MISS PAT AT ARTEMIS LODGE
THE "MISS PAT" SERIES
Miss Pat and Her Sisters Miss Pat at School Miss Pat in the Old World Miss Pat and Company, Limited Miss Pat's Holidays at Greycroft Miss Pat at Artemis Lodge Miss Pat's Problem Miss Pat in Buenos Ayres Miss Pat's Career
MISS PAT AT ARTEMIS LODGE
By PEMBERTON GINTHER
Frontispiece By THE AUTHOR
PHILADELPHIA THE JOHN C. WINSTON COMPANY PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1917, by The John C. Winston Co.
To Carolyn, a True Friend
I. Miss Pat Arrives 9 II. Bruce's Surprise Party 24 III. The Tea-room at Artemis Lodge 40 IV. Tancredi's Two Pupils 57 V. Rosamond Insists 69 VI. Patricia Makes Another Friend 84 VII. A Dinner For Two 102 VIII. Patricia Receives an Invitation 116 IX. Rosamond's Friend 130 X. Miss Pat Plays Nurse 143 XI. The Reward of the Faithful 158 XII. Patricia Moves 172 XIII. The Turning Point 186 XIV. Constance's Other Side 201 XV. Patricia Decides To Make the Best of It 215 XVI. The Door Opens Again 227
MISS PAT ARRIVES
"The train's in, Elinor, and she'll be here in a jiffy. Bruce said he'd get a taxi, so as not to lose a minute. Do come and watch that corner while I keep my eyes on this one," said Judith, in a sudden flurry.
She was standing with her nose pressed against the cool glass of the studio window, staring eagerly out across the wintry square and scanning the opposite streets with intent gaze, and even when she gestured urgently to her older sister, her eyes never left the busy outdoor scene.
"I wish the studio wasn't so high up in the air that we can't possibly see the door," she regretted. "I'd so love to see her as she gets out—Miss Pat always makes me feel sort of thrilly and excited when I see her hopping out of a carriage or coming up the walk. Something nice usually happens when she rushes in, all laughing and sparkly, doesn't it, Elinor?" she ended, cuddling up against the tall, slender figure which had joined her at the deep casement.
Elinor smiled and patted her pale hair. "I think, chick, that the best thing that happens when Miss Pat comes in is—just Miss Pat herself."
Judith nodded, with her searching eyes on the crowded streets below. "That must be it," she agreed thoughtfully. "I didn't think of it just that way, but I guess you're right. She's so—so—pleasant that she makes the stupid little things that happen seem like big eventful-ish doings. At Greycroft this winter things seemed terribly exciting, and now, when I look back at them, they really weren't so very wonderful."
"It's the spirit, my dearest Judy, that puts the sparkle into life," said Elinor absently, with her flexible artist hands straying idly over the pale mass of her little sister's straight heavy locks. "Many girls lead vastly more interesting and exciting lives than our dear Miss Pat, but they have dull spirits, and so we don't notice them; while we're all bursting with enthusiasm over every little thing she happens to be doing. It's her gay, glad spirit that wins our interest, bless her heart."
Judith nodded again. "I know," she said conclusively. "When Miriam and she went into the chicken business no one got awfully excited over Miriam's part of it, while they were all trying to help Miss Pat make a success of it. And when we were fixing up the Social House, even old Mr. Peberdy woke up when she scolded him. It's queer, isn't it, how she makes you feel? She——"
A rap-a-tap-tap on the knocker sounded sharply and then, before either Judith or Elinor could move, the door was flung open and Patricia, followed by Bruce and Mrs. Spicer, rushed breathlessly in.
"Oh, you darlings!" she cried, hugging them both at once. "Oh, how heavenly it is to be here, and how adorable you look! Judy, that's a simply perfect green in that frock, and, Norn, you're lovelier than ever in that queer faded yellow. The studio looks stunning. Oh, I'm so excited that I don't know what I'm doing! To think of actually being here at last!" And she flung down her hat on the long divan and, crumpling her bright hair between both pink palms, she stepped back and faced the group in the middle of the studio with laughing lips and wet eyes.
Elinor, Judith and Bruce, with Mrs. Spicer in their midst, smiled back at her, but did not speak, each feeling, somehow, that this was Miss Pat's moment for utterance. On the brink of her new life—that life she had so ardently longed and planned and worked for—she had become for the moment the first figure in the scene. Tomorrow she would be gone into the ranks of that great army which is building up the beautiful world for others less gifted to live in, but today she was the center of her little world.
"To think, Judy and Elinor and Bruce and Mrs. Jinny-Nat, that I'm here, here, all ready to begin too with my music. One little day and then I'll be a real singing student. Why, it takes my breath away—" And she paused with a catch in her voice that threatened tears.
This was too much for the calm and practical Judith. "But you've been simply crazy to be here, Miss Pat," she cried reprovingly. "You've toiled and moiled on chickens and sculpture and candy and boarders and everything just to be able at last to be a real singer. I don't see what there is to be a cry-baby about now."
Patricia's merry peal rang out wholesomely and she caught Judith by her slim shoulders and gave her a playful shake.
"It takes Ju to show up our little mistakes, doesn't it, Mrs. Nat?" she cried gayly. "Thank you, Judy, for them kind words. I won't be a cry-baby again; I promise you that. Come, Norn, tell us what you and Bruce have been up to while we've been wandering toward the sunny South this last two weeks. Is your stained glass window done, Norn, and has Marty been behaving as well as ever? Oh, there's such a lot to talk about, it's hard to know where to begin."
Mrs. Spicer laid aside her wraps and drew a deep chair to the fire. "I move we get thawed out while we gabble," she proposed, with her deep, husky chuckle. "I'm so frozen that it'll take a week of Sundays to shed my icicles. This zero weather isn't particularly inspiring after the balmy breezes of the Gulf Stream."
"Oh, do let's stay in for tea and go without any real dinner, Elinor," begged Patricia, impulsively. "Bruce said we were to take dinner at the Ritz as a special treat, but I'd ever so much rather stay home for this one night, if you don't mind."
Elinor looked inquiringly at her husband, who nodded and disappeared into the adjoining room, and then she smiled at Mrs. Spicer and nodded reassuringly at Judith, whose rather troubled expression did not escape the quick eyes of her impetuous sister.
"Will it disappoint you, Judy?" she asked with slightly dampened ardor. "I never thought of your being set on it——"
Judith waved her aside with a gesture of calm benignity. "I should hope," she said magnificently, "that I could do without food as well as any of you." And she seated herself on the stool beside Mrs. Spicer with an air of having settled the matter.
Patricia could not resist a ripple of merriment at her imposing manner. "Squelched again," she laughed, trying vainly to look humble and repentant. "Elinor, you really oughtn't to let Judy sacrifice herself like this. She——"
Elinor sank into another wide chair at the opposite side of the hearth. "We're only too glad to stay indoors this bitterly cold weather," she replied easily. "Judith was just wishing before you came that we could have a cosy supper here, but we all thought it would be more festive to celebrate in some more lively spot than the old studio. We didn't have any tea for you this afternoon because we wanted you to enjoy the dinner all the more."
Patricia still looked rather uncertainly at Judith, whose dignified manner was as impassive as ever. "Sure you don't mind, Ju?" she asked, solicitous as ever for her small sister's happiness. "Mrs. Nat will soon be thawed out, and——"
Judith drew herself up with beautiful composure. "Patricia Louise Kendall, you will never be a great artist if your mind is so set on your food," she said severely. "Do stop talking about dinners, and tell us what you've seen down there among the alligators and palm trees."
Patricia flung out two protesting palms. "Ask Sinbad, otherwise Mrs. Nathaniel Spicer," she retorted gayly, relieved by Judith's evident sincerity, "I'm no earthly good on descriptive pieces, as you very well know; and she can spin yarns that would make Robinson Crusoe sound like a Cook excursion. I'll roll up here alongside of Elinor and censor her reports when they get too highly colored."
Mrs. Spicer chuckled, rubbed her frosty fingers before the leaping blaze and then plunged into the story of their fortnight's journey southward with Miriam Halden, whom they had left with her mother in New Orleans, looking forward, in spite of crutches, to the festivities of her friends' coming-out parties.
Elinor and Judith asked a great many questions and Patricia threw in a word or two occasionally, but for the most part she was silent, reveling in the cosy warmth of the big room, with its easels and casts and canvases and all the other familiar delightful implements of the painter's craft.
As Mrs. Spicer finished and Patricia was beginning to bubble over with eager questions about friends and acquaintances, Bruce came back into the room, and, lighting a cigar, flung himself into the vacant lounging chair at the other side of the hearth. He was smiling and Patricia knew his expression meant something agreeable.
"What is it, Bruce?" she asked eagerly. "I know you've something up your sleeve. Is it a surprise? Does Elinor know? Is anyone coming?"
Bruce pretended to be absorbed in his cigar and said not a word.
The others looked expectantly at him, and Judith, catching the infection, slipped over to him and taking him gently by the ears, turned his head directly toward them.
"You may as well tell us, Mr. Bruce," she urged firmly. "We haven't any time to waste this evening on conundrums, you know."
Elinor suddenly seemed enlightened. "Oh, I think I know—" she began, when Bruce interrupted her.
"No, you don't know it all," he announced loudly, as if fearful that the news might come from some other source. "You may know that I was going to order dinner served here in the studio, and you might guess that it was to be a very festive one, but you couldn't possibly foresee who was to share the humble board with us, no, not if you guessed a hundred years."
"Pooh, I'm sure I could do it in one little hour if I tried," laughed Patricia. "We don't know such a horde of people that it would take long to run over every name we know."
"Oh, don't try, please don't!" cried Judith in alarm, lest valuable time be lost. "Tell us, Bruce, do, Mrs. Nat hates to haggle over news."
There was a merry outcry at this transparent plea and then Bruce, with a pretense of reluctance, gave in.
