likely to get a lotof joy out of her new plaything, and if you really want to make herhappy, Major, don't discourage this new whim, absurd as it seems. LetPatsy alone. And let Mumbles alone."
AUNT JANE'S NIECES AND UNCLE JOHN
EDITH VAN DYNE
AUTHOR OF "AUNT JANE'S NIECES," "AUNT JANE'S NIECES ABROAD," "AUNTJANE'S NIECES AT MILLVILLE," "AUNT JANE'S NIECES AT WORK." "AUNTJANE'S NIECES IN SOCIETY," ETC.
I INTRODUCING "MUMBLES" II UNCLE JOHN'S IDEA III MYRTLE DEAN IV AN INTERESTING PROTEGE V A WONDER ON WHEELS VI WAMPUS SPEEDS VII THE CHAUFFEUR IMPROVES VIII AMONG THE INDIANS IX NATURE'S MASTERPIECE X A COYOTE SERENADE XI A REAL ADVENTURE AT LAST XII CAPTURED XIII THE FIDDLER XIV THE ESCAPE XV THE ROMANCE OF DAN'L XVI THE LODGING AT SPOTVILLE XVII YELLOW POPPIES XVIII THE SILENT MAN XIX "THREE TIMES" XX ON POINT LOMA XXI A TALE OF WOE XXII THE CONFESSION
Major Gregory Doyle paced nervously up and down the floor of the cosysitting room.
"Something's surely happened to our Patsy!" he exclaimed.
A little man with a calm face and a bald head, who was seated near thefire, continued to read his newspaper and paid no attention to theoutburst.
"Something has happened to Patsy!" repeated the Major, "Patsy" meaninghis own and only daughter Patricia.
"Something is always happening to everyone," said the little man,turning his paper indifferently. "Something is happening to me, for Ican't find the rest of this article. Something is happening to you,for you're losing your temper."
"I'm not, sir! I deny it."
"As for Patsy," continued the other, "she is sixteen years old andknows New York like a book. The girl is safe enough."
"Then where is she? Tell me that, sir. Here it is, seven o'clock, darkas pitch and raining hard, and Patsy is never out after six. Can you,John Merrick, sit there like a lump o' putty and do nothing, when yourniece and my own darlin' Patsy is lost--or strayed or stolen?"
"What would you propose doing?" asked Uncle John, looking up with asmile.
"We ought to get out the police department. It's raining and cold,and--"
"Then we ought to get out the fire department. Call Mary to put onmore coal and let's have it warm and cheerful when Patsy comes in."
"The trouble with you, Major, is that dinner is half an hour late. Onecan imagine all sorts of horrible things on an empty stomach. Now,then--"
He paused, for a pass-key rattled in the hall door and a moment laterPatsy Doyle, rosy and animated, fresh from the cold and wet outside,smilingly greeted them.
She had an umbrella, but her cloak was dripping with moisture and inits ample folds was something huddled and bundled up like a baby,which she carefully protected.
"So, then," exclaimed the Major, coming forward for a kiss, "you'reback at last, safe and sound. Whatever kept ye out 'til this time o'night, Patsy darlin'?" he added, letting the brogue creep into histone, as he did when stirred by any emotion.
Uncle John started to take off her wet cloak.
"Look out!" cried Patsy; "you'll disturb Mumbles."
The two men looked at her bundle curiously.
"Who's Mumbles?" asked one.
"What on earth is Mumbles?" inquired the other.
The bundle squirmed and wriggled. Patsy sat down on the floor andcarefully unwound the folds of the cloak. A tiny dog, black andshaggy, put his head out, blinked sleepily at the lights, pulled hisfat, shapeless body away from the bandages and trotted solemnly overto the fireplace. He didn't travel straight ahead, as dogs ought towalk, but "cornerwise," as Patsy described it; and when he got to thehearth he rolled himself into a ball, lay down and went to sleep.
During this performance a tense silence had pervaded the room. TheMajor looked at the dog rather gloomily; Uncle John with critical eyesthat held a smile in them; Patsy with ecstatic delight.
"Isn't he a dear!" she exclaimed.
"It occurs to me," said the Major stiffly, "that this needs anexplanation. Do you mean to say, Patsy Doyle, that you've worried thehearts out of us this past hour, and kept the dinner waiting, allbecause of a scurvy bit of an animal?"
"Pshaw!" said Uncle John. "Speak for yourself, Major. I wasn't worrieda bit."
"You see," explained Patsy, rising to take off her things and put themaway, "I was coming home early when I first met Mumbles. A little boyhad him, with a string tied around his neck, and when Mumbles triedto run up to me the boy jerked him back cruelly--and afterward kickedhim. That made me mad."
"Of course," said Uncle John, nodding wisely.
"I cuffed the boy, and he said he'd take it out on Mumbles, as soon asI'd gone away. I didn't like that. I offered to buy the dog, but theboy didn't dare sell him. He said it belonged to his father, who'dkill him and kick up a row besides if he didn't bring Mumbles home.So I found out where they lived and as it wasn't far away I went homewith him."
"Crazy Patsy!" smiled Uncle John.
"And the dinner waiting!" groaned the Major, reproachfully.
"Well, I had a time, you can believe!" continued Patsy, withanimation. "The man was a big brute, and half drunk. He grabbed up thelittle doggie and threw it into a box, and then told me to go home andmind my business."
"Which of course you refused to do."
"Of course. I'd made up my mind to have that dog."
"Dogs," said the Major, "invariably are nuisances."
