you dress, I'll read it to you, and that will bring it back to your memory."

"Nan, you are a dear," cried Patty, jumping up and flying across the room to give her stepmother a hearty caress. "Whatever would I do without you? I'm all right now, and if you'll just elocute that thing, while I array myself in purple and fine linen, I'm sure it will all come back to me."

So Nan read Patty's jolly little class poem line by line, and Patty repeated it after her as she proceeded with her toilette.

She was ready before the appointed time, and the carriage was at the door, but Nan would not let her go.

"No, my lady," she said, "you don't stir out of this house until the very last minute. If you get over there ahead of time, you'll begin to make somebody a new costume, or build a throne for the fairy queen, or some foolish trick like that. Now you sit right straight down in that chair and read your poem over slowly, while I whip into my own clothes, and then we'll go along together. Fred can't come until a little later anyway. Sit still now, and don't wriggle around and spoil that pretty frock."

Patty obeyed like a docile child, and Nan flew away to don her own pretty gown for the occasion.

When she returned in a soft grey crepe de chine, with a big grey hat and feathers, she was such a pretty picture that Patty involuntarily exclaimed in admiration.

"I'm glad you like it," said Nan, "I want to look my best so as to do you credit, and in return I want you to do your best so as to do me credit."

"I will," said Patty, earnestly, "I truly will. You've been awfully good to me, Nan, and but for you I don't know what I should have done."

Away they went, and when they reached the schoolroom, and Patty went to join her classmates, while Nan took her place in the audience, she said as a parting injunction, "Now mind, Patty, this afternoon you're to attend strictly to your own part in the programme. Don't go around helping other people with their parts, because this isn't the time for that. You'll have all you can do to manage Patty Fairfield."

Patty laughed and promised, and ran away to the schoolroom.

The moment she entered, half a dozen girls ran to her with questions about various details, and Nan's warning was entirely forgotten. Indeed had it not been for Hilda's intervention, Patty would have gone to work at a piece of unfinished scenery.

"Drop that hammer!" cried Hilda, as Patty was about to nail some branches of paper roses on to a wobbly green arbour. "Patty Fairfield, are you crazy? The idea of attempting carpenter work with that delicate frock on! Do for pity's sake keep yourself decent until after you've read your poem at least!"

Patty looked at Hilda with that same peculiar vacantness in her glance which she had shown in the morning, and though Hilda said nothing, she was exceedingly anxious and kept a sharp watch on Patty's movements.

But it was then time for the girls to march onto the platform, and as Patty seemed almost like herself, though unusually quiet, Hilda hoped it was all right.

The exercises were such as are found on most commencement programmes, and included class history, class prophecy, class song and all of the usual contributions to a commencement programme.

Patty's class poem was near the end of the list, and Nan was glad, for she felt it would give the girl more time to regain her poise. Mr. Fairfield had arrived, and both he and Nan waited anxiously for Patty's turn to come.

When it did come, Patty proved herself quite equal to the occasion.

Her poem was merry and clever, and she read it with an entire absence of self-consciousness, and an apparent enjoyment of its fun. She looked very sweet and pretty in her dainty white dress, and she stood so gracefully and seemed so calm and composed, that only those who knew her best noticed the feverish brightness of her eyes and a certain tenseness of the muscles of her hands.

But this was not unobserved by one in the audience. Mr. Hepworth, though seated far back, noted every symptom of Patty's nervousness, however little it might be apparent to others.

Although she went through her ordeal successfully, he knew how much greater would be the excitement and responsibility of the evening's performance and he wished he could help her in some way.

But there seemed to be nothing he could do, and though he had sent her a beautiful basket of roses, it was but one floral gift among so many that he doubted whether Patty even knew that he sent it; and he also doubted if she would have cared especially if she had known it.

Like most of the graduates, Patty received quantities of floral tributes. As the ushers came again and again with clusters or baskets of flowers, the audience heartily applauded, and Patty, though embarrassed a little, preserved a pretty dignity, and showed a happy enjoyment of it all.

As soon as the diplomas were awarded, and Patty had her cherished roll tied with its blue ribbon, Nan told Mr. Fairfield that it was imperative that Patty should be made to go straight home.

"If she stays there," said Nan, "she'll get excited and exhausted, and be good for nothing to-night. I gave her some stimulants this noon, although she didn't know it, but the effects are wearing off and a reaction will soon set in. She must come home with us at once."

"You are right, Mrs. Fairfield," said Mr. Hepworth, who had crossed the room and joined them just in time to hear Nan's last words. "Patty is holding herself together by sheer nervous force, and she needs care if she is to keep up through the evening."

"That is certainly true," said Nan. "Kenneth," she added, turning to young Harper, who stood near by, "you have a good deal of influence with Patty. Go and get her, won't you? Make her come at once."

"All right," said Kenneth, and he was off in a moment, while Mr. Hepworth looked after him, secretly wishing that the errand might have been entrusted to him.

But Kenneth found his task no easy one. Although Patty willingly consented to his request, and even started toward the dressing-room to get her wraps, she paused so many times to speak to different ones, or her progress was stopped by anxious-looking girls who wanted her help or advice, that Kenneth almost despaired of getting her away.

"Can't you make her come, Hilda?" he said.

"I'll try," said Hilda, but when she tried, Patty only said, "Yes, Hilda, in just a minute. I want to coach Mary a little in her part, and I want to show Hester where to stand in the third act."

"Never mind," said Hilda, impatiently. "Let her stand on the roof, if she wants to, but for goodness' sake go on home. Your people are waiting for you."

Again Patty looked at her with that queer vacant gaze, and then Lorraine Hart stepped forward and took matters in her own hands.

"March!" she said, as she grasped Patty's arm, and steered her toward the dressing-room. "Halt!" she said after they reached it, and then while Patty stood still, seemingly dazed, Lorraine put her cloak about her, threw her scarf over her head, wheeled her about, and marched her back to where Kenneth stood waiting.

"Take her quick," she said. "Take her right to the carriage; don't let her stop to speak to anybody."

So Kenneth grasped Patty's arm firmly and led her through the crowd of girls, out of the door, and down the walk to the carriage. Ordinarily, Patty would have resented this summary treatment, but still in a half-dazed way she meekly went where she was led.

Once in the carriage, Nan sat beside her and Mr. Fairfield opposite, and they started for home. No reference was made to Patty herself, but the others talked lightly and pleasantly of the afternoon performance.

On reaching home, Nan put Patty to bed at once, and telephoned for the Doctor.

But when Dr. Martin came, Nan met him downstairs, and told him all about the case. They then decided that the Doctor should not see Patty, as to realise the fact that she was in need of medical attendance might prove a serious shock.

"And really, Doctor," said Nan, "if the girl shouldn't be allowed at least to try to go through with the play this evening, I wouldn't like to answer for the consequences."

"I understand," said Dr. Martin, "and though I think that with the aid of certain prescriptions I shall give you, she can probably get through the evening, it would be far better if she did not attempt it."

"I know it Doctor," said Nan, "and with some girls it might be possible to persuade them to give it up, but I can't help feeling that if we even advised Patty not to go to-night, she would fly into violent hysterics."

"Very likely," said Dr. Martin, "and I think, Mrs. Fairfield, you are right in your diagnosis. If you will give her these drops exactly as I have directed, I think she will brace up sufficiently to go through her part all right."

Nan thanked the Doctor, and hurried back to Patty's room to look after her charge. She found Patty lying quietly, but in a state of mental excitement. When Nan came in, she began to talk rapidly.

"It's all right, Nan, dear," she said. "I'm not ill a bit. Please let me get up now, and dress so I can go around to the schoolroom a little bit early. There are two or three things I must look after, and then the play will go off all right."

"Very well," said Nan, humouring her, "if you will just take this medicine it will brace you up for the evening, and you can go through with the play as successfully as you did your part this afternoon."

Patty agreed, and took the drops the Doctor had left, without a murmur.

Soon their soothing effect became apparent, and Patty's nervous enthusiasm quieted down to such an extent that she seemed in no haste to go.

