To My Little Friend
MARION AMES TAGGART
I. Her Father's Plan II. Traveling North III. New Friends IV. Villa Rosa V. A Minuet VI. Purple and Fine Linen. VII. A Sleigh-Ride VIII. An Absent-Minded Cousin IX. The Flemings X. Patty's Pranks XI. The Book Party XII. The Hurly-Burly XIII. Home-Made Music XIV. A Funny Family XV. The Lawn-Party XVI. Unbounded Hospitality XVII. A Hurly-Burly Fire XVIII. At Vernondale XIX. A Picnic XX. The Rescue XXI. A Reading-Club XXII. A Welcome Guest
HER FATHER'S PLAN
"How old are you, Patty?" asked her father, abruptly.
"My conscience! what a great girl you're getting to be. Stand up and let me look at you."
Patty Fairfield, with two twists and a spring, brought herself to her feet, and stood awaiting her father's inspection.
He saw a slender, graceful girl, a Southern blonde of the purest type. Her pretty golden hair would gladly have hung in curly masses, but it was only allowed to have its own sweet will around her temples and at the end of a long thick braid. Her eyes were blue, deep and twinkly, and the rest of her face was as pretty and sweet as soft girlish contours and a perfect complexion could make it.
But best of all was the gentle expression and frank, good-natured smile which so often broke into mischievous dimples.
It did on this occasion, and Patty laughed merrily at her father's grave consideration of her.
"What is it, papa?" she asked. "Did you think I was still an infant, and were you going to buy me a new dolls' house? Or were you going to take me to the circus? I'm not a bit too old for the circus."
"Aren't you? Then I will take you, but what is on my mind at present is a much more serious matter. Sit down again, Puss, and I'll tell you all about it.
"You know for years I've looked forward to the time when you should grow up to be old enough to keep house for me. And I thought then we'd go back North and settle down among my people and your mother's relatives. I haven't been North since your mother died, but now I want to go, and I want you to spend the rest of your life there. In many ways it will be better for you than Virginia. You will have more advantages; your life will be broader and more varied. Now I can't be ready to leave here for good in less than a year; I want to sell out my lumber interests and settle up my business affairs.
"But I am continually receiving letters from your aunts,—you have lots of aunts, Patty,—and they are apparently all anxious that you shall visit them. So, if you consent, this is my plan. You've never traveled any, have you, Puss?"
"Never been out of Virginia in my life, papa."
"No? Well, you ought to see a little of how the rest of the world lives and moves. So I think I'll let you visit in the North for a year,—say three months with each of your four aunts,—and then next fall I'll be ready to join you, and we'll buy a house and you shall be mistress of it."
"A home of our own? Oh, papa, I'd like that lots!"
"Yes, so would I. As we have always lived in boarding-houses since your mother's death, you've had no opportunity to learn the details of housekeeping, and these four visits will show you four very distinct types of families."
"Why, are my aunts all so different, papa?"
"Indeed they are, and though I hope you can make yourself happy with each one, yet you will find life very different in the various homes."
"Tell me about them, papa," said Patty, contentedly settling herself back among the cushions of the couch, for she dearly loved a long talk with her father.
"Well, you will go first to the St. Clairs. You remember Uncle Robert, your mother's brother, who was here four or five years ago, don't you?"
"Indeed I do; he brought me a French doll nearly as big as I was then myself,—and a whole five-pound box of candy. He is a lovely man. But I've never seen Aunt Isabel or the children,—only their photographs."
"Your Aunt Isabel is,—but no,—I won't tell you anything about your relatives. You may discover their faults and virtues for yourself. Most of all, my child, you will need to cultivate your sense of proportion. Do you know what proportion means?"
"Oh, yes, papa, I studied 'ratio and proportion' in arithmetic."
"Not that kind," said her father, smiling; "I mean a proportion of human interests, of amusements or occupations. I wonder if you are too young to understand."
"No, I'm not too young to understand anything," said Patty, fairly blinking in her endeavor to look as wise as an owl.
"Well, then, listen while I put it this way. Suppose you were to make a cake, an ordinary sized cake, you know, how much yeast would you put in it?"
"Not any, papa," said Patty, laughing merrily. "I know enough housekeeping not to put yeast in a cake. I'd use baking-powder."
"Yes," said her father, quite undisturbed, "that is what I meant,—baking-powder. Now how much of it would you use?"
"Well, about two teaspoonfuls," said Patty, feeling very important and housewifely.
"Yes. Now suppose instead of two teaspoonfuls you put in two cupfuls."
"Why then I wouldn't have any cake at all! I reckon it would rise right up the chimney and run down on the roof outside."
"Well, that shows just what I mean. There'd be a too great proportion of baking-powder, wouldn't there?"
"Indeed there would," assented Patty, much interested in the conversation, but a little bewildered.
"To try again," her father continued, "suppose your frock was so covered by trimming that the material could scarcely be seen at all."
"Then," said Patty, who was rapidly learning her lesson, "then there'd be too great a proportion of trimming for the frock."
"Ah," said her father, "you begin to see my drift, do you? And if you had all tables in your house, and no chairs or bedsteads or bureaus, there'd be too great a proportion of tables, wouldn't there?"
"Yes; and I perceive," said Patty, slowly and with mock gravity, "that proportion means to have too many of one thing, when you'd better have a lot of others."
"No, you're all wrong! That is a lack of proportion. Proportion is to have exactly the right amount of each ingredient."
"Yes,—and what has all this to do with Aunt Isabel? Does she put too much baking-powder in her cake, or has she nothing but tables in her house?"
"Those, my dear, were only figures of speech. But if you're going to make a home for your old father next year, I want you to learn from observation what are the principal ingredients to put into it, and then learn to adjust the proportions."
"Papa, I believe I do know what you mean, but it's all out of proportion when you call yourself 'my old father,' for you're not old a bit. You're a beautiful young man, and I'm sure any one who didn't know us would take you for my brother."
"Come, come, Puss, you mustn't be so flattering, or I'll keep you here, and not let you go North at all; and I do believe you're just dying to go."
"I'd like it lots if you were going too. But to be away from you a whole year is no fun at all. Can't I wait until next fall and we'll go together?"
"No, Patsie; your aunts are urging me to let you visit them and I think the experiences will do you good. And beside, my plans for the next year are very uncertain. I may have to go to Bermuda to see about my plantation there,—and all things considered, I think you would be better off in the North. I shall miss you, of course, but a year soon slips away, you know, and it will fly very quickly for you, as you will be highly entertained with your new experiences."
Now, Patty Fairfield was a philosophic little girl, so when she found that her father's mind was made up she accepted the situation and offered no objections of any kind. And, indeed the new plan was not without its charm. Although she knew none of her aunts, she knew a great deal about them, and their Northern homes seemed attractive to her in many ways.
"What about school, papa?" she said, finally.
"That will be left to the judgment of each aunt in turn. I think Aunt Isabel has a governess for her children, and Aunt Hester will probably teach you herself. But you will learn enough, and if not, you can consider it a year's vacation, and I'll put you back in school when I am with you again."
"Well," said Patty, meditatively, "I think it will be very nice, and I'll like it, but I'll be awful lonesome for you," and with a spring she jumped into her father's arms.
"Yes, of course, my baby, we'll be homesick for each other, but we'll be brave, and when we feel very lonesome, we'll sit down and write each other nice long letters."
"Oh, that will be fun, I love letters; and here comes Clara, may I tell her about it?"
"Yes, and tell her she must come to see me once in a while, and cheer me after I lose my own little girl."
Clara Hayden was Patty's intimate friend and both the girls' hearts grew sad at the thought of parting.
"But," said Patty, who was determined to look on the bright side, "after a year, papa and I will have a house of our own, and then you can come and make us a long, long visit. And we can write letters, Clara, and you must tell me all about the girls, and about school and about the Magnolia Club."
"Yes, I will; and you write to me about all you do at your aunts' houses. Where do they live, Patty?"
"Well, I shall go first to Aunt Isabel's, and she lives in Elmbridge. That's in New Jersey, but it's quite near New York. Next I'm going to Aunt Hester's; she lives in Boston. Then I'm going to visit Aunt Grace. They live in Philadelphia, but I'll be with them in the summertime, and then they're at their country place somewhere on Long Island, wherever that may be. And the last one is Aunt Alice, and I forget the name of the town where she lives. Isn't it nice, Clara, to have so many aunts?"
"Yes, lovely! I suppose you'll go to New York often."
"I don't know; I think I'm afraid of New York. They say it's an awful dangerous place."
"Yes, it is. People get killed there all the time."
"Fiddlesticks! I don't believe they do. Well, I reckon I won't get killed. Uncle Robert will take better care of me than that."
As a result of many letters back and forth between Mr. Fairfield and the Northern aunts, Patty stood one morning on the platform of the railway station, all ready to depart for her new homes.
It was the first week in December, and the little girl shivered as she thought of the arctic cold to which she imagined herself going.
"Of course they'll meet me in a sleigh, won't they, papa?" she said.
