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Miss Paf s Great Idea



sure I should never have thought
of it entirely on my own hook/ 3
said Patricia earnestly. " Something
you said to me that first afternoon in Mrs.
Nat's garden stuck in my mind far down
below the surface and they've been gradu-
ally working up seventeen-year locusts, till
they're simply sizzling to fly." She laughed
and then added quickly, "That is, of course,
if it really could be done.' ;

Penelope turned her vivid blue eyes
calmly upon her. "I think," she said, with
her pink lips curving in an indulgent smile,
"that it might be more possible for me to
give an opinion on the matter if you could
bring yourself to explain just what this new


10 Miss Pat's Great Idea

idea of yours is. I don't seem to recall
anything I said at our first meeting that
might lead to great events."

Patricia flashed a swift glance at her to
make sure that she was really sympathetic,
and then she went on still more earnestly:

"Of course you don't remember, after all
that's happened since then," she said.
"We've all been so busy, first with the rush
of war work and then getting settled back
into regular harness, that it would be a
miracle if you did remember. But I've not
forgotten just exactly how you looked through
your big spectacles at me when you said
it: 'I consider opera a high art misapplied.
I would have operas sung on recreation
wharves, oratorios given in the slums and
high-class concerts held in common dance
halls.' You were terribly in earnest about
it, you know, and when you wound up by
saying that you believed that the true use
for music was to create souls in the vegetable
growths of city communities, you made me
feel very small and mean and selfish because
I was looking forward to going into opera
in the regular way."

An Idea and an Election 11

Penelope's smile faded, but her vivid
eyes were very kind as she looked full into
Patricia's face. She halted on the orchard
path and laid a hand on the other's arm.
"I do recall saying that/ 1 she confessed,
"and I shall not take it back now par-
ticularly since you have found success and
happiness in another line of endeavor. But
what that opinion of mine has to do with
your new idea, as you call it '

"Just this,' ; flashed Patricia. "You
believe in that. You are sensible. You are
reasonable oh, the most reasonable person
I know! and I've simply got to talk it
over with someone who won't laugh at me
or turn up their noses at me for a presumptu-
ous goose. I want to make all that come
true I want to sing operas on wharves
and oratorios in the slums, and I want to
bring my music to those horrid, unattrac-
tive, stupid, dirty, unsatisfied creatures who
get only the dregs of music in their cheap,
nasty dance halls!"

She broke off, for she knew her voice was
beginning to tremble and she would not
have Penelope think her too impetuous for

12 Miss Pat's Great Idea

such an undertaking. She had moved
forward as she began to speak and now
walked briskly with her bright head in its
brown velvet "tarn" held high. Penelope's
silence stung her, but, strange to say, it
did not shake her conviction. Instead, it
brought a whole new array of reasons for
persisting reasons which it was not in her
nature to withhold.

"I've been thinking about it ever since
Bruce came back for those sketches along
the wharves in Point Newton/' she went
on, dropping back again beside the thought-
ful Penelope. "He said that there were
crowds of the toughest sort of children, both
boys and girls, all about the wharves, and
that at noon the streets were alive with the
young mill-workers who were absolutely
the roughest lot he had ever seen, even in
large cities. And Point Newton is such a
ghastly place one stuffy moving picture
and a rickety dance hall on the edge of the
woods by the canal not a single comfort-
able attractive spot in the whole town where
any fun is going on. It seems made on
purpose for my sort of work. I could get

An Idea and an Election 13

some people together and we could rent
the large hall it's pretty fair and with
some sort of scenery and some decorations
I could borrow tons from Bruce and perhaps
some costumes, too and with a light opera,
say, ' Martha ' or 'Erminie,' prettily staged,
and perhaps a little reception afterward with
some very simple refreshments, it seemed to
me that the thing ought to be a perfectly
sure-and-certain success.''

Penelope slipped her arm within Patricia's
and methodically got into step. She was
still quite silent, but she was nodding her
head in a serious way that was very com-
fortable to the eager Patricia.