She ate her dinner slowly, and dawdled over her dressing, until Nan again became alarmed lest the medicine had been too powerful.

Poor Nan really had a hard time of it. Patty was not a tractable patient, and Nan was frequently at her wits' end to know just how to manage her.

But at last she was ready, and they all started for the school again. Although Patty's own people, and a few of her intimate girl friends knew of her overwrought state, most of the class and even the teachers had no idea how near to a nervous breakdown she was. For her demeanour was much as usual, and though she would have moments of dazed bewilderment, much of the time she was unusually alert and she flew about attending to certain last details in an efficient and clear-headed manner.



CHAPTER IX

THE PLAY

The play went through beautifully. Every girl did her part wonderfully well, but Patty surpassed them all. Buoyed up by excitement, she played her part with a dash and sprightliness that surprised even the girls who had seen her at rehearsal. She was roguish, merry and tragic by turns, and she sang her solos with a dramatic effect that brought down the house. She looked unusually pretty, which was partly the effect of her intense excitement, and though Nan and Mr. Fairfield could not help admiring and applauding with the rest, they were very anxious and really alarmed, lest she might not be able to keep up to these emotional heights until the end of the play.

Without speaking his thoughts to anyone else, Mr. Hepworth, too, was very much concerned for Patty's welfare. He realised the danger she was in, and noted every evidence of her artificial strength and merriment. Seeing Dr. Martin in a seat near the back of the room, he quietly rose and went and sat beside the old gentleman.

"Doctor," he said, "I can't help fearing that a collapse of some sort will follow Miss Fairfield's performance."

"I am sure of it," said the Doctor, looking gravely at Mr. Hepworth.

"Then don't you think perhaps it would be wise for you to go around behind the scenes, presently, and be there in case of emergency."

"I will gladly do so," said Dr. Martin, "if Mr. and Mrs. Fairfield authorise it."

Mr. Hepworth looked at his programme, and then he looked at Patty. He knew the play pretty thoroughly, and he knew that she was making one of the final speeches. He saw too, that she had nearly reached the limit of her endurance, and he said, "Dr. Martin, I wish you would go on my authority. The Fairfields are sitting in the front part of the house, and it would be difficult to speak to them about it without creating a commotion. And besides, I think there is no time to be lost; this is almost the end of the play, and in my judgment, Miss Fairfield is pretty nearly at the end of her self-composure."

Dr. Martin gave the younger man a searching glance, and then said, "You are right, Mr. Hepworth. It may be advisable that I should be there when Miss Fairfield comes off the stage. I will go at once. Will you come with me?"

"Yes," said Mr. Hepworth, and the two men quietly left the room, and hastened around the building to the side entrance.

As Mr. Hepworth had assisted with the scenery for the play, and had been present at one or two rehearsals, he knew his way about, and guided Dr. Martin through the corridors to the room where the girls were gathered, waiting their cue to go on the stage for the final tableau and chorus.

Lorraine and Hilda looked at each other comprehendingly, as the two men appeared, but the other girls wondered at this apparent intrusion.

Then as the time came, they all went on the stage, and Dr. Martin and Mr. Hepworth, watching from the side, saw them form the pretty final tableau.

Patty in a spangled dress and tinsel crown, waving a gilt wand, stood on a high pedestal. Around her, on lower pedestals, and on the floor, were the rest of the fairy maidens in their glittering costumes.

The last notes of the chorus rang out, and amidst a burst of applause the curtain fell. The applause continued so strongly that the curtain was immediately raised again, and the delighted audience viewed once more the pretty scene.

Mr. Hepworth was nearer the stage than Dr. Martin, in fact, in his anxiety, he was almost edging on to it, and while the curtain was up, and the audience was applauding, and the orchestra was playing, and the calcium lights were flashing their vari-coloured rays, his intense watchfulness noticed a slight shudder pass over Patty's form, then she swayed slightly, and her eyes closed.

In a flash Mr. Hepworth had himself rung the bell that meant the drop of the curtain, and as the curtain came down, he sprang forward among the bewildered girls, and reached the tall pedestal just in time to catch Patty as she tottered and fell.

"She has only fainted," he said, as he carried her off the stage, "please don't crowd around, she will be all right in a moment."

He carried her to the dressing-room and gently laid her on a couch. Dr. Martin followed closely, and Mr. Hepworth left Patty in his charge.

"You, Miss Hamilton, go in there," he said to Lorraine, at the door, "and see if you can help Dr. Martin. I will speak to the Fairfields and see that the carriage is ready. I don't think the audience knows anything about it, and there need be no fuss or commotion."

Quick-witted Hilda grasped the situation, and kept the crowd of anxious girls out of the dressing-room, while Dr. Martin administered restoratives to Patty.

But it was not so easy to overcome the faintness that had seized upon her. When at last she did open her eyes, it was only to close them again in another period of exhaustion.

However, this seemed to encourage Dr. Martin.

"It's better than I feared," he said. "She isn't delirious. There is no threat of brain fever. She will soon revive now, and we can safely take her home."

And so when the Doctor declared that she might now be moved, Mr. Fairfield supported her on one side, and Kenneth on the other as they took her to the carriage.

"Get in, Mrs. Fairfield," said Kenneth, after Patty was safely seated by her father, "and you too, Dr. Martin. I'll jump up on the box with the driver. Perhaps I can help you at the house."

So away they went, without a word or a thought for poor Mr. Hepworth, to whose watchfulness was really due the fact of Dr. Martin's opportune assistance. And too, if Mr. Hepworth had not seen the first signs of Patty's loss of consciousness, her fall from the high pedestal might have proved a serious accident.

Although Dr. Martin told the family afterward of Mr. Hepworth's kind thoughtfulness, it went unnoted at the time. But of this, Mr. Hepworth himself was rather glad than otherwise. His affection for Patty was such that he did not wish the girl to feel that she owed him gratitude, and he preferred to have no claim of the sort upon her.

When the party reached the Fairfield house, Patty had revived enough to talk rationally, but she was very weak, and seemed to have lost all enthusiasm and even interest in the occasion.

"It's all over, isn't it?" she asked of her father in a helpless, pathetic little voice.

"Yes, Puss," said Mr. Fairfield, cheerily, "it's all over, and it was a perfect success. Now don't bother your head about it any more, but just get rested, and get a good sleep, and then we'll talk it over."

Patty was quite willing not to discuss the subject, and with Nan's assistance she was soon in bed and sound asleep.

Dr. Martin stood watching her. "I don't know," he said to Nan, "whether this sleep will last or not. If it does all will be well, but she may wake up soon, and become nervous and hysterical. In that case give her these drops, which will have a speedy effect. I will be around again early to-morrow morning."

But the doctor's fears were not realised. Patty slept deeply all through the night, and had not waked when the doctor came in the morning.

"Don't waken her," he said, as he looked at the sleeping girl. "She's all right. There's no fear of nervous prostration now. The stress is over, and her good constitution and healthy nature are reasserting themselves and will conquer. She isn't of a nervous temperament, and she is simply exhausted from overwork. Don't waken her, let her sleep it out."

And so Patty slept until afternoon, and then awoke, feeling more like her old self than she had for many days.

"Nan," she called, and Nan came flying in from the next room.

"I'm awful hungry," said Patty, "and I am pretty tired, but the play is over, isn't it, Nan? I can't seem to remember about last night."

"Yes, it's over, Patsy, and everything is all right, and you haven't a thing to do but get rested. Will you have your breakfast now, or your luncheon?—because you've really skipped both."

"Then I'll have them both," said Patty with decision. "I'm hungry enough to eat a house."

Later, Patty insisted on dressing and going downstairs for dinner, declaring she felt perfectly well, but the exertion tired her more than she cared to admit, and when Dr. Martin came in the evening, she questioned him directly.

"I'm not really ill, am I, Dr. Martin? I'll be all right in a day or two, won't I? It's so silly to get tired just walking downstairs."

"Don't be alarmed," said the old doctor, "you will be all right in a day or two. By day after to-morrow you can walk downstairs, or run down, if you like, without feeling tired at all."

