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   Chapter 4 FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Ruth Fielding At College; or, The Missing Examination Papers By Alice B. Emerson Characters: 12878

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Greenburg was the station on the N. Y. F. & B. Railroad nearest to Ardmore College. It was a small city of some thirty or forty thousand inhabitants. The people, not alone in the city but in the surrounding country, were a rather wealthy class. Ardmore was a mile from the outskirts of the town.

Ruth Fielding and Helen Cameron, her chum, had arrived with other girls bound for the college on the noon train. Of course, the chums knew none of their fellow pupils by name, but it was easily seen which of those alighting from the train were bound for Ardmore.

There were two large auto-stages in waiting, and Ruth and Helen followed the crowd of girls briskly getting aboard the buses. As they saw other girls do, the two chums from Cheslow gave their trunk checks to a man on the platform, but they clung to their hand-baggage.

"Such a nice looking lot of girls," murmured Helen in Ruth's ear. "It's fine! I'm sure we shall have a delightful time at college, Ruthie."

"And some hard work," observed Ruth, laughing, "if we expect to keep up with them. There are no dunces in this crowd, my dear."

"Goodness, no!" agreed her friend. "They all look as sharp as needles."

There were girls of all the classes at the station, as was easily seen. Ruth and Helen chanced to get into a seat with two of the seniors, who seemed most awfully sophisticated to the recent graduates of Briarwood Hall.

"You are just entering, are you not-you and your friend?" asked the nearest senior of Ruth.

"Yes," admitted the girl of the Red Mill, feeling and looking very shy.

The young women smiled quietly, saying:

"I am Miss Dexter, and am beginning my senior year. I am glad to be the first to welcome you to Ardmore."

"Thank you so much!" Ruth said, recovering her self-possession. Then she told Miss Dexter her own name and introduced Helen.

"You girls have drawn your room numbers, I presume?"

"They were drawn for us," Ruth said. "We are to be in Dare Hall and hope to have adjoining rooms."

"That is nice," said Miss Dexter. "It is so much pleasanter when two friends enter together. I am at Hoskin Hall myself. I shall be glad to have you two freshmen look me up when you are once settled."

"Thank you," Ruth said again, and Helen found her voice to ask:

"Are all the seniors in Hoskin Hall, and all the freshmen at Dare Hall?"

"Oh, no. There are members of each class in all four of the dormitories," Miss Dexter explained.

"I suppose there will be much for us to learn," sighed Ruth. "It is different from a boarding school."

"Do you both come from a boarding school?" asked their new acquaintance.

"We are graduates of Briarwood Hall," Helen said, with pride.

"Oh, indeed?" Miss Dexter looked sharply at Ruth again. "Did you say your name was Ruth Fielding?"

"Yes, Miss Dexter."

"Why, you must be the girl who wrote a picture play to help build a dormitory for your school!" exclaimed the senior. "Really, how nice."

"There, Ruth!" said Helen, teasingly, "see what it is to be famous."

"I-I hope my reputation will not be held against me," Ruth said, laughing. "Let me tell you, Miss Dexter, we all at Briarwood helped to swell that dormitory fund."

"I fancy so," said the senior. "But all of your schoolmates could not have written a scenario which would have been approved by the Alectrion Film Corporation."

"I should say not!" cried Helen, warmly. "And it was a great picture, too."

"It was clever, indeed," agreed Miss Dexter. "I saw it on the screen."

Miss Dexter introduced the girl at the other end of the seat-another senior, Miss Purvis. The two entering freshmen felt flattered-how could they help it? They had expected, as freshmen, to be quite haughtily ignored by the seniors and juniors.

But there were other matters to interest Ruth and Helen as the auto-bus rolled out of the city. The way was very pleasant; there were beautiful homes in the suburbs of Greenburg. And after they were passed, there were lovely fields and groves on either hand. The chums thought they had seldom seen more attractive country, although they had traveled more than most girls of their age.

The road over which the auto-bus rolled was wide and well oiled-a splendid automobile track. But only one private equipage passed them on the ride to Ardmore. That car came along, going the same way as themselves, just as they reached the first of the row of faculty dwellings.

There was but one passenger in the car-a girl; and she was packed around with baggage in a most surprising way.

"Oh!" gasped Helen, in Ruth's ear, "I guess there goes one of the real fancy girls-the kind that sets the pace at college."

Ruth noticed that Miss Dexter and Miss Purvis craned their necks to see the car and the girl, and she ventured to ask who she was.

"I can't tell you," Miss Dexter said briskly. "I never saw her before."

"Oh! Perhaps, then, she isn't going to the college."

"Yes; she must be. This road goes nowhere else. But she is a freshman, of course."

"An eccentric, I fancy," drawled Miss Purvis. "You must know that each freshman class is bound to have numbered with it some most surprising individuals. Rarae aves, as it were."

Miss Dexter laughed. "But the corners are soon rubbed off and their peculiarities fade into the background. When I was a freshman, there entered a woman over fifty, with perfectly white hair. She was a dear; but, of course, she was an anomaly at college."

"My!" exclaimed Helen. "What did she want to go to college for?"

"The poor thing had always wanted to go to college. When she was young there were few women's colleges. And she had a big family to help, and finally a bedridden sister to care for. So she remained faithful to her home duties, but each year kept up with the graduating class of a local preparatory school. She was really a very well educated and bright woman; only peculiar."

"And what happened when she came to Ardmore?" asked Ruth, interested, "is she still here?"

"Oh, no. She remained only a short time. She found, she said, that her mind was not nimble enough, at her age, to keep up with the classes. Which was very probably true, you know. Unless one is constantly engaged in hard mental labor, one's mind must get into ruts by the time one is fifty. But she was very lovely, and quite popular-while she lasted."

