Patty was amused, and a little ashamed that a stranger should have read her feelings so accurately, for she had felt slightly repelled at the somewhat forward manners of these would-be friends.
As if to make up for her coolness she said heartily: “I’m sure you are delightful to know, and I’m quite ready to be friends if you will allow it. I’m Patty Fairfield, and this is my chum, Elise Farrington.”
“We knew your names,” said Alicia Van Ness; “we asked the captain. You see, we thought you two were the nicest girls on board, but if you had thrown us down we were going to tackle the English girl next.”
Though this slangy style of talk was not at all to Patty’s liking, she saw no reason to reject the offered friendship because of it. The Van Ness sisters might prove to be interesting companions, in spite of their unconventional ways. So two vacant chairs were drawn up, and the four girls sat in a group, and very soon were chatting away like old friends.
“Do you know the English girl?” asked Doris; “she sits at your table.”
“No,” said Elise; “she’s way down at the other end from us. But I like her looks, only she’s so very English that I expect she’s rather stiff and hard to get acquainted with.”
“You can’t say that about us, can you?” said Alicia, laughing; “I’m as easy as an old shoe, and Doris as an old slipper. But we hope you’ll like us, because we do love to be liked. That English girl’s name is Florrie Nash. Isn’t that queer? She doesn’t look a bit like a Florrie, does she? More like a Susan or a Hannah.”
“Or more like a Catharine or Elizabeth, I think,” said Patty. “But you never can tell people’s names from what they look like.”
“No,” said Alicia; “now a stranger would say you looked like my name, and I looked like yours.”
“That’s true enough,” said Elise, laughing; “your jolly ways are not at all like your grand-sounding name; and as for Patty here, it’s a perfect shame to spoil her beautiful name of Patricia by such a nickname.”
Two young men in long plaid ulsters with turned-up collars and plaid yachting caps came into view at the other end of the deck. They were walking with swinging strides in the direction of the group of girls.
“Now I’ll show you,” said Alicia in a low voice, “how we Chicago girls scrape acquaintance with young men.”
As the young men drew nearer Alicia looked at them smilingly and said “Ahem” in a low but distinct voice. The young men looked at her and smiled, whereupon Doris purposely dropped a book she had been holding. The young men sprang to pick it up, Doris took it and thanked them, and then made a further remark as to the beauty of the weather. The young men replied affably, and then Alicia asked them to join their group and sit down for a chat.
“With pleasure,” said one of the young men, glancing at Patty and Elise, “if we may be allowed.”