"We're going to have dinner here in the studio with real waiters, Judy, and a bunch of flowers for each lady—don't interrupt, please, till I've done. A bunch of violets for you and Elinor and Mrs. Spicer and the happy song-bird there, and also for Miss Margaret Howes and Mrs. Hiram Todd."
There was such a chorus of questions that Bruce held up his hands in protest.
"Give me time, and I'll confess all," he entreated. "Don't be too hard on a poor solitary man-body. Remember, you're four to one, and be easy. I had asked the Todds for a surprise to you all, and today I met Miss Howes on the street—just back in town and honing for a sight of old friends, and I nailed her on the spot. Fortunately I could get them all on the phone and they one and all bubbled with joy at the prospect of a quiet little dinner in the shelter of our roof-tree. Margaret Howes is sick of hotel life and Mrs. Todd isn't quite acclimated to it yet."
Mrs. Spicer shook her head. "We didn't even know there was a Mrs. Hiram," she said with a chuckle. "When did it happen?"
"The very day after you left," replied Elinor. "They went to Washington—Hiram had some more business there—and Marian had the time of her life. She looks like a different girl, too. She's taken Hiram in hand already, and he is beginning to seem like other people. She told me the day we called on them here that she had given all of Hiram's wedding outfit to the Salvation Army, and she meant to fit him out right here in New York."
Patricia puckered her brow. "I thought Hiram was very well as he was," she said doubtfully. "He was the sort that couldn't be much changed, and it seems silly to deck him out——"
Bruce interrupted her. "That isn't the idea, my dear Pat," he explained, smiling. "Marian says Hiram has too much brains to look like a scarecrow for ignorant people to look down on, so she's making him fit, merely to enlighten them as to his merit."
Patricia was silenced, though not yet convinced. She turned to the subject of Margaret Howes with eager interest, asking all sorts of questions as to her progress in painting and her appearance and her life of the past year, to none of which Bruce would answer a word, even though urged by Elinor.
"Wait and find out for yourselves," he said teasingly. "It would take off the bloom if I recounted all."
Elinor rose to lead the way to the rooms where they would dress. "I don't believe he knows a single thing," she said emphatically. "Margaret isn't a chatterbox and it was too bitterly cold on the streets today for any lengthy confidences. Come along and get into your festive togs—we don't want to miss a single minute, and dinner is very early tonight."
As Patricia followed the others out she bent gratefully over Bruce's chair. Her large gray eyes were shining in the rosy firelight and her face was sweetly serious.
"You're awfully good to me, Bruce," she said in a low tone. "I don't deserve it one scrap—but I'll try all the harder to be worth while some day."
Bruce looked up with his nicest smile and laid his strong hand over hers on his chair-arm.
"You're very much worth while now—to me, Patsy dear," he said with genuine affection. "I'm not looking ahead to those future days. Who knows whether the success, when it comes, will make you nearer to us, or will take you far away——"
She broke in eagerly with her hand pressed on her quickly beating heart. "Oh, Bruce," she said with a little tinge of fear in her tone. "I'm sometimes so afraid of that—losing you all in the work and hurry that is coming to me. But you'll help me, won't you? You'll keep me remembering how much we've always despised conceited, stuck-up people? I may be a failure after all, but if I'm not, if I'm the tiniest bit of a success and you see me getting selfish and horrid, you'll try to remind me, won't you?"
Bruce smiled reassuringly up at her flushed face. "Rely on me to puncture your balloon if it's needed, Miss Pat," he said in a tone that was very comforting, and, as she dropped a light kiss on his dark, waving hair, he added more soberly, "It's a mighty hard thing for a singer to be unselfish and generous, I warn you, my dear. It's going to be a struggle sometimes, though I don't doubt for an instant that you'll win out with flying colors."
Patricia's gayety was surging back in a happy flood, and she straightened up with a little rippling laugh, casting all her shadowy fears behind her.
"Just you wait till I sing my first concert, Mr. Bruce Hayden," she challenged, "and then tell me I'm a conceited goose, if you dare. I wagger as Hannah Ann says, I'll be the same stupid, silly thing I am now." And nodding brightly at him, she danced after the others, humming a gay little tune as she went.
BRUCE'S SURPRISE PARTY
Although Patricia would have been very well entertained with a quiet tea all to themselves in the studio, since there was so much to be talked over, so many plans to be made and such hopes to be indulged in, nevertheless she was obliged to confess that she had never had a jollier time in her life than at the dinner that night.
While they were dressing, the table was laid and some tall palms placed in the corners of the room just where they made the best effect, and when they came into the studio again the whole scene was of the most restive sort. Flowers on the tables and candles twinkling everywhere, the tapestries and screens of the shadowy backgrounds, the gleam of copper and brass, all mingled in a delightful whole which would have been hard to equal by any hotel, however well appointed.
Judith gave an exclamation of pleasure as she stood on the threshold.
"Why, it's the very nicest place in the world to celebrate in!" she said warmly. "You ought to be an awfully great singer, Miss Pat, when you're starting off with such lovely doings."
Patricia screwed up her face into a mocking protest and had opened her lips, when the sound of the elevator made them start eagerly to the door.
Margaret Howes knocked before they could fling it open, but they had her inside and were hugging her and shaking hands recklessly ere Bruce could hurry out to see who had knocked.
Margaret, in a long cloak and with her dark hair crowned with a simple wreath of ivy leaves, was looking more charming than ever, and although she was fain to linger a moment to take in the beautified studio, they hurried her off to Elinor's room, where Mrs. Spicer was waiting to hook the last reluctant hook in Elinor's filmy gown.
There was another shower of excited embraces, questions and comments rained down and it was only the arrival of the Hiram Todd's that saved Margaret from pouring out all her store of information about herself in one reckless flood and thereby wasting half of the entertainment for the dinner table.
Mrs. Hiram Todd fully justified Elinor's approbation, for in the incredibly short time since she had left Rockham and gone with the lanky Hiram to the national capital, she had shed the slightly rustic manner of her former days and had become, in appearance at least, a well-dressed, attractive, sensible looking girl such as you may see in the comfortable homes of the large cities.
But although Patricia was surprised at the change which Marian had effected in her own manners and garments in the brief fortnight of married life, her astonishment grew as she gazed on Hiram.
No one, seeing the happy Hiram for the first time, could have believed that a few short months ago he had been the lank and ungrammatical individual whose gift of a patent rocker struck consternation to the members of the House Committee on that fateful donation night at the Social House when the ninety-nine wooden chairs had been presented by the guests of the evening. The memory of that trying moment, the picture of his later efforts in pursuit of grammar under her own tuition, faded from Patricia's mind as she looked at him. She recalled only the successful geologist, the man of science whose collection had gained him recognition in high places, and she held out her hand with cordial sincerity.
"How splendidly you're looking, Hiram," she said, almost with admiration in her tone. "City life must agree with you tremendously——"
Bruce's chuckle halted her speech, but Hiram nodded heartily.
"That's about the size of it," he said with one of his grins. "But it took a smarter one than me—I to get at it. I was in town a lot since Mr. Hayden got me in touch with the big guns at the capital, and I didn't turn a hair, as far as clothes was concerned. My, my, what a dummy I was. But the minute Marian landed in the dining-room of the hotel, she knew what was what. She's just built me all over on stylish lines, you see," he ended with simple candor that was very pleasant to hear. "And the funny part of it is that I don't feel foolish in them, either. I like this striped white vest a heap better'n the plain ones, and I'm dinged if I ain't amazing comfortable in this stiff, starchy dress shirt."
Marian had the good sense to enjoy Hiram's frankness and she smiled on him affectionately. "We're both glad we came to town," she said with a glance at her own fluffy net dress, "but we'll be glad, too, to get back to the folks again. Town's plenty of fun, but it takes one's ambition. Hiram's simply lost without the woods and hills and I'm going to be pretty well satisfied with Rockham, once I get back."
Margaret Howes took a great fancy to both of them, and she plied Hiram with many questions as to his geological pursuits, bringing out all the best in him, while Marian, pleased with the respect this pretty, intelligent girl showed to her husband, glowed and beamed on her, growing entirely at ease and even loquacious under the stimulating warmth of Margaret's interest. By the time that dinner was served they were all in the most friendly humor possible and ready to enjoy the least excuse for laughter.
Another pleasant surprise came as they were settling themselves at the table. The elevator clanged its downward flight and a moment after the door flung open to admit Patricia's twin Ted, with his chum Tom Hughes, both very much delighted to find such a merry company and fully equipped with appetites to do justice to the feast.
Bruce received them with something like contrition in his cheerful face. "Great Scott, I forgot you two!" he gasped, wringing their hands with great cordiality. "Hope you haven't been wandering about in this frosty burg too long?"
Tom shook himself out of his overcoat with a silent grin, but Ted was not so considerate.
"See here, Elinor," he complained, turning to his sister at the head of the table. "That husband of yours needs a lecture. He made a date with us fellows over a week ago and we've been tracking him in vain for nearly an hour. He never peeped a note about having the dinner here. I thought it was to be at the Ritz and we've been hanging about there for a dog's age. What do you think of it?"
Patricia broke in before Bruce or Elinor could reply. "Don't waste time mourning over the dark past, Ted Kendall," she said severely. "Come sit down here between Margaret Howes and me, and let Margaret see how nicely you can behave since you've grown up enough to have evening clothes. She hasn't seen you since you were a little boy at Elinor's wedding, you know."
There was a laugh at this, as the ceremony mentioned had taken place in a June not so very long ago, and while Bruce tried hard to trump up excuses for having forgotten to telephone to his young brother-in-law, the two boys settled themselves at the table at the hastily arranged places provided for them, and the dinner began amidst great gayety.
