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   Chapter 2 ANNE

The Mystery of Arnold Hall By Helen M. Persons Characters: 12873

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Swinging her chair sharply about to face the aisle, she met the amused gaze of a red-haired girl of about her own age.

"Tell me," begged Patricia impulsively, leaning forward, "was I-doing anything-unusual while I was asleep?"

"I'll say you were," responded the girl, smiling broadly.

"What?"

"You-you were-stroking the ankles of that young man back of you as if your life depended on it," choked the stranger.

"No!" cried Patricia, in great distress.

"Yes! Then suddenly you pinched the poor fellow, and I thought I'd just die!"

At that moment the man in question rose and hurried down the aisle toward the smoker. With crimson face, Patricia watched the slight boyish figure, with its crown of smooth yellow hair, disappear before she again addressed her neighbor.

"I'm embarrassed to death! What must he think of me? I can't apologize for something I didn't know I was doing; and if I try to explain, it will look as if we were trying to scrape up an acquaintance. What would you do?"

"I'd just let it go, and try to forget it," advised the other girl, raising up in her chair to lower the shade a little; for the sun was shining full upon her.

"Do you suppose the rest of these people saw me?" persisted Patricia, glancing anxiously around the car.

There were not many other passengers; an old lady, apparently absorbed in a weighty-looking volume; a couple of middle-aged men, with their heads close together, evidently discussing some important question; a young mother, absorbed in the baby in her arms; and a scared-looking, awkward girl, who gazed moodily out of the window, occasionally munching a chocolate from a box in her lap.

"I don't think so," replied the red-haired girl, settling herself anew in her chair, and smoothing out the skirt of her dark green suit. "I probably shouldn't have, if I hadn't been watching you."

"Watching me?" repeated Patricia, opening her brown eyes very wide in surprise.

"Yes; and wondering if by any chance you were going to Granard College."

"I am, but what in the world made you think so?"

"Oh, you looked like a college girl, some way, and then being on this train, which, this time of year, is a favorite one for the Granard students. Don't know where they all are today, though. Are you just entering?"

"Yes, and no," laughed Patricia. "I did my Freshman work at Brentwood; so I'm entering the Soph class here."

"Congratulations! Welcome to the class of 19-. I'm one of your classmates-to-be. Anne Ford, at your service."

"My name is Patricia Randall, and I'm very glad to get acquainted with some one before I get to Granard. I confess I have stage fright at the prospect of meeting so many strangers."

"Don't let that bother you. The girls are easy to get on with, and you'll soon feel as if you'd always been at Granard," said Anne carelessly.

Patricia realized, however, that it would not be quite so simple to break into a class whose cliques and customs had had a whole year's start before she came on the scene.

"How did you happen to choose Granard?" inquired Anne curiously. "Do you know anyone there?"

"My cousin," replied Patricia, breathing a prayer of thanks for the second question which enabled her to disregard the first. "Ted Carter; do you know him?"

"Ted Carter! I should say I do!" exclaimed Anne, adding, quickly and somewhat possessively, "Ted's my best boy friend."

"How nice!" commented Patricia so heartily that all the suspicions which had arisen in Anne's mind as to possible claims on the fascinating Teddy were promptly allayed.

"Come on over here," suggested Anne, turning a vacant chair to face her; "and we'll have a cozy chat."

Patricia gladly accepted the invitation, and as she settled herself with one foot tucked under her, a habit whenever she wished to be especially comfortable, Anne asked:

"Do you know yet where you're to room?"

"Yes; Arnold Hall."

"You are?" exclaimed Anne, gazing at Patricia in astonishment. "You certainly must have some pull."

"Why?" inquired Patricia, in a puzzled tone.

"Because Arnold Hall's the best dorm at Granard, and there's always a waiting list for it. You're a lucky girl to be able to break right into it. My reservation was made while I was still in high school."

"Oh, then you live there? I'm so glad!" There was no mistaking the note of gratification in Patricia's tone, nor the admiring gaze of her brown eyes which rested somewhat shyly upon her new acquaintance.

Anne smiled in the manner of one who is so accustomed to being popular that it has long ceased to be exciting. There was something unusual about this new girl, evidently, or old Hattersley would never have let her get into Arnold Hall. It evidently wasn't money; for though Patricia's clothes were in good taste, they were not expensive. She had no friends there, except her cousin. Perhaps it was scholarship, or some powerful influence from Brentwood or high school.

Patricia, meanwhile, was wondering what Anne would say if she were to tell her that when Dad had written for a room for Patricia, the registrar, somebody by the name of Hattersley, had promptly replied that one had already been reserved for her in Arnold Hall. They had speculated on the strange fact for days, and had been forced to leave the mystery unsolved, just as they had the arrival of the check.

"Do you know Aunt Betsy?" inquired Patricia, presently.

"Not personally," replied Anne, smiling broadly; "but I've heard of her."

"I'll warrant you have," giggled Patricia. "She's as good as gold, but most awfully funny. You never know what she's going to say or do next. We say she has only three interests: Ted, and Ted, and Ted. They used to live near us in Brentwood, but when my cousin won a scholarship at Granard, she rented her house and took an apartment down here so she could give Ted all the comforts of home during his course. She meant well, of course; but I feel sort of sorry for Ted. I fancy he'd rather be a bit freer. One night during his Freshman year he stayed out to dinner and for the evening without telling her; so she ran all over the campus looking for him, quite sure that the terrible Sophs had imprisoned him somewhere."

"I have heard that story," laughed Anne. "He was at the Zeta Omega House-that's right next to Arnold Hall."

