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When Patty Went to College

VII

In Pursuit of Old English



ELLO, 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.

What's the matter, Patty?

"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.
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