When the fish had been disposed of Ted leaned forward to catch Elinor's eye. "Have you broken the news to the future prima donna?" he asked with interest. "I saw Merton today—you know his sister is living at Venusburg now—and he said it was a dandy place. Receptions every week. Tea-room on the premises. Art mongers and singers and a few chaperones that know their business——"
Patricia broke in with puzzled wonder: "What are you talking about, Ted?" she demanded. "What has Elinor to do with tea-rooms and the like?"
Ted looked surprised in his turn. "Haven't they told you yet?" he inquired doubtfully. "Perhaps I oughtn't to have——"
Elinor hastened to reassure him. "It's all right, Ted dear," she said. "We hadn't told Miss Pat because we thought she mightn't like it and we wanted her to have this one evening without a flaw. But she has to know tomorrow, so she may as well hear it now."
Patricia's heart sank as Elinor turned to her, and her first words were not encouraging.
"I know how you love to be with us all," she said, hesitating for the best words, "but Madame Milano has written that she wants you to agree absolutely to her suggestions as to your studies and——"
Patricia flushed suddenly. "Well, if it means that I have to go away all by myself and never have any real family times, like we've just begun to have after all these years," she declared hotly, "I simply won't do it, no matter what comes of it."
There was a little pause in the animated talk at the other end of the table where Bruce and Marian Todd were discussing architecture with Tom Hughes, and Bruce bent an anxious glance at his rebellious sister-in-law.
"Humph, listen to that, will you?" said Ted, appealing to Margaret. "She isn't a bit grateful—not she. She turns down a real thorough-going opera singer without a spasm. Time was when she groveled—fairly groveled—at Milano's lightest suggestion. At Leeuwarden, for instance——"
Patricia had caught the look in Bruce's eye and she flung her petulance from her with her usual energy.
"Never mind preaching any more, St. Francis-Edward-David Carson-Kendall, I'll be good," she said lightly. "Tell me the worst, Elinor, so that I may have it over. I always did think I'd like to expire among lights and flowers."
It was an effort to put her own feelings to one side, but she had her reward in Bruce's look and in Elinor's sigh of relief, and she instantly determined to put up with whatever Milano decreed with as joyful a spirit as she could summon.
"It really isn't so very dreadful. Many girls would love it," explained Elinor. "You are to study with Madame Milano's friend, Madame Tancredi, and to live at the new students' club, Artemis Lodge——"
"I thought Ted called it something else," began Patricia puzzled.
Ted laughed. "That's the name the fellows have for it," he explained in a hasty aside.
Elinor went gently on with the rules. "And you are to come home on Sunday evenings," she said brightly, "and to be very particular about your diet and physical exercises. I think that's all."
Patricia, in spite or her good resolves, could not repress a sigh at the program which was so very different from that she had planned for herself. Afternoons at the studio, morning chats with Elinor, music lessons for the aspiring Marty, who was to be put to school as soon as she came from Rockham, and a host of other idle, pleasant doings had been in her catalogue.
"I suppose it will be very nice," she said in a half-hearted manner that showed her feelings as clearly as any words could have. "Have you seen the place, Elinor?"
Elinor had not, but Margaret Howes had stopped there before settling in her new studio apartment, and she declared it as delightful as one could wish. Ted and Tom added their hopeful prophecy that she'd find a dandy bunch of girls there, and even Judith put in a word for Patricia's future abode by saying in her most conclusive fashion:
"I suppose they'll be fearfully nice to you there, since they will all know that Madame Milano made you come there. You're always so very lucky, Miss Pat. Everybody makes things so easy for you."
Patricia gave a gurgle of amusement at Judith's grown-up air. Her soaring spirits began to color the picture of Artemis Lodge with brighter hue and she saw that it really was fortunate to have the interest of a prominent and popular opera singer as an introduction to the world of musical endeavor.
"That's true enough, Judith-Minerva, my dear," she retorted gayly. "I'll try to live up to the great Milano's recommendation. But if I fail, I'll get my literary sister, the authoress of——"
Here Judith, for some reason unknown to Patricia, looked so very hurt and agitated that she dropped her teasing manner and said with genuine satisfaction, "I'm awfully glad that you pointed out what a card Madame Milano's introduction will be, Judy. They'll put up with me for her sake and I'll have a good time, even if it is in borrowed plumage."
Judith, however, was not going to allow that her admired Miss Pat needed any other recommendation than her own pleasant self, and she defended Patricia so stoutly against this statement that Ted declared he was green with jealousy and began a counter-charge of neglect of his talents, which moved Judith to swift retort and afforded great diversion to their end of the table.
The talk hung on the charms of Artemis Lodge, and then slipped to the changes which had come into each of their lives since their last meeting. Margaret Howes confessed to being at work on a large decorative scheme for a woman's club, although she would not divulge the whereabouts of the club nor the length of her stay in the metropolis. Elinor showed the photograph of her finished cartoon for the stained glass window she had been at work on before and during the holidays, while Bruce promised a view of his partly finished panel for the Historical Society. Hiram Todd sketched lightly the prospects which were opening to him in additional work in Washington. Ted and Tom had little to add to their openly avowed intentions to capture honors in the same course, each declaring that the other stood little show beside himself. Judith was very quiet and, as the youngest, was not pressed for any definite account of her aims and accomplishments, and though Patricia knew well that her silence covered great determinations, the memory of her agitated manner when she had spoken jestingly of her literary ambitions kept her from further open questioning.
The intimate hospitality of the studio made a good setting for their gay sociability and the dinner progressed without any more drags on the wheels of its merry-making. Mrs. Nat told funny stories, and the boys gave impromptu imitations of classmates and professors; Margaret Howes sparkled with quaint tales of the remote mountain village where she had been spending the summer. Elinor's gentle wit flashed; and Bruce's ready laughter followed every one of his own clever jokes, while Patricia and Marian made their mark as an appreciative audience, enjoying everything that was meant for humor and applauding even the feeblest joke. Altogether it was a great success as a celebration and a happy augury of the future into which it ushered the expectant Patricia.
The guests were slow to leave and if it had not been necessary for Ted and Tom to make a certain train in order to get back to college at the required time, while Hiram was also due at a midnight conference of geologists at his hotel, they might have gone on with the merriment long after the last waiter had disappeared and the violets were fading.
"I simply hate to go," confessed Margaret Howes as she stood waiting for her taxi after the rest had departed. "I've had a gorgeous time and I am sorry to leave you. Remember you are to meet me in the tea-room at Artemis Lodge at four-fifteen tomorrow to look over the ground before Miss Pat plunges in. Wait for me in the corner near the door. I'll be on time—if I can."
After the elevator had clanged its way down with Bruce and Margaret, Patricia turned with a passionate gesture to the others.
"Oh, my dears, to think it has really begun!" she cried as though just realizing the great fact. "Oh, Mrs. Nat, and Judy, and Elinor, you dear, adorable angels, I'm so happy I don't know what to do."
Elinor and Judith were blowing out the guttering candles, and Mrs. Nat was hastily rearranging the disordered furniture, but they each stopped to smile sympathetically at her, and Judith reached out an eager hand.
"Just think of tomorrow, Miss Pat," she said, shaken out of her composure for once. "Oh, jiminy! Losh keep us all! What fun that's going to be!"
THE TEA-ROOM AT ARTEMIS LODGE
Patricia spent the next morning in a whirl of pleasantly conflicting emotions, and, while she was posing in the studio for a rapid sketch by Elinor, her head was humming with a perfect hive of delightful thoughts.
Bruce was off for the day on business, Judith was, of course, at school, and so the three, Mrs. Nat, Elinor and Patricia, had the place to themselves. And how they did chatter!
Patricia heard over and over again every particular of the interview Elinor and Bruce had with the prima donna on their last flying visit to New York; they discussed the possibilities of getting an attractive room at Artemis Lodge at the very moderate price Patricia could afford; they made plans for the welfare of Marty Sneath, who was to arrive and take up her duties as studio-girl the next day; and, in spite of the fact that it was only two short weeks since the travelers had left the north, Patricia insisted on minute inquiries about everyone she knew.
But always, at the end of every other subject, they returned to the great matter in hand—Patricia's enrolment as a singing student under Madame Tancredi and her establishment at Artemis Lodge.
"I'm scared stiff at the thought of paying such a fortune for the lessons," Patricia said ruefully. "Think of spending all that money for one little half hour! And three lessons a week, too. Don't you think I might do with less, Norn? I can make it up with practicing, you know."
Elinor shook her head and Mrs. Spicer counseled briskly, "Better stick tight to rules, my dear. This Madame knows her business, it seems, and if your operatic friend, says three, it must be as she commands. Thank goodness, she didn't tell you to spend every afternoon there."
"Well, then, the only thing for me to do is to get a very cheap room," said Patricia decisively. "For I am just determined not to be sponging on you and Bruce if I can help it."
Elinor was about to protest, but Mrs. Spicer with nods and head-shakes signaled her to desist.
"That's the way to talk," she said heartily. "You'll enjoy every scrap of progress that you make. We've got to pay for everything in this life one way or another and it saves a lot trouble to begin square."
"Oh, I'm so glad you see it," cried Patricia. "I simply couldn't take money for mere indulgences, even though I might for real hard study. I can be just as happy in a little room as a big one, and I'll have this lovely place to come to when I'm hankering after space, anyway."
It was settled, after a careful consultation of the little book which Patricia called her "Incomings and Outgoings" that, since the lessons took almost every cent of the modest income which Ted generously insisted on sharing with his two younger sisters for the winter months, Patricia was to accept the rent of her room at Artemis Lodge as a gift from Bruce and Elinor and to keep the remnant of her own money for current expenses.
"I'll be a perfect miser and that will help me to stay at home and practice all the more," laughed Patricia as she settled down to the posing again. "I do hope Artemis Lodge isn't a very top-lofty place, with lots of maids to tip and a hundred ways of grabbing at my little pile."