"Not invariably," declared Patsy. "Mumbles is different. Mumbles is agood doggie, and wise and knowing, although he's only a baby dog yet.And I just couldn't leave him to be cuffed and kicked and thrownaround by those brutes. When the man found I was determined to haveMumbles he demanded twenty-five dollars."
"Twenty-five dollars!" It startled Uncle John.
"For that bit of rags and meat?" asked the Major, looking at the puppywith disfavor. "Twenty-five cents would be exorbitant."
"The man misjudged me," observed Patsy, with a merry laugh thatmatched her twinkling blue eyes. "In the end he got just twodollars for Mumbles, and when I came away he bade me good-bye veryrespectfully. The boy howled. He hasn't any dog to kick and isbroken-hearted. As for Mumbles, he's going to lead a respectable lifeand be treated like a dog."
"Do you mean to keep him?" inquired the Major.
"Why not?" said Patsy. "Don't you like him, Daddy?"
Her father turned Mumbles over with his toe. The puppy lay upon itsback, lazily, with all four paws in the air, and cast a comical glancefrom one beady bright eye at the man who had disturbed him.
The Major sighed.
"He can't hunt, Patsy; he's not even a mouser."
"We haven't a mouse in the house."
"He's neither useful nor ornamental. From the looks o' the beast he'sonly good to sleep and eat."
"What's the odds?" laughed Patsy, coddling Mumbles up in her arms."We don't expect use or ornamentation from Mumbles. All we ask is hiscompanionship."
Mary called them to dinner just then, and the girl hurried to her roomto make a hasty toilet while the men sat down at the table and eyedtheir soup reflectively.
"This addition to the family," remarked Uncle John, "need not makeyou at all unhappy, my dear Major. Don't get jealous of Mumbles, forheaven's sake, for the little brute may add a bit to Patsy's bliss."
"It's the first time I've ever allowed a dog in the house."
"You are not running this present establishment. It belongsexclusively to Patsy."
"I've always hated the sight of a woman coddling a dog," added theMajor, frowning.
"I know. I feel the same way myself. But it isn't the dog's fault.It's the woman's. And Patsy won't make a fool of herself over thatfrowsy puppy, I assure you. On the contrary, she's
The girl came in just then, bringing sunshine with her. Patsy Doylewas not very big for her years, and some people unkindly described herform as "chubby." She had glorious red hair--really-truly red--and herblue eyes were the merriest, sweetest eyes any girl could possess. Youseldom noticed her freckles, her saucy chin or her turned-up nose; youonly saw the laughing eyes and crown of golden red, and seeing themyou liked Patsy Doyle at once and imagined she was very good to lookat, if not strictly beautiful. No one had friends more loyal,and these two old men--the stately Major and round little UncleJohn--fairly worshiped Patsy.
No one might suspect, from the simple life of this household, whichoccupied the second corner flat at 3708 Willing Square, that MissDoyle was an heiress. Not only that, but perhaps one of the veryrichest girls in New York. And the reason is readily explained whenI state the fact that Patsy's Uncle John Merrick, the round littlebald-headed man who sat contentedly eating his soup, was a man of manymillions, and this girl his favorite niece. An old bachelor who hadacquired an immense fortune in the far Northwest, Mr. Merrick hadlately retired from active business and come East to seek anyrelatives that might remain to him after forty years' absence. Hissister Jane had gathered around her three nieces--Louise Merrick,Elizabeth De Graf and Patricia Doyle--and when Aunt Jane died UncleJohn adopted these three girls and made their happiness the one careof his jolly, unselfish life. At that time Major Doyle, Patsy's onlysurviving parent, was a poor bookkeeper; but Uncle John gave himcharge of his vast property interests, and loving Patsy almost asdevotedly as did her father, made his home with the Doyles and beganto enjoy himself for the first time in his life.
At the period when this story opens the eldest niece, Louise Merrick,had just been married to Arthur Weldon, a prosperous young businessman, and the remaining two nieces, as well as Uncle John, were feelingrather lonely and depressed. The bride had been gone on her honeymoonthree days, and during the last two days it had rained persistently;so, until Patsy came home from a visit to Beth and brought the tinydog with her, the two old gentlemen had been feeling dreary enough.
Patsy always livened things up. Nothing could really depress thisspirited girl for long, and she was always doing some interestingthing to create a little excitement.
"If she hadn't bought a twenty-five cent pup for two dollars,"remarked the Major, "she might have brought home an orphan from thegutters, or a litter of tomcats, or one of the goats that eat thetin cans at Harlem. Perhaps, after all, we should be thankful it'sonly--what's his name?"
"Mumbles," said Patsy, merrily. "The boy said they called him thatbecause he mumbled in his sleep. Listen!"
Indeed, the small waif by the fire was emitting a series of noisesthat seemed a queer mixture of low growls and whines--evidenceunimpeachable that he had been correctly named.
At Patsy's shout of laughter, supplemented by Uncle John's chucklesand a reproachful cough from the Major, Mumbles awakened and liftedhis head. It may be an eye discovered the dining-table in the nextroom, or an intuitive sense of smell directed him, for presently thesmall animal came trotting in--still traveling "cornerwise"--and satup on his hind legs just beside Patsy's chair.
"That settles it," said the Major, as his daughter began feeding thedog. "Our happy home is broken up."
"Perhaps not," suggested Uncle John, reaching out to pat the soft headof Mumbles. "It may be the little beggar will liven us all up a bit."