" Constance will be back next week, you
know," Patricia went on. "Her aunt has
taken up all Constance's 'odds and ends/
as she calls them, and she's got so used to
playing ministering angel to those poor souls
that she's going to keep it up right along.
And that lets Constance out, you see. She's
coming here for a regular round of visits,
and she's good for almost anything that
needs brains and grit. She'll be one of us,
I am sure. And Miriam Halden always

14 Miss Pat's Great Idea

joins the team, no matter what it's up to.
Elinor of course can't do much, having the
baby and being obliged to spend so much
of the winter in town with Bruce, but she'll
help. And I shall get everyone I know to
do or give something Tancredi and Miss
Lynch, Miss Tarleton and the Longs, and
but for goodness' sake, do say something,
Penelope! After all, it's your idea. What
have you got to say about it? Is it silly
or is it sensible inspiration or idiocy?"

Penelope drew her straight brows to-
gether, looking through narrowed lids at
the golden September distance. "No," she
replied very slowly, "it doesn't sound like
idiocy to me. Considering your glorious
voice and all the hard work you are doing,
it sounds like like something very differ-
ent. The only question in my mind is,
how are you going to manage all this for
it will take much time you know before
you go back to town in November?"

"Oh, didn't you know?" Patricia's sur-
prise changed in a swift moment of recollec-
tion. "Of course, you didn't, for we only
decided yesterday afternoon. I am going

An Idea and an Election 15

to stay here with Judy she's finishing at
Miss living's, you know and Bruce will
bring Elinor and the baby home for Christ-
mas and for the rest of the year, I hope.
I am keeping up with good old Tancredi,
going in only once a week, though, and I'll
go on with some concert work among
people I know, but I'm going to take a sort
of half-holiday with Judy not to mention
Hannah Ann/' she added with a laugh.

"And how about the singers?' 3 persisted
the other in her methodical way. "How
can you get together enough people with
voices to fill the roles of even a small opera?"

Patricia dimpled. "That's my secret
just now,' ! she returned gayly. "But I've
a perfectly good scheme for the principals.
And I thought we might possibly get the
chorus from the Club or Social House, or
even from the slums themselves. The main
and only thing I want just this minute is
your valued opinion on the scheme as a
whole. Does it appeal?' 1

Penelope nodded slowly. "It does," she
replied with conviction. "Yes, it certainly
does. I shall offer my services if "

16 Miss Pat's Great Idea

"Miss Pat! Miss Pat! Oh, Miss Pat!"

It was Judith's voice and it came from
behind them. Patricia swung about to see
her younger sister hurrying up the orchard
hill in pursuit of them and her hands were
waving something small and white at them.
Patricia laughed, halting to watch Judith
as she same swiftly up the sunny hillside.

"Dear old Ju always gets excited about
letters/' she said with loving tolerance.
"She's never gotten over her belief the
mail-bag is the most exciting thing in life.''

Penelope halted, too, and they stood
waiting for Judith, while the warm Sep-
tember air brought dry, sweet odors eddying
about them, and the flicker of the golden
September sunshine played upon them
lovingly. It danced on Patricia's golden
wisps of wind-blown hair and glinted in
the gray watching eyes; it touched Pene-
lope's smooth cheek and on the tip of her
correct little nose; and it ran down the
narrow-worn pathway to meet the slender
young figure coming so lightly through the
gnarled shadows of the old apple trees,
showing it off against a glowing background

An Idea and an Election 17

of yellowing grasses, gray-green foliage and
radiant sky.

Judith had changed so little in the long
months of Penelope's absence in France that
she had at first sight seemed quite the same
little girl of the days of Miss Pat's first
concert tour under the auspices of the cele-
brated Mr. Tavish the same little girl
with slightly longer frocks and another way
of doing her hair. But now, as Penelope
watched her coming through the sun and
shadow of the orchard hill, she saw a new
Judith altogether.

"How old is Judith?" she asked rather

Patricia started. "Ju? Seventeen last
month," she answered promptly. " She's
grown up scandalously fast, hasn't she?
Makes me feel a regular grandmother.
But she always was rather grown up, even
in rompers, weren't you, Judy darling?'
she added as her sister reached them.
" Her only weaknesses were experiments and
mail matter. ' ;

Judith, rosy with haste, tossed her pale
locks in quite the old manner and her

18 Miss Pat's Great Idea

voice had the old reproachful ring as she
held out a bunch of letters, but to both of
the older girls it was the young lady Judith
who spoke: " Jim North brought them out
from town for you, Miss Pat," she said,
with a significant note in her smooth, clear
tones. "He got them from Bruce ^t the
studio and brought them directly over. I
told him that it was extremely kind and
that you would appreciate it greatly. He
will stop back on his way home to find out
what time you want him to be ready to-