"You'll find out all its pitfalls after you get there," said Mrs. Nat with a grimness born of experience. "Don't look for too much. It isn't human nature to be perfect. Besides, it ain't religious. If this good old earth of ours was just one little mite better none of us would be hankering so very specially after heaven."
Patricia tossed the suggestion of drawbacks to Artemis Lodge behind her with a gay gesture, and if the clock had not struck at that minute would have entered a strong protest. At the signal of release, however, she flung off the drapery in which Elinor had posed her, and flew to the window.
"The sun's out again, and it's come to stay!" she cried, peering down at the streets with eager interest. "Oh, isn't it too jolly for words to be really going to get my room and all! I'm so excited I simply can't wait for the time to come."
But of course she did wait and with the very best grace in the world. For she helped Elinor pack a box of warm half-worn clothing for the worthless Sneaths in Rockham, and made some necessary repairs in her own slightly travel-worn clothes.
"I want to be as fresh as possible, without being too wealthy looking," she said with a smile as she laid out her newest blouse and brushed her hat with great nicety when the hour for getting ready for the tea-party had arrived.
Judith had come in and was hurrying through her toilet at an unusual rate of speed, but she paused and critically surveyed her sister with her head first on one side and then on the other.
"You may as well give up trying to look like the deserving poor, Miss Pat," she said emphatically. "You'll always be sort of rich-ish looking, not real luxuriant, you know, but—but—" She hesitated for just the right phrase. "Well, anyone would know you used a bath-brush and took care of your hair," she ended lamely.
Patricia bubbled with mirth. "What a left-handed compliment, Judy. Is that the best you can do for me? I'm glad I appear clean, anyway."
Judith began to fasten her frock, undisturbed. "You know perfectly well, Miss Pat, that you're quite good-looking—not so lovely as Elinor, but heaps prettier than Miriam or—or—me," she ended rather forlornly.
Patricia had come to understand the longing after beauty which was in the depths of her small sister's secret heart and was quick to offer balm.
"Look at us," she said, pulling Judith to the mirror beside her. "'Fess up now Miss, that you are quite as fascinating as your elderly relative. You forget that you've been growing and changing a lot since I've been away."
Judith gazed at the reflection in the glass which showed her as a slender childish figure with a lengthening mop of pale, ashy hair and a face of delicate intensity. She really had not changed at all in Patricia's short absence, but the different surroundings made both girls view her with other eyes, and she seemed to have taken on new height and color.
"I'm growing!" cried Judith rapturously, turning from the mirror to rush into Elinor's room with the glorious news. "Oh, Elinor, I'm nearly up to Miss Pat's ear-tip now."
Patricia heard Elinor's laughing comments with a smile of satisfaction curving her pink lips. She knew that Judith did not measure a fraction of an inch more than when she left Rockham, but she was glad that the images in the glass had cheered the critical Judith, whose lamentations about her size and coloring were always loudest when she faced a looking-glass.
It was only a very little thing, this incident of cheering Judith, but it warmed Patricia's already glowing heart and added the final drop to her cup of happiness, and she started off on their expedition to the Artemis tea-room with such a radiant face that Judith commented on it.
"Miss Pat," she whispered with a warning nudge as they fell behind the other two in the crowded pavement, "you ought to take a tuck in your smile. Everybody will be looking at us if you go along grinning like that."
But Patricia only smiled the more at this and Judith gave her up in despair of making any impression on her abounding good humor.
"She's perfectly dreadful, Mrs. Nat," she confided as she slipped to her old friend's side, leaving Patricia to Elinor for the rest of the walk. "She doesn't care a bit about how she looks. Lots of people turned to stare at us."
Mrs. Spicer nodded approval of Patricia's reckless course. "Don't you fret, my dear," she soothed Judith. "Miss Pat is worth looking at any time and folks like to see a real happy person once in a while. Land knows why we're all so afraid to show our joyful side to the world. Let her alone. Good times don't last too long for any of us."
Judith meditated on this bit of wisdom and she watched Patricia closely when they reached the street where the house was located. There was no clouding of the bright face, however, at the sight of the substantial graystone building, and Judith drew a sigh of relief that Patricia's happy hour was lengthened by so much.
"Isn't it a perfect duck of a place?" said Patricia as they stood at the wide entrance door. "It's just like some of the old houses I saw in Belgium last summer—only fresher and newer, of course."
"Margaret said it was modeled after an old French house," said Elinor, reaching for the shiny brass knob at the side of the green door. "The people who planned it wanted to get what they called 'artistic atmosphere' and a suitable setting for the budding geniuses within doors."
"And they hit the nail on the head, smack," agreed Mrs. Nat as the door swung open and a glimpse of a wide, paved inner courtyard made an interesting background for the respectable, stout elderly woman who, like the concierge abroad, guarded the entrance.
They were ushered across the courtyard—Patricia all the while gaping shamelessly about at the four house-walls that formed the square about the courtyard—and went up a red-carpeted, stone stair to the first floor of the house, where they followed their affable guide through a succession of passages, coming at last into a huge room at the door of which she left them.
There was a murmur of well-modulated voices, a hum of light chatter, and as they paused on the threshold for a moment, the sound of a couple of notes struck carelessly on a piano made Patricia's cheeks glow.
"Isn't it a stunning big room?" she said in an undertone to Elinor, who nodded appreciatively as she led the way into the nearest corner where a comfortable divan and a couple of chairs stood invitingly empty.
The room was filled with girls of varying ages, with a scattering of guests, and although it was as yet too early for tea, the place was alive with chatting groups, some of whom had secured little tables against future needs. The tea-table was at one end of the room, and the big brass samovar was already sending out encouraging clouds of steamy vapor. The girl behind the urn attracted Patricia's immediate attention.
"Look, Norn," she said in eager interest. "Isn't that Doris Leighton at the tea-table? It's enough like her to be her twin, if it isn't herself."
Elinor's surprise was quite as great as Patricia's on recognizing beyond a doubt the fair hair and attractive figure which had so won Patricia's admiration on her first visit to the art school many months ago. Doris it was beyond a doubt, and grown more charming than ever, as they quickly found on making themselves-known to her.
"I'm staying here for the winter," she explained to them while her hands were busy with the tea-things. "I get my room free for attending to the tea-table, and I am doing social secretary work in the mornings. I've been intending to hunt you up, ever since I came back to town but I've been so busy I could hardly see."
Patricia, in spite of her knowledge of Doris' brave struggle since the loss of their money, could not help contrasting the present capable Doris with the beauty of the class at the Academy whose severest task had been to clean her big palette or wash her soiled paint brushes.
"That month at Greycroft while you were abroad set me up completely," Doris went on with an earnestness that was good to see. "I'll never forget your kindness to me and mother, Elinor, and if there is ever anything I can do to show how I feel, you must let me do it."
It was on the tip of Patricia's tongue to suggest that she give them some hints of the inner workings of Artemis Lodge, but at that moment Margaret Howes came in, and there was all the exclaiming and wondering over the coincidence of Doris' presence to be gone over again, until the arrival of a maid with a basket of hot buns put an end to their talk with the tea-mistress.
Margaret led the way back to their corner. "It's great luck that Doris should be here," she said with an exultant note in her voice. "She can do a lot for you, Miss Pat, by way of avoiding the rocks among the shoals. She'll know more about the real inside workings of these fair damsels than you can find out all at once for yourself. And I advise you to get her opinion of anyone you fancy, before you tie too closely to them."
This was considered a good plan by all, and they intended to seek Doris after her duties were over and put some leading questions to her. While the tea was still circulating and they were deep in discussing the various sorts of girls surrounding their corner, Doris came over to them with a word of regret for her early flitting.
"It's my short hour today, and I have a lesson in domestic science to give over in Brooklyn. I'm late, too," she said, pulling into her gloves with nervous haste and glancing at the window near their corner. "Send me your address, Elinor, and we'll have a real meeting some day soon. Good-bye, Mrs. Nat. Good-bye, Judy, Don't forget to make Elinor hunt me up, Miss Pat. Mercy, there goes my car now," and she fled precipitately.
Margaret Howes looked after her with approval in spite of her own disappointed hopes. "Don't tell me that it isn't good for some people to be poor," she said impressively. "Doris Leighton proves that beyond a doubt. Did she tell you anything about Miss Ardsley, the new directress?" she asked in a changed tone.
Elinor shook her head. "We were too much surprised to keep our wits, I am afraid," she confessed. "We really ought to see her now—it's getting late and Mrs. Spicer wants to make that six-ten train."
Margaret rose and made her way to another part of the room, where she seemed to be making inquiries, for a girl in a faded green linen dress nodded and then went out, returning quickly.
Margaret came back smiling. "Miss Ardsley is in today," she said, "and will see us in a short while."
Patricia's color rose and she held her hands together under the cover of her muff. The anxious moment seemed an age to her, and although the green-robed girl had assured Margaret that the lady was on the way to meet them, she was positive that it was at least half an hour until the slim, silk-clad form of the directress of Artemis Lodge stood smiling gently before them.
She was of that age between youth and middle age which shows at the same time gray hairs among the dark braids and pink cheeks where the wrinkles are beginning to hide. She wore a sober, well-cut gown and her few ornaments were of the choicest kind. Her hands were soft and long and somewhat faded, though carefully tended and of good shape.
Patricia on the first swift glance did not feel particularly drawn to her, but after the introductions had been made by Margaret Howes, and they were seated again, she began to revise her first hasty judgment.
Miss Ardsley was graciousness itself, and even the mention of Madame Milano's name did not seem to heighten her original cordiality, but she had disappointment for Patricia's high hopes in her accounts of the popularity of Artemis Lodge.
"I assure you, my dear Mrs. Hayden, we have not a single empty room," she said with graceful regret. "Every apartment in the Lodge is filled at present, and unless someone should leave, I do not see how we can hope to have the pleasure of Miss Kendall's being with us."
Mrs. Spicer, always practical and to the point, demanded if there were any prospect of a removal.
