When Patty Went to College
With Illustrations by C. D. Williams
New York The Century Co. 1903
Copyright, 1903, by THE CENTURY CO.
Copyright, 1901, 1902, by TRUTH CO.
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Published March, 1903
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THE DEVINNE PRESS
TO 234 MAIN AND THE GOOD TIMES WE HAVE HAD THERE
PAGE I PETERS THE SUSCEPTIBLE 1 II AN EARLY FRIGHT 21 III THE IMPRESSIONABLE MR. TODHUNTER 39 IV A QUESTION OF ETHICS 57 V THE ELUSIVE KATE FERRIS 73 VI A STORY WITH FOUR SEQUELS 89 VII IN PURSUIT OF OLD ENGLISH 103 VIII THE DECEASED ROBERT 121 IX PATTY THE COMFORTER 133 X "PER L'ITALIA" 147 XI "LOCAL COLOR" 177 XII THE EXIGENCIES OF ETIQUETTE 203 XIII A CRASH WITHOUT 215 XIV THE MYSTERY OF THE SHADOWED SOPHOMORE 237 XV PATTY AND THE BISHOP 257
List of Illustrations
Men know such a lot about such things! 18
Mr. Algernon Vivian Todhunter, gingerly sitting on the edge of a chair 54
What's the matter, Patty? 110
Olivia Copeland 172
I have just run away from you, Bishop Copeley 266
Peters the Susceptible
"Paper-weights," observed Patty, sucking an injured thumb, "were evidently not made for driving in tacks. I wish I had a hammer."
This remark called forth no response, and Patty peered down from the top of the step-ladder at her room-mate, who was sitting on the floor dragging sofa-pillows and curtains from a dry-goods box.
"Priscilla," she begged, "you aren't doing anything useful. Go down and ask Peters for a hammer."
Priscilla rose reluctantly. "I dare say fifty girls have already been after a hammer."
"Oh, he has a private one in his back pocket. Borrow that. And, Pris,"—Patty called after her over the transom,—"just tell him to send up a man to take that closet door off its hinges."
Patty, in the interval, sat down on the top step and surveyed the chaos beneath her. An Oriental rush chair, very much out at the elbows, several miscellaneous chairs, two desks, a divan, a table, and two dry-goods boxes radiated from the center of the room. The floor, as it showed through the interstices, was covered with a grass-green carpet, while the curtains and hangings were of a not very subdued crimson.
"One would scarcely," Patty remarked to the furniture in general, "call it a symphony in color."
A knock sounded on the door.
"Come in," she called.
A girl in a blue linen sailor-suit reaching to her ankles, and with a braid of hair hanging down her back, appeared in the doorway. Patty examined her in silence. The girl's eyes traveled around the room in some surprise, and finally reached the top of the ladder.
"I—I'm a freshman," she began.
"My dear," murmured Patty, in a deprecatory tone, "I should have taken you for a senior; but"—with a wave of her hand toward the nearest dry-goods box—"come in and sit down. I need your advice. Now, there are shades of green," she went on, as if continuing a conversation, "which are not so bad with red; but I ask you frankly if that shade of green would go with anything?"
The freshman looked at Patty, and looked at the carpet, and smiled dubiously. "No," she admitted; "I don't believe it would."
"I knew you would say that!" exclaimed Patty, in a tone of relief. "Now what would you advise us to do with the carpet?"
The freshman looked blank. "I—I don't know, unless you take it up," she stammered.
"The very thing!" said Patty. "I wonder we hadn't thought of it before."
Priscilla reappeared at this point with the announcement, "Peters is the most suspicious man I ever knew!" But she stopped uncertainly as she caught sight of the freshman.
"Priscilla," said Patty, severely, "I hope you didn't divulge the fact that we are hanging the walls with tapestry"—this with a wave of her hand toward the printed cotton cloth dangling from the molding.
"I tried not to," said Priscilla, guiltily, "but he read 'tapestry' in my eyes. He had no sooner looked at me than he said, 'See here, miss; you know it's against the rules to hang curtains on the walls, and you mustn't put nails in the plastering, and I don't believe you need a hammer anyway.'"
"Disgusting creature!" said Patty.
"But," continued Priscilla, hastily, "I stopped and borrowed Georgie Merriles's hammer on my way back. Oh, I forgot," she added; "he says we can't take the closet door off its hinges—that as soon as we get ours off five hundred other young ladies will be wanting theirs off, and that it would take half a dozen men all summer to put them back again."
A portentous frown was gathering on Patty's brow, and the freshman, wishing to avert a possible domestic tragedy, inquired timidly, "Who is Peters?"
"Peters," said Priscilla, "is a short, bow-legged gentleman with a red Vandyke beard, whose technical title is janitor, but who is really dictator. Every one is afraid of him—even Prexy."
"I'm not," said Patty; "and," she added firmly, "that door is coming down whether he says so or not, so I suppose we shall have to do it ourselves." Her eyes wandered back to the carpet and her face brightened. "Oh, Pris, we've got a beautiful new scheme. My friend here says she doesn't like the carpet at all, and suggests that we take it up, get some black paint, and put it on the floor ourselves. I agree," she added, "that a Flemish oak floor covered with rugs would be a great improvement."
Priscilla glanced uncertainly from the freshman to the floor. "Do you think they'd let us do it?"
"It would never do to ask them," said Patty.
The freshman rose uneasily. "I came," she said hesitatingly, "to find out—that is, I understand that the girls rent their old books, and I thought, if you wouldn't mind—"
"Mind!" said Patty, reassuringly. "We'd rent our souls for fifty cents a semester."
"It—it was a Latin dictionary I wanted," said the freshman, "and the girls next door said perhaps you had one."
"A beautiful one," said Patty.
"No," interrupted Priscilla; "hers is lost from O to R, and it's all torn; but mine,"—she dived down into one of the boxes and hauled out a chunky volume without any covers,—"while it is not so beautiful as it was once, it is still as useful."
"Mine's annotated," said Patty, "and illustrated. I'll show you what a superior book it is," and she began descending the ladder; but Priscilla charged upon her and she retreated to the top again. "Why," she wailed to the terrified freshman, "did you not say you wanted a dictionary before she came back? Let me give you some advice at the beginning of your college career," she added warningly. "Never choose a room-mate bigger than yourself. They're dangerous."
The freshman was backing precipitously toward the door, when it opened and revealed an attractive-looking girl with fluffy reddish hair.
"Pris, you wretch, you walked off with my hammer!"
"Oh, Georgie, we need it worse than you do! Come in and help tack."
"Hello, Georgie," called Patty, from the ladder. "Isn't this room going to be beautiful when it's finished?"
Georgie looked about. "You are more sanguine than I should be," she laughed.
"You can't tell yet," Patty returned. "We're going to cover the wall-paper with this red stuff, and paint the floor black, and have dark furniture, and red hangings, and soft lights. It will look just like the Oriental Room in the Waldorf."
"How in the world," Georgie demanded, "do you ever make them let you do all these things? I stuck in three innocent little thumb-tacks to-day, and Peters descended upon me bristling with wrath, and said he'd report me if I didn't pull them out."
"We never ask," explained Patty. "It's the only way."
"You've got enough to do if you expect to get settled by Monday," Georgie remarked.
"C'est vrai," agreed Patty, descending the ladder with a sudden access of energy; "and you've got to stay and help us. We have to get all this furniture moved into the bedrooms and the carpet up before we even begin to paint." She regarded the freshman tentatively. "Are you awfully busy?"
"Not very. My room-mate hasn't come yet, so I can't settle."
"That's nice; then you can help us move furniture."
"Patty!" said Priscilla, "I think you are too bad."
"I should really love to stay and help, if you'll let me."
"Certainly," said Patty, obligingly. "I forgot to ask your name," she continued, "and I don't suppose you like to be called 'Freshman'; it's not specific enough."
"My name is Genevieve Ainslee Randolph."
"Genevieve Ains—dear me! I can't remember anything like that. Do you mind if I call you Lady Clara Vere de Vere for short?"
The freshman looked doubtful, and Patty proceeded: "Lady Clara, allow me to present my room-mate Miss Priscilla Pond—no relation to the extract. She's athletic and wins hundred-yard dashes and hurdle races, and gets her name in the paper to a really gratifying extent. And my dear friend Miss Georgie Merriles, one of the oldest families in Dakota. Miss Merriles is very talented—sings in the glee club, plays on the comb—"
"And," interrupted Georgie, "let me present Miss Patty Wyatt, who—"
"Has no specialty," said Patty, modestly, "but is merely good and beautiful and bright."
A knock sounded on the door, which opened without waiting for a response. "Miss Theodora Bartlet," continued Patty, "commonly known as the Twin, Miss Vere de Vere."
The Twin looked dazed, murmured, "Miss Vere de Vere," and dropped down on a dry-goods box.
"The term 'Twin,'" explained Patty, "is used in a merely allegorical sense. There is really only one of her. The title was conferred in her freshman year, and the reason has been lost in the dim dawn of antiquity."
The freshman looked at the Twin and opened her mouth, but shut it again without saying anything.
"My favorite maxim," said Patty, "has always been, 'Silence is golden.' I observe that we are kindred spirits."
"Patty," said Priscilla, "do stop bothering that poor child and get to work."
"Bothering?" said Patty. "I am not bothering her; we are just getting acquainted. However, I dare say it is not the time for hollow civilities. Do you want to borrow anything?" she added, turning to the Twin, "or did you just drop in to pay a social call?"
"Just a social call; but I think I'll come in again when there's no furniture to move."
"You don't happen to be going into town this afternoon?"
"Yes," said the Twin. "But," she added guardedly, "if it's a curtain-pole, I refuse to bring it out. I offered to bring one out for Lucille Carter last night, because she was in a hurry to give a house-warming, and I speared the conductor with it getting into the car; and while I was apologizing to him I knocked Mrs. Prexy's hat off with the other end."
"We have all the curtain-poles we need," said Patty. "It's just some paint—five cans of black paint, and three brushes at the ten-cent store, and thank you very much. Good-by. Now," she continued, "the first thing is to get that door down, and I will wrest a screw-driver from the unwilling Peters while you remove tacks from the carpet."
"He won't give you one," said Priscilla.
"You'll see," said Patty.
Five minutes later she returned waving above her head an unmistakable screw-driver. "Voila, mes amies! Peters's own private screw-driver, for which I am to be personally responsible."
"How did you get it?" inquired Priscilla, suspiciously.
