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   Chapter 3 “HILL TOP”

The Mystery of Arnold Hall By Helen M. Persons Characters: 11588

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

"I guess perhaps I can manage it, Miss Ford; since it's you who asks it," replied the man, smiling admiringly down at the pretty face upturned to his.

"Thanks, a heap! We'll be waiting right here for it. Now," turning to Patricia and leading her over to the three girls she had just left, "I want you to meet some of my friends. They're all Arnold Hall girls. This is Lucile Evans," stopping in front of a slight, pale-faced girl whose red lips protruded in a pout, which, Patricia later learned, was perpetual. Without a change of expression, she bowed rather indifferently at Patricia.

"I'm Jane Temple," announced the second girl, advancing cordially as if to make up for Lucile's rudeness.

As Patricia took Jane's hand and looked into a pair of honest grey eyes, and at the good-humored smiling lips, she felt that here was a girl to whom one could always tie in any emergency.

"The last of this trio is Hazel Leland," continued Anne; "our beauty."

"Now, Anne, don't embarrass me," protested the girl, smiling gayly at Patricia.

She was a beauty; big, starry grey eyes; lovely, light brown hair which curled all over her head in little rings, like a baby's; and a figure as slight and lithe as a boy's.

"The newcomer in our midst," concluded Anne, putting her arm around Patricia, "is Patricia Randall, formerly of Brentwood, now a member of the illustrious Sophomore class of Granard; and, what's more, an inmate of Arnold Hall."

"Good for you!" ejaculated Hazel, patting Patricia on the back, while the other two girls shot surprised, inquiring glances at Anne, who pretended not to see them.

"Why don't we go on up?" drawled Lucile, opening her mouth for the first time.

"Going to wait for Patricia's bag," replied Anne quickly.

"Oh," was Lucile's brief response; but some way there was an unpleasant note in it, which made Patricia flush uncomfortably.

"There's no need of my detaining you all," she said. "I can wait by myself."

"Now, darling," protested Anne, "we'd never be so unhospitable to a new member of our household as that. You needn't wait if you prefer not to, Lu."

Without another word, Lucile picked up her bag and started haughtily up the steep hill.

"What's the matter with her?" asked Anne, watching the blue-coated figure ascending the slope as rapidly as possible.

"Don't know," replied Jane. "She's been out of sorts all day."

"Oh, she met some youth last night who was coming down here on the two o'clock bus today," said Hazel quickly; "and when he didn't, show up, Lu got peeved."

"She usually isn't sufficiently interested in men to care whether or not one breaks a date," said Jane.

"My dear," replied Hazel, "she probably wants something of him. Lu's the limit," she continued, turning to Patricia, "for getting just what she wants without lifting a finger. Everybody waits on her, and she sits back and accepts service like a queen."

"You mustn't give Lu a bad reputation," said Jane reprovingly. "She's not a bad kid when you get to know her."

"No, not bad," agreed Hazel, "but-as selfish as they're made."

"Look!" cried Anne, pointing excitedly to the top of the hill.

There against the green background stood the blue-coated object of their discussion, and a grey-clad masculine figure with yellow hair.

"The boy friend at last!" exclaimed Hazel. "He must have been waiting for her at 'Hill Top.'"

"Well, I only hope that he treats her to something real sweet," laughed Jane. "'Hill Top,'" she added, addressing herself to Patricia who was gazing apprehensively at the couple, "is a little tea room up there."

The youth was the young man who was the object of her caresses on the train, and Patricia flushed hotly to think what a story he'd have to tell Lucile if he chose, and what fun they'd all make of her. She glanced at Anne, but that young lady displayed no signs of ever having seen the man before.

"Let's go up and have a soda, or something," proposed Hazel, looking at her watch. "Plenty of time before Mike gets back. Our stuff will be all right in the corner over there."

Patricia opened her mouth to refuse, although she was hungry; but when the other girls hailed the suggestion with glee, she closed it again without voicing her objections, and followed them silently up the hill. Almost on the edge perched a small grey house with lavender shutters, and on its long, screened porch stood a grey, weather-beaten spinning wheel and a lavender table.

"Let's eat out here," proposed Anne, leading the way to the end of the porch.

Patricia could have hugged her; for she didn't want to go in and meet her fellow traveler. He might even think she was following him up.

"O. K.," agreed Hazel, slipping into a chair. "You go in and get a waitress, Nanny. I'm starved."

"So am I," replied Anne. "There was no diner on the train, and all Patricia and I had was some sweet chocolate."

"I'm not so hungry-" began Jane.

"You are not hungry! Did I hear aright?" asked Hazel. "That girl can always eat," she added, to Patricia.

"Well, you see I got pretty well fed up at home during the summer, but just wait until I've been here a couple of weeks, and I'll get back to my old habits."

"The meals at Horton Hall are the limit," said Hazel, "as you'll find to your sorrow, Patricia. We spend all our spare change, and some we can't well spare, at the various tea rooms around College Hill."

"What shall we have?" asked Anne, returning at that moment, followed by a waitress, and sitting down opposite Hazel. "This is on me, to celebrate Patricia's coming."

"Chicken patty, French pastry, and iced tea," replied Hazel promptly.