Miss Ardsley feared not, since the Lodge was so deservedly popular. "And with the very best families, I assure you," she said with an earnestness which Patricia wondered at. "We have two young millionairesses with us now, and the social tone of the establishment is higher than ever this year."
It was plain that the magic names of Hayden and Milano could do nothing in this case, and Patricia gave up hope, plunging into a dark region of despair from which it took a hard struggle on her part to emerge sufficiently to smile her farewells to Miss Ardsley and make her way out with the others with an appearance at least of cheerful indifference.
On the way back she was very silent and neither Elinor nor Judith attempted to comfort her, but when they had reached the station and Mrs. Spicer had bought her ticket and Bruce had appeared in the nick of time with luggage checks and other necessities of travel, her face cleared and she turned to her old friend with more of her usual happy air.
"I'm not going to give up just for one little disappointment, Mrs. Nat," she whispered as she clung to her in farewell. "I'll get into Artemis Lodge and I'll have a splendid time there, in spite of everything."
Mrs. Nat patted her cheek approvingly. "Certain sure you will, my dear," she responded heartily. "Something's bound to happen, once you make your mind up to it."
Patricia watched the train pull out of the big smoky shed, with a real hope growing in her heart.
"Something's bound to happen," she repeated determinedly, and she took Judith's arm and skipped a couple of steps along the dim platform, much to that young lady's horror.
"It's simply bound to happen, Judy," she said out loud, but to Judith's puzzled questions she would give no answer save a little confident laugh.
TANCREDI'S TWO PUPILS
And something did actually happen. It was in the most unexpected way and it came from a quarter that caused Patricia to believe in modern miracles.
She had gone with some quaking to her appointment with Madame Tancredi, and she was waiting alone in the anteroom—Elinor having left her for some necessary shopping until the lesson should be over—when the maid ushered in a girl in sumptuous street clothes, carrying a music roll of extravagant design.
Patricia loved pretty clothes and pretty people, and the girl was undeniably pretty in a dark, tropical way. She moved with graceful, gliding steps and her face under the wide drooping velvet hat looked amiable as well as comely.
Patricia wanted to speak to her, but was uncertain as to the propriety of the act. The girl solved her difficulty, however, by choosing a chair near Patricia's, and, settling easily in it with an accustomed air of being agreeable, smiled pleasantly and spoke in a most melodious voice.
"Are you the new pupil?" she asked, apparently less from curiosity than a desire to break the silence. "I have heard that Madame was expecting someone recommended by Milano, but since she didn't tell me any more than just that much, I may be mistaken."
Patricia eagerly assured her that she was indeed the expected student, adding a rather anxious question as to the manner of instructor she was to have in Madame Tancredi.
The girl laughed a tinkling laugh which showed her faultless little white teeth and waved her hand in quite the foreign manner.
"Tancredi is very well as teachers go," she said with an indifference that seemed superhuman to the quivering Patricia, who immediately set her up in her mind as authority on matters musical.
"I've never studied before," she confessed, with a tinge of confusion. "I am afraid Madame will find me awfully stupid."
The girl looked at her with a lightening of her amiable, indifferent air. "Are you really so very young as all that?" she asked in some surprise. "You look very childish in this dim light, but I thought you must be old enough to have studied somewhere before this. Tancredi doesn't usually take rank amateurs."
Patrica felt very small indeed before this calm criticism, but she confessed bravely, though with flushing cheeks. "I am past seventeen," she said resolutely. "And I've been waiting six months to begin study."
And then at the encouraging look on the other's face she rushed into a rather jumbled account of her aspirations, her trials and lastly her disappointment of yesterday in being refused admittance at Artemis Lodge on the score of lack of room.
The girl listened closely, and Patricia thought she nodded approval at the names of Bruce Hayden and Greycroft, and showed a keener interest when Milano's visit to Rockham was hastily mentioned. She made few comments, however, and when the gong rang, rose to go into the studio with graceful alacrity.
At the threshold she paused to say, "If you are here when I come out, I should like to see you again," and then with a return of her amiable, indifferent air, she passed into the inner sanctum, leaving the impulsive Patricia worshiping at her shrine.
Some sounds of liquid melody found their way out through the heavy doors, and helped to make the tedious half hour pass like magic. Patricia was thankful she had made a mistake in the time and had arrived so much too soon, since it gave her the opportunity of having even this small glimpse into the world of music before she ventured into it herself.
The girl came out, and her expression was heightened into positive radiance. Evidently her lesson had been a good one and she had been praised.
Coming over to where Patricia still sat, she stood for a moment looking down on her. Then she smiled her slow smile and held out her hand.
"I am Rosamond Merton," she said, "and I know that you are Patricia Kendall. I am living at the Lodge while I study with Madame. I have three rooms there. Will you come and stay with me for a month?"
Patricia gasped. "Why—" she began in some confusion. "Oh, you're awful kind, but—but—you don't know me at all."
Rosamond Merton smiled again, but did not withdraw her hand. "Which means that you don't know me," she replied, not at all affronted. "Ask Tancredi who I am, and—if you are still in doubt, come to see me at the Lodge. I like you, Miss Patricia Kendall, and I mean that you shall like me."
Patricia was so overcome by these magnanimous words that she shook hands with great heartiness, promising to visit Miss Merton and vowing appreciation of her kindness.
"Though I can't come and stay with you, you know," she said as she rose in response to the gong which was now summoning her. "I'm simply crazy to stay at Artemis Lodge, but I couldn't sponge on a perfectly absolutely strange girl." Then fearing that this might sound ungracious, she added hastily, "Though there isn't anyone I'd like to visit better than you."
The frank admiration in her tone pleased the girl and she took up her muff and gloves with a gratified air. "I warn you that I am hard to discourage when I've set my mind on a thing," she said lightly as she turned to go. "You will come to see me this afternoon, I am sure."
She was gone before Patricia could reply and since the door into the studio was opening softly, there was no other course for Madame Milano's protege than to walk as calmly as she might straight into the fiery furnace, leaving all thoughts of Rosamond Merton behind her.
Tancredi proved a rather good-natured portly woman with a taste for exaggerated garments which suggested the operatic stage. She met Patricia on the threshold, and patted her shoulder kindly as she led her into the large bare apartment.
"So, so. You are a very young one," she said with a strong foreign accent, yet with great kindness. "Milano did not prepare me for this. Sit there, little one, while I look thee over."
She pushed Patricia to the piano bench, and settled herself on the opposite settee by the music stand, and though her scrutiny was amazingly thorough, Patricia was surprised to find that it did not disconcert her in the least. Madame Tancredi was the exact opposite of her friend Milano in all save the kindly spirit of the true artist. She was stout and heavy, where Milano was swift and graceful; she was frankness itself where Milano was cryptic; and, finally, she was the owner of a very lively curiosity.
Patricia feared lest her precious half hour go by in catechism, and was beginning to feel a bit downcast over the length and variety of the questions put to her by the smiling Tancredi, when suddenly, with a jingle of her chatelaines and bangles, she rose and beckoned to a screened corner where, unnoticed by Patricia, a dark-haired young woman had been copying music.
"The Heather Song, Marcon," she said briefly. "This young lady requests the Heather Song."
As a matter of fact, Patricia had done no more than to confess with reluctance that she had tried it by herself at Greycroft, strumming the accompaniment with careless fingers. She heard, with a sort of dismay, the dashing introduction rendered faultlessly by the competent Marcon, and she stood beside the shining grand piano in no very pleasant frame of mind.
Her throat grew dryer with every moment and when it was her time to burst into the rippling, tender song, she heard a trembling little voice, which she could hardly recognize for her own, stumble faintly into the melody.
It was too much for her tried nerves. She broke down utterly, turning away from the piano with a sob, and, flinging out her hands in a despairing gesture, cried out that she could not sing, that she never should be able to sing and that she might as well go.
Tancredi was too much used to the emotions of the geniuses and near-geniuses, whose temperamental outbreaks she had learned by heart, not to understand what was the matter.
Waving the composed Marcon out of her room, she pushed Patricia to the stool with no very gentle hand. "There now, my little one. Sing for me in your own way," she commanded. "Rome was not builded in one day. You are too much excited—and you so young," she ended with a softening of pity in her rich tones.
Somehow that accusation of youthfulness was the spur that drove Patricia to victory. Raising her head with a toss of determination, she ran her hands over the keys first lightly and then with growing certainty of herself, while, unseen by her, Tancredi nodded and smiled to herself in high good humor.
The song bubbled out in Patricia's best notes, rippling in silver waves through a golden atmosphere of pure melody. She sang it to the end and then sat mutely on the bench, with her anxieties returning slowly as the silence grew.
When she could bear it no longer she turned a pale face to where Tancredi sat staring into space.
"S—shall I try it again?" she faltered uncertainly.
Tancredi shook her head silently. "That will be enough of songs for the present, my treasure," she said, in a strange tone, of which Patricia could make nothing.
Presently she rose and walked the length of the apartment with something very like triumph on her heavy face, at which the puzzled Patricia wondered all the more, though she waited docilely enough on her stool in front of the great shining piano.
After a few turns, Tancredi came suddenly to her where she sat and took her chin in her warm, soft padded fingers, staring sharply into her face as though to read her whole being at a glance. Decidedly, she was a woman of unusual moods, for she stooped and kissed the anxious, girlish face, first on one cheek and then on the other.
"There, my little one, we are friends now," she said, releasing her, "and you shall sometimes sing for me some of those songs when it is needed to cheer your heart. But otherwise you shall not sing—no, not for the king himself should he ask it."
Patricia's hopes went down with a flop! Was she being told that she could not study? Had the end come so swiftly? She had a hard time not to cry out with the pain of this horrible fear, and the kind eyes of the experienced Tancredi caught her despairing look.
