“Oh, how do you do?” the girl cried, explosively. “You’re Cousin Patty,—aren’t you?” But even as she spoke, she stumbled on the steps, pitched forward, falling on Patty, and but for Farnsworth’s quick action would have knocked her down.
“Jiminy crickets! Ain’t I the tangle-foot! Guess I’m getting in bad at the very start. Hope I didn’t hurt you.”
“Not at all,” said Patty, recovering her poise, both mental and physical. “You are very welcome, Azalea. Will you sit here a few minutes before we go in the house?”
“Sure! I’ll spill myself right into this double-decker!”
She threw herself into a long wicker lounging-seat, of the steamer-chair type, and stretched out her feet in evident enjoyment of the relaxation.
“Well, this is comfort, after travelling cross country for days and days! I say, Cousin, it was awful good of you to ask me.”
“Think so?” and Patty tried to smile pleasantly. She avoided catching Bill’s eye, for the poor man was overcome with shame and consternation that his relative should be so impossible.
“Yep,—I do. My! this place of yours is swell. I never saw such a grand house—close to. You’re rich, ain’t you, Cousin William?”
“So, so,” Farnsworth replied, gazing at the girl in a sort of horrified fascination. “You’ve changed since last we met,” he went on, in an endeavour to make casual conversation.
“Well, yes, I s’pose so. They tell me I was a squalling young one when you were at the Corners. Was I a terror?”
“Not then!” Bill wanted to answer, but of course he didn’t.
“Not at all,” he said, pleasantly. “You were a pretty baby—”
“But greatly changed,—hey?”
The girl gave him a quick glance. She was not ill-looking, as to features and colouring, but her whole effect was unattractive,—even repelling.
She had flashing black eyes, which darted from one object to another in a jerky, inquisitive way. Her scarlet lips parted over white, even teeth, but her lower lip hung, and her half-open mouth gave her an air of ignorance, often accompanied by rude staring.
Her black hair was concealed by a coarse straw hat, untrimmed save for some gaudy flowers embroidered on the straw with crude coloured wools.
“How do you like my hat?” Azalea asked suddenly. “Just the shape of a horse’s hat, isn’t it? But it’s all the go. This dress is, too,—hope you like it,—I do.”
The dress in question was a “sport suit” of a large-sized green and black check. It was cheap material, and badly cut, and its ill-fitting coat hung on Azalea’s slim shoulders in baggy wrinkles. Her blouse was bright pink Georgette, beaded with scarlet beads, and altogether, perhaps her costume could not have been worse chosen or made up,—at least, from Patty’s point of view.
She ignored the question about the hat, and asked the girl as to her journey.