"Perhaps so, but I doubt it," he replied. "They don't have such snowstorms in Jersey now as they used to when I was a boy. Last winter they had no sleighing at all. But here comes Miss Powers; let us go to greet her." Miss Powers was a sharp-faced lady who came marching along the platform with a firm step.
Patty was to travel in her care, not because she was an especially desirable traveling companion, but because she was the only acquaintance of the Fairfields who chanced to be going North at that time.
"Good-morning," she cried, "are you here already? I was certain you'd be late and miss the train. Not a very pleasant day, is it? I wish we had planned to go to-morrow instead. Why, Patty, you are wearing your best hat! You'll spoil it, I'm sure. Have you your trunk check? Give it to me, you'll certainly lose it else."
"Here it is, Miss Powers," said Mr. Fairfield, pleasantly, "and I dare say you will prove more responsible than my rattle-pated daughter."
He squeezed Patty's hand affectionately as he said this, and a great wave of homesickness came over the child's heart. She caught her father round the neck, and vainly trying to keep the tears back, she whispered,
"Oh, papa, dear, let me stay with you. I don't want to go to Aunt Isabel's,—I know she's horrid, and I just want you, you, you!"
Miss Powers was shocked at this exhibition of emotion, and said with asperity:
"Come, come, it's too late to talk like that now. And a big girl like you ought to be ashamed to act so babyish."
But Mr. Fairfield kissed Patty tenderly and said: "Dear, we're going to be very brave, you know,—and besides, you're only going for a visit. All people go visiting at some time in their lives, and next December I'll be shaking the dust of Richmond off of my feet and coming after you, pell-mell." Patty smiled through her tears, and then the train came tooting along and they all climbed aboard.
As the train waited for ten minutes, Mr. Fairfield had ample time to find the seats engaged for the travelers, and to arrange their hand-luggage in the racks provided for it. Then he bade Miss Powers good-bye, and, turning to Patty, clasped her in his arms as he said:
"Pattykins, good-bye. The year will soon pass away, and then we'll have a jolly little home together. Be brave and gentle always, and as a parting gift I give you this little box which contains a talisman to help you bear any troubles or difficulties that may come to you."
As he spoke, he put into Patty's hand a small parcel sealed at each end with red sealing-wax.
"Don't open it now," he continued. "Keep it just as it is until you reach Aunt Isabel's. Then after you have gone to your room on the first night of your stay with her, open the box and see what is in it."
Then the warning whistle blew, and with a final embrace of his little daughter, Mr. Fairfield left the car.
The train started, and for a moment Patty saw her father waving his handkerchief, and then he was lost to her sight. She felt just like indulging in a good cry, but Miss Powers would have none of that.
The worthy spinster was already opening her bag and preparing to make herself comfortable for her journey.
"Now, Patty," she said, but not unkindly, "you've left your pa behind, and you're going away from him to stay a year. You've got to go, you can't help yourself, so you might just as well make the best of it, and be cheerful instead of miserable. So now that's settled, and you'd better get out your books and games or whatever you brought along to amuse yourself with."
Miss Powers had taken off her hat and gloves and arranged a small balsam pillow behind her head. She put on her glasses, and opened a book in which she at once became absorbed.
Patty, being thus left to her own devices, became much interested in the novelty of her surroundings. It was great fun to lean back against the high-cushioned seat and look out of the window at the trees and plantations and towns as they flew by. This kept her amused until noontime, when a waiter came through the car banging a gong.
Miss Powers shut her book with a snap, and announced that they would go to the dining-car for their lunch.
This was even more fun, for it seemed so queer to Patty to sit at a table and eat, while at the same time she was flying through the country at such break-neck speed.
"It's like the enchanted carpet, isn't it, Miss Powers?" she said, as they slid through a thick grove and then out into the sunshine again.
"What is? what carpet?" asked Miss Powers, looking down at the floor of the car.
"Oh, not a real carpet," said Patty, politely repressing a smile at the elder lady's ignorance of fairy-lore. "I mean, for us to go scooting along so fast is like the travelers on the magicians" carpet. Don't you know, the carpet would move of itself wherever he told it to."
"H'm," commented Miss Powers, "that would be a good kind of a carpet to have at housecleaning time, wouldn't it?"
This prosaic disposition of the magic carpet quite shocked Patty, but she adapted herself to the idea, and said, "Yes, indeed; you could just say, 'Carpet, get up and go out and hang yourself on the clothes-line, and then shake yourself well and come back again,'—oh, that would be convenient."
Miss Powers smiled in an absent-minded sort of way, and Patty chattered on, half to herself and half to her companion.
"But suppose the carpet should be naughty and refuse to go,—that wouldn't be so pleasant."
"Or suppose it should run away and never come back?"
This latter remark was made by a strange voice, and Patty looked up quickly to see the man who was seated opposite, smiling in a very friendly way.
He was an elderly gentleman with white hair and beard, and it seemed to Patty's vivid imagination that he looked like Noah, or some other of the ancient patriarchs.
"That would be a great joke on the housekeeper," Patty answered, feeling already well acquainted with the pleasant old gentleman, "and I suppose she would have to get a new carpet."
"Or have a hard-wood floor laid in her room," he responded.
"Or live on a bare floor," said Miss Powers. "I think it would be a very slack housekeeper who would let her carpets shake themselves, and she would probably be too lazy or too poor to replace the ones that ran away."
Mr. Noah, as Patty called the old man in her mind, laughed heartily at this, and during the rest of the luncheon hour proved himself a genial and entertaining companion.
The day passed quickly, and at bedtime Patty was quite tired enough to welcome the thought of tucking herself away in one of those queer-looking bunks that the porter was arranging.
"I'll sleep on the top shelf," she said, gleefully, "may I, Miss Powers?"
"I'll be very glad if you will, child,—I've no desire to climb up there. Ugh, I don't think I can sleep anywhere on this bobbety-bobble train."
Then the porter brought a small step-ladder, and this delighted Patty beyond measure.
"Ho!" said she, "now I'm 'Jack and the Beanstalk.' 'A-hitchet, a-hatchet, a-up I go'!" and with two jumps and a spring she landed in the upper berth.
"Now," she said to herself, "I know how Alice felt when she grew so large that she filled up the whole room. Let me see, what did she do? She put one arm out the window and one foot up the chimney. Well, I can't do that, and I don't see any little cakes to eat, as she did, that will make me grow smaller, so I s'pose I'll just have to scrounch around till I'm ready for bed, and then slide in. I'm sure I shan't sleep, it's all so noisy and exciting."
But when she finally straightened herself out on the coarse, cinder-sprinkled linen of the Pullman, the chink-a-chunk of the train changed to a lullaby, and in about two minutes Patty was sound asleep.
It was about four o'clock the next afternoon when the train came puffing into the great train-shed in Jersey City.
It had passed through Elmbridge about an hour before, but being an express train, it made no stop at such small places.
So Mr. St. Clair had arranged to meet Patty at Jersey City and take her back home with him.
Patty recognized her uncle as soon as he entered the car, and ran to greet him.
"Howdy, Uncle Robert," she said, in her pretty southern way, "are you looking for me?"
"I am, if you're little Patty Fairfield. But you've grown so since I saw you that I think I shall have to ask for your credentials."
Patty laughed, and answered: "My credentials are that I remember the doll and the candy you brought me five years ago, and I just know you're my Uncle Robert."
"I am indeed, and I've come to carry you off to a lot of other admiring relatives."
Then Patty introduced Miss Powers, and after gathering up the various wraps and bags they all left the train. Miss Powers was to cross the ferry to New York, so Patty and Uncle Robert escorted her to the ferry-boat and bade her good-bye, with many thanks for her kind care of the little girl during the journey.
Then Uncle Robert said: "Now we'll go out to Elmbridge as quick as we can skip, but first we must pick up Ethelyn, whom I left in the waiting-room."
"Oh, is Ethelyn here?" cried Patty. "I am so glad, I'm just crazy to see her."
Apparently Ethelyn was crazy too, for she flew at her cousin as soon as she entered the door.
"You dear thing!" she exclaimed, "I'm so delighted to see you. Oh, how pretty you are! We'll be awfully good chums, won't we?"
"I'm sure we shall," replied Patty, who was just a wee bit frightened by this dashing young cousin.
Ethelyn was about Patty's age, but somewhat shorter and decidedly less slender. Her yellow hair was not long, indeed it was cut evenly round just above her shoulders, but it was crinkled and fluffed out until her head had the contour of a yellow pumpkin.
A huge black hat with a wide rolling brim was perched on top of the yellow mop, and ornamented with feathers and shining buckles.
Both the girls wore dark blue suits trimmed with fur, but Ethelyn's was resplendent with wide lace-trimmed collars, and she wore clattering bangles on her wrists, and a fancy little muff hung round her neck by a silver chain.
Her skirts were as short as Patty's, and she seemed like a little girl, and yet she had a wise, grown-up air, and she began to patronize her cousin at once.