"Ah, no. It is not that you shall not sing at all," she said hurriedly. "It is only that you shall sing the exercises only as yet. We must walk ere we may run. Come, let us see about the breathing now," and she stood erect and vigorous, motioning Patricia to face her and follow her every movement.
Patricia came out from that interview so bewildered yet so happy that she forgot completely about questioning the teacher as to Rosamond Merton. Elinor, who was waiting for her in the anteroom, saw her shining face before she spoke, and knew that all had gone well with her.
"Dear Miss Pat," she said softly, slipping her arm into Patricia's as they went out of the wide front door. "So it has all come out well, and you are really going to be a singer some day! How glad I am that you have passed this first test."
Patricia was still slightly puzzled, though more confident than she had been before Tancredi had begun her instructions.
"I've had a mighty lucky day, Norn," she said with real thankfulness. "I've been put down on the books as a regular pupil at Tancredi's, and—oh, I forgot all about it—I've had a sort of a chance to go into Artemis Lodge, though of course I couldn't take it."
Elinor agreed with her after hearing the incident. "Though it is certainly very sweet of her to be so generous," she said thoughtfully. "Rosamond Merton, you say her name is. We'll have to ask Doris Leighton about her."
But, as it happened, they did not have time to put any questions to Doris Leighton. Rosamond Merton was not the sort of girl who cares to postpone interesting events. Miss Pat had piqued her fancy and she took a very determined course to gain her point.
Bruce handed Elinor a note when they reached the studio.
"Messenger boy brought it ten minutes ago," he explained. "Said it was urgent, but as I didn't know where to find you, I had to leave it till you came in."
"What is it, Norn?" asked Patricia rather anxiously.
She eyed the note with an unspoken fear that it might be a message from her new instructor canceling her enrolment, though Elinor's face did not show any consternation as she swiftly ran her eye over the brief sheet.
"Of all things!" she murmured with an amused smile, and then read more carefully, breaking into a ripple of laughter as she finished.
"You certainly have charmed this Rosamond Merton, Miss Pat," she said with a fond look at the amazed Patricia. "Listen to this."
Patricia's look of amazement grew as Elinor read. Rosamond Merton invited them to tea with her in her rooms that afternoon, very prettily insisting that the small sister whose name she thought was Julia, might make one of the party, since it was to be merely a cosy cup of tea to better acquaintance.
"I must say she writes very agreeably," commented Elinor, scanning the lines critically.
"That's just what she is—agreeable," declared Patricia, nodding at the word. "She seems as though she would never take the trouble to be cross with anyone. And she's very pretty."
"That settles it," laughed Elinor. "No matter what must be set aside for it, I see that we must take tea with Rosamond Merton. We must look her over, Judy, and see if we can let our Miss Pat fall in love with her, as I perceive she is on the brink of doing."
Judith's anxious look made Patricia laugh. "Don't be afraid I'll make a silly of myself like I did over Miss Warner and Doris Leighton," she said lightly. "I'm done with that sort of thing ages and ages ago."
Elinor was deeply interested in this new adventure, and after a late luncheon and a hasty half hour of breathing practice for Patricia, they got into their afternoon clothes and went to Artemis Lodge again.
"How familiar it looks today," said Patricia as they rang the shining brass bell. "Isn't it queer how soon you get used to places? I feel quite like an old inmate already."
"That's always the way with me, too," agreed Judith. "I felt as though I'd always lived on that corner near the Dam, just because we spent an half hour there on each of those two mornings we were in Amsterdam."
The opening of the door put an end to their chat and they followed the respectable woman through the courtyard again, feeling quite at home with its quaint quadrangle.
They did not wind their way through any intricate passages, however, for Rosamond Merton's rooms were near the main entrance at the head of a little flight of winding stairs, very easy of access from the courtyard and quite remote from the various offices and salons.
She opened the door immediately on their knock, and there was such a pretty warmth of welcome in her tranquil manner that Elinor was won at once, though Judith, who prided herself on her discrimination, did not completely thaw out until the visit was nearly over.
The rooms, three in number, were furnished with a simple elegance that appealed strongly to them all, and the undemonstrative manner with which Rosamond Merton pursued her purpose gave her persistence a charm that robbed it of all crudity.
"You see, Mrs. Hayden," she said, after tea had been served and they were chatting comfortably before a small fire in the pleasant sitting room, "I am really quite selfish in wishing your sister to come with me for a while—as long as she will, in fact. I am very much alone here, being the only Tancredi pupil in the house, and I have more room than I need. I can't possibly use more than two of this suite, one for my bedroom and the other for a sitting-room. So the small room there is practically going to waste."
"Do you have to keep it?" asked Elinor, "I should think Miss Ardsley would be glad to have it——"
"But it belongs with this suite," urged Rosamond quietly. "It has no door except into these other rooms."
This was so evident a reason for her being burdened with an unnecessary room that Elinor fell silent for a little space while the others moved to the other side of the room to look over some fine photographs of the old French chateaux. Presently her face cleared and she went over to the table where they were busy with the views.
"Why wouldn't you consent to Patricia having the little room until there is a vacancy?" she inquired with a tinge of hesitation. "She could pay you the rent——"
Rosamond Merton broke in with such a decided negation that Patricia gave up hope, but Elinor persisted gently.
"Really, you know, Miss Pat couldn't possibly come under any other conditions," she said with sweet finality. "We are very anxious for her to be here, of course, since Madame Milano urged it; but if you feel that you can't have her under such circumstances, there's nothing for it but to wait till someone leaves and she can get a room from Miss Ardsley."
Rosamond Merton was silent for a long minute, and then she suddenly smiled her slow smile.
"Since you speak so very positively," she said with a graceful gesture of resignation, "there is nothing more for me to do than to give in. I will rent the room——"
"At the rate which they charge you," Elinor gently insisted.
"At the regular Artemis Lodge rates," agreed Rosamond Merton with a little helpless laugh. "She shall have it entirely to herself as long as she wants it, and I promise never to intrude unless I'm asked."
This considerate speech so moved Patricia that she burst out with a grateful offer to obliterate herself part of the time so that her generous hostess might not feel the loss of the room; but a nudge from Judith's rather angular elbow curtailed her gratitude, and she allowed Elinor to voice her thanks, while she tried to catch Judith's eye and understand the meaning of the prod. Judith turned to the photographs again and was not to be understood so quickly.
It was decided that the furniture should remain in the little room, Patricia merely adding her own desk, and that she should retain it until another room might be secured from Miss Ardsley. Patricia was to move in the next day and, most alluring of all, Rosamond Merton told her that she should have regular hours of use of the fine grand piano which stood in the sitting-room, thereby taking a great load off Patricia's excited mind.
"I've been wondering how I was to get a piano in that little scrap of a place," she confessed, "and I didn't see how it could be done, unless I slept on it at nights and practiced by day. A bed and a piano both simply couldn't be crammed in."
They parted in great good humor and Patricia felt that she was treading on air as she went down the winding stair to the courtyard.
"This certainly is my lucky day," she said exultantly, as the gate closed behind them. "Here I am, a pupil of Tancredi and a member of the illustrious band of inmates of Artemis Lodge—all at one fell swoop. Elinor, you've made me tremendously happy by sticking to the point like you did. I'd never have got the room if it hadn't been for your hanging on so."
"I tell you what it is, Miss Pat," said Judith with sudden decision in her tone. "You need somebody to take care of you. If Elinor hadn't insisted on paying, you'd have lost that room, and if I hadn't stopped you after you did get it, you'd have thrown away most of the good of it by making yourself a perfect door-mat."
Patricia gazed with astonishment at this amazing young sister of hers. "A door-mat?" she repeated blankly. "A door mat?"
"For Miss Merton to walk in upon as often as she liked," retorted Judith with calm finality. "She's a very encroaching sort of person, Miss Pat. I can see that. And you want to be sure you are going to be real friends with her before you let her get too chummy with you."
Patricia burst into a merry peal and even Elinor rippled with amusement at this way of looking at the matter.
"'Chummy' isn't exactly the word that fits Miss Merton, Ju," she said gayly. "It sounds suspiciously like unimposing me, rather than the elegant young lady of the three-room apartment. The only thing I'm afraid of is that she'll get tired of her bargain before the week is out. I may be an awful nuisance with my scales and strummings."
Then Judith was scandalized in earnest. The idea of anyone finding Miss Pat a nuisance was beyond her powers of thought, and she could not even find words to express her scorn of such an impossible state of things.
Patricia rippled again at the sniff of disgust which Judith made so prodigious. "Never mind, Judy-pudy, you shall come and look me over every once in a while and see that I am being well treated. Miss Merton may be a perfect monster, after all."
Judith was not to be won to speech by any such bald nonsense, and stalked homeward in thoughtful silence, hardly seeming to hear the gay chat of the other two in regard to what Miss Pat should or should not take with her to Artemis Lodge.
At the door of their own apartment Patricia stood quite still with a rather blank expression.
"We forgot all about asking Doris Leighton," she said. "How perfectly stupid of us."
Elinor had her key in the door and she flung it open on an unlighted interior as she spoke.
"Very stupid indeed, my dear," she admitted cheerfully, "but it's too late to remedy it now. Besides, I don't see how you'd have got a room in Artemis Lodge in any other way."
"And that was the most important thing, after all," agreed Patricia, stumbling over a stool in the dimness. "Mercy! What's that?"
The small figure which rose at their approach gave a familiar chuckling laugh and before it could speak, Judith exclaimed, "Marty Sneath, all by herself, too!"
And Marty Sneath it proved to be, ahead of her schedule by nearly twenty-four hours and very much pleased with the chance to be installed in her new quarters that much sooner than had been planned.
After the lights were turned on and they had all commented encouragingly on the improvement in Marty's dress and appearance, she gave them an enlivening account of all that had happened in the village since their departure, particularly dwelling on the changes in the modest home of the Sneath family since Danny's removal to the far-away school where Mr. Long had sent him.
