Patty At Home
BY CAROLYN WELLS
AUTHOR OF TWO LITTLE WOMEN SERIES, THE MARJORIE SERIES, ETC.
To My very good friend, Ruth Pilling
I. THE DEBATE
II. THE DECISION
III. THE TEA CLUB
IV. BOXLEY HALL
VII. DIFFERING TASTES
VIII. AN UNATTAINED AMBITION
IX. A CALLER
X. A PLEASANT EVENING
XII. A TEA CLUB TEA
XIII. A NEW FRIEND
XIV. THE NEIGHBOUR AGAIN
XVI. A SUCCESSFUL PLAY
XVII. ENTERTAINING RELATIVES
XVIII. A SAILING PARTY
XIX. MORE COUSINS
XX. A FAIR EXCHANGE
XXI. A GOOD SUGGESTION
XXII. AT THE SEASHORE
XXIV. AN AFTERNOON DRIVE
In Mrs. Elliott's library at Vernondale a great discussion was going on. It was an evening in early December, and the room was bright with firelight and electric light, and merry with the laughter and talk of people who were trying to decide a great and momentous question.
For the benefit of those who are not acquainted with Patty Fairfield and her relatives, it may be well to say that Mrs. Elliott was Patty's Aunt Alice, at whose home Patty and her father were now visiting. Of the other members of the Elliott family, Uncle Charley, grandma, Marian, and Frank were present, and these with Mr. Fairfield and Patty were debating a no less important subject than the location of Patty's future home.
"You know, papa," said Patty, "you said that if I wanted to live in Vernondale you'd buy a house here, and I do want to live here,—at least, I am almost sure I do."
"Oh, Patty," said Marian, "why aren't you quite sure? You're president of the club, and the girls are all so fond of you, and you're getting along so well in school. I don't see where else you could want to live."
"I know," said Frank. "Patty wants to live in New York. Her soul yearns for the gay and giddy throng, and the halls of dazzling lights. 'Ah, Patricia, beware! the rapids are below you!' as it says in that thrilling tale in the Third Reader."
"I think papa would rather live in New York," said Patty, looking very undecided.
"I'll tell you what we'll do," exclaimed Frank, "let's debate the question. A regular, honest debate, I mean, and we'll have all the arguments for and against clearly stated and ably discussed. Uncle Fred shall be the judge, and his decision must be final."
"No," said Mr. Fairfield, "we'll have the debate, but Patty must be the judge. She is the one most interested, and I am ready to give her a home wherever she wants it; in Greenland's icy mountains, or India's coral strand, if she chooses."
"You certainly are a disinterested member," said Uncle Charley, laughing, "but that won't do in debate. Here, I'll organise this thing, and for the present we won't consider either Greenland or India. The question, as I understand it, is between Vernondale and New York. Now, to bring this mighty matter properly before the house, I will put it in the form of a resolution, thus:
"RESOLVED, That Miss Patty Fairfield shall take up her permanent abode in New York City."
Patty gave a little cry of dismay, and Marian exclaimed, "Oh, father, that isn't fair!"
"Of course it's fair," said Mr. Elliott, with a twinkle in his eye. "It doesn't really mean she's going, but it's the only way to find out what she is going to do. Now, Fred shall be captain on the affirmative side, and I will take the negative. We will each choose our colleagues. Fred, you may begin."
"All right," said Mr. Fairfield "As a matter of social etiquette, I think it right to compliment my hostess, so I choose Mrs. Elliott on my side."
"Oh, you choose me, father," cried Marian, "do choose me."
"Owing to certain insidious wire-pulling I'm forced to choose Miss Marian Elliott," said Uncle Charley, pinching his daughter's ear.
"If one Mrs. Elliott is a good thing," said Mr. Fairfield, "I am sure two would be better, and so I choose Grandma Elliott to add to my collection of great minds."
"Frank, my son," said Uncle Charley, "don't think for a moment that I am choosing you merely because you are the Last of the Mohicans. Far from it. I have wanted you from the beginning, and I'm proud to impress your noble intellect in my cause."
"Thank you, sir," said Frank, "and if our side can't induce Patty to stay in Vernondale, it won't be for lack of good strong arguments forcibly presented."
"Modest boy!" said his mother, "You seem quite to forget your wise and clever opponents."
In great glee the debaters took their places on either side of the library table, while Patty, being judge, was escorted with much ceremony to a seat at the head. An old parlour-croquet mallet was found for her, with which she rapped on the table after the manner of a grave and dignified chairman.
"The meeting will please come to order," she said, "and the secretary will please read the minutes of the last meeting."
"The secretary regrets to report," said Frank, rising, "that the minutes of the last meeting fell down the well. Although rescued, they were afterward chewed up by the puppy, and are at present somewhat illegible. If the honourable judge will excuse the reading of the minutes, the secretary will be greatly obliged."
"The minutes are excused," said Patty, "and we will proceed at once to more important business. Mr. Frederick Fairfield, we shall be glad to hear from you."
Mr. Fairfield rose and said, "Your honour, ladies, and gentlemen: I would be glad to speak definitely on this burning question, but the truth is, I don't know myself which way I want it to be decided. For, you see, my only desire in the matter is that the wise and honourable judge, whom we see before us, should have a home of such a character and in such a place as best pleases her; but, before she makes her decision, I hope she will allow herself to be thoroughly convinced as to what will please her. And as, by force of circumstance, I am obliged to uphold the New York side of this argument, I will now set forth some of its advantages, feeling sure that my worthy opponents are quite able to uphold the Vernondale side."
"Hear, hear!" exclaimed Frank, but Patty rapped with her mallet and commanded silence.
Then Mr. Fairfield went on:
"For one thing, Patty has always lived in a city, and, like myself, is accustomed to city life. It is more congenial to both of us, and I sometimes fear we should miss certain city privileges which may not be found in a suburban town."
"But we have other things that you can't get in the city," broke in Marian.
"And I am very sure that they will be enthusiastically enumerated when it is your turn to speak," said Mr. Fairfield, smiling.
"The gentleman has the floor," remarked Patty, "the others will please keep their seats. Proceed, Mr. Fairfield."
So Mr. Fairfield proceeded:
"Other advantages, perhaps, will be found in the superior schools which the city is said to contain. I am making no allusion to the school that our honourable judge is at present attending, but I am speaking merely on general principles. And not only schools, but masters of the various arts. I have been led to believe by the assertions of some people, who, however, may be prejudiced, that Miss Fairfield has a voice which requires only training and practise to rival the voice of Adelina Patti, when that lady was Miss Fairfield's age."
"Quite true," said the judge, nodding gravely at the speaker.
"This phenomenal voice, then, might—mind; I say might—be cultivated to better purpose by metropolitan teachers."
"We have a fine singing-master here," exclaimed Frank, but Patty rapped him to silence.
"What's one singing-master among a voice like Miss Fairfield's?" demanded the speaker, "and another thing," he continued, "that ought to affect you Vernondale people very strongly, is the fact that you would have a delightful place to visit in New York City. Now, don't deny it. You know you'd be glad to come and visit Patty and me in our brown-stone mansion, and we would take you around to see all the sights, from Grant's tomb to the Aquarium."
"We've seen those," murmured Frank.
"They're still there," said Mr. Fairfield, "and there will probably be some other and newer entertainments that you haven't yet seen."
"It does sound nice," said Frank.
"And finally," went on Mr. Fairfield, "though I do not wish this argument to have undue weight, it certainly would be more convenient for me to live in the city. I am about to start in business there, and though I could go in and out every day, as the honourable gentleman on the other side of the table does, yet he is accustomed to it, and, as I am not, it seems to me an uninteresting performance. However, I dare say I could get used to a commutation ticket, and I am certainly willing to try. All of which is respectfully submitted," and with a bow the speaker resumed his seat.
"That was a very nice speech," said the judge approvingly, "and now we would be pleased to hear from the captain gentleman on the other side."
Uncle Charley rose.
"Without wishing to be discourteous," he said, "I must say that I think the arguments just set forth are exceedingly flimsy. There can be no question but that Vernondale would be a far better and more appropriate home for the young lady in question than any other spot on the globe. Here we have wide streets, green lawns, fresh air, and bright sunshine; all conducive to that blooming state of health which our honourable judge now, apparently, enjoys. City life would doubtless soon reduce her to a thin, pale, peaked specimen of humanity, unrecognisable by her friends. The rose-colour in her cheeks would turn to ashen grey; her starry eyes would become dim and lustreless. Her robust flesh would dwindle to skin and bone, and probably her hair would all fall out, and she'd have to wear a wig."
Even Patty's mallet was not able to check the burst of laughter caused by the horrible picture which Uncle Charley drew, but after it had subsided, he continued: "As to the wonderful masters and teachers in the city, far be it from me to deny their greatness and power. But the beautiful village of Vernondale is less than an hour from New York; no mosquitoes, no malaria; boating, bathing, and fishing. Miss Fairfield could, therefore, go to New York for her instructions in the various arts and sciences, and return again to her Vernondale home on a local train. Add to this the fact that here she has relatives, friends, and acquaintances, who already know and love her, while, in New York, she would have to acquire a whole new set, probably have to advertise for them. As to the commuting gentleman: before his first ticket was all punched up, he would be ready to vow that the commuter's life is the only ideal existence. Having thus offered unattackable arguments, I deem a decision in our favour a foregone conclusion, and I take pleasure in sitting down."
"A very successful speech," said Patty, smiling at her uncle. "We will now be pleased to hear from the next speaker on the affirmative side. Mrs. Charles Elliott, will you kindly speak what is on your mind?"
"I will," said Mrs. Elliott, with a nod of her head that betokened Fairfield decision of character. "I will say exactly what is on my mind without regard to which side I am on."
"Oh, that isn't fair!" cried Patty. "A debate is a debate, you know, and you must make up opinions for your own side, whether you think them or not."
"Very well," said Aunt Alice, smiling a little, "then it being thoroughly understood that I am not speaking the truth, I will say that I think it better for Patty to live in New York. As her father will be away all day at his business, she will enjoy the loneliness of a big brown-stone city house; she will enjoy the dark rooms and the entire absence of grass and flowers and trees, which she hates anyway; instead of picnics and boating parties, she can go to stiff and formal afternoon teas; and, instead of attending her young people's club here, she can become a member of the Society of Social Economics."
With an air of having accomplished her intention, Aunt Alice sat down amid great cheers and handclappings from the opposite side.
