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Patty Fairfield by Carolyn Wells

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"Well, it's a warm day," said Aunt Grace, fanning herself, "and nobody
likes to start out early in the afternoon." But after another half-hour
passed and still nobody came, they all began to think it rather queer.

"Perhaps they've boycotted us," said Uncle Ted, "and don't mean to come at
all."

"I should think the Perrys would be here by this time," said Nan. "I meant
to speak to them about it yesterday, and ask them to be sure to come early,
but I forgot it."

"Did we invite the Harlands?" said Bob.

"I can't think whether we did or not," said Bumble. "I know we were
undecided about them. But we asked the Graysons, and here they come now."

"Well, I'm glad somebody's coming," said Nan; "but, no,--they aren't
turning in, they're driving by!"

"Sure enough," said Bob; "mean old things,--if they couldn't come, they
might at least have sent regrets."

"Here are the Stanton girls, anyway," said Patty, as two young ladies came
walking towards them.

Elsie and Mildred Stanton came up to the group on the veranda with a
slightly embarrassed air.

"Good-evening," said Mildred; "you look as if you were going to have a
lawn-party."

"Why, we are," said Bumble, "if anybody comes to it. I'm glad you've
arrived, anyway, Come in."

"But,--we weren't invited," said Elsie, a little stiffly. "We came over on
an errand."

"Indeed you were invited," said Bumble, warmly. "Do you suppose I'd leave
you out, my dearest chums? But really, didn't you get an invitation? How
funny! They were sent out on Tuesday."

"No," said Elsie, "but if it was a mistake, and you meant to invite us,
it's all right. But we didn't know it, you see, so we're not in party
frocks. As nobody else is here yet, I think we'll run home and dress up a
bit, and then come back again."

"All right," said Bumble, knowing her guests would feel more comfortable if
suitably dressed,--and they lived near by. "Skip along, girls, and hurry
back."

After they had gone it was nearly seven o'clock, and nobody else appeared.
Great consternation was felt by all, and suddenly Patty said, "Who mailed
those invitations?"

"Bumble did," said Bob.

"No, I didn't," said Bumble, "I thought you attended to it. Why, Bob, I
asked you particularly to look after them."

"I didn't hear you," said Bob; "do you suppose--"

But Patty had already run into the house and returned with her hands full
of the invitations to the party.

"Oh," groaned everybody, quite overcome by the calamity.

Nan was the first to recover herself.

"There's only one thing to do," she said; "we must go around and pick up as
many guests as we can in a hurry. It won't do to let all this nice
garden-party go to waste. Bob and I will take the runabout, and Bumble, you
and Patty can take the trap, and we'll scour the country as far as
possible."

In a few minutes the two turnouts dashed away in opposite directions, and
all the near-by neighbors were bidden to come to the garden-party at once.

Much laughter and fun was caused by the sudden and peremptory invitations,
which were, for the most part, gladly accepted.

When the guests finally arrived, the party was a grand success, though of
much smaller proportions than was originally intended. The gayly-lighted
veranda was a fine place for dancing and games, and supper, served in the
tent, was very novel and attractive.

As Nan said, after the party was over, "It was just perfect, except that we
couldn't invite the ones that lived at any distance."

But Uncle Ted said, "Never mind, we'll have another party, and invite them;
and I'll see to mailing the invitations myself."

"Oh, ho," laughed Nan, "then we needn't even get ready for the party, for
you'll never remember to post them."

At which Uncle Ted called her a saucy minx, and sent them all to bed.

CHAPTER XVI

UNBOUNDED HOSPITALITY

Although life at the Hurly-Burly was full of irritating incidents and even
serious disappointments which were caused by the general forgetfulness and
careless habits of the family, yet there were also many pleasures, and
Patty enjoyed the summer very much and became warmly attached to her
happy-go-lucky relatives.

Uncle Ted was kindness itself, and Aunt Grace was very loving and
affectionate towards her motherless niece. Bob and Bumble were trumps, and
Nan was so irresistibly funny that she made merry jokes of what would
otherwise have been real troubles.

The days flew by and Patty thought she had never known a summer to pass so
rapidly.

She almost lived out of doors, for Uncle Ted said he was determined to
transform the little Boston bluestocking into a wild Indian; and so Patty
had become browned by the sun, and her rowing and swimming had developed a
fine amount of muscle. But as we are always more or less influenced by the
character of those about us, Patty had also imbibed much of the spirit of
the Hurly-Burly family and lived as if the pleasure of the present moment
were the only thing to be considered.

"Be careful, my Patty," her father wrote to her, "you do not send me
letters as regularly as you used to, and what you tell me sometimes sounds
as if you thought it no harm to break a promise or to fail to keep an
engagement you have made. You know I want you to _learn_ by your
experiences, and imitate only the best qualities of those about you. I'm
not going to have my house run on any Hurly-Burly plan, Miss Pattikins, so
if you expect to secure the position of housekeeper, you must be prepared
to keep things right up to the mark. We will have an exact proportion of
methodical regularity, without having so much of it that it will be a
bugbear. Oh, I tell you, my lady, our home is going to be a veritable
Paradise on earth, and I am impatient to get it started You have only one
more visit to make, and then I will come and kidnap my own daughter and
carry her off with me for a Christmas present."

"What a dear, wise father I've got," mused Patty, after reading this
letter, "and how he understands everything, even without my telling him. I
_will_ try not to grow heedless and rattle-pated, though it's hard to be
any other way in this house."

One morning in August, Mrs. Barlow said to her husband, "Ted, you know the
Carletons are coming this afternoon to stay several days, and I want you to
go over to the three o'clock train to meet them. Don't forget it, will you?
And you'll have to engage a stage to bring them over, for there'll be Mr.
and Mrs. Carleton and four children, and perhaps a nurse. I don't know
where we're going to put them all to sleep, but we must stow them away
somehow. Patty, would you mind giving up your room for a time?"

"Not a bit, Aunt Grace. Put me wherever you like."

"That's a good girl. Well, suppose you sleep with Bumble. She has only a
three-quarter bed, but if you don't quarrel you won't fall out."

"All right," said Patty. "I'll move my things at once."

"Very well, my dear; then we can give your room to Mr. and Mrs. Carleton,
and Gertrude will have to room with Nan, and the other children must go up
in the third story; no,--Harry can sleep with Bob. I declare I didn't think
it would crowd us so, when I invited the whole family. But it will be only
for a week, and we'll get along somehow."

"Many hands make light work," and with much flurrying and scurrying the
rooms were made ready for the expected guests.

About noon the expressman came, bringing two trunks.

"'Coming events cast their shadows before,'" said Uncle Ted; "here come the
wardrobes of the Carleton family."

"They must have sent them by express yesterday," said Aunt Grace; "dear me,
how forehanded some people are. I wish I had been born that way. But when I
go anywhere I take my trunk with me, and then I always leave it behind."

They all laughed at this paradoxical statement, and Uncle Ted said, "That's
where you differ from an elephant." Then as the trunks were set out on the
veranda, he exclaimed, "Good gracious, my dear, these aren't the Carleton's
trunks. They're marked "'F. M. T.,'--both of them."

"'F.M.T.,'" echoed Mrs. Barlow, "why, who can that be?"

"The Carletons have borrowed other people's trunks to come with," suggested
Nan.

"Not they," returned Aunt Grace; "they're the most particular people on the
face of the earth. Why Kate Carleton would as soon think of borrowing a
house as a trunk. No, these belong to somebody else. And I know who it is!
It's Fanny Todd. Before I left home I asked her to come down here the first
week in August, and I never thought of it again from that day to this. But
I should think she would have written."

"Why, mamma," said Bumble, "there was a letter came for you from
Philadelphia a day or two ago. Didn't you get it? I saw it on the hall
table."

"No, I didn't get it. Run and look for it, child."