"I tell you it ain't like it used to be," she said with a shake of her elfish head and a twinkle in her brilliant eyes. "Clara's got real well and Pop's swore off, and there ain't no lively times like there used to be. Of course," she prophesied cheerfully, "Pop'll fall off in about a week—he ain't one to stick to water long, you know. Then I bet there'll be some scrimmages. He's dead set on Clara goin' for service and she wants to be a typewriter. And they're both awful set. But it won't be nothin' without Danny. It's awful flat at home now."
It was rather hard to sympathize with this peculiar point of view, so they kept to the safer side by asking about Danny, whether he liked the school, how he was getting on, and what Mr. Long said about him now.
Marty's reports were very satisfactory. Danny was doing finely and Mr. Long was delighted with his experiment. "He's as braggity about him as if he'd made our Danny up out of his head," she said with a tinge of ruffled family pride. "He better look out, though, 'fore he crows too loud. Our Danny is mighty cute and maybe he's only fooling them teachers. He ain't no lamb, you know," she ended with an earnestness that made Patricia uncomfortable for her former favorite.
"He's never had half a chance to want to be good," defended Patricia warmly. "I've always believed he was better than he behaved."
This seemed to be too deep for Marty, and she turned the subject by producing a letter from the pocket of her neat blue dress.
"Mrs. Spicer sent this," she said, handing it to Patricia. "She gave me a whole dollar, too, to spend just as I liked. My, but I felt grand comin' down on that train with a whole dollar in my purse. I kept holt on it all the way. I've read about pickpockets, and I ain't forgot Danny's ways this soon, neither."
Patricia could not deny that Danny must have been a liberal education in that sort of sleight of hand, but the letter saved her the painful confession. While Elinor took Marty to her room and Judith explained the uses of the various conveniences, push buttons and the like, Patricia devoured the scribbled note.
"Oh, Norn, listen to this," she cried, following the others into Elinor's room. "Mrs. Nat met a house-party who were going down to Mr. Long's on the train last night and she was telling them about taking tea at Artemis Lodge, and Miss Chapin, the senator's daughter Mr. Long is so devoted to, told her she had a cousin there, who was studying with Tancredi, and she hoped we'd meet and be friends. Her name—think of it—her name is Rosamond Merton!"
Elinor looked pleased. "It doesn't really enlighten us much as to her," she said. "But it's rather nice to locate her even in that remote way."
Judith tossed her pale mane in quite her old superior manner. "How childish you are, Elinor," she commented. "Cousins aren't much alike. Miss Warner wasn't a scrap like Mr. Bingham. Patricia will have to find out everything for herself—everything that Doris Leighton can't tell her."
"Pooh, I shan't bother Doris now," said Patricia easily. "I'm in for a while at least, and it would seem like spying to ask questions. I'm too thankful to be in Artemis Lodge to be so awfully finicky."
Judith tossed her head again.
"Oh, well, you never are very sensible, Miss Pat," she returned loftily. "You never see beyond a pretty face. It takes others to watch over you."
The ripples which greeted this somber speech did not seem to be wholly distasteful to her, though she hid her exact state of mind by taking Marty off to exhibit the studio to her and to explain the mysteries of oil cups and brush pots.
Patricia looked lovingly after her. "Judy's up to some of her old tricks, Norn," she hazarded. "I shouldn't be surprised if she set up a regular detective agency around my new friend and made a whole set of new thrilling tales about her."
PATRICIA MAKES ANOTHER FRIEND
"Isn't it really lovely and cozy?"
Patricia was seated on the side of her narrow bed and Elinor occupied the one easy chair by the casement window.
The little room had been transformed into a perfect bower by Elinor's good taste and Patricia's eager fingers. The small iron bed was hidden by a canopy of frilly lace and a coverlet of transparent, delicate mull with an underslip of blue. The dresser, improvised from a chiffonier, had a quaint mirror from Bruce's studio, with two silver candlesticks, to serve Patricia for all purposes of dressing. A small reliable table held a golden-shaded brass student lamp, a gift from Elinor, who knew how Miss Pat disliked the white, cold light of the electric bulbs. Some magazines, a tiny bookshelf, and a dainty tea-tray peeping from the under shelf of the reliable table, gave an air of great coziness to the whole.
Elinor looked about with much satisfaction. "Yes, it's dear," she admitted. "I don't think Miss Merton will be disappointed in her new room-mate when she sees this. It's a pity she isn't here to see it when it's absolutely crisp."
"It seems queer that she should have gone out to Rockham with her cousin to stay at Red Top, doesn't it?" said Patricia. "It's awfully nice, though, for we shall have so much more to talk about now. I felt rather stupid with her at first, when I met her at Madame's last week. She seemed so grown-up that I hardly knew how to get along with her—much less live in the same rooms with her."
"You didn't show any shyness that I could discover," smiled Elinor. "I'm sure you'll get on famously with her now that you're installed. I wish I didn't have to go," she added, rising reluctantly. "But I promised Bruce to go to the Salimagundi show with him and he'll be waiting for me if I don't fly."
Patricia went as far as the green entrance door with her and kissed her warmly.
"I begin to feel like a pilgrim and a stranger," she laughed. "To be in town and not be with you and Bruce seems too queer for words."
"You'll have splendid times as soon as you get acquainted," said Elinor brightly. "I envy you the fun you're going to have among all these attractive girls. Good-bye once again. Bring Doris over to supper with you on Sunday if she is back by then. Be sure to take good care of yourself and have a good time."
Patricia watched her till she turned the corner, and then she closed the door and went slowly across the wide paved courtyard and up the little private stair, smiling to herself.
As she closed the door of the sitting-room behind her, she could not resist a prance of joy. "I'm here!" she told herself rapturously. "Oh, how glorious it is to have really started in earnest!"
She practiced her breathing exercises and tried a few three-note vocal exercises, and was delighted that her voice seemed clearer than it had ever sounded to her.
"It must be because I am so happy," she told herself. "I wish I had a lesson this afternoon. I hate to wait till the morning."
After she had sung as long as she dared, she practiced some accompaniments till her fingers tired, and then she took up a magazine and read a couple of stories, becoming so absorbed in the last one that she hardly heard a clock below striking loudly, though some sense of its strident tones made her start from her chair in dismay lest she should have missed the tea-hour.
"How stupid of me—" she began, glancing at her plain little wrist-watch. Her face fell as she looked unbelievingly at the hands pointing to three o'clock.
"It must be run down," she said, frowning and holding the watch to her ear. "No, it's going. It must be slow."
A glance at the big clock in the tower opposite her bedroom window convinced her that her watch was to be taken seriously. There was nearly an hour and a half before she might venture down into the tea-room and make such acquaintances as she could without the aid of Doris Leighton or Rosamond Merton.
"I wish I hadn't been so particular about that mending," she thought ruefully. "It was a shameful waste of time to do it at the studio. I was so particular to have everything done up to the last notch that there isn't a single letter to write, or button to sew on, or—or—anything. I simply can't sit down like a tame tabby this first exciting afternoon, when all sorts of wonderful things may be going to happen to me after while."
She sighed over the prospect of being bottled up for such an interminable period and regretted that Milano's orders were so strict in regard to her intercourse with her family.
"It's a perfect shame that I can't go home every day," she thought suddenly, rather pitying herself for the privations she was suffering. "I am going to miss them terribly and I shouldn't wonder if I'd get rather hard-hearted and self-centered, living this way just for myself."
She never thought of seeking Miss Ardsley, although that lady had given her the most cordial invitation to visit her in her own rooms any time that she wished, particularly insisting on her bringing Mrs. Bruce Hayden in to call at any time she might be in the building. Somehow, the atmosphere of Miss Ardsley's luxuriant rooms had rather stifled Patricia on her one admission to them when she went with Elinor and Rosamond Merton to make the necessary arrangements for procuring the little room.
"If Doris Leighton hadn't gone off for a week just as we got that first glimpse of her," she mourned, fussing about the trifles on the dainty dresser. "Or if I only knew someone to say a word to. It seems like a week since I heard a human voice. I'd go out and take a walk if——"
Rap-a-tap! Someone was using the diminutive knocker on the sitting-room door.
Patricia flew to open it, and a dark, medium-sized girl in a shabby bronze velveteen frock stood on the threshold, looking very much surprised indeed.
"Is Miss Merton in?" she asked, looking beyond Patricia into the vacant rooms.
Patricia was sorry to have to confess that Miss Merton was away for the rest of the week. She hoped the girl might come in notwithstanding, but she turned to go without much ceremony and was half-way across the hall when she suddenly paused and came back to where Patricia lingered on the the sill.
"Are you the new girl?" she asked with surprising directness. "Pupil of Tancredi?"
Patricia answered eagerly that she was very new and that she had taken two lessons from the noted teacher.
The other girl turned and walked into the room, selecting an easy chair and seating herself with every appearance of meaning to stay.
Patricia was delighted.
"I'm so glad you came," she said with great cordiality, seating herself near the other and beaming on her. "I haven't seen a soul since one o'clock and I was beginning to petrify."
"First day?" inquired the girl laconically.
On Patricia admitting it was not only her first day, but first afternoon, having parted from her sister only after a light and early lunch in her own room, the newcomer nodded.
"H—h'm. It gets you, doesn't it? The first time you're stranded on a lonely shore certainly makes home look good," she said thoughtfully. "Funny thing is, that no matter how dressy the shore happens to be," she threw a glance about the luxuriant room, "it's just as lonely—the first time. Ever been away from home before?"
Patricia explained that she had never had a real home till nearly two years ago, but that she had never been entirely separated from both her sisters and friends until now.
"Plenty of nice girls here," the girl acknowledged. "But you have to pick out your own sort for yourself. Have you known Merton long?"
Patricia recognized the art student in the use of the last name, and she said eagerly, "I hardly know her at all. You aren't studying with Tancredi, are you?"
