Aunt Jane's Nieces/Chapter 24

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CHAPTER XXIV
HOME AGAIN

The Major was at the station to meet them. Uncle John had shyly suggested a telegram, and Patsy had decided they could stand the expense for the pleasure of seeing the old Dad an hour sooner.

The girl caught sight of him outside the gates, his face red and beaming as a poppy in bloom and his snowy moustache bristling with eagerness. At once she dropped her bundles and flew to the Major's arms, leaving the little man in her wake to rescue her belongings and follow after.

He could hardly see Patsy at all, the Major wrapped her in such an ample embrace; but bye and bye she escaped to get her breath, and then her eyes fell upon the meek form holding her bundles.

"Oh, Dad," she cried, "here's Uncle John, who has come to live with us; and if you don't love him as much as I do I'll make your life miserable!"

"On which account," said the Major, grasping the little man's hand most cordially, "I'll love Uncle John like my own brother. And surely," he added, his voice falling tenderly, "my dear Violet's brother must be my own. Welcome, sir, now and always, to our little home. It's modest, sir; but wherever Patsy is the sun is sure to shine."

"I can believe that," said Uncle John, with a nod and smile.

They boarded a car for the long ride up town, and as soon as they were seated Patsy demanded the story of the Major's adventures with his colonel, and the old fellow rattled away with the eagerness of a boy, telling every detail in the most whimsical manner, and finding something humorous in every incident.

"Oh, but it was grand, Patsy!" he exclaimed, "and the Colonel wept on my neck when we parted and stained the collar of me best coat, and he give me a bottle of whiskey that would make a teetotaler roll his eyes in ecstacy. 'Twas the time of my life."

"And you're a dozen years younger, Major!" she cried, laughing, "and fit to dig into work like a pig in clover."

His face grew grave.

"But how about the money, Patsy dear?" he asked. "Did you get nothing out of Jane Merrick's estate?"

"Not a nickle, Dad. 'Twas the best joke you ever knew. I fought with Aunt Jane like a pirate and it quite won her heart. When she died she left me all she had in the world."

"Look at that, now!" said the Major, wonderingly.

"Which turned out to be nothing at all," continued Patsy. "For another will was found, made by Mr. Thomas Bradley, which gave the money to his own nephew after Aunt Jane died. Did you ever?"

"Wonderful!" said the Major, with a sigh.

"So I was rich for half a day, and then poor as ever."

"It didn't hurt you, did it?" asked the Major. "You weren't vexed with disappointment, were you, Patsy?"

"Not at all, Daddy."

"Then don't mind it, child. Like as not the money would be the ruination of us all. Eh, sir?" appealing to Uncle John.

"To be sure," said the little man. "Jane left five thousand to me, also, which I didn't get. But I'm not sorry at all."

"Quite right, sir," approved the Major, sympathetically, "although it's easier not to expect anything at all, than to set your heart on a thing and then not get it. In your case, it won't matter. Our house is yours, and there's plenty and to spare."

"Thank you," said Uncle John, his face grave but his eyes merry.

"Oh, Major!" cried Patsy, suddenly. "There's Danny Reeves's restaurant. Let's get off and have our dinner now; I'm as hungry as a bear."

So they stopped the car and descended, lugging all the parcels into the little restaurant, where they were piled into a chair while the proprietor and the waiters all gathered around Patsy to welcome her home.

My, how her eyes sparkled! She fairly danced for joy, and ordered the dinner with reckless disregard of the bill.

"Ah, but it's good to be back," said the little Bohemian, gleefully. "The big house at Elmhurst was grand and stately, Major, but there wasn't an ounce of love in the cupboard."

"Wasn't I there, Patsy?" asked Uncle John, reproachfully.

"True, but now you're here; and our love, Uncle, has nothing to do with Elmhurst. I'll bet a penny you liked it as little as I did."

"You'd win," admitted the little man.

"And now," said the girl to the smiling waiter, "a bottle of red California wine for Uncle John and the Major, and two real cigars. We'll be merry tonight if it bankrupts the Doyle family entirely."

But, after a merry meal and a good one, there was no bill at all when it was called for.

Danny Reeves himself came instead, and made a nice little speech, saying that Patsy had always brought good luck to the place, and this dinner was his treat to welcome her home.

So the Major thanked him with gracious dignity and Patsy kissed Danny on his right cheek, and then they went away happy and content to find the little rooms up the second flight of the old tenement.

"It's no palace," said Patsy, entering to throw down the bundles as soon as the Major unlocked the door, "but there's a cricket in the hearth, and it's your home, Uncle John, as well as ours."

