Block Nine

He turned three stately summersaults and stood on his feet and made a cheerful bow. The Racketty-Packettys saw Lady Patsy begin to giggle that minute. Then he took an antimacassar out of his pocket and fastened it round the edge of his torn trousers leg, as if it were lace trimming and began to walk about like a Duke—with his arms folded on his chest and his ragged old hat cocked on one side over his ear. Then the Racketty-Packettys saw Lady Patsy begin to laugh. Then Peter Piper stood on his head and kissed his hand and Lady Patsy covered her face and rocked backwards and forwards in her chair laughing and laughing.

Then he struck an attitude with his tattered leg put forward gracefully and he pretended he had a guitar and he sang right up at her window.

"From Racketty-Packetty House I come, It stands, dear Lady, in a slum, A low, low slum behind the door The stout arm-chair is placed before, (Just take a look at it, my Lady).

"The house itself is a perfect sight, And everybody's dressed like a perfect fright, But no one cares a single jot And each one giggles over his lot, (And as for me, I'm in love with you).

"I can't make up another verse, And if I did it would be worse, But I could stand and sing all day, If I could think of things to say, (But the fact is I just wanted to make you look at me)."

And then he danced such a lively jig that his rags and tags flew about him, and then he made another bow and kissed his hand again and ran up the ladder like a flash and jumped into the attic.

After that Lady Patsy sat at her window all the time and would not let the trained nurse put her to bed at all; and Lady Gwendolen and Lady Muriel and Lady Doris could not understand it. Once Lady Gwendolen said haughtily and disdainfully and scornfully and scathingly:

"If you sit there so much, those low Racketty-Packetty House people will think you are looking at them."

"I am," said Lady Patsy, showing all her dimples at once. "They are such fun."

And Lady Gwendolen swooned haughtily away, and the trained nurse could scarcely restore her.

When the castle dolls drove out or walked in their garden, the instant they caught sight of one of the Racketty-Packettys they turned up their noses and sniffed aloud, and several times the Duchess said she would remove because the neighborhood was absolutely low. They all scorned the Racketty-Packettys—they just scorned them.

One moonlight night Lady Patsy was sitting at her window and she heard a whistle in the garden. When she peeped out carefully, there stood Peter Piper waving his ragged cap at her, and he had his rope ladder under his arm.

"Hello," he whispered as loud as he could. "Could you catch a bit of rope if I threw it up to you?"

"Yes," she whispered back.

"Then catch this," he whispered again and he threw up the end of a string and she caught it the first throw. It was fastened to the rope ladder.

"Now pull," he said.

She pulled and pulled until the rope ladder reached her window and then she fastened that to a hook under the sill and the first thing that happened—just like lightning—was that Peter Piper ran up the ladder and leaned over her window ledge.

"Will you marry me," he said. "I haven't anything to give you to eat and I am as ragged as a scarecrow, but will you?"

She clapped her little hands.

"I eat very little," she said. "And I would do without anything at all, if I could live in your funny old shabby house."

"It is a ridiculous, tumbled-down old barn, isn't it?" he said. "But every one of us is as nice as we can be. We are perfect Turkish Delights. It's laughing that does it. Would you like to come down the ladder and see what a jolly, shabby old hole the place is?"

"Oh! do take me," said Lady Patsy.

So he helped her down the ladder and took her under the armchair and into Racketty-Packetty House and Meg and Peg and Kilmanskeg and Ridiklis and Gustibus all crowded round her and gave little screams of joy at the sight of her.

They were afraid to kiss her at first, even though she was engaged to Peter Piper. She was so pretty and her frock had so much lace on it that they were afraid their old rags might spoil her. But she did not care about her lace and flew at them and kissed and hugged them every one.

"I have so wanted to come here," she said. "It's so dull at the Castle I had to break my leg just to get a change. The Duchess sits reading near the fire with her gold eye-glasses on her nose and Lady Gwendolen plays haughtily on the harp and Lady Muriel coldly listens to her, and Lady Doris is always laughing mockingly, and Lord Hubert reads the newspaper with a high-bred air, and Lord Francis writes letters to noblemen of his acquaintance, and Lord Rupert glances over his love letters from ladies of title, in an aristocratic manner—until I could scream. Just to see you dears dancing about in your rags and tags and laughing and inventing games as if you didn't mind anything, is such a relief."

She nearly laughed her little curly head off when they all went round the house with her, and Peter Piper showed her the holes in the carpet and the stuffing coming out of the sofas, and the feathers out of the beds, and the legs tumbling off the chairs. She had never seen anything like it before.

"At the Castle, nothing is funny at all," she said. "And nothing ever sticks out or hangs down or tumbles off. It is so plain and new."

"But I think we ought to tell her, Duke," Ridiklis said. "We may have our house burned over our heads any day." She really stopped laughing for a whole minute when she heard that, but she was rather like Peter Piper in disposition and she said almost immediately.

"Oh! they'll never do it. They've forgotten you." And Peter Piper said:

"Don't let's think of it. Let's all join hands and dance round and round and kick up our heels and laugh as hard as ever we can."

And they did—and Lady Patsy laughed harder than any one else. After that she was always stealing away from Tidy Castle and coming in and having fun. Sometimes she stayed all night and slept with Meg and Peg and everybody invented new games and stories and they really never went to bed until daylight. But the Castle dolls grew more and more scornful every day, and tossed their heads higher and higher and sniffed louder and louder until it sounded as if they all had influenza. They never lost an opportunity of saying disdainful things and once the Duchess wrote a letter to Cynthia, saying that she insisted on removing to a decent neighborhood. She laid the letter in her desk but the gentleman mouse came in the night and carried it away. So Cynthia never saw it and I don't believe she could have read it if she had seen it because the Duchess wrote very badly—even for a doll.