The Fairfield library was a most cosey and attractive room. Nan was a home-maker by nature, and as Patty dearly loved pretty and comfortable appointments, they had combined their efforts on the library and the result was a room which they all loved far better than the more formal drawing-room.
The fall was coming early that year, which gave an excuse for the fire in the big fireplace. This fire was made of that peculiar kind of driftwood whose flames show marvellous rainbow tints. Patty never tired of watching the strange-coloured blaze, and delighted in throwing on more chips and splinters from time to time.
“I can’t see what makes your father so late,” said Nan, as she wandered about the room, now adjusting some flowers in a vase, and now stopping to look out at the front window; “he’s always here by this time, or earlier.”
“Something must have detained him,” said Patty, rather absently, as she poked at a log with the tongs.
“Patty, you’re a true Sherlock Holmes! Your father is late, and you immediately deduce that something has detained him! Truly, you have a wonderful intellect!”
“I don’t wonder it seems so to you,” said saucy Patty, smiling at her pretty stepmother; “people are always impressed by traits they don’t possess themselves.”
“But really I’m getting worried. If Fred doesn’t come pretty soon I shall telephone to the office.”
“Do; I like to see you enacting the role of anxious young wife. It suits you perfectly. As for me, I’m starving; if papa doesn’t come pretty soon, he will find an emaciated skeleton in place of the plump daughter he left behind him.”
As Mr. Fairfield arrived at that moment, there was no occasion for further anxiety, but in response to their queries he gave them no satisfaction as to the cause of his unusual tardiness, and only smiled at their exclamations.
It was not until they were seated at the dinner table that Mr. Fairfield announced he had something to tell them.
“And I’m sure it’s something nice,” said Patty, “for there’s a twinkle in the left corner of your right eye.”
“Gracious, Patty!” cried Nan, “that sounds as if your father were cross-eyed, and he isn’t.”
“Well,” went on Mr. Fairfield, “what I have to tell you is just this: I have arranged for the immediate future of Miss Patricia Fairfield.”
Patty looked frightened. There was something in her father’s tone that made her feel certain that his mind was irrevocably made up, and that whatever plans he had made for her were sure to be carried out. But she resolved to treat it lightly until she found out what it was all about.
“I don’t want to be intrusive,” she said, “but if not too presumptuous, might I inquire what is to become of me?”
“Yours not to make reply, yours not to reason why,” said her father teasingly. “You know, my child, you’re not yet of age, and I, as your legal parent and guardian, can do whatever I please with you. You are, as Mr. Shakespeare puts it, ‘my goods, my chattel,’ and so I have decided to pack you up and send you away.”