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   Chapter 23 SOLUTIONS

The Mystery of Arnold Hall By Helen M. Persons Characters: 8367

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The girls of Granard College had finished Monday night's dessert of chocolate blanc mange, and were restlessly waiting for the signal to leave the dining room, when Clarice, who was sitting at the end of the Arnold Hall table, rose quietly and stood facing her companions.

"I've got something to say, girls," she began abruptly, her big black eyes turned on one after another of the members of the Alley Gang, and coming to rest on Patricia. "Last Thursday night I stayed out after hours without permission. Accidentally Pat found it out-also, what I didn't know at the time, that if I got another demerit I'd be dropped from college. Like the good sport she is, she occupied my bed until after inspection that night. You all know what a jam she got into, but I was so dumb that I didn't put two and two together until last night." Clarice's fixed gaze here shifted from Patricia's flushed face to Anne's. The friendly smile which flashed to her from Anne's red lips made her falter for a moment. Quickly, however, she recovered her poise, and continued. "I've seen the Dean, and explained the whole affair to her; as well as to Mrs. Vincent. And, Pat's slate is clean."

Clarice turned from the table, and before the astonished girls could move, had darted out of a side door which was directly behind her. Then pandemonium broke loose.

"Three cheers for Clarice and Pat!" cried Katharine, waving her arms excitedly.

An immediate and hearty response centered the attention of the entire dining room upon the Arnold Hall table; and as the girls left the building they were besieged by the other students to know the cause of the demonstration.

Although examinations loomed in the near future, no one could study in Arnold Hall that evening; everyone was too excited, and too happy, to settle down. The members of the Alley Gang roamed restlessly in and out of one another's rooms, talking incessantly, while sampling the "eats" which had arrived in several boxes from home that day. Patricia had managed to get Clarice for a few moments alone in order to say some things which couldn't be said in public.

"Please don't, Pat," protested the other girl. "I'm so far in debt to you that-"

"But, Clarice," interrupted Patricia, putting her hand forcibly over her friend's mouth to check further talk about indebtedness, "I want to know how things stand with you. You won't be dropped?"

"No, everything's all right. The Dean was lovely, and from now on I'm going to make good."

"I'm so glad," began Patricia, "and I know that you can."

Just then Anne appeared, and announced that Rhoda had a telephone message for Patricia.

Sliding off the porch railing, on which they had been perched, the two girls followed Anne into the house.

"Mrs. Brock would like you to come right over, Miss Randall," said Rhoda, when the trio presented themselves before the Black Book table where the maid was sitting.

"How exciting!" cried Anne. "What do you think she wants?"

"I'll have to go and find out, I suppose," sighed Patricia wearily. The strain of the week was beginning to tell on even her sturdy constitution, and she longed to go to bed.

"Come back as soon as you can," begged Anne, going as far as the door with her, "and tell us all about it. We won't have many more talkfests."

"No; and it makes me just sick to think of leaving here the last of next week," whispered Patricia sadly, dashing away a couple of tears.

"Never mind, old dear," said Anne. "Maybe something will turn up to bring you back next fall."

When the maid at Big House ushered Patricia onto a large screened porch, she was astonished to see Jack sitting beside a lamp whose soft light illuminated the entire veranda. After brief greetings had been exchanged, Mrs. Brock said abruptly:

"I have a story to tell you children."

Her visitors exchanged amused glances over the appellation.

"I'll make it brief; for I know that the reminiscences of old people bore the young. When I was a girl, about your age, I had two very dear chums: one was Mary Pierce."

Patricia leaned eagerly forward in her chair at the sound of her mother's maiden name, but Mrs. Brock conti

nued without appearing to notice the girl's surprise.

"The other," she went on, "was Gertrude Neal."

Here Jack started up in astonishment, as he, too, recognized the name of his mother. Again Mrs. Brock went on without a pause.

"That surprises you, for I seem much older than your mothers. As a matter of fact, I was several years older than the other girls, and a long illness a few years ago makes me appear much more ancient than I really am. But to go on with my story. We were very congenial, and almost inseparable." A smile at some memory flickered across the woman's face, completely transforming the immobile features with which her listeners were familiar. A look of regret and sadness almost immediately replaced the smile, as she continued:

"Unfortunately, it was too happy a friendship to last. We had a serious misunderstanding, in which I was mostly to blame. In fact the affair was the cause of considerable injustice being suffered by Mary and Gertrude. I'm not going into details-it's over now, and they probably forgot all about it; but anyhow, we separated, and I have never seen either of them since. An aunt took me abroad, and one thing or another detained me there until last year. My return revived old memories and affections; yet my pride kept me from going directly to my friends. I felt, however, that I wanted to do something to make up, at least in part, for the trouble I had caused; so I decided to make you children a little gift and at the same time find out what you were like. I bought Big House because it was located so close to the college my father attended, then sent you the money for the year's expenses.

"Rhoda, my secretary and companion, I managed to place in Arnold Hall as a maid, so she could give me all kinds of information about Patricia; and I hired a private detective, Norman Young, to do my secretarial work and at the same time spy on Jack. The game is played out now, and I hope the year has been as satisfactory to you as it has to me. Wait a minute," as Patricia again tried to speak. "I have an offer to make. I'm going to get a car; for I find I cannot walk as much as I used to; and if Jack cares to take the position as chauffeur in return for his next year's college expenses, I fancy we can come to a satisfactory agreement. The hours would not interfere at all with college work, and," she paused and looked questioningly at the boy, "you won't have to live with me."

"Mrs. Brock, I don't know what to say, except to thank you for all your kindness to me, and to accept gratefully your most generous offer. I-"

"All right then; that's settled," interrupted Mrs. Brock, turning toward Patricia. "I need someone to look after my library and read to me. If you could fit that work in with your college duties, I shall be responsible for your next year's expenses. Of course you'll live at Arnold Hall."

"Mrs. Brock," began Patricia; then much to everyone's distress she burst into tears. "If you only knew," she sobbed, "how much I wanted to come back here, and how afraid I have been that I couldn't-"

"Then I'll expect you both to report here on September 20," interrupted Mrs. Brock, "four days before college opens. Don't try to tell me how grateful you are. I guess I know. Good night."

Patricia kissed the white face of the little woman, and Jack followed her example. Neither spoke until they were out on the street.

"Some fairy godmother!" exclaimed Jack.

"Oh, Jack, isn't she wonderful?"

"And the best of all," said Jack, "is that we'll be here together again. You've become a sort of habit with me, I guess."

Patricia smiled happily in the darkness. "And now," she exulted as they reached Arnold Hall, "I must go in and tell the girls the joyful news."

The End

Transcriber's Notes

Preserved the copyright notice from the printed edition, although this book is in the public domain in the country of publication.

Silently corrected a few typos (but left nonstandard spelling and dialect as is).

Rearranged front matter to a more-logical streaming order and added a Table of Contents.

In the text versions, delimited text in italics by _underscores_.

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