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   Chapter 6 A MEDDLER

The Mystery of Arnold Hall By Helen M. Persons Characters: 13941

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

"Yes, this is Mrs. Vincent talking. What? I'm very sorry. The girls were having a little party, and didn't realize, I'm afraid, how much noise they were making. What did you say, please? Oh, we-ll, I'll see what they think about it. Of course, you realize that they are not children to be ordered about."

"She didn't think so a minute ago," giggled Anne under her breath to Patricia.

"All right. Goodbye."

Mrs. Vincent hung up the receiver and turned to face the girls.

"We're in a nice fix now!" she snapped. "Mrs. Brock, who lives back of us, has been greatly disturbed by the noise you have been making all the evening, and feels that an apology is due her-"

"What utter nonsense!" cried Anne.

"She must be cuckoo!" exclaimed Clarice hotly.

The rest of the girls stood looking at one another in astonishment, while Rhoda turned her back quickly and bent her head low over the open Black Book.

"Well, what are you going to do about it?" continued Mrs. Vincent.

"Just nothing at all," replied Jane; "her demand is absurd."

"Of course it is unreasonable; but the trouble is," pursued Mrs. Vincent, flushing, "she says unless a couple of you go over and present an apology for the crowd, she will lodge a complaint at the office."

"Now I know she is crazy," snapped Lucile.

"Naturally," went on Mrs. Vincent, "a question of my incompetence, or of my inability to manage you properly, will arise if such a complaint is lodged. Of course, you must do as you wish. I'm simply laying the whole matter frankly before you."

Mrs. Vincent turned abruptly and disappeared into her own room.

"This is a pretty mess!" scolded Katharine.

"It's mostly your fault!" cried Hazel, looking angrily at Clarice.

"How is it, I'd like to know!" demanded the girl, flushing a dull red, but gazing defiantly at her accuser.

"You did most of the yelling and rough-housing," retorted Frances promptly.

"I didn't pile into Ruth's bed; I didn't sit beside the back door, singing; I-"

"No," interrupted Jane soothingly, "I think we all did our share; but-"

"What's the use of trying to place the blame now?" asked Patricia suddenly. "The question is how to fix things up."

"We can't let Dolly down, I suppose," said Mary slowly. "She is incompetent, and awfully silly at times; but, after all, she is our chaperon and we owe loyalty to her. She might lose her position as the result of the complaint, and we'd hate to be party to taking a job from anyone."

"Since you all feel that I'm mostly to blame," broke in Clarice, "I'll go over to Big House and apologize."

Almost before she had time to think, Patricia heard herself saying: "And I'll go with you."

"You're a couple of good sports!" cried Jane heartily.

"Is it too late to go now?" asked Patricia, looking at the clock.

"Nearly ten. Better ask Dolly," advised Anne.

Patricia went to the chaperon's door, knocked, and when Mrs. Vincent opened it, stated quietly: "Clarice and I are going over to apologize to Mrs. Brock. Shall we go now, or wait until morning?"

"It really doesn't matter, I suppose; whichever time you prefer," replied Mrs. Vincent slowly, looking past Patricia to Clarice, who stood leaning against the Black Book table. The girl's black eyes met hers, and a long, meaning look passed between them.

"We'll go now, then, and get it over with," decided Patricia. "Come on, Clarice."

The two went out of the front door and the rest of the girls gathered in Jane's room to await results.

"What a day!" sighed Ruth. "I'll never get up so early again. It brings bad luck. What with the moss adventure this morning, and now this."

"How did Professor Yates act in class?" asked Hazel, as the rest smiled over the story of the moss, which they had heard earlier in the day.

"Just as usual, except perhaps a little more sarcastic," began Jane.

"And more generous with puzzling questions, especially to Pats," broke in Anne.

"Funny they can't get along together," mused Mary. "Pat is such a peach of a girl."

"There's no rhyme or reason in anything Yates does," declared Hazel bluntly.

"Pat is a peach," agreed Anne fervently, "and I think we're mighty lucky to get her in our Gang."

"So say we all of us!" chanted Frances softly.

"It seems awfully queer to me, though," put in Lucile, "for a girl to leave a college voluntarily after a year there, and come away up here where she knows no one, to finish her course."

