Read CHAPTER VI - BUSY DAYS of Patty's Summer Days , free online book, by Carolyn Wells, on ReadCentral.com.

Nan was as good as her word.  Instead of trying to persuade Patty not to study so hard, she did all she could to keep the study hours free from interruption.

Many a time when Nan wanted Patty’s company or assistance, she refrained from telling her so, and unselfishly left the girl to herself as much as possible.

The result of this was that Patty gave herself up to her books and her school work to such an extent that she allowed herself almost no social recreation, and took little or no exercise beyond her walks to and from school.

This went on for a time, but Patty was, after all, of a sensitive and observing nature, and she soon discovered, by a certain wistful expression on Nan’s face, or a tone of regret in her voice, that she was often sacrificing her own convenience to Patty’s.

Patty’s sense of proportion rebelled at this, and she felt that she must be more obliging to Nan, who was so truly kind to her.

And so she endeavoured to cram more duties into her already full days, and often after a hard day’s work in school, when she would have been glad to throw on a comfortable house gown and rest in her own room, she dressed herself prettily and went out calling with her stepmother, or assisted her to receive her own guests.

Gay-hearted Nan was not acutely observant, and it never occurred to her that all this meant any self-sacrifice on Patty’s part.  She accepted with pleasure each occasion when Patty’s plans fell in with her own, and the more this was the case, the more she expected it, so that poor Patty again found herself bewildered by her multitude of conflicting duties.

“I have heard,” she thought to herself one day, “that duties never clash, but it seems to me they never do anything else.  Now, this afternoon I’m sure it’s my duty to write my theme, and yet I promised the girls I’d be at rehearsal, and then, Nan is so anxious for me to go shopping with her, that I honestly don’t know which I ought to do; but I believe I’ll write my theme, because that does seem the most important.”

“Patty,” called Nan’s voice from the hall, “you’ll go with me this afternoon, won’t you?  I have to decide between those two hats, you know, and truly I can’t take the responsibility alone.”

“Oh, Nan,” said Patty, “it really doesn’t matter which hat you get, they’re both so lovely.  I’ve seen them, you know, and truly I think one is just as becoming as the other.  And honest, I’m fearfully busy to-day.”

“Oh, pshaw, Patty.  I’ve let you alone afternoons for almost a week now, or at least for two or three days, anyhow.  I think you might go with me to-day.”

Good-natured Patty always found it hard to resist coaxing, so with a little sigh she consented, and gave up her whole afternoon to Nan.

That meant sitting up late at night to study, but this was now getting to be the rule with Patty, and not the exception.

So the weeks flew by, and as commencement day drew nearer, Patty worked harder and her nerves grew more strained and tense, until a breakdown of some sort seemed imminent.

Mr. Fairfield at last awoke to the situation, and told Patty that she was growing thin and pale and hollow-eyed.

“Never mind,” said Patty, looking at her father with an abstracted air, “I haven’t time now, Papa, even to discuss the subject.  Commencement day is next week, to-morrow my examinations begin, and I have full charge of the costumes for the play, and they’re not nearly ready yet.”

“You mustn’t work so hard, Patty,” said Nan, in her futile way.

“Nan, if you say that to me again, I’ll throw something at you!  I give you fair warning, people, that I’m so bothered and worried that my nerves are all on edge, and my temper is pretty much the same way.  Now, until after commencement I’ve got to work hard, but if I just live through that, I’ll be sweet and amiable again, and will do anything you want me to.”

Patty was half laughing, but it was plain to be seen she was very much in earnest.

Commencement was to occur the first week in June, and the examinations, which took place the week before, were like a nightmare to poor Patty.

Had she been free to give her undivided attention, she might have taken them more calmly.  But her mind was so full of the troubles and responsibilities consequent on the play, that it was almost impossible to concentrate her thoughts on the examination work.  And yet the examinations were of far more importance than the play, for Patty was most anxious to graduate with honours, and she felt sure that she knew thoroughly the ground she had been over in her studies.

