"Do!" said Patty, who was wrought up to a tense pitch of excitement by the war of the elements without, and the novelty of the situation within.
Roger increased the speed, and they flew through the black night and dashed into the pouring rain, while Patty held her breath, and wondered what would happen next.
On they went and on. Patty's imagination kept pace with her experiences and through her mind flitted visions of Tam O'Shanter's ride, John Gilpin's ride and the ride of Collins Graves. But all of these seemed tame affairs beside their own break-neck speed through the wild night!
"Roger," said his mother, "Roger, won't you please——"
"Ask her not to speak to me just now, Patty, please," said the boy, in such a tense, strained voice that Patty was frightened at last, but she knew that if Roger were frightened, that was a special reason for her own calmness and bravery. Turning slightly, she said, "Please don't speak to him just now, Mrs. Farrington; he wants to put all his attention on his steering."
"Very well," said Mrs. Farrington, who had not the slightest idea that there was any cause for alarm, aside from the discomfort of the storm. "I only wanted to tell him to watch out for railroad trains."
And then Patty realised that that was just what Roger was looking out for! She could not see ahead into the blinding rain, but she knew they were going down hill. She heard what seemed like the distant whistle of a locomotive, and suddenly realising that Roger could not stop the car and must cross the track before the train came, she thought at the same moment that if Mrs. Farrington should impulsively reach over and grasp the boy's arm, or anything like that, it might mean terrible disaster.
Acting upon a quick impulse to prevent this, she turned round herself, and with a voice whose calmness surprised her, she said, "Please, Mrs. Farrington, could you get me a sandwich out of the basket?"
"Bless you, no, child!" said that lady, her attention instantly diverted by Patty's ruse. "That is, I don't believe I can, but I'll try."
Patty was far from wanting a sandwich, but she felt that she had at least averted the possible danger of Mrs. Farrington's suddenly clutching Roger, and as she turned back to face the front, the great car whizzed across the slippery railroad track, just as Patty saw the headlight of a locomotive not two hundred feet away from them.
"Oh, Roger," she breathed, clasping her hands tightly, lest she herself should touch the boy, and so interfere with his steering.
"It's all right, Patty," said Roger in a breathless voice, and as she looked at his white face, she realised the danger they had so narrowly escaped.
Those in the back seat could not see the train, and the roar of the storm drowned its noise.
"Patty," said Roger, very softly, "you saved us! I understood just what you did. I felt sure Mother was going to grab at me, when she heard that whistle. It's a way she has, when she's nervous or frightened, and I can't seem to make her stop it. But you saved the day with your sandwich trick, and if ever we get in out of the rain, I'll tell you what I think of you!"
There were still many miles to cover before they reached their destination, but there were no more railroad tracks to cross, and as there was little danger of meeting anyone, Roger let the car fly along at a high rate of speed. The storm continued and though the party endeavoured to keep cheerful, yet the situation was depressing, and each found it difficult not to show it.
Roger, of course, devoted his exclusive attention to driving the car, and Patty scarcely dared to breathe, lest she should disturb him in some way.
The three on the back seat became rather silent also, and at last everybody was rejoiced when Roger said, "Those lights ahead are at the entrance gate of Pine Branches."
Then the whole party waxed cheerful again.
Mr. Farrington looked at his watch. "It's quarter of two," he said, "do you suppose we can get in at this hour?"
"Indeed we will get in," declared Roger, "if I have to drive this car smash through the gates, and bang in at the front door!"
The strain was beginning to tell on the boy, who had really had a fearful night of it, and he went dashing up to the large gates with a feeling of great relief that the end of the journey was at hand.
When they reached the entrance, the rain was coming down in torrents. Great lanterns hung either side of the portal, and disclosed the fact that the gates were shut and locked.
Roger had expected this, for he felt sure the Warners had long ago given up all thought of seeing their guests that night.
Repeated soundings of the horn failed to bring any response from the lodge-keeper, and Roger was just about to get out of the car, and ring the bell at the large door, when Patty's quick eye discerned a faint light at one of the windows.
"Sure enough," said Roger, as she called his attention to this, and after a few moments the large door was opened, and the porter gazed out into the storm.
"All right, sir, all right," he called, seeing the car; and donning a great raincoat, he came out to open the gates.
"Well, well, sir," he said, as Mr. Farrington leaned out to speak with him, "this is a night, sure enough! Mr. Warner, sir, he gave up looking for you at midnight."
"I don't wonder," said Mr. Farrington, "and now, my man, can you ring your people up, and is there anybody to take care of the car?"
"Yes, sir, yes, sir," said the porter, "just you drive on up to the house, and I'll go back to the lodge and ring up the chauffeur, and as soon as he can get around he'll take care of your car. I'll ring up the housekeeper too, but she's a slow old body, and you'd best sound your horn all the way up the drive."
Roger acted on this advice and The Fact went tooting up the driveway, and finally came to a standstill at the front entrance of Pine Branches.
They were under a porte-cochere, and as soon as they stopped, Elise jumped out, and began a vigorous onslaught on the doorbell. Roger kept the horn sounding, and after a few moments the door was opened by a somewhat sleepy-looking butler. As they entered, Mr. Warner, whose appearance gave evidence of a hasty toilet, came flying down the staircase, three steps at a time.
"Well, well, my friends," he exclaimed, "I'm glad to see you, I am overjoyed to see you! We were expecting you just at this particular minute, and I am so glad that you arrived on time. How do you do, Mrs. Farrington? And Elise, my dear child, how you've grown since I saw you last! This is Patty Fairfield, is it? How do you do, Patty? I am very glad to see you. Roger, my boy, you look exhausted. Has your car been cutting up jinks?"
As Mr. Warner talked, he bustled around shaking hands with his guests, assisting them out of their wraps, and disposing of them in comfortable chairs.
Meantime the rest of the family appeared.
Bertha Warner, a merry-looking girl of about Patty's age, came flying downstairs, pinning her collar as she ran.
"How jolly of you," she cried, "to come in the middle of the night! Such fun! I'm so glad to see you, Elise; and this is Patty Fairfield? Patty, I think you're lovely."
The impulsive Bertha kissed Patty on both cheeks, and then turned to make way for her mother.
Mrs. Warner was as merry and as hearty in her welcome as the others. She acted as if it were an ordinary occurrence to be wakened from sleep at two o'clock in the morning, to greet newly arrived guests, and she greeted Patty quite as warmly as the others.
Suddenly a wild whoop was heard, and Winthrop Warner, the son of the house, came running downstairs.
"Jolly old crowd!" he cried, "you wouldn't let a little thing like a tornado stop your progress, would you? I'm glad you persevered and reached here, even though a trifle late."
Winthrop was a broad-shouldered, athletic young man, of perhaps twenty-four, and though he chaffed Roger merrily, he greeted the ladies with hospitable courtesy, and looked about to see what he could do for their further comfort. They were still in the great square entrance hall, which was one of the most attractive rooms at Pine Branches. A huge corner fireplace showed the charred logs of a fire which had only recently gone out, and Winthrop rapidly twisted up some paper, which he lighted, and procuring a few small sticks, soon had a crackling blaze.
"You must be damp and chilly," he said, "and a little fire will thaw you out. Mother, will you get something ready for a feast?"
"We should have waited dinner," began Mrs. Warner, "and we did wait until after ten, and then we gave you up."
"It's nearer time for breakfast than for dinner," said Elise.
"I don't want breakfast," declared Roger, "I don't like that meal anyway. No shredded whisk brooms for me."
"We'll have a nondescript meal," said Mrs. Warner, gaily, "and each one may call it by whatever name he chooses."
In a short time they were all invited to the dining-room, and found the table filled with a variety of delicious viands.
Such a merry tableful of people as partook of the feast! The Warners seemed to enjoy the fact that their guests arrived at such an unconventional hour, and the Farrington party were so glad to have reached their destination safely that they were in the highest of spirits.
Of course the details of the trip had to be explained, and Roger was unmercifully chaffed by Winthrop and his father for having taken the wrong road. But so good-naturedly did the boy take the teasing, and so successfully did he pretend that he came around that way merely for the purpose of extending a pleasant tour, that he got the best of them after all.
At last Mrs. Warner declared that people who had been through such thrilling experiences must be in immediate need of rest, and she gave orders that they must all start for bed forthwith.
It is needless to say that breakfast was not early next morning. Nor did it consist as Roger had intimated, of "shredded whisk brooms," but was a delightful meal, at which Patty became better acquainted with the Warner family, and confirmed the pleasant impressions she had received the night before.
After breakfast Mrs. Warner announced that everybody was to do exactly as he or she pleased until the luncheon hour, but she had plans herself for their entertainment in the afternoon.
So Winthrop and Roger went off on some affairs of their own, and Bertha devoted herself to the amusement of the two girls.
First, she suggested they should all walk around the place, and this proved a delightful occupation.
Pine Branches was an immense estate, covering hundreds of acres, and there was a brook, a grove, golf grounds, tennis court and everything that could by any possibility add to the interest or pleasure of its occupants.
"But my chief and dearest possession," said Bertha, smiling, "is Abiram."
"A dog?" asked Patty.
"No," said Bertha, "but come, and I will show him to you. He lives down here, in this little house."
The little house was very like a large-sized dog-kennel, but when they reached it, its occupant proved to be a woolly black bear cub.
"He's a perfect dear, Abiram is," said Bertha, as she opened the door, and the fat little bear came waddling out. He was fastened to a long chain, and his antics were funny beyond description.
"He's a real picture-bear," said Bertha; "see, his poses are just like those of the bears in the funny papers."
And so they were. Patty and Elise laughed heartily to see Abiram sit up and cross his paws over his fat little body.
"How old is he?" asked Patty.