"Then that's all right," said Patty. "I suppose I did do too much with my school work, and the play, and everything, but I couldn't seem to help it, and if I get over it in a week I'll be satisfied. In fact, I shan't mind a bit, lounging around and resting for a few days."

"That's just the thing for you to do," agreed Dr. Martin, "and I'll give you another prescription. After a week or two of rest, you need recreation. You must get out of the city, and go somewhere in the country. Not seashore or the mountains just yet, but away into the country, where you'll have plenty of fresh air and nothing to do. You mustn't look at a book of any sort or description for a month or two at least. Will you promise me that?"

"With great pleasure," said Patty, gaily, "I don't think I shall care to see a book all summer long; not a schoolbook anyway. I suppose I may read storybooks."

"Not at present," said the doctor. "Let alone books of all sorts for a couple of months, and after that I'll see about it. What you want is plenty of fresh air and outdoor exercise. Then you'll get back the roses in your cheeks, and add a few pounds of flesh to your attenuated frame."

"Your prescription sounds attractive," said Patty, "but where shall I go?"

"We'll arrange all that," said Mr. Fairfield. "I think myself that all you need is recreation and rest, with a fair proportion of each."

"So do I," said Patty; "I don't want to go to an old farmhouse, where there isn't a thing to do but walk in the orchard; I want to go where I'll have some fun."

"Go ahead," said the doctor, "fun won't hurt you any as long as it's outdoor sports or merry society. But don't get up any plays, or any such foolishness, where fun is only a mistaken name for hard work."

Patty promised this, and Dr. Martin went away without any doubts as to the speedy and entire recovery of his patient.

Mr. Fairfield and Nan quite agreed with the doctor's opinion that Patty ought to go away for a rest and a pleasant vacation. The next thing was to decide where she should go. It was out of the question, of course, to consider any strange place for her to go alone, and as Mr. Fairfield could not begin his vacation until July, and Nan was not willing to leave him, there seemed to be no one to accompany Patty.

The only places, therefore, that Mr. Fairfield could think of, were for her to go to Vernondale and visit the Elliotts, or down to the Hurly-Burly where the Barlows had already gone for their summer season.

But neither of these plans suited Patty at all, for she said that Vernondale would be no rest and not much fun. She was fond of her Elliott cousins, but she felt sure that they would treat her as a semi-invalid and coddle her until she went frantic.

The Hurly-Burly, she said, would be just the opposite. They would have no consideration down there for the fact that she wanted a rest, but would make her jog about hither and thither, taking long tramps and going on tiresome picnics whether she wanted to or not.

So neither of these plans seemed just the thing, and Nan's proposal that Patty go to Philadelphia and spend June with Mrs. Allen wasn't quite what Patty wanted. Indeed, Patty did not know herself exactly what she wanted, which was pretty good proof that she was not so far from the borders of Nervous Land as they had believed.

And so when Elise came over one afternoon, and brought with her an invitation for Patty, that young woman showed no hesitation in announcing at once that it was exactly what she wanted. The invitation was nothing more nor less than to go on a long motor-car trip with the Farringtons.

"It will be perfectly splendid," said Elise, "if you'll only go, Patty."

"Go!" said Patty, "I should think I would go! It's perfectly splendid of you to invite me. Who are going?"

"Just father and mother, and Roger and myself," said Elise, "and you will make five. Roger can run the car, or father can, either, for that matter, so we won't take a man, and father has had a new top put on his big touring-car and we can pile any amount of luggage up on it, so you can take all the frocks you want to. We'll stop at places here and there, you know, to visit, and of course, we'll always stop for meals and to stay over night."

"But perhaps they wouldn't want me," said Patty, "where you go to visit."

"Nonsense, of course they will. Why, I wrote to Bertha Warner that I wanted to bring you, and she said she'd love to have you come."

"How could she say so? she doesn't know me."

"Well, I told her all about you, and she's fully prepared to love you as I do. Oh, do you suppose your people will let you go?"

"Of course they will. They'll be perfectly delighted to have me go."

Patty was right. When she told her father and Nan about the delightful invitation, they were almost as pleased as she was herself, and Mr. Fairfield gave ready permission.

The projected trip entirely fulfilled Dr. Martin's requisites of fresh air, out-of-door exercise, and a good time, and when he was told of the plan he also expressed his entire approval.



CHAPTER X

A MOTOR TRIP

Preparations began at once. It was now the first of June and they were to start on the sixth.

There were delightful shopping excursions for the replenishing of Patty's wardrobe, and Nan gladly assisted Patty to get everything in order for her trip.

At last the day of starting came, and a more beautiful day could not be imagined. It was typical June weather, and the sun shone pleasantly, but not too warmly, from a clear blue sky.

Patty's only experience in motoring had been her trip to Atlantic City, but that was only a short ride compared to the contemplated tour of the Farringtons.

Mr. Farrington's huge car seemed to be furnished with everything necessary for a long journey. Although they would usually take their meals at hotels in the towns through which they passed, Mrs. Farrington explained they might occasionally wish to have tea or even luncheon on the road, so the car was provided with both tea-basket and luncheon-kit. The novelty of this paraphernalia was fascinating to Patty, and she peeped into the well-appointed baskets with chuckles of delight at the anticipated pleasure of making use of them.

Patty's trunk was put up on top among the others, her hand-luggage was stowed away in its place, and with affectionate good-byes to Nan and her father, she took her seat in the tonneau between Mrs. Farrington and Elise, and away they started.

Mr. Farrington and Roger, who sat in front, were in the gayest of spirits and everything was promising for a happy journey.

As they threaded their way through the crowded city streets, Patty rejoiced to think that they would soon be out in the open country where they would have wide roads with comparatively few travellers.

"What is the name of your machine, Mr. Farrington?" she asked, as they whizzed along.

"I may as well own up," that gentleman answered, laughing. "I have named it 'The Fact.'"

"'The Fact,'" repeated Patty, "what a funny name. Why do you call it that? You must have some reason."

"I have," said Mr. Farrington, in a tone of mock despair. "I call it The Fact because it is a stubborn thing."

Patty laughed merrily at this. "I'm afraid it's a libel," she said, "I'm sure I don't see anything stubborn about the way it acts. It's going beautifully."

"Yes, it is," said Mr. Farrington, "and I hope it will continue to do so, but I may as well warn you that it has a most reprehensible habit of stopping now and then, and utterly refusing to proceed. And this, without any apparent reason, except sheer stubbornness."

"How do you finally induce it to move?" asked Patty, interested by this trait.

"We don't induce it," said Elise, "we just sit and wait, and when the old thing gets ready to move, it just draws a long breath and humps itself up and down a few times, and turns a couple of somersaults, and moves on."

"What an exciting experience," said Patty. "When do you think it will begin any such performance as that?"

"You can't tell," said Mr. Farrington. "It's as uncertain as the weather."

"More so," said Roger. "The weather sometimes gives you warning of its intentions, but The Fact just selects a moment when you're the farthest possible distance from civilisation or help of any kind, and then it just sits down and refuses to get up."

"Well, we won't cross that bridge until we come to it," said Mr. Farrington. "Sometimes we run a week without any such mishap."

And truly there seemed no danger at present, for the big car drove ahead as smoothly and easily as a railroad train, and Patty lay back in the luxurious tonneau, feeling that at last she could get rested and have a good time both at once.

The wonderful exhilaration of the swift motion through the soft June air, the delightful sensation of the breeze which was caused by the motion of the car, and the ever-changing natural panorama on either side of her, gave Patty the sensation of having suddenly been transported to some other country than that in which she had been living the past few weeks.

And so pleasantly friendly were her relations with Mrs. Farrington and Elise that it did not seem necessary to make remarks for the sake of keeping up the conversation. There was much pleasant chat and discussion as they passed points of interest or diverting scenes, but then again there were occasional pauses when they all gave themselves up to the enjoyment of the delightful motion of the car.

Patty began to realise what was meant by the phrase, "automobile elation." She seemed to feel an uplifting of her spirit, and a strange thrill of exquisite happiness, while all trace of nervousness or petty worry was brushed away like a cobweb.