But the letter couldn't be found. So Mrs. Barlow assumed that it was from
her friend, Miss Todd, and concluded that that lady would shortly arrive.

"Where _can_ we put her to sleep?" she queried, "every room is already
filled."

"She can have my room," said Bob, "and Harry Carleton and I will sleep out
in the tent. He's a good fellow and he won't mind."

"But his mother will," said Mrs. Barlow; "she's so fussy about such things.
Still, I can't see anything else to do. If it doesn't rain, I suppose
you'll be all right."

The Carletons came first, and Mrs. Barlow welcomed them with a gracious
hospitality which gave no hint of the flurried turmoil of preparation that
had been going on all day.

Gertrude Carleton, the eldest daughter, was one of those spick-and-span
beings who look as if they ought always to be kept in a bandbox. She had a
languishing die-away sort of air, and after a few moments' conversation
with her, Bumble excused herself and slyly nudged Patty to come outside
with her. She took her cousin up-stairs and said, "Patsy, I'm sure that
blown-glass girl won't like to room with Nan. She looks as if she always
had a whole suite of rooms to herself, parlor and all. I can imagine her
fainting away when Nan takes off her wig. Now, how would it do to give Miss
Gertrude our room, and you and I go in with Nan? I'll bunk on the sofa; I
don't mind a bit."

"Neither do I," declared Patty. "Yes, let's give your room to the Lady
Gertrude, and never mind asking Nan about it, either."

So the girls changed things around in short order, and then went
down-stairs and conducted Gertrude to her room.

Aunt Grace gave a little surprised smile, but with her usual tact, said
nothing.

Harry Carleton seemed to be a very nice boy, and he went off to the tent
with Bob, in great glee, while the two little Carleton children and their
nurse were installed in rooms on the third floor.

Before the guests had reappeared down-stairs, a carriage drove up to the
veranda, and a lady and gentleman got out.

"Oh," thought Mrs. Barlow, as she went to greet them, "who _has_ Fanny
brought with her?"

"How do you do, Grace?" cried sprightly Miss Todd, "I've come, you see,
though I didn't get the telegram I asked you to send me. And I brought Mr.
Harris, as I said I would. I know you'll welcome him gladly after what I
told you."

"Fanny," said Mrs. Barlow, deeming it best to make a clean breast of the
matter, "I didn't get your letter. At least, they say it came, but somehow
it was lost before I read it, and it can't be found. However, it doesn't
matter, and I am very glad to welcome Mr. Harris in any capacity."

"Then greet me as Miss Todd's future husband," said Mr. Harris, smiling,
and Mrs. Barlow gave him a hearty welcome and congratulations at the same
time.

But Mr. Harris was a new problem. Although he intended to remain only one
night, yet a room must be provided for him, and poor Mrs. Barlow was at her
wits' end.

But it was at her wits' end that the good lady oftenest found a way out of
her difficulties, and after a glance into Mr. Harris' merry blue eyes, she
felt sure she could ask him to sleep on the couch in the music-room without
offending his dignity in the least. And so it turned out that the
Hurly-Burly was filled with guests, and it goes without saying that they
all had a merry time.

Uncle Ted was in his element, and he provided fun for the children and
entertainment for the older guests, until even languid Gertrude was stirred
to enthusiasm.

It was late when they all retired, and after Mrs. Barlow had insured the
comfort of her guests and her children, she lay down to rest and fell
asleep at once.

CHAPTER XVII

A HURLY-BURLY FIRE

Although Mr. Harris had expressed himself satisfied with his couch in the
music-room, yet as it was hard and narrow, his slumbers were not very
profound, and at two o'clock in the morning he awoke from a light doze, and
began to sniff in the darkness.

"I believe I smell fire," he said to himself.

He jumped up and ran into the hall, where he found the whole staircase was
a charred and smouldering mass ready to break into flame at any moment.

Mr. Harris was a man of quick action, but he paused a moment to consider.

He couldn't go up the stairs, they were ready to give way at a touch. He
dared not open the front door, or, indeed, any door that might create a
draught which would fan the stairs into a flame.

So he decided he must rouse the sleepers up-stairs, and then jump out of
the music-room window and run to the tent to get the assistance of the two
boys who were sleeping there.

Being a stranger in the house, he knew of no other stairway, and knew
nothing of the servants or where they might be.

"Mr. Barlow,--fire! Mr. Barlow!" he screamed. "Fire! Mr. Carleton, Fanny!"
but no one answered.

At last Patty was wakened by his voice and ran out in the upper hall. The
draught of her opening door started the flames a little, and when she
looked over the banister, it was into a well of fire.

Before she could say a word, Mr. Harris called up to her. "Patty," he said,
"keep your senses, and help all you can. I think the fire is only in the
staircase, and if so, we can get everybody safely out of their own windows.
Tell this to your uncle, and then tell the others. I'm going after Bob."

Mr. Harris disappeared, and Patty bravely resisted her inclination to
scream; instead, she ran into her uncle's room and shook him awake, saying,
"Uncle Ted, the stairs are all burnt up, but it doesn't matter, you can get
out of the windows."

Then she ran back and wakened Bumble and Nan, saying, "Girls, the house is
on fire, but let's be real sensible and not get burned up. Put on your
dressing-gowns, and then we must go and tell the ethers."

As she talked Patty was slipping on her dressing-gown, and then she caught
up her mother's picture and wrapped it in a bath-towel, and with the little
bundle in her hand she ran back to the hall where she met Uncle Ted.

"Which room are the Carletons in, Patty?" She told him, and then Bob
shouted up from below, "We've got the old Babcock extinguisher, dad, and
we're making it tell on the fire. Can't you throw on some water up there?
And tell all the people to go out on the balconies and we'll take 'em down
all right. And I say, Patty, get my camera out of my room, will you? I
don't want anything to happen to that."

"All right," said Patty, and she ran for the camera. In Bob's room she
found Miss Todd just waking up.

"Get up, Miss Todd," she cried; "the house is on fire and your Mr. Harris
is putting it out, and he says for you to jump out of the window."

"Oh," screamed Miss Fanny, hopping out of bed and rushing wildly around the
room, "which window?"

"Any window," said Patty, who was hunting in the closet for the camera.

So Miss Todd, half unconscious of what she was doing, but with a blind
intention of obeying the orders of her fiance, climbed over a window sill
and jumped out.

As a veranda ran all around the second-story of the Hurly-Burly, she found
herself standing just outside her window on a very substantial balcony and
feeling decidedly chilly in the night air.

"Here are some clothes," said Patty, grabbing up whatever came handy, and
putting them out the window to Miss Todd. "Is there anything you want saved
particularly?"

For Patty had taken a pillow-case from its pillow, and in it had placed the
bundle containing her mother's picture, and Bob's camera.

"Yes," said Miss Todd; "that book of poems,--it was Jim's first gift to
me,--oh, and my hat."

"All right," said Patty, and she put the book in her pillow-case bag, but
the hat, being large and feathery she put on her head.

Then Patty went to Gertrude Carleton's room. She found that fragile bit of
humanity sleeping peacefully, and she hated to startle her.

But the excitement was growing greater. People were running about in all
directions, and the flames, though still confined to the staircase, were
liable to spread further at any moment. So Patty decided to break the news
gently to the frail Gertrude, and she touched her softly on the shoulder.

"Gertrude, dear," she said, "if the house _should_ get on fire, what would
you want to save most?"

"My shoes," said Gertrude, promptly, awake and alert in an instant. "Here
they are."

She reached over the side of the bed, and grasped her dainty little
patent-leather boots, which she gave to Patty.

"Very well," said Patty, putting them in her bag, "and now you'd better get
up and dress, for the house may get on fire to-night. Come, I'll help you,
for I smell smoke now."

"Where are you going with your hat on?" asked Gertrude, much bewildered,
but still making an expeditious toilette.