"Oh, very young, he's just a cub. And of course, we can't keep him long. Nobody wants a big bear around. At the end of the summer, Papa says, he'll have to be sent to the Zoo. But we have lots of fun looking at him now, and I take pictures of him with my camera. He's a dear old thing." Bertha was sitting down by the bear, playing with him as with a puppy, and indeed the soft little creature showed no trace of wild animal habits, or even of mischievous intent.
"He's just like a big baby," said Patty. "Wouldn't it be fun to dress him up as one?"
"Let's do it," cried Bertha, gleefully. "Come on, girls, let's fly up to the house, and get the things."
Leaving Abiram sitting in the sun, the three girls scampered back to the house. Bertha procured two large white aprons and declared they would make a lovely baby dress.
And so they did. By sewing the sides together nearly to the top, and tying the strings in great bows to answer as shoulder straps, the dress was declared perfect. A dainty sunbonnet, with a wide fluffy ruffle, which was a part of Bertha's own wardrobe, was taken also, and with a string of large blue beads, and an enormous baby's rattle which Bertha unearthed from her treasure-chest, the costume was complete.
Bertha got her camera, and giving Elise a small, light chair to carry, they all ran back to Abiram's kennel.
They found the little bear peacefully sleeping in the sun, and when Bertha shook him awake he showed no resentment, and graciously allowed himself to be put into the clothes they had brought. His forepaws were thrust through the openings left for the purpose, and the stiff white bows sticking up from his black shoulders, made the girls scream with laughter. The ruffled sunbonnet was put on his head, and coquettishly tied on one side, and the string of blue beads was clasped around his fat neck.
Although Abiram seemed willing to submit to the greatness that was being thrust upon him, he experienced some difficulty in sitting up in the chair in the position which Bertha insisted upon.
However, by dint of Patty's holding his head up from behind, she herself being screened from view by a tree trunk, they induced Abiram to hold the rattle long enough for Bertha to get a picture.
Although a successful snapshot was only achieved after many attempts, yet the girls had great fun, and so silly and ridiculous did the little bear behave that Patty afterward declared she had never laughed so much in all her life.
After luncheon Mrs. Warner took her guests for a drive, declaring that after their automobile tour she felt sure that a carriage drive would be a pleasant change.
After the drive there was afternoon tea in the library, when the men appeared, and everybody chatted gaily over the events of the day.
Then they all dispersed to dress for dinner, and Patty suddenly realised that she was living in a very grown-up atmosphere, greatly in contrast to her schoolgirl life.
Bertha was a year or two older than Patty, and though as merry and full of fun as a child, she seemed to have the ways and effects of a grown-up young lady.
Elise also had lived a life which had accustomed her to formality and ceremony, and though only a year older than Patty in reality, she was far more advanced in worldly wisdom and ceremonious observances.
But Patty was adaptable by nature, and when in Rome she was quite ready to do as the Romans did.
So she put on one of her prettiest frocks for dinner, and allowed Bertha to do her hair in a new way which seemed to add a year or so to her appearance.
There were a few other guests at dinner, and as Patty always enjoyed meeting strangers, she took great interest in all the details of entertainment at Pine Branches.
At the table she found herself seated between Bertha and Winthrop. This pleased her, for she was glad of an opportunity to get better acquainted with the young man, of whom she had seen little during the day.
Although frank and boyish in some ways, Winthrop Warner gave her the impression of being very wise and scholarly.
She said as much to him, whereupon he explained that he was a student, and was making a specialty of certain branches of scientific lore. These included ethnology and anthropology, which names caused Patty to feel a sudden awe of the young man beside her.
But Winthrop only laughed, and said, "Don't let those long words frighten you. I assure you that they stand for most interesting subjects, and some day if you will come to my study, I will promise to prove that to you. Meantime we will ignore my scientific side, and just consider that we are two gay young people enjoying a summer holiday."
The young man's affable manner and kind smile put Patty quite at her ease, and she chatted so merrily that when the dinner hour was over she and Winthrop had become good friends and comrades.
MISS AURORA BENDER
After a visit of a few days, it was decided that Mr. and Mrs. Farrington and Roger should continue the motor-trip on to Boston, and to certain places along the New England coast, while Patty and Elise should stay at Pine Branches for a longer visit.
The girls had expected to continue the trip with the others, but Bertha had coaxed them to stay longer with her, and had held out such attractive inducements that they decided to remain.
Patty, herself, was pleased with the plan, because she still felt the effects of her recent mental strain, and realised that the luxurious ease of Pine Branches would be far more of a rest than the more exciting experiences of a motor trip.
So the girls were installed for a fortnight or more in the beautiful home of the Warners, and with so many means of pleasure at her disposal, Patty looked forward to a delightful period of both rest and recreation.
One morning, Bertha declared her intention of taking the girls to call on Miss Aurora Bender.
"Who is she?" inquired Patty, as the three started off in Bertha's pony-cart.
"She's a character," said Bertha, "but I won't tell you anything about her; you can see her, and judge for yourself."
A drive of several miles brought them to a quaint old-fashioned farmhouse.
The house, which had the appearance of being very old, was built of stone and painted a light yellow, with white trimmings. Everything about the place was in perfect repair and exquisite order, and as they drove in around the gravel circle that surrounded a carefully kept bit of green lawn, Bertha stopped the cart at an old-fashioned carriage-block, and the girls got out. Running up the steps, Bertha clanged the old brass knocker at what seemed to Patty to be the kitchen door. It was opened by a tall, gaunt woman, with sharp features and angular figure.
"Well, I declare to goodness, Bertha Warner, if you aren't here again! Who's that you've got with you this time? City folks, I s'pose. Well come in, all of you, but wipe your feet first. As you've been riding, I s'pose they ain't muddy much, but it's well to be on the safe side. So wipe 'em good and then troop in."
Miss Aurora Bender had pushed her heavy gold-bowed glasses up on the top of her head, and her whole-souled smile of welcome belied the gruffness of her tone, and the seeming inhospitality of her words.
The girls took pains to wipe their dainty boots on the gaily-coloured braided rug which lay just outside the door.
Then they entered a spacious low-ceiled room, which seemed to partake of the qualities of both kitchen and dining-room. At one end was an immense fireplace, with an old-fashioned swinging crane, from which depended many skillets and kettles of highly polished brass or copper.
On either side of the room was a large dresser, with glass doors, through which showed quantities of rare old china that made Patty's eyes shine with delight. A quaint old settle and various old chairs of Windsor pattern stood round the walls. The floor was painted yellow, and here and there were braided mats of various designs.
"Sit down, girls, sit down," said Miss Bender, cordially, "and now Bertha, tell me these young ladies' names,—unless, that is to say, you'd rather sit in the parlour?"
"We would rather sit in the parlour, Miss Bender," said Bertha, quickly, and as if fearing her hostess might not follow up her suggestion, Bertha opened a door leading to the front hall, and started toward the parlour, herself.
"Well," said Miss Bender, with a note of regret in her voice, "I s'pose if you must, you must; though for my part, I'm free to confess that this room's a heap more cozy and livable."
"That may be," said Bertha, who had beckoned to the girls to follow quickly, "but my friends are from the city, as you suspected, and they don't often have a chance in New York to see a parlour like yours, Miss Bender."
As Bertha had intended, this bit of flattery mollified the old lady, and she followed her guests along the dark hall.
"Well, if you're bound to have it so," she said, "do wait a minute, and let me get in there and pull up the blinds. It's darker than Japhet's coat pocket. I haven't had this room opened since Mis' Perkins across the road had her last tea fight. And I only did it then, 'cause I wanted to set some vases of my early primroses in the windows, so's the guests might see 'em as they came by. Seems to me it's a little musty in here, but land! a room will get musty if it's shut up, and what earthly good is a parlour except to keep shut up?"
As Miss Bender talked, she had bustled about, and thrown open the six windows of the large room, into which Bertha had taken the girls.
The sunlight streamed in, and disclosed a scene which seemed to Patty like a wonderful vision of a century ago.
And indeed for more than a hundred years the furniture of the great parlour had stood precisely as they now saw it.
The furniture was entirely of antique mahogany, and included sofas and chairs, various kinds of tables, bookcases, a highboy, a lowboy and other pieces of furniture of which Patty knew neither the name nor the use.
The pictures on the wall, the ornaments, the books and the old-fashioned brass candlesticks were all of the same ancient period, and Patty felt as if she had been transported back into the life of her great-grandmother.
As she had herself a pretty good knowledge of the styles and varieties of antique furniture, she won Miss Bender's heart at once by her appreciation of her Heppelwhite chairs and her Chippendale card-tables.
"You don't say," said Miss Bender, looking at Patty in admiration, "that you really know one style from another! Lots of people pretend they do, but they soon get confused when I try to pin 'em down."
Patty smiled, as she disclaimed any great knowledge of the subject, but she soon found that she knew enough to satisfy her hostess, who, after all, enjoyed describing her treasures even more than listening to their praises.
Miss Aurora Bender was a lady of sudden and rapid physical motion. While the girls were examining the wonderful old relics, she darted from the room, and returned in a moment, carrying two large baskets. They were of the old-fashioned type of closely-woven reed, with a handle over the top, and a cover to lift up on either side.
Miss Bender plumped herself down in the middle of a long sofa, and began rapidly to extract the contents of the baskets, which proved to be numerous fat rolls of gayly-coloured cotton material.
"It's patchwork," she announced, "and I make it my habit to get all the help I can. I'm piecing a quilt, goose-chase pattern, and while I don't know as it's the prettiest there is, yet I don't know as 'tisn't. If you girls expect to sit the morning, and I must say you look like it, you might lend a helping hand. I made the geese smaller'n I otherwise would, 'cause I had so many little pieces left from my rising-sun quilt. Looks just as well, of course, but takes a powerful sight of time to sew. And I must say I'm sorter particular about sewing. However, I don't s'pose you young things of this day and generation know much about sewing, but if you go slow you can't help doing it pretty well."