"You act," said Patty, "as if you thought I knocked him down in some dark corner and robbed him. I merely asked him for it politely, and he asked me what I wanted to do with it. I told him I wanted to take out screws, and the reason impressed him so that he handed it over without a word. Peters," she added, "is a dear; only he's like every other man—you have to use diplomacy."
By ten o'clock that night the study carpet of 399 was neatly folded and deposited at the end of the corridor above, whence its origin would be difficult to trace. The entire region was steeped in an odor of turpentine, and the study floor of 399 was a shining black, except for four or five unpainted spots which Patty designated as "stepping-stones," and which were to be treated later. Every caller that had dropped in during the afternoon or evening had had a brush thrust into her hand and had been made to go down upon her knees and paint. Besides the floor, three bookcases and a chair had been transferred from mahogany to Flemish oak, and there was still half a can of paint left which Patty was anxiously trying to dispose of.
The next morning, in spite of the difficulty of getting about, the step-ladder had been reerected, and the business of tapestry-hanging was going forward with enthusiasm, when a knock suddenly interrupted the work.
Patty, all unconscious of impending doom, cheerily called, "Come in!"
The door opened, and the figure of Peters appeared on the threshold; and Priscilla basely fled, leaving her room-mate stranded on the ladder.
"Are you the young lady who borrowed my screw—" Peters stopped and looked at the floor, and his jaw dropped in astonishment. "Where is that there carpet?" he demanded, in a tone which seemed to imply that he thought it was under the paint.
"It's out in the hall," said Patty, pleasantly. "Please be careful and don't step on the paint. It's a great improvement, don't you think?"
"You oughter got permission—" he began, but his eye fell on the tapestry and he stopped again.
"Yes," said Patty; "but we knew you couldn't spare a man just now to paint it for us, so we didn't like to trouble you."
"It's against the rules to hang curtains on the walls."
"I have heard that it was," said Patty, affably, "and I think ordinarily it's a very good rule. But just look at the color of that wall-paper. It's pea-green. You have had enough experience with wall-paper, Mr. Peters, to know that that is impossible, especially when our window-curtains and portieres are red."
Peters's eyes had traveled to the closet, bereft of its door. "Are you the young lady," he demanded gruffly, "who asked me to have that door taken off its hinges?"
"No," said Patty; "I think that must have been my room-mate. It was very heavy," she continued plaintively, "and we had a great deal of trouble getting it down, but of course we realized that you were awfully busy, and that it really wasn't your fault. That's what I wanted the screw-driver for," she added. "I'm sorry that I didn't get it back last night, but I was very tired, and I forgot."
Peters merely grunted. He was examining a corner cabinet hanging on the wall. "Didn't you know," he asked severely, "that it's against the rules to put nails in the plaster?"
"Those aren't nails," expostulated Patty. "They're hooks. I remembered that you didn't like holes, so I only put in two, though I am really afraid that three are necessary. What do you think, Mr. Peters? Does it seem solid?"
Peters shook it. "It's solid enough," he said sulkily. As he turned, his eye fell on the table in Priscilla's bedroom. "Is that a gas-stove in there?" he demanded.
Patty shrugged her shoulders. "An apology for one—be careful, Mr. Peters! Don't get against that bookcase. It's just painted."
Peters jumped aside, and stood like the Colossus of Rhodes, with one foot on one stepping-stone, and the other on another three feet away. It is hard for even a janitor to be dignified in such a position, and while he was gathering his scattered impressions Patty looked longingly around the room for some one to enjoy the spectacle with her. She felt that the silence was becoming ominous, however, and she hastened to interrupt it.
"There's something wrong with that stove; it won't burn a bit. I am afraid we didn't put it together just right. I shouldn't be surprised if you might be able to tell what's the matter with it, Mr. Peters." She smiled sweetly. "Men know such a lot about such things! Would you mind looking at it?"
Peters grunted again; but he approached the stove.
Five minutes later, when Priscilla stuck her head in to find out if, by chance, anything remained of Patty, she saw Peters on his knees on the floor of her bedroom, with the dismembered stove scattered about him, and heard him saying, "I don't know as I have any call to report you, for I s'pose, since they're up, they might as well stay"; and Patty's voice returning: "You're very kind, Mr. Peters. Of course if we'd known—" Priscilla shut the door softly, and retired around the corner to await Peters's departure.
"How in the world did you manage him?" she asked, bursting in as soon as the sound of his footsteps had died away down the corridor. "I expected to sing a requiem over your remains, and I found Peters on his knees, engaged in amicable conversation."
Patty smiled inscrutably. "You must remember," she said, "that Peters is not only a janitor: he is also a man."
An Early Fright
"I'll make the tea to-day," said Patty, graciously.
"As you please," said Priscilla, with a skeptical shrug.
Patty bustled about amid a rattle of china. "The cups are rather dusty," she observed dubiously.
"You'd better wash them," Priscilla returned.
"No," said Patty; "it's too much trouble. Just close the blinds, please, and we'll light the candles, and that will do as well. Come in," she called in answer to a knock.
Georgie Merriles, Lucille Carter, and the Bartlet Twin appeared in the doorway.
"Did I hear the two P's were going to serve tea this afternoon?" inquired the Twin.
"Yes; come in. I'm going to make it myself," answered Patty, "and you'll see how much more attentive a hostess I am than Priscilla. Here, Twin," she added, "you take the kettle out and fill it with water; and, Lucille, please go and borrow some alcohol from the freshmen at the end of the corridor; our bottle's empty. I'd do it myself, only I've borrowed such a lot lately, and they don't know you, you see. And—oh, Georgie, you're an obliging dear; just run down-stairs to the store and get some sugar. I think I saw some money in that silver inkstand on Priscilla's desk."
"We've got some sugar," objected Priscilla. "I bought a whole pound yesterday."
"No, my lamb; we haven't got it any more. I lent it to Bonnie Connaught last night. Just hunt around for the spoons," she added. "I think I saw them on the bottom shelf of the bookcase, behind Kipling."
"And what, may I ask, are you going to do?" inquired Priscilla.
"I?" said Patty. "Oh, I am going to sit in the arm-chair and preside."
Ten minutes later, the company being disposed about the room on cushions, and the party well under way, it was discovered that there were no lemons.
"Are you sure?" asked Patty, anxiously.
"Not one," said Priscilla, peering into the stein where the lemons were kept.
"I," said Georgie, "refuse to go to the store again."
"No matter," said Patty, graciously; "we can do very well without them." (She did not take lemon herself.) "The object of tea is not for the sake of the tea, but for the conversation which accompanies it, and one must not let accidents annoy him. You see, young ladies," she went on, in the tone of an instructor giving a lecture, "though I have just spilled the alcohol over the sugar, I appear not to notice it, but keep up an easy flow of conversation to divert my guests. A repose of manner is above all things to be cultivated." Patty leaned languidly back in her chair. "To-morrow is Founder's Day," she resumed in a conversational tone. "I wonder if many—"
"That reminds me," interrupted the Twin. "You girls needn't save any dances for my brother. I got a letter from him this morning saying he couldn't come."
"He hasn't broken anything, has he?" Patty asked sympathetically.
"Ah—an arm, or a leg, or a neck. Accidents are so prevalent about Founder's time."
"No; he was called out of town on important business."
"Important business!" Patty laughed. "Dear man! why couldn't he have thought of something new?"
"I think myself it was just an excuse," the Twin acknowledged. "He seemed to have an idea that he would be the only man here, and that, alone and unaided, he would have to dance with all six hundred girls."
Patty shook her head sadly. "They're all alike. Founder's wouldn't be Founder's if half the guests didn't develop serious illness or important business or dead relations the last minute. The only safe way is to invite three men and make out one program."
"I simply can't realize that to-morrow is Founder's," said Priscilla. "It doesn't seem a week since we unpacked our trunks after vacation, and before we know it we shall be packing them again for Christmas."
"Yes; and before we know it we'll be unpacking them again, with examinations three weeks ahead," said Georgie the pessimist.
"Oh, for the matter of that," returned Patty the optimist, "before we know it we'll be walking up one side of the platform for our diplomas and coming down the other side blooming alumnae."
"And then," sighed Georgie, "before we even have time to decide on a career, we'll be old ladies, telling our grandchildren to stand up straight and remember their rubbers."
"And," said Priscilla, "before any of us get any tea we'll be in our graves, if you don't stop talking and watch that kettle."
"It's boiling," said Patty.
"Yes," said Priscilla; "it's been boiling for ten minutes."
"It's hot," said Patty.
"I should think it might be," said Priscilla.
"And now the problem is, how to get it off without burning one's self."
"You're presiding to-day; you must solve your own problems."
"'Tis an easy matter," and Patty hooked it off on the end of a golf-club. "Young ladies," she said, with a wave of the kettle, "there is nothing like a college education to teach you a way out of every difficulty. If, when you are out in the wide, wide world—"
"Where, oh, where are the grave old seniors?"
chanted the Twin.
"Where, oh, where are they?"
The rest took it up, and Patty waited patiently.
"They've gone out of Cairnsley's ethics, They've gone out of Cairnsley's ethics, They've gone out of Cairnsley's ethics, Into the wide, wide w-o-r-l-d."
"If you have finished your ovation, young ladies, I will proceed with my lecture. When, as I say, you are out in the wide, wide world, making five-o'clock tea some afternoon for one of the young men popularly supposed to be there, who have dropped in to make an afternoon call—Do you follow me, young ladies, or do I speak too fast? If, while you are engaged in conversation, the kettle should become too hot, do not put your finger in your mouth and shriek 'Ouch!' and coquettishly say to the young man, 'You take it off,' as might a young woman who has not enjoyed your advantages; but, rather, rise to the emergency; say to him calmly, 'This kettle has become over-heated; may I trouble you to go into the hall and bring an umbrella?' and when he returns you can hook it off gracefully and expeditiously as you have seen me do, young ladies, and the young—"
"Patty, take care!" This from Priscilla.
"O-u-c-h!" in a long-drawn wail. This from Georgie.
Patty hastily set the kettle down on the floor. "I'm awfully sorry, Georgie. Does it hurt?"
"Not in the least. It's really a pleasant sensation to have boiling water poured over you."
The Bartlet Twin sniffed. "I smell burning rug."
Patty groaned. "I resign, Pris; I resign. Here, you preside. I'll never ask to make it again."
"I should like," observed the Twin, "to see Patty entertaining a young man."
"It's not such an unprecedented event," said Patty, with some warmth. "You can watch me to-morrow night if it will give you so much pleasure."
