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- Patty's Suitors - 10/45 -
"You're a wizard!" and Patty gazed at her stepmother. "You could have made your fortune, Nan, as a clairvoyant, telling people what they knew already! But since you're here, DO help me out." And Patty told Nan the scheme of the three photographs.
Now, Nan was only six years older than Patty herself, and she entered into the joke with almost as much enthusiasm as the younger girl.
"Shall you send one of your own, really?" she inquired.
"No; I think not. But I want to get three different types, just to fool him."
After much consideration the two conspirators selected a picture of a dark-eyed actress, who was pretty, but of rather flashy effects. Next they chose a picture of an intellectual young woman, with no pretension to beauty or style, and whose tightly drawn black hair and stiff white collar proclaimed a high brow. It was a picture of one of the girls in Patty's class, who had been noted for her intellect and her lack of a sense of humour.
"He'll know that isn't you, Patty," said Nan, objecting.
"No," said Patty, sapiently; "he's pretty clever, that young man, and probably he'll think I'm just that sort. Now for the third, Nancy."
It took a long time to select a third one, for Nan was in favour of a pretty girl, while Patty thought it would be more fun to send a plain one.
At last they agreed on a picture of another of Patty's school friends, who was of the willowy, die-away kind. She was a blonde, but of a pale, ashen-haired variety, not at all like Patty's Dresden china type. The pose was aesthetic, and the girl looked soulful and languishing.
"Just the thing!" cried Patty. "If he thinks I look like THAT, I'll never speak to him again!"
And so, amid great glee, the three pictures were made into a neat parcel, and addressed to Mr. Christopher Cameron.
"Now, for goodness' sake, Patty, eat your breakfast! Your chocolate is stone cold. I'll go down and call a messenger and despatch this precious bundle of beauty to its destination."
"All right," returned Patty, and, with a feeling of having successfully accomplished her task, she turned her attention to her breakfast tray.
It was Tuesday morning that Patty had sent the pictures, and that same evening she was invited to dine and go to the opera with Mrs. Van Reypen.
Patty was a great favourite with the aristocratic old lady, and was frequently asked to the Van Reypen home. It is needless to say that Mrs. Van Reypen's nephew, Philip, usually managed to be present at any of his aunt's affairs that were graced by Patty's presence. And, indeed, it was an open secret that Mrs. Van Reypen would be greatly pleased if Patty would smile on the suit of her favourite and beloved nephew.
But Patty's smiles were uncertain. Sometimes it would suit her caprice to smile on Philip, and again she would positively snub him to such an extent that the young man was disgruntled for days at a time.
"But," as Patty remarked to herself, "if I'm nice to him, he takes too much for granted. So I have to discipline him to keep him where he belongs."
The dinner at the Van Reypen mansion was, as always, long and elaborate, and perhaps a trifle dull.
Mrs. Van Reypen's affection for Patty was of a selfish sort, and it never occurred to her to invite guests of Patty's age, or who could be entertaining to the girl.
And so to-night the other guests were an elderly couple by the name of Bellamy and a rather stupid, middle-aged bachelor,--Mr. Crosby. These with the two Van Reypens and Patty made up the whole party.
Patty found herself assigned to walk out to dinner with Mr. Crosby, but, as Philip sat on her other side, she had no fear of being too greatly bored.
But to her surprise the elderly bachelor turned out to be exceedingly interesting. He had travelled a great deal, and talked well about his experiences, and it was soon discovered that he and Patty had mutual friends in Paris, where Patty had spent the winter several years before.
"I do love to hear you talk," Patty declared, ingenuously, after Mr. Crosby had given her a thrilling and picturesque description of an incident in his trip to the Orient.
"Oh, thank you," Mr. Crosby returned, a little bewildered by this outright compliment, for he was unaccustomed to talking to young girls.
"But, you see," Patty went on, "I mustn't monopolise you. You know, it's etiquette to talk fifteen minutes to your neighbour on one side and then turn to your neighbour on the other."
"Bless my soul! you're quite right,--quite right!" and Mr. Crosby stared at Patty over his glasses. "How do you know so much, and you such a young thing?"
"Oh, I'm out," returned Patty, smiling, "and of course, when a girl comes out, she has to learn the rules of the game."
So Mr. Crosby turned to talk to the lady on his other side, and Patty turned to Philip, who looked a trifle sulky.
"Thought you were going to talk to that chap all evening," he growled, under his breath.
"I should like to," said Patty, sweetly, "he's SO interesting. But I can't monopolise him, you know. As I don't want to talk to a growly bear, I think, if you'll excuse me from polite conversation, I'll meditate for awhile."
"Meditate on your sins; it'll do you good!"
Patty opened her blue eyes wide and stared at the speaker. "Why," she said, "to meditate, one must have something to meditate on!"
"And you think you haven't any sins! Oh, would some power the giftie gi'e us!"
"To see ourselves as ithers see us," Patty completed the rhyme. "But you see, Philip, as I don't see any sins in myself, I can't meditate on the sins that ithers see in me, if I don't know what they are."
"Well, I'll tell you a big, black one! You simply ignored me for half an hour, while you jabbered to that duffer on the other side! Now meditate on THAT!"
Patty obediently cast down her eyes, and assumed a mournful expression. She continued to sit thus without speaking; until Philip exclaimed:
"Patty, you little goose, stop your nonsense! What's the matter with you to-night, anyway?"
"Honestly, Philip," said Patty, very low, "your aunt's parties always make me want to giggle. They're heavenly parties, and I simply ADORE to be at them, but her friends are so--well, so aged, you know, and they seem to--well, to be so interested in their dinner."
"_I_'m my aunt's guest, and _I_'m not a bit interested in my dinner."
"Well, you may as well be, for I'm going to talk to Mr. Crosby now."
Seeing that Mr. Crosby's attention was unclaimed for the moment, Patty turned to him, saying, with great animation: "Oh, Mr. Crosby, MAY I ask you something? I'm AWFULLY ignorant, you know, and you're so wise."
"Yes, yes, what is it?" And the great Oriental scholar looked benignly at her over his glasses.
Now naughty Patty hadn't any question to ask, and she had only turned to her neighbour to tease Philip, so she floundered a little as she tried to think of some intelligent enquiry.
"What is it. Miss Fairfield?" prompted Mr. Crosby.
Patty cast a fleeting glance toward Philip, as if appealing for help, and that young man, though engaged in a desultory conversation, whispered under his breath, "Ask him about the Aztecs."
"Oh, yes, Mr. Crosby," said Patty, "it's about the--the Aztecs,--you know."
"Ah, yes, the Aztecs,--a most interesting race, MOST interesting, indeed. And what do you want to know about them, Miss Fairfield?"
Patty was tempted to say ALL about them, for her knowledge of the ancient people was practically nothing.
"Did they--did they--"
"Eat snails," said Philip, in a whisper.
"Did they eat snails, Mr. Crosby?" And Patty's big blue eyes were innocent of anything, save an intense desire to know about the Aztec
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