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Just Patty

Jean Webster

  Table of Contents

  Just Patty, by Jean Webster

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  The Project Gutenberg EBook of Just Patty, by Jean Webster This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at

  Title: Just Patty

  Author: Jean Webster

  Illustrator: C. M. Relyea

  Release Date: April 12, 2007 [EBook #21048]

  Language: English

  Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


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  Produced by Bruce Albrecht, Emmy and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at

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  [Illustration: "I want a new room-mate"]

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  Just Patty

  By Jean Webster

  Author of When Patty Went to College Daddy Long Legs, Etc.

  Illustrated by C. M. Relyea




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  Copyright, 1911, by THE CENTURY CO. Copyright, 1911, by THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY

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  Published, October, 1911

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  List of Illustrations

  "I want a new room-mate!" Frontispiece


  Patty just had time to snatch the box 88

  Patty meanwhile addressed her attention to Harriet's hair 174

  Evalina sat up and clutched the bedclothes about her neck 286

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  Just Patty

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  "It's a shame!" said Priscilla.

  "It's an outrage!" said Conny.

  "It's an insult!" said Patty.

  "To separate us now after we've been together three years--"

  "And it isn't as though we were awfully bad last year. Lots of girls had more demerits."

  "Only our badness was sort of conspicuous," Patty admitted.

  "But we were very good the last three weeks," reminded Conny.

  "And you should see my new room-mate!" wailed Priscilla.

  "She can't be any worse than Irene McCullough."

  "She is!--Her father's a missionary, and she was brought up in China. Her name is Keren-happuch Hersey, after Job's youngest daughter. And she doesn't think it's funny!"

  "Irene," said Conny gloomily, "gained twenty pounds through the summer. She weighs--"

  "But you should see mine!" cried Patty, in exasperation. "Her name is Mae Mertelle Van Arsdale."

  "Keren studies every second; and expects me to walk on tiptoe so she can concentrate."

  "You should hear Mae Mertelle talk! She said her father was a financier, and wanted to know what mine was. I told her he was a reform judge, and that he spent his time putting financiers in prison. She says I'm an impertinent child," Patty grinned feebly.

  "How old is she?"

  "She's nineteen, and has been proposed to twice."

  "Mercy! Whatever made her choose St. Ursula's?"

  "Her father and mother ran away and got married when they were nineteen, and they're afraid she inherited the tendency. So they picked out a good, strict, church school. Mae doesn't know how she's ever going to fix her hair without a maid. She's awfully superstitious about moonstones. She never wears anything but silk stockings and she can't stand hash. I'll have to teach her how to make a bed. She always crosses on the White Star Line."

  Patty scattered these details at random. The others listened sympathetically, and added a few of their own troubles.

  "Irene weighs a hundred and fifty-nine pounds and six ounces, not counting her clothes," said Conny. "She brought two trunks loaded with candy. She has it hidden all over the room. The last sound I hear at night, is Irene crunching chocolates--and the first sound in the morning. She never says anything; she simply chews. It's like rooming with a cow. And I have a sweet collection of neighbors! Kid McCoy's across the hall, and she makes more noise than half-a-dozen cowboys. There's a new French girl next door--you know, the pretty little one with the two black braids."

  "She looks rather desirable," said Patty.

  "She might be if she could talk, but she only knows about fifty words. Harriet Gladden's rooming with her, as limp and mournful as an oyster, and Evalina Smith's at the end of the corridor. You know what a perfect idiot Evalina is."

  "Oh, it's beastly!" they agreed.

  "Lordy's to blame," said Conny. "The Dowager never would have separated us if she hadn't interfered."

  "And I've got her!" wailed Patty. "You two have Mam'selle and Waddams, and they're nice, sweet, unsuspicious lambs; but the girls in the East Wing simply can't sneeze but Lordy--"

  "Sh!" Conny warned. "Here she comes."

  The Latin teacher, in passing, paused on the threshold. Conny disentangled herself from the mixture of clothes and books and sofa cushions that littered the bed, and politely rose to her feet. Patty slid down from the white iron foot-rail, and Priscilla descended from the top of the trunk.

  "Ladies don't perch about on the furniture."

  "No, Miss Lord," they murmured in unison, gazing back from three pairs of wide, uplifted eyes. They knew, from gleeful past experience, that nothing so annoyed her as smiling acquiescence.

  Miss Lord's eyes critically studied the room. Patty was still in traveling dress.

  "Put on your uniform, Patty, and finish unpacking. The trunks go down to-morrow morning."

  "Yes, Miss Lord."

  "Priscilla and Constance, why aren't you out of doors with the other girls, enjoying this beautiful autumn weather?"

  "But we haven't seen Patty for such a long time, and now that we are separated--" commenced Conny, with a pathetic droop of her mouth.

  "I trust that your lessons will benefit by the change. You, Patty and Priscilla, are going to college, and should realize the necessity of being prepared. Upon the thorough foundation that you lay here depends your success for the next four years--for your whole lives, one might say. Patty is weak in mathematics and Priscilla in Latin. Constance could improve her French. Let us see what you can do when you really try."