Patty looked a little sober as she began to think the Vernondale home would win; and, though for many reasons she wished it would be so, yet, at the same time, she realised very strongly the attractions of life in New York City.
However, she only said:
"The meeting will please come to order, in order to listen to the opinions of Miss Elliott."
Marian rose with great dignity, and addressed the chair and the ladies and gentlemen with true parliamentary punctiliousness.
"Though personally interested in this matter," she began, "it is not my intention to allow my own wishes or prejudices to blind me to the best interests of our young friend who is now under discussion. Far be it from me to blight her career for the benefit of my own unworthy self, but I will say that if Patty Fairfield goes to live in New York, or anywhere except Vernondale, I think she's just the horridest, meanest old thing on the face of the earth! Why, I wouldn't let her go! I'd lock her in her room, and poke bread and water to her through the keyhole, if she dared to think of such a thing! Go to New York, indeed! A nice time she'd have, hanging on straps in the trolley-cars, and getting run over by automobiles! The whole thing is so perfectly absurd that there's no earthly chance of its ever coming to pass. Why, she wouldn't go, she couldn't be hired to go; she wouldn't be happy there a minute; but if she does go, I'll go, too!"
"Hooray for our side!" cried Frank, as Marian dropped into a chair after her outburst of enthusiasm.
"Oh, I haven't finished yet," said Marian, jumping up again. "I want to remark further that not only is Patty going to live in Vernondale, but she's going to have a house very near this one. I've picked it out," and Marian wagged her head with the air of a mysterious sibyl. "I won't tell you where it is just yet, but it's a lovely house, and big enough to accommodate Uncle Fred and Patty, and a guest or two besides. I've selected the room that I prefer, and I hope you will furnish it in blue."
"The speaker is a bit hasty," said Patty as Marian sat down again; "we can't furnish any rooms before this debate is concluded; and, though we deeply regret it, Miss Elliott will be obliged to wait for her blue room until the other speakers have had their speak."
But Patty smiled at Marian understandingly, and began to have a very attractive mental picture of her cousin's blue room next her own.
"The next speaker," announced the judge, "will be Mrs. Elliott, Senior,—the Dowager Duchess. Your Grace, we would be pleased to hear from you."
"I don't know," said Grandma Elliott, looking rather seriously into the smiling faces before her, "that I am entirely in favour of the country home. I think our Patty would greatly enjoy the city atmosphere. She is a schoolgirl now, but in a year or two she will be a young woman, and one well deserving of the best that can be given to her. I am city-bred myself, and though at my age I prefer the quiet of the country, yet for a young girl I well know the charm of a city life. Of course, we would all regret the loss of our Patty, who has grown to be a part of our daily life, but, nevertheless, were I to vote on this matter, I should unhesitatingly cast my ballot in favour of New York."
"Bravo for grandma!" cried Frank. "Give me a lady who fearlessly speaks her mind even in the face of overwhelming opposition. All the same, I haven't spoken my piece yet, and I believe it is now my turn."
"It is," said Patty, "and we eagerly await your sapient and authoritative remarks."
"Ahem!" said Frank pompously, as he arose. "My remarks shall be brief, but very much to the point. Patty's home must be in Vernondale because we live here. If ever we go to live in New York, or Oshkosh, or Kalamazoo, Patty can pick up her things and go along. Just get that idea firmly fixed in your heads, my friends. Where we live, Patty lives; whither she goeth, we goeth. Therefore, if Patty should go to New York, the Elliotts will take up bag and baggage, sell the farm, and go likewise to New York. Now I'm sure our Patty, being of proper common-sense and sound judgment, wouldn't put the Elliott family to such inconvenience,—for moving is a large and fearsome proposition. Thus we see that as the Mountain insists on following Mahomet whithersoever she goest, the only decently polite thing for Mahomet to do is to settle in Vernondale. I regret exceedingly that I am forced to express an opinion so diametrically opposed to the advices of Her Grace, the Dowager Duchess, but I'm quite sure she didn't realise what a bother it would be for the Elliotts to move. And now, having convinced you all to my way of thinking, I will leave the case in the hands of our wise and competent judge."
"Wait," said Uncle Charley; "I believe the captains are usually allowed a sort of summing-up speech, are they not?"
"They are in this case, anyway," said Patty. "Mr. Elliott will please go ahead with his summing-up."
"Well," said Uncle Charley, "the sum of the whole matter seems to be that we all want Fred and Patty to live here because we want them to; but, of course, it's only fair that they consult their own wishes in the matter, and if they conclude that they prefer New York, why,—we'll have another debate, that's all."
Uncle Charley sat down, and Mr. Fairfield rose. "I have listened with great interest to the somewhat flattering remarks of my esteemed fellow members, and have come to the conclusion that, if agreeable to Her Judgeship, a compromise might be effected. It would seem to me that if a decision should be arrived at for the Vernondale home, the Fairfields could manage to reap some few of those mysterious advantages said to be found in city life, by going to New York and staying a few months every winter. This, too, would give them an opportunity to receive visits from the Elliott family, which would, I'm sure, be a pleasure and profit to all concerned. With this suggestion I am quite ready to hear a positive and final decision from Her Honour, the Judge."
"And it won't take her long to make up her mind, either," cried Patty. "I knew you'd fix it somehow, papa; you are the best and wisest man! Solomon wasn't in it with you, nor Solon, nor Socrates, nor anybody! That arrangement is exactly what I choose, and suits me perfectly, I do want to stay in New York sometimes, but I would much rather live in Vernondale; so the judge hereby announces that, on the merits of the case, the question is decided in the negative. The Fairfields will buy a house in Vernondale, and the judge hopes that they will buy it quick."
"Three cheers for Patty and Uncle Fred," cried Frank, and while they were being given with a will, Marian flew to the telephone, and, when the cheers subsided, she was engaged in a conversation of which the debating club heard only one side.
"Is this you, Elsie?"
"What do you think? Patty's going to stay in Vernondale!"
"Yes, indeed, perfectly gorgeous."
"Just this evening; just now."
"I guess I am! I'm so glad I don't know what to do!"
"Oh, yes, of course she'll keep on being president."
"No, they haven't decided yet, but I want them to take the Bigelow house."
"Yes; wouldn't it be fine!"
"Oh, it isn't very late."
"Well, come over early to-morrow morning, then."
"Elsie Morris is delighted," said Marian, as she hung up the receiver, "and Polly Stevens will just dance jigs of joy when she hears about it. I'd call her up now, only I'm afraid she'd break the telephone trying to express her enthusiasm; she flutters so."
"You can tell her about it to-morrow," said Frank, "and now let's talk about where the house shall be. Would you rather buy or build, Uncle Fred?"
"Perhaps it would be better to rent," said Mr. Fairfield. "Suppose my fickle daughter should change her mind, and after a visit in the city decide that she prefers it for her home."
"I'm not fickle, papa," said Patty, "and it's all arranged all right just as it is; but I don't want a rented house, they won't let you drive tacks in the walls, or anything like that. Let's buy a house, and then, if you turn fickle and want to move away, we can sell it again."
"All right," said Mr. Fairfield obligingly, "what house shall we buy?"
"I know just the one," cried Marian; "guess where it is."
"Would you, by any chance, refer to the Bigelow house?" inquired Frank politely.
"How did you know?" exclaimed Marian. "I only heard to-day that it is for sale, and I wanted to surprise you."
"Well, next time you have a surprise in store for us," said Frank, "don't announce it to Elsie Morris over the telephone."
"Oh, did you hear that?"
"As a rule, sister dear, unless you are the matron of a deaf and dumb asylum, you must expect those present to hear your end of a telephone conversation."
"Of course," said Marian; "I didn't think. But, really, wouldn't the Bigelow house be fine? Only a few blocks away from here, and such a lovely house, with a barn and a conservatory, and a little arbour in the garden."
Patty began to look frightened.
"Goodness, gracious me!" she exclaimed; "I don't believe I realise what I'm coming to. I could take care of the little arbour in the garden; but I wonder if I could manage a house, and a barn, and a conservatory!"
"And go to school every day, besides," said her father, laughing. "I think, my child, that at least until your school days are over, we will engage the services of a responsible housekeeper."
"Oh, papa!" cried Patty, in dismay, "you said I could keep house for you; and Aunt Alice has taught me lots about it; and she'll teach me lots more; and you know I can make good pumpkin pies; and, of course, I can dust and fly 'round; and that's about all there is to housekeeping, anyway."
"Oh, Patty," said Aunt Alice, "my lessons must have fallen on stony ground if you think that's all there is to housekeeping."
"That's merely a figure of speech, Aunt Alice," replied Patty. "You well know I am a thoroughly capable and experienced housekeeper; honest, steady, good-tempered, and with a fine reference from my last place."
"You're certainly a clever little housekeeper for your age," said her aunt, "but I'm not sure you could keep house successfully, and go to school, and practice your music, and attend to your club all at the same time."
"But I wouldn't do them all at the same time, Aunt Alice. I'd have a time for everything, and everything in it place. I would go to school, and practise, and housekeep, and club; all in their proper proportions—" Here Patty glanced at her father. "You see, if I had the proportions right, all would go well."
"Well, perhaps," said Mr. Fairfield, "if we had a competent cook and a tidy little waitress, we could get along without a professional housekeeper. I admit I had hoped to have Patty keep house for me and preside at my table, and at any rate, it would do no harm to try it as an experiment; then, if it failed, we could make some other arrangement."
"I guess I do want to sit at the head of our table, papa," said Patty; "I'd just like to see a housekeeper there! A prim, sour-faced old lady with a black silk dress and dangling ear-rings! No, I thank you. If I have my way I will keep that house myself, and when I get into any trouble, I will fly to Aunt Alice for rest and refreshment."
"We'll all help," said Marian; "I'll make lovely sofa-pillows for you, and I'm sure grandma will knit you an afghan."
"That isn't much towards housekeeping," said Frank. "I'll come over next summer and swing your hammock for you, and put up your tennis-net."
"And meantime," said Uncle Charley, "until the house is bought and furnished, the Fairfield family will be the welcome guests of the Elliotts. It's almost the middle of December now, and I don't think, Miss Patty Fairfield, that you'll get your home settled in time to make a visit in New York this winter; and now, you rattle-pated youngsters, run to bed, while I discuss some plans sensibly with my brother-in-law and fellow townsman."