Her lungs seemed filled with pure air, and further, she had a whimsical sense that she was breathing the very blue of the sky.

She said this to Mrs. Farrington, and that lady smiled as she answered, "That's right, Patty; if you feel that way, you are a true motorist. Not everyone does. There are some who only look upon a motor-car as a machine to transport them from one place to another, but to me it is the very fairyland of motion."

Patty's eyes shone in sympathy with this idea, but Roger turned around laughingly, and said, "You'd better be careful how you breathe the blue sky, Patty, for there's a little cloud over there that may stick in your throat."

Patty looked at the tiny white cloud, and responded, "If you go much faster, Roger, I'm afraid we'll fly right up there, and run over that poor little cloud."

"Let's do it," said Roger. "There's no fine for running over a cloud, is there, Dad?"

As he spoke, Roger put on a higher speed, and then they flew so fast that Patty began to be almost frightened. But her fear did not last long, for in a moment the great car gave a kind of a groan, and then a snort, and then a wheeze, and stopped; not suddenly, but with a provokingly determined slowness, that seemed to imply no intention of moving on again. After a moment the great wheels ceased to revolve, and the car stood stubbornly still, while Mr. Farrington and Roger looked at each other, with faces of comical dismay.

"We're in for it!" said Mr. Farrington, in a resigned tone.

"Then we must get out for it!" said Roger, as he jumped down from his seat, and opened the tool-chest.

Mrs. Farrington groaned. "Now, you see, Patty," she said, "how the car lives up to its name. I hoped this wouldn't happen so soon."

"What is the matter?" asked Patty. "Why doesn't it go?"

"Patty," said Elise, looking at her solemnly, "I see you have yet to learn the first lesson of automobile etiquette. Never, my child, whatever happens, never inquire why a car doesn't go! That is something that nobody ever knows, and they wouldn't tell if they did know, and, besides, if they did know, they'd know wrong."

Mrs. Farrington laughed at Elise's coherent explanation, but she admitted that it was pretty nearly right, after all. Meanwhile, Mr. Farrington and Roger, with various queer-looking tools, were tinkering at the car here and there, and though they did not seem to be doing any good, yet they were evidently not discouraged, for they were whistling gaily, and now and then made jesting remarks about the hopelessness of ever moving on again.

"I think there's water in the tubes," said Roger, "but Dad thinks it's a choked carburetter. So we're going to doctor for both."

"Very well," said Mrs. Farrington, calmly; "as there's no special scenery to look at about here, I think I shall take a little nap. You girls can get out and stroll around, if you like."

Mrs. Farrington settled herself comfortably in her corner, and closed her eyes. Elise and Patty did get out, and walked up and down the road a little, and then sat down on the bank by the roadside to chat. For the twentieth time or more they talked over all the details of commencement day, and congratulated themselves anew on the success of their entertainment.

At last, after they had waited nearly two hours, Roger declared that there was no earthly reason why they shouldn't start if they cared to.

It was part of Roger's fun, always to pretend that he could go on at any moment if he desired to, and when kept waiting by the misconduct of the car, he always made believe that he delayed the trip solely for his own pleasure.

Likewise, if under such trying circumstances as they had just passed through, he heard other automobiles or wagons coming, he would drop his tools, lean idly against the car, with his hands in his pockets, whistling, and apparently waiting there at his own pleasure.

All this amused Patty very much, and she began, as Elise said, to learn the rules of automobile etiquette. It was not difficult with the Farringtons, for they all had a good sense of humour, and were always more inclined to laugh than cry over spilled milk.

When Roger made this announcement, Elise jumped up, and crying, "Come on, Patty," ran back to the car and jumped in, purposely waking her mother as she did so.

Mrs. Farrington placidly took in the situation, and remarked that she was in no hurry, but if they cared to go on she was quite ready.

And so with laughter and gay chatter they started on again, and the car ran as smoothly as it had before the halt.

But it was nearly sundown, and there were many miles yet to travel before they reached the hotel where they had expected to dine and stay over night.

"Shall we go on, Mother?" said Mr. Farrington. "Can you wait until nine o'clock or thereabouts for your dinner? Or shall we stop at some farmhouse, and so keep ourselves from starvation?"

"I would rather go on," said Mrs. Farrington, "if the girls don't mind."

The girls didn't mind, and so they plunged ahead while the sun set and the darkness fell. There was no moon, and a slight cloudiness hid the stars. Roger lighted the lamps, but they cast such weird shadows that they seemed to make the darkness blacker than ever.

Patty was not exactly afraid, but the experience was so new to her that she felt she would be glad when they reached the hotel. Perhaps Mr. Farrington discerned this, for he took especial pains to entertain his young guest, and divert her mind from thoughts of possible danger. So he beguiled the way with jokes and funny stories, until Patty forgot her anxiety, and the first thing she knew they were rolling up the driveway to the hotel.

Floods of light streamed from the windows and the great doors, and strains of music could be heard from within.

"Thank goodness we're here!" said Mrs. Farrington. "Jump out, girlies, and let us seek shelter at once."

Roger remained in the car to take it away to the garage, and Mr. Farrington accompanied the ladies into the hotel.

Much as she had enjoyed the ride, Patty felt glad to get into the warm, lighted house, and very soon the party were shown to their rooms.

Patty and Elise shared a large room whose twin beds were covered with spreads of gaily-flowered chintz. Curtains of the same material hung at the windows, and draped the dressing-table.

"What a pleasant, homelike room," said Patty, as she looked about.

"Yes," said Elise, "this is a nice old country hotel. We've been here before. Hurry, Patty, let's dress for dinner quickly."

But Patty was surveying herself in the long pierglass that hung between two windows.

Nan had selected her motoring outfit, and she had donned it that morning so hastily that she hadn't really had an opportunity to observe herself. But now, as she looked at the rather shapeless figure in the long pongee coat, and the queer shirred hood of the same material, and as she noted the voluminous chiffon veil with its funny little front window of mica, she concluded that she looked more like a goblin in a fairy play than a human being.

"Do stop admiring your new clothes, Patty, and get dressed," said Elise, who was on her knees before an open suitcase, shaking out Patty's skirt and bodice. "Get off those togs, and get ready to put these on. This is a sweet little Dresden silk; I didn't know you had it. Is it new?"

"Yes," said Patty, "Nan bought it for me. She said it wouldn't take much room in the suitcase, and would be useful for a dinner dress."

"It's lovely," said Elise. "Now get into it, and I'll hook you up."

So Patty got out of what she called her goblin clothes, but was still giggling at them as she hung them away in the wardrobe.

Less than half an hour later the two girls, spick and span in their dainty dresses, and with fresh white bows on their hair, went together down the staircase. They found Mr. and Mrs. Farrington awaiting them, and soon Roger appeared, and they went to the dining-room for a late dinner.

Then Patty discovered what automobile hunger was.

"I'm simply ravenous," she declared, "but I didn't know it until this minute."

"That's part of the experience," said Mrs. Farrington, "the appetite caused by motoring is the largest known variety, and that's why I wanted to push on here, where we could get a good dinner, instead of taking our chances at some farmhouse."

They were the only guests in the dining-room at that late hour, and so they made a merry meal of it, and after dinner went back to the large parlours, to sit for a while listening to the music. But they did not tarry long, for as Patty discovered, another consequence of a motor ride was a strong inclination to go to bed early.



CHAPTER XI

DICK PHELPS

The travellers did not rise early the next morning, and ten o'clock found them still seated at the breakfast table.

"I do hate to hurry," said Mrs. Farrington, comfortably sipping her coffee. "So many people think that an automobile tour means getting up early, and hustling off at daybreak."

"I'm glad those are your sentiments," said Patty, "for I quite agree with you. I've done enough hustling the last month or two, and I'm delighted to take things more slowly for a change."

"I think," said Mr. Farrington, "that as it is such a pleasant day, it would be a good plan to take some luncheon with us and picnic by the roadside. We could then get to the Warners'in time for dinner, though perhaps a little late."

