But Mrs. Dixon had just stepped over to a neighbor’s. Patricia tried to put her charge down, but he stoutly refused to be put.
“You’ll be late, Patricia,” Nell warned, coming up.
“Danny won’t let me leave him; and I don’t know where his mother is,” Patricia almost wailed.
“Mercy, put him down and come on!” Nell advised. “He’s a little nuisance.”
“You don’t know Danny’s powers for hanging on,” Patricia said; “besides, he did hurt himself.”
Five minutes after school had opened Patricia made her appearance.
“Patricia,” Miss Carrol said, “I had begun to hope that you were not going to end the week as you began it.”
Patricia took her place without answering.
Miss Kirby and Mrs. Cory had gone in town that afternoon, not to return until the late train, and it so happened that the doctor did not come home to supper; so there was no one but Sarah to notice the depths into which Patricia was plunged. For Patricia never did anything by halves.
“Is yo’ sick, honey?” Sarah asked anxiously, when Patricia refused a second piece of chocolate cake.
Patricia shook her head. “I’m just disgusted with life.”
“Land sakes!” Sarah exclaimed; “and only this noon looked like yo’ was walkin’ on air!”
Patricia went to bed early that night; even Custard’s powers to comfort had proved inadequate. To-morrow stretched ahead a long, blank, dreary waste.
She was a little late to breakfast the next morning; as she slipped into place, after kissing him good-morning, the doctor glanced at her rather closely. She was a most subdued Patricia.
And then grandmother came in, also a little late. “Patricia,” she said, almost at once, “after breakfast I want you to run over and ask Mrs. Hardy if Nell may go in town with you and me to-day—to the circus.”
Patricia caught her breath—so that was the “special reason!”
Then she pushed her chair back. “I—can’t go!” she cried; and was halfway upstairs before any of the others could speak.
Mrs. Cory turned to Miss Kirby. “What can be the matter?”
Miss Kirby shook her head. “Do you know what it means, Patrick?”
The doctor looked guilty. “I am afraid it means—that Patricia has been late to school again.”
“But I thought,” grandmother began, then stopped; as soon as she had finished her breakfast she went up to Patricia’s room.
Coming down a few moments after, she went straight to the office.
“Patrick,” she said, “I have been finding out how Patricia came to be late; and remember, please, that Patricia herself has given me only the barest facts, with no thought of making out a case for herself, but reading between the lines—” and then the doctor was given the opportunity to also read between the lines.
He listened gravely. “I know,” he said at last, “it was a very Patricia-like action; still I am afraid I must stand by my word.”