As she talked, Miss Bender had hastily presented each of the girls with a basted block of patchwork, and had passed around a needle-cushion and a small box containing a number of old-fashioned silver thimbles.
"Lucky I had a big family," she commented, "else I don't know what I'd done for thimbles to go around. I can't abide brass things, that make your finger look like it had been dipped in ink, but thanks to my seven sisters who are all restin' comfortably in their graves, I have enough thimbles to provide quite a parcel of company. Here's your thread. Now sew away while we talk, and we'll have a real nice little bee."
Although not especially fond of sewing, the girls looked upon this episode as a good joke, and fell to work at their bits of cloth.
Elise was a dainty little needlewoman, and overhanded rapidly and neatly; Patty did fairly well, though her stitches were not quite even, but poor Bertha found her work a difficult task. She never did fancywork, and knew nothing of sewing, so her thread knotted and broke, and her patch presented a sorry sight.
"Land o' Goshen!" exclaimed Miss Aurora, "is that the best you can do, Bertha Warner? The town ought to take up a subscription to put you in a sewin' school. Here child, let me show you."
Miss Bender took Bertha's block and tried to straighten it out, while Bertha herself made funny faces at the other girls over Miss Aurora's shoulder.
"I can see you," said that lady calmly, "I guess you forget that big mirror opposite. But them faces you're makin' ain't half so bad as this sewin' of yours."
The girls all laughed outright at Miss Bender's calm acceptance of Bertha's sauciness, and Bertha herself was in nowise embarrassed by the implied rebuke.
"There, child," said Miss Aurora, smoothing out the seams with her thumb nail, "now try again, and see if you can't do it some better."
"Is your quilt nearly done, Miss Bender?" asked Patty.
"Yes, it is. I've got three hundred and eighty-seven geese finished, and four hundred's enough. I work on it myself quite a spell every day, and I think in two or three days I'll have it all pieced."
"Oh, Miss Bender," cried Bertha, "then won't you quilt it? Won't you have a quilting party while my friends are here?"
"Humph," said Miss Aurora, scornfully, "you children can't quilt fit to be seen."
"Elise can," said Bertha, looking at Elise's dainty block, "and Patty can do pretty well, and as I would spoil your quilt if I touched it, Miss Aurora, I'll promise to let it alone; but I can do other things to help you. Oh, do have the party, will you?"
"Why, I don't know but I will. I kinder calculated to have it soon, anyhow, and if so be's you young people would like to come to it, I don't see anything to hinder. S'pose we say a week from to-day?"
The date was decided on, and the girls went home in high glee over the quilting party, for Bertha told them it would be great fun of a sort they had probably never seen before.
* * * * *
The days flew by rapidly at Pine Branches. Patty rapidly recovered her usual perfect health and rosy cheeks. She played golf and tennis, she went for long rides in the Warners' motor-car or carriages, and also on horseback. There were many guests at the house, coming and going, and among these one day came Mr. Phelps, whom they had met on their journey out from New York.
This gentleman proved to be of a merry disposition, and added greatly to the gaiety of the party. While he was there, Roger also came back for a few days, having left Mr. and Mrs. Farrington for a short stay at Nantucket.
One morning, as Patty and Roger stood in the hall, waiting for the other young people to join them, they were startled to hear angry voices in the music-room.
This room was separated from them by the length of the library, and though not quite distinct, the voices were unmistakably those of Bertha and Winthrop.
"You did!" said Winthrop's voice, "don't deny it! You're a horrid hateful old thing!"
"I didn't! any such thing," replied Bertha's voice, which sounded on the verge of tears.
"You did! and if you don't give it back to me, I'll tell mother. Mother said if she caught you at such a thing again, she'd punish you as you deserved, and I'm going to tell her!"
Patty felt most uncomfortable at overhearing this quarrel. She had never before heard a word of disagreement between Bertha and her brother, and she was surprised as well as sorry to hear this exhibition of temper.
Roger looked horrified, and glanced at Patty, not knowing exactly what to do.
The voices waxed more angry, and they heard Bertha declare, "You're a horrid old telltale! Go on and tell, if you want to, and I'll tell what you stole out of father's desk last week!"
"How did you know that?" and Winthrop's voice rang out in rage.
"Oh, I know all about it. You think nobody knows anything but yourself, Smarty-cat! Just wait till I tell father and see what he'll do to you."
"You won't tell him! Promise me you won't, or I'll,—I'll hit you! There, take that!"
"That" seemed to be a resounding blow, and immediately Bertha's cries broke forth in angry profusion.
"Stop crying," yelled her brother, "and stop punching me. Stop it, I say!"
At this point the conversation broke off suddenly, and Patty and Roger stared in stupefied amazement as they saw Bertha and Winthrop walk in smiling, and hand in hand, from exactly the opposite direction from which their quarrelsome voices had sounded.
"What's the matter?" said Bertha. "Why do you look so shocked and scared to death?"
"N-nothing," stammered Patty; while Roger blurted out, "We thought we heard you talking over that way, and then you came in from this way. Who could it have been? The voices were just like yours."
Bertha and Winthrop broke into a merry laugh.
"It's the phonograph," said Bertha. "Winthrop and I fixed up that quarrel record, just for fun; isn't it a good one?"
Roger understood at once, and went off into peals of laughter, but Patty had to have it explained to her.
"You see," said Winthrop, "we have a big phonograph, and we make records for it ourselves. Bertha and I fixed up that one just for fun, and Elise is in there now looking after it. Come on in, and see it."
They all went into the music-room, and Winthrop entertained them by putting in various cylinders, which they had made themselves.
Almost as funny as the quarrel was Bertha's account of the occasion when she fell into the creek, and many funny recitations by Mr. Warner also made amusing records.
Patty could hardly believe that she had not heard her friends' voices really raised in anger, until Winthrop put the same record in and let her hear it again.
He also promised her that some day she should make a record for herself, and leave it at Pine Branches as a memento of her visit.
A QUILTING PARTY
Miss Aurora Bender's quilting party was to begin at three o'clock in the afternoon, and the girls started early in order to see all the fun. They were to stay to supper, and the young men were to come over and escort them home in the evening.
When they reached Miss Bender's, they found that many and wonderful preparations had been made.
Miss Aurora had two house servants, Emmeline and Nancy, but on this occasion she had called in two more to help. And indeed there was plenty to be done, for a quilting bee was to Miss Bender's mind a function of great importance.
The last of a large family, Miss Bender was a woman of great wealth but of plain and old-fashioned tastes. Though amply able to gratify any extravagant wish, she preferred to live as her parents had lived before her, and she had in no sense kept pace with the progress of the age.
When the three girls reached the old country house, they were met at the front door by the elderly Nancy. She courtesied with old-time grace, and invited them to step into the bedroom, and lay off their things.
This bedroom, which was on the ground floor, was a large apartment, containing a marvellously carved four-post bedstead, hung with old-fashioned chintz curtains and draperies.
The room also contained two massive bureaus, a dressing-table and various chairs of carved mahogany, and in the open fireplace was an enormous bunch of feathery asparagus, flecked with red berries.
"Oh," cried Patty in delight, "if Nan could see this room she'd go perfectly crazy. Isn't this house great? Why, it's quite as full of beautiful old things as Washington's house at Mt. Vernon."
"I haven't seen that," said Bertha, "but it doesn't seem as if anything could be more complete or perfect in its way than this house is. Come on, girls, are you ready?"
The girls went to the parlour, and there found the quilt all prepared for working on. Patty had never before seen a quilt stretched on a quilting-frame, and was extremely interested.
It was a very large quilt, and its innumerable small triangles, which made up the goose-chase pattern, were found to present a methodical harmony of colouring, which had not been observable before the strips were put together.
The large pieced portion was uppermost, and beneath it was the lining, with layers of cotton in between. Each edge was pinned at intervals to a long strip of material which was wound round and round the frame. The four corners of the frame were held up by being tied to the backs of four chairs, and on each of the four sides of the quilt were three more chairs for the expected guests to occupy.
Almost on the stroke of three the visitors arrived, and though some of them were of a more modern type than Miss Bender, yet three or four were quite as old-fashioned and quaint-mannered as their hostess.
"They are native up here," Bertha explained to Patty. "There are only a few of the old New England settlers left. Most of the population here is composed of city people who have large country places. You won't often get an opportunity to see a gathering like this."
Patty realised the truth of this, and was both surprised and pleased to find that these country ladies showed no trace of embarrassment or self-consciousness before the city girls.
It seemed not to occur to them that there was any difference in their effects, and indeed Patty was greatly amused because one of the old ladies seemed to take it for granted that Patty was a country girl, and brought up according to old-time customs.
This old lady, whose name was Mrs. Quimby, sat next to Patty at the quilt, and after she had peered through her glasses at the somewhat uneven stitches which poor Patty was trying her best to do as well as possible, she remarked:
"You ain't got much knack, have you? You'll have to practise quite a spell longer before you can quilt your own house goods. How old be you?"
"Seventeen," said Patty, feeling that her work did not look very well, considering her age.
"Seventeen!" exclaimed Mrs. Quimby. "Laws' sake, I was married when I was sixteen, and I quilted as good then as I do now. I'm over eighty now, and I'd ruther quilt than do anything, 'most. You don't look to be seventeen."
"And you don't look to be eighty, either," said Patty, smiling, glad to be able to turn the subject by complimenting the old lady.
