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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPatty's Butterfly Days - Chapter 9. Big Bill Farnsworth
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Patty's Butterfly Days - Chapter 9. Big Bill Farnsworth Post by :JPMaroney Category :Long Stories Author :Carolyn Wells Date :May 2012 Read :2115

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Patty's Butterfly Days - Chapter 9. Big Bill Farnsworth

CHAPTER IX. BIG BILL FARNSWORTH

"How are you?" exclaimed a voice as hearty as the kiss, and Patty, with a wild spring, jumped from the encircling arms, and turned to face a towering giant, who, she knew at once, must be Mr. Farnsworth.

"How DARE you!" she cried, stamping her foot, and flashing furious glances, while her dimpled cheeks burned scarlet.

"Whoopee! Wowly-wow-wow! I thought you were Mona! Oh, can you EVER forgive me? But, no, of course you can't! So pronounce my doom! Shall I dash myself into the roaring billows and seek a watery grave? Oh, no, no! I see by your haughty glare that is all too mild a punishment! Then, have me tarred and feathered, and drawn and quartered and ridden on a rail! Send for the torturers! Send for the Inquisitioners! But, remember this! I didn't know I was kissing a stranger. I thought I was kissing my cousin Mona. If I had known,--oh, my dear lady,--if I had KNOWN,--I should have kissed you TWICE!"

This astonishing announcement was doubtless induced by the fact that Patty had been unable to resist his wheedlesome voice and frank, ingenuous manner, and she had indulged in one of her most dimpled smiles.

With her face still flushed by the unexpected caress, and her golden curls still rumpled from the baby's mischievous little fingers, Patty looked like a harum-scarum schoolgirl.

"Be careful," she warned, shaking a finger at him. "I was just about to forgive you because of your mistake in identity, but if you make me really angry, I'll NEVER forgive you."

"Come back, and ALL will be forgiven," said the young man, mock- dramatically, as he held out his arms for a repetition of the scene.

"This is your punishment," said Patty, gaily, paying no attention to his fooling. "You are not to tell of this episode! I know you'll want to, for it IS a good joke, but I should be unmercifully teased. And as you owe me something for--for putting me in a false position----"

"Delightful position!" murmured the young man.

"You owe me SOMETHING," went on Patty, severely, "and I claim your promise not to tell any one,--not even Mona,--what you did."

"I WON'T tell," was the fervent reply. "I swear I won't tell! It shall be OUR secret,--yours and mine. Our sweet secret, and we'll have another some day."

"What!"

"Another secret, I mean. What DID you think I meant? Any one is liable to have a secret,--any two, I mean. And we might chance to be the two."

"You're too big to talk such nonsense," and Patty ran a scornful eye over the six feet three of broad and weighty masculinity.

"Oh, I KNOW how big I am. PLEASE don't rub THAT in! I've heard it ever since I was out of dresses. Can't you flatter me by pretending I'm small?"

"I could make you FEEL small, if I told you what I really thought of you."

"Well, do that, then. What DO you think of me?"

"I think you very rude and--"

"You don't think any such thing,--because you KNOW I mistook you for Mona, and it's not rude to kiss one's cousin."

"Is she your cousin? She never told me so."

"Well, her grandfather's stepdaughter's sister-in-law married my grandmother's second cousin twice removed."

"Oh, then you're not very nearly related."

"No; that's why we don't look more alike. But, do you know my name? Or shall I introduce myself?"

"I fancy you're Big Bill Farnsworth, aren't you?"

"Yes,--but DON'T call me big, PLEASE!"

"No, I'll call you Little Billee. How's that?"

"That's lovely! Now, what may I call you?"

"Miss Fairfield."

The big man made an easy and graceful bow. "I am delighted to meet you, Miss Fair--Fair, with golden hair. Pardon me, I've a terrible memory for names, but a good reserve fund of poetry."

"Miss Fairfield, my name is. Pray don't forget it again."

"If you're so curt, I shall think it's a Fairfield and no favour! You're not mad at me, are you?"

"Certainly not. One can't get mad at an utter stranger."

"Oh, I don't think people who kiss people can be classed as utter strangers."

"Well, you will be, if you refer to that mistake again! Now, remember, I forbid you ever to mention it,--to me, or to any one else. Here comes Mona."

Mona and Daisy Dow appeared in the doorway, and seeing Bill, made a dash at him. The young man kissed Mona heartily, and as he did so, he smiled at Patty over Mona's shoulder. He shook hands with Daisy, and soon the three were chatting gaily of old school days.

Then Roger Farrington came. Not all of Patty's New York friends had liked Mona, but Roger had always declared the girl was a fine nature, spoiled by opulent surroundings. He had gladly accepted the invitation to the house party, and came in anticipation of an all-round good time.

"Hooray! Patty! Here's me!" was his salutation, as he ran up the steps.