THE TEA CLUB
"Well I should think you'd better stay in Vernondale, Patty Fairfield, if you know what's good for yourself! Why, if you had attempted to leave this town, we would have mobbed you with tar and feathers, or whatever those dreadful things are that they do to the most awful criminals."
"Oh, if I had gone, Polly, I should have taken this club with me, of course. I'm so used to it now, I'm sure I couldn't live a day, and know that we should meet no more, as the Arab remarked to his beautiful horse."
"It would be rather fun to be transported bodily to New York as a club, but I'd want to be transported home again after the meeting," said Helen Preston.
"Why shouldn't we do that?" cried Florence Douglass. "It would be lots of fun for the whole club to go to New York some day together."
"I'm so glad Patty is going to stay with us, I don't care what we do," said Ethel Holmes, who was drawing pictures on Patty's white shirt-waist cuffs as a mark of affection.
"I'm glad, too," said Patty; "and, Ethel, your kittens are perfectly lovely, but this is my last clean shirt-waist, and those pencil-marks are awfully hard to wash out."
"I don't mean them to be washed out," said Ethel, calmly going on with her art work; "they're not wash drawings, they're permanent decorations for your cuffs, and are offered as a token of deep regard and esteem."
The Tea Club was holding a Saturday afternoon meeting at Polly Stevens's house, and the conversation, as yet, had not strayed far from the all-engrossing subject of Patty's future plans.
The Tea Club had begun its existence with lofty and noble aims in a literary direction, to be supplemented and assisted by an occasional social cup of tea. But if you have had any experience with merry, healthy young girls of about sixteen, you will not be surprised to learn that the literary element had softly and suddenly vanished away, much after the manner of a Boojum. Then, somehow, the social interest grew stronger, and the tea element held its own, and the result was a most satisfactory club, if not an instructive one.
"But," as Polly Stevens had said, "we are instructed all day long in school, and a good deal out of school, too, for that matter; and what we need most is absolutely foolish recreation; the foolisher the better."
And so the Saturday afternoon meetings had developed into merely merry frolics, with a cup of tea, which was often a figure of speech for chocolate or lemonade, at the close.
There were no rules, and the girls took pleasure in calling themselves unruly members. There were no dues, and consequently no occasion for a secretary or treasures. Patty continued to be called the president, but the title meant nothing more than the fact that she was really a chief favourite among the girls. No one was bound, or even expected to attend the meetings unless she chose; but, as a rule, a large majority of the club was present.
And so to-day, in the library at Polly Stevens's house, nine members of the Tea Club were chattering like nine large and enthusiastic magpies.
"Now we can go on with the entertainment," said Lillian Desmond, as she sat on the arm of Patty's chair, curling wisps of the presidential hair over her fingers. "If Patty had gone away, I should have resigned my part in the show and gone into a convent. Where are you going to live, Patty?"
"I don't know, I am sure; we haven't selected a house yet; and if we don't find one we like, papa may build one, though I believe Marian has one all picked out for us."
"Yes, I have," said Marian. "It's the Bigelow house on our street. I do want to keep Patty near us."
"The Bigelow house? Why, that's too large for two people. Patty and Mr. Fairfield would get lost in it. Now, I know a much nicer one. There's a little house next-door to us, a lovely, little cottage that would suit you a lot better. Tell your father about it, Patty. It's for sale or rent, and it's just the dearest place."
"Why, Laura Russell," cried Marian, "that little snip of a house! It wouldn't hold Patty, let alone Uncle Fred. You only proposed it because you want Patty to live next-door to you."
"Yes; that's it," said Laura, quite unabashed; "I know it's too little, but you could add ells and bay-windows and wings and things, and then it would be big enough."
"Would it hold the Tea Club?" said Patty. "I must have room for them, you know."
"Oh, won't it be fun to have the Tea Club at Patty's house!" cried Elsie. "I hadn't thought of that."
"What's a home without a Tea Club?" said Patty. "I shall select the house with an eye single to the glory and comfort of you girls."
"Then I know of a lovely house," said Christine Converse. "It's awfully big, and it's pretty old, but I guess it could be fixed up. I mean the old Warner place."
"Good gracious!" cried Ethel; "'way out there! and it's nothing but a tumble-down old barn, anyhow."
"Oh, I think it's lovely; and it's Colonial, or Revolutionary, or something historic; and they're going to put the trolley out there this spring,—my father said so."
"It is a nice old house," said Patty; "and it could be made awfully pretty and quaint. I can see it, now, in my mind's eye, with dimity curtains at the windows, and roses growing over the porch."
"I hope you will never see those dimity curtains anywhere but in your mind's eye," said Marian. "It's a heathenish old place, and, anyway, it's too far away from our house."
"Papa says I can have a pony and cart," said Patty; "and I could drive over every day."
"A pony and cart!" exclaimed Helen Preston. "Won't that be perfectly lovely! I've always wanted one of my own. And shall you have man-servants, and maid-servants? Oh, Patty, you never could run a big establishment like that. You'll have to have a housekeeper."
"I'm going to try it," said Patty, laughing. "It will be an experiment, and, of course, I shall make lots of blunders at first; but I think it's a pity if a girl nearly sixteen years old can't keep house for her own father."
"So do I," said Laura. "And, anyhow, if you get into any dilemmas we'll all come over and help you out."
The girls laughed at this; for Laura Russell was a giddy little feather-head, and couldn't have kept house for ten minutes to save her life.
"Much good it would do Patty to have the Tea Club help her keep house," said Florence Douglass. "But we'll all make her lovely things to go to housekeeping with. I shall be real sensible, and make her sweeping-caps and ironing-holders."
"Oh, I can beat that for sensibleness," cried Ethel Holmes. "I read about it the other day, and it's a broom-bag. I haven't an idea what it's for; but I'll find out, and I'll make one."
"One's no good," said Marian sagely. "Make her a dozen while you're about it."
"Oh, do they come by dozens?" said Ethel, in an awestruck voice. "Well, I guess I won't make them then. I'll make her something pretty. A pincushion all over lace and pin ribbons, or something like that."
"That will be lovely," said Laura. "I shall embroider her a tablecloth."
"You'll never finish it," said Patty, who well knew how soon Laura's bursts of enthusiasm spent themselves. "You'd better decide on a doily. Better a doily done than a tablecloth but begun."
"Oh, I'll tell you-what we can do, girls," said Polly Stevens. "Let's make Patty a tea-cloth, and we'll each write our name on it, and then embroider it, you know."
"Lovely!" cried Christine. "Just the thing. Who'll hemstitch it? I won't. I'll embroider my name all right, but I hate to hemstitch."
"I'll hemstitch it," said Elsie Morris. "I do beautiful hemstitching."
"So do I," said Helen Preston. "Let me do half."
"Ethel and I hemstitch like birds," said Lillian Desmond. "Let's each do a side,—there'll be four sides, I suppose."
"Well, the tea-cloth seems in a fair way to get hemstitched," said Patty. "You can put a double row around it, if you like, and I'll be awfully glad to have it. I'll use it the first Saturday afternoon after I get settled."
"I wish I knew where you're going to live," said Ethel. "I'd like to have a correct mental picture of that first Saturday afternoon."
"It's a beautiful day for walking," said Polly Stevens. "Let's all go out, and take a look at the Warner place. Something tells me that you'll decide to live there."
"I hope something else will tell you differently, soon," said Marian, "for I'll never give my consent to that arrangement. However, I'd just as lieve walk out there, if only to convince you what a forlorn old place it is."
"Come on; let's go, then. We can be back in an hour, and have tea afterwards. I'll get the key from Mr. Martin, as we go by."
Like a bombarding army the Tea Club stormed the old Warner house, and once inside its Colonial portal, they made the old walls ring with their laughter. The wide hall was dark and gloomy until Elsie Morris flung open the door at the other end, and let in the December sunshine.
"Seek no farther," she cried dramatically. "We have crossed the Rubicon and found the Golden Fleece! This is the place of all others for our Tea Club meeting, and it doesn't matter what the rest of the house may be like. Patty, you will kindly consider the matter settled."
"I'll consider anything you like," said Patty; "and before breakfast, too, if you'll only hurry up and get out of this damp, musty old place. I'm shivering myself to pieces."
"Oh, it isn't cold," said Laura Russell; "and while we're here, let's go through the house."
"Yes," said Marian; "examine it carefully, lest some of its numerous advantages should escape your notice. Observe the hardwood floors, the magnificent mahogany stair-rail, and the lofty ceilings!"
The old floors were creaky, worm-eaten, and dusty; the stair-rail was in a most dilapidated condition, and the ceilings were low and smoky; so Marian scored her points.
"But it is antique," said Ethel Holmes, with the air of an auctioneer. "Ah, ladies, what would you have? It is a fine specimen of the Colonial Empire period, picked out here and there with Queen Anne. The mantels, ah,—the mantels are dreams in marble."
"Nightmares in painted wood, you mean," said Lillian.
"But so roomy and expansive," went on Ethel. "And the wall-papers! Note the fine stage of complete dilapidation left by the moving finger of Time."
"The wall-papers are all right," said Patty. "They look as if they'd peel off easily. Come on upstairs."
The chambers were large, low, and rambling; and the house, in its best days, must have been an interesting specimen of its type. But after a short investigation, Patty was as firmly convinced as Marian that its charms could not offset its drawbacks.
"I've seen enough of this moated grange," cried Patty. "Come on, girls, we're going back to tea, right, straight, smack off."
"There's no pleasing some folks," grumbled Ethel. "Here's an ancestral pile only waiting for somebody to ancestralise it. You could make it one of the Historic Homes of Vernondale, and you won't even consider it for a minute."
"I'll consider it for a minute," said Patty, "if that will do you any good, but not a bit longer; and as the minute is nearly up, I move we start."
After consultation with various real estate agents, and after due consideration of the desirable houses they had to offer, Mr. Fairfield came to the conclusion that the Bigelow house, which Marian had suggested, was perhaps the most attractive of any.
And so, one afternoon, a party of very interested people went over to look at it.
The procession was headed by Patty and Marian, followed by Mr. Fairfield and Aunt Alice, while Frank and his father brought up the rear. But as they were going out of the Elliotts' front gate, Laura Russell came flying across the street.
"Where are all you people going?" she cried. "I know you're going to look at a house. Which one?"
"The Bigelow house," said Marian, "and I'm almost sure Uncle Fred will decide to take it. Come on with us; we're going all through it."
