Read CHAPTER XV - MISS AURORA BENDER of Patty's Summer Days , free online book, by Carolyn Wells, on ReadCentral.com.

After a visit of a few days, it was decided that Mr. and Mrs. Farrington and Roger should continue the motor-trip on to Boston, and to certain places along the New England coast, while Patty and Elise should stay at Pine Branches for a longer visit.

The girls had expected to continue the trip with the others, but Bertha had coaxed them to stay longer with her, and had held out such attractive inducements that they decided to remain.

Patty, herself, was pleased with the plan, because she still felt the effects of her recent mental strain, and realised that the luxurious ease of Pine Branches would be far more of a rest than the more exciting experiences of a motor trip.

So the girls were installed for a fortnight or more in the beautiful home of the Warners, and with so many means of pleasure at her disposal, Patty looked forward to a delightful period of both rest and recreation.

One morning, Bertha declared her intention of taking the girls to call on Miss Aurora Bender.

“Who is she?” inquired Patty, as the three started off in Bertha’s pony-cart.

“She’s a character,” said Bertha, “but I won’t tell you anything about her; you can see her, and judge for yourself.”

A drive of several miles brought them to a quaint old-fashioned farmhouse.

The house, which had the appearance of being very old, was built of stone and painted a light yellow, with white trimmings.  Everything about the place was in perfect repair and exquisite order, and as they drove in around the gravel circle that surrounded a carefully kept bit of green lawn, Bertha stopped the cart at an old-fashioned carriage-block, and the girls got out.  Running up the steps, Bertha clanged the old brass knocker at what seemed to Patty to be the kitchen door.  It was opened by a tall, gaunt woman, with sharp features and angular figure.

“Well, I declare to goodness, Bertha Warner, if you aren’t here again!  Who’s that you’ve got with you this time?  City folks, I s’pose.  Well come in, all of you, but wipe your feet first.  As you’ve been riding, I s’pose they ain’t muddy much, but it’s well to be on the safe side.  So wipe ’em good and then troop in.”

Miss Aurora Bender had pushed her heavy gold-bowed glasses up on the top of her head, and her whole-souled smile of welcome belied the gruffness of her tone, and the seeming inhospitality of her words.

The girls took pains to wipe their dainty boots on the gaily-coloured braided rug which lay just outside the door.

Then they entered a spacious low-ceiled room, which seemed to partake of the qualities of both kitchen and dining-room.  At one end was an immense fireplace, with an old-fashioned swinging crane, from which depended many skillets and kettles of highly polished brass or copper.

On either side of the room was a large dresser, with glass doors, through which showed quantities of rare old china that made Patty’s eyes shine with delight.  A quaint old settle and various old chairs of Windsor pattern stood round the walls.  The floor was painted yellow, and here and there were braided mats of various designs.

“Sit down, girls, sit down,” said Miss Bender, cordially, “and now Bertha, tell me these young ladies’ names, ­unless, that is to say, you’d rather sit in the parlour?”

“We would rather sit in the parlour, Miss Bender,” said Bertha, quickly, and as if fearing her hostess might not follow up her suggestion, Bertha opened a door leading to the front hall, and started toward the parlour, herself.

“Well,” said Miss Bender, with a note of regret in her voice, “I s’pose if you must, you must; though for my part, I’m free to confess that this room’s a heap more cozy and livable.”

“That may be,” said Bertha, who had beckoned to the girls to follow quickly, “but my friends are from the city, as you suspected, and they don’t often have a chance in New York to see a parlour like yours, Miss Bender.”

As Bertha had intended, this bit of flattery mollified the old lady, and she followed her guests along the dark hall.

“Well, if you’re bound to have it so,” she said, “do wait a minute, and let me get in there and pull up the blinds.  It’s darker than Japhet’s coat pocket.  I haven’t had this room opened since Mis’ Perkins across the road had her last tea fight.  And I only did it then, ’cause I wanted to set some vases of my early primroses in the windows, so’s the guests might see ’em as they came by.  Seems to me it’s a little musty in here, but land! a room will get musty if it’s shut up, and what earthly good is a parlour except to keep shut up?”

As Miss Bender talked, she had bustled about, and thrown open the six windows of the large room, into which Bertha had taken the girls.