"To-morrow night? Are you going to have a man for the Prom?"
"That," said Patty, "is my intention."
"And you haven't asked me for a dance!" This in an aggrieved chorus from the entire room.
"I haven't asked any one," said Patty, with dignity.
"Do you mean you're going to have all of the twenty dances with him yourself?"
"Oh, no; I don't expect to dance more than ten with him myself—I haven't made out his card yet," she added.
"I never do."
"Has he been here before, then?"
"No; that's the reason."
"The reason for what?"
"Well," Patty deigned to explain, "I've invited him for every party since freshman year."
"And did he decline?"
"No; he accepted, but he never came."
"He was scared."
"Scared? Of the girls?"
"Yes," said Patty, "partly—but mostly of the faculty."
"The faculty wouldn't hurt him."
"Of course not; but he couldn't understand that. You see, he had a fright when he was young."
"A fright? What was it?"
"Well," said Patty, "it happened this way: It was while I was at boarding-school. He was at Andover then, and his home was in the South; and one time when he went through Washington he stopped off to call on me. As it happened, the butler had left two days before, and had taken with him all the knives and forks, and all the money he could find, and Nancy Lee's gold watch and two hat-pins, and my silver hair-brush, and a bottle of brandy, and a pie," she enumerated with a conscientious regard for details; "and Mrs. Trent—that's the principal—had advertised for a new butler."
"I should have thought the old one would have discouraged her from keeping butlers," said Georgie.
"You would think so," said Patty; "but she was a very persevering woman. On the day that Raoul—that's his name—came to call, nineteen people had applied for the place, and Mrs. Trent was worn out from interviewing them. So she told Miss Sarah—that's her daughter—to attend to those who came in the evening. Miss Sarah was tall and wore spectacles, and was—was—"
"A good disciplinarian," suggested the Twin.
"Yes," said Patty, feelingly, "an awfully good disciplinarian. Well, when Raoul got there he gave his card to Ellen and asked for me; but Ellen didn't understand, and she called Miss Sarah, and when Miss Sarah saw him in his evening clothes she—"
"Took him for a butler," put in Georgie.
"Yes, she took him for a butler; and she looked at the card he'd given Ellen, and said icily, 'What does this mean?'
"'It's—it's my name,' he stammered.
"'I see,' said Miss Sarah; 'but where is your recommendation?'
"'I didn't know it was necessary,' he said, terribly scared.
"'Of course it's necessary,' Miss Sarah returned. 'I can't allow you to come into the house unless I have letters from the places where you've been before.'
"'I didn't suppose you were so strict,' he said.
"'We have to be strict,' Miss Sarah answered firmly. 'Have you had much experience?'
"He didn't know what she meant, but he thought it would be safest to say he hadn't.
"'Then of course you won't do,' she replied. 'How old are you?'
"He was so frightened by this time that he couldn't remember. 'Nineteen,' he gasped—'I mean twenty.'
"Miss Sarah saw his confusion, and thought he had designs on some of the heiresses intrusted to her care. 'I don't see how you dared to come here,' she said severely. 'I should not think of having you in the house for a moment. You're altogether too young and too good-looking.' And with that Raoul got up and bolted.
"When Ellen told Miss Sarah the next day that he'd asked for me, she was terribly mortified, and she made me write and explain, and invite him to dinner; but wild horses couldn't have dragged him into the house again. He's been afraid to stop off in Washington ever since. He always goes straight through on a sleeper, and says he has nightmares even then."
"And is that why he won't come to the college?"
"Yes," said Patty; "that's the reason. I told him we didn't have any butlers here; but he said we had lady faculty, and that's as bad."
"But I thought you said he was coming to the Prom."
"He is this time."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," said Patty, with ominous emphasis, "I'm sure. He knows," she added, "what will happen if he doesn't."
"What will happen?" asked the Twin.
The Twin shook her head, and Georgie inquired, "Then why don't you make out his program?"
"I suppose I might as well. I didn't do it before because it sort of seemed like tempting Providence. I didn't want to be the cause of any really serious accident happening to him," she explained a trifle ambiguously as she got out pencil and paper. "What dances can you give me, Lucille? And you, Georgie, have you got the third taken?"
While this business was being settled, a knock unheeded had sounded on the door. It came again.
"What's that?" asked Priscilla. "Did some one knock? Come in."
The door opened, and a maid stood upon the threshold with a yellow envelop in her hand. She peered uncertainly around the darkened room from one face to another. "Miss Patty Wyatt?" she asked.
Patty stretched out her hand in silence for the envelop, and, propping it up on her desk, looked at it with a grim smile.
"What is it, Patty? Aren't you going to read it?"
"There's no need. I know what it says."
"Then I'll read it," said Priscilla, ripping it open.
"Is it a leg or an arm?" Patty inquired with mild curiosity.
"Neither," said Priscilla; "it's a collar-bone."
"Oh," murmured Patty.
"What is it?" demanded Georgie the curious. "Read it out loud."
"NEW HAVEN, November 29.
"Broke collar-bone playing foot-ball. Honest Injun. Terribly sorry. Better luck next time."
"There will not," observed Patty, "be a next time."
The Impressionable Mr. Todhunter
"Has the mail been around yet?" called Priscilla to a girl at the other end of the corridor.
"Don't believe so. It hasn't been in our room."
"There she comes now!" and Priscilla swooped down upon the mail-girl. "Got anything for 399?"
"Do you want Miss Wyatt's mail too?"
"Yes; I'll take everything. What a lot! Is that all for us?" And Priscilla walked down the corridor swinging her note-book by its shoe-string, and opening envelops as she went. She was presently joined by Georgie Merriles, likewise swinging a note-book by a shoe-string.
"Hello, Pris; going to English? Want me to help carry your mail?"
"Thank you," said Priscilla; "you may keep the most of it. Now, that," she added, holding out a blue envelop, "is an advertisement for cold cream which no lady should be without; and that"—holding out a yellow envelop—"is an advertisement for beef extract which no brain-worker should be without; and that"—holding out a white envelop—"is the worst of all, because it looks like a legitimate letter, and it's nothing but a 'Dear Madam' thing, telling me my tailor has moved from Twenty-second to Forty-third Street, and hopes I'll continue to favor him with my patronage.
"And here," she went on, turning to her room-mate's correspondence, "is a cold-cream and a beef-extract letter for Patty, and one from Yale; that's probably Raoul explaining why he couldn't come to the Prom. It won't do any good, though. No mortal man can ever make her believe he didn't have his collar-bone broken on purpose. And I don't know whom that's from," Priscilla continued, examining the last letter. "It's marked 'Hotel A——, New York.' Never heard of it, did you? Never saw the writing before, either."
Georgie laughed. "Do you keep tab on all of Patty's correspondents?"
"Oh, I know the most of them by this time. She usually reads the interesting ones out loud, and the ones that aren't interesting she never answers, so they stop writing. Hurry up; the bell's going to ring"; and they pushed in among the crowd of girls on the steps of the recitation-hall.
The bell did ring just as they reached the class-room, and Priscilla dropped the letters, without comment, into Patty's lap as she went past. Patty was reading poetry and did not look up. She had assimilated some ten pages of Shelley since the first bell rang, and as she was not sure which would be taken up in class, she was now swallowing Wordsworth in the same voracious manner. Patty's method in Romantic Poetry was to be very fresh on the first part of the lesson, catch the instructor's eye early in the hour, make a brilliant recitation, and pass the remainder of the time in gentle meditation.
To-day, however, the unwonted bulk of her correspondence diverted her mind from its immediate duty. She failed to catch the instructor's eye, and the recitation proceeded without her assistance. Priscilla watched her from the back seat as she read the Yale letter with a skeptical frown, and made a grimace over the blue and the yellow; but before she had reached the Hotel A——, Priscilla was paying attention to the recitation again. It was coming her way, and she was anxiously forming an opinion on the essential characteristics of Wordsworth's view of immortality.
Suddenly the room was startled by an audible titter from Patty, who hastily composed her face and assumed a look of vacuous innocence—but too late. She had caught the instructor's eye at last.
"Miss Wyatt, what do you consider the most serious limitations of our author?"
Miss Wyatt blinked once or twice. This question out of its context was not illuminating. It was a part of her philosophy, however, never to flunk flat; she always crawled.
"Well," she began with an air of profound deliberation, "that question might be considered in two ways, either from an artistic or a philosophic standpoint."
This sounded promising, and the instructor smiled encouragingly. "Yes?" she said.
"And yet," continued Patty, after still profounder deliberation, "I think the same reason will be found to be the ultimate explanation of both."
The instructor might have inquired, "Both what?" but she refrained and merely waited.
Patty thought she had done enough, but she plunged on desperately: "In spite of his really deep philosophy we notice a certain—one might almost say dash about his poetry, and a lack of—er—meditation which I should attribute to his immaturity and his a—rather wild life. If he had lived longer I think he might have overcome it in time."
The class looked dazed, and the corners of the instructor's mouth twitched. "It is certainly an interesting point of view, Miss Wyatt, and, as far as I know, entirely original."
As they were crowding out at the end of the recitation Priscilla pounced upon Patty. "What on earth were you saying about Wordsworth's youth and immaturity?" she demanded. "The man lived to be over eighty, and composed a poem with his last gasp."
"Wordsworth? I was talking about Shelley."
"Well, the class wasn't."
"How should I know?" Patty demanded indignantly. "She said 'our author,' and I avoided specific details as long as I could."
"Oh, Patty, Patty! and you said he was wild—the lamblike Wordsworth!"
"What were you laughing at, anyway?" demanded Georgie.
Patty smiled again. "Why, this" she said, unfolding the Hotel A—— letter. "It's from an Englishman, Mr. Todhunter, some one my father discovered last summer and invited out to stay with us for a few days. I'd forgotten all about him, and here he writes to know whether and when he may call, and, if so, will it be convenient for him to come to-night. That's a comprehensive sentence, isn't it? His train gets in at half-past five and he'll be out about six."
"He isn't going to take any chances," said Priscilla.
"No," said Patty; "but I don't mind. I invited him to come out to dinner some night, though I'd forgotten it. He's really very nice, and, in spite of what the funny papers say about Englishmen, quite entertaining."
"Intentionally or unintentionally?" inquired Georgie.
"Both," said Patty.
"What's he doing in America?" asked Priscilla. "Not writing a book on the American Girl, I hope."
"Not quite as bad as that," said Patty. "He's corresponding for a newspaper, though." She smiled dreamily. "He's very curious about college."
