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When Patty Went to College

II

An Early Fright



'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.

"Broken anything?"

"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 alumnæ."

"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.

"Why not?"

"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."

"Why not?"

"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.

"Nothing."

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 envelope 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."

"Raoul."

"There will not," observed Patty, "be a next time."
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