At last examinations were finished, and though not yet informed of her markings, Patty felt that on the whole she had been fairly successful, and Friday night she went home from school with a heart lighter than it had been for many weeks.

“Thank goodness, it’s over!” she cried as she entered the house, and clasping Nan around the waist, she waltzed her down the hall in a mad joy of celebration.

“Well, I am glad,” said Nan, after she had recovered her breath; “now you can rest and get back your rosy cheeks once more.”

“Not yet,” said Patty gaily; “there is commencement day and the play yet.  They’re fun compared to examinations, but still they mean a tremendous lot of work.  To-morrow will be my busiest day yet, and I’ve bought me an alarm clock, because I have to get up at five o’clock in order to get through the day at all.”

“What nonsense,” said Nan, but Patty only laughed, and scurried away to dress for dinner.

When the new alarm clock went off at five the next morning, Patty awoke with a start, wondering what in the world had happened.

Then, as she slowly came to her senses, she rubbed her sleepy eyes, jumped up quickly, and began to dress.

By breakfast time she had accomplished wonders.

“I’ve rewritten two songs,” she announced at the breakfast table, “and sewed for an hour on Hilda’s fairy costume, and cut out a thousand gilt stars for the scenery, and made two hundred paper violets besides!”

“You are a wonder, Patty,” said Nan, but Mr. Fairfield looked at his daughter anxiously.  Her eyes were shining with excitement, and there was a little red spot on either cheek.

“Be careful, dear,” he said.  “It would be pretty bad if, after getting through your examinations, you should break down because of this foolish play.”

“It isn’t a foolish play, Papa,” said Patty gaily; “it’s most wise and sensible.  I ought to know, for I wrote most of it myself, and I’ve planned all the costumes and helped to make many of them.  One or two, though, we have to get from a regular costumer, and I have to go and see about them to-day.  Want to go with me, Nan?”

“I’d love to go,” said Nan, “but I haven’t a minute to spare all day long.  I’m going to the photographer’s, and then to Mrs. Stuart’s luncheon, and after that to a musicale.”

“Never mind,” said Patty, “it won’t be much fun.  I just have to pick out the costumes for Joan of Arc and Queen Elizabeth.”

“Your play seems to include a variety of characters,” said Mr. Fairfield.

“Yes, it does,” said Patty, “and most of the dresses we’ve contrived ourselves; but these two are beyond us, so we’re going to hire them.  Good-bye, now, people; I must fly over to see Elise before I go down town.”

“Who’s going with you, Patty, to the costumer’s?” asked her father.

“Miss Sinclair, Papa; one of the teachers in our school.  I am to meet her at the school at eleven o’clock.  We are going to the costume place, and then to the shops to buy a few things for the play.  I’ll be home to luncheon, Nan, at one o’clock.”

Patty flew away on her numerous errands, going first to Elise Farrington’s to consult on some important matters.  Hilda and Clementine were there, and there was so much to be decided that the time passed by unnoticed, until Patty exclaimed, “Why, girls, it’s half-past eleven now, and I was to meet Miss Sinclair at eleven!  Oh, I’m so sorry!  I make it a point never to keep anybody waiting.  I don’t know when I ever missed an engagement before.  Now, you must finish up about the programmes and things, and I’ll scurry right along.  She must be there waiting for me.”

The school was only two blocks away, and Patty covered the ground as rapidly as possible.  But when she reached there Miss Sinclair had gone.  Another teacher who was there told Patty that Miss Sinclair had waited until twenty minutes after eleven, and then she had concluded that she must have mistaken the appointment, and that probably Patty had meant she would meet her at the costumer’s.  So she had gone on, leaving word for Patty to follow her there, if by any chance she should come to the school looking for her.

Patty didn’t know what to do.  The costumer’s shop was a considerable distance away, and Patty was not in the habit of going around the city alone.  But this seemed to her a special occasion, and, too, there was no time to hesitate.