"Waffles, maple syrup, and ice cream," said Jane.

"How terrible! Think of your 'figger,' darling. You've put

on about ten pounds this summer," teased Hazel.

"I'll take shrimp salad, Danish pastry, and pineapple sherbet," said Patricia, when Anne looked at her.

"Chicken sandwiches, brownies, and ginger ale for me," said Anne, completing the order. As the waitress disappeared, she leaned both elbows on the table and announced in low tones, "They're not in the dining room, but Lu's bag is in the hall."

"Perhaps they're out in the coffee room," suggested Hazel. "I'll go and see."

"Don't," objected Jane quickly. "We don't want them to think we're spying on them."

"Even if we are," laughed Anne. "Maybe they'll come out while we're still here; and, in the meantime, let's eat."

Lunch took much longer than they had anticipated, and when Patricia, suddenly remembering her bag, glanced at her watch, she was surprised to find that the hands pointed at 3:30.

"Girls!" she cried, pushing back her chair and getting up so quickly that Hazel jumped. "It's half past three."

"Go on," said Anne. "I'll settle the bill and catch up to you."

The other three hurried down the hill, and when Anne caught up to them at the foot, Patricia was pointing in speechless dismay at a grey bus rounding the curve toward Mendon. "It's gone!" she wailed.

"Maybe Mike left your bag in the shelter," suggested Jane comfortingly. "Let's go and see."

A thorough search revealed no trace of the missing bag, either inside of the shelter or out; and Patricia bemoaned the carelessness which had, a second time that day, betrayed her.

"Just wait until I see Mike!" stormed Anne. "He should have had sense enough to leave it, even if we were not right on the spot."

"Especially when ours are here," agreed Hazel.

"What we do with our own is entirely up to us," said Jane slowly. "If Mike had orders to put the bag in its owner's hands, he couldn't very well do otherwise. Suppose we go on up and telephone the terminal to see what can be done about it."

"Good idea! All right with you, Pat?" asked Hazel. Then, as Patricia nodded, "Let's get going!"

"Don't worry," advised Anne. "You'll get it some way; and if not tonight, we can manage between us all to fit you out. We're used to that; aren't we?"

"I'll say so," replied Jane. "Why, Hazel, here, went to a dance last winter in a dress Mrs. Vincent lent her. That's our chaperon; and as far as borrowing and lending go, she's surely one of us."

Just as they reached the top of the hill again, Lucile sauntered down the tea-room steps alone.

"Where's the boy friend, Lu?" called Hazel.

"I don't know what you're talking about," replied Lucile haughtily, as she joined them.

"Don't try to bluff," ordered Hazel; "we all saw him meet you."

"That's one on you," scoffed Lucile. "He stopped to ask me the way to Arnold Hall."

"Arnold Hall!" chorused the others. "What in the name of fortune does he want there?"

"Don't you wish you knew?" jeered Lucile.

"Is she putting something over on us? Where do you suppose he went?" whispered Hazel to Jane, but the latter only shrugged her shoulders.

"Shall I telephone the terminal?" inquired Anne, when they came to the little building which served as post office for the college.

"I wish you would," replied Patricia gratefully; "you'll know better what to say."

"I'm going on," announced Lucile, as they paused to wait for Anne.

"Go to it!" retorted Hazel. "Look, Pat, that red brick building on the corner is Horton Hall, the dorm for the music students. In the basement is the college dining room, where each dorm has a certain section. Over there, across the street, that grey building with all the steps is the auditorium, where the entertainments and meetings are held."

"What did they say, Anne?" interrupted Jane, as Anne rejoined them.

"I talked to Mike himself. His sub was on the earlier bus, and he was afraid to leave the bag, since there was no one to take it. Mike will bring it out on his next run. I told him to give it to anybody who was coming up to the college; then we won't have to go down for it. There'll be heaps of students on the last bus, and Mike knows most of them. All right, Pat?" as the girl looked a bit doubtful.

"Surely," she replied; but way down deep in her heart she felt that she would be much happier when her property was once more safe in her own hands. "But it serves me right for being so careless," she thought, with characteristic honesty.

"Come on," urged Hazel. "I'm crazy to get to the Hall."

Much to Patricia's surprise they turned away from the college buildings and down a side street. "Where are we going?" she finally asked.

"To Arnold Hall, of course," replied Jane. "Oh, I forgot that you didn't know where it was. You see, all the dorms, frat and sorority houses are on streets fairly near the college, but not right on the campus."

"I should think you'd all be dead, climbing these hills," commented Patricia, as they started up Wentworth Street.

"The whole town is built on hills, and the college is on the highest one; but you'll get used to them."

When they went up a brick walk leading to a big three-story house near the end of the street, Patricia felt a queer thrill of excitement and apprehension as she gazed up at the house which was to be her home for a whole year. What joys and sorrows would come to her there? Could she make good? Would her unknown benefactor reveal his or her identity before the year was out? Would she be coming back here this time next fall? Even now, the very idea of Anne and Jane returning next September without her brought a queer lump into her throat.

"I'm just nervous," she reflected. "I must not think of the future at all."

Determinedly she shook off her apprehensions, and followed the other girls into the house.

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