Patricia giggled, at which Judith flushed
but did not flinch. She handed over the
three letters which she had brought and
then turned to Penelope with an elaborately
composed air. "Miss Pat forgot to tele-
phone to Mrs. Halden about the lists for
the meeting and I had to stop behind to
attend to it/ 3 she remarked loftily. "I
suppose we really ought to hurry, if we're
not going to be late/ 3

It was remarkable how clearly she con-
veyed the conviction that Patricia was a
scatterbrained creature who needed careful

An Idea and an Election 19

brooding over, particularly in the direction
of the appreciation of Mr. James North's
fine qualities. If she had been Patricia's
mother or great-aunt she could not have
done better.

Patricia giggled again, but said nothing.
She dropped behind to open her mail, follow-
ing absently with her eyes on the sheets and
not breaking silence as they went down
through the little lane and out on the pike,
across the open space by the church, and
into the shady road to Social House. It
was not until Judith's hand was upon the
gate-latch that she spoke, stuffing the
letters into her pocket as she joined the

"You were on the right side with your
hurrah for the mail this time, Judy ma-
chree, ' ' she said cheerfully. ' ' One of the notes
is from Madame Milano and she's going
to be in town on the twentieth with Miss
Tarleton dinner at the studio with Elinor
and Bruce that's another note from Elinor,
and we're to go in over night. The other
joyful news is from Constance, who'll be
here tomorrow for sure. Her aunt "

20 Miss Pat's Great Idea

She stopped abruptly on the first stone
of the walk and stared at Penelope with
widening eyes. " Madame Milano, you
see!" she exclaimed with conviction. "And
Constance arriving a whole fortnight ahead
of schedule: that means something. That
is a sign from the skies. The great Idea is
taking shape already!"

Penelope smiled, but Judith was frankly
perplexed. At the first suggestion of mys-
tery she dropped her grown-upness and
became entirely the old serious chum. " The
great Idea what is that?' : she asked with
even a tinge of respect in her voice. "Oh,
Miss Pat dear, don't keep me out of it, no
matter what it is. I promise '

Patricia patted her slim shoulder affec-
tionately. " Don't fret, my child," she
returned; "you simply can't get out of it
if you begged and prayed to be released.
We need you badly and we shan't let you go.
But now, there's this meeting of this com-
mittee to be got through with and I shan't
breathe another word on the matter until
we are through with the Orphans' Home
problems. Mrs. Nat would never forgive

An Idea and an Election 21

me if I kept two of her members hobnobbing
on the door step while the meeting waited.
Come, in with you and to work on the
Orphans !"

Through the open doorway they were
quite visible to the group in the yellow-
and-black room, and Mrs. Nat's voice was
welcoming them before they had crossed
the big room. She was wearing her favorite
blue again, having put off her mourning
for her husband during the anxious days
of that June when the fate of the Allies
seemed to hang in the balance, and when,
according to her brave philosophy, private
sorrows should be sunk before the world-
wide supreme need. Mrs. Halden was next
her and the circle included Doris Long,
Ruth Todd and Mrs. Hand, together with
half a dozen others, all intent on the
problems of the management of the Or-
phans' Home in Merton Row, halfway
between Rockingham and Hilltown, and
belonging partly to the lower and to the
middle township on account of its location.

"Come along in and make a majority
this minute/' commanded Mrs. Nat with

22 Miss Pat's Great Idea

her slightly husky chuckle. " We've been
sticking between Mrs. Sally Dunford and
the schoolmaster's wife from Tower Hill
for the last fifteen minutes, and we can't
for the life of us make up our minds which
is the better woman for the place. Mrs.
Long, will you kindly read the letters of
recommendation again? Then we'll dis-
cuss them again before we take the vote."