"Nowhere," said Patty. "I'm collecting valuables; this is Miss Todd's hat.
I must go now. When you're ready, step out of your window on to the
balcony, and they'll take you down by ladders or something, I guess."

Patty went out into the hall, and found that the fire was partly under
control. Uncle Ted and Mr. Carleton were pouring buckets of water on it,
which they brought from the bathroom where Bumble was helping fill the
buckets.

Down-stairs, Mr. Harris and the two boys were using hand grenades, an old
fire extinguisher, and sundry other patented means of putting out fires.
There was much yelling of orders going on, but very little obeying of the
same, and each man seemed to be working with a will in his own way.

Patty went into her Aunt Grace's room, and found that lady dressed in her
best attire.

"I thought I'd put on this gown," she said. "Ted says we'll all be saved;
but then you never can tell how a fire may break out somewhere else and
burn up all your wardrobe. So I'll have this, anyway, and it's my best
gown. Ted told me to stay in this room and not move until he came after me.
Is the fire burning the hall carpet much?"

"Yes, quite a good deal; but they've spilled so much water on it that it's
all wet, and I reckon that will spoil it more than the fire. But, Aunt
Grace, what do you want to save? The house may all burn up, you know, and
I'm trying to save the most valuable things. I've this pillow-case nearly
full, now."

"Oh, what a good idea! Well, I wish you'd put in that photograph album, and
my set of coral jewelry, and my eye-glasses; and please get the box of old
letters that's on the highest shelf in that cupboard. Oh, and here's Uncle
Ted's bank-book, we must save that."

"Now, Grace," said Uncle Ted, himself, appearing in the doorway, "the fire
is pretty well under control; that Harris is a good fellow, and no mistake.
But as the flames may break out again, I mean to put you out of harm's way
at once. Come out on the balcony."

Uncle Ted had a great coil of rope in his arms, and he stepped through the
long French window onto the balcony, and Aunt Grace and Patty followed.
There they discovered quite a party already assembled, and such costumes as
they wore!

Mrs. Carleton had on Turkish bedroom slippers, and she wore a black veil
tied over her face for fear of smoke. She had wrapped herself in a large
eider-down quilt and somebody had tied it round with a wide sash, so that
she looked like a queer foreign personage of some sort.

Nan, in her hurry, had fastened her wig on insecurely, and had since lost
it. Her attire was an old ulster of Uncle Ted's, which she had found in the
third story hall when she ran up to alarm the Carleton children and their
nurse.

The nurse in great fright had pulled down portieres, and wrapped them round
herself and the children, while old Hopalong had shuffled down from her
room in a mackintosh and sun-bonnet.

To this motley crowd came Aunt Grace in her handsome party gown, and Patty
with her bag of treasures.

"Hello, there," cried Uncle Ted, cheerily, "the danger is over, I think,
but we have no stairs left to descend upon. The boys are bringing ladders,
however, and I think, with care, we can all get down safely. But as my
wife's sprained ankle is scarcely sound enough as yet to trust her on a
ladder, I am going to try to swing her down in this hammock. Patty, I think
I'll send you down first, for practice."

"All right, Uncle Ted," said Patty, and still clasping her bag of
valuables, and wearing Miss Todd's Paris hat, she seated herself in the
hammock, exactly according to Uncle Ted's directions, and he and Mr.
Carleton carefully let her down by the long ropes which had been fastened
at each end of the novel elevator.

Mr. Harris was waiting for her, and he landed her safely on the steps of
the lower veranda.

Next Aunt Grace was lowered, and after that another hammock was rigged, and
all of the ladies were taken down that way, as they preferred it to the
ladders.

The men came down the ladders and brought the little children in their
arms, and then the queer-looking crowd gathered in the sitting-room to
discuss the situation. The men concluded that the fire was occasioned by a
mouse having nibbled at some matches which were kept in the closet under
the stairs.

As the shelves and walls and most of the contents of the closet were
charred, it was assumed that the fire had been smouldering for some hours,
and if Mr. Harris had not discovered it as soon as he did, it would
doubtless have been followed by more disastrous consequences.

The stairs from the first to the second floor were entirely burned away,
and except that the walls and carpets of both halls were smoked and
discolored, no other harm was done.

But as that staircase was the only one connecting the first and second
floors, the victims of the fire found themselves in the peculiar position
of not being able to go up-stairs.

"How perfectly ridiculous," exclaimed Aunt Grace, "to build a house with no
back stairs. I always said that was the greatest flaw about this house.
What _can_ we do?"

"As it is nearly five o'clock," said Uncle Ted, "I propose that we have
breakfast, and consider that the day has begun. Then perhaps I can get
somebody to build stairs or steps of some kind by night"

"But we must go up-stairs," said Nan, who had covered her wigless head with
a bandanna kerchief, bound round like a turban; "we want to dress properly
before we breakfast."

"And we want to finish our sleep," said Gertrude Carleton. "I'm not going
to get up at five o'clock and stay up."

So the ladders were brought in from outside and put up in the stair-well,
and with some difficulty everybody was brought safely up-stairs again.

With the procrastination which was characteristic of the Barlow household,
the new stairs failed to get built that day or the next either; indeed it
was nearly a week before a staircase was put in place, and as it was meant
to be only temporary it was made of plain unpainted wood.

But you will not be surprised to learn that it was not replaced by a more
sightly affair until after the Barlows had returned to their city home.

As the end of her visit at the Hurly-Burly drew near, Patty felt great
regret at the thought of leaving the merry, careless crowd. She invited
them, one and all, to visit her when she should be established in her own
home, and she promised to correspond regularly with both Bumble and Nan.

"Where is it you're going?" said Bumble, "I never can remember."

"To Vernondale," answered Patty, "a town in New Jersey. But it's nowhere
near Elmbridge, where I visited the St. Clairs. I believe it is on another
railroad. I've had a lovely letter from Aunt Alice Elliott, and she wants
me to come the first week in September. She says Uncle Charlie will meet me
in New York, or come over here after me, whichever I say. But I think I'd
better meet him in New York."

So when the day came Uncle Ted took Patty over to New York, and Bob and
Bumble and Nan went too, and it was a group of very long-faced young people
who met Mr. Elliott at the appointed time and place. But Bob said:

"Brace up, girls, we're not losing our Patty forever. She'll spend next
summer with us at the Hurly-Burly, and by that time well have beautiful new
fire-proof stairs."

"Yes," said Bumble, "and she can visit us in Philadelphia in the winter
too."

Then after many fond good-byes, the Barlows went away, and Patty was left
with her Uncle Charlie.

CHAPTER XVIII

AT VERNONDALE

After the Barlows had left them Mr. Elliott put Patty in a cab to go across
New York to the New Jersey ferry, and seating himself beside her, he said:

"Well, my little maid, I am very glad to get you at last; and as there is a
whole houseful of people out at Vernondale who are eagerly watching for
your arrival, I am going to get you there as soon as possible."

"Yes, do," said Patty; "I am so anxious to see Marian and all the rest.
Tell me something about them, Uncle Charlie. I am getting accustomed to
meeting new relatives, but I like to hear about them beforehand, too."

"Well," said Uncle Charlie, "to begin with, your Aunt Alice is the
loveliest woman on the face of the earth."

"I am sure she is," said Patty, heartily, "for she has written me such
beautiful letters about my coming, and I feel as if I already know her. And
then, of course, she is papa's sister, so she must be nice."

"Then there is Grandma Elliott," her uncle went on; "she is my mother, and
a dearer old lady never breathed. You'll love her at first sight."

"Oh, I know I shall," said Patty; "there hasn't been a single grandmother
in all my other visits, and as I have none of my own, I shall just adopt
yours, if she'll let me."