"Lovely!" cried Elise, "I'm perfectly crazy to use that new luncheon-kit. It's great, Patty! It has the cunningest alcohol stove, and every little contraption you could possibly think of."

"I know it," said Patty. "I peeped inside yesterday, and the array of forks and spoons and plates and bottles was perfectly fascinating."

"Very well," said Mrs. Farrington to her husband, "ask them to fill the kit properly, and I think myself we will enjoy a little picnic."

So Mr. Farrington went to see about the provisions, and Roger to get the car ready, while the ladies sauntered about the piazza.

The route of their journey lay along the shore of Long Island Sound, and the hotel where they had stayed over night was not far from New Haven, and quite near the water's edge.

Patty was very fond of the water, and gazed with delight at the sparkling Sound, dotted with white steamers and various sorts of fishing-craft. For her part she would have been glad to stay longer at this hotel, but the Warners, whom they were going to visit, were expecting them to dinner that evening. These people, Patty knew, lived in a beautiful country place called "Pine Branches," which was near Springfield in Massachusetts. Patty did not know the Warners, but Elise had assured her that they were delightful people and were prepared to give her a warm welcome.

When the car came to the door the ladies were all ready to continue the journey. They had again donned their queer-looking motor-clothes, and though Patty was beginning to get used to their appearance, they still seemed to her like a trio of brownies or other queer beings as they took their seats in the car.

Roger climbed to his place, touched a lever by his side, and swung the car down the drive with an air of what seemed to Patty justifiable pride. The freshly cleaned car was so daintily spick and span, the day was so perfect, and the merry-hearted passengers in such a gay and festive mood, that there was indeed reason for a feeling of general satisfaction.

Away they went at a rapid speed, which Patty thought must be beyond the allowed limit, but Roger assured her to the contrary.

For many miles their course lay along a fine road which followed the shore of the Sound. This delighted Patty, as she was still able to gaze out over the blue water, and at the same time enjoy the wonderful motion of the car.

But soon their course changed and they turned inland, on the road to Hartford. Patty was surprised at Roger's knowledge of the way, but the young man was well provided with road maps and guidebooks, of which he had made careful study.

"How beautifully the car goes," said Patty. "It doesn't make the least fuss, even on the upgrades."

"You must learn the vocabulary, Patty," said Roger. "When a machine goes smoothly as The Fact is doing now, the proper expression is that it runs sweetly."

"Sweetly!" exclaimed Patty. "How silly. It sounds like a gushing girl."

"That doesn't matter," said Roger, serenely. "If you go on motor trips, you must learn to talk motor-jargon."

"All right," said Patty, "I'm willing to learn, and I do think the way this car goes it is just too sweet for anything!"

They all laughed at this, but their gaiety was short-lived, for just then there was a peculiar crunching sound that seemed to mean disaster, judging from the expressions of dismay on the faces of the Farrington family.

"What is it?" asked Patty, forgetting that she had been told never to ask questions on such occasions.

"Patty," said Roger, making a comical face at her, "my countenance now presents an expression typical of disgust, irritation, and impatience. I now wave my right hand thus, which is a Delsarte gesture expressing exasperation with a trace of anger. I next give voice to my sentiments, merely to remark in my usual calm and disinterested way, that a belt has broken and the mending thereof will consume a portion of time, the length of which may be estimated only after it has elapsed."

Patty laughed heartily at this harangue, but gathered from Roger's nonsense the interesting fact that an accident had occurred, and that a delay was inevitable. Nobody seemed especially surprised. Indeed, they took it quite as a matter of course, and Mrs. Farrington opened a new magazine which she had brought with her, and calmly settled herself to read.

But Elise said, "Well, I'm already starving with hunger, and I think we may as well open that kit of provisions, and have our picnic right here, while Roger is mending the belt."

"Elise," said her father jestingly, "you sometimes show signs of almost human intelligence! Your plan is a positive inspiration, for I confess that I myself feel the gnawings of hunger. Let us eat the hard-boiled eggs and ham sandwiches that we have with us, and then if we like, we can stop at Hartford this afternoon for a more satisfying lunch, as I begin to think we will not reach Pine Branches until sometime later than their usual dinner hour."

They all agreed to this plan, and Roger, with his peculiar sensitiveness toward being discovered with his car at a disadvantage, said seriously: "I see a racing machine coming, and when it passes us I hope you people will act as if we had stopped here only to lunch, and not because this ridiculous belt chose to break itself just now."

This trait of Roger's amused Patty very much, but she was quite ready to humour her friend, and agreed to do her part.

She looked where Roger had indicated, and though she could see what looked like a black speck on a distant road, she wondered how Roger could know it was a racing machine that was approaching. However, she realised that there were many details of motoring of which she had as yet no idea, and she turned her attention to helping the others spread out the luncheon. The beautifully furnished basket was a delight to Patty. She was amazed to see how cleverly a large amount of paraphernalia could be stowed in a small amount of space. The kit was arranged for six persons, and contained half-dozens of knives, forks, spoons, and even egg-spoons; also plates, cups, napkins, and everything with which to serve a comfortable meal. There were sandwich-boxes, salad-boxes, butter-jars, tea and coffee cans, salt, pepper, and all necessary condiments. Then there was the alcohol stove, with its water-kettle and chafing dish. At the sight of all these things, which seemed to come out of the kit as out of a magician's hat, Patty's eyes danced.

"Let me cook," she begged, and Mrs. Farrington and Elise were only too glad to be relieved of this duty.

There wasn't much cooking to do, as sandwiches, cold meats, salad, and sweets were lavishly provided, but Patty made tea, and then boiled a few eggs just for the fun of doing it.

Preparations for the picnic were scarcely under way when the racing-car that Roger had seen in the distance came near them. There was a whirring sound as it approached, and Patty glanced up from her alcohol stove to see that it was occupied by only one man. He was slowing speed, and evidently intended to stop. Long before he had reached them, Roger had hidden his tools, and though his work on the broken belt was not completed, he busied himself with the luncheon preparations, as if that was his sole thought.

The racing-car stopped and the man who was driving it got out.

At sight of him Patty with difficulty restrained her laughter, for though their own garb was queer, it was rational compared to the appearance of this newcomer.

A racing suit is, with perhaps the exception of a diver's costume, the most absurd-looking dress a man can get into. The stranger's suit was of black rubber, tightly strapped at the wrists and ankles, but it was his head-gear which gave the man his weird and uncanny effect. It was a combination of mask, goggles, hood, earflaps, and neckshield which was so arranged with hinges that the noseguard and mouthpiece worked independently of each other.

At any rate, it seemed to Patty the funniest show she had ever seen, and she couldn't help laughing. The man didn't seem to mind, however, and after he had bowed silently for a moment or two with great enjoyment of their mystification, he pulled off his astonishing head-gear and disclosed his features.

"Dick Phelps!" exclaimed Mr. Farrington, "why, how are you, old man? I'm right down glad to see you!"

Mr. Phelps was a friend of the Farrington family, and quite naturally they invited him to lunch with them.

"Indeed I will," said the visitor, "for I started at daybreak, and I've had nothing to eat since. I can't tarry long though, as I must make New York City to-night."

Mr. Phelps was a good-looking young man of about thirty years, and so pleased was he with Patty's efforts in the cooking line, that he ate all the eggs she had boiled, and drank nearly all the tea, besides making serious inroads on the viands they had brought with them.

"It doesn't matter if I do eat up all your food," said the young man, pleasantly, "for you can stop anywhere and get more, but I mustn't stop again until I reach the city, and I probably won't have a chance to eat then, as I must push on to Long Island."

The Farringtons were quite willing to refresh the stranger within their gates, and they all enjoyed the merry little picnic.

"Where are you bound?" asked Mr. Phelps as he prepared to continue his way.

"To Pine Branches first," said Mrs. Farrington, "the country house of a friend. It's near Springfield, and from there we shall make short trips, and later on, continue our way in some other direction,—which way we haven't yet decided."

"Good enough," said Mr. Phelps, "then I'll probably see you again. I am often a guest at Pine Branches myself, and shall hope to run across you."