"Your frock is nice," she said, "but it has no style to it. Well, I suppose you couldn't get much in the way of dressmakers where you lived, but Madame Marsala will soon turn you out all right. Mamma says she'll just enjoy ordering new clothes for you, and your papa told her to get whatever she chose. Oh, won't we have fun! We always go to New York for our things, and the shops are just lovely."
"Come, come, children," said Uncle Robert, who had been looking after Patty's trunks, "the train is made up, let us get aboard."
They went through one of a whole row of little gates in an iron fence, and Patty wondered at the numerous trains and the crowds of people moving swiftly towards them.
She wondered if everything at the North were conducted on such a wholesale and such a hurrying plan. They hurried along the platform and hurried into a car, then Uncle Robert put the two children into a seat together, while he sat behind them and devoted himself to his evening paper.
The girls chatted gaily and Patty learned much about the home she was going to, and began to think of it as a very beautiful and attractive place.
The train stopped at Elmbridge, and without waiting for her father, Ethelyn piloted Patty off the car.
"Here's our carriage," she said, as a handsome pair of horses with jingling chains came prancing up. A footman in livery handed the young ladies in, and Patty felt as if she had come among very grand people indeed.
While they waited for Mr. St. Clair, who was giving the checks to the baggage-master, Patty admired the pretty little station of rough gray stone, and the neatly kept grounds and paths all about it.
"Yes, they are pretty," assented Ethelyn, "but just wait till you see our grounds. We have the finest place in Elmbridge. In summer it's just lovely."
Then Mr. St. Clair came, and giving the coachman the order "Home," he seated himself opposite the two girls.
"Well, Patty, how do you like it, so far?" he asked, genially, of his niece.
"Oh, Uncle Robert, I think it's beautiful, but I hoped we'd have a sleigh-ride. I've never been in a sleigh."
"Bless you, child, we don't have much sleighing. However, perhaps we can scare up a sleigh-ride before the winter is over. We have a pretty fine sleigh, eh, Ethelyn?"
"Yes, indeed, we have a beautiful great big one, and I have a little cutter, all my own. I'll take you sleighing, Patty, if we get half a chance."
Soon they reached the St. Clair home and drove up the long winding avenue to the house.
Patty saw a brilliantly lighted mansion, and as they drew near it, she heard the most piercing shrieks and yells, as of a human being in desperate straits of some kind.
Patty wondered if she were about to enter a Bluebeard's castle, but deeming it polite to take no notice of the uproar, she tried to appear unheeding though the shrieks increased in violence as they came up to the house and the carriage stopped at the front door.
"Here we are, chickens," said Uncle Robert, as the footman threw open the carriage door, "here's your new home, Patty, and you're very welcome to your Uncle Robert's house."
It was almost dark and Patty could distinguish only the outlines of a magnificent house, so large that it seemed like a palace.
They went up massive stone steps between great stone lions, to a wonderful veranda bright with electric lights, and lights streamed from every window and from the wide front doors which flew open as they reached them.
But though all this beauty and elegance impressed Patty like a dream of Fairyland, she paid little heed to it, for she was so shocked and disturbed by the shrieks from within, which were now distinctly audible as those of a child.
"Goodness me!" exclaimed Ethelyn, just as Patty could stand it no longer and was about to ask what it meant, "what can be the matter with Florelle this time? I hope you enjoy squealing, Patty, for you'll hear plenty of it in this house. Don't mind it; little sister has a fearful temper, and we have to let her squeal it out."
Patty was relieved to learn that it wasn't a case of intentional torture, and by this time she found herself in the great hall.
The grandeur of her surroundings fairly dazzled her, for Patty was an inexperienced little girl, and had lived simply, though very comfortably all her life. And so she looked with amazement on the walls frescoed in brilliant colors, the enormous gilt-framed mirrors, the tall palms and marble statues, the rich draperies and stained-glass windows.
If she had been older and more experienced she would have known that it was too gorgeous, the coloring too bright and garish, and the ornamentation over-showy. But to her childish eyes it all seemed wonderfully fine.
"Oh, Uncle Robert," she cried, "is this your home? How beautiful it is! I never saw such a lovely place in my life."
This speech pleased Mr. St. Clair beyond measure, for he dearly loved to have his beautiful home appreciated, and he beamed, and rubbed his hands together with a general air of satisfaction.
"Yes, yes," he said, "it is fine,—fine! There isn't another such place for miles around."
Then they went into the drawing-room and Patty was presented to her Aunt Isabel.
Mrs. St. Clair was a fair, large woman, with golden hair, elaborately frizzed, and kind blue eyes. She was fashionably dressed, and her silks rustled and her bugles tinkled as she came forward to meet her visitor.
"I am charmed to see you, Patty, my dear," she said, kissing her affectionately.
"And I am very glad to be here, Aunt Isabel," said Patty, and just then she was interrupted by the violent entrance of what seemed to be a small pink cyclone.
This was the eight year old Florelle, and without a doubt it was she who was responsible for the shrieks Patty had heard.
The child wore a short, beruffled dress of pink silk, a huge pink sash, and pink stockings and slippers. Her eyes were reddened with crying and her cheeks were tear-stained, and she ran to Patty, screaming:
"I will! I will! She's my cousin, and I'm going to see her now."
Then she threw her arms round Patty's waist, and smiled up into her face. She was a very pretty little girl when she smiled, and Patty couldn't help admiring her, though so far she had seemed like anything but a lovable character.
"Oh, Florelle," said her mother, mildly, "how naughty you are. I told you to go to bed like a goody girl, and you should see Cousin Patty in the morning."
"But I wanted to see her to-night. So I made nurse dress me, and I'm going to stay up to dinner."
"Let her stay, mamma," said Ethelyn. "If you don't, she'll yell again, and I'm tired of hearing her."
"Yes, you can stay, baby," said Mrs. St. Clair, "and now, Ethelyn, take Patty to her room, and get yourselves ready for dinner."
The two girls went off together, and Patty discovered that the rest of the house was as sumptuous as her first view of it.
The same brilliant coloring and florid ornamentation appeared everywhere, and when at last Ethelyn stopped before an open door, and said, "This is your room," Patty gave a little cry of delight, for she entered what seemed a veritable fairy bower.
The walls and ceiling were tinted pink and frescoed with garlands of roses and flying birds. There was a fascinating bay window with latticed panes, and a cozy window-seat with soft cushions. The brass bedstead had a lace coverlet over pink silk, and the toilet-table had frilled curtains and pink ribbons. There were silver-mounted brushes and bottles and knickknacks of all kinds. The little work-table was a gem, and there was a lovely writing-desk with silver appointments and pink blotting-paper. Then there was a cozy divan, with lots of fluffy pink pillows, and through a half-opened door, Patty could see a dear little dressing-room.
There were beautiful pictures on the walls, and costly vases and bric-a-brac all about, and it all showed such kind thought on the part of somebody, that Patty's heart was touched.
"Is it for me? Who did it all?" she asked, turning to Ethelyn with shining eyes.
"Oh, mamma did it; she loves to do such things. That is, she planned it, and the servants did the work. Here's my room right next. It's just like it, almost." So it was, or at least it had been, but it showed signs of carelessness and disorder. A lamp globe was broken, and there was a large hole burned in one of the pretty rugs. The toilet table, too, was in sad disarray, and some papers were sticking out of the closed desk.
"Don't look at it," said Ethelyn, apologetically, "I'm so careless. I broke that globe when I was swinging my dumb-bells, and I've done it so often that mamma declared she wouldn't get me another. And I upset the alcohol lamp on the rug. But I don't care; when we have a party it will all get spruced up; mamma has everything put in order then. Now we'll dress for dinner, Patty. What are you going to wear?"
"I don't know; I haven't many dresses. Aunt Isabel is going to buy me some, you know."
"Yes, I know. Let's see what you have."
Ethelyn was already kneeling before Patty's open trunk, and overhauling her belongings. "Oh, here's a blue crape," she cried, "you must look sweet in this. Put it on."
"Why, that's my best party-frock, Ethelyn."
"Never mind; wear it to-night, and mamma'll get you some new party clothes."
So Patty put on the blue crape, and very becoming it was, though somewhat inappropriate for a quiet family dinner.
"We only have one maid between us," explained Ethelyn, calling from her own room into Patty's. "Elise will do your hair when you want her, but just now she's doing mine."
To Patty's surprise, when she saw Ethelyn again, she was arrayed in a light green silk dress, and her hair was puffed high on her head. Patty wore hers as usual, and felt as if her cousin had suddenly grown up away from her.
"Doesn't my hair look nice?" asked Ethelyn, as the girls went down-stairs together. "Mamma says I'm too young to have it done up this way yet, but I don't care what she says. I'm fifteen, and I think I'm old enough to do as I choose. To-morrow we'll make Elise do yours up and see how you look."
"But I'm only fourteen," protested Patty, "and I don't want to be grown up for years yet. Your hair looks lovely, but I like you better with it down, as it was this afternoon."
"Don't say so before mamma, or shell insist on my wearing it so."
When the girls entered the drawing-room, Mrs. St. Clair smiled amiably at her pretty niece, and bade her come to her side.