"When Aunt Betsy heard that I was coming down, she wrote Dad that she could take me i

n just as well as not, and that I'd be far more comfortable with her than in any dorm-"

"But you preferred to be less comfortable," interrupted Anne.

"I certainly did. I've wanted to live in a dorm ever since I knew what college was. Tell me something about Granard so I won't be quite so ignorant."

Anne began to talk animatedly of college affairs, and Patricia's eyes got bigger and bigger and her cheeks redder and redder as she became more and more interested. Neither of the girls noticed that the blond youth had returned to his chair and was watching them intently.

"My goodness!" exclaimed Anne, glancing out of the window a couple of hours later, as the train began to slow down. "I didn't realize that we were nearly in. We change to the bus here at Plainville. Come on! They make only a two-minute stop here."

Grabbing their bags, the two girls hurried out of the train onto a long platform splashed with big drops of rain. At the end farthest from the train a bus was waiting for passengers; and just as they reached it, the rain, now driven by a brisk wind, began to fall in torrents. Laughing and breathless, they scrambled up the steps of the bus and sank into seats near the door.

"Here comes a friend of yours," remarked Anne, peering out of the doorway at other travelers, scurrying across the glistening platform.

Thinking that perhaps Ted had come that far to meet her, Patricia leaned forward just as the young man with the light hair bounded up the steps and collided sharply with her outstretched head.

"Oh, say-I'm awfully sorry," he cried, flushing brilliantly. "I hope I didn't hurt you."

"Not in the least!" lied Patricia curtly, trying desperately to fight back tears. Ever since she could remember, any sudden blow or fall had made her cry, whether she was really badly hurt or not. It was a most embarrassing habit, now that she was grown up. As she elaborately straightened her little brown hat which was over one ear, and tried to recover her poise, the youth passed on to the other end of the bus.

"Wonder when and where your next encounter will be," observed Anne, as the driver closed the doors and started the big bus. "Three times-you know."

"Never, I hope," replied Patricia emphatically, little dreaming what the future held in store for her. "Does this bus take us right to college?"

"No, only to the foot of the hill about one-half mile from the campus. We'll be there in an hour."

"Have you a room mate?" inquired Patricia, a few minutes later.

"No, I have one of the three singles on the first floor. Where are you to be?"

"I don't know, but I hope that it will be near you, and that I'll have a room mate."

"Why?" asked Anne, idly tracing designs on the steamed window beside her.

"Because I've always wanted one. It's a bit lonesome, being an only child."

"Sometimes you'd wish you were," laughed Anne, "if your sister tried to boss you as mine frequently does. Joan and I are usually pretty good friends, but once in so often we have a flare-up."

"Oh, I hope I'll be able to get along peaceably with a room mate, if I have one," said Patricia earnestly. "Maybe I wouldn't though. I guess I must be pretty well spoiled."

"Don't look so worried!" ordered Anne. "And, by the way, don't take to heart everything the girls may say. Living all together, as we do, we are pretty frank at times, but everybody takes it in good part."

When the bus stopped, it was still raining, and the two girls ran hastily across the muddy road to a small rustic shelter.

"Well!" said Anne, shaking her wet umbrella. "Evidently none of the girls have come down to meet the bus. Don't blame 'em much on such a 'nausty' day. So we'll have to climb the hill by ourselves and take our own bags."

"Bags!" exclaimed Patricia, clutching Anne's arm, as she opened her green umbrella preparatory to starting up the hill.

"Yes, bags; what about them?"

"I-I haven't mine! I must have left it on the bus."

"Good night!" ejaculated Anne forcefully.

"What shall I do?"

"You can't do a thing but wait and see if the driver finds it, and brings it back on his next trip. Is your name on it?"

"Yes."

Anne closed her umbrella again, set her own bag in a corner, and loosened her jacket. "Might as well sit down, I suppose," she commented, leading the way to a bench across the back of the shelter. "There won't be another bus for an hour."

"Oh, but you needn't stay," offered Patricia heroically. "I can wait alone."

"Yes, if I'll let you; but I won't," replied Anne, pushing back some little red curls which had escaped from under the brim of her smart green hat.

"It's mighty good of you," said Patricia gratefully; for she had hated to think of staying here all alone for a full hour.

"I never desert a friend in distress."

"'A friend in need,'" quoted Patricia.

"Speaking of friends," interrupted Anne, "what became of the blond youth? I didn't see him get off the bus; did you?"

"No, but he might have just the same. I was too excited over my bag to think of anything else."

"He may have gone on to Mendon, but I doubt it. I've never seen him before, but he looked to me like a college fellow."

"Just as I did," began Patricia.

"You never looked like a college fellow in your life!" retorted Anne, laughing.

"Well, I mean," said Patricia, flushing.

"I understand what you mean; but, just the same, I am curious to know what became of the boy."

The time passed more quickly than they thought it would, and both were surprised when a grey bus loomed up in the distance. As soon as it came to a stop, Patricia ran out in the rain to question the driver.

"Did you find a bag?" she demanded eagerly.

The fat, good-natured driver wrinkled up his forehead thoughtfully and then nodded.

"It's mine," she declared, with relief. "Please give it to me."

"Sorry, Miss; but I can't."

"Why not?" inquired Patricia, a bit impatiently.

"Because it's back at the station. I didn't know whose it was, and we have to turn everything in. Then it has to be identified by its owner."

At this point Anne, who had been the center of a group of girls who had gotten off of the bus, left her friends and came to Patricia's rescue.

"Mike," she said, smiling sweetly up at the big driver, "couldn't you bring Miss Randall's bag down on your next trip? We don't want to go all the way back to town now."

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