As every motorist is necessarily interested in his friend's car, Mr. Phelps naturally turned to inspect the Farrington machine before getting into his own.

And so, to Roger's chagrin, he was obliged to admit that he was even then under the necessity of mending a broken belt.

But to Roger's relief, Mr. Phelps took almost no notice of it, merely saying that a detail defect was liable to happen to anybody. He looked over the vital parts of the motor, and complimented Roger on its fine condition. This pleased the boy greatly, and resuming his work after Mr. Phelps' departure, he patched up the belt, while the others repacked the kit, and soon they started off again.

Swiftly and smoothly they ran along over the beautiful roads, occasionally meeting other touring-parties apparently as happy as they were themselves. Sometimes they exchanged merry greetings as they passed, for all motorists belong to one great, though unorganised, fraternity.

"I've already discovered that trifling accidents are a part of the performance, and I've also discovered that they're easily remedied and soon over, and that when they are over they are quickly forgotten and it seems impossible that they should ever occur again."

"You've sized it up pretty fairly, Patty," said Roger, "and though I never before thought it out for myself, I agree with you that that is the true way to look at it."

On they went, leaving the miles behind them, and as Roger was anxious to make up for lost time he went at a slightly higher speed than he would have otherwise done. He slowed down, however, when they passed horses or when they went through towns or villages.

Patty was greatly interested in the many small villages through which they rode, as nearly every one showed quaint or humorous scenes. Dogs would come out and bark at them, children would scream after them, and even the grown-up citizens of the hamlets would stare at them as if they had never seen a motor-car before, though Patty reasoned that surely many of them must have travelled that same road.

"When you meet another village, Roger," she said, "do go through it more slowly, for I like to see the funny people."

"Very well," said Roger, "you may stop and get a drink at the town pump, if you like."

"No, thank you," said Patty, "I don't want to get out, but I would like to stop a minute or two in one of them."

Roger would willingly have granted Patty's wish, but he was deprived of this privilege by the car itself. Just as they neared a small settlement known as Huntley's Corners, another ominous sound from the machine gave warning.

"That belt again!" exclaimed Roger. "Patty, the probabilities are that you'll have all the time you want to study up this village, and even learn the life history of the oldest inhabitant."

"What an annoying belt it is," said Mrs. Farrington in her pleasant way. "Don't you think, Roger dear, that you had better get a new belt and be done with it?"

"That's just what I do think, Mother, but somehow I can't persuade myself that they keep them for sale at this corner grocery."

The car had reached the only store in the settlement, and stopped almost in front of it.

Patty was beginning to learn the different kinds of stops that a motor-car can make, and she felt pretty sure that this was not a momentary pause, but a stop that threatened a considerable delay.

She said as much to Roger, and he replied, "Patty, you're an apt pupil. The Fact has paused here not for a day, but for all time, unless something pretty marvellous can be done in the way of belt mending!"

Patty began to think that accidents were of somewhat frequent occurrence, but Elise said, cheerfully, "This seems to be an off day. Why, sometimes we run sweetly for a week, without a word from the belt. Don't we, Roger?"

"Yes, indeed," said Roger, "but Patty may as well get used to the seamy side of motoring, and learn to like it."

"I do like it," declared Patty, "and if we are going to take up our abode here for the present, I'm going out to explore the town."

She jumped lightly from the car, and, accompanied by Elise, strolled down the main, and, indeed, the only street of the village.



CHAPTER XII

OLD CHINA

A few doors away from the country store in front of which the automobile stood, the girls saw a quaint old house, with a few toys and candies displayed for sale in a front window.

"Isn't it funny?" said Elise, looking in at the unattractive collection. "See that old-fashioned doll, and just look at that funny jumping-jack!"

"Yes," said Patty, whose quick eye had caught sight of something more interesting, "but just look at that plate of peppermint candies. The plate, I mean. Why, Elise, it's a Millennium plate!"

"What's that?" said Elise, looking blank.

"A Millennium plate? Why, Elise, it's about the most valuable bit of old china there is in this country! Why, Nan would go raving crazy over that. I'd rather take it home to her than any present I could buy in the city shop. Elise, do you suppose whoever keeps this little store would sell that plate?"

"No harm in trying," said Elise, "there's plenty of time, for it will take Roger half an hour to fix that belt. Let's go in and ask her."

"No, no," said Patty, "that isn't the way. Wait a minute. I've been china hunting before, with Nan, and with other people, and you mustn't go about it like that. We must go in as if we were going to buy some of her other goods, and then we'll work around to the plate by degrees. You buy something else, Elise, and leave the plate part to me."

"Very well, I think I'll buy that rag doll, though I'm sure I don't know what I'll ever do with it. No self-respecting child would accept it as a gift."

"Well, buy something," said Patty, as they went in.

The opening of the door caused a big bell to jingle, and this apparently called an old woman in from the back room. She was not very tidy, but she was a good-natured body, and smiled pleasantly at the two girls.

"What is it, young ladies?" she asked, "can I sell you anything to-day?"

"Yes," said Elise, gravely, "I was passing your window, and I noticed a doll there,—that one with the blue gingham dress. How much is it, please?"

"That one," said the old lady, "is fifty cents. Seems sorter high, I know, but that 'ere doll was made by a blind girl, that lives a piece up the road; and though the sewin' ain't very good, it's a nine-days' wonder that she can do it at all. And them dolls is her only support, and land knows she don't sell hardly any!"

"I'll give you a dollar for it," said Elise, impulsively, for her generous heart was touched. "Have you any more of them?"

"No," said the woman, in some amazement. "Malviny, she don't make many, 'cause they don't sell very rapid. But be you goin' her way? She might have one to home, purty nigh finished."

"I don't know," said Elise, "where does she live?"

"Straight along, on the main road. You can't miss it, an old yaller house, with the back burnt off."

It was Patty's turn now, and she said she would buy the peppermint candies that were in the window.

"All of 'em?" asked the storekeeper, in surprise.

"Yes," said Patty, "all of them," and as the old woman lifted the plate in from the window, Patty added, "And if you care to part with it, I'll buy the plate too."

"Land, Miss, that 'ere old plate ain't no good; it's got a crack in it, but if so be's you admire that pattern, I've got another in the keeping-room that's just like it, only 'tain't cracked. 'Tain't even chipped."

"Would you care to part with them both?" asked Patty, remembering that this phrase was the preferred formula of all china hunters.

"Laws, yes, Miss, if you care to pay for 'em. Of course, I can't sell 'em for nothin', for there's sometimes ladies as comes here, as has a fancy to them old things. But these two plates is so humbly, that I didn't have the face to show 'em to anybody as was lookin' for anteeks."

Patty's sense of honesty would not allow her to ignore the old woman's mistake.

"They may seem homely to you," she said, "but I think it only right to tell you that these plates are probably the most valuable of any you have ever owned."

"Well, for the land o' goodness, ef you ain't honest! 'Tain't many as would speak up like that! Jest come in the back room, and look at the other plate."

The girls followed the old woman as she raised a calico curtain of a flowered pattern, and let them through into the "keeping-room."

"There," she said with some pride as she took down a plate from the high mantel. "There, you can see for yourself, there ain't no chip or crack into it."

Sure enough, Patty held in her hand a perfect specimen of the Millennium plate, so highly prized by collectors, and there was also the one she had seen in the window, which though slightly cracked, was still in fair condition.

"How much do you want for them?" asked Patty.

The old woman hesitated. It was not difficult to see that, although she wanted to get as high a price as possible for her plates, yet she did not want to ask so much that Patty would refuse to take them.

"You tell me," she said, insinuatingly, "'bout what you think them plates is worth."

"No," said Patty, firmly, "I never buy things that way. You tell me your price, and then I will buy them or not as I choose."

"Well," said the old woman, slowly, "the last lady that I sold plates to, she give me fifty cents apiece for three of 'em, and though I think they was purtier than these here, yet you tell me these is more vallyble, and so," here the old woman made a great show of firmness, "and so my price for these plates is a dollar apiece."

As soon as she had said it, she looked at Patty in alarm, greatly fearing that she would not pay so much.

