It was a great surprise to Patty when she learned that Christmas was not made so much of in Paris as with us, but that the great fete-day was New Year’s Day, or, as they called it, jour de l’an.
But Patty was not baffled by French customs entirely, and decreed that the Farrington household should hold a Christmas celebration all by themselves. This they did, and the day to them was a pleasant one indeed.
But this was a minor episode compared to the fact that old Ma’amselle Labesse sent them all an urgent invitation to come to her at St. Germain to spend New Year’s Day.
The girls were rejoiced at this invitation, but feared they could not accept it, as Mr. and Mrs. Farrington had an engagement in Paris for the festival.
But after much discussion of the matter, and much pleading on the part of the young people, it was arranged that Patty and Elise should go two days before the New Year Day and spend a whole week with the old Ma’amselle in her chateau. A little tactful managing on Patty’s part secured an invitation also for Rosamond Barstow, and the three girls, who had become almost inseparable, started off together in great glee.
Mr. Farrington sent them out in the motor-car, in care of his chauffeur, and Patty, to her great delight and satisfaction, drove the car all the way there.
St. Germain is a beautiful town, which dates back about eight centuries, when it was a favourite summer residence of French royalty. The forest is among the most beautiful of all French woods, and as Patty drove through the roads of the deep forest it seemed like enchanted ground. They spun along the Terrasse, enjoying the view below, and after passing many beautiful villas and residences came to the old chateau of Ma’amselle Labesse.
After passing a porter’s lodge at the entrance, they went on for a long distance through the park before reaching the house Then alighting at the main portal, the doors were thrown open by footmen, and the girls were ushered in.
Ma’amselle herself received them in the entrance hall. She looked quite different from the way she had appeared on board the steamer, as she was now attired in very elegant and formal robes, with her white hair arranged after the fashion of Madame de Pompadour.
She cordially welcomed the three young girls, making emphatic assertions at her delight in seeing them, but her warmest welcome was bestowed upon Patty.
“But it is herself!” she cried; “of a certainty, it is ma petite Patty. Ciel! but it is that I am glad to see you!”
Patty returned the greetings with polite warmth, and indeed she was really fond of the quaint old lady.
The girls were all amazed at the grandeur and beauty of Ma’amselle’s home, and were unable to repress their admiration; but Ma’amselle was pleased rather than otherwise that they should express their pleasure.
“But surely,” she said, “it is indeed the beautiful home. This hall! It is not of a smallness! And in the old days it welcomed royal guests.”