"Try it, and see," said her uncle, smiling. "As to your cousins, they are
four specimens of young America who must be seen to be appreciated. Frank
is seventeen and Marian is about your own age. Edith is ten, and little
Gilbert is six. They are all moderately good and moderately pretty, but on
the whole, I think you'll like them."

The travelers crossed the ferry to New Jersey, and after riding nearly an
hour in the cars they reached Vernondale.

Mr. Elliott's carriage met them at the railway station, and a short drive
brought Patty to her new home. The house was a large one, surrounded by
beautiful grounds with fine trees, carefully kept lawns and beds of bright
flowers.

The whole family had assembled on the veranda to greet Patty, and as the
carriage came up the driveway there was a great waving of handkerchiefs and
clapping of hands and shouts of "Here she comes," "Here's our cousin!"

As Uncle Charlie helped Patty out of the carriage, Aunt Alice was the first
to clasp her in her arms, and it was with such a warm loving embrace that
Patty felt the motherliness of it, and loved her Aunt Alice at once.

Next she was introduced to Grandma Elliott and the dear old lady beamed
through her spectacles at pretty Patty, and willingly agreed to adopt her
as a really, truly granddaughter.

Cousin Frank proved to be a big, stalwart lad, with merry eyes and a boyish
smile, and he welcomed Patty with hearty good-will.

Marian was a beautiful girl with fun and intelligence written all over her
bright face, and when she said, "Oh, Patty, I'm _so_ glad you've come,"
Patty felt sure they would be not only warm friends but congenial chums.
Ten-year old Edith clasped Patty's hand in both her own and held it for a
long while, looking up in her cousin's face with an occasional smile of
happy confidence.

Last came little Gilbert, the pet of the household, and a lovely boy he
was. Short dark curls clustered all over his head and his great brown eyes
gazed at Patty in rapt contemplation.

"I'm glad you've come," he said, finally, "and I love you, and I'll try to
be good all the time you're here."

"That's right, my boy," said Uncle Charlie, catching Gilbert up in his arms
and setting him on his shoulder, "and after Patty is gone, what then?"

"Then,--I'll see about it," said the child, gravely, and they all laughed
at the carefully considered decision.

Then Aunt Alice took Patty up to her room, and as they went through the
halls, Patty thought she had never seen such a beautiful house in her life.
It was as large as the St. Clairs' house, but the decorations and
furnishings were in subdued tints and quiet effects and there was no loud
or garish ornamentation.

When they entered a room on the second floor, Patty could not repress an
exclamation of delight.

"Oh, Aunt Alice," she said, "what a lovely room! Is this mine?"

"Yes, dear," said her aunt, "and I'm glad you like it. It was a great
pleasure for Marian and me to arrange it for you."

The room was a large one, with windows on two sides, and the coloring was
all pale green and ivory.

The walls were a beautiful shade of light green, with a few water-colors
and etchings in narrow gilt or ivory frames.

The carpet was plain green, soft and velvety, like moss; and the furniture,
of a light cream-colored wood, was in dainty shapes, with delicate
spindle-legged tables and chairs. The dressing-table was furnished with
ivory-backed brushes and mirrors, and there was a charming little
work-table with sewing materials of all kinds.

An open desk showed every kind of writing-implement, made of ivory or
cut-glass, and the blotting-pad was pale green.

A couch by a corner window was provided with many ruffly fluffy pillows,
covered with green silk, and a knitted afghan of soft green wool lay folded
at the foot.

Two or three vases of mignonette and ferns harmonized with the general
effect, and gave the room a delightful fragrance.

Although unable to appreciate all these details at a first glance, Patty at
once realized that the whole room presented a far more charming and refined
appearance than her more elaborate apartment at Villa Rosa, with its ornate
bric-a-brac and expensive rugs.

"It is lovely," she said to her aunt. "I never saw a room that I liked as
well. I think a fairy must have touched it with her wand, it is all so
fresh and sweet, just like a woodland dell."

"This is your fairy bower," said Aunt Alice, and she opened a glass door
leading out on a balcony.

The balcony was as large as a small room, and it had a roof to it, and
rattan shades at the sides that could be rolled up or down at pleasure.

Vines clambered around the pillars, and on the railings between them, were
palms and bright flowers growing in jars or tiled boxes.

On the balcony were several easy chairs, a round table and a couch, all of
wicker basket-work, and across the corner was swung a green and white
hammock with pillows of green linen.

"Oh, Aunt Alice," cried Patty, "this _is_ fairy-land! Is this _my_
balcony?"

"Yes, dear," said her aunt, kissing her happy, surprised little face, "and
I hope you will often enjoy it. I want you to be a happy Patty during your
stay with us."

"I am happy already," said Patty, as they went back into her room, "in such
a lovely home, and among such lovely people."

"May I come in?" said Marian, tapping at the open door. "Mother mine, are
you going to monopolize our Patty? I haven't half seen her yet."

"You can see me," said Patty, smiling at her cousin, "but you can't hear
me, for I am speechless with delight at this beautiful room, and that
fairy-land place outside. And now I'm going to put my mother's picture on
the desk and then it will be just perfect."

Patty took the portrait from her traveling-bag, and Aunt Alice looked at it
tenderly. Though she had known her brother's young wife but a short time,
she had greatly loved and admired her.

"You are like your mother, Patty," she said.

"So every one tells me, Aunt Alice. But I want to be a Fairfield too. Don't
you think I am like papa?"

"Not very much in appearance. Perhaps you are like him in disposition. I'll
wait until I know you better before I judge. Brother Fred was the
stubbornest boy I ever saw. But when I told him so, he said it was only
firmness of character."

"I think that's what it is with papa," said Patty, loyally, "but I've often
heard him say that I used to be very stubborn when I was little."

"It's a Fairfield trait," said Aunt Alice, smiling, and as Patty looked at
the sweet-faced lady she thought she seemed as if perhaps she could be very
firm if occasion required.

"Marian," said Patty, "Aunt Alice says you helped arrange this lovely room
for me, and I want to thank you and tell you how much I admire it."

"Oh, I didn't do much," said Marian. "I only selected the books and stocked
the writing-desk and sewing-table, and made the sofa-pillows and did a few
little things like that. Mamma did most of it herself. And grandma knitted
the afghan. Isn't it pretty? We were all glad to get ready for your coming.
We've looked forward to it ever since you came North."

"Come, Marian," said her mother, "let us run away now, and leave Patty to
dress for dinner. Unless we can help you unpack, may we? Your trunks have
come, and I will have them sent up here at once."

"Oh, yes, let me help you put away your things," said Marian, but Patty,
with a slight blush, thanked them for their kind offers but declined their
assistance. And for a very good reason, or at least it seemed so to the
embarrassed child. During her stay at the Hurly-Burly, poor Patty's
wardrobe had become sadly dilapidated.

It never occurred to the Barlow family to mend their clothes. Missing
buttons were never replaced except by pins; torn ends of trimming were left
hanging or snipped off; and after a whole summer's carelessness, Patty's
garments were in a deplorable state.

So the child really felt ashamed for her aunt and cousin, who seemed to be
the quintessence of neatness, to discover her untidy wardrobe.

Even her best dresses were soiled and wrinkled. Nan and Bumble had helped
her to pack, and their idea of packing a trunk seemed to be to toss
everything in in a heap, and then jump on the lid to make it shut tight.

So woful Patty looked over her clothes in dismay. They had seemed all right
down at the Hurly-Burly, but here, in this immaculate green and white room
they seemed utterly out of place, and quite unworthy of being put away in
the bureau-drawers or cupboards.

It was with difficulty that she decided upon a dress to wear down to
dinner. Her light summer dresses had been bought ready-made during one of
Aunt Grace's hurried trips to New York, and with the well-known viciousness
of ready-made clothing, had shrunk and stretched in the wrong places, and
showed occasional rips besides. Then being badly laundered and afterwards
crumpled in the trunk, they presented anything but the fresh, crisp
appearance that summer dresses ought to have.