"No," said Laura, looking disappointed, "I don't want to go; and I don't want the Fairfields to live in that house anyway. If they would only look at that little cottage next-door to us, I know they'd like it ever so much better. Oh, please, Mr. Fairfield, won't you come over and look at it now? It's so pretty and cunning, and it has the loveliest garden and chicken-coop and everything."
"I don't want a chicken-coop," said Patty, laughing; "I've no chickens, and I don't want any."
"Our chickens are over there most of the time," said Laura.
"Then, of course, we ought to have a coop to keep our neighbours' chickens in," said Mr. Fairfield; "and if this cottage is as delightful as Miss Russell makes it out, I think it's our duty at least to go and look at it. If the rest of you are willing, suppose we go over there first, and then if we should decide not to take it, we'll have time to investigate the Bigelow afterward"
Marian looked so woe-begone that Patty laughed.
"Cheer up, girl," she said; "there isn't one chance in a million of our taking that doll's house, but Laura will never give us a minute's peace until we go and look at it; so we may as well go now, and get it over."
"All right," said Marian; and Patty, with her two girl friends on either side of her, started in the direction of the cottage.
But when they reached it, Mr. Fairfield exclaimed in amazement. "That little house?" he said. "Oh, I see; that's the chicken-coop you spoke of. Well, where is the house?"
"This is the house," said Laura; "but, somehow, it does look smaller than usual; still, it's a great deal bigger inside."
"No doubt," said Frank. "I've often noticed that the inside of a house is much larger than the outside. Of course, we can't all go in at once, but I'm willing to wait my turn. Who will go first?"
"Very well, you may stay outside," said Laura. "I think the rest of us can all squeeze in at once, if we try."
But Frank followed the rest of the party, and, passing through the narrow hall, they entered the tiny parlour.
"I never was in such a crowded room," said Marian. "I can scarcely get my breath. I had no idea there were so many of us."
"Well, you're not going to live here," said Laura. "There's room enough for just Patty and her father."
"There is, if we each take a room to ourself," said Mr. Fairfield. "You may have this parlour, my daughter, and I'll take the library. Where is the library, Miss Russell?"
"I think it has just stepped out," said Frank; "at any rate, it isn't on this floor; there's only this room, and the dining-room, and a kitchen cupboard."
"Very likely the library is on the third floor," said Marian; "that would be convenient."
"There isn't any third floor," explained Laura. "This is what they call a story-and-a-half house."
"It would have to be expanded into a serial story, then, before it would do for us," said Mr. Fairfield. "We may not be such big people, but Patty and I have a pretty large estimate of ourselves, and I am sure we never could live in such a short-story-and-a-half as this seems to be."
"Indeed, we couldn't, papa," said Patty. "Just look at this dining-room. I'm sure it's only big enough for one. We would have to have our meals alternately; you could have breakfast, and I would have dinner one day, and the next day we'd reverse the order."
"Come, look at the kitchen, Patty," called out Frank; "or at least stick your head in; there isn't room for all of you. See the stationary tubs. Two of them, you see; each just the size of a good comfortable coffee-cup."
"Just exactly," said Patty, laughing; "why, I never saw such a house. Laura Russell, what were you thinking of?"
"Oh, of course, you could add to it," said Laura. "You could build on as many more rooms as you wanted, and you could run it up another story and a half, and that would make three stories; and I do want you to live near me."
"We're sorry not to live near you, Miss Laura," said Mr. Fairfield; "but I can't see my way clear to do it unless you would move into this bandbox, and let us have your roomy and comfortable mansion next door."
"Oh, there wouldn't be room for our family here," said Laura.
"But you could build on a whole lot of rooms," said Frank, "and add enough stories to make it a sky-scraper; and put in an elevator, and it would be perfectly lovely."
Laura laughed with the rest, and then, at Mrs. Elliott's suggestion, they all started back to the Bigelow house.
"Now, this is something like," said Marian, as they went in at the gate and up the broad front walk.
"Like what?" said Frank.
"Like a home for the Fairfields. What shall you call it—Fairfield Hall, Fairfield Place, or what?"
"I don't know," cried Patty, dashing up the veranda steps. "But isn't it a dear house! I feel at home here already. This big piazza will be lovely in warm weather. There's room for hammocks, and big chairs, and little tables, and everything."
Inside, the house proved very attractive. The large square hall opened into a parlour on one side and a library on the other. Back of the library was a little conservatory, and beyond that a large, light dining-room with an open fireplace.
"Here's a kitchen worth having," said Aunt Alice, who was investigating ahead of the rest; "and such convenient pantries and cupboards."
"And this back veranda is great," said Frank, opening the door from a little hall.
"Oh, yes," said Patty; "see the dead vines. In the summer it must have honeysuckles all over it. And there's the little arbour at the foot of the garden. I'm going down to see it."
Marian started to follow her, but Laura called her back to show her some new attraction, and Patty ran alone down the veranda steps, and through the box-bordered paths to the little rustic arbour.
"Goodness!" she exclaimed, as she reached it. "Who in the world are you?"
For inside the arbour sat a strange-looking girl of about Patty's own age. She was a tall, thin child, with a pale face, large black eyes, and straight black hair, which hung in wisps about her ears.
"I'm Pansy," she said, clasping her hands in front of her, and looking straight into Patty's face.
"You're Pansy, are you?" said Patty, looking puzzled. "And what are you doing here, Pansy?"
"Well, miss, you see it's this way. I want to go out to service; and when I heard you was going to have a house of your own, I thought maybe you'd take me to work for you."
"Oh, you did! Well, why didn't you come and apply to me, then, in proper fashion, and not sit out here waiting for me to come to you? Suppose I hadn't come?"
"I was sure you'd come, miss. Everybody who looks at this house comes out to look at the arbour; but there hasn't been anybody before that I wanted to work for. Please take me, miss; I'll be faithful and true."
"What can you do?" asked Patty, half laughing, and half pitying the strange-looking girl. "Can you cook?"
"No, ma'am, I can't cook; but I might learn it. But I didn't mean that. I thought you'd have a cook, and you'd take me for a table girl, you know; and to tidy up after you."
"I do want a waitress; but have you had any experience?"
"No, ma'am," said the girl very earnestly, "I haven't, but I'm just sure I could learn. If you just tell me a thing once, you needn't ever tell it to me again. That's something, isn't it?"
"Indeed it is," said Patty, remembering a certain careless waitress at Mrs. Elliott's. "Have you any references?"
"No," said the girl, smiling; "you see, I've never lived anywhere except home, and I suppose mother's reference wouldn't count."
"It would with me," said Patty decidedly. "I think your mother ought to know more about you than anybody else. What would she say if I asked her?"
"She'd say I was careless and heedless and thoughtless, and didn't know anything," replied the girl cheerfully; "and I am that way at home, but I wouldn't be if I worked for you, because I want to be a waitress, and a good one; and you'd see how quick I'd learn. Oh, do take me, miss. You'll never be sorry, and that's sure!"
This statement was accompanied by such decided gestures of head and hands that Patty was very nearly convinced to the contrary, but she only said, "I'm sorry, Pansy,—you said your name was Pansy, didn't you?"
"Yes, miss,—Pansy Potts."
"What an extraordinary name!"
"Is it, miss? Well, you see, my father's name was Potts; and mother named me Pansy, because she's so fond of the flower. You don't think the name will interfere with my being a waitress, do you?"
"Not so far as I'm concerned," said Patty, laughing; "but, you see, I shall be a very inexperienced housekeeper, and if I have an inexperienced waitress also, I don't know what might happen."
"Why, now, miss; it seems to me that that would work out just right. You're a young housekeeper, but I expect you know just about what a waitress ought to do, and you could teach me; and I know a lot about housekeeping, and I could teach you."
The sincerity in Pansy's voice and manner impressed Patty, and she looked at her closely, as she said:
"It does seem good proportion."
"It is," said Pansy; "and you've no idea how quickly I can learn."
"Can you?" said Patty. "Well, then, learn first to call me Miss Patty. It would suit me much better than to hear you say 'miss' so often."
"Yes, Miss Patty."
"And don't wring your hands in that absurd fashion, and don't stand first on one foot and then on the other, as if you were scared out of your wits."
"No, Miss Patty."
Pansy ceased shuffling, dropped her hands naturally to her sides, and stood in the quiet, respectful attitude that Patty had unconsciously assumed while speaking.
Delighted at this quick-witted mimicry, Patty exclaimed:
"I believe you will do. I believe you are just the one; but I can't decide positively, now. You go home, Pansy, and come to-morrow afternoon to see me at Mrs. Elliott's. Do you know where I live?"
"Yes, Miss Patty," and, with a respectful little bob of her head, Pansy Potts disappeared, and Patty ran back to the house.
"Well, chickadee," said Mr. Fairfield, "I have about decided that you and I can make ourselves comfortable within these four walls, and, if it suits your ladyship, I think we'll consider that we have taken the house."
"It does suit me," said Patty. "I'm perfectly satisfied; and I have taken a house-maid."
"Where did you get her?" exclaimed Frank. "Do they grow on trees in the garden? I saw you out in the arbour with one."
"Yes," said Patty; "I picked her off a tree. She isn't quite ripe, but she's not so very green; and I think she'll do. Never mind about her now. I can't decide until I've had a talk with Aunt Alice. I'm so glad you decided on this house, papa. Oh, isn't it lovely to have a home! It looks rather bare, to be sure, but, be it ever so empty, there's no place like home. Now, what shall we name it? I do like a nice name for a place."
"It has so many of those little boxwood Hedges," said Aunt Alice, looking out of the window, "that you might call it The Boxwood House."
"Oh, don't call it a wood-house," said Uncle Charley.
"Call it the wood-box, and be done with it," Frank.
"I like 'Hall,'" said Patty. "How is Boxwood Hall?"
"Sounds like Locksley Hall," said Marian.
"More like Boxley Hall," said Frank.
"Boxley Hall!" cried Patty. "That's just the thing! I like that."
"Rather a pretentious name to live up to," said Mr. Fairfield.
"Never mind," said Patty. "With Pansy Potts for a waitress, we can live up to any name."
And so Patty's new home was chosen, and its name was Boxley Hall.
As Boxley Hall was a sort of experiment, Mr. Fairfield concluded to rent the place for a year, with the privilege of buying.
By this time Patty was sure that she wished to remain in Vernondale all her life; but her father said that women, even very young ones, were fickle in their tastes, and he thought it wiser to be on the safe side.
