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   Chapter 1 PAT’S CHANCE

The Mystery of Arnold Hall By Helen M. Persons Characters: 12466

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"Will you go, Patricia?" called Mrs. Randall from the living room, one cool evening late in August, as the doorbell rang imperatively. "I'm starting a fire in the grate."

From the dining room across the hall, where she had been putting away the last of the supper dishes, hurried a tall slender girl, whose short wavy yellow hair and big brown eyes were set off to perfection by a green jersey dress. Expecting to see one of the neighbors when the door was opened, she was startled into an involuntary gasp as a messenger thrust forward a special delivery letter, inquiring curtly-"Miss Patricia Randall?"

"Y-es."

"Sign here."

Patricia signed his book, closed the door, and walked slowly into the living room staring down at the unexpected missive in her hand.

"What is it, Pat?" inquired her mother, glancing up from the hearth rug where she knelt trying to coax a blaze from a bed of charcoal and paper.

"A special delivery letter-for me."

"For you?" repeated Mrs. Randall in surprise. "From whom?"

"I don't know," replied her daughter, frowning in a puzzled fashion.

"Well, open it and find out. Don't stand staring at it like that," urged her mother briskly.

Patricia sank into a low tapestry chair beside the fireplace and tore open the envelope. As she drew out the single sheet it contained, a slip dropped from it onto her lap. Still holding the folded letter she picked up the slip and exclaimed:

"A cashier's check for a thousand dollars!"

"Pat!" cried Mrs. Randall, reaching for the yellow paper to read it for herself. "Look at the letter, quick, and see who sent it!"

"It's only a line. 'For Patricia Randall to spend on a year at Granard College.' Oh-why-Mums!"

Patricia flung herself on her mother so suddenly that Mrs. Randall lost her balance, and the two fell in a heap on the rug.

"Mary! Patricia!" ejaculated a horrified masculine voice from the doorway. "What in the world-"

"Oh, Dad!" cried the girl, springing up and giving a helping hand to her mother. With scarcely more effort than that of her daughter Mrs. Randall regained her feet, and they stood facing Mr. Randall's astonished gaze.

"Just look at this!" Patricia thrust the magic papers into his hand. "Isn't it marvelous?"

Mr. Randall read the brief message, turned the check over and over as if to discover its sender by inspecting it from all sides, and then looked inquiringly at his wife and daughter.

"Is this a joke of some kind?"

"Joke!" retorted Patricia in disgust. "I should say not! A messenger just brought it, special delivery."

"Strange, very strange," commented her father, shaking his head. "Do you know anything about it, Mary?" addressing his wife, with a suspicious look.

"I most certainly do not. Do you?"

"You ought to know that I don't. Where would I get that much money? Didn't we send Pat here to Brentwood College last year because we couldn't afford to send her away?"

"Keep your shirt on, Dad!" laughed Patricia. "Keep your shirt on, and say I may go."

"I-I don't know what to say," replied the puzzled man, sinking heavily into his favorite chair, and pulling his pipe out of his pocket.

"Do you suppose," began Patricia, perching on the arm of her father's chair, "that Aunt Betsy could have gotten big-hearted and sent it?"

"Pat!" cried her mother derisively. "Of course not. She has all she can do to keep Ted in college."

"Be rather nice for me, having Ted at Granard," mused Patricia, recalling her cousin's beguiling ways and good looks.

"And having Aunt Betsy there to keep an eye on both of you," added her mother.

"Some eye! She'll probably never know I'm there," laughed Patricia. "Darling Ted takes up all of her time and attention."

"You two women," remarked Mr. Randall peevishly, "seem to have this affair all settled."

"Well, you see, darling, we felt quite sure you would let me go," laughed Patricia, ruffling up his hair. "You're going to, aren't you?" bending down to look pleadingly into his eyes. "You know I've longed to go out of town to college where I could live in a dorm. Not that I don't like living at home, but-"

"We understand," interrupted her mother; "you need not be apologetic."

"I wish we knew who sent the money, though," said Patricia, frowning earnestly. "It must be somebody who knows all about us, but I can't think of a soul who could or would do it."

"I shall investigate, of course," began her father, after some thought; "but if nothing can be found out about the donor of this wonderful gift, it seems to me that since the money has been sent to you for a special purpose, and sent in such a manner, the only course open to us is to use it as stipulated, and not make any further effort to discover its sender."

"Oh, but, Dad! It's so tantalizing," wailed his daughter.

"I know; but, Patricia, when you have a secret, you don't like to have anyone try to guess it, do you?"

"N-o."

"This is the same thing. Just do your best to be worthy of such a generous gift and wait for its sender to reveal himself when he chooses."

"Your father is quite right, Pat," agreed Mrs. Randall; "and I'd like to add one more suggestion: that you do not discuss the matter with anyone else but us. It's romantic, and your inclination will be to let your new companions in on the secret, but I think you will be wise if you keep it to yourself; unless, of course, some unusual circumstance arises."

Patricia thought soberly for a few minutes, then said with a sigh, "I suppose you're right, Mother."

"Do you think you'll have any trouble transferring your credits and getting into the Sophomore class?" asked her father presently, after another long pause, while each was busy with his own thoughts.

"I don't think so. I'll go to see the Dean the first thing tomorrow morning, and I'll have to write for a room-"

"And we'll have to shop and sew," added Mrs. Randall, almost as eagerly as her daughter.