The sunlight streamed in, and disclosed a scene which seemed to Patty like a wonderful vision of a century ago.

And indeed for more than a hundred years the furniture of the great parlour had stood precisely as they now saw it.

The furniture was entirely of antique mahogany, and included sofas and chairs, various kinds of tables, bookcases, a highboy, a lowboy and other pieces of furniture of which Patty knew neither the name nor the use.

The pictures on the wall, the ornaments, the books and the old-fashioned brass candlesticks were all of the same ancient period, and Patty felt as if she had been transported back into the life of her great-grandmother.

As she had herself a pretty good knowledge of the styles and varieties of antique furniture, she won Miss Bender’s heart at once by her appreciation of her Heppelwhite chairs and her Chippendale card-tables.

“You don’t say,” said Miss Bender, looking at Patty in admiration, “that you really know one style from another!  Lots of people pretend they do, but they soon get confused when I try to pin ’em down.”

Patty smiled, as she disclaimed any great knowledge of the subject, but she soon found that she knew enough to satisfy her hostess, who, after all, enjoyed describing her treasures even more than listening to their praises.

Miss Aurora Bender was a lady of sudden and rapid physical motion.  While the girls were examining the wonderful old relics, she darted from the room, and returned in a moment, carrying two large baskets.  They were of the old-fashioned type of closely-woven reed, with a handle over the top, and a cover to lift up on either side.

Miss Bender plumped herself down in the middle of a long sofa, and began rapidly to extract the contents of the baskets, which proved to be numerous fat rolls of gayly-coloured cotton material.

“It’s patchwork,” she announced, “and I make it my habit to get all the help I can.  I’m piecing a quilt, goose-chase pattern, and while I don’t know as it’s the prettiest there is, yet I don’t know as ’tisn’t.  If you girls expect to sit the morning, and I must say you look like it, you might lend a helping hand.  I made the geese smaller’n I otherwise would, ’cause I had so many little pieces left from my rising-sun quilt.  Looks just as well, of course, but takes a powerful sight of time to sew.  And I must say I’m sorter particular about sewing.  However, I don’t s’pose you young things of this day and generation know much about sewing, but if you go slow you can’t help doing it pretty well.”

As she talked, Miss Bender had hastily presented each of the girls with a basted block of patchwork, and had passed around a needle-cushion and a small box containing a number of old-fashioned silver thimbles.

“Lucky I had a big family,” she commented, “else I don’t know what I’d done for thimbles to go around.  I can’t abide brass things, that make your finger look like it had been dipped in ink, but thanks to my seven sisters who are all restin’ comfortably in their graves, I have enough thimbles to provide quite a parcel of company.  Here’s your thread.  Now sew away while we talk, and we’ll have a real nice little bee.”

Although not especially fond of sewing, the girls looked upon this episode as a good joke, and fell to work at their bits of cloth.

Elise was a dainty little needlewoman, and overhanded rapidly and neatly; Patty did fairly well, though her stitches were not quite even, but poor Bertha found her work a difficult task.  She never did fancywork, and knew nothing of sewing, so her thread knotted and broke, and her patch presented a sorry sight.

“Land o’ Goshen!” exclaimed Miss Aurora, “is that the best you can do, Bertha Warner?  The town ought to take up a subscription to put you in a sewin’ school.  Here child, let me show you.”

Miss Bender took Bertha’s block and tried to straighten it out, while Bertha herself made funny faces at the other girls over Miss Aurora’s shoulder.

“I can see you,” said that lady calmly, “I guess you forget that big mirror opposite.  But them faces you’re makin’ ain’t half so bad as this sewin’ of yours.”

The girls all laughed outright at Miss Bender’s calm acceptance of Bertha’s sauciness, and Bertha herself was in nowise embarrassed by the implied rebuke.

“There, child,” said Miss Aurora, smoothing out the seams with her thumb nail, “now try again, and see if you can’t do it some better.”

“Is your quilt nearly done, Miss Bender?” asked Patty.

“Yes, it is.  I’ve got three hundred and eighty-seven geese finished, and four hundred’s enough.  I work on it myself quite a spell every day, and I think in two or three days I’ll have it all pieced.”