"My dear," she said, "you are a pretty little girl, and a sweet one, I've no doubt, but your name I do not like at all. I can't abide nicknames, so I'm going to call you by your full name. What is it, Martha?"
"Martha!" exclaimed Patty in surprise, "oh, no, Aunt Isabel, I was named for my great-grandmother. My name is Patricia."
"Oh, how lovely," cried Aunt Isabel, kissing her niece in the exuberance of her delight. "We will all call you Patricia. It is a beautiful name and suits you extremely well. You must stand very straight, and acquire dignified manners in order to live up to it."
This made merry Patty laugh, but she offered no objection to her aunt's decision, and promised to sign her name Patricia whenever she wrote it, and to make no further use of the despised nickname while staying at Villa Rosa. Ethelyn was pleased too, at the change.
"Oh," she said, "now your name is as pretty as mine and Florelle's, and we have the prettiest names in Elmbridge. Here comes Reginald, you haven't seen him yet."
Reginald St. Clair, a lad of thirteen, advanced without a trace of shyness and greeted his new cousin.
"So it is Patricia," he said, as he took her hand; "I heard them rechristening you. How do you do, Cousin Patricia?"
"Very well, I thank you," she replied, smiling, "and though I meet you the last of my new cousins, you are not the least," and she glanced up at him, for Reginald was a tall boy for his age, taller than either Ethelyn or Patty.
"Not the least in any way, as you'll soon find out if you stay with us, Cousin Patricia."
Patty almost laughed at this boastful assumption of importance, but seeing that the boy was in earnest, she humored him by saying:
"As the only son, I suppose you are the flower of the family."
Then dinner was announced, and the beautiful dining-room was a new pleasure to the little visitor. She was rapidly making the discovery that riches and luxury were very agreeable, and she viewed with delight the handsome table sparkling with fine glass and silver.
"Well, Patricia," said Uncle Robert, who had been warned against using the objectionable nickname, "how do you like Villa Rosa so far?"
"Oh, I think it is beautiful, Uncle Robert. Every room is handsomer than the last, and my own room I like best of all. You're awfully good, Aunt Isabel, to give me such a lovely room, and to spend so much thought and time arranging it for me."
"And money, too," said her aunt, smiling. "That rug in your room, Patricia, cost four hundred dollars."
"Did it really?" said Patty, with such a look of amazement, almost horror, that they all laughed.
You see, Patty had never been used to such expensive rugs, still less had she been accustomed to hearing the prices of things mentioned so freely.
"Oh, Aunt Isabel, I'd rather not have it then. Really, I'd much rather have a cheaper one. Suppose I should spoil it in some way."
"Nonsense, my dear, spoil it if you like, I'll buy you another," said Uncle Robert, grandly.
"Never mind rugs," interrupted Reginald. "I say, mother, aren't you going to give a party for Patricia?"
"Yes, I think so," answered his mother, "but I haven't decided yet what kind of an affair it shall be."
"Oh, have a smashing big party, and invite everybody."
"No, Reginald," said Ethelyn, "I hate those big parties, they're no fun at all. It isn't going to be a party anyway. It's going to be a tea. Didn't you say so, mamma? A tea is a much nicer way to introduce Patricia than a party."
"Ho, ho," laughed her brother, "a tea! why they're the most stupid things in the world. Nobody wants to come to a tea."
"They do so," retorted Ethelyn, "you don't know anything about society. Teas are ever so much stylisher than evening entertainments, aren't they, mamma?"
"Well, I don't know," said Mrs. St. Clair, doubtfully, "the Crandons gave a tea when their cousin visited them."
"Ho, the Crandons," sneered Ethelyn, "they're nobody at all; why, they've only got one horse."
"I know it," said her mother, "but they're awfully exclusive. They won't speak to hardly anybody."
"Then don't speak to them," said Mr. St. Clair. "I just guess we're as good as the Crandons any day in the week. I don't know as you'd better invite them, my dear."
"They wouldn't come if you did," said Reginald.
"They would so," snapped Ethelyn, "they'd jump at the chance."
"I bet they wouldn't!"
"I bet they would! You don't know everything in the world."
"Neither do you!"
"Hush, children," said Mrs. St. Clair, mildly, "your Cousin Patricia will think you very rude and unmannerly if you quarrel so. Florelle is the only one who is behaving nicely, aren't you, darling?"
Florelle beamed at this, and looked like a little cherub, until Reginald slyly took a cake from her plate.
"Oh-h-h!" screamed Florelle, bursting into tears, "he took my cakie, he did,—give it to me!" and she began pounding her brother with her small fists.
But Reginald had eaten it, and no other cake on the plate would pacify the angry child.
"No, no," she cried, "I want that same one—it had a green nut on it,—and I wa-a-ant it!"
"But brother can't give it to you, baby, he's eaten it," said her father, vainly trying to console her with other dainties.
But Florelle continued to scream, and Mrs. St Clair was obliged to summon the nurse and have her taken up-stairs.
"Well, that's a relief," said Ethelyn, as the struggling child was carried away. "I told you you'd hear her yell pretty often, Patricia."
Patty felt rather embarrassed, and didn't know what to say; she was beginning to think Villa Rosa had some thorns as well as roses.
After dinner, as they sat round the great fireplace in the library, Mrs. St. Clair announced:
"I have made up my mind. I will give a tea for Patricia in order that she may be properly introduced to the Elmbridge people,—the best of them,—and then later, we will have a large party for her."
This pleased everybody and amiability was restored, and all fell to making plans for the future pleasures of their guest.
When Patty went to her room that night, she was so tired out with the excitements of the day, that she was glad to go to rest.
But first of all she opened the little box that her father had given her at parting. Was it possible that she had left her father only the day before? Already it seemed like weeks.
With eager fingers she broke the seals and tore off the paper wrappings, and found to her great delight an ivory miniature of her mother.
She had seen the picture often; it had been one of her father's chief treasures, and she prized it the more highly as she thought what a sacrifice it must have been for him to give it up, even to his child.
It was in a Florentine gold frame, and Patty placed it in the centre of her dressing-table, and then sat down and gazed earnestly at it.
She saw a sweet, girlish face, which was very like her own, though she didn't recognize the resemblance.
"Dear mother," she said softly, "I will try to be just such a little girl as you would have wished me to be if you had lived to love me."
"Mamma," said Ethelyn, the next morning at breakfast, "I'm going to take a holiday from lessons to-day, because Patricia has just come, and she doesn't want to begin to study right away."
"Indeed, miss, you'll do nothing of the sort," replied her mother; "you had a holiday yesterday because Patricia was coming; and one the day before, on account of Mabel Miller's tea; and you had holiday all last week because of the Fancy Bazaar. When do you expect to learn anything?"
"Well, I don't care," said Ethelyn, tossing her head, "I'm going to stay with Patricia to-day, anyhow; if she goes to the schoolroom, I will, and if she don't, I won't."
"Oh, I'll go to school with you, Ethelyn," said Patty, anxious to please both her aunt and cousin if possible.
But Mrs. St. Clair said, "No, indeed, Patricia, you don't want to begin lessons yet. Why, you're scarcely rested from your journey. I am going to New York to-day to buy you some new dresses, and if you're not too tired, you may go with me and help select them."
"Well, I just guess Patricia won't go to New York, unless I go too," cried Ethelyn in great excitement. "Do you think I'll stay at home and grub in the schoolroom while she's having a good time in the city? Not much, my Mary Anne!"
"Ethelyn!" said her mother, reprovingly, "how many times must I tell you not to use slang? It is vulgar and unladylike, and quite out of keeping with your social position."
"I don't care; it's expressive if it isn't stylish."
"Don't say stylish, either. That isn't genteel at all. Say 'correct.'"
"Oh, 'correct.' Well, mother, I guess it must be correct to use slang, 'cause Gladys Mahoney does, and she's a hummer on style."
"And I've no doubt her mother reproves her for it, just as I do you. Now go to the schoolroom, it is nearly ten o'clock."
"I won't go unless Patricia comes too. If she's going to New York with you, I'm going."
"Ethelyn," said Mrs. St. Clair, sternly, "do as I bid you. Go to the schoolroom at once, and study your lessons diligently."
"No, I won't," replied Ethelyn, stubbornly, "I won't stir a step unless Patty comes too."
"But I'm going to take Patricia to New York."
"Then I'm going to New York," said Ethelyn, with an air of settling the question, and then she began drumming on the table with her fingers.
"I want to go to New York with you, mamma," said Florelle; "I want to buy a new dolly."
"No, baby," said her mother, "you can't go this time. You stay at home like a good girlie, and I'll bring you a beautiful new doll."
"But I want to go! I will go!" and Florelle began to cry.
"Stop that crying," said her father, "stop it at once, and when I come home I'll bring you a big box of candy."
"No, I don't want candy,—I want to go to New York,—I want to go—I do-o-o," she wound up with a prolonged wail.
"Good gracious, Florelle," said Reginald, "do stop that fearful yowling. If you don't, as soon as I go down town I'll send a bear back here to eat you up."