The quilting lasted all the afternoon. Patty grew very tired of the unaccustomed work, and was glad when Miss Bender noticed it, and told her to run out into the garden with Bertha. Bertha was not allowed to touch the quilt with her incompetent fingers, but Elise sewed away, thoroughly enjoying it all, and with no desire to avail herself of Miss Bender's permission to stop and rest. Patty and Bertha wandered through the old-fashioned garden, in great delight. The paths were bordered with tiny box hedges, which, though many years old, were kept clean and free from deadwood or blemish of any sort, and were perfectly trimmed in shape.
The garden included quaint old flowers such as marigolds, sweet Williams, bleeding hearts, bachelors' buttons, Jacob's ladder and many others of which Patty did not even know the names. Tall hollyhocks, both single and double, grew against the wall, and a hop vine hung in green profusion.
Every flower bed was of exact shape, and looked as if not a leaf or a stem would dare to grow otherwise than straight and true.
"What a lovely old garden," said Patty, sniffing at a sprig of lemon verbena which she had picked.
"Yes, it's wonderful," said Bertha. "I mean to ask Miss Bender if I mayn't bring my camera over, and get a picture of it, and if they're good, I'll give you one."
"Do," said Patty, "and take some pictures inside the house too. I'd like to show them to Nan."
"Tell me about Nan," said Bertha. "She's your stepmother, isn't she?"
"Yes," said Patty, "but she's only six years older than I am, so that the stepmother part of it seems ridiculous. We're more like sisters, and she's perfectly crazy over old china and old furniture. She'd love Miss Bender's things."
"Perhaps she'll come up while you're here," said Bertha. "I'll ask mother to write for her."
"Thank you," said Patty, "but I'm afraid she won't. My father can't leave for his vacation until July, and then we're all going away together, but I don't know where."
Just then Elise came flying out to them, with the announcement that supper was ready, and they were to come right in, quick.
The table was spread in the large room which Patty had thought was the kitchen.
It probably had been built for that purpose, but other kitchens had been added beyond it, and for the last half century it had been used as a dining-room.
The table was drawn out to its full length, which made it very long indeed, and it was filled with what seemed to Patty viands enough to feed an army. At one end was a young pig roasted whole, with a lemon in his mouth, and a design in cloves stuck into his fat little side. At the other end was a baked ham whose crisp golden-brown crust could only be attained by the old cook who had been in the Bender family for many years.
Up and down the length of the table on either side was a succession of various cold meats, alternating with pickles, jellies and savories of various sorts.
After the guests were seated, Nancy brought in platters of smoking-hot biscuits from the kitchen, and Miss Aurora herself made the tea.
The furnishings of the table were of old blue and white china of great age and priceless value. The old family silver too was a marvel in itself, and the tea service which Miss Bender manipulated with some pride was over a hundred years old.
Patty was greatly impressed at this unusual scene, but when the plates were removed after the first course, and the busy maid-servants prepared to serve the dessert, she was highly entertained.
For the next course, though consisting only of preserves and cake, was served in an unusual manner. The preserves included every variety known to housewives and a few more. In addition to this, Miss Aurora announced in a voice which was calm with repressed satisfaction, that she had fourteen kinds of cake to put at the disposal of her guests. None of these sorts could be mixed with any other sort, and the result was fourteen separate baskets and platters of cake.
The table became crowded before they had all been brought in from the kitchen, and quite as a matter of course, the serving maids placed the later supplies on chairs, which they stood behind the guests, and the ladies amiably turned round in their seats, inspected the cake, partook of it if they desired, and gracefully pushed the chair along to the next neighbour.
This seemed to the city girls a most amusing performance, but Patty immediately adapted herself to what was apparently the custom of the house, and gravely looked at the cake each time, selected such as pleased her fancy and pushed the chair along.
Noticing Patty's gravity as she accomplished this performance, Elise very nearly lost her own, but Patty nudged her under the table, and she managed to behave with propriety.
The conversation at the table was without a trace of hilarity, and included only the most dignified subjects. The ladies ate mincingly, with their little fingers sticking out straight, or curved in what they considered a most elegant fashion.
Miss Aurora was in her element. She was truly proud of her home and its appointments, and she dearly loved to entertain company at tea. To her mind, and indeed to the minds of most of those present, the success of a tea depended entirely upon the number of kinds of cake that were served, and Miss Bender felt that with fourteen she had broken any hitherto known record.
It was an unwritten law that each kind of cake must be really a separate recipe. To take a portion of ordinary cup-cake batter, and stir in some chopped nuts, and another portion and mix in some raisins, by no means met the requirements of the case. This Patty learned from remarks made by the visitors, and also from Miss Aurora's own delicately veiled intimations that each of her fourteen kinds was a totally different and distinct recipe.
Patty couldn't help wondering what would become of all this cake, for after all, the guests could eat but a small portion of it.
And it occurred to her also that the ways of the people in previous generations, as exemplified in Miss Bender's customs, seemed to show quite as great a lack of a sense of proportion as many of our so-called modern absurdities.
After supper the guests immediately departed for their homes. Carriages arrived for the different ones, and they went away, after volubly expressing to their hostess their thanks for her delightful entertainment.
The girls expected Winthrop and Roger to come for them in the motor-car, but they had not told them to come quite so early as now seemed necessary. In some embarrassment, they told Miss Bender that they would have to trespass on her hospitality for perhaps an hour longer.
"My land o' goodness!" she exclaimed, looking at them in dismay, "why I've got to set this house to rights, and I can't wait an hour to begin!"
"Don't mind us, Miss Bender," said Bertha. "Just shut us up in some room by ourselves, and we'll stay there, and not bother you a bit; unless perhaps we can help you?"
"Help me! No, indeed. There can't anybody help me when I'm clearin' up after a quiltin', unless it's somebody that knows my ways. But I'd like to amuse you children, somehow. I'll tell you what, you can go up in the front bedroom, if you like, and there's a chest of old-fashioned clothes there. Can't you play at dressin' up?"
"Yes, indeed," cried Bertha. "Just the thing! Give us some candles."
Provided with two candles apiece, the girls followed Miss Aurora to a large bedroom on the second floor, which also boasted its carved four-poster and chintz draperies.
"There," said Miss Aurora, throwing open a great chest, "you ought to get some fun out of trying on those fol-de-rols, and peacocking around; but don't come downstairs to show off to me, for you'll only bother me out of my wits. I'll let you know when your folks come for you."
Miss Bender trotted away, and the girls, quite ready for a lark, tossed over the quaint old gowns.
Beautiful costumes were there, of the period of about a hundred years ago. Lustrous silks and dainty dimities; embroidered muslins and heavy velvets; Patty had never seen such a sight. After looking them over, the girls picked out the ones they preferred, and taking off their own frocks proceeded to try them on.
Bertha had chosen a blue and white silk of a bayadere stripe, with lace ruffles at the neck and wrists and a skirt of voluminous fulness. Elise wore a white Empire gown that made her look exactly like the Empress Josephine, while Patty arrayed herself in a flowered silk of Dresden effect with a pointed bodice, square neck, and elbow sleeves with lace frills.
In great glee, the girls pranced around, regretting there was no one to whom they might exhibit their masquerade costumes. But Miss Bender had been so positive in her orders that they dared not go downstairs.
Suddenly they heard the toot of an automobile.
"That's our car," cried Bertha. "I know the horn. Let's go down just as we are, for the benefit of Winthrop and Roger."
In answer to Miss Bender's call from below, the girls trooped downstairs, and merrily presented themselves for inspection.
Mr. Phelps had come with the others, and if the young men were pleased at the picture the three girls presented, Miss Aurora herself was no less so.
"My," she said, "you do look fine, I declare! Now, I'll tell you what I'll do; I'll make each of you young ladies a present of the gown you have on, if you care to keep it. I'll never miss them, for I have trunks and chests full, besides those you saw, and I'm right down glad to give them to you. You can wear them sometimes at your fancy dress parties."
The girls were overjoyed at Miss Bender's gift, and Bertha declared they would wear them home, and she would send over for their other dresses the next day.
So, donning their wraps, the merry modern maids in their antique garb made their adieus to Miss Aurora, and were soon in the big motor-car speeding for home.
A SUMMER CHRISTMAS
Although they had intended to stay but a fortnight, Patty and Elise remained with the Warners all through the month of June, and even then Bertha begged them to stay longer.
But the day for their departure was set in the first week of July, and Bertha declared that they must have a big party of some kind as their last entertainment for the girls.
So Mrs. Warner invited a number of young people for a house party during the last few days of Patty's stay.
"I wish," said Bertha, a few days before the Fourth, "that we could have some kind of a party on the Fourth of July that would be different from just an ordinary party."
"Have an automobile party," suggested Roger, who was present.
"I don't mean that kind," said Bertha, "I mean a party in the house, but something that would be fun. There isn't anything to do on Fourth of July except have fireworks, and that isn't much fun."
"I'll tell you what," said Mr. Phelps, who was at Pine Branches on one of his flying visits, "have a Christmas party."
"A Christmas party on Fourth of July!" exclaimed Bertha, "that's just the thing! Mr. Phelps, you're a real genius. That's just what we'll do, and we'll have a Christmas tree, and give each other gifts and everything."
"Great!" said Roger, "and we'll have a Yule log blazing, and we'll all wear our fur coats."
"No, not that," said Bertha, laughing, "we'd melt. But we'll have all the Christmas effects that we can think of, and each one must help."
The crowd of merry young people who were gathered at Pine Branches eagerly fell in with Bertha's plan, and each began to make preparations for the festival.
The girls made gifts which they carefully kept secret from the ones for whom they were intended, and many trips were made to the village for materials.
The boys also had many mysterious errands, and Mr. and Mrs. Warner, who entered heartily into the spirit of the fun, were frequently consulted under strict bonds of confidence.
Fourth of July came and proved to be a warm, though not a sultry summer day.
Invitations had been sent out, and a large party of young people were expected in the evening; and during the day those who were staying at Pine Branches found plenty to do by way of preparation.