As she expected, the girl laughed a quick negative. "Not me," she returned, ungrammatical and emphatic. "I can't croak a note and my fingers never would make melody if I tried till I were a hundred. I'm doing the other side—paint and the like."
"I knew it!" cried Patricia, much pleased by her own perception. "I was sure I smelled paint when you came in. Have you a studio, or are you studying at one of the schools?"
"Both," answered the other, briskly. "I have a sort of studio across the hall here, and I am going to night life at the only school in New York. How did you recognize the hall-marks? I thought you were vocal and Tancredi?"
Patricia told her that she had spent some months at the Academy in another city, and that both her sister and brother-in-law were artists, and though she had just started in as a music student, she was much more familiar with the fraternity than with the song birds.
"I see," said the girl. "You must be worth while, even though you are located in these fluffy apartments with the ultra Merton. I think I shall become better acquainted. What's your name?"
Patricia was much diverted by this direct address. "I am Patricia Kendall," she returned with equal candor. "I like your looks, too, and I'm quite willing to be as chummy as you like."
"H—h'm," said the girl again. "Don't bank on me. Merton isn't in my class, and if you're her chum, I'll have to decline anything more than mere acquaintance."
Patricia began a hasty explanation of her presence in the luxurious rooms, but the girl waved her words aside with abrupt good humor. "You may not know her well," she insisted, smiling a pleasant wide smile. "But you simply must be some sort of a bob or she wouldn't take to you. Merton is not a wasteful child."
Patricia understood that the girl was entirely in earnest, and the idea that she was committed to an exclusive and perhaps unpopular set among the democracy of talent at Artemis Lodge rather chilled her.
"You are a friend of hers yourself," she accused with a trace of indignation. "You wouldn't be coming in here to see her if you weren't."
"Oh, am I, indeed?" grinned the girl. "Don't jump at conclusions at that reckless rate, Miss Patricia Kendall. I'm merely connected with the ultra Merton by means of a piece of canvas and some paint tubes. In other words, I'm at work on a panel of peacocks and goldy sunbeams for her music room at home, and am only tolerated because I can draw little birdies with pretty eyes in their tails better than anyone who happens to be here now."
Patricia forgot Miss Merton in her sudden interest. "Oh, are you doing some panels for her?" she asked, leaning forward with shining eyes. "You must be awfully clever. Will you let me see them? I want to tell Bruce all about them, if I may."
Her interest seemed to please the girl. She rose abruptly and held out her hand. "Shake on good fellowship," she said heartily, and Patricia accepted the queer invitation with great good will.
"Come along over," invited the girl, jerking her head toward the opposite side of the hall. "Everything's in a mess, but you won't mind. You'll have to put up with that sort of things if we're to be friends."
"Indeed, I'll love it!" said Patricia enthusiastically. It was very good to be taken into fellowship so informally. "Bruce and Elinor mess up their studios terribly and I used to trail clay all over the place when I had the modeling mania."
The girl threw open the door of a large bare, well-lighted room, that somehow managed, in spite of rather poor furniture and much disorder, to look attractive and inviting; and Patricia saw on a huge easel a tall canvas with beautiful, gorgeous peacocks strutting proudly against a background of ruddy gold.
"How stunning!" she cried with such conviction that the girl smiled and then grew serious. "How wonderful! How can you do it, when you're so young? Where did you learn to make such lovely things?"
"My father was an artist and he taught me when I was a little tad," replied the girl in a subdued tone which made the sympathetic Patricia's heart warm toward her.
"Was he—" began Patricia, hesitating.
"He was Henry Fellows. He died three years ago," said the girl quietly, and as though closing the subject, she added, "My name is Constance. I am nearly twenty years old, though I look younger." And then in a changed tone she added, "Tell me who this Bruce and Elinor are. I ought to know them if they aren't the rankest newcomers."
Patricia was gratified at the expression which Bruce's name brought to the clear hazel eyes.
"You're a fortunate piece," commented Constance Fellows, with a familiarity which was not too intimate. "Tancredi and Bruce Hayden and a real family of your own—not to mention being a chum of Rosamond Merton."
Patricia thought she caught a flavor of sarcasm in the last name, but instantly decided that it was her own suspicious nature that suggested the thought. She was beginning to like Constance Fellows in a sincere and unaffected way that could not be compared with the ardent admiration she had felt for Miss Merton, and, as she always attributed the best motives to those she liked, she felt quite ashamed of her ungenerous thought.
The hall clock sounded again, this time heard clearly through the open door, and Patricia was astonished to find that the tea-hour had arrived without her knowing it.
"Am I all right to go down just as I am?" she inquired rather anxiously of her new friend. "Ought I put on a hat or something?"
"Put on anything you please. Take a parasol or a pair of galoshes if you feel that your system craves them," replied Constance calmly. "I am going just as I am. We girls who are in the house usually are glad to sneak in without prinking."
Patricia giggled. "Lead me down," she commanded briskly. "I'm perfectly crazy to see what's what and who's who. I was going to find out all about the various girls from Doris Leighton, but I'm sure you'll do very well in her place."
"I call that a real compliment," declared Constance with evident sincerity. "Leighton is the squarest damsel in the whole troupe and she isn't spoiled by her beauty either."
They found the tea-room filled as on the other day, and Patricia, thanks to Constance Fellows' kindness, found herself one of a gay group near the piano, as much at home among the chattering girls as though she had known them for weeks.
"I tell you what it is, Avis Coulter," Constance was saying to a very plain, angular girl with large spectacles when the tea was almost over, "we've got to show this budding genius a little friendly attention, or she'll get homesick and mopey before the resplendent Merton returns to coddle her. What are you going to do to liven her dragging days?"
The spectacled girl rubbed her nose thoughtfully. "I've tickets for a concert at Carnegie Hall tomorrow afternoon," she hazarded doubtfully.
"And I have a perfectly good studio party at my cousin Emily's," said another girl.
"And I'm going to have a spread in my room tomorrow night," volunteered a third member of the party.
Constance Fellows nodded approval. "That sounds very well to me," she said. "I accept for Miss P. Kendall and myself. Who's to bring the chaperone for these festivities?"
Avis Coulter, on the score of the concert being in the afternoon, declared that it was all stuff to think of such a thing, while Marie Jones said that her cousin Emily was chaperone enough for an army of buds, and Ethel Walters sniffed at the idea of a chaperone for a spread in one's very own room, under the roof with Miss Ardsley and the dependable Miss Tatten, the house-keeper, whom Patricia had not yet seen.
Constance would have none of their reasoning, however, and insisted that one of the older students at Artemis Lodge be in charge of all the festivities shown Patricia in the interval of Miss Merton's absence.
"I am responsible for her," she said firmly, "and I am not going to present her to Merton with the slightest social blot upon her dazzling whiteness. Chaperoned she must and shall be, or she doesn't budge a step."
Patricia was very much amused and surprised to see that Constance had her way. Instead of rebelling, as she had expected, the girls gave in at once, showing as much meekness in fulfilling the wishes of this decided young person as though it were she and not they that was granting the favors.
Patricia went back to her room cheered and exhilarated, and found the brief time before the dinner hour all too short for the necessary amount of practicing she had portioned off for herself.
Dinner in the gay little restaurant with its decorated walls and sociable small tables was a far more enjoyable affair than she had thought it could be when she had looked forward to it in her lonely interval, and after another half hour of chat by the fire-side in the library she went to her room highly delighted with her first day at Artemis Lodge.
Stopping at the public telephone in the hall—she decided not to use the one in Miss Merton's sitting-room until the owner was at home again—she called up Elinor and gave her a brief report.
"I'm having a perfectly lovely time," she told her. "And as Doris isn't coming back till next week, I am going to bring someone who has been very nice to me home to supper on Sunday, in her place. I know you'll like her, and," here she laughed a little, "tell Judy she isn't at all pretty."
A DINNER FOR TWO
Rosamond Merton came home unexpectedly to find Patricia grown very much at home indeed during the four days of her absence.
She opened the door of the sitting-room, after a light tap of the tiny brass knocker, to find Patricia rising from the piano-stool with pleased expectation in her face, an expression which rapidly became one of joyful surprise. Rosamond was so much prettier than Patricia had been picturing her that she fairly beamed as she came to greet her.
"How lovely of you to come back so soon," she said with such warmth that Rosamond Merton felt glad that she had been compelled to cut her visit short.
"It's lovely to be welcomed home," she returned, beginning to pull off her gloves. "I always dreaded the empty rooms after I had been away. Have you been quite comfortable? I left so hurriedly that I hadn't time to arrange for your arrival."
Patricia assured her that she was absolutely in clover, and she showed her the little bedroom as a proof, exhibiting the easy chair, the cosy table and all her other small comforts with a great deal of pride.
Rosamond was genuinely interested in all the contrivances which had been installed for Patricia's well-being and she showed so much of what Patricia called "human" feeling that she won the last citadel in that young lady's affections.
"Do you know I was dreadfully afraid of you that day at Tancredi's?" she confessed when they were once more in the sitting-room by the fire.
Rosamond had laid aside her traveling dress and slipped on a soft fur-trimmed crepe lounging robe with her feet in embroidered satin mules, and the impressionable Patricia was feasting her eyes on her. She was used to beauty—and beauty of a much higher class—in her own sister Elinor, and every day her mirror reflected quite as attractive features as those of her new companion, but the extreme luxury with which Rosamond indulged her fancy in the matter of clothing was a revelation to her.
She looked at the shimmering cloudy-blue folds of the robe, at the soft dark edges of fur with their under-ruffles of pink chiffon, at the lace and ribbons of the petticoat which showed where the robe fell away, and she forgot they were merely outer trappings, to be bought from any department store or private shop. They seemed part of a superior charm belonging exclusively to Rosamond Merton, and Patricia sighed as she saw in the mirror over the mantel-shelf the image of a fluffy-haired girl in an unpretentious blouse.