So Patty looked over her other frocks. But the gorgeous ones that she
hadn't worn since she was at Aunt Isabel's, seemed more than ever in
glaring bad taste, and as she had needed no new clothes at Aunt Hester's,
she had bought none while in Boston.

With a sigh, she selected a pink muslin, that did fairly well, except that
the lace was gone from one sleeve and two buttons were missing.

She ripped the lace from the other sleeve, so that they might match, at
least, and was rejoiced to find that there were some buttons in a drawer of
her new work-table.

Of course needles and thread were there too, which was fortunate, for Patty
had none in her trunk, and indeed, she scarcely knew how to use them
anyway.

As she dressed, she resolved that she would confide her troubles to Aunt
Alice, and ask help in replenishing her wardrobe.

"I'm all out of proportion," she said to herself, "and papa wouldn't like
it a bit if he knew that I didn't have a decent dress to put on. But down
at the Hurly-Burly nobody cared or thought anything about it."

As all her shoes seemed to lack some buttons or to have broken laces, she
put on her best slippers, and after she had brushed her pretty hair, and
improved the despised pink muslin with some bows of black velvet, she
looked quite presentable, and if Aunt Alice noticed anything amiss she gave
no hint of it to her young guest.

CHAPTER XIX

A PICNIC

"Aunt Alice," said Patty, the next morning after breakfast, "I want to have
a little talk with you, and won't you come up to my Fairy Bower so we can
be by ourselves,--for it's a sort of secret?"

"I will, my child," said Aunt Alice, "as soon as I've attended to a few
household duties. I'll meet you there, in about half an hour. Will your
secret keep that long?"

"Oh, yes indeed; I'm in no hurry at all."

"I don't seem to be included in the secret," said Marian; "but come with
me, Patty, won't you, until mamma is ready for you? I'm going to water the
palms and plants in the front veranda. That is always part of my morning's
work."

"Let me help you," said Patty, and the two girls went off together.

In a short time Aunt Alice reappeared, saying, "Now, Patty girl, I'm at
your disposal. Marian, dear, remember this is Thursday, and the Basket
Drill is at ten."

"Yes, I know, mamma. I'll be ready for it."

When Mrs. Elliott was comfortably seated in a rocking-chair on the balcony,
Patty drew up a small wicker stool and sat down in front of her.

"Aunt Alice," she began, "my secret is just this. I haven't any clothes
that are fit to wear, and I want you to help me get some. When I was at
Aunt Isabel's she bought me loads of dresses, but they were all winter
ones, and besides, I don't believe they're the kind you'd like. In Boston,
at Aunt Hester's, nobody ever thought much about what they wore, and I got
along all right, somehow, but this summer down at Aunt Grace's, my clothes
seemed to go to pieces all at once."

"Like the 'One-Hoss-Shay,'" said Aunt Alice, laughing. "Well, this is
indeed a sad state of affairs. But perhaps we can find a way out of the
difficulty."

"Yes, of course we can," said Patty, eagerly. "Papa sends me money whenever
I ask him for it; so if you'll buy me some clothes, he'll repay you at
once. I want everything. My things are no good at all."

"Wait, wait," said Aunt Alice, "don't dispose of your wardrobe in such a
summary way. Suppose we look it over together, and see what's best to be
done."

"All right," said Patty, "but I'm really ashamed to show you the miserable
lot."

"Why, Patty," said Aunt Alice, as she looked over the torn and crumpled
dresses and under-clothing, "these do seem to be unwearable, but they are
not hopelessly so. You see, the trouble is, they've been neglected, and
clothes, like plants or children, won't thrive under neglect."

"I know it, Aunt Alice, but we never thought of mending things down at the
Hurly-Burly, and there was no one to do it for us, as there was at Aunt
Isabel's."

"Never mind your other aunts, Patty; you have to deal now with your Aunt
Alice, and you will find her a regular tyrant."

But the loving smile which accompanied this speech robbed it of all
tyrannical effect.

"Now," the "tyrant" went on, "we'll put in one pile all the things that are
too faded or worn to be of use to you, and those we'll give away to some
one who can use them. These heavy silk and velvet frocks and these gorgeous
party dresses we'll just lay away for the present, and now we'll put in
this place all that needs mending. It's a shame to see these dainty little
white petticoats and nightgowns with their buttons off, and their trimmings
torn."

"Yes, Aunt Isabel bought me those, and they were lovely when they were
new."

"And they'll be lovely again, for they only need a few stitches and some
good laundry-work to make them as pretty and fresh as ever. Do you know how
to sew, Patty?"

"No, Aunt Alice, I don't. When I was at home, Mrs. Miller, our landlady,
always looked after my things, and I never thought of sewing; and since
I've been North, I haven't, either."

"Well, Patty, sewing is an old-fashioned accomplishment, I suppose, but I
think it is something that every woman ought to know; and if you are going
to keep my brother's house for him, I am going to see to it that you are
well equipped for the task, and to that end I'm going to instruct you in
both sewing and housekeeping. There, Miss Patty Fairfield, how do you like
that?"

Patty ran to her aunt's arms, which were open to receive her, and kissed
her lovingly.

"Oh, Aunt Alice, I'll be so glad if you will, for I do want to keep papa's
house right. But Aunt Grace told me not to worry about it, and the house
would keep itself."

"Never mind Aunt Grace now, you are under Aunt Alice's orders, as I told
you. And she was right in telling you not to worry about it; but as to a
house keeping itself, I haven't heard that the autohome has been invented
yet, and until it is, we'll stand by the old methods of housekeeping. And
so, every morning, my dear Patty, unless something very important calls you
elsewhere, you are to spend two hours with me, in studying what the wise
people call Domestic Science, but I call Domestic Common-sense."

Patty's little face looked very bright and happy, for she was truly anxious
to learn these things, and there had been no opportunities during her other
visits.

"I treat Marion in the same way," said Aunt Alice. "Although we have
several servants, Marian has learned and practiced many branches of
housework and she sews very nicely. But I don't think you will find Marian
'worried' or even impatient at the irksome tasks."

"No, indeed, Aunt Alice, Marian is as bright and cheery as a sunbeam, and
I'm sure no task could be irksome if you advised or assisted with it."

"Oh, you don't know me yet," laughed Aunt Alice; "didn't I tell you I was a
tyrant? But you do need some new things, child, and we'll buy them in a day
or two."

Aunt Alice counted over the dresses which could be made available for use,
and then, selecting a number of garments only slightly out of repair, she
said:

"This morning we'll attack these. Did you hear me tell Marian to remember
the Basket Drill? Well, that means the sewing or mending basket; and if
you'll bring yours with you, we'll attend a Ladies' Sewing Society in the
sitting-room at once."

In the sitting-room they found Marian with her basket of work, and grandma,
who was darning stockings.

With kindly care and patience Aunt Alice showed Patty how to mend neatly,
and as the pupil was by no means stupid, she did great credit to her
teacher.

After they had sewed for about an hour, Mrs. Elliott said:

"Now, children, put away your baskets and run out to play. You need fresh
air and sunshine quite as much as buttons and strings. Marian, why don't
you take Patty down and show her the Falls? You'll have just about time
enough to go and get back to luncheon."

"We will," said Marian; "come along, Patty."

As Patty was by nature adaptable to her surroundings, she followed Marian's
example and arranged her work-basket tidily and then put it away in its
place, though down at the Hurly-Burly it would never have occurred to her
to do so, and nobody would have set her such an example.

Patty thought to herself, "Well, these people have the right proportion of
system and order, anyhow; I wonder if they're lacking in some other
proportion. I haven't seen it yet, if they are."

And she didn't discover it later, either; for though not perfect people, by
any means, the Elliotts had a true sense of proportion, and no duty or
pleasure was pursued to excess, and so allowed to crowd out other duties or
pleasures.