"And it doesn't matter," as Patty said to Marian; "for, when the year is up, papa will just buy the house, and then it will be all right."
Having found a home, the next thing was to furnish it; and about this Mr. Fairfield was very decided and methodical.
"To-morrow," he said, as they were talking it over at the Elliotts' one evening, "to-morrow I shall take Patty to New York to select the most important pieces of furniture. We shall go alone, because it is a very special occasion, and we can't allow ourselves to be hampered by outside advices. Another day we shall go to buy prosaic things like tablecloths and carpet-sweepers; and then, as we know little about such things, we shall be glad to take with us some experienced advisers."
And so the next day Patty and her father started for the city to buy furniture for Boxley Hall.
"You see, Patty," said her father after they were seated in the train, "there is a certain proportion to be observed in furnishing a house, about which, I imagine, you know very little."
"Very little, indeed," returned Patty; "but, then, how should I know such things when I've never furnished a house?"
"I understand that," said Mr. Fairfield; "and so, with my advantages of age and experience, and your own natural good taste, I think we shall accomplish this thing successfully. Now, first, as to what we have on hand."
"Why, we haven't anything on hand," said Patty; "at least, I have a few pictures and books, and the afghan grandma's knitting for me; but that's all."
"You reckon without your host," said her father, smiling. "I possess some few objects of value, and during the past year I have added to my collection in anticipation of the time when we should have our own home."
"Oh, papa!" cried Patty; "have you a whole lot of new furniture that I don't know about?"
"Yes," said Mr. Fairfield; "except, that, instead of being new, it is mostly old. I had opportunities in the South to pick up bits of fine old mahogany, and I have a number of really good pieces that will help to make Boxley Hall attractive."
"What are they, papa? Tell me all about them. I can't wait another minute!"
"To begin with, child, I have several heirlooms; the old sideboard that was your grandfather Fairfield's, and several old bureaus and tables that came from the Fairfield estate. Then I have, also, two or three beautiful book-cases, and an old desk for our library; and to-day we will hunt up some sort of a big roomy table that will do to go with them."
"Let's make the library the nicest room in the house, papa."
"It will make itself that, if you give it half a chance, though we'll do all we can to help. But I'm so prosaic I would like to have special attention paid to the comforts of the dining-room; and as to your own bedroom, Patty, I want you to see to it that it fulfills exactly your ideal of what a girl's room ought to be."
"Oh, I know just how I want that; almost exactly like my room at Aunt Alice's, but with a few more of the sort of things I had in my room at Aunt Isabel's. I do like pretty things, papa."
"That's right, my child, I'm glad you do; and I think your idea of pretty things is not merely a taste for highfalutin gimcracks."
"No, I don't think it is," said Patty slowly; "but, all the same, you'd better keep pretty close to me when I pick out the traps for my room. Do you know, papa, I think Aunt Isabel wants to help us furnish our house. She wrote that she would meet us in New York some time."
"That's kind of her," said Mr. Fairfield; "but, do you know, it just seems to me that we'll be able to manage it by ourselves. Our house is not of the era of Queen Isabella, but of the Princess Patricia."
"That sounds like Aunt Isabel. They always called me Patricia there. Don't you think, papa, now that I'm getting so grown up, I ought to be called Patricia? Patty is such a baby name."
"Patty is good enough for me," said Mr. Fairfield. "If you want to be called Patricia, you must get somebody else to do it. I dare say you could hire somebody for a small sum per week to call you Patricia for a given number of times every day."
"Now, you're making fun of me, papa; but I do want to grow up dignified, and not be a silly schoolgirl all my life."
"Take care of your common sense, and your dignity will take care of itself."
After they crossed the ferry, and reached the New York side, Mr. Fairfield took a cab, and they made a round of the various shops, buying such beautiful things that Patty grew fairly ecstatic with delight.
"I do think you're wonderful, papa," she exclaimed, after they had selected the dining-room furnishings. "You know exactly what you want, and when you describe it, it seems to be the only possible thing that anybody could want for that particular place."
"That is a result of decision of character, my child. It is a Fairfield trait, and I hope you possess it; though I cannot say I have seen any marked development of it, as yet. But you must have noticed it in your Aunt Alice."
"Yes, I have," said Patty; "she is so decided that, with all her sweetness, I have sometimes been tempted to call her stubborn."
"Stubbornness and decision of character are very closely allied; but now, we're going to select the furniture for your own bedroom, and if you have any decision of character, you will have ample opportunity to exercise it."
"Oh, I'll have plenty of decision of character when it comes to that," said Patty; "you will find me a true Fairfield."
Aided by her father's judgment and advice, Patty selected the furnishings for her own room. She had chosen green as the predominant colour, and the couch and easy-chairs were upholstered in a lovely design of green and white. The rug was green and white, and for the brass bedstead with its white fittings, a down comfortable with a pale green cover was found. The dainty dressing-table was of bird's-eye maple; and for this Mr. Fairfield ordered a bewildering array of fittings, all in ivory, with Patty's monogram on them.
"And I want a little book-case, papa," she said; "a little one, you know, just for my favouritest books; for, of course, the most of my books will be down in the library."
So a dear little book-case was bought, also of bird's-eye maple, and a pretty little work-table, with a low chair to match.
"That's very nice," said Patty, with an air of satisfaction, "for, though I hate to sew, yet sometimes it must be done; and with that little work-table, I think I could sew even in an Indian wigwam!"
Patty hadn't much to say regarding the furniture of her father's bedroom, for Mr. Fairfield attended to that himself, and selected the things with such rapidity and certainty that it was all done almost before Patty knew it.
"Now," said Mr. Fairfield, "there are two guest-chambers to be furnished; the one you call Marian's room, and the other for the general stranger within our gates."
Marian's room was done up in blue, as she had requested, and the other guest-room was furnished in yellow.
It was great fun to pick out the furniture, rugs, and curtains for these rooms; and Patty tried very hard to select such things as her father would approve of, for she dearly loved to have him commend her taste and judgment.
As they were sitting at luncheon, Mr. Fairfield said: "This afternoon, I think, we will devote to pictures. I'm not sure we will buy any, but we will look at them, and I will learn what is your taste in art, and you will leant what is mine."
"I haven't any," said Patty cheerfully. "I don't know anything about art and never did."
"You still have some time, I hope, in which to learn."
"I've time enough, but I don't believe I could learn. The only pictures I like are pretty ones."
"You are hopeless, and that's a fact," said Mr. Fairfield. "Of all discouraging people, the worst are those who like pretty pictures!"
"But I'm sure I can learn," said Patty, "if you will teach me."
"You are more flattering than convincing," said Mr. Fairfield, "but I will try."
And so after luncheon they visited several picture shops, and Mr. Fairfield imported to his daughter what was at least a foundation for an education in art.
Back in Vernondale, Patty confided to Marian that she had had a perfectly lovely time all the morning, but the afternoon wasn't so much fun. "In fact," she said, "it was very much like that little book we had to study in school called 'How to Judge a Picture.'"
The following Saturday another shopping tour was undertaken. This time Aunt Alice and Marian accompanied the Fairfields, and there was more fun and less responsibility for Patty.
Her father insisted upon her undivided attention while Mrs. Elliott selected table-linen, bed-linen, towels, and other household fittings; but, as these things were chosen with Fairfield promptness and decision, Patty had nothing to do but admire and acquiesce.
"And now," she remarked, after they had chosen two sets of china and a quantity of glass for the dining-room; "now, if you please, we will buy me some tea-things to entertain the Tea Club."
"We will, indeed," said Mr. Fairfield, and both he and Aunt Alice entered into the selection of the tea-table fittings with as much zest as they had shown in the other china.
Dainty Dresden cups were found, lovely plates, and a tea-pot, and cracker-jar, which made Marian and Patty fairly shriek with delight.
A three-storied wicker tea-table was found, to hold these treasures, and Mr. Fairfield added the most fascinating little silver tea-caddy and tea-ball and strainer.
"Oh," exclaimed Marian, made quite breathless by the glory of it all, "the Tea Club will never want to meet anywhere except at your house, Patty."
"They'll have to," said Patty. "I don't propose to have them every time."
"Well, you'll have to have them every other time, anyway," said Marian.
After the fun of picking out the tea-things, it was hard to come down to the plainer claims of the kitchen, but Aunt Alice grew so interested in the selection of granite saucepans and patent coffee-mills that Patty, too, became enthusiastic.
"And we must get a rolling-pin," she cried, "for I shall make pumpkin pies every day. Oh, and I want a farina-kettle and a colander, and a bain-marie, and a larding-needle, and a syllabub-churn."
"Why, Patty, child!" exclaimed her father; "what are all those things for? Are you going to have a French chef?"
"No, papa, but I expect to do a great deal of fancy cooking myself."
"Oh, you do! Well, then, buy all the contraptions that are necessary, but don't omit the plain gridirons and frying-pans."
Then Aunt Alice and Patty put their heads together in a most sensible fashion, and ordered a kitchen outfit that would have delighted the heart of any well-organised housekeeper. Not only kitchen utensils, but laundry fittings, and household furnishings generally; including patent labour-saving devices, and newly invented contrivances which were supposed to be of great aid to any housewife.
"If I can only live up to it all," sighed Patty, as she looked at the enormous collection of iron, tin, wood, and granite.
"Or down to it," said Marian.
"I did think," said Patty, in a disgusted tone, "that we could get settled in the house in time to eat our Christmas dinner there, but it doesn't look a bit like it. I was over there this afternoon, and such a hopeless-looking mess of papering and painting and plumbing I never saw in my life. I don't believe it will ever be done!"
"I don't either," said Marian; "those men work as slow as mud-turtles."
The conversation was taking place at the Elliotts' dinner-table, and Uncle Charley looked up from his carving to say:
"It's an ill wind that blows nobody good, and the slower the mud-turtles are, the longer we shall have our guests with us. For my part, I shall be very sorry to see pretty Patty go out of this house."
Patty smiled gaily at her uncle, for they were great friends, and said:
"Then I shall expect you to visit me very often in my new home,—that is, if I ever get there."
"I can't see our way clear to a Christmas dinner in Boxley Hall," said Mr. Fairfield; "but I think I can promise you, chick, that you can invite your revered uncle and his family to dine with you there on New Year's day."
There were general exclamations of delight at this from all except Patty, who looked a little bewildered.
"What's the matter, Patsie?" said her uncle. "Don't you want to entertain your admiring relatives?"