"Patty, I hope you were not guilty of trying to make an Englishman, a guest in your father's house, believe any of your absurd fabrications!"
"Of course not," said Patty; "I was most careful in everything I told him. But," she acknowledged, "he—he gets impressions easily."
"It is easy to get impressions when one is talking with you," observed Georgie.
"He asked me," Patty continued, ignoring this remark, "what we studied in college! But I remembered that he was an alien in a foreign land, and I curbed my natural instincts, and outlined the courses in the catalogue verbatim, and I explained the different methods of instruction, and described the library and laboratories and lecture-rooms."
"Was he impressed?" asked Priscilla.
"Yes," said Patty; "I think you might almost say dazed. He asked me apologetically if we ever did anything to relieve the strain,—had any amusements, you know,—and I said, oh, yes; we had a Browning and an Ibsen club, and we sometimes gave Greek tragedies in the original. He was positively afraid to come near me again, for fear I'd forget and talk to him in Greek instead of English."
In view of the facts, Patty's friends considered this last remark distinctly humorous, for she had flunked her freshman Greek three times, and had been advised by the faculty to take it over sophomore year.
"I hope, since he's a newspaper writer," said Priscilla, "that you'll do something to lighten his impression, or he'll never favor women's colleges in England."
"I hadn't thought of that," said Patty; "perhaps I ought."
They had reached the steps of the dormitory. "Let's not go in," said Georgie; "let's go down to Mrs. Muldoon's and get some chocolate cake."
"Thank you," said Priscilla; "I'm in training."
"Can't eat between meals."
"You come, then, Patty."
"Sorry, but I've got to take my white dress down to the laundry and have it pressed."
"Are you going to dress up for him to the extent of evening clothes?"
"Yes," said Patty; "I think I owe it to the American Girl."
"Well," sighed Georgie, "I'm hungry, but I suppose I might as well go in and dress that doll for the College Settlement Association. The show's to-night."
"Mine's done," said Priscilla; "and Patty wouldn't take one. Did you see Bonnie Connaught sitting on the back seat in biology this morning, hemming her doll's petticoat straight through the lecture?"
"Really?" laughed Patty. "It's a good thing Professor Hitchcock's near-sighted."
The College Settlement Association, by way of parenthesis, was in the habit of distributing three hundred dolls among the students every year before Christmas, to be dressed and sent to the settlement in New York. The dolls were supposed to be so well dressed that the East Side mothers could use them as models for the clothing of their own children, though it must be confessed that the tendency among the girls was to strive for effect and not for detail. On the evening before the dolls were to be shipped a doll show was regularly held, at which two cents admittance was charged (stamps accepted) to pay the expressage.
* * * * *
IT was ten minutes past six, and Phillips Hall (such of it as was not late) was dining, when the maid arrived with Mr. Algernon Vivian Todhunter's card. Patty, radiant in a white evening gown, was trying, with much squirming, to fasten it in the middle of the back.
"Oh, Sadie," she called to the maid, "would you mind coming in here and buttoning my dress? I can't reach it from above or below."
"You look just beautiful, Miss Wyatt," said Sadie, admiringly.
Patty laughed. "Do you think I can uphold the honor of the nation?"
"To be sure, miss," said Sadie, politely.
Patty ran down the corridor to the door of the reception-room, and then swept slowly in with what she called an air of continental repose. The room was empty. She glanced about in some surprise, for she knew that the two reception-rooms on the other side of the hall were being used for the doll show. She tiptoed over and peered in through the half-open door. The room was filled with dolls in rows and tiers; every piece of furniture was covered with them; and in a far corner, at the end of a long vista of dolls, appeared Mr. Algernon Vivian Todhunter, gingerly sitting on the edge of a sofa, surrounded by flaxen-haired baby dolls, and awkwardly holding in his lap the three he had displaced.
Patty drew back behind the door, and spent fully three minutes in regaining her continental repose; then she entered the room and greeted Mr. Todhunter effusively. He carefully transferred the dolls to his left arm and stood up and shook hands.
"Let me take the little dears," said Patty, kindly; "I'm afraid they're in your way."
Mr. Todhunter murmured something about its being a pleasure and a privilege to hold them.
Patty plumped up their clothes and rearranged them on the sofa with motherly solicitude, while Mr. Todhunter watched her gravely, his national politeness and his reportorial instinct each struggling for the mastery. Finally he began tentatively: "I say, Miss Wyatt, do—er—the young ladies spend much time playing with dolls?"
"No," said Patty, candidly; "I don't think you could say they spend too much. I have never heard of but one girl actually neglecting her work for it. You mustn't think that we have as many dolls as this here every night," she went on. "It is rather an unusual occurrence. Once a year the girls hold what they call a doll show to see who has dressed her doll the best."
"Ah, I see," said Mr. Todhunter; "a little friendly rivalry."
"Purely friendly," said Patty.
As they started for the dining-room Mr. Todhunter adjusted his monocle and took a parting look at the doll show.
"I'm afraid you think us childish, Mr. Todhunter," said Patty.
"Not at all, Miss Wyatt," he assured her hastily. "I think it quite charming, you know, and so—er—unexpected. I had always been told that they played somewhat peculiar games at these women's colleges, but I never supposed they did anything so feminine as to play with dolls."
* * * * *
WHEN Patty returned to her room that night, she found Georgie and Priscilla surrounded by grammars and dictionaries, doing German prose. Her appearance was hailed with a cry of indignant protest.
"When I have a man," said Priscilla, "I divide him up among my friends."
"Especially when he's a curiosity," added Georgie.
"And we dressed up in grand clothes, and stood in your way coming out of chapel," went on Priscilla, "and you never even looked at us."
"Englishmen are so bashful," apologized Patty; "I didn't want to frighten him."
Priscilla looked at her suspiciously. "Patty, I hope you didn't impose on the poor man's credulity."
"Certainly not!" said Patty, with dignity. "I explained everything he asked me, and was most careful not to exaggerate. But," she added with engaging frankness, "I cannot be responsible for any impressions he may have obtained. When an Englishman once gets an idea, you know, it's almost impossible to change it."
A Question of Ethics
Patty's class-room methods were the result of a wide experience in the professorial type of mind. By her senior year she had reduced the matter of recitation to a system, and could foretell with unvarying precision the day she would be called on and the question she would be asked. Her tactics varied with the subject and the instructor, and were the result of a penetration and knowledge of human nature that might have accomplished something in a worthier cause.
In chemistry, for example, her instructor was a man who had outlived any early illusions in regard to the superior conscientiousness of girls over boys. He was not by nature a suspicious person, but a long experience in teaching had inculcated an inordinate wariness which was sometimes out of season. He allowed no napping in his classes, and those who did not pay attention suffered. Patty discovered his weakness early in the year, and planned her campaign accordingly. As long as she did not understand the experiment in hand, she would watch him with a face beaming with intelligence; but when she did understand, and wished to recite, she would let her eyes wander to the window with a dreamy, far-away smile, and, being asked a question, would come back to the realities of chemistry with a start, and, after a moment of ostentatious pondering, make a brilliant recitation. It must be confessed that her moments of abstraction were rare; she was far too often radiantly interested.
In French her tactics were exactly opposite. The instructor, with all the native politeness of his race, called on those only who caught his eye and appeared willing and anxious to recite. This made the matter comparatively simple, but still required considerable finesse. Patty dropped her pen, spilled the pages from her note-book, tied her shoe-string, and even sneezed opportunely in order not to catch his eye at inconvenient moments. The rest of the class, who were not artists, contented themselves with merely lowering their eyes as he looked along the line—a method which in Patty's scornful estimation said as plainly as words, "Please don't call on me; I don't know."
But with Professor Cairnsley, who taught philosophy, it was more difficult to form a working hypothesis. He had grown old in the service of the college, and after thirty years' experience of girl-nature he was still as unsuspiciously trustful as he had been in the beginning. Taking it for granted that his pupils were as interested in the contemplation of philosophic truths as he himself, the professor conducted his recitations without a suspicion of guile, and based his procedure entirely upon the inspiration of the moment. The key to his method had always remained a mystery, and several generations of classes had searched for it in vain. Some averred that he called on every seventh girl; others, that he drew lots. Patty triumphantly announced early in the course that she had discovered the secret at last—that on Monday he called on the red-haired girls; on Tuesday, those with yellow hair; on Wednesday and Thursday, those with brown; and on Friday, those with black. But this solution, like the others, was found to break down in actual practice; and Patty, for one, discovered that it required all her ingenuity, and even a good deal of studying, to maintain her reputation for brilliancy in Professor Cairnsley's classes. And she cared about maintaining it, for she liked the professor and was one of his favorite pupils. She had known his wife before she entered college, and she often called upon them in their home, and, in short, exemplified the ideal relations between faculty and students.
Owing to the pressure of many interests, Patty's researches into philosophy were not as deep as the intentions of the course, but she had a very good working knowledge, which, in its details, would have astonished Professor Cairnsley could he have got behind the scenes. Though her knowledge was not based strictly on the text-book, her reputation in the class was good, and, as Patty admitted with a sigh, "It's a great strain on the imagination to keep up a reputation in philosophy."
It had been established, indeed, as far back as her sophomore year, when the psychology class was awed into silence by its first introduction to the abstractions of science, and Patty alone had dared to lift her voice. The professor, one morning, had been placidly lecturing along on the subject of sensation, and in the course of the lecture had remarked: "It is probable that the individual experiences all the primary sensations during the first few months of infancy, and that in after life there is no such thing as a new sensation."
"Professor Cairnsley," Patty piped up, "did you ever shoot the chutes?"
The ice was broken at last, and the class felt at home, even in the somewhat deep waters of philosophy; and Patty, however undeservedly, had gained the credit of having a deeper insight than most into matters psychical.
And so into her senior year, when she entered upon the study of ethics, she carried along an unearned and fragile reputation, built upon subterfuges and likely to crumble at the slightest touch. She had maintained it very creditably up to the Christmas vacation, and had argued upon the ultimate ground of moral obligation and the origin of conscience quite as intelligently as though she had previously read what the text-book had to say on the subject. But when they had commenced the study of specific theologies, based upon definite historical facts, Patty found her imagination of little use, and on several occasions it had been purely good luck that had saved her from exposure. Once the bell had rung at an opportune moment, and twice she had been able to avert a direct answer by leading the discussion into side issues. She realized, however, that fortune would not always favor her, and as the professor usually forgot to call the roll, she formed the nefarious practice of cutting class when she did not have her lesson.
