“I—I feel as if I ought to call you Miss Fairfield.”
“Well, call me that if you like, I don’t mind. Call me Miss Smith or Miss Brown, if you want to—I don’t care what you call me, if you’ll only ask me to dance.”
“Come on, then,” said Kenneth; and in a moment they were whirling in the waltz, and the boy’s momentary embarrassment was entirely forgotten.
“There!” said Kenneth, after the dance was over, “you look more like your old self now.”
“I haven’t lost any hairpins, have I?” said Patty, putting up her hands to her fluffy topknot.
“No, but you’ve lost that absurd dressed-up look.”
“I’m getting used to my new frock. Don’t you like it?”
“Yes, of course I do. I like everything you wear, because I like you. In fact, I think I like you better than any girl I ever saw.”
Kenneth said this in such a frank, boyish way that he seemed to be announcing a mere casual preference for some matter-of-fact thing.
At least it seemed so to Patty, and she answered carelessly:
“You think you do! I’d like you to be sure of it, sir.”
“I am sure of it,” said Ken, and then, a little more diffidently: “Do you like me best?”
“Why, yes, of course I do,” said Patty, smiling, “that is, after papa and Aunt Alice and Marian and Uncle Charley and Frank and Mancy and Pansy—and Mr. Hepworth.”
Patty might not have added the last name if she had not just then seen that gentleman coming toward her.
He looked at Patty with an especial kindliness in his eyes, and said gently:
“Miss Fairfield, may I see your card?”
Patty flushed a little and her eyes fell.
“Please don’t talk like that,” she said. “I’m not grown up, if I am dressed up. I’m only Patty, and if you call me anything else I’ll run away.”
“Don’t run away,” said Mr. Hepworth, still looking at her with that grave kindliness that seemed to have about it a touch of sadness. “I will call you Patty as long as you will stay with me.”
Then Patty smiled again, quite her own merry little self, and gave him her card, saying:
“Put your name down a lot of times, please; you are a beautiful dancer, and I like best to dance with the people I know best.”
“I wish I had a rubber stamp,” said Mr. Hepworth; “it’s very fatiguing to write one’s name on every line.”
“Oh, good gracious!” cried Patty, “don’t take them all. I want to save a lot for Frank and Ken—”
“And your father,” said Mr. Hepworth.
“Papa? He doesn’t dance—at least, I never saw him.”
“But he did dance that last waltz, with Miss Allen.”
“With Nan? Well, then, I rather think he can dance with his own daughter. Don’t take any more; I want all the rest for him, and please take me to him.”