A large Christmas tree had been cut down, and was brought into the library. As soon as it was set up, the work of decoration began, and it was hung with strings of popcorn, and tinsel filigree which Mrs. Warner had saved from previous Christmas trees. Dozens of candles too, were put on the branches, to be lighted at night.
The boys brought in great boughs of evergreen, and cut them up, while the girls made ropes and wreaths and stars, with which to adorn the room.
Mr. Phelps had sent to New York for a large boxful of artificial holly, and this added greatly to the Christmas effect.
Patty was in her element helping with these arrangements, for she dearly loved to make believe, and the idea of a Christmas party in midsummer appealed very strongly to her sense of humour.
Her energy and enthusiasm were untiring, and her original ideas called forth the hearty applause of the others. She was consulted about everything, and her decisions were always accepted.
Mr. Phelps too, proved a clever and willing worker. He was an athletic young man, and he seemed to be capable of doing half a dozen different things at once. He cut greens, and hung wreaths, and ran up and down stepladders, and even managed to fasten a large gilt star to the very top branch of the Christmas tree.
After the decorations were all completed, everybody brought their gifts neatly tied up and labelled, and either hung them on the tree or piled them up around the platform on which it stood.
"Well, you children have done wonders," said Mrs. Warner, looking in at the library door. "You have transformed this room until I hardly can recognise it, and it looks for all the world exactly like Christmas. It is hard to believe that it is really Fourth of July."
"It seems too bad not to have any of the Fourth of July spirit mixed in with it," said Winthrop, "but I suppose it would spoil the harmony. But we really ought to use a little gunpowder in honour of the day. Come on, Patty, your work is about finished, let's go out and put off a few firecrackers."
"All right," said Patty, "just wait till I tack up this 'Merry Christmas' motto, and I'll be ready."
"I'll do that," said Roger, "you infants run along and show off your patriotism, and I'll join you in a few minutes."
"You must be tired," said Winthrop to Patty, as they sauntered out on the lawn. "You worked awfully hard with those evergreen things. Let's go out on the lake and take our firecrackers with us; that will rest you, and it will be fun besides."
The lake, so called by courtesy, was really an artificial pond, and though not large, it provided a great deal of amusement.
There were several boats, and selecting a small cedar one, Winthrop assisted Patty in, sprang in himself, and pushed off.
"If it's Christmas, we ought to be going skating on the lake, instead of rowing," said Patty.
"It isn't Christmas now," said Winthrop, "You get your holidays mixed up. We've come out here to celebrate Independence Day. See what I've brought."
From his pockets the young man produced several packs of firecrackers.
"What fun!" cried Patty, "I feel as if I were a child again. Let me set some off. Have you any punk?"
"Yes," said Winthrop, gravely producing some short sticks of punk from another pocket; and lighting one, he gave it to Patty.
"But how can I set them off?" said Patty, "I'm afraid to have them in the boat, and we can't throw them out on the water."
"We'll manage this way," said Winthrop, and drawing one of the oars into the boat, he laid a lighted firecracker on the blade and pushed it out again. The firecracker went off with a bang, and in great glee Patty pulled in the other oar and tried the same plan.
Then they set off a whole pack at once, and as the length of the oar was not quite sufficient for safety Winthrop let it slip from the row-lock and float away on the water. As he had previously tied a string to the handle so that he could pull the oar back at will, this was a great game, and the floating oar with its freight of snapping firecrackers provided much amusement. The noise of the explosions brought the others running to the scene, and three or four more boats were soon out on the lake. Firecrackers went snapping in every direction, and torpedoes were thrown from one boat to another until the ammunition was exhausted.
Then the merry crowd trooped back to the house for luncheon.
"I never had such a lovely Fourth of July," said Patty to her kind hostess. "Everything is different from anything I ever did before. This house is just like Fairyland. You never know what is going to happen next."
After luncheon the party broke up in various small groups. Some of the more energetic ones played golf or tennis, but Patty declared it was too warm for any unnecessary exertion.
"Come for a little walk with me," said Roger, "we'll walk down in the grove; it's cool and shady there, and we can play mumblety-peg if you like."
"I'll go to the grove," said Patty, "but I don't want to play anything. This is a day just to be idle and enjoy living, without doing anything else."
They strolled down toward the grove, and were joined on the way by Bertha and Mr. Phelps, who were just returning from a call on Abiram.
"I think Abiram ought to come to the Christmas party to-night," said Bertha, "I know he'd enjoy seeing the tree lighted up."
"He shall come," said Dick Phelps, "I'll bring him myself."
"Do," said Patty, "and we'll tie a red ribbon round his neck with a sprig of holly, and I'll see to it that there's a present on the tree for him."
The quartet walked on to the grove, and sat down on the ground under the pine trees.
"I feel very patriotic," said Patty, who was decorated with several small flags which she had stuck in her hair, and in her belt, "and I think we ought to sing some national anthems."
So they sang "The Star-Spangled Banner," and other patriotic airs, until they were interrupted by Winthrop and Elise who came toward them singing a Christmas carol.
"I asked you to come here," said Roger aside, to Patty, "because I wanted to see you alone for a minute, and now all these other people have come and spoiled my plan. Come on over to the orchard, will you?"
"Of course I will," said Patty jumping up, "what is the secret you have to tell me? Some plan for to-night?"
"No," said Roger, hesitating a little, "that is, yes,—not exactly."
They had walked away from the others, and Roger took from his pocket a tiny box which he offered to Patty.
"I wanted to give you a little Christmas present," he said, "as a sort of memento of this jolly day; and I thought maybe you'd wear it to-night."
"How lovely!" cried Patty, as she opened the box and saw a little pin shaped like a spray of holly. "It's perfectly sweet. Thank you ever so much, Roger, but why didn't you put it on the tree for me?"
"Oh, they are only having foolish presents on the tree, jokes, you know, and all that."
"Oh, is this a real present then? I don't know as I ought to accept it. I've never had a present from a young man before."
Roger looked a little embarrassed, but Patty's gay delight was entirely free from any trace of self-consciousness.
"Anyway, I am going to keep it," she said, "because it's so pretty, and I like to think that you gave it to me."
Roger looked greatly gratified and seemed to take the matter with more seriousness than Patty did. She pinned the pretty little trinket on her collar and thought no more about it.
Dinner was early that night, for there was much to be done in the way of final preparations before the guests came to the Christmas party.
The Christmas pretence was intended as a surprise to those not staying in the house, and after all had arrived, the doors of the library were thrown open with shouts of "Merry Christmas!"
And indeed it did seem like a sudden transition back into the winter. The Christmas tree with its gay decorations and lighted candles was a beautiful sight, and the green-trimmed room with its spicy odours of spruce and pine intensified the illusion.
Shouts of delight went up on all sides, and falling quickly into the spirit of it all, the guests at once began to pretend it was really Christmas, and greeted each other with appropriate good wishes.
Mischievous Patty had slyly tied a sprig of mistletoe to the chandelier, and Dick Phelps by a clever manoeuvre had succeeded in getting Mrs. Warner to stand under it. The good lady was quite unaware of their plans, and when Mr. Phelps kissed her soundly on her plump cheek she was decidedly surprised.
But the explanation amply justified his audacity, and Mrs. Warner laughingly declared that she would resign her place to some of the younger ladies.
The greatest fun came when Winthrop distributed the presents from the tree. None of them was expensive or valuable, but most of them were clever, merry little jokes which good-naturedly teased the recipients.
True to his word Mr. Phelps brought Abiram in, leading him by his long chain. Patty had tied a red ribbon round his neck with a huge bow, and had further dressed him up in a paper cap which she had taken from a German cracker motto.
Abiram received a stick of candy as his gift, and was as much pleased, apparently, as the rest of the party.
Many of the presents were accompanied by little verses or lines of doggerel, and the reading of these caused much merriment and laughter.
After the presentations, supper was served, and here Mrs. Warner had provided her part of the surprise.
Not even those staying in the house knew of their hostess' plans, and when they all trooped out to the dining-room, a real Christmas feast awaited them.
The long table was decorated with red ribbons and holly, and red candles with red paper shades. Christmas bells hung above the table, and at each plate were appropriate souvenirs. In the centre of the table was a tiny Christmas tree with lighted candles, a miniature copy of the one they had just left.
Even the viands partook of the Christmas character, and from roast turkey to plum pudding no detail was spared to make it a true Christmas feast.
The young people did full justice to Mrs. Warner's hospitality, and warmly appreciated the kind thoughtfulness which had made the supper so attractive in every way.
Then they adjourned to the parlour for informal dancing, and wound up the party with an old-fashioned Virginia reel, which was led by Mr. and Mrs. Warner.
Mr. Warner was a most genial host and his merry quips and repartee kept the young people laughing gaily.
When at last the guests departed, it was with assurances that they had never had such a delightful Christmas party, even in midwinter, and had never had such a delightful Fourth of July party, even in midsummer.
AT SANDY COVE
When the day came for Patty and Elise to leave Pine Branches, everyone concerned was truly sorry. Elise had long been a favourite with the Warners, and they had grown to love Patty quite as well.
Roger was still there, and Mr. and Mrs. Farrington came for the young people in their motor-car. They were returning from a most interesting trip, which had extended as far as Portland. After hearing some accounts of it, Patty felt sure that she would have enjoyed it; but then she had also greatly enjoyed her visit at Pine Branches, and she felt sure that it had been better for her physically than the exertion and excitement of the motor-trip.
Besides this, the Farringtons assured her that there would be many other opportunities for her to go touring with them, and they would always be glad to have her.
So one bright morning, soon after the Fourth of July, The Fact started off again with its original party. They made the trip to New York entirely without accident or mishap of any kind, which greatly pleased Roger, as it demonstrated that The Fact was not always a stubborn thing.