For a week or so in particular, her pressure of work in other directions (not all of them scholastic) had prevented her from devoting her usual amount of energy to the task of maintaining her philosophy reputation, and she had, without conscience, cut ethics several days in succession, and had failed to comment upon the fact to the professor.
"What did he lecture about in ethics—those recitations I missed?" she inquired of Priscilla, one afternoon.
"Swedenborg," repeated Patty, dreamily. "He got up a new religion, didn't he? Or was it a new system of gymnastics? I've heard about him, but I don't seem to remember any details."
"You'd better make him up; he's important."
"I dare say; but I've lived twenty-one years without knowing about him, and I can wait a month longer. I'm saving up Confucius and the Jesuits for examination-time, and I'll add Swedenborg to the list."
"You'd better not. Professor Cairnsley's fond of him, and is likely to pop a special examination at any moment."
"Not Professor Cairnsley," laughed Patty. "He doesn't want to waste the time. He's going to lecture straight on for two weeks—nice man; I see it in his eye. What I admire in a professor is a good, steady, plodding disposition that doesn't go in for sensational surprises."
"You'll find yourself mistaken some day," warned Priscilla.
"No danger, my dear Cassandra. I know Professor Cairnsley, and Professor Cairnsley thinks he knows me; and we just get along together beautifully. I wish there were more like him," Patty added with a sigh.
Professor Cairnsley began a lecture the next morning which was evidently calculated to extend through the hour, and Patty cast a triumphant glance at Priscilla as she unscrewed the top of her fountain-pen and settled down to work. In the course of the lecture, however, he had occasion to refer to Swedenborg, and, pausing a moment, he casually asked a girl on the front seat for a resume of Swedenborg's philosophy. She, unfortunately confusing him with Schopenhauer, glibly attributed to him doctrines which would have outraged his soul could he have heard them. It is written that the worm will turn, and the professor's bland smile deserted him as he passed the question to a second girl without much better result. The class in general had evidently been laboring under Patty's delusion that the time had not come in which to learn back notes. Amazed and indignant, he pursued the matter with a persistency and a rancor he seldom showed. He began going straight through the class, growing more and more sarcastic with each recitation.
As she saw him finish with the row in front and begin on her row, Patty knew that she was doomed. She racked her brain for some memory of Swedenborg. He was a name to her and nothing more. He might have been an ancient Greek or a modern American, for all she knew. As Professor Cairnsley came along the line he was gradually eliciting from the terrified class the superficial points which were more or less common to all philosophers. Patty perceived that her imagination could not help her out, that for once the placid professor was on the war-path, and that Swedenborg, and nothing but Swedenborg, would serve. She cast an agonized glance up at Priscilla, and Priscilla grinned back with "I told you so" written on every feature.
Patty looked about desperately. The lecture-room was shaped like an amphitheater, with part of the seats on a level with the main floor, and the rest rising in tiers. Patty sat on the main floor, well toward the rear. She could barely see the professor's head, but he was coming irrevocably. She did not have to see very clearly to know that. The girl before her answered wildly; the professor frowned, and, looking down at his roll-book, slowly and deliberately made a zero.
When he raised his eyes again Patty's seat was empty. She was kneeling on the floor, with her head bowed behind the girl in front. The unconscious professor passed over her bent head and called on the girl on the other side, who coughed hysterically once or twice, and flunked flat; and while he was crediting the fact in his roll-book Patty resumed her seat. A ripple of laughter ran around the room; the professor frowned, and remarked that he saw no occasion for amusement. The bell rang, and the class somewhat sheepishly filed out.
That afternoon Patty burst into the study where Priscilla and Georgie Merriles were making tea. "Did you ever think I had much of a conscience?" she demanded.
"Never thought it was your strong point," said Georgie.
"Well, I've got a perfectly tremendous one! What do you think I've been doing?"
"Making up your ethics lectures," suggested Priscilla.
"Worse than that."
"You haven't been to gym, Patty!" said Georgie.
"Goodness, no! I'm not so far gone as that. Well, I'll tell you. I met Professor Cairnsley by the gate and walked in with him, and, if you please, he complimented me on my work in ethics!"
"That ought to have been embarrassing," said Georgie.
"It was," acknowledged Patty. "I told him I didn't really know as much as he thought I did."
"What did he say?"
"He said I was too modest. He's such a trustful old man, you know, that you sort of hate to deceive him. And what do you think? I told him about the seat!"
Priscilla smiled approvingly upon her usually recreant room-mate. "Well, Patty, you certainly are better than I gave you credit for!"
"Thank you," murmured Patty.
"I begin to believe you have got a conscience," said Georgie.
"An excellent one," said Patty, complacently.
"It pays in the end," said Priscilla.
"It does," agreed Patty. "Professor Cairnsley said he would explain Swedenborg to me himself, and he invited me over to dinner to-night!"
The Elusive Kate Ferris
The mysterious Kate Ferris, who kept Priscilla on the verge of nervous prostration for a whole semester, entered upon her college career in an entirely unpremeditated and impromptu manner. It began one day away back in November. Georgie Merriles and Patty had just strolled home from the athletic field, where they had been witnessing the start of a paper-chase cross country, in which Priscilla was impersonating a fox. As they entered the study, Georgie stopped to examine some loose sheets of paper which were impaled upon the door.
"What's this, Patty?"
"Oh, that's the registration-list for the German Club. Priscilla's secretary, you know, and every one who wants to join comes here. The study has been so full of freshmen all the time that I told her to hang it on the door and let them join outside; it works beautifully." Patty turned the leaves and ran her eyes down the list of sprawling signatures. "It's a popular organization, isn't it? The freshmen are simply scrambling to get in."
"They're trying to show Fraeulein Scherin how much interest they take in the subject," Georgie laughed.
Patty picked up the pencil. "Would you like to join? I know Priscilla would be gratified."
"No, thank you; I pay club dues enough already."
"I'm afraid I'm not exactly eligible myself, as I don't know any German. It's such a beautifully sharp pencil, though, that I hate not to write with it." Patty poised the pencil a moment, and abstractedly traced the name "Kate Ferris."
Georgie laughed. "If there should happen to be a Kate Ferris in college, she would be surprised to find herself a member of the German Club," and the incident was forgotten.
A few days later the two came in from class, to find Priscilla and the president of the German Club sitting on the divan with their heads together, frantically turning the leaves of the catalogue.
"She isn't a sophomore," the president announced. "She must be a freshman, Priscilla. Look again."
"I've gone over this list three times, and there isn't a single Ferris down."
Georgie and Patty exchanged glances and inquired the trouble.
"A girl named Kate Ferris has registered for the German Club, and we've gone through all the classes, and there simply isn't any such girl in college."
"Possibly a special," Patty suggested.
"Of course! Why didn't we think of that?" And Priscilla turned to the list of special students. "No; she isn't here."
"Let me look"; and Patty ran her eyes down the column. "You've mistaken the name," she remarked, handing the book back with a shrug.
Priscilla produced the registration-list, and triumphantly exhibited an unmistakable Kate Ferris.
"They forgot to put her in the catalogue."
"I never knew them to make such a mistake before," said the president, dubiously. "I don't believe we'd better put her in the roll-book till we find out who she is."
"Then you'll hurt her feelings," said Georgie. "Freshmen are terribly sensitive about being slighted."
"Oh, very well; it doesn't matter." And Kate Ferris was accordingly enrolled in the club records.
Several weeks later Priscilla was engaged in laboriously turning the minutes of the last meeting into grammatical German, and as she closed the dictionary and grammar with a sigh of relief, she remarked to Patty: "Do you know, it's very queer about that Kate Ferris. She hasn't paid her dues, and, as far as I can make out, she hasn't attended a single meeting. Wouldn't you take her name off the roll? I don't believe she's in college any more."
"You might as well," said Patty, and she listlessly watched Priscilla as she scratched out the name with a penknife. Patty never made the mistake of over-acting.
The next morning, as Priscilla came in from a class, she found a note on her door-block, written in the perpendicular characters of Kate Ferris. It ran:
DEAR MISS POND: I came to pay my German Club dues, and as you are not in, I have left the money on the bookcase. Am sorry to have missed so many meetings, but have not been able to attend classes lately. KATE FERRIS.
Priscilla exhibited the note to the president as a tangible proof that Kate Ferris still existed, and reinscribed the name in the roll-book.
A few weeks later she found a second note on her door-block:
DEAR MISS POND: As I am very busy with my class work, I find that I have not time to attend the German Club meetings, and so have decided to resign. I left my letter of resignation on the bookcase.
As Priscilla scratched the name out of the roll-book again she remarked to Patty: "I am glad this Kate Ferris has left the club at last. She has caused me more trouble than all the rest of the members put together."
The next morning a third note appeared on the block:
DEAR MISS POND: I happened to mention the fact of my having resigned from the German Club to Fraeulein Scherin last night, and she said that the club would help me in my work, and advised me to stay in it. So I shall be much obliged if you will not present my letter at the meeting after all, as I have decided to follow her advice.
Priscilla tossed the note to Patty with a groan, and getting out the roll-book, she turned to the F's and reenrolled Kate Ferris.
Patty sympathetically watched the process over her shoulder. "The book is getting so thin in that spot," she laughed, "that Kate Ferris is actually coming through on the other side. If she changes her mind many more times there won't be anything left."
"I'm going to ask Fraeulein Scherin about her," Priscilla declared. "She's made me so much trouble that I'm curious to see what she looks like."
She did ask Fraeulein Scherin, but Fraeulein denied all knowledge of the girl. "I have so many freshmen," she apologized, "I cannot all of them with their queer names remember."
Priscilla inquired about Kate Ferris from the freshmen she knew, but though all of them thought that the name sounded familiar, none of them could exactly place her. She was variously described as tall and dark and small and light, but further inquiry always proved that the girl they had in mind was some one else.
Priscilla kept hearing about the girl on all sides, but could never catch a glimpse of her. Miss Ferris called several times on business, but Priscilla always happened to be out. Her name was posted on the bulletin-board for having library books that were overdue. She even wrote a paper for one of the German Club meetings (Georgie was not a facile German scholar, and it had required a whole Saturday); but owing to the fact that she was suddenly called out of town, she did not read it in person.
A month or two after Kate Ferris's advent, Priscilla had friends visiting her from New York, for whom she gave a tea in the study.
"I am going to invite Kate Ferris," she announced. "I insist upon finding out what she looks like."
"Do," said Patty. "I should like to find out myself."
