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When Patty Went to College

V

The Elusive Kate Ferris



HE 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 Fräulein 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.

Kate Ferris.

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 Fräulein 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.

Kate Ferris.

Priscilla tossed the note to Patty with a groan, and getting out the roll-book, she turned to the F's and reënrolled 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 Fräulein 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 Fräulein Scherin, but Fräulein 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 reëntertaining 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!"
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