Patty was to spend the months of July and August with her father and Nan, who had rented a house on Long Island. The house was near the Barlows' summer home at Sandy Cove, for Nan had thought it would be pleasant to be near her friends, who were also Patty's relatives.
Mr. and Mrs. Fairfield had already gone to Long Island, and the Farringtons were to take Patty over there in the motor-car.
So, after staying a day or two with Elise in New York, Patty again took her place in the car for the journey to her new home. Mr. Farrington and Elise went with her, and after seeing her safely in her father's care, returned to the city that same day.
Patty was glad to see her father and Nan again, and was delighted with the beautiful house which they had taken for the summer.
"How large it is!" she exclaimed, as she looked about her. "We three people will be lost in it!"
"We're going to have a lot of company," said Nan, "I've invited nearly everyone I know, and I shall expect you to help me entertain them."
"Gladly," said Patty; "there are no horrid lessons in the way now, and you may command my full time and attention."
The day after Patty's return to her family, she proposed that they go over to see the Barlows.
"It's an awful hot afternoon," said Nan, "but I suppose we can't be any warmer there than here."
So arraying themselves in fresh, cool white dresses, Nan and Patty started to make their call.
The Barlows' summer place was called the Hurly-Burly, and as Nan and Patty both knew, the name described the house extremely well.
As Bob Barlow sometimes said, the motto of their home seemed to be, "No place for nothin', and nothin' in its place."
But as the family had lived up to this principle for many years, it was not probable things would ever be any different with them, and it did not prevent their being a delightful family, while their vagaries often proved extremely entertaining.
But when Nan and Patty neared the house they saw no sign of anybody about.
The doors and windows were all open and the visitors walked in, looked in the various rooms, and even went upstairs, but found nobody anywhere.
"I'll look in the kitchen," said Patty; "surely old Hopalong, the cook, will be there. They can't all be away, and the house all open like this."
But the kitchen too, was deserted, and Nan said, "Well, let us sit on the front verandah a while; it must be that somebody will come home soon, and anyway I'm too warm and tired to walk right back in the broiling sun."
So they sat on the verandah for half an hour, and then Patty said, "Let's give one more look inside the house, and if we can't find anybody let's go home."
"All right," said Nan, and in they went, through the vacant rooms, and again to the kitchen.
"Why, there's Hopalong," said Patty, as she saw the old coloured woman busy about her work, though indeed Hopalong's slow movements could not be accurately described by the word busy.
"Hello, Hopalong," said Patty, "where are all the people?"
"Bless yo' heart Miss Patty, chile, how yo'done skeered me! And howdy, Miss Nan,—'scuse me, I should say Missus Fairfield. De ladies is at home, and I 'spects dey'll be mighty glad to see you folks."
"Where are they, then?" said Nan, looking puzzled, "we can't find them."
"Well yo' see it's a mighty hot day, and dem Barlows is mighty fond of bein' as comf'able as possible. I'm makin' dis yere lemonade for 'em, kase dey likes a coolin' drink. I'll jest squeeze in another lemon or two, and there'll be plenty for you, too."
"But where are they, Hopalong?" asked Patty, "are they outdoors, down by the brook?"
"Laws no, Miss Patty, I done forgot to tell yo' whar dey am, but dey's down in de cellah."
"In the cellar!" said Patty, "what for?"
"So's dey kin be cool, chile. Jes' you trot along down, and see for yourselfs."
Hopalong threw open the door that led from the kitchen to the cellar stairs, and holding up their dainty white skirts, Patty and Nan started down the rather dark staircase.
"Look at those white shoes coming downstairs," they heard Bumble's voice cry; "I do believe it's Nan and Patty!"
"It certainly is," said Patty, and as she reached the last step, she looked around in astonishment, and then burst into laughter.
"Well, you do beat all!" she said, "We've been sitting on the front verandah half an hour, wondering where you could be."
"Isn't it nice?" said Mrs. Barlow, after she had greeted her guests.
"It is indeed," said Patty, "it's the greatest scheme I ever heard of."
The cellar, which had been recently white-washed, had been converted into a funny sort of a sitting-room. On the floor was spread a large white floor-cloth, whose original use had been for a dancing crash.
The chairs and sofas were all of wicker, and though in various stages of dilapidation, were cool and comfortable. A table in the center was covered with a white cloth, and the sofa pillows were in white ruffled cases.
Bumble explained that the intent was to have everything white, but they hadn't been able to carry out that idea fully, as they had so few white things.
"The cat is all right," said Patty, looking at a large white cat that lay curled up on a white fur rug.
"Yes, isn't she a beautiful cat? Her name is The Countess, and when she's awake, she's exceedingly aristocratic and dignified looking, but she's almost never awake. Oh, here comes Hopalong, with our lemonade."
The old negro lumbered down the steps, and Bumble took the tray from her, and setting it on the table, served the guests to iced lemonade and tiny thin cakes of Hopalong's concoction.
"Now isn't this nice?" said Mrs. Barlow, as they sat chatting and feasting; "you see how cool and comfortable it is, although it's so warm out of doors. I dare say I shall get rheumatism, as it seems a little damp here, but when I feel it coming on, I'm going to move my chair over onto that fur rug, and then I think there will be no danger."
"It is delightfully cool," said Patty, "and I think it a most ingenious idea. If we had only known sooner that you were here, though, we could have had a much longer visit."
"It's so fortunate," said Bumble, whom Patty couldn't remember to call Helen, "that you chanced to be dressed in white. You fit right in to the colour scheme. Mother and I meant to wear white down here, but all our white frocks have gone to the laundry. But if you'll come over again after a day or two, we'll have this place all fixed up fine. You see we only thought of it this morning. It was so unbearably hot, we really had to do something."
Soon Uncle Ted and Bob came in, and after a while Mr. Fairfield arrived.
The merry party still stayed in the cellar room, and one and all pronounced it a most clever idea for a hot day.
The Barlows were delighted that the Fairfields were to be near them for the summer, and many good times were planned for.
Patty was very fond of her Barlow cousins, but after returning to her own home, which Nan with the special pride of a young housekeeper, kept in the daintiest possible order, Patty declared that she was glad her father had chosen a wife who had the proper ideas of managing a house.
Nan and Patty were congenial in their tastes and though Patty had had some experience in housekeeping, she was quite willing to accept any innovations that Nan might suggest.
"Indeed," she said, "I am only too glad not to have any of the care and responsibility of keeping house, and I propose to enjoy an idle summer after my hard year in school."
So the days passed rapidly and happily. There were many guests at the house, and as the Fairfields were rather well acquainted with the summer people at Sandy Cove, they received many invitations to entertainments of various kinds.
The Farringtons often came down in their motor-car and made a flying visit, or took the Fairfields for a ride, and Patty hoped that the Warners would visit them before the summer was over.
One day Mr. Phelps appeared unexpectedly, and from nowhere in particular. He came in his big racing-car, and that day Patty chanced to be the only one of the family at home. He invited her to go for a short ride with him, saying they could easily be back by dinner time, when the others were expected home.
Glad of the opportunity, Patty ran for her automobile coat and hood, and soon they were flying along the country roads.
Part of the time they went at a mad rate of speed, and part of the time they went slower, that they might converse more easily.
As they went somewhat slowly past a piece of woods, Patty gave a sudden exclamation, and declared that she saw what looked like a baby or a young child wrapped in a blanket and lying on the ground.
Her face expressed such horror-stricken anxiety, as she thought that possibly the child had been abandoned and left there purposely, that Mr. Phelps consented to go back and investigate the matter, although he really thought she was mistaken in thinking it was a child at all.
He turned his machine, and in a moment they were back at the place.
Mr. Phelps jumped from the car, and ran into the wood where Patty pointed.
Sure enough, under a tree lay a baby, perhaps a year old, fairly well dressed and with a pretty smiling face.
He called to Patty and she joined him where he stood looking at the child.
"Why, bless your heart!" cried Patty, picking the little one up, "what are you doing here all alone?"
The baby cooed and smiled, dimpling its little face and caressing Patty's cheeks with its fat little hands. A heavy blanket had been spread on the ground for the child to lie on, and around its little form was pinned a lighter blanket with the name Rosabel embroidered on one corner.
"So that's your name, is it?" said Patty. "Well, Rosabel, I'd like to know where you belong and what you're doing here. Do you suppose," she said, turning an indignant face to Mr. Phelps, "that anybody deliberately put this child here and deserted it?"
"I'm afraid that's what has happened," said Mr. Phelps, who really couldn't think of any other explanation.
They looked all around, but nobody was in sight to whom the child might possibly belong.
"I can't go away and leave her here," said Patty, "the dear little thing, what shall we do with her?"
"It is a mighty hard case," said Mr. Phelps, who was nonplussed himself. He was a most gentle-hearted man, and could not bear the thought of leaving the child there alone in the woods, and it was already nearing sundown.
"We might take it along with us," he said, "and enquire at the nearest house."
"There's no house in sight," said Patty, looking about. "Well, there are only two things to choose from; to stay here in hope that somebody will come along, who knows something about this baby, or else assume that she really has been deserted and take her home with us, for the night at least. I simply won't go off and leave her here, and if there was anybody here in charge of her they must have shown up by this time."
Mr. Phelps could see no use in waiting there any longer, and though it seemed absurd to carry the child off with them, there really seemed nothing else to do.
So with a last look around, hoping to see somebody, but seeing no one, Patty climbed into the car and sitting in the front seat beside Mr. Phelps, held the baby in her lap.
"She's awfully cunning," she declared, "and such a pretty baby! Whoever abandoned this child ought to be fearfully punished in some way."
"I can't think she was abandoned," said Mr. Phelps, but as he couldn't think of any other reason for the baby being there alone, he was forced to accept the desertion theory.