At this Florelle screamed louder than ever, and had to be taken away from the table.
Patty felt quite helpless in the midst of this commotion. She had been accustomed to obey willingly her father's lightest wish, and Ethelyn's impertinence amazed her. As for little Florelle, she thought the child was quite old enough to be reasoned with, and taught not to cry so violently over every trifle.
But she realized it was not her place to criticise her cousins' behavior, so she did the best she could to pour oil on the troubled waters.
"Aunt Isabel," she said, "if you don't mind, I'll stay at home and study with Ethelyn."
"Well, do as you like, child," said her aunt, carelessly; "of course I can select your clothes just as well without you, and I'll take you both to New York some Saturday. But you needn't study unless you choose, you know."
"Well, I'll stay with Ethelyn, anyway," said Patty, tucking her arm through her cousin's as they went off to the schoolroom.
"What a mean old thing you are," said Ethelyn crossly. "You might just as well have said you'd go to New York, and then I would have gone too, and we could have had a lovely time shopping, and lunching at Delmonico's, and perhaps going to a matinee."
"But your mother said you couldn't go," said Patty, in surprise.
"Oh, that's nothing. I would have gone all the same, and now you've spoiled it all and we've got to drudge over our books. Here's the schoolroom. Miss Morton, this is my cousin, Patricia Fairfield. She is to begin lessons to-day."
While Ethelyn was talking, the girls had mounted to the third floor of the great house, and entered the large and attractive-looking schoolroom.
Miss Morton was a sweet-faced young woman, who greeted Ethelyn pleasantly and then turned cordially to the stranger.
"We are glad to have you with us," she said; "you may sit here at this desk, and presently I will ask you some questions about your studies."
Reginald was already in his place and was studying away for dear life. He was naturally a studious boy, and he was anxious to prepare himself to enter a certain school the next year.
But Ethelyn had no taste for study, and she flounced herself into her chair and unwillingly took up her books.
"Now, Ethelyn," said Miss Morton, "you must learn that history lesson to-day. You've dawdled over it so long, that it has become a real bug bear to you. But I'm sure if you determine to conquer it, you can easily do so. Just try it."
"Ho," called out Reginald, teasingly, "can't learn a history lesson! I couldn't wait for you, so I went on ahead. I'm 'way over to the 'Founding of the German Empire.' Where are you in history, Patricia?"
"I've only studied United States History," she replied, a little ashamed of her small attainments, "but I've been through that twice."
"Well," said Miss Morton, kindly, "it's better to know one thing thoroughly than to have smatterings of a great many. If you are familiar with United States History, you will enjoy lessons in the history of other countries for a change."
"I'm sure I shall," said Patty, "and my father told me to study whatever you thought best for me. But I don't like to study very much. I'd rather read story books."
Miss Morton examined Patty in arithmetic, geography, and some other branches, and decided that as her attainments in knowledge were about equal to those of her cousins, they might all have the same lessons each day.
Patty afterwards discovered that Reginald learned these lessons, and Ethelyn did not. But she simply skipped them and went on to the next, apparently making the same progress as her brother.
Patty had become absorbed in her history lesson, which was very interesting, when Ethelyn began to chatter.
"Miss Morton," she said, "we are going to have a party for my cousin."
"Are you? That will be very nice, but don't let us discuss it now, for I want you to put your whole attention on that history lesson."
"I will,—but, Miss Morton, it's going to be a very grand party. Everybody in Elmbridge will be invited. I mean," she added, tossing her head, "everybody that is anybody."
"Everybody is somebody," said Reginald, without looking up from his book, "and I wish you'd keep still, Ethelyn."
"Well, you know what I mean; everybody that's rich and important, and fit for us to know."
"Why," said Patty, looking at her cousin in surprise, "aren't people fit for you to know unless they're rich?"
"No," said Ethelyn, "I wouldn't associate with people unless they were rich, and neither would you, Patricia."
"Yes, I would," said Patty, stoutly, "if they were good and wise and refined, and they often are."
"Well, you can't associate with them while you're living with us, anyhow; we only go with the swells."
"Ethelyn," said Miss Morton, gently, "that isn't the right way to talk. I think—"
"Oh, never mind what you think," said Ethelyn, rudely, "you know the last time you preached to me, I nearly made mamma discharge you, and I'll do it for sure if you try it again."
Miss Morton bit her lip and said nothing, for she was a poor girl and had no wish to lose her lucrative position in the St. Clair household, though her ideas were widely at variance with those of her employers. But Patty's sense of justice was roused.
"Oh, Ethelyn," she said, "how can you speak to your teacher so? You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
"Oh, Miss Morton don't mind, do you?" said Ethelyn, who was really only careless, and had no wish to be unkind, "and it's true. I will have her sent away if she preaches at us, 'cause I hate it; but she won't preach any more, will you, Morty?" and Ethelyn smiled at her governess in a wheedlesome way.
"Go on with your lessons," said Miss Morton, in a quiet tone, though she was with difficulty repressing a desire to tell her pupil what she thought of her.
"Yes, do," growled Reginald; "how can a fellow study when you're chattering away with your shrill voice?"
"I haven't got a shrill voice," retorted Ethelyn, "have I, Patricia? Mamma says a soft, low voice is very stylish,—correct, I mean, and I'm sure mine is low and soft."
Ethelyn said this in such an affected whisper that Patty had to smile.
But Reginald said:
"Pooh, of course you have when you put on airs like that, but naturally your voice is a cross between a locomotive whistle and scratching on a slate."
"Well, yours isn't a bit better, anyway."
"I didn't say it was, did I?"
"I didn't say you did say so, did I?"
"I didn't say you said I said so, did I?"
"I didn't say you said, I said—you said,—"
"Children, stop quarreling," said Miss Morton, half laughing at the angry combatants whose flushed faces showed signs of coming tears.
But Patty laughed outright. "What sillies you are," she said, "to squabble so over nothing."
When school was over, it was time for luncheon, and after that Ethelyn told Patty that it was the afternoon for dancing-class and they were all to go.
"You must wear your blue crape, Patricia." she said, "and make yourself look as pretty as you can, and put on all your jewelry."
"But I haven't any jewelry," said Patty; "papa says little girls oughtn't to wear any."
"No jewelry? Why, how funny. I have loads of it. Well, no matter, I'll lend you some of mine; or we'll crib some out of mamma's jewel-case; I know where she hides the key."
"Thank you, Ethelyn, but I wouldn't wear borrowed ornaments, and I don't want to wear jewelry anyway. I'm not old enough."
"Oh, you are too! what silly, old-fashioned notions you have. And besides, while you're with us, mamma said you must do whatever we want you to."
So Patty reluctantly allowed Ethelyn to clasp a necklace round her throat, and slip several jingling bangles on her wrists.
"There!" said Ethelyn, adding an emerald brooch, which she had selected from her mother's collection, "now you don't look like a pauper anyhow."
"But I don't feel comfortable, Ethelyn, and besides, suppose I should lose these things."
"Oh, you won't lose them; and if you should, I don't believe mamma would scold much. She'd like it better than if I let you go looking like a nobody, and have the Mahoneys think our cousin was poor."
Ethelyn herself was resplendent in red silk trimmed with spangled lace. She wore shining slippers with high French heels, and all the jewelry she could cram on to her small person.
Florelle looked like a fairy in a short little white frock, all fine muslin and lace, with ruffles and frills that stood out in every direction. The overdressed little midget was delighted with her appearance, and pranced around in front of the mirror admiring herself. Reginald too, considered himself very fine in his black velvet suit, with a great white collar and immense white silk tie.
Miss Morton accompanied the children, and the St. Clair carriage carried them away to the dancing class. When they arrived, all was bustle and excitement. About forty gaily dressed children were assembled in a large hall, prettily decorated with flags and flowers.
Patty was fond of dancing, and danced very gracefully in her slow, Southern way, but she was utterly unfamiliar with the mincing steps and elaborate contortions attempted by the Elmbridge young people. However, she enjoyed it all from its very novelty, and she was pleasantly impressed with some of the boys and girls to whom she was introduced.
But she was amazed and almost angry at the way her cousin talked about her.
"Mabel," said Ethelyn, as she presented Patty to Mabel Miller, "this is my cousin, Patricia Fairfield. She is from Richmond, Virginia, and is visiting us for the winter. Her father is a millionaire, and he has lots of great plantations of,—of magnolias."
"Oh, no, Ethelyn," began Patty.
"Well, sweet potatoes, then, or something," went on Ethelyn, nudging her cousin to keep still. "You must excuse her dress, she couldn't get anything very nice in Virginia so mamma has gone to New York to-day to buy her some decent clothes."
Patty raged inwardly at this slighting and unjust remark about her native state, but she was a truly polite little girl and said nothing unkind in reply.
"Do you like to dance?" said Mabel Miller to Patty later, as they took places in a quadrille just forming.
"Yes," said Patty, "and I know these quadrilles, but I never saw fancy dances like those you have here."