"Oh, Roger!" cried Patty, and she grasped his hand and showed unfeigned gladness at seeing him. Patty was devoted to her friends, and Roger was one of her schoolday chums. Mona came forward and greeted the new guest, and introduced him to the strangers.

"Isn't this just too downright jolly!" Roger exclaimed, as he looked at the sea and shore, and then brought his gaze back to the merry group on the veranda. "Haven't you any chaperon person? Or are we all kids together?"

"We have two chaperons," announced Patty, proudly. "One, you may see, just down that rose path. The lady in trailing lavender is our house chaperon, Mrs. Parsons. The impressive looking personage beside her is an artist of high degree. But our other chaperon,-- ah, here she comes! Mrs. Kenerley."

Adele Kenerley appeared then, looking very sweet and dainty in her fresh summer frock, and laughingly expressed her willingness to keep the house party in order and decorum.

"It won't be so very easy, Mrs. Kenerley," said Roger. "My word for it, these are wilful and prankish girls. I've known Miss Fairfield for years, and she's capable of any mischief. Miss Galbraith, now, is more sedate."

"Nonsense!" cried Patty. "I'm the sedate one."

"You don't look it," observed Mona. "Your hair is a sight!"

"It is," said Laurence Cromer, coming up and catching the last remark; "a sight for gods and men! Miss Fairfield, I beseech you, don't do it up in fillets and things; leave it just as it is, DO!"

"Indeed I won't," said Patty, and she ran away to her own room to put her curly locks in order. She was quite shocked at the mirrored picture of tousled tresses, and did it all up a little more severely than usual, by way of amends.

"May I come in?" and Daisy Dow, after a quick tap at the door, walked in, without waiting for an answer.

"What lovely hair!" she exclaimed, as Patty pushed in more and more hairpins. "You're a perfect duck, anyway. I foresee I shall be terribly jealous of you. But I say, Patty,--I MAY call you Patty, mayn't I?--don't you dare to steal Big Bill Farnsworth away from me! He's my own particular property and I don't allow trespassing."

There was an earnest tone underlying Daisy's gay words that made Patty look up at her quickly. "Are you engaged to him?" she asked.

"No,--not exactly. At least, it isn't announced. But--"

"Oh, pshaw, don't trouble to explain. I won't bother your big adorer. But if he chooses to speak to me, I shan't be purposely rude to him. I like boys and young men, Miss Dow, and I like to talk and play and dance with them. But I've no SPECIAL interest in any ONE, and if you have, I shall certainly respect it,--be sure of that."

"You're a brick, Patty! I was sure you were the minute I laid my two honest grey eyes on you. But you're 'most too pretty for my peace of mind. Bill adores pretty girls."

"Oh, don't cross bridges before you come to them. Probably he'll never look at little me, and if he should, I'll be too busy to see him. There ARE others, you know."

Reassured by Patty's indifference, Daisy vowed her everlasting friendship and adoration, and the two went downstairs arm in arm.

The veranda presented a gay scene--afternoon tea was in progress, and as some of the Spring Beach young people had dropped in, there were several groups at small tables, or sitting on the veranda steps and railings.

"I've saved a lovely seat for you," said Laurence Cromer, advancing to Patty; "just to show you that I'm of a forgiving nature."

"Why, what have I done to be forgiven for?" asked Patty, opening her blue eyes wide in surprise.

"You've spoiled your good looks, for one thing. You HAD a little head sunning over with curls, and now you have the effect of a nice little girl who has washed her face and hands and neatly brushed her hair."

"But one can't go around like Slovenly Peter," said Patty, laughing, as she took the wicker chair he placed for her.

"Why not, if one is a Pretty Peter?"

"Oh, pshaw, I see you don't know me very well. I never talk to people who talk about me."

"Good gracious, how can they help it?" "Well, you see, I'm accustomed to my girl and boy friends, whom I've known for years. But here, somehow, everybody seems more grown up and societyfied."

"How old are you?"

"It's my impression that that's a rude question, though I'm not sure."

"It isn't, because you're not old enough to make it rude. Come, how old?"

"Nineteen, please, sir."

"Well, that's quite old enough to drop boy and girl ways and behave as a grown-up."

"But I don't want to," and Patty's adorable pout proved her words.

"That doesn't matter. Your 'reluctant feet' have to move on whether they wish to or not. Are you bashful?"

"Sorta," and Patty put her finger in her mouth, with a shy simper.

"You're anything but bashful! You're a coquette!"

"Oh, no!" and Patty opened her eyes wide in horror. "Oh, kind sir, DON'T say THAT!"

But Cromer paid no heed to her words; he was studying her face. "I'm going to paint you," he announced, "and I shall call it 'Reluctant Feet.' Your head, with its aureole of curls; your wide eyes, your baby chin--"

"Oh, Roger!" cried Patty, as young Farrington came toward her. "What DO you think? Mr. Cromer is going to paint a picture of my head and call it 'Reluctant Feet'! He says so."

"Yes," said Cromer, unconscious of any absurdity; "Miss Fairfield is a fine subject."