"Mother," said Frank, as they sat on the veranda, one evening, soon after
Patty's arrival, "I think we might have a picnic in Patty's honor. I want
her to get acquainted with the boys and girls, and that's as good a way as
any. And if we could have it on Saturday afternoon, perhaps father could
take a half-holiday and go with us."

"That's a fine idea," said Aunt Alice; "do you agree, Charlie?"

"Yes," said Mr. Elliott, "I'd like it of all things. Shall we go to
Foster's Woods?"

"Yes," said Marian, "that's the nicest place for a picnic. There's a lovely
lake there, Patty, and boats to row about in, and tables for the feast and
everything."

"How many shall you invite?" said Uncle Charlie. "I'll engage stages to
take us all over."

"I want to go," said Edith. "Mayn't I, mamma?"

"Of course you may," said Mrs. Elliott; "we'll take the whole family, from
grandma down to little Gilbert."

"Oh, I can't go," said grandma; "I'm too old for picnics."

"Not a bit," said her son; "if you don't care for staging, I'll send you
and Alice and the baby over in the carriage."

And then they all fell to planning the details of the picnic, and Patty
secretly contrasted the occasion with similar ones at her other aunts'.

There was no quarreling about arrangements as at Villa Rosa; each deferred
politely to the others' opinions, and yet each frankly expressed his or her
mind on any subject.

And there was no inattention or forgetfulness as at the Hurly-Burly. Each
was appointed to attend to several different things, and Patty felt sure
that their promises would all be fulfilled.

"Let's have lots of sandwiches," said Frank; "the last picnic I went to, I
didn't have half enough. And can't we have jam in some of them, as well as
chicken and ham?"

"Certainly, my boy," said his mother; "I'll see that you have jam
sandwiches and ham sandwiches and chicken sandwiches, and plenty of them."

"Those names might be shortened," said Uncle Charlie, meditatively. "The
_sand_ is superfluous, anyway. There's no sand in them. Why don't we say
jamwiches, hamwiches and chickwiches?"

"Oh, that's much better," cried Marian. "I wonder we never thought of it
before. I shall never mention a ham sandwich again. A hamwich is so much
nicer."

"And then there are tonguewiches and eggwiches," said Patty, delighted with
the new words.

"And jellywiches," said Aunt Alice, laughing. "And now what else do young
people eat? Cakes and fruit, I suppose."

"Yes, and little tarts," said Frank; "they're awfully good on a picnic."

"And ice cream," said Marian.

"I'll order the ice cream," said her father, "and I'll bring a big box of
candies from New York. Frank, you must see to the hammocks and swings, and
games if you want them."

"Yes, sir," said Frank, "I'll take my shuffleboard and ring-toss. And we'll
build a fire, and make coffee, shall we mother?"

"Yes, dear; Patty and I will make the coffee," said Aunt Alice with a
sidelong smile at her niece.

"Then I know it will be good," said Frank.

Saturday was a beautiful day, clear and bright and not too warm.

Immediately after luncheon four stages went around and gathered up about
fifty young people, and a wagon full of provisions for feasting and fun
followed them to Foster's Woods.

Patty wore a pretty white frock, which, under Aunt Alice's instruction, she
had neatly mended, and Mrs. Elliott's skilful laundress had made clean and
crisp.

The Vernondale young people proved to be a merry, jolly crowd, and pretty
Patty soon became a favorite.

Frank and Marian introduced her to everybody and took special care that she
should never lack for companions or amusement.

And there was so much to do, and Patty enjoyed it all. She was clever at
the games, and owing to her practice at the Hurly-Burly, she could row as
well as any boy.

The lake was a beautiful bit of water, and in some parts of it pond-lilies
grew in abundance.

The young people gathered a quantity of these, both white and pink, to
decorate the supper-table.

Then when the feast was ready, Uncle Charlie called the children together,
and they came with a will, for their afternoon out of doors had given them
a good appetite for the hamwiches and jamwiches.

After supper was over, it was about seven o'clock, and Uncle Charlie told
his young guests that they could ramble round for half an hour, and then
they would start on their homeward ride.

The path by the side of the lake was a very pretty one, and Mrs. Elliott
and her husband walked along there with little Gilbert between them. The
child was getting sleepy and a little wilful; and while Jane, his nurse,
was eating her supper, his parents had him in charge.

Soon they heard Frank's voice calling, "Father, won't you please come here
a minute and help us get this swing down?"

Mr. Elliott went to help the boys, and Mrs. Elliott and Gilbert sat down on
the grassy bank to await his return.

"Mamma," said the child, "shall I pick you some pretty flowers?"

"Yes, baby," said his mother, who was looking at the sunset, and only half
listening, "but don't go far away."

"No," said the little fellow, and how it happened, Mrs. Elliott never knew,
but seemingly in a moment, Gilbert had climbed into a boat and was afloat
alone on the lake. For an instant Mrs. Elliott was too frightened even to
scream; and then, she dared not, for the boat was a little, round-bottomed
affair, and Gilbert was jumping about in it so excitedly, that if suddenly
startled he might upset the boat.

With great presence of mind his mother spoke to him gently.

"Gilbert, dear," she said, "sit down in the middle of the boat, and be
quiet until I call papa, will you? There's a good boy."

"I am a good boy," Gilbert called back; "I'm going to get mamma pretty pink
pond-flowers."

The boat was drifting farther and farther out, and the child sitting in the
bow, rocked it from one side to the other.

"Gilbert," said his mother, sternly, "sit right down in the bottom of the
boat. Right in the middle, do you hear? Obey me at once!"

"Yes, mamma," said the boy, and he did as she told him to, but continued to
rock the boat, so though the danger was lessened, it was still a frightful
scene, and filled the poor mother's heart with terror.

"Charlie, Charlie," she called, and then "Frank," but they could not hear
her as they were taking down some hammocks in another part of the grove.

The boat drifted nearer to the pond-lilies, and Mrs. Elliott saw Gilbert
lean over the side of the boat.

"Now I'll get them for you, mamma," he called.

Mrs. Elliott could scarcely hear his words, but she saw,--the boat overturn
and her darling child fall into the deep lake.

CHAPTER XX

THE RESCUE

When Mrs. Elliott called to her husband and son, they could not hear her,
but her cries were heard by a small group of half-a-dozen boys and girls,
who were walking along the shore of the lake at some distance ahead of her.

Patty and Marian were in this group, and at the sound of her mother's
frightened cry, Marian turned pale, and said, "Oh, Patty, something
dreadful has happened; let us run to mother."

But one of the boys said, "Look out on the lake! There's your little
brother in a boat, all alone."

"Oh," cried Marian, "he'll be upset! Where's papa? Can any of you boys
swim?"

"No," said two of the boys, and another said, "I can't either, but I'm
going to try."

"Don't do it," said Patty, who was already flinging off her shoes. "I can
swim, and I'll save the baby."

She remembered how Nan jumped into the water with her ordinary clothes on
that day at the Hurly-Burly, and so she ran into the lake, all dressed as
she was, for there was no time to lose, and struck out for the boat.

She had taken but a few strokes, when she saw the child fall into the
water, and heard Mrs. Elliott give a despairing shriek.

Patty gave one shout of "All right, Aunt Alice, I'll get him!" and then
swam for dear life. This was literally true, for she was determined to save
the dear life of little Gilbert if she possibly could.

And she did, for as the baby rose to the surface, Patty was near enough to
grasp him, and then managed to reach the overturned boat and by its support
she easily kept herself and the child afloat.

"He's all right," she called to the crowd now gathering on the bank. "I can
hold him up; somebody come out after us in a boat." But two boats had
already started, and in a few minutes Gilbert was lifted into one and Patty
scrambled into the other, and they were quickly rowed ashore, and when they
landed on the beach, Uncle Charlie, with the tears rolling down his cheeks,
tried to embrace both Patty and Gilbert at once.