Patricia slipped into a chair next Mrs.
Halden and while she listened to the read-
ing of the letters of the two candidates for
the position of superintendent of the Or-
phans' Home, she was busily constructing
her plea to Madame Milano which she
decided should be made privately and not
at the studio dinner with Bruce and Elinor
in town. Her plans were all very confused
as yet, but she felt positive that, with
proper support and advice, her efforts would
meet with success. "I don't know exactly
what I'm expecting from her," she thought
with a pleasant little shiver of hope, "but
I know that she will be on the right side.
She always is.' 3

She roused herself then to the matter in

An Idea and an Election 23

hand, for Doris Long had finished the
recommendations for Mrs. Sally Dunford
and had begun on those of her rival, Mrs.
John Kirk, and a phrase in the first letter
caught her whole attention. It described
Mrs. Kirk as a "good manager, though
very friendly toward children/ 1 She liked
the picture it brought to her mind, and
particularly because, opposed to it, she
had a definite picture of Mrs. Sally Dunford
as the capable, unflinching disciplinarian
of a family of eight nearly grown children.

Impetuously she leaned toward Mrs.
Halden and whispered, " Those Dunfords
are awfully well-kept as to their bodies, but
they've simply no imaginations at all.
Don't you think Mrs. Kirk sounds good for
our orphans sort of mellow and comfort-
able? And if she's a good manager '

Mrs. Halden nodded, and when the last
letter had been read she rose to open the
discussion, taking Patricia's words as her
text. " Someone has said to me," she began
in her pleasant voice, looking at each in
turn with friendly eyes, "that our orphans
are in need of a caretaker not only of their

24 Miss Pat's Great Idea

bodies but also of their imaginations. And
that appeals to me as a very practical sug-
gestion, for I have found, as the mother of
four active children, that the state of mind
in children has a great effect on their
physical condition. I believe thoroughly
in warming and stimulating their minds
and, while I recognize ail of Mrs. Dunford's
qualities as a manager, I find upon second
thought that Mrs. Kirk appeals more
strongly to me for the position in our

As she sat down, one of the women from
the lower township rose with a rustle. She
breathed hurriedly and spoke with clear
emphatic tones, bowing ceremoniously to
Mrs. Nat as chairman. She deplored, she
said, the turn taken by the committee.
Orphans were not to be classed with
children of prosperous parents; they were,
in fact, totally different in mind and body
and should be so considered. Proper lodg-
ing, nourishing food and certain educa-
tional advantages were offered them at the
Home. More than that they did not and
could not demand.

An Idea and an Election 25

"As to imagination/ 3 she ended with a
friendly though tolerant look at Mrs.
Halden, "they surely need nothing in
that line more than they already are
equipped with. Anyone familiar with the
records for the past four weeks can hardly
doubt that imagination is lacking the
accounts of the escapades of those two
Irish twins proves that, I think. No, Mrs.
Chairman/' she ended, bowing again to
Mrs. Nat. "It is not imagination that we
need, but the firm hand over those poor
perverted minds. We have received them
from the gutters and alleys, we have saved
them from starvation and perhaps death
what we need for the place is a woman of
character, a woman of experience, and I
heartily recommend Mrs. Dunford, the
mother of eight children, all in positions of
responsibility in our community .' :

Patricia was on her feet before she knew
it. "Oh, Mrs. Sears, you can't know how
children feel about those things !" she cried
impulsively. "You can't understand unless
you've been among them. I have seen it
at the Home the Cripples' Home and I

26 Miss Pat's Great Idea

assure you that they are just as hungry for
love as they are for bread and butter.
I don't know Mrs. Kirk, but if she is
friendly to children, she is sure to be more
successful in the end than the most capable
person in the world who is only capable
and nothing more. I want to vote for
Mrs. Kirk and I hope she will be elected."
Perhaps if Patricia had spoken less
warmly, or if she had been less abrupt, she
might have made a better impression on
the opposition party. It was evident that
she had not managed her appeal well, in
spite of her great earnestness, for a storm
of discussion rose immediately. The four
matrons from the lower end rose in turn
to defend their leader and their arguments
had much sound sense in them. Mrs. Kirk
had not been tested in this line of work, she
had no intimate recent knowledge of child-
ren, having lost her two little girls in the
epidemic four years ago; furthermore, she
was known to be very fond of music this
in an explanatory tone with a glance toward
Patricia as though accounting for partisan-
ship in that direction.

