Chase Josephine.

Patsy Carroll Under Southern Skies





A good plan, approved Mrs. Ainslee. Girls, she called out in a clear, resonant voice, the rear of the dormitory is on fire. First Im going to call the roll to be sure you are all here. Next I need twenty-four girls, eight to each floor, to go after the fire buckets. I will ask the first twelve on each side at this end of the lines to go. Stop at the second floor bath room and fill up the buckets. We may be unable to get to the kitchen faucets. As soon as the buckets are filled report here for duty. The rest of you will wait until these girls have started upstairs, then file out of the house and onto the lawn.

Turning to Patsy she said: Stay here with me, Miss Carroll. I need you for another purpose.

With this she hurried to her office on the same floor, returning with her register. The roll called and everyone responding, she directed her attention to the bucket brigade. They were soon started in good order for the stairs. As soon as the last girl had set foot on the stairs, the two lines began to move toward the door. Following, Mrs. Ainslee watched them safely outside, then returned to where Patsy stood waiting.

You and I will investigate the fire and see what can be done, she said briefly, and started down the corridor toward the dining room. In spite of the heavy doors the smoke had now become noticeable even in the corridor. Throwing open one of the double doors, a dense cloud of smoke poured over both women, causing them to draw back in a hurry, eyes and throats smarting.

We cant go that way, declared the matron in a choking voice, as she swung the door shut. Well have to fight the fire from the outside. Im afraid we cant do much. It seems to have gained a good deal of headway in a very short time. I am going to ask you to stand in the corridor, Miss Carroll, while I go outside. As the girls come downstairs with the buckets, count them. Send them out doors and to the rear of the dormitory. I shall be there to tell them what to do. When the last one is safely out, then join me.

Left briefly to herself, Patsy wondered what her chums thought of her in her new position as assistant fire chief. She had seen them in the line, but had had no chance to exchange a word with them. She knew Beatrice to be one of the bucket brigade, and so waited impatiently for her return.

Oh, Patsy, its terrible! Beatrice called down to her chum, as she began the descent of the lower flight of stairs, bucket in hand. I got this bucket at the end of the hall near a window. I looked out and saw the back of the dormitory. Its a mass of flames! Unless the fire company comes soon the whole place will go and well lose all our clothes and belongings. I managed to snatch my handbag and yours from the chiffonier. One of the girls outside is keeping them for me.

You dear, thoughtful thing!

Bee had now reached the foot of the stairs. Setting down the heavy bucket, she paused just long enough to return the hug Patsy gave her.

Then she picked up her bucket and hurried on.

One by one the bucket brigade appeared, only to disappear out the front door. Patsy kept careful watch until the twenty-fourth girl had vanished. By this time the smoke in the corridor was steadily growing more dense. She doubted if the brigade would be able to return for a second supply of water. It was high time for her to be moving on, she decided.

As she ran down the front steps of the dormitory and around the corner of the building toward its rear, she could well understand why the corridor had begun to fill with smoke. The rear of the dormitory was now wrapped in flames.

Lined up as close to the fiercely blazing structure as they dared stand, the members of the brigade were rapidly passing their buckets on to half a dozen girls who, under Mrs. Ainslees direction, were valiantly throwing the contents of the buckets on the flames.

The burning section of the dormitory was much lower than the main part of the building, being only two stories high. It might as well have been four stories for all the impression that the amateur fire fighters could make on the flames. Endeavoring to dash the water upon the conflagration from a safe distance, a large portion of it fell on the ground.

While they toiled desperately at their hopeless task, the welcome clanging of bells and the chug-chug of motors announced the arrival of the Alden Hose Company on the scene.

With thankful hearts, the bucket brigade promptly vacated their posts to make way for the firemen, who soon had a hose connected with the nearest water main and playing vigorously upon the flames.

Despite their gallant efforts, the wind was against them and the fire had gained too much headway prior to their arrival to be easily quenched.

None of the Yardley girls ever forgot that night. Drawn up in a body at one side of the campus they watched in terrified fascination the conflict raging between fire and water.

It was between half-past nine and ten oclock when Patsy discovered the fire. It was after one in the morning when water finally reduced the fire to a state of inactivity. At least two-thirds of the dormitory had been demolished, leaving only the charred rafters. The front part was still intact, due to the unceasing toil of the gallant fire fighters. They would stick to their posts until there remained no further possibility of the fire taking on a new lease of life.

