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   Chapter 4 THE ALLEY GANG

The Mystery of Arnold Hall By Helen M. Persons Characters: 13007

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


As Anne opened the door and started down a long hall, from which rooms opened on either side, a short, dark little girl, whose round brown face instantly reminded one of a pleasant hazel nut, appeared from a room at the very end of the corridor.

"Anne, darling!" she shrieked, dashing along the passage and throwing herself upon Anne so violently that Anne staggered and fell back against Jane, who had to grasp one of the pillars quickly to save herself from falling.

"Don't be so rough, Fran!" gasped Anne, but as she spoke, Frances transferred her embraces to the other two girls in turn, while Patricia stood beside the door watching, until Anne led her forward and began introductions.

"This roughneck is Frances Quinne, who lives at the end of the alley. You see, this corridor is so long and narrow we call it 'The Alley' and the eleven girls who live here are known as The Alley Gang. Kath come yet?" she inquired, as Frances shook hands with Patricia.

"Yes, she's upstairs. You might tell me your friend's name; that's only common politeness."

"Your welcome literally knocked me out," laughed Anne. "She's Patricia Randall, and is going to be in our class, and live here."

"Here?" demanded Frances in surprise.

"Yes; and, what's more, right in the alley!" cried Jane, triumphantly holding up a card which she had picked out of a pile on the hall table. While the others were talking, Jane had been busily rummaging among the cards of room assignments.

"Let's see," said Anne, taking the bit of pasteboard from Jane. "No. 5. Right, next to me!"

"And across from us," added Jane. "Has Ruth come yet?"

A slight little girl with big shy black eyes and a boyish bob ran down the stairs and approached the group.

"What do you mean by being up there when I come?" demanded Jane, shaking her room mate affectionately.

The girl's pale face flushed slightly as she replied in a soft little voice: "I went up to see if Clarice had all of her things out of No. 14."

"No excuse at all," declared Jane. "This is my room mate, Ruth Maynard; Patricia Randall, a new member of our Gang."

"What about Clarice, Ruthie?" asked Anne curiously, after Ruth had silently shaken hands with Patricia.

"She's moving down here to No. 4," replied Ruth quietly.

"Good night!" ejaculated Hazel, sitting down violently upon one of the trunks which lined the hall.

"Oh, boy! Oh, boy!" exclaimed Jane dramatically.

"Down here!" repeated Anne. "How come? Don't know whether or not I fancy her for an opposite neighbor."

"Nobody knows why she's been moved," contributed Frances excitedly. "She went to her old room as a matter of course when she came this morning, and then we found her card had No. 4 on it."

"I think that's just fierce!" cried Hazel. "She's so noisy and notorious-"

"Now, Hazel," protested Jane, "there's nothing really bad about Clarice. She got herself talked about last year, it is true, but-"

"Maybe the Powers-that-Be think we'll reform her," suggested a gentle voice behind the group.

Everybody turned to face a fair, plump girl with braids of honey-colored hair wound around her shapely head, despite the prevailing fashion of short locks.

"Mary Taylor!" cried Hazel, joyfully kissing her room mate.

"Hail, Hail, The Gang's All Here!" chanted a brisk voice, as its owner, a tall, finely developed girl with red cheeks and brown skin, which bespoke a love for out-of-doors life, jumped from the third last step to the hall below and encircled with her long arms as many of the girls as she could.

"Katharine, you hoyden!" exclaimed Anne. "Let me present Patricia Randall."

"This noisy creature is my room mate," added Hazel, as Katharine gave Patricia a regular man's grasp of the hand.

"One of the Gang is missing," commented Anne. "Where's Betty?"

"'Boy Friend' is bringing her down by auto after dinner," said Katharine.

"She must be going to be Patricia's room mate," offered Anne.

"She is," announced Jane. "I saw her card."

"What room did she have last year?" whispered Patricia to Anne.

"No. 4; but she felt quite abused at not having a room mate, so I imagine she'll be delighted to move in with you. Here comes Dolly," she added in an undertone, as the front door opened and a medium sized woman of about twenty-eight entered, followed by a short rather heavy girl whose restless black eyes missed no detail of the group before her.

"Well, girls," said Mrs. Vincent, smiling patronizingly upon them, "how are you all? Glad to get back?" Without waiting for a reply, she went on: "You'll find some changes here this fall. Clarice," laying her hand on the girl's arm, "is to be down here with us in No. 4. We also have a new member of our household, Miss Patricia Randall," crossing the hall to shake hands with Patricia. "I do hope you'll like us all, and be happy here." Then she continued, without stopping for Patricia's reply, "We're to have a new maid-"

"Oh, where is Lizzie?" asked Jane.

"She got married this summer," replied Mrs. Vincent; "and, my dears, you should have seen the beautiful presents she received! Our new maid's name is Rhoda Hurd, and the Dean says she comes highly recommended. She'll be here some time tonight. You had better all unpack now, and get ready for dinner. Arnold Hall girls will take the southwest end of the dining room, as usual. Come, Miss Randall, I'll show you your room. Of course it looks rather bare now," she added, when they stood on the threshold, "but you'll soon change all that. My room is No. 1, right back of the reception room. If you want anything, don't hesitate to come to me."

When Patricia found herself alone, her glance traveled from the day beds on either side of the room to the two dressers flanking the doorway and to the writing tables in the big bay window. In spite of its bare floor and curtainless windows, the room had distinct possibilities; for the furniture was Early American, and the woodwork was good.

"Why," she demanded of Anne, who came in at that moment, "do they have that heavy barred wire outside of the windows? It reminds me of a prison, or makes me feel as if I were in a cage."

"It is, a sort of a prison," laughed Anne. "You see, some of the girls like to stay out later than 10:30, and if it were possible to climb in the windows, nobody knows what time they would come in. The Black Book wouldn't be of any use then."