"Oh, they're the latest thing," replied Mabel. "Professor Dodson comes from New York, and he teaches us the newest and swellest steps."
As that day was the last of the quarter the professor had arranged a little exhibition of his best pupils, and a good-sized audience was gathered in the galleries above the dancing floor to witness it.
But it was a surprise to all present when he announced that a friend whose name he was not privileged to mention, had offered a prize to the child who should dance most gracefully, either alone or with a partner.
"You can't get it, Ethelyn," said Reginald, "for you're as awkward as a lame elephant."
"I am not," snapped Ethelyn, "and you'd better not try for it, 'cause you'd only make a spectacle of yourself."
"So would you," retorted Reginald, "and then we'd be a pair of spectacles."
Ethelyn said no more, for the dances were beginning.
Some of the pupils danced very prettily, others affectedly, and others cleverly, but the dances were of a kicking, romping nature that required much practice and skill to perform gracefully.
After all had taken part, Professor Dodson turned politely to Patty, and invited her, if she would, to dance also.
"Oh, I couldn't, thank you," she answered "I don't know any of these flings. I only know an old-fashioned minuet."
"Try that," urged Ethelyn, who delighted to have her cousin made conspicuous, as that attracted attention towards herself.
The professor insisted upon it, so Patty obligingly consented, and saying, "I couldn't dance with these things jingling," she gave Ethelyn the heavy necklace and bangles.
Then she stepped out on the floor, and as the orchestra played the slow, stately music of the minuet, Patty bowed and swayed like a veritable old-time maiden. Graceful as a reed, she took the pretty steps, smiling and curtseying, her fair little face calm and unflushed.
It was such a pretty dance and such a contrast to the acrobatic, out-of-breath performances of the other dancers, that, without a dissenting voice, the committee of judges awarded the prize to Miss Patricia Fairfield.
Patty was delighted, for she had no idea that her dancing was specially meritorious and she accepted the gold medal with a few words of real gratitude, thinking the while how pleased her father would be, when she should write him all about it. On the way home she said to Ethelyn:
"But it doesn't seem right for me to have this prize, as I'm not a member of the dancing class."
"Oh bother," said Ethelyn, "that doesn't matter; they're always giving out prizes, and I'm awfully glad you got this one. People will think you're something wonderful. And I'm sure they'd have given it to Belle Crandon if you hadn't danced, and mamma will be tickled to death to think you got it ahead of her."
PURPLE AND FINE LINEN
When Mrs. St. Clair's purchases were sent home from New York and spread out on view, Patty could scarcely believe her own eyes.
Were all those fine clothes really meant for her?
The materials included silks, satins and velvets in bright colorings and somewhat conspicuous patterns.
Some of the dresses were already made up, and these were befrilled and beflounced, with lace and embroidery. As Patty had always worn delicate shades of material, and her dresses had been very simply made, she couldn't help protesting at all this bewildering array of finery. But her aunt said:
"Nonsense, child, you don't know what you're talking about. You are the guest of the St. Clairs, and your appearance must do us credit. I am not giving you these things, you know; your father wrote me to buy for you whatever was necessary or desirable. I have a lot of new clothes for Ethelyn, too, and I want you to look as well as she does. While you are with us you must be suitably dressed, else I shall feel ashamed of your appearance."
Poor Patty began to wonder whether it was so very nice after all, to have fine clothes if she could have no voice in their selection.
But she thought, what is the use of objecting? Aunt Isabel will do as she pleases anyway, and while I'm staying with her, I ought to agree to what she wants.
Then two dressmakers came to stay a fortnight. Ethelyn and Patty were given a holiday from lessons, the schoolroom was turned into a sewing-room, and Miss Morton and Reginald betook themselves to the library.
Patty was rather sorry to miss her school hours, for the history lessons had become interesting, but she soon found that Aunt Isabel's word was law. It was a law often broken by her own children, but Patty was not of a mutinous heart, and she amiably obeyed Mrs. St. Clair's commands. But she had her own opinion of the household, and she did not hesitate to express it plainly in her letters to her father.
"I begin to see," she wrote to him one day, "what you meant when you explained to me about proportion. In this house, money, and fine clothes, and making a great show, are out of all proportion to everything else. They never think of reading books, or doing charity work, or anything but showing off. And if a thing costs a lot, it's all right, but if it's simple and not expensive, it's no good at all. I can tell you, Mr. Papa, that when we have our home, we'll have less fuss and feathers, and more comfort and common sense. And it isn't only that the things cost so much, but they're always talking about it, and telling how expensive they are. Why, Uncle Robert has told me half-a-dozen times how much his horses and carriages cost, and now he says he's going to get an automobile, so I don't know what he'll do with his horses. Ethelyn is very nice in some ways, but she is affected and rude, and I don't like her as well as Clara Hayden, if she is my cousin. Reginald is a nice boy, but he's sort of pompous and conceited, and thinks he's better than any one else in the world. Little Florelle is a dear, but she cries so easily that I can't have much fun with her. But there, now I've told you all the bads, I'll tell you some of the goods. Miss Morton, the governess, is a lovely lady, and when Ethelyn is so cross I can't stand her, I go to Miss Morton, and we have a walk or a drive together, and have nice, pleasant talks. And then I am taking singing lessons twice a week. Aunt Isabel says I have a pretty good voice, and I love to sing, and Reginald takes me skating, and that is splendid. I don't know how yet, but he says I am learning pretty well. Aunt Isabel gave an afternoon tea for me, and next week we are going to have a big party, and I think that will be nice. I like parties and dancing-school, only the girls and boys all act so grown up. They are about my age and even younger, and they act as if they were ladies and gentlemen. That isn't good proportion, is it? But I am pretty happy, except that I am often homesick for you. Then I look at your picture, and at the beautiful picture of dear mamma and it helps some. And your letters help me too, so write just as often as you can, won't you?
"From your loving daughter,
The party, as Patty had feared, was a very grown-up affair. For several days beforehand the servants were getting the house ready for it, and all was bustle and confusion.
The furniture and bric-a-brac were all removed from the hall and drawing-room and library, and carried up to the third floor to be out of the way. The portieres were taken down from the doorways, and on the day of the party they were replaced by simulated curtains of smilax and flowering vines.
As it was near the Christmas season, the decorations included evergreens, holly and mistletoe, but besides these, quantities of roses and rare flowers of all sorts were used. The florists came early and worked all day, and they transformed the house into a fairy bower.
Patty was delighted with this, and walked through the luxurious rooms, quite lost in admiration of their floral beauty.
Carpenters had enclosed the great veranda which was then hung with red satin and decorated with ropes and wreaths of holly, and, like the rest of the house, was fairly ablaze with electric lights.
The party was to be from eight to twelve, and when Patty went down stairs at a little before eight, she found her uncle berating the musicians, who were a little late in arriving.
"I want you to understand," Mr. St. Clair was saying, "that when I send for you, you are to come when I bid you. Don't tell me you couldn't help it,—if there is danger of detention on the road, you should start earlier. I am accustomed to having my orders obeyed, and all who are employed at Villa Rosa must fully understand that. Go on with your music, and next time, see to it that you arrive more promptly."
Uncle Robert strutted away with such a pompous air, that Patty was almost afraid of him herself. But when he saw her, he beamed kindly, and said:
"Come here, my dear, and tell me what you think of all this."
"I think the house looks beautiful, uncle, just like Fairyland, with all the flowers and lights. And I think you are very kind to give this party for me."
"Well, well, child, we have to invite our friends occasionally, you know. Have a good time, and I shall feel amply repaid for my outlay. Those American Beauties are fine, aren't they?"
"Indeed they are," said Patty, sniffing at one that reached its rich redness temptingly towards her.
"Oh, don't do that! You'll spoil them. Those roses cost six dollars a dozen. But how fine you look in your new gew-gaws. Turn round, little one. Ah, we have no reason to feel ashamed of our Southern maid to-night."
Patty was glad her uncle was pleased, for she herself felt rather uncomfortable. Her dress, which was made with low neck and short sleeves, was of red silk gauze, with multifold short skirts, accordion-plaited, and edged with thick, full ruches. Great golden butterflies were embroidered at intervals all over the dress, while ribbons and flowers were attached wherever a place could be found for them.
Ethelyn had coaxed Patty to have her hair dressed high on her head, so Elise had arranged a marvelous coiffure which displayed jeweled pins and combs of many sorts, and a necklace and bracelets rivaled them in glitter. Red silk stockings, and red satin slippers with gilt butterflies on them completed this gorgeous costume, and when Patty saw herself in the long mirrors, she thought she looked like one of the paper fairies which she used to hang on her Christmas trees.
When the party began, she stood beside her aunt and Ethelyn and received the guests as they arrived.
About fifty boys and girls came, and to Patty they all seemed like overdressed and artificial little puppets.
The girls put on grown-up airs, walked with mincing steps and giggled behind their fans, while the boys were affected and absurdly formal.
Patty had thought there would be games or amusements of some youthful sort, but dancing and promenading alternated throughout the evening.
However, she was fond of dancing, and as she was quickly becoming a general favorite, her card was soon filled with the names of the nicest boys in the room.