Having decided to take the baby with them, they sped along home, and drew up in front of the house to find Nan and Mr. Fairfield on the verandah.
"Why, how do you do, Mr. Phelps?" cried Nan. "We're very glad to see you. Come in. For gracious goodness' sake, Patty, what have you got there?"
"This is Rosabel," said Patty, gravely, as she held the baby up to view.
"Rosabel who?" exclaimed Nan, as Patty came up on the verandah with the baby in her arms.
"I don't know, I'm sure. You may call her Rosabel anything you like. We picked her up by the wayside."
"Yes," said Dick Phelps, who had followed Patty up the steps. "Miss Rosabel seemed lonely without anyone to talk to, so we brought her back here to visit you."
"You must be crazy!" cried Nan, "but what a cunning baby it is! Let me take her."
Nan took the good-natured little midget and sat down in a verandah rocker, with the baby in her arms.
"Tell a straight story, Patty," said her father, "is it one of the neighbour's children, or did you kidnap it?"
"Neither," said Patty, turning to her father; "we found the baby lying right near the edge of a wood, in plain sight from the road. And there was nobody around, and Papa, I just know that the child's wretch of a mother deserted it, and left it there to die!"
"Nonsense," said her father. "Mothers don't leave their little ones around as carelessly as that."
"Well, what else could it be?" said Patty. "There was the baby all alone, smiling and talking to herself, and no one anywhere near, although we waited for some time."
"It does seem strange," said Mr. Fairfield, "perhaps the mother did mean to desert the child, but if so, she was probably peeping from some hiding-place, to make sure that she approved of the people who took it."
"Well," said Mr. Phelps, "she evidently thought we were all right; at any rate she made no objection."
"But isn't it awful," said Nan, "to think of anybody deserting a dear little thing like this. Why, the wild animals might have eaten her up."
"Of course they might," said Mr. Phelps, gravely, "the tigers and wolves that abound on Long Island are of the most ferocious type."
"Well, anyway," said Patty, "something dreadful might have happened to her."
"It may yet," said Mr. Phelps cheerfully, "when we take her back to-morrow and put her in the place we found her. For I don't suppose you intend to keep Miss Rosabel, do you?"
"I don't know," said Patty, "but I know one thing, we certainly won't put her back where we found her. What shall we do with her, Papa?"
"I don't know, my child, she's your find, and I suppose it's a case of 'findings is keepings.'"
"Of course we can't keep her," said Patty, "how ridiculous! We'll have to put her in an orphan asylum or something like that."
"It's a shame," said Nan, "to put this dear little mite in a horrid old asylum. I think I shall adopt her myself."
Little Rosabel had begun to grow restless, and suddenly without a word of warning she began to cry lustily, and not a quiet well-conducted cry either, but with ear-splitting shrieks and yells, indicative of great discomfort of some sort.
"I've changed my mind," said Nan, abruptly. "I don't want to adopt any such noisy young person as that. Here, take her, Patty, she's your property."
Patty took the baby, and carried her into the house, fearing that passers-by would think they must be torturing the child to make her scream like that.
Into the dining-room went Patty, and on to the kitchen, where she announced to the astonished cook that she wanted some milk for the baby and she wanted it quick.
"Is there company for dinner, Miss Patty?" asked the cook, not understanding how a baby could have arrived as an only guest.
"Only this one," said Patty, laughing, "what do you think she ought to eat?"
"Bread and milk," said the cook, looking at the child with a judicial air.
"All right, Kate, fix her some, won't you?"
In a few moments Patty was feeding Rosabel bread and milk, which the child ate eagerly.
Impelled by curiosity, Nan came tip-toeing to the kitchen, followed by the two men.
"I thought she must be asleep," said Nan, "as the concert seems to have stopped."
"Not at all," said Patty, calmly, "she was only hungry, and the fact seemed to occur to her somewhat suddenly."
Little Rosabel, all smiles again, looked up from her supper with such bewitching glances that Nan cried out, "Oh, she is a darling! Let me help you feed her, Patty."
In fact they all succumbed to the charm of their uninvited guest. During dinner Rosabel sat at the table, in a chair filled with pillows, and was made happy by being given many dainty bits of various delicacies, until Nan declared the child would certainly be ill.
"I don't believe she is more than a year old," said Nan, "and she's probably unaccustomed to those rich cakes and bonbons."
"I think she's more than a year," said Patty, sagely, "and anyway, I want her to have a good time for once."
"She seems to be having the time of her life," said Dick Phelps, as he watched the baby, who with a macaroon in one hand, and some candied cherries in the other, was smiling impartially on them all.
"She's not much of a conversationalist," remarked Mr. Fairfield.
"Give her time," said Patty, "she feels a little strange at first."
"Yes," said Mr. Phelps, "I think after two or three years she'll be much more talkative."
"Well, there's one thing certain," said Patty, "she'll have to stay here to-night, whatever we do with her to-morrow."
After dinner they took their new toy with them to the parlour, and Miss Rosabel treated them all to a few more winning smiles, and then quietly, but very decidedly fell asleep in Patty's arms.
"I can't help admiring her decision of character," said Patty, as she shook the baby to make her awaken, but without success.
"Don't wake her up," said Nan. "Come, Patty, we'll take her upstairs, and put her to bed somewhere."
This feat being accomplished, Nan and Patty rejoined the men, who sat smoking on the front verandah.
"Now," said Patty, "we really must decide what we're going to do with that infant; for I warn you, Papa Fairfield, that if we keep that dear baby around much longer, I shall become so attached to her that I can't give her up."
"Of course," said Mr. Fairfield, "she must be turned over to the authorities. I'll attend to it the first thing in the morning."
A little later Mr. Fairfield and Nan strolled down the road to make a call on a neighbour, and Patty and Dick Phelps remained at home.
Patty had declared she wouldn't leave the house lest Rosabel should waken and cry out, so promising to make but a short call, Mr. Fairfield and Nan went away.
Soon after they had gone, a strange young man came walking toward the house. He turned in at the gate and approached the front steps.
"Is this Mr. Richard Phelps?" he asked, addressing himself to Dick.
"It is; what can I do for you?"
"Do you own a large black racing automobile?"
"Yes," replied Mr. Phelps.
"And were you out in it this afternoon," continued the stranger, "driving rapidly between here and North Point?"
"Yes," said Mr. Phelps again, wondering what was the intent of this peculiar interview.
"Then you're the man I'm after," declared the stranger, "and I'm obliged to tell you, sir, that you are under arrest."
"For what offence?" enquired Mr. Phelps, rather amused at what he considered a good joke, and thinking that it must be a case of mistaken identity somehow.
"For kidnapping little Mary Brown," was the astonishing reply.
"Why, we didn't kidnap her at all!" exclaimed Patty, breaking into the conversation. "The idea, to think we would kidnap a baby! and anyway her name isn't Mary, it's Rosabel."
"Then you know where the child is, Miss," said the man, turning to Patty.
"Of course I do," said Patty, "she's upstairs asleep. But it isn't Mary Brown at all. It's Rosabel,—I don't know what her last name is."
Mr. Phelps began to be interested.
"What makes you think we kidnapped a baby, my friend?" he said to their visitor.
The man looked as if he had begun to think there must be a mistake somewhere. "Why, you see, sir," he said, "Mrs. Brown, she's just about crazy. Her little girl, Sarah, went out into the woods this afternoon, and took the baby, Mary, with her. The baby went to sleep, and Sarah left it lying on a blanket under a tree, while she roamed around the wood picking blueberries. Somehow she strayed away farther than she intended and lost her way. When she finally managed to get back to the place where she left the baby, the child was gone, and she says she could see a large automobile going swiftly away, and the lady who sat in the front seat was holding little Mary. Sarah screamed, and called after you, but the car only went on more and more rapidly, and was soon lost to sight. I'm a detective, sir, and I looked carefully at the wheel tracks in the dust, and I asked a few questions here and there, and I hit upon some several clues, and here I am. Now I'd like you to explain, sir, if you didn't kidnap that child, what you do call it?"
"Why, it was a rescue," cried Patty, indignantly, without giving Mr. Phelps time to reply. "The dear little baby was all alone in the wood, and anything might have happened to her. Her mother had no business to let her be taken care of by a sister that couldn't take care of her any better than that! We waited for some time, and nobody appeared, so we picked up the child and brought her home, rather than leave her there alone. But I don't believe it's the child you're after anyway, for the name Rosabel is embroidered on the blanket."
"It is the same child, Miss," said the man, who somehow seemed a little crestfallen because his kidnapping case proved to be only in his own imagination. "Mrs. Brown described to me the clothes the baby wore, and she said that blanket was given to her by a rich lady who had a little girl named Rosabel. The Browns are poor people, ma'am, and the mother is a hard-working woman, and she's nearly crazed with grief about the baby."
"I should think she would be," said Patty, whose quick sympathies had already flown to the sorrowing mother. "She oughtn't to have left an irresponsible child in charge of the little thing. But it's dreadful to think how anxious she must be! Now I'll tell you what we'll do; Mr. Phelps, if you'll get out your car, I'll just bundle that child up and we'll take her right straight back home to her mother. We'll stop at the Ripleys' for Papa and Nan, and we'll all go over together. It's a lovely moonlight night for a drive, anyway, and even if it were pitch dark, or pouring in torrents, I should want to get that baby back to her mother just as quickly as possible. I don't wonder the poor woman is distracted."
"Very well," said Mr. Phelps, who would have driven his car to Kamschatka if Patty had asked him to, "and we'll take this gentleman along with us, to direct us to Mrs. Brown's."
Mr. Phelps went for his car, and Patty flew to bundle up the baby. She did not dress the child, but wrapped her in a warm blanket, and then in a fur-lined cape of her own. Then making a bundle of the baby's clothes, she presented herself at the door, just as Mr. Phelps drove up with his splendid great car shining in the moonlight.
