Read CHAPTER I - A GAY HOUSEHOLD of Patty's Summer Days , free online book, by Carolyn Wells, on

“Isn’t Mrs. Phelps too perfectly sweet!  That is the loveliest fan I ever laid eyes on, and to think it’s mine!”

“And will you look at this?  A silver coffee-machine!  Oh, Nan, mayn’t I make it work, sometimes?”

“Indeed you may; and oh, see this!  A piece of antique Japanese bronze!  Isn’t it great?

“I don’t like it as well as the sparkling, shiny things.  This silver tray beats it all hollow.  Did you ever see such a brightness in your life?”

“Patty, you’re hopelessly Philistine!  But that tray is lovely, and of an exquisite design.”

Patty and Nan were unpacking wedding presents, and the room was strewn with boxes, tissue paper, cotton wool, and shredded-paper packing.

Only three days more, and then Nan Allen was to marry Mr. Fairfield, Patty’s father.

Patty was spending the whole week at the Allen home in Philadelphia, and was almost as much interested in the wedding preparations as Nan herself.

“I don’t think there’s anything so much fun as a house with a wedding fuss in it,” said Patty to Mrs. Allen, as Nan’s mother came into the room where the girls were.

“Just wait till you come to your own wedding fuss, and then see if you think it’s so much fun,” said Nan, who was rapidly scribbling names of friends to whom she must write notes of acknowledgment for their gifts.

“That’s too far in the future even to think of,” said Patty, “and besides, I must get my father married and settled, before I can think of myself.”

She wagged her head at Nan with a comical look, and they all laughed.

It was a great joke that Patty’s father should be about to marry her dear girl friend.  But Patty was mightily pleased at the prospect, and looked forward with happiness to the enlarged home circle.

“The trouble is,” said Patty, “I don’t know what to call this august personage who insists on becoming my father’s wife.”

“I shall rule you with a rod of iron,” said Nan, “and you’ll stand so in awe of me, that you won’t dare to call me anything.”

“You think so, do you?” said Patty saucily.  “Well, just let me inform you, Mrs. Fairfield, that is to be, that I intend to lead you a dance!  You’ll be responsible for my manners and behaviour, and I wish you joy of your undertaking.  I think I shall call you Stepmamma.”

“Do,” said Nan placidly, “and I’ll call you Stepdaughter Patricia.”

“Joking aside,” said Patty, “honestly, Nan, I am perfectly delighted that the time is coming so soon to have you with us.  Ever since last fall I have waited patiently, and it seemed as if Easter would never come.  Won’t we have good times though after you get back from your trip and we get settled in that lovely house in New York!  If only I didn’t have to go to school, and study like fury out of school, too, we could have heaps of fun.”

“I’m afraid you’re studying too hard, Patty,” said Mrs. Allen, looking at her young guest.

“She is, Mother,” said Nan, “and I wish she wouldn’t.  Why do you do it, Patty?”

“Well, you see, it’s this way.  I found out the first of the year that I was ahead of my class in some studies, and that if I worked extra hard I could get ahead on the other studies, and, ­well, I can’t exactly explain it, but it’s like putting two years’ work into one; and then I could graduate from the Oliphant school this June, instead of going there another year, as I had expected.  Then, if I do that, Papa says I may stay home next year, and just have masters in music and French, and whatever branches I want to keep up.  So I’m trying, but I hardly think I can pass the examinations after all.”

“Well, you’re not going to study while you’re here,” said Mrs. Allen, “and after we get Nan packed off on Thursday, you and I are going to have lovely times.  You must stay with me as long as you can, for I shall be dreadfully lonesome without my own girl.”

“Thank you, dear Mrs. Allen, I am very happy here, and I love to stay with you; but of course I can stay only as long as our Easter vacation lasts.  I must go back to New York the early part of next week.”

“Well, we’ll cram all the fun possible into the few days you are here then,” and Patty’s gay little hostess bustled away to look after her household appointments.

Mrs. Allen was of a social, pleasure-loving nature.  Indeed, it was often said that she cared more for parties and festive gatherings than did her daughter Nan.

Nobody was surprised to learn that Nan Allen was to marry a man many years older than herself.  The surprise came when they met Mr. Fairfield and discovered that that gentleman appeared to be much younger than he undoubtedly was.

For Patty’s father, though nearly forty years old, had a frank, ingenuous manner, and a smile that was almost boyish in its gaiety.

Mrs. Allen was in her element superintending her daughter’s wedding, and the whole affair was to be on a most elaborate scale.  Far more so than Nan herself wished, for her tastes were simple, and she would have preferred a quieter celebration of the occasion.

But as Mrs. Allen said, it was her last opportunity to provide an entertainment for her daughter, and she would not allow her plans to be thwarted.

So preparations for the great event went busily on.  Carpenters came and enclosed the wide verandas, and decorators came and hung the newly made walls with white cheese cloth, and trimmed them with garlands of green.  The house was invaded with decorators, caterers, and helpers of all sorts, while neighbours and friends of Mrs. Allen and of Nan flew in and out at all hours.

The present-room was continually thronged by admiring friends who never tired of looking at the beautiful gifts already upon the tables, or watching the opening of new ones.

“There’s the thirteenth cut-glass ice-tub,” said Nan, as she tore the tissue paper wrapping from an exquisite piece of sparkling glass.  “I should think it an unlucky number if I didn’t feel sure that one or two more would come yet.”