Uncle John looked around curiously. The place was so plain after the comparative luxury of Elmhurst, and especially of the rose chamber Patsy had occupied, that the old man could not fail to marvel at the girl's ecstatic joy to find herself in the old tenement again. There was one good sized living-room, with an ancient rag-carpet partially covering the floor, a sheet-iron stove, a sofa, a table and three or four old-fashioned chairs that had probably come from a second-hand dealer.

Opening from this were two closet-like rooms containing each a bed and a chair, with a wash-basin on a bracket shelf. On the walls were a few colored prints from the Sunday newspapers and one large and fine photograph of a grizzled old soldier that Uncle John at once decided must represent "the Colonel."

Having noted these details, Patsy's uncle smoothed back his stubby gray hair with a reflective and half puzzled gesture.

"It's cozy enough, my child; and I thank you for my welcome," said he. "But may I enquire where on earth you expect to stow me in this rather limited establishment?"

"Where? Have you no eyes, then?" she asked, in astonishment. "It's the finest sofa in the world, Uncle John, and you'll sleep there like a top, with the dear Colonel's own picture looking down at you to keep you safe and give you happy dreams. Where, indeed!"

"Ah; I see," said Uncle John.

"And you can wash in my chamber," added the Major, with a grand air, "and hang your clothes on the spare hooks behind my door."

"I haven't many," said Uncle John, looking thoughtfully at his red bundle.

The Major coughed and turned the lamp a little higher.

"You'll find the air fine, and the neighborhood respectable," he said, to turn the subject. "Our modest apartments are cool in summer and warm in winter, and remarkably reasonable in price. Patsy gets our breakfast on the stove yonder, and we buy our lunches down town, where we work, and then dine at Danny Reeves's place. A model home, sir, and a happy one, as I hope you'll find it."

"I'm sure to be happy here," said Uncle John, taking out his pipe. "May I smoke?"

"Of course; but don't spoil the lace curtains, dear," answered Patsy, mischievously. And then, turning to her father, she exclaimed: "Oh, daddy! What will the Uncle do all the day while we're at work?"

"That's as he may choose," said the Major, courteously.

"Couldn't we get him a job?" asked Patsy, wistfully. "Not where there'll be much work, you know, for the Uncle is old. But just to keep him out of mischief, and busy. He can't hang around all day and be happy, I suppose."

"I'll look around," answered the Major, briskly, as if such a "job" was the easiest thing in the world to procure. "And meantime—"

"Meantime," said Uncle John, smiling at them, "I'll look around myself."

"To be sure," agreed the Major. "Between the two of us and Patsy, we ought to have no trouble at all."

There was a moment of thoughtful silence after this, and then Patsy said:

"You know it won't matter, Uncle John, if you don't work. There'll easy be enough for all, with the Major's wages and my own."

"By the bye," added the Major, "if you have any money about you, which is just possible, sir, of course, you'd better turn it over to Patsy to keep, and let her make you an allowance. That's the way I do—it's very satisfactory."

"The Major's extravagant," exclaimed Patsy; "and if he has money he wants to treat every man he meets."

Uncle John shook his head, reproachfully, at the Major.

"A very bad habit, sir," he said.

"I acknowledge it, Mr. Merrick," responded the Major. "But Patsy is fast curing me. And, after all, it's a wicked city to be carrying a fat pocketbook around in, as I've often observed."

"My pocketbook is not exactly fat," remarked Uncle John.

"But you've money, sir, for I marked you squandering it on the train," said Patsy, severely. "So out with it, and we'll count up, and see how much of an allowance I can make you 'till you get the job."

Uncle John laughed and drew his chair up to the table. Then he emptied his trousers' pockets upon the cloth, and Patsy gravely separated the keys and jackknife from the coins and proceeded to count the money.

"Seven dollars and forty-two cents," she announced. "Any more?"

Uncle John hesitated a moment, and then drew from an inner pocket of his coat a thin wallet. From this, when she had received it from his hand, the girl abstracted two ten and one five dollar bills, all crisp and new.

"Good gracious!" she cried, delightedly. "All this wealth, and you pleading poverty?"

"I never said I was a pauper," returned Uncle John, complacently.

"You couldn't, and be truthful, sir," declared the girl. "Why, this will last for ages, and I'll put it away safe and be liberal with your allowance. Let me see," pushing the coins about with her slender fingers, "you just keep the forty-two cents, Uncle John. It'll do for car-fare and a bit of lunch now and then, and when you get broke you can come to me."

"He smokes," observed the Major, significantly.

"Bah! a pipe," said Patsy. "And Bull Durham is only five cents a bag, and a bag ought to last a week. And every Saturday night, sir, you shall have a cigar after dinner, with the Major. It's it our regular practice."

"Thank you, Patsy," said Uncle John, meekly, and gathered up his forty-two cents.

"You've now a home, and a manager, sir, with money in the bank of Patsy & Company, Limited," announced the Major. "You ought to be very contented, sir."

"I am," replied Uncle John.