  She divided a curt nod between the three and withdrew.

  "We are happy in our work and we dearly love our teachers," chanted Patty, with ironical emphasis, as she rummaged out a blue skirt and middy blouse with "St. U." in gold upon the sleeve.

  While she was dressing, Priscilla and Conny set about transferring the contents of her trunk to her bureau, in whatever order the articles presented themselves--but with a carefully folded top layer. The overworked young teacher, who performed the ungrateful task of inspecting sixty-four bureaus and sixty-four closets every Saturday morning, was happily of an unsuspicious nature. She did not penetrate below the crust.

  "Lordy needn't make such a fuss over my standing," said Priscilla, frowning over an armful of clothes.
"I passed everything except Latin."

  "Take care, Pris! You're walking on my new dancing dress," cried Patty, as her head emerged from the neck of the blouse.

  Priscilla automatically stepped off a mass of blue chiffon, and resumed her plaint.

  "If they think sticking me in with Job's youngest daughter is going to improve my prose composition--"

  "I simply can't study till they take Irene McCullough out of my room," Conny echoed. "She's just like a lump of sticky dough."

  "Wait till you get acquainted with Mae Mertelle!" Patty sat on the floor in the midst of the chaos, and gazed up at the other two with wide, solemn eyes. "She brought five evening gowns cut low, and all her shoes have French heels. And she laces--my dears! She just holds in her breath and pulls. But that isn't the worst." She lowered her voice to a confidential whisper. "She's got some red stuff in a bottle. She says it's for her finger nails, but I saw her putting it on her face."

  "Oh!--not really?" in a horrified whisper from Conny and Priscilla.

  Patty shut her lips and nodded.

  "Isn't it dreadful?"

  "Awful!" Conny shuddered.

  "I say, let's mutiny!" cried Priscilla. "Let's make the Dowager give us back our old rooms in Paradise Alley."

  "But how?" inquired Patty, two parallel wrinkles appearing on her forehead.

  "Tell her that unless she does, we won't stay."

  "That would be sensible!" Patty jeered. "She'd ring the bell and order Martin to hitch up the hearse and drive us to the station for the six-thirty train. I should think you'd know by this time that you can't bluff the Dowager."

  "There's no use threatening," Conny agreed. "We must appeal to her feeling of--of--"

  "Affection," said Patty.

  Conny stretched out a hand and brought her up standing.

  "Come on, Patty, you're good at talking. We'll go down now while our courage is up.--Are your hands clean?"

  The three staunchly approached the door of Mrs. Trent's private study.

  "I'll use diplomacy," Patty whispered, as she turned the knob in response to the summons from within. "You people nod your heads at everything I say."

  Patty did use all the diplomacy at her command. Having dwelt touchingly upon their long friendship, and their sorrow at being separated, she passed lightly to the matter of their new room-mates.

  "They are doubtless very nice girls," she ended politely, "only, you see, Mrs. Trent, they don't match us; and it is extremely hard to concentrate one's mind upon lessons, unless one has a congenial room-mate."

  Patty's steady, serious gaze suggested that lessons were the end of her existence. A brief smile flitted over the Dowager's face, but the next instant she was grave again.

  "It is very necessary that we study this year," Patty added. "Priscilla and I are going to college, and we realize the necessity of being prepared. Upon the thorough foundation that we lay here, depends our success for the next four years--for our whole lives you might say."

  Conny jogged her elbow warningly. It was too patently a crib from Miss Lord.

  "And besides," Patty added hastily, "all my things are blue, and Mae has a purple screen and a yellow sofa cushion."

  "That is awkward," the Dowager admitted.

  "We are used to living in Paradise Al--I mean, the West Wing--and we shall--er--miss the sunsets."

  The Dowager allowed an anxious silence to follow, while she thoughtfully tapped the desk with her lorgnette. The three studied her face with speculative eyes. It was a mask they could not penetrate.

  "The present arrangement is more or less temporary," she commenced in equable tones. "I may find it expedient to make some changes, and I may not. We have an unusual number of new girls this year; and instead of putting them together, it has seemed wisest to mix them with the old girls. You three have been with us a long time. You know the traditions of the school. Therefore--" The Dowager smiled, a smile partially tinged with amusement--"I am sending you as missionaries among the newcomers. I wish you to make your influence felt."

  Patty straightened her back and stared.

  "Our influence?"

  "Your new room-mate," Mrs. Trent continued imperturbably, "is too grown-up for her years. She has lived in fashionable hotels, and under such conditions, it is inevitable that a girl should become somewhat affected. See if you cannot arouse in Mae an interest in girlish sports.

  "And you, Constance, are rooming with Irene McCullough. She is, as you know, an only child, and I fear has been a trifle spoiled. It would please me if you could waken her to a higher regard for the spiritual side of life, and less care for material things."

  "I--I'll try," Conny stammered, dazed at so suddenly finding herself cast in the unfamiliar rĂ´le of moral reformer.