"Her aunt and cousin are here," spoke up Anne, loyally.

"Don't see them making much fuss over her!" retorted Lucile. "Ted's been here only two or three times to see her."

"Ted is a very busy boy." Anne spoke up promptly. "He's in Forestry, and that takes him out a lot this year."

"Come to think of it," commented Ruth, "I haven't seen him much at the Frat House."

"You should know what goes on there," laughed Katharine, teasingly. "Such luck as you and Jane have-a room right next to-"

"Clarice's room is even better-or worse," said Jane; "for hers is opposite the men's living room."

"Why worse?" demanded Frances.

"I'll change rooms with you some night, and let you listen to their blamed radio until the wee small hours, and then again early in the morning, before anybody is up."

"Speaking of Clarice," broke in Lucile, "I think there's something between her and Dolly."

"What do you mean?" asked Betty quickly.

"Some secret, or understanding, or favoritism, or something," replied Lucile. "Did none of you see the look they exchanged when Pats told Dolly they'd go?"

"I did," answered Anne thoughtfully; "it all but talked."

"There's some reason why Clarice was moved down here this year, and I'll bet Dolly was at the root of it," declared Lucile, emphasizing her words by pounding on the foot of the bed beside which she sat.

"By the way, Lu," broke in Hazel shyly, "how's your blond friend? Seen him lately?"

"My blond friend is good!" jeered Lucile.

"Who is he? Who is he?" demanded Mary and Betty in unison. "Why haven't we ever seen him?"

"My darlings," said Lucile mockingly, "just because on the day we came back, a good-looking, yellow-haired youth stopped me at the top of the hill to ask where Arnold Hall was, these silly girls imagined I had a date with him."

"Why should a fellow want Arnold Hall?" demanded Katharine in surprised tones.

"Maybe he has a sweetie here," proposed Hazel mischievously, looking at Lucile.

"That's an idea," replied Lucile, flatly ignoring Hazel's insinuations; "maybe it's-Patricia!"

"Oh, no," contradicted Anne; "she never saw him before the day we came down." Too late she realized what she had admitted.

"Came down! Oh, then he was on your train. Ah, ha! Now we're getting at something!" exulted Lucile.

Poor Anne's fair complexion changed to a bright pink, as she struggled to make her words sound casual.

"He sat across from us, and we happened to notice him because he was

so good-looking. We haven't seen him for a long time."

"I have," spoke up Jane; "and you'd never guess where."

"Then tell us," said Frances.

"Last night, I was coming from the library, and because it was rather late, I took a chance on cutting through the yard back of here. As I got to the step up into this yard, I heard the sound of a typewriter in Big House. It surprised me; for I understand Mrs. Brock is quite elderly. I glanced carelessly up at the lighted windows, and there in a second floor room facing this way, sat our unknown blond friend."

"Maybe he's her son," proposed Katharine.

"Son, nothing! Grandson more likely," contradicted Hazel. "Maybe the girls will meet him. Why didn't more of us go?"

Jane laughed. "You all had a chance, but you didn't make the most of it."

At this moment the front door opened quietly, closed again, footsteps were heard coming along the hall, and Patricia and Clarice entered.

"Tell us just everything," ordered Anne, making places on Jane's bed for the newcomers.

"Well," began Patricia slowly, "a maid led us into the living room, which is that room in front where the big bay window is; and there, before the fire, sat a tiny, white-haired old lady with the keenest brown eyes I have ever seen."

"They bored right through one," contributed Clarice.

"She never said a word to us, only looked up, and then tried to quiet her white Spitz which began to bark his head off at us."

"I should think she'd be used to noise, if she has one of those," observed Hazel; "they sho' do bark."

Just then Mrs. Vincent slipped into the room, and, sitting down beside Clarice, slid an arm around her, while the girls exchanged significant glances.

"When Mrs. Brock got the dog quieted down," continued Patricia, "I said that we had come to represent the girls on our floor, and apologize for the excessive noise tonight; that we had not intended to annoy anyone, and had not even thought of it as a possibility; we were only having a little party among ourselves."

"'Drinking party, I suppose!' she snapped, looking us over from head to foot, for she hadn't asked us to sit down."