After Pat had gone to bed to lie awake anticipating all kinds of unknown adventures, Mr. and Mrs. Randall had a long serious talk over the dying fire.

"Then you feel satisfied to let her go?" inquired Mrs. Randall anxiously as they finally rose to go upstai

rs.

"I don't see how we can do any different. And who knows what this opportunity may mean to Pat?"

"If I could only be sure that everything was all right, and that no harm would come to the child," sighed Mrs. Randall, running her fingers through her hair, a habit when troubled over anything.

"Now, Mary, what harm could come to her? She'll be living with lots of other students under the direct supervision of the house chaperon and the Dean; and Betsy is right near the college. But of course if you don't want her to go-"

"Oh, I do-at least I haven't the heart to deprive her of the fulfillment of one of her dreams."

Mr. Randall locked the front door, put out the lights, and followed his wife up the long stairway. At the door of their room Mrs. Randall paused, grasped his arm and whispered cautiously, with an eye on Pat's door, "I'm willing to give Pats her chance, but, just the same, John Randall, I wish she were going back to Brentwood. I have a presentiment that-"

"Oh, you and your presentiments!" ejaculated Mr. Randall, pushing her gently but firmly ahead of him into their room. "Nonsense!"

The weeks that followed were very exciting ones for Patricia. Her days were filled to the brim with shopping, sewing, making last calls on old friends, and finally, packing. So many evenings were taken up with farewell parties that Mr. Randall complained that he never saw his daughter any more; that, as far as her parents were concerned, she might as well have gone to college the night she received the money.

"But, dear," remonstrated his wife soothingly, "all her friends want to entertain for her, and she can't very well refuse any of their invitations."

"Where is she tonight?" grumbled Mr. Randall.

"Carolyn is giving a dinner dance at the Club. Poor Carolyn! She's quite disturbed over having Pat go away. They have been such pals ever since they were little."

"Pat might ask Carolyn down for a week end some time this year. She and her mother have been more than good to our girl. Besides, I don't want Pat to be so taken up with the new life and new friends that she will cast aside all her old ties."

"I don't think she will, John. Of course just at first her whole mind will be on Granard, but after the novelty wears off-"

"I've been thinking," interrupted her husband, who evidently had his mind on something else, "that it would be nice for Pats to have a little car-"

"John! How 'galumptious' as Pat says. Could we manage it?"

"I think so. We'll have the money we expected to spend on her year at Brentwood, and Everet Schuyler has a coach he's very anxious to sell. If I can drive any kind of a bargain with him, I think I'll do it. Of course don't say anything to Pat. I thought we might drive down some week end, and surprise her with it; and then come back on the train."

"How did you ever happen to think of such a thing?" inquired Mrs. Randall, knitting very fast on the green sweater she was making for her daughter.

"Oh, I haven't been blind to the fact that more than half of the college girls here have some kind of a car, and I often wished I could get Pat one. Never been able to, before, but now I guess we can swing it. It will be a saving, too; for she can drive back and forth whenever she has a vacation, and save carfare. And maybe, once in a while, she could come home for a week end?" he added, hopefully.

"Perhaps," Mrs. Randall smiled and leaned forward to pat his arm.

"Let's go down to Schuyler's now and look at the bus," proposed Mr. Randall ten minutes later.

"All right," agreed his wife, laying aside her work and getting briskly out of her easy chair.

If Patricia had not been so absorbed in her own affairs she would certainly have wondered the next day what ailed her parents; for there was such an air of suppressed excitement about them that vented itself in significant glances and knowing smiles. The thrill of buying her ticket, however, made Patricia oblivious to all else.

"Why don't you take a sleeper," asked her mother, "and get a good rest on the way down? You've been up so late every night."

"Nothing doing!" retorted Patricia decidedly. "When I travel I want my eyes wide open so I won't miss a single thing."

Her positive decision recurred to her three days later as she snuggled deep into her comfortable chair, with a sigh of satisfaction, a sigh which was unceremoniously cut short by a very big yawn. The farewells at the station had been exciting and gratifying, but yet something of a strain. Almost all of her crowd had assembled to see her off, bearing gifts of candy, fruit, books, and magazines; her mother had clung to her till the very last minute, and her father had fussed about time tables, porters, tips, and a dozen other things. It had seemed as if she were being torn into a dozen pieces trying to pay attention to everybody. Now the train was bearing her rapidly away from Dad and Mother and all the dear old friends toward a new life at Granard.

"Perhaps I'd have been wiser to have followed Mother's suggestion about the sleeper," she thought, as she tried to stifle another great yawn. "Maybe if I take a little nap now, I'll feel fresh for the rest of the day."

Turning her chair toward the window, and leaning back, her hands on the broad arms, she was almost immediately floating in a delicious sea of semi-unconsciousness which became deeper and deeper until she was completely lost to the world about her. After a while, however, a most persistent dream began to disturb her peaceful sleep, a dream about a soft grey kitten whose silky fur she kept stroking, stroking until her hand was tired; but yet she could not stop. After a time she began to realize that she was dreaming, and made a desperate effort to free herself from the world of sleep by closing her fingers sharply on the little animal's neck and giving it a shove.

Then with a sudden start at some movement close to her she sat bolt upright and opened her eyes just in time to see a pair of long legs, the ankles clad in grey silk socks, hastily removing themselves from the ledge beside her chair.

"Good Heavens!" she thought, horror-stricken. "I do hope those weren't the kitten!"

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