She thought of telephoning to Nan, but of course she had already gone out.  She couldn’t call her father up from down town, and it wouldn’t help matters any to ask Elise or any of the other girls to go with her.  So, having to make a hasty decision, Patty determined to go alone.

She knew the address, and though she didn’t know exactly how to reach it, she felt sure she could learn by a few enquiries.  But, after leaving the Broadway car, she discovered that she had to travel quite a distance east, and there was no cross-town line in that locality.  Regretting the necessity of keeping Miss Sinclair waiting, Patty hurried on, and after some difficulty reached the place, only to find that the costumer had recently moved, and that his new address was some distance farther up town.

Patty did not at all like the situation.  She was unfamiliar with this part of the town, she felt awkward and embarrassed at being there alone, and she was extremely sorry not to have kept her engagement with Miss Sinclair.

All of this, added to the fact that she was nervous and overwrought, as well as physically tired out, rendered her unable to use her really good judgment and common sense.

She stood on a street corner, uncertain what to do next; and her uncertainty was distinctly manifest on her countenance.

The driver of a passing hansom called out, “Cab, Miss?” And this seemed to Patty a providential solution of her difficulty.

Recklessly unheeding the fact that she had never before been in a public cab alone, she jumped in, after giving the costumer’s number to the driver.  As she rode up town she thought it over, and concluded that, after all, she had acted wisely, and that she could explain to her father how the emergency had really necessitated this unusual proceeding.

It was a long ride, and when Patty jumped out of the cab and asked the driver his price, she was a little surprised at the large sum he mentioned.

However, she thought it was wiser to pay it without protest than to make herself further conspicuous by discussing the matter.

She opened the little wrist-bag which she carried, only to make the startling discovery that her purse was missing.

Even as she realised this, there flashed across her memory the fact that her father had often told her that it was a careless way to carry money, and that she would sooner or later be relieved of her purse by some clever pickpocket.

Patty could not be sure whether this was what had happened in the present instance, or whether she had left her purse at home.  As she had carried change for carfare in her coat pocket, she had not expected to need a large sum of money, and her confused brain refused to remember whether she had put her purse in her bag or not.

She found herself staring at the cabman, who was looking distrustfully at her.

“I think I have had my pocket picked,” she said slowly, “or else I left my purse at home.  I don’t know which.”

“No, no, Miss, that won’t go down,” said the cabman, not rudely, but with an uncomfortable effect of being determined to have his fare.  “Pay up, now, pay up,” he went on, “and you’ll save yourself trouble in the end.”

“But I can’t pay you,” said Patty.  “I haven’t any money.”

“Then you didn’t ought to ride.  It ain’t the first time I’ve knowed a swell young lady to try to beat her way.  Come, Miss, if you don’t pay me I’ll have to drive you to the station house.”

“What!” cried Patty, her face turning white with anger and mortification.

“Yes, Miss, that’s the way we do.  I s’pose you know you’ve stole a ride.”

“Oh, wait a minute,” said Patty; “let me think.”

“Think away, Miss; perhaps you can remember where you’ve hid your money.”

“But I tell you I haven’t any,” said Patty, her indignation rising above her fear.  “Now, look here, I have a friend right in here at this address; let me speak to her, and she’ll come out and pay you.”

“No, no, Miss; you can’t ketch me that way.  I’ve heard of them friends before.  But I’ll tell you what,” he added, as Patty stood looking at him blankly, “I’ll go in there with you, and if so be’s your friend’s there and pays up the cash, I’ve nothing more to say.”

The hansom-driver climbed down from his seat and went with Patty into the costumer’s shop.

A stolid-looking woman of Italian type met them and enquired what was wanted.

“Is Miss Sinclair here?” asked Patty eagerly.

“No, Miss, there’s nobody here by way of a customer.”

“But hasn’t a lady been here in the last hour, to look at costumes for a play?”

“No, Miss, nobody’s been here this whole morning.”

“You see you can’t work that game,” said the cabman.  “I’m sorry, Miss, but I guess you’ll have to come along with me.”