Over in Yardley Hall a weary company of homeless girls were endeavoring to make themselves comfortable for the rest of the night. Aside from money and small valuables, which the majority had had forethought enough to hastily snatch up when the gong had sounded, everything belonging to them had gone up in smoke.

The pecuniary side of their losses was not troubling them. There was hardly a girl at Yardley who had not come from a home of affluence. The discomfort they were temporarily obliged to endure was another matter. There was also much wild conjecturing going on among the castaways as to what effect the disaster would have upon the schools routine of study.

Lounging wearily on a long oak bench in the corridor, the Wayfarers were discussing the situation amid frequent yawns.

I guess well just have to stay here until morning, Patsy was ruefully informing her chums. Its after two now and weve no other place to go. Im awfully sleepy, too, but this bench is no place to sleep.

Some of the girls have stretched out on the benches in the class-rooms, declared Mabel. We might as well do the same. Where do you suppose were going to eat breakfast? Im hungry now.

Were going to eat it in Alden, announced Patsy positively. The minute daylight comes well hop into my car and drive to the village. Im hungry, too. Wish it was morning now.

This is going to make a big difference in our Easter vacation, reflectively remarked Beatrice. Well probably be allowed to go home to-morrow. With the dormitory gone theres no other place for us to stay until its rebuilt. Of course it will be, and it wont take very long to do it. It isnt as though it had been burned to the ground. The frame works there and the front of it is all right.

How long do you suppose it will take to rebuild it? asked Patsy eagerly. Bees remarks had set her to thinking.

Oh, five or six weeks, hazarded Beatrice. A gang of skilled workmen can rebuild it very quickly.

Five or six weeks, mused Patsy.

Of a sudden she straightened up from her lounging attitude, her gray eyes very bright.

Girls, she said impressively, do you know what this means to us? It means Palm Beach after all. Miss Osgood has been foiled by fire. Doesnt that sound exactly like a movie title? Anyway, theres no loss without some gain. Its not very pleasant to be driven from home in the middle of the night and have all ones clothes vanish into smoke. Im sorry it happened, of course. But since it did happen, it certainly didnt happen for the worst, so far as the Wayfarers are concerned.

CHAPTER IV
GLORIOUS NEWS

Beatrices prediction that the nights disaster would hasten by several days the beginning of a prolonged Easter vacation proved accurate. The day following the fire was a busy one for all who had suffered from the dire calamity. At a meeting held in the chapel at two oclock on the following afternoon, Miss Osgood announced that a six weeks leave of absence would be granted the pupils of Yardley. Those who were sufficiently provided with clothing and funds to go to their homes at once were requested to repair to her office immediately after the meeting. Those who were not were requested to meet her there at four oclock to discuss ways and means.

As it happened, the Wayfarers were not only ready to go home, but wildly impatient to go. Early that morning they had driven to Alden in Patsys car to purchase the few things needful for the journey. Luckily for them they had been fully dressed when the fire alarm had sounded. Beatrice, Mabel and Eleanor had wisely donned hats and coats before leaving their rooms. Patsy had put on her fur coat when she had gone out to mail a letter. She was therefore minus a hat only. An hours shopping in the village provided the four girls with handkerchiefs, gloves and the few other articles which they required.

Four oclock that afternoon saw them at the railway station at Alden, waiting for the four-thirty west-bound train which would land them in Morton shortly after ten oclock that evening. Patsy had already sent her aunt a lengthy telegram, informing Miss Carroll of the fire and that the four girls would arrive in Morton that night.

Though the journey home was not a long one, it seemed interminable to the travelers. Patsy was burning to impart the glorious news to her aunt. She was very sure that Aunt Martha would reconsider her decision not to go to Palm Beach as soon as she had been informed of the new turn in the girls affairs.

Morton at last! sighed Mabel thankfully, when at five minutes to ten that evening the scattered lights of the citys suburbs began to spring up in the darkness. Our train is exactly on time.

I hope Auntie will meet us, Patsy said. Maybe your mother will be there, too, Perry children; and yours, Bee. I told Auntie in my telegram to send them word. I guess theyll be there, all right enough.

It seems queer not to have any luggage, doesnt it? remarked Eleanor.

The four girls had now begun putting on their coats, preparatory to leaving the train, which was gradually slowing down as it neared the station.

Were lucky to be here ourselves, returned Bee seriously. If that fire had started at dead of night it would have been a good deal worse for us.

When the train pulled into the station, however, the Wayfarers were doomed to disappointment. No friendly faces greeted their sight as they stepped from the train.