“What are you going to do with them all, Nan?” asked one of her girl friends; “shall you exchange any of your duplicate gifts?”

“No indeed,” said Nan, “I’m too conservative and old-fashioned to exchange my wedding gifts.  I shall keep the whole thirteen, and then when one gets broken, I can replace it with another.  Accidents will happen, you know.”

“But not thirteen times, and all ice-tubs!” said Patty, laughing.  “You’ll have to use them as individuals, Nan.  When you give a dinner party of twelve, each guest can have a separate ice-tub, which will be very convenient.”

“I don’t care,” said Nan, taking the jest good-humouredly, “I shall keep them all, no matter how many I get.  And I always did like ice-tubs, anyway.”

Another great excitement was when Nan’s gowns were sent home from the dressmaker’s.  Patty was frankly fond of pretty clothes, and she fairly revelled in Nan’s beautiful trousseau.  To please Patty, the bride-elect tried them all on, one after another, and each seemed more beautiful than the one before.  When at last Nan stood arrayed in her bridal gown, with veil and orange blossoms complete, Patty’s ecstacy knew no bounds.

“You are a picture, Nan!” she cried.  “A perfect dream!  I never saw such a beautiful bride.  Oh, I am so glad you’re coming to live with us, and then I can try on that white satin confection and prance around in it myself.”

They all laughed at this, and Nan exclaimed, in mock reproach: 

“I’d like to see you do it, Miss!  Prance around in my wedding gown, indeed!  Have you no more respect for your elderly and antiquated Stepmamma than that?”

Patty giggled at Nan’s pretended severity, and danced round her, patting a fold here, and picking out a bow there, and having a good time generally.

The next day there was a luncheon, to which Mrs. Allen had invited a number of Nan’s dearest girl friends.

Patty enjoyed this especially, for not only did she dearly love a pretty affair of this sort, but Mrs. Allen had let her help with the preparations, and Patty had even suggested some original ideas which found favour in Mrs. Allen’s eyes.

Over the table was suspended a floral wedding bell, which was supplied with not only one clapper, but a dozen.  These clappers were ingenious little contrivances, and from each hung a long and narrow white ribbon.  After the luncheon, each ribbon was apportioned to a guest, and at a given signal the ribbons were pulled, whereupon each clapper sprang open, and a tiny white paper fluttered down to the table.

These papers each bore the name of one of the guests, and when opened were found to contain a rhymed jingle foretelling in a humorous way the fate of each girl.  Patty had written the merry little verses, and they were read aloud amid much laughter and fun.

As Patty did not know these Philadelphia girls very well, many of her verses which foretold their fates were necessarily merely graceful little jingles, without any attempt at special appropriateness.

One which fell to the lot of a dainty little golden-haired girl ran thus: 

Your cheeks are red, your eyes are blue;
Your hair is gold, your heart is too.

Another which was applied to a specially good-humoured maiden read thus: 

The longer you live the sweeter you’ll grow;
Your fair cup of joy shall have no trace of woe.

But some of the girls had special hopes or interests, and these Patty touched upon.  An aspiring music lover was thus warned: 

If you would really learn to play,
Pray practice seven hours a day,
And then perhaps at last you may.

And an earnest art student received this somewhat doubtful encouragement: 

You’ll try to paint in oil,
And your persistent toil,
Will many a canvas spoil.

Patty’s own verse was a little hit at her dislike for study, and her taste in another direction: 

Little you care to read a book,
But, goodness me, how you can cook!

Nan’s came last of all, and she read it aloud amid the gay laughter of the girls: 

Ere many days shall pass o’er your fair head,
Your fate is, pretty lady, to be wed;
Yet scarcely can you be a happy wife,
For Patty F. will lead you such a life!

The girls thought these merry little jingles great fun, and each carefully preserved her “fortune” to take home as a souvenir of the occasion.

Bumble Barlow was at this luncheon, for the Barlows were friends and near neighbours of the Allens.

Readers who knew Patty in her earlier years, will remember Bumble as the cousin who lived at the “Hurly-Burly” down on Long Island.

Although Bumble was a little older, and insisted on being called by her real name of Helen, she was the same old mischievous fly-away as ever.  She was delighted to see Patty again, and coaxed her to come and stay with them, instead of with the Allens.  But Mrs. Allen would not hear of such an arrangement, and could only be induced to give her consent that Patty should spend one day with the Barlows during her visit in Philadelphia.

The short time that was left before the wedding day flew by as if on wings.  So much was going on both in the line of gaiety and entertainment, and also by way of preparation for the great event, that Patty began to wonder whether social life was not, after all, as wearing as the more prosaic school work.

But Mrs. Allen said, when this question was referred to her, “Not a bit of it!  All this gaiety does you good, Patty.  You need recreation from that everlasting grind of school work, and you’ll go back to it next week refreshed, and ready to do better work than ever.”

“I’m sure of it,” said Patty, “and I shall never forget the fun we’re having this week.  It’s just like a bit of Fairyland.  I’ve never had such an experience before.”

Patty’s life had been one of simple pleasures and duties.  She had a great capacity for enjoyment, but heretofore had only known fun and frolic of a more childish nature.  This glimpse into what seemed to be really truly grown-up society was bewildering and very enjoyable, and Patty found it quite easy to adapt herself to its requirements.