Patty looked at his earnest face, and honestly rejoiced that he had found a girl he could care for like that.
“I’ll go, Phil,” she said, “and I’ll bring that young woman to reason! It isn’t only coyness,—that isn’t Azalea’s way,—but she is honestly troubled about something.”
But though Patty knocked on Azalea’s locked door several times, she heard no response.
“Please let me in, Zaly,” she begged, “I just want to talk to you a little.”
Still no reply, and then, after exhausting all other arguments, Patty said, “Won’t you let me in for Phil’s sake? He sent me.”
That succeeded, and reluctantly Azalea unlocked the door.
“Don’t talk to me, Patty,” she pleaded. “I’m in the depths of despair, but you can’t help me. Nobody can help me,—and I can’t even help myself.”
“Who made all this trouble for you?” inquired Patty, casually, her never failing tact instructing her that Azalea would answer that better than protestations of affection.
“I made it myself,—but that doesn’t make it any easier to bear.”
“Indeed it doesn’t,” Patty agreed. “But, never mind, Zaly, if you heaped up a mound of trouble, let me help you to pull it down again.”
“No; you can’t,” and Azalea looked at her dully.
“Oh, come now, let me try. Is it about your father?”
Azalea fairly jumped. “What do you mean?”
“Just what I said,” returned Patty, calmly. “You know, dear, you’ve made us think there’s something queer about your father. Is he—has he done anything wrong?”
“No, Patty, goodness, gracious no! Mr. Thorpe is a most honoured and honourable man!”
“Now why does she call him Mr. Thorpe?” Patty wondered, but she only said;
“Oh, all right, forgive my suggestion. Why doesn’t he write to you?”
“He—he?—oh, Patty, that’s the trouble.”
“Good! Now we’re getting at it. How is that the trouble?”
“Shall I tell you everything?” and poor Azalea looked doubtful as to what to do.
“Yes, dear,” Patty said, gently, fearing even yet that an ill-advised word would interrupt or prevent this long-deferred explanation.
“Well, you see,—oh, Patty,—I’m a wicked, deceitful girl—”
“Out with it,” urged Patty, not greatly scared by this tragic beginning,—for Azalea was prone to exaggerate.
“I was home, you know, at Horner’s Corners—”
A knock on the door was a most unwelcome interruption.
“Don’t answer,” Patty whispered, “it’s Elise,—I heard her step.”
But Elise was not so easily rebuffed. “Let me in,” she called, “I know you’re in there, Azalea,—you and Patty.”
Patty went to the door, and opened it slightly. “Go away now, Elise, please,” she said, “Azalea and I are having a little confidential chat.”
“Not so confidential that I can’t be in it too, is it?” and speaking lightly, Elise brushed past Patty and into the room.