But Patty replied, "I will give you five dollars for the two,—because I know that is nearer their value than the price you set."

"Bless your good heart, and your purty face, Miss," said the old woman, as the tears came into her eyes. "I'm that obliged to you! I'll send the money straight to my son John. He's in the hospital, poor chap, and he needs it sore."

Elise had rarely been brought in contact with poverty and want, and her generous heart was touched at once. She emptied her little purse out upon the table, and was rejoiced to discover that it contained something over ten dollars.

"Please accept that," she cried, "to buy things for your son, or for yourself, as you choose."



The old woman was quite overcome at this kindness, and was endeavouring brokenly to express her thanks, when the bell on the shop door jangled loudly.

Patty being nearest to the calico curtain drew it aside, to find Roger in the little shop, looking very breathless and worried.

"Well, of all things," he exclaimed. "You girls have given us a scare. We've hunted high and low through the whole of this metropolis. And if it hadn't been that a little girl said she saw you come in here, I suppose we'd now be dragging the brook. Come along, quick, we're all ready to start."

"How could you get that belt mended so quickly?" asked Elise.

"Never mind that," said Roger, "just come along."

"Wait a minute," said Patty, hastily gathering up her precious plates, while the old woman provided some newspaper wrapping.

Roger hurried the two girls back to the motor-car, saying as they went, "We're not in any hurry to start, but Mother thinks you're drowned, and I want to prove to her that she is mistaken."

The sight of the car caused Patty to go off into peals of laughter.

In front of the beautiful machine was an old farm wagon, and in front of that were four horses. On the seat of the wagon sat a nonchalant-looking farmer who seemed to take little interest in the proceedings.

"I wouldn't ask what's the matter for anything," said Patty, looking at Roger, demurely, "but I suppose I am safe in assuming that you have those horses there merely because you think they look well."

"That's it," said Roger. "Nothing adds to the good effect of a motor-car like having a few fine horses attached to it. Jump in, girls."

The girls jumped in, and the caravan started. It was at a decidedly different rate of speed from the way they had travelled before. But Patty soon learned that Roger had found it impossible to fix the belt without going to a repair shop, and there was none nearer than Hartford. With some difficulty, and at considerable expense, he had persuaded the gruff old farmer to tow them over the intervening ten miles.

Patty would have supposed that this would greatly humiliate the proud and sensitive boy, but, to her surprise, Roger treated the affair as a good joke. He leaned back in his seat, apparently pleased with his enforced idleness, and chatted merrily as they slowly crawled along. Occasionally he would plead with the old farmer to urge his horses a trifle faster, and even hint at certain rewards if they should reach Hartford in a given time. But the grumpy old man was proof against coaxing or even bribing, and they jogged along, almost at a snail's pace.

Perceiving that there was no way of improving the situation, Roger gave up trying, and turning partly around in his seat, proceeded to entertain the girls to the best of his ability.

Patty hadn't known before what a jolly, good-natured boy Elise's brother was, and she came to the conclusion that he had a good sense of proportion, to be able to take things so easily, and to keep his temper under such trying circumstances.

Only once did the surly old farmer address himself to his employers. Turning around to face the occupants of the motor-car he bawled out:

"Whar do ye wanter go in Hartford?"

"To the largest repair shop for automobiles," answered Roger.

"Thought ye wanted ter go ter the State Insane Asylum," was the response to this, and a suppressed chuckle could be heard, as the old man again turned his attention to his not over-speedy steeds.

Though not a very subtle jest, this greatly amused the motor party, and soon they entered the outskirts of the beautiful city of Hartford.

Mr. Farrington looked at his watch. "I suppose," he said, "it will take the best part of an hour to have the machine attended to, for there are two or three little matters which I want to have put in order, besides the belt. I will stay and look after it, and the rest of you can take your choice of two proceedings. One is, to go to a hotel, rest and freshen yourselves up a bit, and have some luncheon. The other is, to take a carriage and drive around the city. Hartford is a beautiful place, and if Patty has never seen it, I am sure she will enjoy it."

"It doesn't matter to me," said Mrs. Farrington, "which we do; but I'm quite sure I don't care to eat anything more just at present. We had our picnic not so very long ago, you know."

"I know," said Mr. Farrington, "but consider this. When we start from here with the car in good order, I hope to run straight through to Warner's. But at best we cannot reach there before ten o'clock to-night. So it's really advisable that you should fortify yourselves against the long ride, for I should hate to delay matters further by stopping again for dinner."

"Ten o'clock!" exclaimed Mrs. Farrington, "why, they expect us by seven, at latest. It is too bad to keep them waiting like that. Can't we telephone to them?"

"Yes," said Mr. Farrington, "and I will attend to that while I am waiting for the car to be fixed. Now what would you people rather do?"

Both the girls declared they could not eat another luncheon at present, and they thought it would be delightful to drive around and see the town.

So Mrs. Farrington settled the matter by deciding to take the drive. And then she said, "We can leave the luncheon-kit at some hotel to be filled, then we can pick it up again, and take it along with us, and when we get hungry we can eat a light supper in the car."

"Great head, Mother!" cried Roger, "you are truly a genius!"

An open landau was engaged, and Roger and the three ladies started for the drive. They spent a delightful hour viewing the points of interest in the city, which the obliging driver pointed out to them.

They smiled when they came to the Insane Asylum, and though the grounds looked attractive, they concluded not to go there to stay, even though their old farmer friend had seemed to think it an appropriate place for them.

"It's a strange thing," said Roger, "that people who do not ride in automobiles always think that people who do are crazy. I'm sure I don't know why."

"I wouldn't blame anybody for thinking Mr. Phelps crazy, if they had seen him this morning," said Patty.

"That's only because you're not accustomed to seeing men in racing costume," said Roger. "After you've seen a few more rigs like that, you won't think anything of them."

"That's so," said Patty thoughtfully, "and if I had never before seen a farmer in the queer overalls, and big straw hat, that our old country gentleman wore, I daresay I should have thought his appearance quite as crazy as that of Mr. Phelps."

"You have a logical mind, Patty," said Mrs. Farrington, "and on the whole I think you are right."



CHAPTER XIII

A STORMY RIDE

The time passed quickly and soon the drive was over, and after calling for their well-filled luncheon-basket, the quartet returned to the repair shop to find Mr. Farrington all ready to start.

So into the car they all bundled, and Patty learned that each fresh start during a motor journey revives the same feeling of delight that is felt at the beginning of the trip.

She settled herself in her place with a little sigh of contentment, and remarked that she had already begun to feel at home in The Fact, and she only wished it was early morning, and they were starting for the day, instead of but for a few hours.

"Don't you worry, my lady," said Roger, as he laid his hands lightly on the steering-wheel, "you've a good many solid hours of travel ahead of you right now. It's four o'clock, and if we reach Pine Branches by ten, I will pat this old car fondly on the head, before I put her to bed."

The next few hours were perhaps the pleasantest they had yet spent. In June, from four to seven is a delightful time, and as the roads were perfect, and the car went along without the slightest jar or jolt, and without even a hint of an accident of any sort, there was really not a flaw to mar their pleasure.

As the sun set, and the twilight began to close around them, Patty thought she had never seen anything more beautiful than the landscape spread out before them. A broad white road stretched ahead like a ribbon. On either side were sometimes green fields, darkening in the fading light, and sometimes small groves of trees, which stood black against the sky.

Then the sunset's colours faded, the trees grew blacker and denser, and their shadows ceased to fall across the darkening road.

Roger lighted the lamps, and drew out extra fur robes, for the evening air was growing chill.

"Isn't it wonderful!" said Patty, almost in a whisper. "Motoring by daylight is gay and festive, but now, to glide along so swiftly and silently through the darkness, is so strange that it's almost solemn. As it grows darker and blacker, it seems as if we were gliding away,—away into eternity."

"For gracious' sake, child," said Mrs. Farrington, "don't talk like that! You give me the shivers; say something more lively, quick!"

Patty laughed merrily.