Aunt Alice couldn't speak, but the looks of love and gratitude she gave
Patty said more than words could, and Patty felt that this was the happiest
moment of her life. And what a fuss the young people made over her! The
boys praised her pluck, and the girls marveled at her skill.

But as Patty and Gilbert were both dripping wet, and it was already
nightfall, the question was, what to do to keep them from taking cold.

"Build up the fire again," said grandma, "and we'll undress the baby, and
wrap him all up in one of the carriage robes."

"And there's another carriage robe for Patty," said Marian.

"I'll fix Patty," said Uncle Charlie, "haven't some of you girls a big
blanket-shawl that won't be spoiled if it gets wet?"

Several shawls were eagerly offered, and Uncle Charlie selected two big
warm ones and wrapped Patty, wet clothes and all, tightly in them, leaving
only her face exposed, until she looked like a mummy, and was wound so
tight she couldn't stand up without assistance. But Uncle Charlie took the
laughing mummy in his arms and lifted her right into his carriage and then
got in and sat beside her.

"Now give me the baby," he said, and Gilbert, equally wrapped up, was put
into his arms.

"Help your mother and grandma in, Frank," he said, "and then, my son, you
must look after your guests, and see that the stages are filled and started
off. We will drive home quickly and I think our Patty and Gilbert will
suffer no harm from their bath. You and Marian must explain all this, and
say good-bye to our guests. It has been a terrible experience, but we are
all safe now, and I don't want the young people to feel saddened."

"Yes, father," said Frank, "I'll take charge here, and look after Marian
and Edith, and attend to getting everything and everybody home safely."

Then the driver took up his whip, and Mr. Elliott's horses flew over the
ground at a mad pace.

Although the sudden fright had shocked Mrs. Elliott terribly, she was
beginning to recover herself, and by the time the carriage reached home,
she was all ready to take charge of affairs in her usual capable way. Uncle
Charlie deposited the bundle of baby on the sofa, and then went back and
carried in what he called his "mummy niece."

"Grandma," said Mrs. Elliott, "I'll give our darling Patty into your
charge, for the present. Will you see that she has a hot bath, and a
steaming hot drink made after one of your good old recipes? And then tuck
her into her bed in double-quick time. After I treat baby in a similar
fashion, and get him to sleep, I will interview my niece myself."

And when that interview took place, Patty was made to know how deep a
mother's gratitude can be, and the bond sealed that night between Aunt
Alice and her niece was one of lifelong endurance and deep, true love.

Next day, the Water Babies, as Uncle Charlie called Patty and Gilbert, were
as well as ever, and suffered no ill effects from their dip in the lake.

Many of the Vernondale boys and girls came to see Patty, and Frank and
Marian exhibited her with pride, as if she were an Imperial treasure.

Patty bore her honors modestly, for it didn't seem to her that she had done
anything specially meritorious. She was glad Bob and Uncle Ted had taught
her to swim so well, and even greater than her joy at saving Gilbert's life
was the thought that she had saved the boy for her dear Aunt Alice whom she
loved so much.

When Uncle Charlie came home from New York that night, he brought Patty a
beautiful gold brooch set with pearls and with a sparkling diamond in the
centre.

"This isn't a reward, Patty dear," he said, "for no amount of jewels could
represent the value of our baby's life. But I want you to wear it sometimes
as heroes wear the Victoria Cross, or as men at the life-saving stations
wear their medals."

Patty's heart was touched at this expression of Uncle Charlie's gratitude,
and she was delighted, too, with the beautiful gift.

"I don't want any reward, uncle," she said, "but I shall keep this lovely
brooch all my life as one of my choicest treasures."

CHAPTER XXI

A READING-CLUB

With October came school-days.

There was a fine school for young ladies in Vernondale, which Marian
attended, and Aunt Alice thought it best for Patty to go too.

The cousins, who had become inseparable companions, enjoyed their
school-life together, and the added duties which lessons brought, caused
Aunt Alice to make Patty's household tasks rather fewer.

That lady was by no means an advocate of "all work and no play," and though
some domestic duties were imposed and a cake or a dessert was taught every
Saturday, yet Patty had plenty of time for amusements and plenty of
amusements for her time.

One October day, Patty and Marian and two of their schoolgirl friends sat
on Patty's balcony drinking afternoon tea.

It was getting late in the season to use the pretty balcony, but it chanced
to be a bright, sunny autumn day, and the girls had their wraps on.

Besides, they were talking so busily, that I think they would scarcely have
noticed it, had the mercury suddenly fallen to zero.

"Yes," Elsie Morris was saying, "we'll have a real literary club, and we'll
have a president and constitution and everything. But don't let's have too
many members. About twelve girls, I should say."

"Only girls?" said Marian, "aren't we going to have any boys? I know Frank
would like to join."

"Oh, boys don't like to read," said Polly Stevens, "they're nice at parties
and picnics, but we want this club to be really literary, and not just
fooling."

"I know it," said Marian, "but we thought we'd have little plays and
tableaux, and things like that. And how can we manage those without boys?
What do you say, Patty?"

"I think it's nice to have the boys," said Patty, "but they won't come much
in the afternoons. If we have them, it'll have to be an evening affair.
Let's ask Aunt Alice."

"Yes," said Elsie, "Mrs. Elliott always knows just what to do."

"I'll go after her," said Patty, and away she ran, and returned in triumph
with her aunt.

"Now, my blessed auntie," she said, as she gave her a seat, and wrapped a
fleecy shawl about her shoulders, "let me offer you a cup of tea, for we
are going to give you a weighty question to decide, and you'll need a
stimulant."

"Very well," said Aunt Alice, laughing, "but you'd better ask the question
quickly, for this tea doesn't look very strong and its effects will soon
wear off."

So the girls all talked at once, or at least, two at a time, and explained
that they wanted a literary club, and while they all liked the boys and
would be glad of their assistance in plays and tableaux, yet they knew that
if boys came to the meetings, there'd be little or no serious reading done.

"It may be the effects of your tea," said Mrs. Elliott, "but the solution
of your problem seems to me so easy that I wonder you didn't think it out
for yourselves."

"Oh, what is it?" said Elsie and Marian together.

"Why, have your club of girls only, and have your meetings on Saturday
afternoons, as you proposed, and then occasionally,--say, once a
month,--have an evening meeting and invite the boys and have your dramatic
or musical entertainments then."

"I knew you'd fix it, Aunt Alice," said Patty, beaming, "won't that be just
right, girls?"

They all agreed to this wise plan, and immediately made out a list of
twelve girls, who, if they accepted the invitation, were to attend the
first club meeting at Elsie Morris's house on the following Saturday.

Every one did accept, and the club was formed, and the twelve members went
to work with a will to make rules and plans.

Patty was unanimously elected president.

She hesitated about undertaking to fill such a responsible office, but the
girls, one and all, insisted upon it in a determined if not very
parliamentary way; and so she accepted the position, feeling sure that Aunt
Alice would assist and advise her in any difficulties that might arise.

The Literary Club proved a great success. Patty made a very capable and
graceful little president, and when at a meeting in November, the girls
began to discuss an evening entertainment to be held in December, and Patty
remarked that perhaps she wouldn't be in Vernondale then, a general outcry
was raised.

"What do you mean?"

"Why not?"

"Why, Patty Fairfield, where are you going?"

"I don't know where I'm going," said Patty, "but my visit at Marian's will
be over the first of December, and then I'm going to have a new home, and I
don't know where it will be. But oh, girls, I wish it could be in
Vernondale."

"Why can't it?" said Marian eagerly, "why can't Uncle Fred buy a house
here, and then you can live here all your life. Oh, Patty, wouldn't that be
just fine?"