An Idea and an Election 27

"We feel/' ended Mrs. Boggs with a
reasonable air, "that, while Mrs. Kirk
may be a success, there cannot be a shadow
of doubt about Mrs. Dunford. She has
already made good, in her home and in her
position as housekeeper at the Rectory.
I am for the assured success as against the
merely probable. I join Mrs. Sears, Mrs.
Finch, Mrs. Doran and Mrs. Ford in favor
of Mrs. Dunford/'

There was no use of Penelope's rising to
defend the schoolmaster's wife. She was
too much a stranger after her long absence
and, beside, everyone knew that her knowl-
edge of children was purely theoretical.
The few earnest words she said did more
to strengthen the opposition than Mrs.
Halden's good nature. "Well, after all,
Mrs. Dunford is a reliable woman," and
the voting proceeded without more dis-
cussion, while Patricia inwardly fumed and
Judith, who was merely a spectator, slipped
out into the other room, and sat down in
state waiting the end.

Mrs. Dunford was elected, in spite of
Patricia's inward fuming, for at the moment

28 Miss Pat's Great Idea

Mrs. Hand, who had been hesitating, took
encouragement from Mrs. Halden's amiable
words and cast her vote with the influential
Mrs. Sears. She looked very much as
though she would have liked to take it
back when she heard Mrs. Halden's vote
for the kindly Mrs. Kirk, but the support
of Ruth Todd, who had voted for Alma
Dunford's sake, helped her greatly.

"My dear, I wish we might have two
superintendents/ ' she said to Patricia when
the meeting was adjourned and tea was
being served by a very straight-lipped young
lady, Judith and Marie Sears. "I feel
exactly as you do about developing the
soul and all that, but I suppose that might
come later at all events, we have our
superintendent and that much is accom-
plished/ 3

She smiled vaguely and wandered off to
Mrs. Halden, and Patricia, in her amuse-
ment at Mrs. Hand's attempts to be of all
parties, found her good nature again and
began to enjoy herself. Mrs. Nat's hearty,
"Well, my dear, we could have done worse,
you know, Sally is a born manager,"

An Idea and an Election 29

helped greatly and by the time the tea had
been disposed of and farewells were being
said, she was her buoyant self again and
had begun to think of her own concerns.
The great Idea was again rising on her
horizon as she halted Mrs. Halden in the
big room and put her questions.

" Miriam will be ready early tonight/'
that lady replied. "She told me that Miss
Lynch would be out with her to dinner,
and that's off our mind accompanists are
half the concert, I believe. Mr. Sinclair
will come about ten and speak for five
minutes he thinks that's enough to inter-
est people who have already paid well for
their tickets. Bert Nelson offered to bring
the second violin what's his name?
from Pelham. So everything is in good
shape. Don't tire yourself, my dear/ ; she
added. " Remember you are our special
attraction. Better go have a nap before
dinner.' 1

Patricia promised readily enough and
meant to keep her word, but she lingered
for another cup of tea and then for a chat
with Mrs. Nat and Doris Long and finally
waited for another ten minutes while Mrs.

30 Miss Pat's Great Idea

Sears carried off Marie and Mrs. Finch in
her large motor, and Mrs. Doran sought,
found and disappeared with Ruth Todd,
leaving only Doris, Mrs. Nat and a distant,
patient Judith in the cozy yellow-and-black
room among the cushions and growing
candlelight. And then it was absolutely
too pleasant to budge.

"You may run along home, Ju, if you're
in a hurry," she called to the waiting figure
by the window. "I'll walk over with Mrs.
Nat." She said it very cheerfully, for she
knew of what she was going to speak while
she walked with her good friend.

Judith rose promptly. "It's getting
quite dark," she said somewhat indiffer-
ently. "I believe I will go. I promised to
see Martie after tea."

She took up her scarf and moved lightly
across the lighted spaces, smiled back at
them from the door and then faded into
the deepening twilight of the big room.
The door clicked behind her, and Doris
Long rose.

"It surely is time for me to leave, too/ 3
she began, when a curious sound from the
front door made her halt.

An Idea and an Election 31

Patricia and Mrs. Nat half rose in their
chairs. They all listened, but nothing was
to be heard except the usual sounds of the
place and hour. Doris smiled at them as
they sank back in the cushions.

" Imagination/' she said, tossing the word
to Patricia. "Just the sort your orphans

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