"I'll bet she knows how many buttons are on my blouse, and even where one buttonhole is torn," observed Clarice.

"'We had only orangeade,' I replied, as good-naturedly as I could; for it certainly was annoying to be addressed in the tones she used," went on Patricia.

"'Are you sure of that?' she demanded, fixing her brown eyes on me, like crabs. 'I distinctly heard some one singing a song about wanting a drink.'"

A burst of laughter from the girls interrupted Patricia's story, while Jane ruffled Hazel's curls.

"Then I took a hand," announced Clarice.

"'You did,' I told her, 'and we had several; but they were all made of oranges, just as Patricia has told you. We may be noisy, but we're not liars!'"

"What did she say?" asked Jane eagerly.

"Nothing; she just glared at me, and turned back to Pat," replied Clarice.

"'Aside from the personal annoyance,' she went on," continued Patricia, "'I consider it highly detrimental to the reputation of college women to have such yelling and noise emanating from a supposedly respectable dormitory.' Before we could answer, fortunately, perhaps, for I didn't know what to say next," went on Patricia, "she pressed a bell near her chair, and almost immediately we heard footsteps on the stairs, the heavy portieres between the living room and the hall were pushed aside, and there stood-"

"The good-looking young blond!" finished Hazel, excitedly clasping and unclasping her hands.

"Why, how did you know?" demanded Patricia in surprise.

"I saw him over there in the window last night, and the girls were just saying that perhaps you would meet him," replied Jane. "But please go on."

"'Norman Young, my secretary,' said the old lady, looking inquiringly at us. Clarice supplied our names, and the youth bowed gravely. 'Norman,' she asked, 'did you type the letter I dictated earlier this evening?'

"'Not yet, Mrs. Brock,' he said.

"'You need not write it. That's all,' she added curtly, as the young man lingered a moment, eyeing Clarice. As soon as he had disappeared, she turned to us again. 'You may go too,' she announced abruptly; 'and don't let me hear such a rumpus over there again.' Then Clarice spoke up. 'Mrs. Brock, we told you we were sorry, and we are; but we can't promise never to make another sound, when we have parties, or at any other time. There are forty-five girls in the house, and it's unreasonable to expect us to be as quiet as deaf-mutes.' Before she could get her breath to annihilate Clarice, which I thought she would do, I broke in and said that perhaps she'd like us and understand college life better if she came over to Arnold Hall some time and got acquainted with the girls and see how we live.

"'Maybe I should,' she replied slowly, and really her face changed so that I thought she was going to smile."

"Now you have done it, Pats," groaned Anne.

"Whatever possessed you to say that?" complained Betty.

"Who in creation is she, that she thinks she can take such a hand in our affairs?" demanded Katharine hotly.

"Well, I felt sorry for her," contended Patricia stoutly. "She's old, and all alone in that big house-"

"Oh, no, Pats, not alone; think of that attractive youth," protested Hazel.

"And I think she's longing for human contacts," continued Patricia.

"She seems to be," remarked Lucile sarcastically.

"And that's why she is annoyed by our fun, kind of an outsider envying those who are on the inside; like a kid who's not invited to a party, and so wants to break it up," concluded Patricia.

"Sentimental Pat!" scoffed Lucile.

"I'm sorry you are all annoyed about it," said Patricia, flushing, "but I suddenly felt so sorry for her that I spoke before I thought. I never dreamed you'd object to her. Probably she won't come, anyhow."

"I think," said Jane emphatically, "that you handled the matter in the best possible way. What would we gain by fighting with her? Putting aside of any question of kindness, it's much wiser for us to be friendly with her, if she will let us."

"I agree with you, Jane," said Mrs. Vincent, speaking for the first time, and getting up to go back to her own room. "Now get to bed as quickly as possible," she added, as the clock struck eleven.

There were three people in the college colony who were wakeful that night: Patricia tossed from side to side, as she kept going over in her mind the inexorable circumstances which continued to involve her in strange situations with Norman Young. Directly above her, on the third floor, Rhoda the maid was shedding tears as she worried over the affairs of one near and dear to her. In his room across the two back yards, Norman Young alternately pondered over Clarice's pretty face and the solving of a problem which involved some cleverness on his part.

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