The invitation was despatched, and on the next day Priscilla received a formal acceptance.
"It's strange that she should send an acceptance for a tea," she remarked as she read it, "but I'm glad to get it, anyway. I like to feel sure that I'm to see her at last."
On the evening of the tea, after the guests had gone and the furniture had been moved back, the weary hostesses, in somewhat rumpled evening dresses (a considerable crush results when fifty are entertained in a room whose utmost capacity is fifteen), were reentertaining one or two friends on the lettuce sandwiches and cakes the obliging guests had failed to consume. The company and the clothes having passed in review, the conversation flagged a little, and Georgie suddenly asked: "Was Kate Ferris here? I was so busy passing cakes that I didn't look, and I wanted to see her especially!"
"That's so!" Patty exclaimed. "I didn't see her, either. She's the most abnormally inconspicuous person I ever heard of. What did she look like, Pris?"
Priscilla knit her brows. "She couldn't have come. I kept watching for her all the evening. It's strange, isn't it?—when she was so careful to send an acceptance. I'm growing positively morbid over the girl; I begin to think she's invisible."
"I begin to think so myself," said Patty.
The next morning's mail brought a bunch of violets and an apology from Kate Ferris. "She had been unavoidably detained."
"It's positively uncanny!" Priscilla declared. "I shall go to the registrar and tell her that this Kate Ferris is neither down in the catalogue nor the college directory, and find out where she lives."
"Don't do anything reckless," Georgie pleaded. "Take what the gods send and be grateful."
But Priscilla was as good as her word, and she returned from the registrar's office flushed and defiant. "She insists that there isn't any such person in college, and that I must have made a mistake in the name! Did you ever hear anything so absurd?"
"That seems to me the only reasonable explanation," Patty agreed amicably. "Perhaps it is Harris instead of Ferris."
Priscilla faced her ominously. "You read the name yourself. It was as plain as printing."
"We're all liable to make mistakes," Patty murmured soothingly.
"Do you know," said Georgie, "I begin to think it's all a hallucination, and that there really isn't any Kate Ferris. It's strange, of course, but not any stranger than some of those cases you read about in psychology."
"Hallucinations don't send flowers," said Priscilla, hotly; and she stalked out of the room, leaving Patty and Georgie to review the campaign.
"I'm afraid it's gone far enough," said Georgie. "If she bothers the office very much there'll be an official investigation."
"I'm afraid so," sighed Patty. "It's been very entertaining, but she is really getting sensitive on the subject, and I don't dare mention Kate Ferris's name when we're alone."
"Shall we tell her?"
Patty shook her head. "Not just now—I shouldn't dare. She believes in corporal punishment."
A few days later Priscilla received another note directed in the hand she had come to dread. She threw it into the waste-basket unopened; but, curiosity prevailing, she drew it out again and read it:
DEAR MISS POND: As I have been obliged to leave college on account of my health, I inclose my resignation to the German Club. I thank you very sincerely for your kindness to me this year, and shall always look back upon our friendship as one of the happiest memories of my college life.
Yours sincerely, KATE FERRIS.
When Patty came in she found Priscilla silently and grimly scratching a hole into the roll-book where Kate Ferris's name had been.
"Changed her mind again?" Patty asked pleasantly.
"She's left college," Priscilla snapped, "and don't you ever mention her name to me again."
Patty sighed sympathetically and remarked to the room in general: "It's sort of pathetic to have your whole college life summed up in a hole in the German Club archives. I can't help feeling sorry for her!"
A Story with Four Sequels
It was Saturday, and Patty had been working ever since breakfast, with a brief pause for luncheon, on a paper entitled "Shakspere, the Man." At four o'clock she laid down her pen, pushed her manuscript into the waste-basket, and faced her room-mate defiantly.
"What do I care about Shakspere, the man? He's been dead three hundred years."
Priscilla laughed unfeelingly. "What do I care about a frog's nervous system, for the matter of that? But I am writing an interesting monograph on it, just the same."
"Ah, I dare say you are making a valuable addition to the subject."
"It's quite as valuable as your addition to Shaksperiana."
Patty dropped a voluble sigh and turned to the window to note that it was raining dismally.
"Oh, hand it in," said Priscilla, comfortingly. "You've worked on it all day, and it's probably no worse than the most of your things."
"No sense to it," said Patty.
"They're used to that," laughed Priscilla.
"What are you laughing at, anyway?" Patty asked crossly. "I don't see anything to laugh at in this beastly place. Always having to do what you don't want to do when you most don't want to do it. Just the same, day after day: get up by bells, eat by bells, sleep by bells. I feel like some sort of a delinquent living in an asylum."
Priscilla treated this outburst with the silence it deserved, and Patty turned back to her perusal of the rain-soaked campus.
"I wish something would happen," she said discontentedly. "I think I'll put on a mackintosh and go out in search of adventure."
"Pneumonia will happen if you do."
"What business has it to be raining, anyway, when it ought to be snowing?"
As this was unanswerable, Priscilla returned to her frogs, and Patty drummed gloomily on the window-pane until a maid appeared with a card.
"A caller?" cried Patty. "A missionary! A rescuer! A deliverer! Heaven send it's for me!"
"Miss Pond," said Sadie, laying the card on the table.
Patty pounced upon it. "'Mr. Frederick K. Stanthrope.' Who's he, Pris?"
Priscilla wrinkled up her brows. "I don't know; I never heard of him. What do you suppose it can be?"
"An adventure—I know it's an adventure. Probably your uncle, that you never heard of, has just died in the South Sea Islands, and left you a fortune because you're his namesake; or else you're a countess by rights, and were stolen from your cradle in infancy, and he's the lawyer come to tell you about it. I think it might have happened to me, when I'm so bored to death! But hurry up and tell me about it, at least; a second-hand adventure's better than no adventure at all. Yes, your hair is all right; never mind looking in the glass." And Patty pushed her room-mate out of the door, and, sitting down at her desk again, quite cheerfully pulled her discarded paper out of the waste-basket and began re-reading it with evident approval.
Priscilla returned before she had finished. "He didn't ask for me at all," she announced. "He asked for Miss McKay."
"That junior with the hair," she explained a trifle vaguely.
"How disgusting!" cried Patty. "I had it all planned how I was going to live with you in your castle up in the Hartz Mountains, and now it turns out that Miss McKay is the countess, and I don't even know her. What did the man look like, and what did he do?"
"Well, he looked rather frightened, and didn't do anything but stammer. There were two men in the reception-room, and of course I picked out the wrong one and begged his pardon and asked if he were Mr. Stanthrope. He said no; his name was Wiggins. So then the only thing left for me to do was to beg the other one's pardon.
"He was sitting in that high-backed green chair, with his eyes glued to his shoes, and holding his hat and cane in front of him like breastworks, as if he were preparing to repel an attack. He didn't look very approachable, but I boldly accosted him and asked if he were Mr. Stanthrope. He stood up and stammered and blushed and looked as if he wanted to deny it, but finally acknowledged that he was, and then stood politely waiting for me to state my business! I explained, and he stammered some more, and finally got out that he had called to see Miss McKay, and that the maid must have made a mistake. He was quite cross about it, you know, and acted as if I had insulted him; and the other man—the horrible Wiggins one—laughed, and then looked out of the window and pretended he hadn't. I apologized,—though I couldn't for the life of me see what there was to apologize for,—and told him I would send the maid for Miss McKay, and backed out."
"Is that all?" Patty asked disappointedly. "If I couldn't have a better adventure than that, I shouldn't have any."
"But the funny thing is that when I told Sadie, she insisted that he had asked for me."
"Ha! The plot thickens, after all. What does it mean? Did he look like a detective, or merely a pickpocket?"
"He looked like a very ordinarily embarrassed young man."
Patty shook her head dejectedly. "There's a mystery somewhere, but I don't see that it affords much entertainment. I dare say that when Miss McKay came he told her he hadn't asked for her at all; he had asked for Miss Higginbotham. The only explanation I can think of is that he is insane, and there are so many insane people in the world that it isn't even interesting."
Patty recounted the story of Priscilla's caller at the dinner-table that night.
"I know the sequel," said Lucille Carter. "The other man, the Mr. Wiggins, is Bonnie Connaught's cousin; and he told her about some young man who came out in the car with him, and asked for Miss Pond at the door, and then all of a sudden seemed to change his mind, and went tearing down the corridor after the maid, yelling, 'Hi, there! Hi, there!' at the top of his voice; but he couldn't catch her, and when Miss Pond came he pretended he had asked for some one else."
"Is that all?" asked Patty. "I don't think it is much of a sequel. It just proves that there's a plot against Priscilla's life, and I already knew that. I intend to ask Miss McKay about him. I don't know her, except by sight, but in a case of life and death like this, I don't think it's necessary to wait for an introduction."
The next evening Patty announced: "Sequel number two! Mr. Frederick K. Stanthrope lives in New York, and is Miss McKay's brother's best friend. She has only met him once before, and doesn't know any of his past affiliations. But the queer thing is that he never mentioned to her anything about Priscilla. Shouldn't you naturally think he would have told her about such a funny mistake?
"In my opinion," Patty continued solemnly, "it was plainly premeditated. He is undoubtedly a villain in disguise, and he used his acquaintance with Miss McKay as a cloak to elude detection. My theory is this: He got Priscilla's name out of the catalogue, and came here intending to murder her for her jools; but when he saw how big she was he was scared and so abandoned his dastardly intent. Now if he had chosen me, my body would, at this moment, have been concealed behind the sofa, and my class-pin reposing in the murderer's pocket."
Patty shuddered. "Think what I escaped. And all the time I was grumbling because nothing ever happens here!"
A few days later she appeared at the table with a further announcement: "I have the pleasure of offering for your perusal, young ladies, the third and last sequel in the great Stanthrope-Pond-McKay mystery. And I hereby take the opportunity of apologizing to Mr. Stanthrope for my unworthy suspicions. He is not a burglar, nor a detective, nor a murderer, nor even a lawyer, but just a poor young man with a buried romance."
"How did you find out?"—in a chorus of voices.
"I just met Miss McKay in the hall, and she has been in New York, where her brother told her the particulars. It seems that three or four years ago Mr. Frederick K. Stanthrope was engaged to a girl here in college named Alice Pond—she is now Mrs. Hiram Brown, but that has nothing to do with the story.