It was all very pleasant for a short time, but soon Patty grew very tired and secretly longed for supper to be announced.
At last this came to pass, and the children marched out to the dining-room where another beautiful sight awaited them.
The caterers had been as skilful as the decorators, and the table was filled with marvelous confections of rich foods.
Patty had never seen such wonderful things, and she almost thought the pheasants were alive; and the big salmon looked as if it had just been taken from the water. Then there were salads and croquettes, and funny little paper dishes filled with strange, delicious mixtures, and after all these, came creams and jellies and ices, and cakes and bonbons in all sorts of odd shapes and colors.
Patty thought these things were too pretty to be eaten, but they were quickly demolished by the young people, who were hearty, hungry boys and girls, in spite of their affected manners.
After supper the dancing and promenading began again, and was kept up until midnight, and Patty was a very tired little girl after she had said good-night to all the guests and the last carriage had rolled away from Villa Rosa.
Ethelyn was tired too, and decidedly cross.
"I didn't have a very good time," she said; "that horrid old Gladys Mahoney had a prettier dress than mine; and I broke my new fan, and my slippers are so tight, they hurt me awfully." "Pooh, I know what makes you cross," said Reginald, "just 'cause Bob Burton didn't dance with you as much as he did with Mabel Miller."
"I'm not cross," retorted Ethelyn, "and I didn't want to dance with Bob Burton. If I were you, I'd try to learn some manners; Lou Smith says you're the rudest boy she ever saw."
"I don't care what Lou Smith says, little, freckle-faced thing! I don't see why she was invited here, anyway."
"Stop quarreling, children," said Mrs. St. Clair, "and go to bed at once. Patricia, I hope you enjoyed the party; I'm sure I tried to have it nice, but everything seemed to go wrong, the salad wasn't fit to eat and the ice cream was half melted."
"Why, Aunt Isabel," said Patty, "I think everything was lovely. I never saw such a supper-table in my life, and the decorations were exquisite."
"Well, I didn't think so. It does seem a shame to pay out so much money, and then not have things to your liking."
"Oh, the party was good enough," said Mr. St. Clair, "you're too fussy about trifles, Isabel. Come, children, scurry off to bed, you'll get no beauty sleep to-night, I fear."
Patty went to her room, and taking her mother's picture, sat down to talk to it, as she did nearly every night.
"Motherdy," she said, "if you had lived to take care of me, I don't believe you'd have liked the party we had to-night. The grown-upness of it was all out of proportion for children, I think, and,—as usual in this house, the expense was out of proportion to everything else. Why, Uncle Robert must have spent a thousand dollars for it,—maybe more,—he'll probably tell us to-morrow just how much everything cost. I liked some of the party,—the supper was lovely, but,—well, I reckon I ate out of proportion too. You see, little mother, it's very hard always to do just right. Now I'm going to bed, and I'm so sleepy, I don't know as I'll wake up before to-morrow afternoon."
She kissed the beautiful face, and putting the picture back where it belonged, she hopped into bed and was soon fast asleep.
The winter slipped away, and as Patty was a little girl who always looked on the bright side of things, she really had very good times at Ville Rosa.
She became a favorite with the Elmbridge boys and girls, and her unfailing good nature kept her from quarreling with her cousins though she was often sorely tried by them.
Lessons were a very uncertain quantity. Sometimes there would be none at all for a week or two weeks, and then perhaps school would keep regularly for a few days, only to be followed by another interruption.
Patty found it only too easy to fall into these careless ways, and if she had stayed all her life at Villa Rosa, I fear she would have become indolent and selfish, for the rule of the whole household seemed to be "Pleasure before Duty," and when that rule is followed it often happens that the duties are not done at all.
In January, to Patty's great delight, there came a heavy snowstorm.
It made fine sleighing, for the roads were in just the right condition and as the weather was clear and cold there was good prospect of many days' fun.
Uncle Robert, always ready to give the young people a good time, instigated a sleighing parade, in which all the society people of Elmbridge were invited to join.
It was to be a grand affair. Every sleigh was to be decorated in beautiful or unique fashion, and there was great rivalry among the families of Elmbridge as to whose sleigh should present the finest spectacle.
"Papa," said Ethelyn, "I shall drive Patricia in my little cutter, of course, and I want you to fix it up, somehow, so that it will beat everybody else all hollow."
"Ethelyn," said her mother, "if you don't stop using those slang phrases, you shan't go in the parade at all. Now promise to talk like a lady, and I'll see to it that your sleigh outshines all the rest."
"All right," said Ethelyn, "I'll promise. Now, how shall we decorate it?"
"Never mind," said her mother, "I wouldn't trust you with the secret. You'd tell everybody before the parade, and give them a chance to imitate it. But just wait and see. You and Patricia shall drive the most beautiful turnout in the whole line."
That day Mrs. St. Clair made a hurried trip to New York and came home with many mysterious packages, and other larger packages came by express. Mr. St. Clair came home early from his business and spent much of his time in the barn, and the preparations grew so exciting that both Patty and Ethelyn were on tiptoe with curiosity and anticipation. The parade was to start the next afternoon at two o'clock. Soon after luncheon, Mrs. St. Clair sent the girls to their rooms to dress for the great event.
Ethelyn gave a little scream of delight, as she saw new garments spread out on her bed, and Patty ran on to her own room to find similar ones there.
Each girl had a long coat of fine white broadcloth, made with a double cape-collar, and trimmed all round with white fur. A broad-brimmed white felt hat, with white ostrich plumes and a fleecy white feather boa, white gloves, and a white muff were there too; and even white shoes and white cloth leggings, so that when the cousins were dressed, there was not a touch of color about them, save their rosy faces and golden hair, and they looked like veritable snow-queens.
They danced down-stairs to find Cupid awaiting them with a brand-new sleigh.
Cupid was Ethelyn's pony, and he was pure white, every bit of him, and it was this fact that had suggested the whole scheme to Mr. St. Clair.
The new sleigh was pure white too, trimmed here and there with silver.
Cupid's harness was all white and silver, and waving white plumes and silver bells were in various places about the sleigh and horse.
There were big white fur robes, and when Mr. St. Clair tucked the girls in, and Ethelyn took the white reins and white whip, it certainly seemed as if no sleigh load could be prettier.
And none was. Everybody agreed that the white sleigh was the pride of the parade. Patty secretly wondered why her aunt was satisfied without more gaudy coloring; as she wrote to her father afterwards, she had half expected to see a red sleigh with blue and yellow robes. "But," she said, "I suppose it was because Cupid happened to be white, and I'm glad he was, for it was all just lovely."
Mr. and Mrs. St. Clair and Florelle went in the parade also, but they contented themselves with the family sleigh, which of course was both handsome and elaborate. They had spent all their energies on the girls' appearance and they were very proud of the result.
Reginald, who was of an ingenious turn of mind, had contrived an affair which was supposed to look like a Roman chariot, and which was, therefore, a bit incongruous on runners.
It was very fancy, being almost entirely covered with gilt paper, and it had two wheels and no back. It jolted fearfully, and Reginald was occasionally thrown out. However, he stuck to it pluckily, until his machine was a total wreck, when he abandoned it, and jumped into his father's sleigh for the rest of the parade.
Patty enjoyed it all hugely. It was such a novel experience to fly along, through the crisp cold air, and over the shining snow roads; and Ethelyn was in such jubilant good-humor, that the whole affair marked a red letter day in the winter calendar.
The "White Flyer" was the talk of the town for weeks after, and Mr. St. Clair never tired of telling any one who would listen, how much it all cost, and how difficult it was to get the white sleigh and harness on such short notice.
Patty grew very tired of this pompous boasting, and, notwithstanding her enjoyment of the luxury at Villa Rosa, she was not altogether sorry when the time drew near for her to go away to Boston to make her next visit.
She was to leave the St. Clairs about the first of March, and spend the next three months with her father's sister, Mrs. Fleming.
As Uncle Robert was her mother's brother, the two families were entirely unacquainted, and the St. Clairs could tell Patty nothing about the new home to which she was going.
"But," said her Aunt Isabel, "I feel sure you won't like them as well as you like us. Are they rich, Patricia?"
"I don't know," answered Patty; "papa never said anything about that. He said that they are a very literary family."
"Humph," said Aunt Isabel, "then I guess they haven't very much money; literary people never do have. Poor child, I suppose they'll turn you into a regular little blue-stocking."
Patty didn't relish this idea, for at Villa Rosa she had fallen into the habit of neglecting her lessons, and already study was losing its charm for her. But she was fond of reading, and she felt sure she would enjoy an atmosphere of books.
On the 14th of February, Aunt Isabel gave a party for the young people, which was a farewell party for Patty, though it was also a festival in honor of St. Valentine's Day.
As usual, the girls had new dresses, and they represented Mrs. St. Clair's idea of valentines.
Ethelyn's was of blue, and Patty's of pink silk, and they were trimmed with innumerable lace flutings and garlands of flowers. They were further decorated with gilt hearts pierced by darts, and with skilfully made artificial doves which perched on the shoulders of the wearers.