"That's better than being called an object," said Roger, joining them, "and you DID look an object, Patty, when I arrived! Your wig was all awry,--and--"

"You haven't a soul for art?" said Cromer, looking solemnly at Roger.

"No, I haven't an artful soul, I fear. How are you getting along, Patty, down here without your fond but strict parents?"

"Getting along finely, Roger. Aunt Adelaide plays propriety, and Mona and I keep house."

"H'm, I'm 'fraid I scared off our long-haired friend," said Roger, as Cromer rose and drifted away. "Never mind, I want to talk to you a little myself. I say, Patsy, don't you let these men flatter you till you're all puffed up with pride and vanity."

"Now, Roger, AM I that kind of a goose?"

"Well, you're blossoming out so, and getting so growny-uppy looking, I'm 'fraid you won't be my little Patty-friend much longer."

"'Deed I shall! Don't you worry about that. How do you think Mona is looking?"

"Fine! Lots better than when I saw her in May. She dresses better, don't you think?"

"Yes, I guess she does," said Patty, demurely, with no hint as to WHY Mona's appearance had improved. "She's an awfully nice girl, Roger."

"Yes, I always said so. And you and she help each other. Sort of reaction, you know. What do we do down here?"

"Oh, there are oceans of things planned. Parties of all sorts, and picnics, and dances, and motor trips, and every old thing. How long can you stay?"

"I'm invited for a week, but I may have to go home sooner. Isn't that Western chap immense?"

For some ridiculous reason, Patty blushed scarlet at the mere mention of Mr. Farnsworth.

"What the--oh, I say, Patty! You're not favouring him, are you? Why, you've only just met him to-day, haven't you?"

"Yes, certainly; I never saw him before. No, I'm not favouring him, as you call it."

"Then why are you the colour of a hard-boiled lobster? Patty! quit blushing, or you'll burn up!"

"Don't, Roger; don't be silly. I'm NOT blushing."

"Oh, no! You're only a delicate shade of crimson vermilion! Well, if you want him, Patty, I'll get him for you. Do you want him now?"

"No! of course I don't! Do be still, Roger! And stop that foolish smiling! Well, then, I'm going to talk to Adele Kenerley."

Patty ran away from Roger, who was decidedly in a teasing mood, and seated herself beside the pretty young matron.

"Such a GOOD child," Mrs. Kenerley was saying; "she NEVER cries, and she's SO loving and affectionate."

"Oh, she's a heavenly baby!" cried Mona, in raptures of appreciation, and then along came the baby's father, fresh from his ocean dip.

"You must choke off my wife," he said, smiling, "if she gets started on a monologue about that infant prodigy! She can keep it up most of the hours out of the twenty-four, and go right over it all again next day!"

"And why not?" cried Mona. "SUCH a baby deserves appreciation. I can hardly wait till to-morrow to wake her up and play with her."

"She's a good enough kiddy," said the proud young father, trying to hide his own enthusiasm.

"Now, Jim," cried his wife, "you know perfectly well you're a bigger idiot about that child than I am! Why, would you believe, Mona--"

"There, there, Adele, if you're going to tell anecdotes of my parental devotion, I'm going to run away! Come on, Farnsworth, let's go for a stroll, and talk over old times."

The two men walked off together, and the party generally broke up. Most of them went to their rooms to rest or dress for dinner, and Patty concluded that she would grasp the opportunity to write a letter to Nan, a task which she enjoyed, but rarely found time for.

"The house party is upon us," she wrote, "and, though they're really very nice, they ARE a little of the west, westy. But there's only one girl, Daisy Dow, who's MUCH that way, and I rather think I can manage her. But already she has warned me not to interfere with her young man! As if I would!"

Just here, Patty's cheeks grew red again, and she changed the subject of her epistolary progress.

"The baby is a perfect darling, and her parents are very nice people. TERRIBLY devoted to the infant, but of course that's to be expected. Roger is a comfort. It's so nice to have an old friend here among all these strangers. Oh, and there's an artist who, I know, spells his art with a big A. He wants to paint me as 'Cherry Ripe' or something, I forget what. But I know his portraits will look just like magazine covers. Though,--I suppose I AM rather of that type myself. Oh, me! I wish I were a tall, dark beauty, with melting brown eyes and midnight tresses, instead of a tow-headed, doll-faced thing. But then, as the poet says, 'We women cannot choose our lot.' I'm in for a good time, there's no doubt about that. We've parties and picnics and pageants piled up mountain high. So if I don't write again very soon, you'll know it's because I'm a Social Butterfly for the time being, and these are my Butterfly Days. Aunt Adelaide is rather nicer than when I last wrote. She gets on her 'company manners,' and that makes her more amiable."

"My goodness gracious!"

This last phrase was spoken aloud, not written, for the low, open window, near which Patty sat writing, was suddenly invaded by a laughing face and a pair of broad, burly shoulders, and Big Bill's big voice said, "Hello, you pretty little poppet!"

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