Helen was more interested just then in the row of cottages

occupied by the members of the faculty, and here strung along the left side of the highway. They were pretty houses, set in pretty grounds.

"Oh, look, Helen!" cried Ruth, suddenly.

"The lake!" responded Helen.

The dancing blue waters of Lake Remona were visible for a minute between two of the houses. Ruth, too, caught a glimpse of the small island which raised its hilly head in the middle of the lake.

"Is that Bliss Island?" she inquired of Miss Dexter.

"Yes. You can see it from here. That doesn't belong to the college."

"No?" said Ruth, in surprise: "But, of course, the girls can go there?"

"It is 'No Man's Land,' I believe. Belongs to none of the estates surrounding the lake. We go there-yes," Miss Dexter told her. "The Stone Face is there."

"What is that, please?" asked Ruth, interested. "What is the Stone Face?"

"A landmark, Miss Fielding. That Stone Face was quite an important spot last May-wasn't it, Purvis?" the senior asked the other girl.

"Oh, goodness me, yes!" said Miss Purvis. "Don't mention it. Think what it has done to our Kappa Alpha."

"What do you suppose ever became of that girl?" murmured Miss Dexter, thoughtfully.

"I can't imagine. It was a sorry time, take it all in all. Let's not talk of it, Merry. Our sorority has a setback from which it will never recover."

All this was literally Greek to Ruth, of course. Nor did she listen with any attention. There were other things for her and Helen to be interested in, for the main building of the college had come into view.

They had been gradually climbing the easy slope of College Hill from the east. The main edifice of Ardmore did not stand upon the summit of the eminence. Behind and above the big, winged building the hill rose to a wooded, rounding summit, sheltering the whole estate from the north winds.

Just upon the edge of the forest at the top was an octagon-shaped observatory. Ruth had read about it in the Year Book. From the balcony of this observatory one could see, on a clear day, to the extreme west end of Lake Remona-quite twenty-five miles away.

The newcomers, however, were more interested at present in the big building which faced the lake, half-way down the southern slope of College Hill, and which contained the hall and classrooms, as well as the principal offices. The beautiful campus was in front of this building.

"All off for Dare and Dorrance," shouted the stage driver, stopping his vehicle.

The driveway here split, one branch descending the hill, while the main thread wound on past the front of the main building. Ruth and Helen scrambled down with their bags.

"Good-bye," said Miss Dexter smiling on them. "Perhaps I shall see you when you come over to the registrar's office. We seniors have to do the honors for you freshies."

Miss Purvis, too, bade them a pleasant good-bye. The chums set off down the driveway. On their left was the great, sandstone, glass-roofed bulk of the gymnasium, and they caught a glimpse of the fenced athletic field behind it.

Ahead were the two big dormitories upon this side of the campus-Dare and Dorrance Halls. The driveway curved around to the front of these buildings, and now the private touring car the girls had before noticed, came shooting around from the lake side of the dormitories, passing Ruth and Helen, empty save for the chauffeur.

"Goodness!" exclaimed Helen. "I wonder if that dressy girl with all the goods and chattels is bunked in our dormitory?"

"'Our' dormitory, no less!" laughed Ruth. "Do you feel as much at home already as that?"

"Goodness! No. I'm only trying to make myself believe it. Ruth, what an e-nor-mous place this is! I feel just as small as-as a little mouse in an elephant's stall."

Ruth laughed, but before she could reply they rounded the corner of the building nearest to the campus and saw the group of girls upon its broad porch, the stranger at the foot of the steps, and the heap of baggage piled where the chauffeur had left it.

"Hello!" May MacGreggor said, aloud, "here are a couple more kittens. Look at the pretty girl with the brown eyes and hair. And the smart-looking, black-eyed one. Now! here are freshies after my own heart."

Edith Phelps refused to be called off from the girl and the baggage, however. She said coolly:

"I really don't know what you will do with all that truck, Miss Fielding. The rooms at Dare are rather small. You could not possibly get all those bags and the trunk-and certainly not that hat-box-into one of these rooms."

"My name isn't Fielding," said the strange girl, paling now, but whether from anger or as a forerunner to tears it would have been hard to tell. Her face was not one to be easily read.

"Your name isn't Fielding?" gasped Edie Phelps, while the latter's friends burst into laughter. "'R. F.'! What does that stand for, pray?"

At this moment the fleshy girl who had been all this time in the background on the porch, flung herself forward, burst through the group, and ran down the steps. She had spied Ruth and Helen approaching.

"Ruthie! Helen! Ruth Fielding! Isn't this delightsome?"

The fleshy girl tried to hug both the chums from Cheslow at once. Edie Phelps and the rest of the girls on the porch gazed and listened in amazement. Edie turned upon the girl with the heap of baggage, accusingly.

"You're a good one! What do you mean by coming here and fooling us all in this way? What's your name?"

"Rebecca Frayne-if you think you have a right to ask," said the new girl, sharply.

"And you're not the canned drama authoress?"

"I don't know what you mean, I'm sure," said Rebecca Frayne. "But I would like to know what I'm to do with this baggage."

Ruth had come to the foot of the steps now with Helen and the fleshy girl, whom the chums had hailed gladly as "Jennie Stone." The girl of the Red Mill heard the speech of the stranger and noted her woebegone accent. She turned with a smile to Rebecca Frayne.

"Oh! I know about that," she said. "Just leave your trunk and bags here and put your card and the number of your room on them. The men will be along very soon to carry them up for you. I read that in the Year Book."

"Thank you," said Rebecca Frayne.

The group of sophomores and freshmen on the porch opened a way for the Briarwood trio to enter the house, and said never a word. Jennie Stone was, as she confessed, grinning broadly.

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