  "And you have next to you the little French girl, Aurelie Deraismes. I should be pleased, Constance, if you would assume an oversight of her school career. She can help you to a more idiomatic knowledge of French--and you can do the same for her in English.

  "You, Priscilla, are rooming with--" She adjusted her lorgnette and consulted a large chart.--"Ah, yes, Keren Hersey, a very unusual girl. You two will find many subjects of mutual interest. The daughter of a naval officer should have much in common with the daughter of a missionary. Keren bids fair to become an earnest student--almost, if such a thing were possible, too earnest. She has never had any girl companions, and knows nothing of the give and take of school life. She can teach you, Priscilla, to be more studious, and you can teach her to be more, shall I say, flexible?"

  "Yes, Mrs. Trent," Priscilla murmured.

  "And so," the Dowager finished, "I am sending you out in my place, as moral reformers. I want the older girls to set an example to the newcomers. I wish to have the real government of the school a strong, healthy Public Opinion. You three exert a great deal of influence. See what you can do in the directions I have indicated--and in others that may occur to you as you mix with your companions. I have watched you carefully for three years, and in your fundamental good sense, I have the greatest confidence."

  She nodded dismissal, and the three found themselves in the hall again. They looked at one another for a moment of blank silence.

  "Moral reformers!" Conny gasped.

  "I see through the Dowager," said Patty, "She thinks she's found a new method of managing us."

  "But I don't see that we're getting back to Paradise Alley," Priscilla complained.

  Patty's eyes suddenly brightened. She seized them each by an elbow and shoved them into the empty schoolroom.

  "We'll do it!"

  "Do what?" asked Conny.

  "Pitch right in and reform the school. If we just keep at it--steady--you'll see! We'll be back in Paradise Alley at the end of two weeks."

  "Um," said Priscilla, thoughtfully. "I believe we might."

  "We'll commence with Irene," said Conny, her mind eagerly jumping to details, "and make her lose that twenty pounds. That's what the Dowager meant when she said she wanted her less material."

  "We'll have her thin in no time," Patty nodded energetically. "And we'll give Mae Mertelle a dose of bubbling girlishness."

  "And Keren," interposed Priscilla, "we'll teach her to become frivolous and neglect her lessons."

  "But we won't just confine ourselves to those three," said Conny. "The Dowager said to make our influence felt over the whole school."

  "Oh, yes!" Patty agreed, rising to enthusiasm as she called the school roll. "Kid McCoy uses too much slang. We'll teach her manners. Rosalie doesn't like to study. We'll pour her full of algebra and Latin. Harriet Gladden's a jelly fish, Mary Deskam's an awful little liar, Evalina Smith's a silly goose, Nancy Lee's a telltale--"

  "When you stop to think about it, there's something the matter with everybody," said Conny.

  "Except us," amended Priscilla.

  "Y--yes," Patty agreed in thoughtful retrospection, "I can't think of a thing the matter with us--I don't wonder they chose us to head the reform!"

p; Conny slid to her feet, a bundle of energy.

  "Come on! We'll join our little playmates and begin the good work--Hooray for the great Reform Party!"

  They scrambled out of the open window, in a fashion foreign to the dictates of Thursday evening manner class. Crowds of girls in blue middy blouses were gathered in groups about the recreation ground. The three paused to reconnoiter.

  "There's Irene, still chewing." Conny nodded toward a comfortable bench set in the shade by the tennis courts.

  "Let's have a circus," Patty proposed. "We'll make Irene and Mae Mertelle roll hoops around the oval. That will kill 'em both with one stone--Irene will get thin, and Mae Mertelle girlish."

  Hoop-rolling was a speciality of St. Ursula's. The gymnasium instructor believed in teaching girls to run. Eleven times around the oval constituted a mile, and a mile of hoop-rolling freed one for the day from dumb-bells and Indian clubs. The three dived into the cellar, and returned with hoops as tall as themselves. Patty assumed command of the campaign and issued her orders.

  "Conny, you take a walk with Keren and shock her as much as possible; we must break her of being precise. And Pris, you take charge of Mae Mertelle. Don't let her put on any grown-up airs. If she tells you she's been proposed to twice, tell her you've been proposed to so many times that you've lost count. Keep her snubbed all the time. I'll be elephant trainer and start Irene running; she'll be a graceful gazelle by the time I finish."

  They parted on their several missions. St. Ursula's peace had ended. She was in the throes of reform.

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  On Friday evening two weeks later, an unofficial faculty meeting was convened in the Dowager's study. "Lights-out" had rung five minutes before, and three harried teachers, relieved of duty for nine blessed hours while their little charges slept, were discussing their troubles with their chief.

  "But just what have they done?" inquired Mrs. Trent, in tones of judicial calm, as she vainly tried to stop the flood of interjections.

  "It is difficult to put one's finger on the precise facts," Miss Wadsworth quavered. "They have not broken any rules so far as I can discover, but they have--er--created an atmosphere--"