The party was a very pretty one, as Aunt Isabel's parties always were.
The rooms were decorated with roses and pink ribbons, and gilt hearts and darts, and feathered doves and wax cupids. At supper the ices and cakes were heart-shaped, and after the children had returned to the drawing-room St. Valentine himself appeared.
As Patty suspected, it was Uncle Robert dressed up to represent the old Saint, with flowing white hair and beard and a gilt paper halo. He wore a long white robe with red hearts dotted all over it, and carried a gilt bow and arrow.
He carried also a pack or pouch full of valentines which he distributed to the guests.
Of course they were very handsome affairs, and in each was hidden some dainty trifle, handkerchief, fan or bonbons.
Besides those at the party, Patty received numerous other valentines, some of which came by mail, and others in the good old-fashioned way, under the front door.
Many of these were from the Elmbridge young people, while several from Richmond included a beauty from her father, and a pretty one from Clara Hayden.
Although the cousins had varying tastes, they had become very good friends, and both felt sad when the day came for Patty to leave Villa Rosa.
Indeed, the whole family felt sad, for Patty was a very lovable little girl, and had endeared herself to them all. Uncle Robert was to take her to New York and put her on the boat, where Mr. Tom Fleming would meet her and take her to his mother's house in Boston.
Aunt Isabel said she, too, would go to New York with Patty, and of course Ethelyn announced her intention of going.
Then Florelle set up such a howl to go, that Patty begged her aunt to take her, and the child went.
Reginald declined to be left out of such a family affair, so Patty was amply escorted to her destination.
They went on board the Priscilla, a beautiful boat of the Fall River Line, and Mr. St. Clair soon found Mr. Fleming, who had agreed to meet him at a certain spot.
Then Patty was introduced to her Cousin Tom, who was a tall young man of about thirty-five, with a pointed beard, and dark, pleasant eyes.
"So this is my little Southern cousin," he said, cordially, as he took her hand.
Then he chatted affably with the whole party until the warning gong announced that they must go ashore.
Ethelyn was heart-broken at the thought of parting, and flinging her arms round Patty's neck, burst into tears.
This was enough for Florelle, who promptly followed suit, and set up one of her very best howls.
With a good-bye kiss to his niece, Uncle Robert picked up the screaming child and marshaled his family off of the boat, and Patty was left alone with her new-found cousin.
AN ABSENT-MINDED COUSIN
"Now, Patty," said Cousin Tom, as they walked along the saloon, "I am going to hand you over to the stewardess, who will show you your stateroom. Go with her, and she will look after you. I think you would better leave off that heavy coat, as it is too chilly outside to permit of going on deck, and the atmosphere within is quite warm. Ah, here she is. Stewardess, this is Miss Fairfield and here is her stateroom key. See to it that she is made comfortable."
As Mr. Fleming supplemented his request with a pecuniary argument, the stewardess made Patty her especial charge, and assiduously looked after her comfort.
"And, Patty," said her cousin, as she turned away, "when you are ready, come back and you will find me right here. See, just by this staircase. Lock your door and bring the key with you."
Patty felt as if she had suddenly grown several years younger, for Cousin Tom talked to her as to a little child. "It's more like Wonderland than ever," she said to herself. "Only instead of growing big or little, I grow old or young. At Aunt Isabel's I was considered a young lady but Cousin Tom seems to think I'm a small child."
The stewardess, who was a good-natured old colored woman, took Patty to her stateroom, and then helped her to unpack her traveling-bag, and arrange her belongings for the night.
As Aunt Isabel had bought her clothes, of course Patty was absurdly overdressed.
When she took off her blue velvet coat with its ermine collar, her blue silk, lace-trimmed dress looked far more suitable for a grand reception than for traveling.
"Laws, missy," said the voluble stewardess, "how handsome you is!"
Patty thought this a reference to her dress, but the remark was meant for the child herself, whose flower-like face looked out from a most becoming big hat of plaited blue velvet, and her golden hair fell in a loosely tied bunch of long thick curls.
When Patty returned to her Cousin Tom, she found him sitting just where he said he would be, but so deeply absorbed in a book that he didn't see or hear her approach.
Not wishing to disturb his reading, she sat down in the large chair next to him and waited.
She didn't mind this at all, for it was very interesting to watch the people passing up and down, and the saloon itself was beautiful to look at. Patty sat for a long while, but Cousin Tom never moved, except to turn the pages of his book. She did not like to speak to him, as she feared he would think it necessary to lay aside his book and entertain her; she had no wish to trouble him, and beside, she was quite capable of entertaining herself.
So after she had sat still for a long while, she decided to walk about the cabin a bit, always keeping in sight of Cousin Tom, if he should raise his eyes. But he didn't, and Patty strayed farther and farther away from him, until she had explored all the available parts of the boat.
She was much interested in all she saw, and many admiring eyes followed the pretty, graceful child as she walked about.
When she reached the dining-room she looked in, and the sight of the passengers sitting at well-filled tables made her feel very hungry, and she wondered if Cousin Tom would finish his book in time to give her any dinner. Somehow she felt sure he never would look up until he had finished the book.
She went back and sat down again beside him with a little sigh. But he didn't hear the little sigh, and kept on reading.
Patty looked at him curiously. There was little hope of his finishing the book, for he was only about half-way through it, and he read very slowly, turning the pages at long intervals. She could see his eyes move eagerly along the printed lines, as if delighted with what he found there.
She waited a while longer, and then said to herself, "I don't care, I'm going to speak to him. I've waited a million hours, and the dinner will be all eaten up."
She didn't speak, but she rose and stood by his side, and then with a sudden impulse she laid her hand with outspread fingers upon the page he was reading.
Cousin Tom jumped as if a firecracker had exploded in his vicinity, and he looked at Patty with a dazed expression.
"Bless my soul!" he said, "why, little one, I forgot all about you. Will you forgive me? Have you been here long? I was reading, you see, and I didn't hear you come."
"I've been here an hour, Cousin Tom," said Patty, demurely.
"An hour? No! Is it possible? You poor child, why didn't you tell me?"
"Oh, I didn't mind," said Patty, "and you seemed to be all wrapped up in your book."
"Yes, I was,—I was. But I'll try to make amends. Come, let's go and have some dinner."
Taking Patty's hand, Cousin Tom strode along the saloon, and down the stairs, and Patty almost had to run to keep up with his long steps.
"Now," said he, as they seated themselves at a table and an obsequious waiter began to put ice and then water into their glasses. "Now, what would you like to eat?"
"Oh, anything at all," said Patty, gaily, "I'm hungry enough to eat,—I don't know what."
"Yes, yes, of course you are,—poor child,—so sorry I forgot you,—quite inexcusable of me."
Mr. Fleming was looking over the bill of fare as he talked, and then he looked doubtfully at Patty, as if uncertain what he ought to order for her.
"What would you like for your dinner, child? Now don't say you don't care, or that you'll leave it to me, for little girls always say that, and I declare I don't know what you ought to have."
"All right," said Patty, who was quite equal to the occasion. "Let's have some lobster mayonnaise, and some mushrooms under glass, and little tiny clams, and tutti-frutti and a Dewey Punch."
Cousin Tom stared at her in amazement.
"What are you talking about?" he exclaimed; "you'd be dead if you ate all those things. Are they on the bill of fare? What is a 'Dewey Punch'?"
"Oh, I don't die so easily as that. Ethelyn and I used to eat worse mixes than that, whenever we lunched at the New York restaurants, A Dewey Punch is a lovely kind of ice cream with strawberry jam or something poured all over it. I don't see it on the list; perhaps they don't have it. Never mind, we'll take meringue glace."
"Indeed we won't. I've changed my mind and I'll order this dinner myself. You shall have some soup, a broiled chicken, some vegetables and a plain ice cream. There, how do you like that?"
Cousin Tom didn't speak crossly at all, but very decidedly, and there was a pleasant twinkle in his eye that took away all idea of censure, so Patty said, amiably:
"I think it will be very nice and I really don't care what we have, only you told me to suggest something, so I did."
"Certainly, that's all right, but your suggestions were suicidal. Are you familiar with Bacon?"
Oh, thought Patty, he's going to order the breakfast over night, and I hate bacon.
"Yes," she said, "but I don't like it at all."
"You don't? What a perverted taste. But Boston will soon change that. We have a Bacon club, which you shall join. It is a most delightful club, and you will like it, I'm sure. I fancy that in a few weeks I shall see you devouring Bacon with intense enjoyment."
Indeed I won't, thought Patty. She was about to say that her Uncle Robert belonged to a Terrapin Club, but refrained, thinking it might be impolite to imply disparagement to the more lowly bacon.
So she changed the subject, and said:
"Please, Cousin Tom, tell me something of your family. It's so queer to go to see people and not know anything about them beforehand. But so far, my relatives have been very nice."
"Oh, the Flemings are a wonderful family," said Cousin Tom, gaily, "we are all going to do something great, but somehow we haven't hit it off yet."