"That was only a passing mood," she said. "Really, I think it's awfully jolly for us to be scooting along like this, with our lamps shining. We're just like a great big fire-fly or a dancing will-o'-the-wisp."

"You have a well-trained imagination, Patty," said Mrs. Farrington, laughing at the girl's quick change from grave to gay. "You can make it obey your will, can't you?"

"Yes, ma'am," said Patty demurely, "what's the use of having an imagination, if you can't make it work for you?"

The car was comfortably lighted inside as well as out, with electric lamps, and the occupants were, as Mr. Farrington said, as cozy and homelike as if they were in a gipsy waggon.

Patty laughed at the comparison and said she thought that very few gipsy waggons had the luxuries and modern appliances of The Fact.

"That may be," said Mr. Farrington, "but you must admit the gipsy waggon is the more picturesque vehicle. The way they shirr that calico arrangement around their back door, has long been my admiration."

"It is beautiful," said Patty, "and the way the stove-pipe comes out of the roof,——"

"And the children's heads out 'most anywhere," added Elise; "yes, it's certainly picturesque."

"Speaking of gipsy waggons makes me hungry," said Mrs. Farrington. "What time is it, and how soon shall we reach the Warners'?"

"It's after eight o'clock, my dear," said her husband, "and I'm sure we can't get there before ten, and then, of course, we won't have dinner at once, so do let us partake of a little light refreshment."

"Seems to me we are always eating," said Patty, "but I'm free to confess that I'm about as hungry as a full grown anaconda."

Without reducing their speed, and they were going fairly fast, the tourists indulged in a picnic luncheon. There was no tea making, but sandwiches and little cakes and glasses of milk were gratefully accepted.

"This is all very well," said Mrs. Farrington, after supper was over, "and I wouldn't for a moment have you think that I'm tired or frightened, or the least mite timid. But if I may have my way, hereafter we'll make no definite promises to be at any particular place at any particular time. I wish when you had telephoned, John, you had told the Warners that we wouldn't arrive until to-morrow. Then we could have stopped somewhere, and spent the night like civilised beings, instead of doing this gipsy act."

"It would have been a good idea," said Mr. Farrington thoughtfully, "but it's a bit too late now, so there's no use worrying about it. But cheer up, my friend, I think we'll arrive shortly."

"I think we won't," said Roger. "I don't want to be discouraging, but we haven't passed the old stone quarry yet, and that's a mighty long way this side of Pine Branches."

"You're sure you know the way, aren't you, Roger?" asked his mother, her tone betraying the first trace of anxiety she had yet shown.

"Oh, yes," said Roger, and Patty wasn't sure whether she imagined it, or whether the boy's answer was not quite as positive as it was meant to sound.

"Well, I'm glad you do," said Mr. Farrington, "for I confess I don't. We're doubtless on the right road, but I haven't as yet seen any familiar landmarks."

"We're on the right road, all right," said Roger. "You know there's a long stretch this side of Pine Branches, without any villages at all."

"I know it," said Mrs. Farrington, "but it is dotted with large country places, and farms. Are you passing those, Roger? I can't seem to see any?"

"I haven't noticed very many, Mother, but I think we haven't come to them yet. Chirk up, it's quite some distance yet, but we'll keep going till we get there."

"Oh," said Mrs. Farrington, "what if the belt should break, or something give way!"

"Don't think of such things, Mother; nothing is going to give way. But if it should, why, we'll just sit here till morning, and then we can see to fix it."

Mrs. Farrington couldn't help laughing at Roger's good nature, but she said, "Of course, I know everything's all right, and truly, I'm not a bit frightened. But somehow, John, I'd feel more comfortable if you'd come back here with me, and let one of the girls sit in front in your place."

"Certainly," said her husband, "hop over here, Elise."

"Let me go," cried Patty, who somehow felt, intuitively, that Elise would prefer to stay behind with her parents. As for Patty herself, she had no fear, and really wanted the exciting experience of sitting up in front during this wild night ride.

Roger stopped the car, and the change was soon effected. As Patty insisted upon it, she was allowed to go instead of Elise, and in a moment they were off again.

"Do you know," said Patty to Roger, after they had started, "when I got out then, I felt two or three drops of rain!"

"I do know it," said Roger, in a low tone, "and I may as well tell you, Patty, that there's going to be a hard storm before long. Certainly before we reach Pine Branches."

"How dreadful," said Patty, who was awed more by the anxious note in Roger's voice, than by the thought of the rain storm. "Don't you think it would be better," she went on, hoping to make a helpful suggestion, "if we should put in to some house until the storm is over? Surely anybody would give us shelter."

"I don't see any houses," said Roger, "and, Patty, I may as well own up, we're off the road somehow. I think I must have taken the wrong turning at that fork a few miles back. And though I'm not quite sure, yet I feel a growing conviction that we're lost."

Although the situation was appalling, for some unexplainable reason Patty couldn't help giggling.

"Lost!" she exclaimed in a tragic whisper, "in the middle of the night! in a desolate country region! and a storm coming on!"

Patty's dramatic summary of the situation made Roger laugh too. And their peals of gaiety reassured the three who sat behind.

"What are you laughing at?" said Elise; "I wish you'd tell me, for I'm 'most scared to death, and Roger, it's beginning to rain."

"You don't say so!" said Roger, in a tone of polite surprise, "why then we must put on the curtains." He stopped the car, and jumping down from his place, began to arrange the curtains which were always carried in case of rain.

Mr. Farrington helped him, and as he did so, remarked, "Looks like something of a storm, my boy."

"Father," said Roger, in a low voice, "it's going to rain cats and dogs, and there may be a few thunders and lightnings. I hope mother won't have hysterics, and I don't believe she will, if you sit by her and hold her hand. I don't think we'd better stop. I think we'd better drive straight ahead, but, Dad, I believe we're on the wrong road. We're not lost; I know the way all right, but to go around the way we are going, is about forty miles farther than the way I meant to go; and yet I don't dare turn back and try to get on the other road again, for fear I'll really get lost."

"Roger," said Mr. Farrington, "you're a first-class chauffeur, and I'll give you a reference whenever you want one, but I must admit that to-night you have succeeded in getting us into a pretty mess."

Roger was grateful enough for the light way in which his father treated the rather serious situation, but the boy keenly felt his responsibility.

"Good old Dad," he said, "you're a brick! Get in back now, and look after mother and Elise. Don't let them shoot me or anything, when I'm not looking. Patty is a little trump; she is plucky clear through, and I am glad to have her up in front with me. Now I'll do the best I can, and drive straight through the storm. If I see any sort of a place where we can turn in for shelter, I think we'd better do it, don't you?"

"I do, indeed," said his father. "Meantime, my boy, go ahead. I trust the whole matter to you, for you're a more expert driver than I am."

It was already raining fast as the two men again climbed into the car. But the curtains all around kept the travellers dry, and with its cheery lights the interior of the car was cozy and pleasant.

In front was a curtain with a large window of mica which gave ample view of the road ahead.

With his strong and well-arranged lights, Roger had no fear of collision, and as they were well protected from the rain, his chief worriment was because they were on the wrong road.

"It's miles and miles longer to go around this way," he confided to Patty. "I don't know what time we'll ever get there."

"Never mind," said Patty, who wanted to cheer him up. "I think this is a great experience. I suppose there's danger, but somehow I can't help enjoying the wild excitement of it."

"I'm glad you like it," said Roger a little grimly. "I'm always pleased to entertain my guests."

The storm was increasing, and now amounted to a gale. The rain dashed against the curtains in great wet sheets, and finally forced its way in at a few of the crevices.

Mrs. Farrington, sitting between her husband and daughter, was thoroughly frightened and extremely uncomfortable, but she pluckily refrained from giving way to her nervousness, and succeeded in behaving herself with real bravery and courage.

Still the tempest grew. So wildly did it dash against the front curtain that Patty and Roger could see scarcely a foot before the machine.

"There's one comfort," said Roger, through his clenched teeth, "we're not in danger of running into anything, for no other fools would be abroad such a night as this. Patty, I'm going to speed her! I'm going to race the storm!"

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