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- Patty's Butterfly Days - 5/40 -
queer. To go off and leave you with that girl, and an aunt whom we have never even seen!"
"Well, I'll see her this afternoon, and if she won't give me a photograph of herself for you, I'll draw you a pen portrait of the Dragon Lady."
"I hope she will be a Dragon, for you need some one to keep you steady. You mean to do right, but you're so thoughtless and impulsive of late. I'm afraid it's growing on you, Patty."
"And I'm afraid you're a dear old goose! The heat has gone to your head. Now, forget me and my vagaries, and devote all your time and attention to the consideration of Mrs. Frederick Fairfield."
"Ready, Nan?" called her husband from the doorway, and then there was a flurry of leave-takings, and final advices, and last words, and good-bye embraces; and then the motor-car rolled down the drive carrying the travellers away, and Patty dropped into a veranda chair to realise that she was her own mistress.
Not that her father or Nan were over strict with her; they merely exercised the kind and gentle supervision that every young girl ought to have. But sometimes, of late, Patty had chafed a little at their restrictions, and though she had no desire to do anything they would disapprove of, she enjoyed the novel sense of entire freedom of action. However, to be responsible to nobody at all seemed to make Patty feel an added responsibility of her own behaviour, so she went into the house, determined to do all she ought to do as mistress there. Though her time for such duties was short. The Fairfields had been obliged to leave on an early morning train, and Patty was not to go to Mona's until late in the afternoon. She had, therefore, several hours, and she went systematically to work, looking through each room to make sure all was in order for closing the house. She put away some books and some bits of choice bric-a-brac, and then went out to interview the cook.
"Yes, Miss Patty," said that worthy, in answer to her enquiries, "I've enough av food for yer luncheon, an' thin I'll dispose av the schraps, and lave the refrigerators clane an' empty."
"That's right, Susan," said Patty, in most housekeeperly tones; "and will you go away in time for me to lock up the house after you?"
"Yes, Miss; Mrs. Fairfield said we was all to go at five o'clock. Thin Miller will lock up, and give yersilf the keys."
Patty knew these matters had all been arranged by her parents, but it pleased her to assume an authority.
"Very well, Susan," she said. "And where are you all going?" "Jane, she's going to take another place, Miss; but I'm going to me sister's for a time. It's a rest I'm nadin'."
Patty looked kindly at the cook. She had never really talked with her before, as Nan a capable and sufficient housewife, and Patty was a little surprised to see what a fine-looking woman Susan was. She was Irish, but of the best type. A large, well-built figure, and a sensible, intelligent face. Her abundant hair was slightly grey, and her still rosy cheeks and dark blue eyes indicated her nationality. Though she spoke with a soft burr, her brogue was not very noticeable, and Patty felt irresistibly drawn to her.
"If you want anything, Susan," she said, "or if I can help you in any way, come to me at once. I shall be at 'Red Chimneys' for two months, you know."
"Thank you, Miss Patty. I'm thinkin' I'll be fair comfortable at my sister's. But if you do be goin' by in yer autymobile, wave yer hand, just. It'd please us all. You know the house,--down on the Scudder Road."
"Yes, I know, Susan. I often pass there, and I'll wave my hand at you every time."
Patty went back to her own room, and continued her preparations for her visit to Mona. Although "Red Chimneys" was but two blocks away, the packing to be done was the same as if for a more distant destination. Many of Patty's things had already been sent over, and now she was looking up some favourite books and music to take with her. Though, of course, she would have the keys of her own home, and could return for anything she might want.
Patty expected to go over to Mona's at five o'clock, but at about four Mona herself came flying over to "The Pebbles." She waved a yellow telegram, and before Patty heard what was in it, she divined that Mrs. Parsons had again postponed her arrival.
And this was the truth.
"Doctor fears sunstroke. Advises me to wait until to-morrow," the message read, and Patty and Mona looked at each other in blank dismay.
"Father doesn't know this," said Mona. "You see, he left this morning for New York. His steamer sails this afternoon. Of course, he was sure Aunt Adelaide would come to-day. What shall we do, Patty?"
"Well, of course it's too bad. But I'm not afraid to stay alone one night without your aunt. You've so many servants, I'm sure there's no danger of fire or burglars."
"Oh, it isn't that, Patty! I'm not afraid of such things. But, you see, we've no chaperon,--just us two girls there alone,--it isn't proper."
"Well," Patty laughed, "we can't help it. And if we have no callers, and go to bed early, no one will be the wiser, and surely, your aunt will come to-morrow."
"Oh, I hope she will! I'll telegraph her she MUST! But,--Patty,-- you see--well, I shall have to tell you!"
"Tell me what?"
"Why, just this: I have invited a little party to welcome you this evening. Not many,--just about a dozen of the boys and girls. And how can we receive them without Aunt Adelaide there?"
"For mercy's sake, Mona! Why didn't you tell me this before?"
"I wanted it to be a surprise,--to welcome you to 'Red Chimneys.'"
"Yes, I know. Well, what CAN we do? We must do something! Shall I telephone to Mrs. Sayre to come and chaperon us?"
"She can't come. She has a house party coming to-day. The Sayre girls are coming to us to-night, but Mrs. Sayre has some older guests, and she couldn't come."
"Well, let's ask Mrs. Dennison. No, she's away, I know. How about Mrs. Lockwood?"
"She's ill; Lena told me so this morning. Oh, Patty, shall I have to send them all word not to come?"
"Looks that way to me. And I'm sorry to do that, too. How many are asked, Mona?"
"About twelve, counting you and me. I thought it would be such a nice welcome for you."
"And so it would! You're a dear to think of it. I suppose your things are all ordered?"
"Yes; a caterer will bring the supper. I don't know what it will be,--cook looked after it."
"Cook! Cook! Mona--I have an idea! No, I haven't, either! It's too crazy! Oh, DO you suppose we could? LET'S!"
"Patty, are YOU crazy? What ARE you talking about? And it's almost five o'clock. I suppose I must telephone them not to come! Well, I'll go home and do it, and you come on over as soon as you're ready. We'll spend the evening alone in my boudoir, and we'll amuse ourselves somehow."
"Wait a minute, Mona. Let me think. Yes, I do believe I'll do it! Mona, suppose I provide a chaperon. Will it be all right to have the party then?"
"Why, yes, if it's a proper kind of a lady,--of course it will."
Patty's eyes twinkled. "I don't know whether you'll think her a proper lady or not," she said, "but I do."
She rang a nearby bell, and when Jane answered, she asked her to send Susan, the cook, in.
Susan came, and stood respectfully awaiting Patty's orders.
"Susan," Patty began, "you're married, aren't you?"
"Yes, Miss Patty; me name is Hastings. Me husband is dead this four years, rist his sowl."
"Well, Susan, I want you to do something for me, and you may think it's very queer, but you'll do it, won't you?"
"Nothin's quare, Miss Patty, if you bid me do it. What is it, ma'am?"
Mona began to look a little scared, but Patty seemed now quite sure of her own mind, and she began, in a kind but firm voice:
"Susan, Miss Mona and I expected to have a party at her house to- night, but her aunt, who was to chaperon us, hasn't arrived. So I want you, Susan, to let me fix you up, and dress you in a proper gown, and then I want you to act as a lady who is visiting at 'Red Chimneys.' Can you do this?"
It was funny to see the varying expressions on Susan's face. Wonder, amusement, and docility followed each other in quick succession, and then she said:
"Is it a masqueradin', belike, you want, Miss Patty?"
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