“And pray what were you doing in that kitchen garden?”
“Well, I was helping Miller look after your motor one day, and I strolled around the house, back to the front veranda that way. And,”—Jack’s voice sank to an impressive whisper,—“there in the midst of the cabbages and eggplants,—there stood Mrs. Hastings,— I’m sure it was she,—in a calico gown and checked apron!”
“Oh, Jack!” and Patty burst into laughter. “She is our cook! Don’t give it away, will you?”
“Never! Never! But what a joke! Does no one know it?”
“No one at all but Mona and myself. You see—” And then Patty told the whole story.
“Well, that’s the best ever!” declared Jack as she finished. “Patty, you do beat all! No one else will guess, I’m sure,—and I’ll never tell. But it’s most too good a joke to keep, now, isn’t it?”
“But it’s going to be kept! Why, if some people knew of it, they’d drum me out of Spring Beach. And anyway, Jack, I wouldn’t have done it, if Susan hadn’t been such a dear respectable person herself.”
“I’m sure she is, and to show I believe it, I’ll take her out to supper.”
“Gracious, goodness, Jack! I never thought of supper! Will she have to eat with us?”
“Of course she will! And, as I say, I’ll take her out, so there’ll be no danger of further discovery.”
Patty giggled again. The idea of Susan being escorted out to the dining-room of “Red Chimneys”! And by Jack Pennington, the most aristocratic young man in their set!
“All right,” she said. “But I must sit the other side of you. I want to keep my eye on her.”
And so it came to pass that when supper was announced, Jack went up gallantly and offered his arm to the chaperon.
This seemed quite natural and proper to the other guests, and they paid little attention as Mrs. Hastings rose with dignity, and, with her escort, led the procession.
Susan was resolved to make up for her blunder, and she carried herself with an air of hauteur, and trailed the grey satin gown after her quite as if she were used to such.
“It is a beautiful home, is it not, Mrs. Hastings?” said Jack, by way of making conversation.
“It is, sir,” returned Susan, careful of speech and accent, but unable to forget her deference. “Such airy rooms and fine, high ceilings.”
Jack couldn’t help admiring her aplomb, and he chatted away easily in an endeavour to put her at her ease.
“Will you sit here, Mrs. Hastings?” he said, offering her the seat at the head of the table, as became the chaperon of the party.
Susan hesitated, but catching Mona’s nod of acquiescence, she sank gracefully into the armchair Jack held for her.
A DINNER PARTY
As Patty expressed it afterward, she felt as limp as a jelly-fish with the grippe when she saw Susan at the head of Mona’s table! Mrs. Hastings herself seemed in no way appalled at the sparkling array of glass and silver, of lights and flowers, but she was secretly alarmed lest her ignorance of etiquette should lead her into blunders that might shame Miss Patty.