"Being in town last Saturday on business, he decided to run out and call on Miss McKay, as he was such a friend of her brother's—and also for the sake of old times. He amused himself all the way out in the car by resurrecting his buried romance, and he kept getting more and more pensive with every mile. When he finally reached the door and handed his card to the maid, he abstractedly called for Miss Pond just as he used to do four years ago. He didn't realize at first what he had done. Then it came over him in a flash, but he couldn't catch Sadie. He knew, of course, that the other man had heard, and he sat there scared to death, trying to think of some plausible excuse, and momentarily expecting a strange Miss Pond to pop in and demand an explanation.
"Sure enough, the curtains parted, and a tall, beautiful, stately creature (I quote Miss McKay's brother) swept into the room, and, approaching the wrong man, asked him in haughty tones if he were Mr. Frederick K. Stanthrope. He very properly denied it, whereupon there was nothing for the right Mr. Stanthrope to do but stand up and acknowledge it like a man, which he did; but there he stuck. His imagination was numbed, paralyzed; so he turned it off on poor Sadie, and all the time he knew that the other man knew that he was lying. And that is all," Patty finished. "It's not much of a story, but such as it is, it's a blessing to have it concluded."
"Patty," called Priscilla, from the other end of the table, "have you been telling them that absurd story?"
"Why not?" asked Patty. "Having heard so many sequels, they naturally wanted to hear the last."
Priscilla laughed. "But yours doesn't happen to be the last. I know a still later one."
"Later than Patty's?" the table demanded.
"Yes, later than Patty's. It isn't really a sequel; it's just an appendix. I shouldn't tell you, only you'll find it out, so I might as well. Miss McKay has invited two men for the junior party, and both have accepted. As two men are hard to manage, she has (by request) asked me to take care of one of them—namely, Mr. Frederick K. Stanthrope."
Patty sighed. "I see a whole series of sequels stretching away into the future. It's worse than the Elsie Books!"
In Pursuit of Old English
"Hello, Patty! Have you read the bulletin-board this morning?" called Cathy Fair, as she caught up with Patty on the way home from a third-hour recitation.
"No," said Patty; "I think it's a bad habit. You see too many unpleasant things there."
"Well, there's certainly an unpleasant one to-day. Miss Skelling wishes the Old English class to be provided with writing materials this afternoon."
Patty stopped with a groan. "I think it's absolutely abominable to give an examination without a word of warning."
"Not an examination," quoted Cathy; "just a 'little test to see how much you know.'"
"I don't know a thing," wailed Patty—"not a blessed thing."
"Nonsense, Patty; you know more than any one else in the class."
"Bluff—it's all pure bluff. I come in strong on the literary criticism and the general discussions, and she never realizes that I don't know a word of the grammar."
"You've got two hours. You can cut your classes and review it up."
"Two hours!" said Patty, sadly. "I need two days. I've never learned it, I tell you. The Anglo-Saxon grammar is a thing no mortal can carry in his head, and I thought I might as well wait and learn it before examinations."
"I don't wish to appear unfeeling," laughed Cathy, "but I should say, my dear, that it serves you right."
"Oh, I dare say," said Patty. "You are as bad as Priscilla"; and she trailed gloomily homeward.
She found her friends reviewing biology and eating olives. "Have one?" asked Lucille Carter, who, provided with a hat-pin by way of fork, was presiding over the bottle for the moment.
"No, thanks," returned Patty, in the tone of one who has exhausted life and longs for death.
"What's the matter?" inquired Priscilla. "You don't mean to say that woman has given you another special topic?"
"Worse than that!" and Patty laid bare the tragedy.
A sympathetic silence followed; they realized that while she was, perhaps, not strictly deserving of sympathy, still her impending fate was of the kind that might overtake any one.
"You know, Pris," said Patty, miserably, "that I simply can't pass."
"No," said Priscilla, soothingly; "I don't believe you can."
"I shall flunk flat—absolutely flat. Miss Skelling will never have any confidence in me again, and will make me recite every bit of grammar for the rest of the semester."
"I should think you'd cut," ventured Georgie—that being, in her opinion, the most obvious method of escaping an examination.
"I can't. I just met Miss Skelling in the hall five minutes before the blow fell, and she knows I'm alive and able to be about; besides, the class meets again to-morrow morning, and I'd have to cram all night or cut that too."
"Why don't you go to Miss Skelling and frankly explain the situation," suggested Lucille the virtuous, "and ask her to let you off for a day or two? She would like you all the better for it."
"Will you listen to the guileless babe!" said Patty. "What is there to explain, may I ask? I can't very well tell her that I prefer not to learn the lessons as she gives them out, but think it easier to wait and cram them up at one fell swoop, just before examinations. That would ingratiate myself in her favor!"
"It's your own fault," said Priscilla.
Patty groaned. "I was just waiting to hear you say that! You always do."
"It's always true. Where are you going?" as Patty started for the door.
"I am going," said Patty, "to ask Mrs. Richards to give me a new room-mate: one who will understand and appreciate me, and sympathize with my afflictions."
Patty walked gloomily down the corridor, lost in meditation. Her way led past the door of the doctor's office, which was standing invitingly open. Three or four girls were sitting around the room, laughing and talking and waiting their turns. Patty glanced in, and a radiant smile suddenly lightened her face, but it was instantly replaced by a look of settled sadness. She walked in and dropped into an arm-chair with a sigh.
"What's the matter, Patty? You look as if you had melancholia."
Patty smiled apathetically. "Not quite so bad as that," she murmured, and leaned back and closed her eyes.
"Next," said the doctor from the doorway; but as she caught sight of Patty she walked over and shook her arm. "Is this Patty Wyatt? What is the matter with you, child?"
Patty opened her eyes with a start. "Nothing," she said; "I'm just a little tired."
"Come in here with me."
"It's not my turn," objected Patty.
"That makes no difference," returned the doctor.
Patty dropped limply into the consulting-chair.
"Let me see your tongue. Um-m—isn't coated very much. Your pulse seems regular, though possibly a trifle feverish. Have you been working hard?"
"I don't think I've been working any harder than usual," said Patty, truthfully.
"Sitting up late nights?"
Patty considered. "I was up rather late twice last week," she confessed.
"If you girls persist in studying until all hours of the night, I don't know what we doctors can do."
Patty did not think it necessary to explain that it was a Welsh-rabbit party on each occasion, so she merely sighed and looked out of the window.
"Is your appetite good?"
"Yes," said Patty, in a tone which belied the words; "it seems to be very good."
"Um-m," said the doctor.
"I'm just a little tired," pursued Patty, "but I think I shall be all right as soon as I get a chance to rest. Perhaps I need a tonic," she suggested.
"You'd better stay out of classes for a day or two and get thoroughly rested."
"Oh, no," said Patty, in evident perturbation. "Our room is so full of girls all the time that it's really more restful to go to classes; and, besides, I can't stay out just now."
"Why not?" demanded the doctor, suspiciously.
"Well," said Patty, a trifle reluctantly, "I have a good deal to do. I've got to cram for an examination, and—"
The word "cram" was to the doctor as a red rag to a bull. "Nonsense!" she ejaculated. "I know what I shall do with you. You are going right over to the infirmary for a few days—"
"Oh, doctor!" Patty pleaded, with tears in her eyes, "there's truly nothing the matter with me, and I've got to take that examination."
"What examination is it?"
"Old English—Miss Skelling."
"I will see Miss Skelling myself," said the doctor, "and explain that you cannot take the examination until you come out. And now," she added, making a note of Patty's case, "I will have you put in the convalescent ward, and we will try the rest cure for a few days, and feed you up on chicken-broth and egg-nog, and see if we can get that appetite back."
"Thank you," said Patty, with the resigned air of one who has given up struggling against the inevitable.
"I like to see you take an interest in your work," added the doctor, kindly; "but you must always remember, my dear, that health is the first consideration."
Patty returned to the study and executed an impromptu dance in the middle of the floor.
"What's the matter?" exclaimed Priscilla. "Are you crazy?"
"No," said Patty; "only ill." And she went into her bedroom and began slinging things into a dress-suit case.
Priscilla stood in the doorway and watched her in amazement. "Are you going to New York?" she asked.
"No," said Patty; "to the infirmary."
"Patty Wyatt, you're a wretched little hypocrite!"
"Not at all," said Patty, cheerfully. "I didn't ask to go, but the doctor simply insisted. I told her I had an examination, but she said it didn't make any difference; health must be the first consideration."
"What's in that bottle?" demanded Priscilla.
"That's for my appetite," said Patty, with a grin; "the doctor hopes to improve it. I didn't like to discourage her, but I don't much believe she can." She dropped an Old English grammar and a copy of "Beowulf" into her suit-case.
"They won't let you study," said Priscilla.
"I shall not ask them," said Patty. "Good-by. Tell the girls to drop in occasionally and see me in my incarceration. Visiting hour from five to six." She stuck her head in again. "If any one wants to send violets, I think they might cheer me up."
* * * * *
THE next afternoon Georgie and Priscilla presented themselves at the infirmary, and were met at the door by the austere figure of the head nurse. "I will see if Miss Wyatt is awake," she said dubiously, "but I am afraid you will excite her; she's to be kept very quiet."
"Oh, no; we'll do her good," remonstrated Georgie; and the two girls tiptoed in after the nurse.
The convalescent ward was a large, airy room, furnished in green and white, with four or five beds, each surrounded with brass poles and curtains. Patty was lying in one of the corner beds near a window, propped up on pillows, with her hair tumbled about her face, and a table beside her covered with flowers and glasses of medicine. This elaborate paraphernalia of sickness created a momentary illusion in the minds of the visitors. Priscilla ran to the bedside and dropped on her knees beside her invalid room-mate.
"Patty dear," she said anxiously, "how do you feel?"
A seraphic smile spread over Patty's face. "I've been able to take a little nourishment to-day," she said.
"Patty, you're a scandalous humbug! Who gave you those violets? 'With love, from Lady Clara Vere de Vere'—that blessed freshman!—and you've borrowed every drop of alcohol the poor child ever thought of owning. And whom are those roses from? Miss Skelling! Patty, you ought to be ashamed."
Patty had the grace to blush slightly. "I was a trifle embarrassed," she admitted; "but when I reflected upon how sorry she would have been to find out how little I knew, and how glad she will be to find out how much I know, my conscience was appeased."
"Have you been studying?" asked Georgie.
"Studying!" Patty lifted up the corner of her pillow and exhibited a blue book. "Two days more of this, and I shall be the chief authority in America on Anglo-Saxon roots."
"How do you manage it?"