Patricia looked puzzled. "The 'Black Book?'" she repeated.

"Yes;

beside the telephone booth in the front hall, near Dolly's room, is a table upon which rests a big, black blank book. Whenever you go out or come in after dinner, you must register in it your name and the hour. The girls take turns looking after it, and at bed time, Dolly inspects it before she makes the round of the rooms. And, by the way, whenever the outside door at the back of the hall is opened, it rings a bell in Dolly's room, right under the bed. So you see how good your chances are of staying out nights."

"Tell me something about Clarice," begged Patricia, sitting down on one of the beds. "Why do all the girls dislike her so very much?"

"They don't really dislike her," replied Anne, plumping down beside Patricia. "She's lots of fun, and generous to a fault; but she has such a loud laugh, and doesn't care what she does or says. A good time appeals to her a whole lot more than does study, and last year she played around too much with a boy upon whom the authorities frowned. The girls on this floor have always been so congenial, and have had no demerits for conduct; so naturally they rather resent the introduction of Clarice. I think, though, that there is really a lot of good in the girl, if one could only develop it. Let's go down the hall and see if Kath has a dress you could wear to dinner. Mine would be too large for you."

Just as they stepped out into the hall, the doorbell rang.

"I'll bet that's Dolly's boy friend," whispered Anne, pausing to peer around one of the pillars, and catching sight of the top of a man's hat showing in the door pane. "Wait a minute, I want you to get a look at him. He's a special student here, and years younger than Doll."

The door leading to the cellar opened suddenly, and a black-gowned maid appeared and hurried down the hall to answer the bell.

"Apparently Rhoda has arrived. Isn't she pretty?" breathed Anne softly.

When the door was opened, a low-toned conversation ensued, of which the eavesdroppers could hear nothing. Then Rhoda admitted the blond youth, who stood waiting while the maid came down the hall toward the two girls.

"Some one to see Miss Randall," she announced.

Patricia clutched Anne's arm in a frenzy. "You've got to come with me," she whispered.

"Are you expecting a bag?" inquired the boy gravely, fixing his great grey eyes upon Patricia when she reached the door.

"Yes," she faltered; "I left it on the bus."

"The driver was going to bring it down on the six," volunteered Anne irrelevantly.

"He did," said the youth, "and asked me to deliver it. I have it in the vestibule." Opening the door, he secured the bag and handed it to Patricia.

"I am very grateful to you," said Patricia a bit stiffly. "It was good of you to bring it."

"No trouble at all. I was down at the shelter waiting for some one-" he broke off suddenly, as if fearing he had said too much, and bowed himself solemnly out.

"Well!" exclaimed Anne. "Of all things! You seem fated to get mixed up with that young man."

"Don't I? I suppose Mike remembered that he was on the bus with us, and just naturally gave the bag to him on that account."

"Probably. Anyhow, now you won't have to borrow a dress. You'd better hurry, though; it's after six, and we dine-mark, I said dine-at six-thirty."

Dinner was quite an experience for Patricia, who had never before seen a college dining room. The big low room was bare and unattractive in itself, but the long tables, each surrounded by twenty girls in pretty dinner gowns, the bright lights, and the orange-clad waitresses made up for lack of decorations elsewhere.

"My ears will grow at least a yard long here," she observed to Anne, who sat next to her.

"What on earth do you mean?" inquired that young lady, reaching for the olives.

"Why, there are so many interesting conversations going on all around me, that I want to hear them all."

Anne laughed. "This is nothing; just wait until classes are in full swing. Then child psychology, music theory, library cataloguing, art appreciation, domestic science, and half a dozen other subjects are all being discussed simultaneously."

That evening most of the girls had unpacking and settling to finish, but a few members of the Alley Gang gathered in Anne's attractive room to visit. Betty Grant had just arrived, and she and Patricia had approved of each other at the first glance.

"Tell me, Betty," Anne was saying, "is the Boy Friend coming down week ends, as he did last year?"

"No; this year, I'm going to work-hard."

Everybody laughed.

"Well, I am. I told Ed he could come only twice during this term-"

"And a few times in between," finished Hazel.

"By the way," began Betty, in a different tone. "I saw the queerest thing, just as Ed and I drove up. There was a fellow standing in front of the laundry window, right under your room, Hazel, evidently talking to some one inside."

"Come now, Betty," protested Katharine, "you're making that up to change the subject."

"Honest to goodness, I'm not! I saw him plain as daylight. I didn't say anything to Ed, because he would have wanted to investigate, and I've no fancy for having him get into an argument with strange men. He might have had a gun, for all I know."

"Heavens, Betty! We'll all be afraid to go to sleep tonight," shuddered Mary. "Hazel, you'll have to push your bed up close to mine so you can protect me."

"What did the man look like?" asked Jane.

"I couldn't see his face, but he was slight, of medium height and wore a grey suit and hat."

"The blond youth!" whispered Anne to Patricia.

"But what would he be doing prowling around here?" asked Patricia, frowning.

"Search me! Oh, hello, Lu, where have you been all the evening?"

"In the laundry part of the time. I came on here right from a house party, and my clothes are in a fine state."

Jane, Anne, Hazel, and Patricia glanced significantly at one another.

"Sure you were pressing, Lu?" asked Hazel mischievously.

Before Lucile had a chance to reply, Betty leaned forward and inquired, "Did you see the man, Lu?"

"What man?"

"The man who was looking in the laundry window."

Lucile laughed, a bit loudly for her. "Nobody around the place while I was there," she replied, with marked carelessness, "only Rhoda."

"What was she doing?" asked Anne.

"Pressing her uniforms."

A discussion of the new maid and her predecessor followed, and the subject of the mysterious man was dropped.

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