"Yes," said Patty, "of course I do; but it scares me to death to think of it! How can I have a dinner party, when I don't know anything about anything?"
"Aunt Alice will tell you something about something," said her father; "and I'll tell you the rest about the rest."
"Oh, I know it will be all right," said Patty, quickly regaining confidence, as she looked at her father. "If papa says the house will be ready, I know it will be, and if he says we'll have a dinner party on New Year's day, I know we will; and so I now invite you all, and I expect you all to accept; and I hope Aunt Alice will come early."
"I shall come the night before," said Marian, "so as to be sure to be there in time."
"I'm not sure that any of us will be there the night before," said Mr. Fairfield, laughing. "I've guaranteed the house for the dinner, but I didn't say we would be living there at the time."
"That's a good idea," said Aunt Alice; "let Patty entertain her first company there, and then come back here for the reaction."
"Well, we'll see," said Patty; "but I'd like to go there the first day of January, and stay there."
By some unknown methods, Mr. Fairfield managed to stir up the mud-turtle workmen to greater activity, and the work went rapidly on. The wall-papers seemed to get themselves into place, and the floors took on a beautiful polish; bustling men came out from the city and put up window-shades, and curtains, and draperies; and, under Mr. Fairfield's supervision, laid rugs and hung pictures.
The ladies of the Elliott household organised themselves into a most active sewing-society.
Grandma, Aunt Alice, Marian, and Patty hemmed tablecloths and napkins with great diligence, and even little Edith was allowed to help with the kitchen towels.
Everybody was so kind that Patty began to feel weighed down with gratitude. The girls of the Tea Club made the tea-cloth that they had proposed, and they also brought offerings of pin-cushions, and doilies and centre-pieces, until Patty's room began to look like a booth at a fancy bazaar.
One Saturday morning, as the sewing-circle was hard at work, little Gilbert came in carrying a paper bag, which evidently contained something valuable.
"It's for you, Patty," he said. "I brought it for you, to help keep house; and its name is Pudgy."
Depositing the bag in his cousin's lap, little Gilbert knelt beside her. "You needn't open it," he cried; "it will open itself!"
And, sure enough, the mouth of the bag untwisted, and a little grey head came poking out.
"A kitten!" exclaimed Patty; "a Maltese kitten. Why, that's just the very thing I wanted! Where did you get it, Gilbert, dear?"
"From the milkman," said Gilbert proudly. "We always get kitties from him, and I telled him to pick out a nice pretty one for you. Do you like it?"
"I love it," said Patty, cuddling the little bunch of grey fur; "and Pudgy is just the right name for it. It's the fattest little cat I ever saw."
"Yes," said Gilbert gravely; "don't let it get thin, will you?"
"No, indeed," said Patty; "I'll feed it on strawberries and cream all the year round!"
That same afternoon Patty and Aunt Alice started out on a cook-hunting expedition. A Cook's Tour, Frank called it; and the tourists took it very seriously.
"Much of the success of your home, Patty," said Aunt Alice, as they were going to the Intelligence Office, "depends upon your cook; for she will be not only a cook, but, in part, housekeeper, and overseer of the whole place. And while you must, of course, exercise your authority and demand respect, yet at the same time you will find it necessary to defer to her judgment and experience on many occasions."
"I know it, Aunt Alice," said Patty very earnestly; "and I do want to do what is right. I want to be the head of papa's home, and yet there are a great many things that my servants will know more about than I do. I shall have to be very careful about my proportion; but if you and papa will help me, I think I'll come out all right."
"I think you will," said Aunt Alice, but she smiled a little at the assured toss of her niece's head.
The Intelligence Office proved to be as much misnamed as those institutions usually are, and varying degrees of unintelligence were shown in the candidates offered for the position of cook at Boxley Hall; though, if the applicants seemed unsatisfactory to Patty, in many cases she was no less so to them.
One tall, rawboned Irishwoman seemed hopefully good-tempered and capable, but when she discovered that Patty was to be her mistress, instead of Mrs. Elliott, as she had supposed, she exclaimed:
"Go 'way wid yez! Wud I be workin' for the likes of a child like that? No, mum, I ain't no nurse; I'm a cook, and I want a mistress as has got past playing wid dolls."
"I hope you'll find one," said Patty politely; "and I'm afraid we wouldn't suit each other."
Another Irish girl, with a merry rosy face and frizzled blonde hair, was very anxious to go to work for Patty.
"Sure, it will be fun!" she said. "I'd like to work for such a pretty little lady; and, sure, we'd have the good times. Could I have all me afternoons out, miss?"
"Not if you lived with me," said Patty, laughing. "My house is large, and there's a great deal of work to be done by somebody. I think my cook couldn't do her share if she went out every afternoon."
Many others were interviewed, but each seemed to have more or less objectionable traits. One would not come unless she were the only servant; another would not come unless Patty kept five. Most of them showed such a decided lack of respect to so young a mistress that Aunt Alice began to despair of finding the kind, capable woman she had imagined. They went home feeling rather discouraged, but when Patty told her troubles to her father, he only laughed.
"Bless your heart, child," he said; "you couldn't expect to engage a whole cook in one afternoon! It's a long and serious process."
"But, papa, you said we'd be all settled and ready by the first of January."
"Yes, I know, but I didn't say which January."
"Now, you're teasing," said Patty; but she ran away with a light heart, feeling sure that somehow a cook would be provided.
That evening, according to appointment, Pansy Potts appeared for inspection. The whole Elliott family was present, and observed with much interest the strange-looking girl.
But, though ignorant and awkward, Pansy was not embarrassed, and, seeming to realise that her fate lay in the hands of Mrs. Elliott, Mr. Fairfield, and Patty, she addressed herself to them.
Her manner, though untrained, showed respectful deference, and her expressive black eyes showed quick perception and clever adaptability.
"She is all right at heart," thought Mr. Fairfield to himself, "but she knows next to nothing. I wonder if it would be a good plan to let the two girls help each other out."
"Have you ever waited at table, Pansy?" he asked, so pleasantly that Pansy Potts felt encouragement rather than alarm.
"No, sir; but I could learn, and I would do exactly as I was told."
"That's the right spirit," said Mr. Fairfield "I think perhaps we'll have to give you a trial."
"But don't you know anything of a housemaid's duties?" inquired Aunt Alice, who was a little dubious in the face of such absolute ignorance. "For instance, if the door-bell should ring, what would you do?"
"I would have asked Miss Patty beforehand, ma'am, and I would do whatever she had told me to."
"Good enough!" exclaimed Mr. Fairfield. "I think you'll do, Pansy; at any rate, you'll have nothing to unlearn, and that's a great deal."
So the waitress was engaged, and it was not long after this that a cook "dropped from the skies," as Patty expressed it.
One afternoon a large and amiable-looking coloured woman appeared at Mrs. Elliott's house, with a note from Mrs. Stevens recommending her as a cook for Patty. As soon as Patty saw her she liked her, but, remembering previous experiences, she said:
"Do you understand that you are to work for me? I'm a very young housekeeper, you know."
"Laws, missy, dat's all right. Til do de housekeepin' and you can do de bossin'. I reckon we'll get along mos' beautiful."
"That sounds attractive, I'm sure," said Patty, laughing. "What is your name?"
"Emancipation Proclamation Jackson," announced the owner of the name proudly.
"That's a big name," said Patty; "I couldn't call you all that at once."
"Co'se I shouldn't expect it. Mancy, mos' folks calls me, and dat's good enough for me; but I likes my name, my whole name, and it does look beautiful, wrote."
"I should think it might," said Aunt Alice. "Can you cook, Mancy?"
"Oh, yas'm, I kin cook everything what there is to cook, and I can make things besides. Oh, they won't be no trouble about my cookin'. I know dat much!"
"Are you a good laundress?" asked Aunt Alice.
"Yas'm, I am! Ef I do say it dat shouldn't, you jes' ought to see de clothes I sends up! Dey's jes' like druvven snow. Oh, dey won't be no trouble about de laundry work!"
"And can you sweep?" said Patty.
"Can I sweep? Law, chile, co'se I kin sweep! What yo' s'pose I want to hire out for, ef I can't do all dem things? Oh, dey won't be no trouble about sweepin'!"
"Well, where will the trouble be, Mancy?" said Patty.
"Dey moughtn't be any trouble, miss," said the black woman earnestly; "but if dey is, it'll be 'count o' my bein' spoke cross to. I jes' nachelly can't stand bein' spoke cross to. It riles me all up."
"I don't believe there will be any trouble on that score," said Patty, laughing. "My father and I are the best-natured people in the world."
"I believe yo', missy; an' dat's why I wants to come."
"There will be another servant, Mancy," said Aunt Alice; "a young girl who will be a waitress. She is ignorant and inexperienced, but Very willing to learn. Do you think you could get along with her?"
"Is she good-natured?" asked Mancy.
"I don't know her very well," said Patty; "but I think she is. I'm sure she will be, if we are."
"Den dat's all right," said Mancy. "I kin look after you two chilluns, I 'spect, and get my work done, too. When shall I come?"
"The house isn't quite ready yet," said Patty; "but I hope to go there to live on New Year's day."
"I think we'd be glad of Mancy's help a few days before that," said Aunt Alice.
And so, subject to Mr. Fairfield's final sanction, Mancy was engaged. And now Patty's whole establishment, including Pudgy the cat, was made up.
A few days before the close of the old year, Patty sat at her desk in the library of Boxley Hall.
She was making lists of good things to be ordered for the feast on New Year's day; and, as it was her first unaided experience with such memoranda, she wore an air of great importance and a deeply puckered brow.
Mancy, with her arms comfortably akimbo, stood before her young mistress ready to suggest, but tactfully chary of advice.
They were not yet living in the new home, but all the furniture was in place, the furnace fire had been started, and the palms arranged in the little conservatory.
So Patty spent most of her time there, and some of the Elliotts were usually there with her.
But this morning she was alone with Mancy, struggling with the all-important lists.
"I'll make the salad myself," she remarked, as she wrote "olive oil" on her slip of paper.
"Yas'm," answered Mancy, rolling her eyes with an expression of dubious approval. "Does yo' know how, missy?"
"Oh, yes," said Patty confidently; "I can make most beautiful salad dressing. Only it does take quite a long time, and I shall have a lot to do Thursday morning. Perhaps I'd better leave it to you this time, Mancy. Can you make it?"