"Oh," said Patty, "when the rest-hour begins I lie down and shut my eyes, and they tiptoe over and look at me, and whisper, 'She's asleep,' and softly draw the curtains around the bed; and I get out the book and put in two solid hours of irregular verbs, and am still sleeping when they come to look at me. They're perfectly astonished at the amount I sleep. I heard the nurse telling the doctor that she didn't believe I'd had any sleep for a month. And the worst of it is," she added, "that I am tired, whether you believe it or not, and I should just love to stay over here and sleep all day if I weren't so beastly conscientious about that old grammar."
"Poor Patty!" laughed Georgie. "She will be imposing on herself next, as well as on the whole college."
Friday morning Patty returned to the world.
"How's Old English?" inquired Priscilla.
"Very well, thank you. It was something of a cram, but I think I know that grammar by heart, from the preface to the index."
"You're back in all your other work. Do you think it paid?"
"That remains to be seen," laughed Patty.
She knocked on Miss Skelling's door, and, after the first polite greetings, stated her errand: "I should like, if it is convenient for you, to take the examination I missed."
"Do you feel able to take it to-day?"
"I feel much better able to take it to-day than I did on Tuesday."
Miss Skelling smiled kindly. "You have done very good work in Old English this semester, Miss Wyatt, and I should not ask you to take the examination at all if I thought it would be fair to the rest of the class."
"Fair to the rest of the class?" Patty looked a trifle blank; she had not considered this aspect of the question, and a slow red flush crept over her face. She hesitated a moment, and rose uncertainly. "When it comes to that, Miss Skelling," she confessed, "I'm afraid it wouldn't be quite fair to the rest of the class for me to take it."
Miss Skelling did not understand. "But, Miss Wyatt," she expostulated in a puzzled tone, "it was not difficult. I am sure you could pass."
Patty smiled. "I am sure I could, Miss Skelling. I don't believe you could ask me a question that I couldn't answer. But the point is that it's all learned since Tuesday. The doctor was laboring under a little delusion—very natural under the circumstances—when she sent me to the infirmary, and I spent my time there studying."
"But, Miss Wyatt, this is very unusual. I shall not know how to mark you," Miss Skelling murmured in some distress.
"Oh, mark me zero," said Patty, cheerfully. "It doesn't matter in the least—I know such a lot that I'll get through on the finals. Good-by; I'm sorry to have troubled you." And she closed the door and turned thoughtfully homeward.
"Did it pay?" asked Priscilla.
Patty laughed and murmured softly:
"'The King of France rode up the hill with full ten thousand men; The King of France did gain the top, and then rode down again.'"
"What are you talking about?" demanded Priscilla.
"Old English," said Patty, as she sat down at her desk and commenced on the three days' work she had missed.
The Deceased Robert
It was ten o'clock, and Patty, having just read her ethics over for the third time without comprehending it, had announced sleepily, "I shall have to be good by inspiration; I can't seem to grasp the rule," when a knock sounded on the door and a maid appeared with the announcement, "Mrs. Richards wishes to see Miss Wyatt."
"At this hour!" Patty cried in dismay. "It must be something serious. Think, Priscilla. What have I been doing lately that would outrage the warden sufficiently to call me up at ten o'clock? You don't suppose I'm going to be suspended or rusticated or expelled or anything like that, do you? I honestly can't think of a thing I've done."
"It's a telegram," the maid said sympathetically.
"A telegram?" Patty's face turned pale, and she left the room without a word.
Priscilla and Georgie sat on the couch and looked at each other with troubled faces. All ordinary telegrams came directly to the students. They knew that something serious must have happened to have it sent to the warden. Georgie got up and walked around the room uncertainly.
"Shall I go away, Pris?" she asked. "I suppose Patty would rather be alone if anything has happened. But if she's going home and has to pack her trunk to-night, come and tell me and I will come down and help."
They stood at the door a few moments talking in low tones, and as Georgie started to turn away, Patty's step suddenly sounded in the corridor. She came in with a queer smile on her lips, and sat down on the couch.
"The warden has certainly reduced the matter of scaring people to a fine art," she said. "I was never more frightened in my life. I thought that the least that had happened was an earthquake which had engulfed the entire family."
"What was the matter?" Georgie and Priscilla asked in a breath.
Patty spread out a crumpled telegram on her knee, and the girls read it over her shoulder:
Robert died of an overdose of chloroform at ten this morning. Funeral to-morrow.
THOMAS M. WYATT.
"Thomas M. Wyatt," said Patty, grimly, "is my small brother Tommy, and Robert is short for Bobby Shafto, which was the name of Tommy's bull pup, the homeliest and worst-tempered dog that was ever received into the bosom of a respectable family."
"But why in the world did he telegraph?"
"It's a joke," said Patty, shaking her head dejectedly. "Joking runs in the family, and we've all inherited the tendency. One time my father—but, as my friend Kipling says, that's another story. This dog, you see—this Robert Shafto—has cast a shadow over my vacations for more than a year. He killed my kitten, and ate my Venetian lace collar—it didn't even give him indigestion. He went out and wallowed in the rain and mud and came in and slept on my bed. He stole the beefsteak for breakfast and the rubbers and door-mats for blocks around. Property on the street appreciably declined, for prospective purchasers refused to purchase so long as Tommy Wyatt kept a dog. Robert was threatened with death time and again, but Tommy always managed to conceal him from impending justice until the trouble had blown over. But this time I suppose he committed some supreme enormity—probably chewed up the baby or one of my father's Persian rugs, or something like that. And Tommy, knowing how I detested the beast, evidently thought it would be a good joke to telegraph, though wherein lies the point I can't make out."
"Ah, I see," said Georgie; "and Mrs. Richards thought that Robert was a relation. What did she say?"
"She said, 'Come in, Patty dear,' when I knocked on the door. Usually when I have had the honor of being received by her she has somewhat frigidly called me 'Miss Wyatt.' I opened the door with my knees shaking when I heard that 'Patty dear,' and she took my hand and said, 'I am sorry to have to tell you that I have heard bad news from your brother.'
"'Tommy?' I gasped.
"I was dazed. I racked my brains, but I couldn't remember any brother Robert.
"'He is very ill,' she went on. 'Yes, I must tell you the truth, Patty; poor little Robert passed away this morning'; and she laid the telegram before me. Then, when it flashed over me what it meant, I was so relieved that I put my head down on her desk and simply laughed till I cried; and she thought I was crying all the time, and kept patting my head and quoting Psalms. Well, then I didn't dare to tell her, after she had expended all that sympathy; so as soon as I could stop laughing (which wasn't very soon, for I had got considerable momentum) I raised my head and told her—trying to be truthful and at the same time not hurt her feelings—that Robert was not a brother, but just a sort of friend. And, do you know, she immediately jumped to the conclusion that he was a fiance, and began stroking my hair and murmuring that it was sometimes harder to lose friends than relatives, but that I was still young, and I must not let it blast my life, and that maybe in the future when time had dulled the pain—and then, remembering that it wouldn't do to advise me to adopt a second fiance before I had buried my first, she stopped suddenly and asked if I wished to go home to the funeral.
"I told her no, that I didn't think it would be best; and she said perhaps not if it hadn't been announced, and she kissed me and told me she was glad to see me bearing up so bravely."
"Patty!" Priscilla exclaimed in horror, "it's dreadful. How could you let her think it?"
"How could I help it?" Patty demanded indignantly. "What with being frightened into hysterics first, and then having a strange fiance thrust at me without a moment's notice, I think that I carried off the situation with rare delicacy and finesse. Do you think it would have been tactful to tell her it was nothing but a bull pup she was quoting Scripture about?"
"I don't see how it was exactly your fault," Georgie acknowledged.
"Thank you," said Patty. "If you had a brother like Tommy Wyatt you would know how to sympathize with me. I suppose I ought to be grateful to know that the dog is dead, but I should like to have had the news broken a little less gently."
"Patty," exclaimed Priscilla, as a sudden thought struck her, "do you happen to remember that you are on the reception committee of the Dramatic Club cotillion to-morrow night? What will Mrs. Richards think when she sees you in evening dress, receiving at a party, on the very day your fiance has been buried?"
"I wonder?" said Patty, doubtfully. "Do you really think I ought to stay away? After working like a little buzz-saw making tissue-paper favors for the thing, I hate to have to miss it just because my brother's bull pup, that I never even liked, is dead.
"I'll go," she added, brightening, "and receive the guests with a forced and mechanical smile; and every time I feel the warden's eyes upon me I shall with difficulty choke back the tears, and she will say to herself:
"'Brave girl! How nobly she is struggling to present a composed face to the world! None would dream, to look at that seemingly radiant creature, that, while she is outwardly so gay, she is in reality concealing a great sorrow which is gnawing at her very vitals.'"
Patty the Comforter
It was on the eve of the mid-year examinations, and a gloom had fallen over the college. The conscientious ones who had worked all the year were working harder than ever, and the frivolous ones who had played all the year were working with a desperate frenzy calculated to render their minds a blank when the crucial hour should have arrived. But Patty was not working. It was a canon of her college philosophy, gained by three and a half years' of personal experience, that the day before examinations is not the time to begin to study. One has impressed the instructor with one's intelligent interest in the subject, or one has not, and the result is as sure as if the marks were already down in black and white in the college archives. And so Patty, who at least lived up to her lights, was, with the exception of a few points which she intended to learn for this period only, conscientiously neglecting the "judicious review" recommended by the faculty.
Her friends, however, who, though perhaps equally philosophic, were less consistent, were subjecting themselves to what was known as a "regular freshman cram"; and as no one had any time to talk to Patty, or to make anything to eat, she found it an unprofitable period. Her own room-mate even drove her from the study because she laughed out loud over the book she was reading; and, an exile, she wandered around to the studies of her friends, and was confronted by an "engaged" on every door. She was sitting on a window-sill in the corridor, pondering on the general barrenness of things, when she suddenly remembered her friends the freshmen in study 321. She had not visited them for some time, and freshmen are usually interesting at this period. She accordingly turned down the corridor that led to 321, and found a "POSITIVELY ENGAGED TO EVERY ONE!!" in letters three inches high, across the door. This promised a richness of entertainment within, and Patty heaved a disappointed sigh loud enough to carry through the transom.
The turning of leaves and rustling of paper ceased; evidently they were listening, but they gave no sign. Patty wrote a note on the door-block with reverberating punctuation-points, and then retired noisily, and tiptoed back a moment later, and leaned against the wall. Curiosity prevailed; the door opened, and a face wearing a hunted look peered out.