“Oh, Miss Bender,” cried Bertha, “then won’t you quilt it?  Won’t you have a quilting party while my friends are here?”

“Humph,” said Miss Aurora, scornfully, “you children can’t quilt fit to be seen.”

“Elise can,” said Bertha, looking at Elise’s dainty block, “and Patty can do pretty well, and as I would spoil your quilt if I touched it, Miss Aurora, I’ll promise to let it alone; but I can do other things to help you.  Oh, do have the party, will you?”

“Why, I don’t know but I will.  I kinder calculated to have it soon, anyhow, and if so be’s you young people would like to come to it, I don’t see anything to hinder.  S’pose we say a week from to-day?”

The date was decided on, and the girls went home in high glee over the quilting party, for Bertha told them it would be great fun of a sort they had probably never seen before.

The days flew by rapidly at Pine Branches.  Patty rapidly recovered her usual perfect health and rosy cheeks.  She played golf and tennis, she went for long rides in the Warners’ motor-car or carriages, and also on horseback.  There were many guests at the house, coming and going, and among these one day came Mr. Phelps, whom they had met on their journey out from New York.

This gentleman proved to be of a merry disposition, and added greatly to the gaiety of the party.  While he was there, Roger also came back for a few days, having left Mr. and Mrs. Farrington for a short stay at Nantucket.

One morning, as Patty and Roger stood in the hall, waiting for the other young people to join them, they were startled to hear angry voices in the music-room.

This room was separated from them by the length of the library, and though not quite distinct, the voices were unmistakably those of Bertha and Winthrop.

“You did!” said Winthrop’s voice, “don’t deny it!  You’re a horrid hateful old thing!”

“I didn’t! any such thing,” replied Bertha’s voice, which sounded on the verge of tears.

“You did! and if you don’t give it back to me, I’ll tell mother.  Mother said if she caught you at such a thing again, she’d punish you as you deserved, and I’m going to tell her!”

Patty felt most uncomfortable at overhearing this quarrel.  She had never before heard a word of disagreement between Bertha and her brother, and she was surprised as well as sorry to hear this exhibition of temper.

Roger looked horrified, and glanced at Patty, not knowing exactly what to do.

The voices waxed more angry, and they heard Bertha declare, “You’re a horrid old telltale!  Go on and tell, if you want to, and I’ll tell what you stole out of father’s desk last week!”

“How did you know that?” and Winthrop’s voice rang out in rage.

“Oh, I know all about it.  You think nobody knows anything but yourself, Smarty-cat!  Just wait till I tell father and see what he’ll do to you.”

“You won’t tell him!  Promise me you won’t, or I’ll, ­I’ll hit you!  There, take that!”

“That” seemed to be a resounding blow, and immediately Bertha’s cries broke forth in angry profusion.

“Stop crying,” yelled her brother, “and stop punching me.  Stop it, I say!”

At this point the conversation broke off suddenly, and Patty and Roger stared in stupefied amazement as they saw Bertha and Winthrop walk in smiling, and hand in hand, from exactly the opposite direction from which their quarrelsome voices had sounded.

“What’s the matter?” said Bertha.  “Why do you look so shocked and scared to death?”

“N-nothing,” stammered Patty; while Roger blurted out, “We thought we heard you talking over that way, and then you came in from this way.  Who could it have been?  The voices were just like yours.”

Bertha and Winthrop broke into a merry laugh.

“It’s the phonograph,” said Bertha.  “Winthrop and I fixed up that quarrel record, just for fun; isn’t it a good one?”

Roger understood at once, and went off into peals of laughter, but Patty had to have it explained to her.

“You see,” said Winthrop, “we have a big phonograph, and we make records for it ourselves.  Bertha and I fixed up that one just for fun, and Elise is in there now looking after it.  Come on in, and see it.”

They all went into the music-room, and Winthrop entertained them by putting in various cylinders, which they had made themselves.

Almost as funny as the quarrel was Bertha’s account of the occasion when she fell into the creek, and many funny recitations by Mr. Warner also made amusing records.

Patty could hardly believe that she had not heard her friends’ voices really raised in anger, until Winthrop put the same record in and let her hear it again.

He also promised her that some day she should make a record for herself, and leave it at Pine Branches as a memento of her visit.