"Laws, yes, honey; and yo'd better leave it to me. Yo'll have enough to do with yo' flowers and fixin's, and dressin' yourself up pretty. I'll 'tend to the food."
"Well, all right, Mancy; I wish you would. And, now, just help me with this list. I'll read it to you, and see if you think of anything that I've forgotten."
"Yas'm," said Mancy, who was most anxious to help, but who had already learned that Patty was a little inclined to resent unasked advice.
They were deep in the fascinating bewilderments of grocers' and greengrocers' wares, when Pansy Potts appeared in the doorway.
"Miss Patty," she said, "I've done all the things you told me to do; and I watered the palms, and I've poked around that bunchy rosebush, but I'm 'most sure it's going to die; and now, if you please, when can I be let to fix up my own room?"
"Sure enough, Pansy," said Patty; "we must get at that room of yours, and we'll fix it up as pretty as we can."
"Mine, too," said Mancy; "I wants my room fixed up nice. I fetched a lot of pictures to liven it up some, but I reckon I ain't got no time to put 'em up to-day."
"Oh, yes, you have, Mancy," said Patty, rising; "and, anyway, we'll go right up and look at those rooms; then I can tell what we need to get for them."
"Mine won't need anything," said Pansy, "except what's in it already, and what I've got to put in it myself. I brought my decorations over this morning."
"Oh, you did?" said Patty. "Well, bring them along, and we'll all go upstairs together."
"I'll get mine, too," said Mancy, shuffling toward the kitchen.
The servants' rooms were in the third story. They had been freshly papered and neatly and appropriately furnished, though Patty had not, as yet, added any pictures or ornaments.
And, apparently, she would have no occasion to do so; for, as she went up to these rooms, she was immediately followed by their future occupants, each of whom came with her arms full of what looked like the most worthless rubbish.
"What is all that stuff, Pansy?" exclaimed Patty, as she beheld her young waitress fairly staggering under her load.
"They're lovely things, Miss Patty, and I hope you don't mind. This is a hornet's nest, and this is a branch of an apple tree, with a swing-bird's nest on it."
"A branch! It's a big limb,—a bough, I should call it. What are you going to do with it?"
"I thought I'd put it on the wall, Miss Patty. It makes the room look outdoorsy."
"It does, indeed! Put it up, if you like; but will you have room then to get in yourself?"
"Oh, yes," said Pansy cheerfully; "and I've got a big tub over home that I want to bring; it has an orange tree planted in it."
"With oranges on?"
"Oh, no, not oranges; indeed, it hasn't any leaves on, but I think maybe they'll come."
"It must be beautiful!" said Patty. "But if it hasn't any leaves on, it's probably dead."
"Oh, no, Miss Patty, it isn't dead; and it had leaves a-plenty, but my little brother he picked the leaves all off. That's one reason I wanted to come here, so's to get my orange tree away from Jack."
"Well, bring it along," said Patty good-naturedly. "What else are you going to have? A grape-vine, I suppose, trained over the headboard of your bed."
"No, Miss Patty, I haven't got no grapevine, but I've got a wandering-jew-vine in a pot, that I want to set on the mantel."
"All right," said Patty, "bring your wandering-jew, and let him wander wherever he likes. You'll have to keep your door shut, or he'll wander out and run downstairs. What's in that bag?"
"Rocks, Miss Patty."
"Rocks? What in the world are you going to do with those?"
"I'm going to make a rockery, ma'am, by the window. They're just beautiful. Miss Powers has one in her parlour, and I always wanted one, but mother wouldn't let me have it, 'cause she says it clutters."
"But, what is it?" said Patty. "How do you make it?"
"Oh, you just pile the stones up in a heap, and you stick dried grasses, and autumn leaves and things, in them; and, if ever you have any flowers, you know, you stick them in, too."
"I see; it must be very effective; and sometimes I can give you flowers for it, I'm sure."
"Thank you, Miss Patty; I hope you will. Oh, I'll be so glad to have it; I've been saving these stones for it for years. You see, they're beautiful stones."
Pansy Potts was on her knees arranging the stones, many of which were jagged pieces of quartz shining here and there with mica scales, into a symmetrical pile, which somehow had the effect of a Pagan altar.
"Well," said Patty, as she watched her, "I don't think you'll need any of the decorations I expected to give you."
"Oh, Miss Patty," said Pansy earnestly, "please don't make me have pictures, and pincushions, and vases, and all those things; I like my own things so much better."
"You shall fix your room just as you choose," said Patty kindly; "and if I can help you in any way, I'll be glad to do so. How are you progressing, Mancy?"
Patty stepped across the hall to her cook's room, and found its stout occupant rather precariously perched on a chair, tacking up a picture. She had evidently improved her time, for many other pictures were already in place, and, what is unusual in either a public or private art-gallery, the pictures were all exactly alike. They were large, very highly coloured, unframed, and, in fact, were nothing more or less than advertisements of a popular soap. The subject was a broadly-grinning old coloured woman, washing clothes, that were already snow-white, in a sea of soapsuds.
"For goodness' sake, Mancy!" exclaimed Patty. "Who said you might drive tacks all over these new walls, and where did you get all those pictures of yourself?"
"They does favour me, don't they, missy?" exclaimed Mancy, beaming with delight, as she took another tack from her mouth, and pounded it into place. "I got 'em from de grocer man, and co'se I has to tack 'em, else how would dey stay up?"
"But you have so many of them."
"Laws, chile, only a dozen; youse got mo'n that on the libr'y wall."
"But ours are different; these are all alike."
"Co'se dey's all alike! I des nachelly gets tired of lookin' at different pitchers. It 'stracts my head."
"I should think these would distract your head. I feel as if I were in a kinetoscope."
"Does that mean art-gal'ry?"
"Not exactly; but tell me, Mancy, did you get all these pictures because they looked like you? And was the grocer willing to give you so many?"
"Yas'm. But I 'spects I'll hab to confess a little about dat, Miss Patty. You see, I dun tole him I was gwine t' work for yo', and dat's huccome he guv 'em to me."
"That's all right, Mancy. After he gets that long order we made out this morning, I'm sure he'll feel he was justified in favouring us; but get down out of that chair. In the first place, you'll fall and break your neck, and if you don't, you'll break the chair. Get down, and I'll tack up the rest of your pictures."
"Thank you, missy, do; and I'll hand you the tacks. There's only six more, anyhow. I 'llowed to have three over the mantel, and two over that window, and one behind the door."
"But you can't see it; that door is usually open."
"No'm; but I'll know it's there jes' the same."
"All right; here goes, then," and soon Patty had the rest of the gaudy lithographs tacked into their designated places.
"Now, Mancy," she said, as she jumped down from the chair for the last time, "you don't want any other pictures, do you? It would interfere with the artistic unities to introduce any other school."
"Laws 'a' massy, chile; I don't want to go to school! Miss Patty, sometimes you does cert'nly talk like a Choctaw Injun. Leastways, I can't understand you."
"It doesn't really matter," said Patty, "and we're even, anyway; for I can't understand why you want those fearful posters in your room, instead of the nice little pictures I had planned to give you."
"Oh, yes; I knows yo' nice little pictures! with a narrow black ban', jes' about the size ob a sheet of mo'nin' paper! No, thank you, missy, no black-bordered envelopes hanging on my wall! Give me good reds and yallers and blues; the kind you can hear with yo' eyes shut. That is, ef yo' don't mind, missy. Ef yo' does, I'll take 'em all right slam-bang down."
"No, no, Mancy; it's all right. In your own room I want you to have just exactly what you want, and nothing else. Now, let's go and see how Pansy's getting along."
The rockery was completed, and was a most imposing structure. Wheat ears and dried oats were sticking out from between the stones, and pressed autumn leaves added a touch of colour. At the base of the rockery were a large pink-lined conch-shell and several smaller shells. On the walls were various branches of different species of vegetation; among others a tangle of twigs of the cotton plant, from which depended numerous bolls.
Pansy was struggling with a lot of evergreen boughs, which she was trying to crowd into a strange-looking receptacle.
"How do you like it, Miss Patty?" she asked, as Patty stood in the doorway and gazed in.
"I like it very much, for you, Pansy," replied Patty. "If this is the kind of room you want, I'm very glad for you to have it; only, I don't know whether to call it 'First Course in Mineralogy,' or 'How to Tell the Wild Flowers,'"
AN UNATTAINED AMBITION
To say that Boxley Hall was in readiness for the party would be stating it very mildly. It was overflowing,—yes, fairly bursting with readiness.
New Year's day was on Thursday, and Patty had decreed that on that day none of the Elliotts should go to Boxley Hall until they came as guests.
Dinner was to be at two o'clock, and in the morning Patty and her father went over to their new home together.
"Just think, papa," said Patty, squeezing his hand as they went along, "how many times we have walked—and run, too, for that matter—from Aunt Alice's over to our house; but this time it's different. We're going to stay, to live, really to reside in our own home; and whenever we go to Aunt Alice's again, it will be to visit or to call. Oh, isn't it perfectly lovely! If I can only live up to it, and do things just as you want me to."
"Don't take it too seriously, Pattikins; I don't expect you to become an old and experienced housewife all at once. And I don't want you to wear yourself out trying to become such a personage. Indeed, I shall be terribly disappointed if you don't make ridiculous mistakes, and give me some opportunity to laugh at you."
"You are the dearest thing, papa; that's just the way I want you to feel about it; and I think I can safely promise to make enough blunders to keep you giggling a good portion of the time."
"Oh, don't go out of your way to furnish me with amusement. And now, how about your party to-day? Is everything in tip-top order?"
"Yes, except a few thousand things that I have to do this morning, and a few hundred that I want you to do."
"I shall see to it, first, that the carving-knife is well sharpened. It's the first time that I have carved at my own table for a great many years, and I want the performance to be marked by grace and skill."
"It will be, if you do it, papa; I'm sure of that," and by this time they had reached the gate, and Patty was skipping along the path and up the steps, and into the door of her own home.
Mancy and Pansy Potts were already there, and, to a casual observer, it looked as if there was nothing more to do except to admit the guests.
Patty had set the table the day before, and, to the awestruck admiration of Pansy Potts, had arranged the beautiful new glass and china with most satisfactory effects. Pansy had watched the proceedings with intelligent scrutiny and, when it was finished, had told Patty that the next time she would be able to do it herself.
"You'll have a chance to try," Patty had answered, "for in the evening we'll have supper, and you may set the table all by yourself; and I'll come out and look it over to make sure it's all right."