A few moments' pause was sufficient to gather in Mr. and Mrs. Fairfield, and away they all flew through the night, to Mrs. Brown's humble cottage.
They found the poor woman not only grieving about the loss of her child, but angry and revengeful against the lady and gentleman in the motor-car, who, she thought, had stolen it.
And so when the car stopped in front of her door, she came running out followed by her husband and several children.
Little Sarah recognised the car, which was unusual in size and shape, and cried out, "That's the one, that's the one, mother! and those are the people who stole Mary!"
But the young detective, whose name was Mr. Faulks, sprang out of the car and began to explain matters to the astonished family. Then Patty handed out the baby, and the grief of the Browns was quickly turned to rejoicing, mingled with apologies.
Mr. Fairfield explained further to the somewhat bewildered mother, and leaving with her a substantial present of money as an evidence of good faith in the matter, he returned to his place in the car, and in a moment they were whizzing back toward home.
"I'm glad it all turned out right," said Patty with a sigh, "but I do wish that pretty baby had been named Rosabel instead of Mary. It really would have suited her a great deal better."
"There's a new family in that house across the road," said Mr. Fairfield one evening at dinner.
"The Fenwick house?" asked Nan.
"Yes; a man named Roland has taken it for August. I know a man who knows them, and he says they're charming people. So, if you ladies want to be neighbourly, you might call on them."
Nan and Patty went to call and found the Roland family very pleasant people, indeed. Mrs. Roland seemed to be an easy-going sort of lady who never took any trouble herself, and never expected anyone else to do so.
Miss Roland, Patty decided, was a rather inanimate young person, and showed a lack of energy so at variance with Patty's tastes that she confided to Nan on the way home she certainly did not expect to cultivate any such lackadaisical girl as that.
As for young Mr. Roland, the son of the house, Patty had great ado to keep from laughing outright at him. He was of the foppish sort, and though young and rather callow, he assumed airs of great importance, and addressed Patty with a formal deference, as if she were a young lady in society, instead of a schoolgirl.
Patty was accustomed to frank, pleasant comradeship with the boys of her acquaintance; and the young men, such as Mr. Hepworth and Mr. Phelps, treated Patty as a little girl, and never seemed to imply anything like grown-up attentions.
But young Mr. Roland, with an affected drawl, and what were meant to be killing glances of admiration, so conducted himself that Patty's sense of humour was stirred, and she mischievously led him on for the fun of seeing what he would do next.
The result was that young Mr. Roland was much pleased with pretty Patty, and fully believed that his own charms had made a decided impression on her.
He asked permission to call, whereupon Patty told him that she was only a schoolgirl, and did not receive calls from young men, but referred him to Mrs. Fairfield, and Nan being in an amiable mood, kindly gave him the desired permission.
"Well," said Patty, as they discussed the matter afterward, "if that young puff-ball rolls himself over here, you can have the pleasure of entertaining him. I'm quite ready to admit that another season of his conversation would affect my mind."
"Nonsense," said Nan, carelessly, "you can't expect every young man to be as interesting as Mr. Hepworth, or as companionable as Kenneth Harper."
"I don't," said Patty, "but I don't have to bore myself to death talking to them, if I don't like them."
"No," said Nan, "but you must be polite and amiable to everybody. That's part of the penalty of being an attractive young woman."
"All right," said Patty, "since that's the way you look at it, you surely can't have any objection to receiving Mr. Roland if he calls, for I warn you that I shan't appear."
But it so happened that when a caller came one afternoon, Nan was not at home, and Patty was.
The maid brought the card to Patty, who was reading in her own room, and when she looked at it and saw the name of Mr. Charles Roland upon it, she exclaimed in dismay.
"I don't want to go down," she said, "I wish he hadn't come."
"It's a lady, Miss Patty," said the girl.
"A lady?" said Patty, wonderingly, "why this is a gentleman's card."
"Yes, ma'am, I know it, but it's a lady that called. She's down in the parlour, waiting, and that's the card she gave me. She's a large lady, Miss Patty, with greyish hair, and she seems in a terrible fluster."
"Very mysterious," said Patty, "but I'll go down and see what it's all about."
Patty went down to the parlour, and found Mrs. Roland there. She did indeed look bewildered, and as soon as Patty entered the room she began to talk volubly.
"Excuse my rushing over like this, my dear," she said, "but I am in such trouble, and I wonder if you won't help me out. We're neighbours, you know, and I'm sure I'd do as much for you. I asked for Mrs. Fairfield, but she isn't at home, so I asked for you."
"But the card you sent up had Mr. Charles Roland's name on it," said Patty, smiling.
"Oh, my dear, is that so? What a mistake to make! You see I carry Charlie's cards around with my own, and I must have sent the wrong one. I'm so nearsighted I can't see anything without my glasses, anyway, and my glasses are always lost."
Patty felt sorry for the old lady, who seemed in such a bewildered state, and she said, "No matter about the card, Mrs. Roland, what can I do for you?"
"Why it's just this," said her visitor. "I want to borrow your house. Just for the night, I'll return it to-morrow in perfect order."
"Borrow this house?" repeated Patty, wondering if her guest were really sane.
"Yes," said Mrs. Roland; "now wait, and I'll tell you all about it. I'm expecting some friends to dinner and to stay over night, and would you believe it, just now of all days in the year, the tank has burst and the water is dripping down all through the house. We can't seem to do anything to stop it. The ceilings had fallen in three rooms when I came away, and I dare say the rest of them are down by this time. And my friends are very particular people, and awfully exclusive. I wouldn't like to take them to the hotel; and I don't think it's a very nice hotel anyway, and so I thought if you'd just lend me this house over night, I could bring my friends right here, and as they leave to-morrow morning, it wouldn't be long, you know. And truly I don't see what else I can do."
"But what would become of our family?" said Patty, who was greatly amused at the unconventional request.
"Why, you could go to our house," said Mrs. Roland dubiously; "that is, if any of the ceilings will stay up over night; or," she added, her face brightening, "couldn't you go to the hotel yourselves? Of course, it isn't a nice place to entertain guests, but it does very well for one's own family. Oh, Miss Fairfield, please help me out! Truly I'd do as much for you if the case were reversed."
Although the request was unusual, Mrs. Roland did not seem to think so, and the poor lady seemed to be in such distress, that Patty's sympathies were aroused, and after all it was a mere neighbourly act of kindness to borrow and lend, even though the article in question was somewhat larger than the lemon or the egg usually borrowed by neighbourly housekeepers.
So Patty said, "What about the servants, Mrs. Roland? Do you want to borrow them too?"
"I don't care," was the reply, "just as it suits you best. You may leave them here; or take them with you, and I'll bring my own. Oh, please, Miss Fairfield, do help me somehow."
Patty thought a minute. It was a responsibility to decide the question herself, but if she waited until Nan or her father came home, it would be too late for Mrs. Roland's purpose.
Then she said, "I'll do it, Mrs. Roland. You shall have the house and servants at your disposal until noon to-morrow. You may bring your own servants also, or not, just as you choose. We won't go to your house, thank you, nor to the hotel. But Mr. and Mrs. Fairfield and myself will go over to my aunt, Mrs. Barlow's, to dine and spend the night. They can put us up, and they won't mind a bit our coming so unexpectedly."
"Oh, my dear, how good you are!" said Mrs. Roland in a burst of gratitude. "I cannot tell you how I appreciate your kindness! Are you sure your parents won't mind?"
"I'm not at all sure of that," said Patty, smiling, "but I don't see as they can help themselves; when they come home, you will probably be in possession, and your guests will be here, so there'll be nothing for my people to do but to fall in with my plans."
"Oh, how good you are," said Mrs. Roland. "I will surely make this up to you in some way, and now, will you just show me about the house a bit, as I've never been here before?"
So Patty piloted Mrs. Roland about the house, showed her the various rooms, and told the servants that they were at Mrs. Roland's orders for that night and the next morning.
After Mrs. Roland had gone back home, made happy by Patty's kindness, Patty began to think that she had done a very extraordinary thing, and wondered what her father and Nan would say.
"But," she thought to herself, "I'm in for it now, and they'll have to abide by my decision, whatever they think. Now I must pack some things for our visit. But first I must telephone to Aunt Grace."
"Hello, Auntie," said Patty, at the telephone, a few moments later. "Papa and Nan and I want to come over to the Hurly-Burly to dinner, and to stay all night. Will you have us?"
"Why, of course, Patty, child, we're glad to have you. Come right along and stay as long as you like. But what's the matter? Has your cook left, or is the house on fire?"
"Neither, Aunt Grace, but I'll explain when I get there. Can you send somebody after me in a carriage? Papa and Nan have gone off in the cart, and I have two suit cases to bring."
"Certainly, Patty, I'll send old Dill after you right away, and I'll make him hurry, too, as you seem to be anxious to start."
"I am," said Patty, laughing. "Good-bye."
Then she gathered together such clothing and belongings as were necessary for their visit, and had two suit cases ready packed when her aunt's carriage came for her.
Patty looked a little dubious as she left the house, but she didn't feel that she could have acted otherwise than as she had done, and, too, since their own trusty servants were to stay there, certainly no harm could come to the place.
So, giggling at the whole performance, Patty jumped into the Barlow carriage and went to the Hurly-Burly.
"Well, of all things!" said her Aunt Grace, after Patty had told her story. "I've had a suspicion, sometimes, that we Barlows were an unconventional crowd, but we never borrowed anybody's house yet! It's ridiculous, Patty, and you ought not to have let that woman have it!"
"I just couldn't help it, Aunt Grace, she was in such a twitter, and threw herself on my mercy in such a way that I felt I had to help her out."