"Oh, Patty, do!" chorused all the girls, and Patty resolved that if she had
any voice in the matter, Vernondale should be her future home.

CHAPTER XXII

A WELCOME GUEST

"Oh, Aunt Alice," cried Patty, flying into her aunt's room one morning in
the latter part of November, "I've just had a letter from papa, and he'll
be here for Thanksgiving-day! Isn't that grand?" and catching her aunt
round the waist, Patty waltzed her up and down the room until the good lady
was nearly breathless.

"I'm as glad as you are, Patty girl," she said, when her niece finally
allowed her to come to a standstill, "for I haven't seen brother Fred for
many long years. But I can tell you that his coming doesn't by any means
bring your visit to an end; I'm going to keep you both here with me until
after the holidays, and longer too, if I can."

"Well, I'll be only too glad to stay as long as papa is willing, and I do
hope I can persuade him to settle in Vernondale. _Do_ you believe he will,
Aunt Alice?"

"I don't know. I think he is inclined to make his home in New York city.
But Vernondale is a pleasant place and so near New York, as to be a sort of
suburb."

"Well, I'm going to coax him, anyhow,--and now Aunt Alice, I'm going to ask
you a big, big favor, may I?"

"Yes, you may ask, but I won't make any rash promises to grant it, until I
hear what it is."

"Well,--I'm afraid you'll think I won't make them good enough,--but--I do
want to make the pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving-day. Papa would be so
surprised and pleased."

"Why, of course you may, child; I'll be very glad to be relieved of that
duty, and cook will have all she can attend to."

"When is Uncle Fred coming?" said Frank, as they all sat at dinner that
evening.

"The night before Thanksgiving," said Patty; "he'll arrive at about nine
o'clock."

"Well, we'll give him a rousing welcome," said Frank, "a sort of 'Harvest
Home,' you know."

"All right," said his father, who was ever ready for a frolic, "what can we
do out of the ordinary?"

"We could decorate the veranda with jack-o'-lanterns," said Marian, "and
he'll see them as he drives up."

"Just the thing," said Frank, "and, oh,--I have a fine plan, but we won't
tell Patty,--at least, not yet."

The day before Thanksgiving, the children were all allowed to stay home
from school to make the final preparations for Uncle Fred's reception.

While Patty was in the kitchen making her pumpkin pies, (and surely, such
beautiful pies never were made, before or since!) there was much rushing in
and out of the parlor; and sounds of hammering and of moving furniture
reached Patty's ears, but she was told that she would not be allowed even
to peep into the room until evening.

So after the pies were made, Patty ran up to put the finishing touches to
her father's bedroom.

She filled the vases with fresh flowers, laid out a new book which she had
bought as a welcoming gift for him, and on his dressing-table she placed
the cherished portrait of her mother; and talking to the picture as she
often did, she said:

"I'm going to lend you to him, motherdy, for a few days; I shall miss you,
of course, but we want to give him the very best welcome possible."

Patty was allowed to help with all the preparations except those in the
parlor, and she was extremely curious to know what was going on in there.
But she found plenty to occupy her time, for the whole house was to be
decorated.

On the veranda railing were many "jack-o'-lanterns," which when their
candles were lighted would flash a welcome from their wide, funny mouths
and round eyes.

The hall was decorated with boughs of evergreen, among which were tiny
yellow squashes and gourds, also cut like jack-o'-lanterns and holding
small candles.

The sitting-room was decorated with bunches of grain, and red peppers,
"for," said Frank, "it won't be a Harvest Home, unless we have grain and
winter vegetables."

After all was ready, Patty went to don the pretty dress which Aunt Alice
and she had bought for the great occasion.

It was a dainty little blue and white striped silk, with ruffles edged with
narrow black velvet. The yoke and sleeves were of fine white embroidered
muslin, and very fair and sweet Patty looked as she clasped her "Victoria
Cross" at her throat.

"Now can I go in the parlor, Frank?" she said, as she met her cousin on the
stairs.

"Yes, Patsy, come along," and the boy threw open the parlor doors with a
flourish. The room was elaborately trimmed with palms and chrysanthemums,
and at one end was a raised platform, like a throne, on which stood a large
armchair draped with a red velvet portiere. Above this was a semicircular
canopy cleverly made of cornstalks and bunches of grain and up on the very
top was the biggest pumpkin you ever saw cut like a jack-o'-lantern.

More tall cornstalks formed a background to the throne and at each side
stood a noble sheaf of wheat. Thickly scattered over the whole affair were
gourds or mock-oranges, which had been hollowed out and held lighted
tapers, while across the top was "welcome" in large letters made of gilt
paper.

"Oh," said Patty, quite awestruck at this bright and novel scene, "what is
it all for?"

"Tell her, mother," said Frank to Aunt Alice, who had just come in, "I must
go and listen for the carriage."

"It's for you, Patty," said her aunt; "you are to sit there and welcome
your father when he comes, and you'd better jump into the chair now, for he
may be here at any minute."

"Oh, how kind you all are," said Patty. "Did Frank do all this for me?
Won't papa be pleased?"

Patty flew up the steps and settled herself in the great chair with
delight.

"That's all right," said Marian, who had just come in and who gave a
critical glance at the whole picture. "Now _stay_ there, Patty; don't jump
down when you hear us greet Uncle Fred in the hall."

"I won't," said Patty, "I'll stay," and in another minute the carriage
drove up, and Patty heard her father's voice greeting Aunt Alice and her
cousins, and then saying, "But where's Patty? Where's my girl?"

"Here, papa," cried Patty, mindful of her promise to sit still, but unable
to resist calling to him, and then Mr. Fairfield hurried into the parlor
and saw his pretty daughter enthroned to welcome him.

But at sight of his dear face, Patty _couldn't_ sit still, and she flew out
of her chair and was in her father's arms before he was half-way across the
room.

Nobody minded, however, for there was such a chattering and laughing and
frolicking as you never saw, and all the time Mr. Fairfield kept his arm
around his little daughter as if he would never let her leave him again.

"But don't think your beautiful work isn't appreciated, my boy," he said to
Frank, as Patty called his attention to the cleverly constructed throne,
"indeed, I think now is the time to put it to use," and Mr. Fairfield
seated himself in the big chair and drew Patty down upon his knee.

Then Frank led off in three hearty cheers for Uncle Fred and Patty, and the
Elliott family joined in with a will.

And what a merry, happy Thanksgiving-day they had on the morrow!

Patty's pies were praised until the little maid blushed at the compliments
she received.

It was late in the afternoon before father and daughter found an
opportunity for a little talk by themselves; and then Patty told of her
love and admiration for Aunt Alice, and her great desire to spend the rest
of her life in Vernondale.

"For you see, papa," she said, "Aunt Alice is the only one of my aunts who
has a sense of proportion, and she certainly has. She is rich, but she
doesn't talk about it like Aunt Isabel's people; she reads, and knows a lot
about books, but she doesn't seem to think there's nothing else in the
world _but_ books, as Aunt Hester's family does; and as for the Hurly-Burly
people, they're lovely in some ways,--but, after living with Aunt Alice, I
couldn't stand their forgetfulness and carelessness. And then, Aunt Alice
has everything in her life, and not too much of anything either. We
children have lots of fun and good times, but we have to work some, too.
And Aunt Alice teaches us to be kind and polite without making any fuss
about it. And she does beautiful charity work, and she's so happy and sweet
that everybody loves her. And papa, dear, I do want to continue to live
near Aunt Alice, and let her keep on advising me and teaching me, and
so,--don't you think it would be nice for you to buy a house in Vernondale
and live here?"

"Well, my girl, you've made out a pretty strong case, haven't you?" said
her father, "and as my principal object in life is to make you happy, I
think, Patty, dear, that I'll let you decide where our home shall be, and
how it shall be conducted."

THE END

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