But, as Patty had said, there was yet much to be done on Thursday morning, even though there were eight hands to make the work light.
Boxes of flowers had arrived from the florist's, and these had to be arranged in the various rooms; also, a few potted plants in full bloom had come for the conservatory, and these so delighted the soul of Pansy Potts that Patty feared the girl would spend the whole day nursing them.
"Come, Pansy," she called; "let them grow by themselves for a while; I want your help in the kitchen."
"But, oh, Miss Patty, they're daisies! Real white daisies, with yellow centres!"
"Well, they'll still be daisies to-morrow, and you'll have more time to admire them then."
Patty's ambitions in the culinary line ran to the fanciful and elaborate confections which were pictured in the cook-books and in the household periodicals; especially did she incline toward marvellous desserts which called for spun sugar, and syllabubs, and rare sweetmeats, and patent freezing processes.
For her New Year's dinner party she had decided to try the most complicated recipe of all, and, moreover, intended to surprise everybody with it.
Warning her father to keep out of the kitchen on pain of excommunication, she rolled up her sleeves and tied on a white apron; and with her open book on the table before her, began her proceedings.
Pansy Potts was set to whipping cream with a new-fangled syllabub-churn, and Mancy was requested to blanch some almonds and pound them to a paste in a very new and very large mortar.
Though the good-natured Mancy was more than willing to help her young mistress through what threatened to be somewhat troubled waters, yet she had the more substantial portions of the dinner to prepare, and there was none too much time.
As Patty went on with her work, difficulties of all sorts presented themselves. The cream wouldn't whip, but remained exasperatingly fluid; the sugar refused to "spin a thread," and obstinately crystallised itself into a hard crust; the almonds persisted in becoming a lumpy mass, instead of a smooth paste; and the gelatine, as Patty despairingly remarked, "acted like all possessed!"
But, having attempted the thing, she was bound to carry it through, though it was with some misgivings that she finally poured a queer and sticky-looking substance into the patent freezer.
Pansy Potts had declared herself quite able to accomplish the freezing process; but, as she was about to begin, she announced in tragic tones that the extra ice hadn't come.
"Oh!" exclaimed Patty, in desperation, "everything seems to go wrong about that dessert! Well, Pansy, you use what ice there is, and I'll telephone for some more, right away."
But when Patty called up the ice company she found that their office was closed for the day, and, hanging up the receiver with an angry little jerk, she turned to find her father smiling at her.
"I see you have begun to amuse me," he said; "but never mind about my entertainment now, Puss; run away and get dressed, or you won't be ready to receive your guests. It's half-past one now."
"Oh, papa, is it so late? And I have to get into that new frock!"
"Well, scuttle along, then, and make all the haste you can."
Patty scuttled, but during the process of making all the haste she could, she very nearly lost her temper.
The new white frock was complicated; the broad white hair-ribbons were difficult to tie; and, as it was the first time that she had made a toilette in her new home, it is not at all surprising that many useful or indispensable little articles were missing.
"Pansy," she called, as she heard the girl in the dining-room, "do, for mercy's sake, come up and help me. I can't find my shoe-buttoner, and I can't button the yoke of this crazy dress without it."
Pansy came to the rescue, and just as the Elliott family came in at the front gate, Patty completely attired, but very flushed and breathless from her rapid exertions—flew downstairs and tucked her arm through her father's, as he stood in the hall.
"I'm here," she said demurely, and trying to speak calmly.
"Oh, so you are," he said. "I thought a white cashmere whirlwind had struck me. I hope you didn't hurry yourself."
"Oh, no!" said Patty, meeting his merry smile with another. "I just dawdled through my dressing to kill time."
"Yes, you look so," said her father, and just then the doorbell rang.
"Oh, papa," cried Patty, her eyes dancing with excitement, "isn't it just grand! That's the first ring at our own doorbell, our own doorbell, you know; and hasn't it a musical ring? And now it will be answered by our own Pansy."
Without a trace of the hurry and fluster that had so affected her young mistress, Pansy Potts, in neat white cap and apron, opened the door to the guests.
Patty nudged her father's arm in glee, as they noted the correct demeanour of their own waitress, and then all such considerations were drowned in the outburst of enthusiasm that accompanied the entrance of the Elliotts. The younger members of the family announced themselves with wild war-whoops of delight, and the older ones, though less noisy, were no less enthusiastic.
"I like Cousin Patty's house," announced Gilbert, sitting down in the middle of the floor. "I will stay here always. Where is the Pudgy kitty-cat?"
"I'll get her for you, right away," said Patty. "She is fatter than ever; but, first, let me make grandma comfortable."
Taking Mrs. Elliott's bonnet and wraps, Patty led the old lady to a large easy-chair, and announced that she must sit there for a few moments and rest, before she made a tour of inspection around the house.
Grandma Elliott had not been allowed in the new house while it was being arranged, lest she should take cold, and so to-day it burst upon her in all its glory. By this time Frank and Marian were investigating the conservatory, and little Edith was announcing that Cousin Patty had a "Crimson Gambler."
"She means Crimson Rambler!" exclaimed Patty; "or, as Pansy calls it, 'that bunchy rosebush.'"
Although the guests had been invited to a two-o'clock dinner, yet when the clock hands pointed to nearly three, the meal had not been announced.
There was so much to be talked about that the time did not drag, but Aunt Alice looked at Patty a little curiously.
Patty caught the glance, and excusing herself, went out into the kitchen.
"Mancy!" she exclaimed; "it's almost three o'clock. Why don't you have dinner?"
"Well, honey, yo' took so much of my time mashin' your old nuts dat my work got put behind. Dinner'll come on after a while; it's mos' ready."
Patty went back to the parlour, laughing.
"If anybody can hurry up Mancy," she said, "they're welcome to try it. I didn't realise it was so late, and I'm awfully sorry; but I guess we'll have dinner pretty soon, now."
"Don't be sorry we're going to have it soon," said Frank; "none of the rest of us are, I assure you."
Although served about an hour late, the dinner was a great success. It had been carefully planned; Mancy's cooking was beyond reproach, and Pansy Potts proved a neat-handed and quick-witted, if inexperienced, Phyllis.
Encouraged by the general excellence of the courses, as they succeeded one another, Patty began to hope that her gorgeous dessert would turn out all right after all.
Seated at the head of her own table, she made a charming little hostess, and many a glance of happy understanding passed between her and the gentleman who presided at the other end.
"I say, Patty, it's right down jolly, you having a house of your own," said Frank.
"Except that we miss you awfully over home," added Uncle Charley.
"I don't see how you can," said Patty, smiling; "as I took breakfast there this morning, you haven't yet gathered round your lonely board without me."
"No, but we shall have to," said Uncle Charley, "and it is that which is breaking my young heart."
"Well, this is what's breaking my young heart," said Patty, as she watched Pansy Potts, who was just entering the room with a dish containing a most unattractive-looking failure.
"I may as well own up," she said bravely, as the dessert was placed in front of her. "My ambition was greater than my ability."
"Don't say another word," said Aunt Alice. "I understand; those spun-sugar things are monuments of total depravity."
Patty gave her aunt a grateful glance, and said, "They certainly are, Aunt Alice; and I'll never attempt one again until I've made myself perfect by long practice."
"Good for you, my Irish Pat," said Frank; "but, do you know, I like them better this way. There's an attraction about that general conglomeration that appeals to me more strongly than those over-neat concoctions that look as if they had sat in a caterer's window for weeks."
But, notwithstanding Frank's complimentary impulses, the dessert proved uneatable, and had to be replaced with crackers and cheese and fruit and bonbons.
It was quite late in the evening before the Elliotts left Boxley Hall; but after they had gone, Patty and her father still lingered in the library for a bit of cosey chat.
"Isn't it lovely," said Patty, with a little sigh of extreme content, "to sit down in our own library, and talk over our own party? And, by the way, papa, how do you like our library; is it all your fancy painted it?"
"Yes," said Mr. Fairfield, looking around critically, "the library is all right; but, of course, as yet it is young and inexperienced. It remains for us to train it up in the way it should go; and I feel sure, under our ministrations and loving care, it will grow better as it grows older."
"We've certainly got good material to work on," said Patty, giving a satisfied glance around the pretty room. "And now, Mr. Man, tell me what you think of our first effort at hospitality? How did the dinner party go off today?"
"It went off with flying colours, and you certainly deserve a great deal of credit for your very successful first appearance as a hostess. Of course, if one were disposed to be critical—"
"One would say that one's elaborate dessert—"
"Was a very successful imitation of a complete failure," interrupted Mr. Fairfield, laughing. "And this is where I shall take an opportunity to point a moral. It is not good proportion to undertake a difficult and complicated recipe for the first time, when you are expecting guests."
"No, I know it," said Patty; "and yet, papa, you wouldn't expect me to have that gorgeous French mess for dinner when we're all alone, would you? And so, when could we have it?"
"Your implication does seem to bar the beautiful confection from our table entirely; and yet, do you know, it wouldn't alarm me a bit to have that dessert attack us some night when you and I are at dinner quite alone and unprotected."
"All right, papa, we'll have it, and I'm sure, after another trial, I can make it just as it should be made."
"Don't be too sure, my child. Self-confidence is a good thing in its place, but self-assurance is a quality not nearly so attractive. I think, Patty, girl," and here Mr. Fairfield put his arm around his daughter and looked very kindly into her eyes; "I think every New Year's day I shall give you a bit of good advice by way of correcting whatever seems to me, at the time, to be your besetting sin."
Patty smiled back at her father with loving confidence.
"But if you only reform me at the rate of one sin per year, it will be a long while before I become a good girl," she said.
"You're a good girl, now," said her father, patting her head. "You're really a very good girl for your age, and if I correct your faults at the rate of one a year, I don't think I can keep up with the performance for very many years. But, seriously, Pattikins, what I want to speak to you about now is your apparent inclination toward a certain kind of filigree elaborateness, which is out of proportion to our simple mode of living. I have noticed that you have a decided admiration for appointments and services that are only appropriate in houses run on a really magnificent scale; where the corps of servants includes a butler and other trained functionaries. Now, you know, my child, that with your present retinue you cannot achieve startling effects in the way of household glories. Am I making myself clear?"
"Well, you're not so awfully clear; but I gather that you thought that ridiculous pudding I tried to make was out of proportion to Pansy Potts as waitress."