Auntie didnt get my telegram! I just know she didnt! Patsy cried out disappointedly. If shes read about the fire in the evening papers, I can imagine how worried she must be by this time. Its probably the fault of the operator at Alden. He looked like a sleepy old stupid. Wed better take a taxi, children. The sooner we get home the better it will be for our worried folks.

Hailing a taxicab the Wayfarers were soon driving through the quiet streets of the little city toward the beautiful suburb in which they lived. Beatrice was the first to alight in front of the Forbes unpretentious home. Promising to run over to see Patsy the first thing the next morning, she said good night and hurried up the walk.

Coming in, girls? asked Patsy as the taxicab finally stopped in front of the high, ornamental iron fence which enclosed the beautiful grounds of the Carroll estate.

Not to-night. We must hustle into our own house and surprise Mother, returned Eleanor.

Good-night, then. See you in the morning. Ill pay the driver.

Patsy hopped nimbly out of the taxicab, handed the driver his fare with an additional coin for good measure, then swung open the big gate and raced up the driveway to the house.

Three sharp, successive rings of the electric bell had a potent effect upon a stately, white-haired matron who sat in the living room, making a half-hearted attempt to read. Miss Martha Carroll sprang to her feet as the sound fell upon her ears and started for the hall at a most undignified pace. There was but one person who rang the Carrolls bell in that fashion.

Long before the maid had time to reach the door Miss Martha had opened it and thrown her arms about the merry-faced, auburn-haired girl on the threshold.

Patsy Carroll, you bad child! she exclaimed as she gathered her niece closer to her. Why didnt you telegraph me that you were all right and coming home?

But I did, Auntie, protested Patsy, as she energetically hugged her relieved relative. I telegraphed this morning. I knew you hadnt received the telegram the minute I got into the station. In it I asked you to meet me.

I never received it. Of course it will be delivered to-morrow, emphasized Miss Martha disgustedly. I sent one to you directly after I read the account of the fire in the evening paper. My nerves have been keyed up to a high pitch, waiting for a reply to it.

Poor, dear Auntie, cooed Patsy. Its a shame. Never mind. Im home now, so everythings lovely again. Lets go into the living room and Ill tell you all about the fire and how I happened to come home to-night. Bee and Mab and Nellie came home with me. Theyll be over to see you in the morning.

Are you hungry, Patsy? was her aunts solicitous question as the two walked slowly into the living room, arms twined about each others waists.

No, Auntie. We had dinner on the train. Im just crazy to talk. Ive some glorious news to tell you. Lets sit on the davenport and have a grand old talking bee.

To know you are safe is sufficiently good news, tenderly rejoiced Miss Martha. Really, Patricia, I am still trembling from the shock I received when I opened the newspaper and saw the headline, Fire Sweeps Away Dormitory at Yardley.

Well, it didnt sweep me away, laughed Patsy, snuggling into the circle of her aunts arm. The two had now seated themselves on the big leather davenport. Part of the dormitory is still there. We lost all our stuff except the clothing we were wearing when the fire broke out.

What started it? questioned Miss Martha rather severely. The paper didnt state the cause. A dormitory like the one at Yardley ought to be fireproof. I am sorry that I did not visit Yardley before allowing you to enter the school. I should certainly never countenance your living in a place that in any way looked like a fire-trap.

The fire started in the basement. The regular janitor was sick and a new one took his place. They say it was through his carelessness that it started. He was seen to go into the basement smoking a pipe. Something hed been forbidden to do. Of course, no one can be really sure that it was his fault, though. I was the one who gave the alarm.

Patsy went on to recount the incidents of the eventful night.

Not a single girl acted scared or panicky, she proudly boasted. Wed had fire drill so often that we knew just what to do when the fire really came. But I havent told you the glorious news yet. Were going to have six weeks vacation. Just think of it, Aunt Martha! Isnt that perfectly gorgeous? Now we can go to Palm Beach, cant we?

So that is the glorious news, commented Miss Carroll.

For an instant she silently surveyed Patsy, a half-smile touching her firm lips.

What is it, Auntie?

Patsy was not slow to read peculiar significance in both tone and smile. Something unusual was in the wind.

Would you care very much if we didnt go to Palm Beach? was Miss Marthas enigmatic question.

Of course I should, Patsy cried out, her bright face clouding over. Youre not going to say that we cant! You mustnt! Ive set my heart on the Florida trip. All the way home Ive been planning for it.

