“I should be bankrupt if it did,” the doctor said, pulling one of Custard’s long ears. “An only daughter is rather an expensive luxury.”
“As if I were anything more than a plain every-day necessity! And not such an incapable after all, am I, Daddy?”
“Not when it comes to Christmas-trees.”
“Daddy, see, it’s beginning to snow!”
“We’re going to have a white Christmas, all right,” the doctor said; then, as the telephone rang sharply, he went to answer it.
Patricia heard him give a sudden exclamation, ask one or two rapid questions; then he hung up the receiver and came back to the library door.
“Patricia,” he said, “there has been a bad accident down at the curve—the eastern express—they are bringing the injured up here to the hotel. ’Phone your aunt for me; and remember, you are not to leave the house.”
“O Daddy!” Patricia followed him into the office; but all he could tell her was that it seemed to be a pretty bad affair, and that he was likely to be away from home some hours.
“A sad Christmas eve for a good many, dear,” he said, kissing her good-by.
Patricia watched him, as he drove off a few moments later, through the fast falling snow. Christmas eve—and down there at the curve! Patricia choked back a sudden sob, as she went to telephone to her aunt, who was down at the church, helping with the Christmas decorations.
Miss Kirby decided instantly to go right down to the hotel, where help would be needed. And she also warned Patricia that she was not to leave home.
“But oh, I want to go, Custard!” the girl protested; “I know I could help.” She closed the library door; the sight of the Christmas-tree, its gay ornaments glittering in the firelight, hurt her.
Patricia went to curl herself up on one of the sitting-room window-seats. Jim had gone with her father; Sarah was down at the gate talking over the accident with the maid from next door. Presently, across the street, a familiar figure came into view, through the gathering twilight. Patricia hurried to the door. “O Nell!” she called.
Nell Hardy came running over. “Patricia, you’ve heard?”
“Yes; they sent for Daddy. Aunt Julia’s gone down to the hotel.”
“So’s Mama; she wouldn’t let me go with her. O Patricia! If it had been the local!”
“Don’t, Nell! Come on in and stay; I’m under orders not to leave the house.”
They went into the sitting-room, where Patricia brightened up the fire and lit the big lamp, with its crimson shade. Then she came to sit beside Nell on the broad old lounge. “Nell, aren’t you wild to help too? If only Daddy hadn’t—Oh, I know—” The next moment Patricia was out in the hall at the telephone.
Nell waited wonderingly.
“Come on, Nell!” Patricia stood in the open doorway, her eyes dancing. “Five of them coming!”