I received a letter from your father this morning, pursued Miss Carroll, ignoring Patsys protest. I also received another from Miss Osgood in which she refused my request for the extra week of vacation. I had written your father several days ago regarding the making of arrangements for us to go to Palm Beach. You can read for yourself what he has to say.

Rising, Miss Martha went over to a small mahogany writing desk. Opening it she took a letter from one of the pigeon holes.

Here is Roberts letter, she said. Handing it to her niece she reseated herself beside the latter.

Very eagerly Patsy took it from its envelope and read:

Dear Martha:

Your letter came to me this morning and I would be quick to reserve rooms for yourself and the girls at one of the Palm Beach hotels, except that I have a better plan. How would you like to spend three weeks in a real southern mansion? There is such a house on the estate I recently bought.

It is a curiously beautiful house, built after the Spanish style of architecture, with an inner court and many balconies. The agent from whom I purchased it informs me that it was formerly the property of an elderly Spaniard, Manuel de Fereda. After his death, several months ago, the property descended to his granddaughter, who was anxious to sell it.

It is completely furnished, much in the fashion of houses I saw when in Mexico. The girls will rave over it and I am very anxious that they shall spend their holiday in it. It is not many miles from Palm Beach and I have found a good Indian guide who will take us on the Everglades expedition which Patsy has set her mind on making.

Of course, if you prefer Palm Beach for the girls, then so be it. If you come to Las Golondrinas (The Swallows), that is the name of the old house, you will not need to bring so many trunks, as you will see very little of society, except when you make an occasional trip to the Beach. I can secure a good car for your use while here which Patsy can drive to her hearts content.

Let me know at once what you think of my plan. If you decide immediately to take it up, wire me and I will be on the lookout for you. I believe you will enjoy this little adventure as much as I shall. I know now what Patsy will say. As the girls are to have only three weeks vacation, better arrange to start as soon as possible.

Affectionately,
Robert.

Aunt Martha, the Wayfarers are the luckiest girls in the whole world, was Patsys solemn assertion as she looked up from the letter. First they go through a fire and come out as safely as can be. Next they get six weeks vacation. After that, Daddy plays good fairy, and finds them a wonderful palace in the land of flowers. All they have to do is to hurry up and take possession. When are we going to start for Florida?

As soon as we can make ready, was the prompt reply. Since your father seems very anxious for us to take this trip, I feel that we ought not disappoint him. I dare say we may find this old house he describes somewhat interesting.

This calm statement filled Patsy with inward amusement. She knew it to be an indirect admission that her aunt was as anxious as she to carry out the plan her father had made for them.

We wont need a lot of new gowns, argued Patsy. We all have evening frocks and plenty of wash dresses from last summer. We can wear our corduroy suits and high boots to tramp around in. We ought to have some of those Palm Beach hats the stores are showing, and new white shoes, and a few other things. It isnt as if we were going to stay at a large hotel. Well be away from society and living outdoors most of the time. This is Friday. I think we ought to start south not later than next Wednesday morning. We cant afford to use up more than one of our precious weeks in getting ready and going down to Las Las Whats the name of our new home?

Patsy hastily consulted her fathers letter.

Las Gol-on-drinas, she pronounced slowly. I suppose thats not the way to pronounce it. Ill have to ask Mab about it. Shes taking Spanish this year. Its very necessary to know how to say the name of our new southern home, she added with a chuckle. Wont the girls be surprised when they hear about this splendid plan of Fathers? Have you spoken to Mrs. Perry about it yet, Auntie?

No, my dear. You must remember that I received Miss Osgoods letter, refusing my request at the same time that I received your fathers letter. They arrived in the first mail this morning. I intended writing Robert this evening, explaining that it would be impossible for us to go to Florida. Then I read about the fire in the paper and it completely upset my nerves. I will call on the Perrys to-morrow morning to talk things over. We must also call on Mrs. Forbes.

Bee isnt sure that her mother will let her accept another trip from us, confided Patsy. Thats the only thing I worried about after I knew we were to have the six weeks vacation. She said she was sure her mother wouldnt feel right about letting us pay her expenses at a fashionable resort like Palm Beach. But its all different now. Mrs. Forbes cant very well refuse to let Bee accept an invitation to a house party, can she? You must make her see it in that light, Aunt Martha, or she wont let Bee go with us. Shes awfully proud, you know. We simply must have Bee along. I wouldnt care much about the trip if she had to stay at home.





: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16