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Ruth Fielding At College; or, The Missing Examination Papers By Alice B. Emerson Characters: 7128

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Ruth Fielding was not at all satisfied. Not that her experiences in these first few weeks of college were not wholly "up to sample," as the slangy Jennie Stone remarked. Ruth was getting personally all out of college life that she could expect.

The mere fact that a little handful of the girls looked at her somewhat askance because of her success as a motion picture writer, did not greatly trouble the girl of the Red Mill. She could wait for them to forget her small "fame" or for them to learn that she was quite as simple and unaffected as any other girl of her age. It was about Rebecca Frayne that Ruth was disturbed in her mind. Here was the case of a student who, Ruth believed, was much misunderstood.

She could not imagine a girl deliberately making trouble for herself. Rebecca Frayne by the expenditure of a couple of dollars in the purchase of a new tam-o'-shanter might have easily overcome this dislike that had been bred not alone in the minds of the girls of the two upper classes, but among the sophomores and her own classmates as well. The sophomores thought her ridiculous; the freshmen themselves felt that she was bringing upon the whole class unmerited criticism.

Ruth looked deeper. She saw the strange girl walk past her mates unnoticed, scarcely spoken to, indeed, by the freshmen and ignored completely by members of the other classes. And yet, to Ruth's mind, there seemed to be an air about Rebecca Frayne-a look in her eyes, perhaps-that seemed to beg for sympathy.

It was no hardship for Ruth to speak to the girl and try to be friendly with her. But opportunities for this were not frequent.

In the first place Ruth's own time was much occupied with her studies, her own personal friends, Helen and Jennie, and the new scenario on which she worked during every odd hour.

Several times Ruth went to the door of Rebecca's room and knocked. She positively knew the girl was at home, but there had been no answer to her summons and the door was locked.

The situation troubled Ruth. When she was among her classmates, Rebecca seemed nervously anxious to please and eager to be spoken to, although she had little to say. Here, on the other hand, once alone in her room, she deliberately shut herself away from all society.

Soon after the outdoor song festival that had been so successful, and immediately following the organization of the freshman class and its election of officers, Ruth and Helen went over to the library one evening to consult some reference books.

The reference room was well filled with busy girls of all classes, who came bustling in, got down the books they required, dipped into them for a minute and then departed to their own studies, or else settled down to work on their topics for a more extended period.

It was a cold evening, and whenever a girl entered from the hall a breath of frosty air came with her, and most of those gathered in the room were likely to look up and shiver. Few of those assembled failed to notice Rebecca Frayne when she came in.

"Goodness! See who has came," whispered Helen.

"Oh, Rebecca!" murmured Ruth, looking up as the girl in question crossed the room.

"Hasn't she the cheek of all cheeks to breeze in here this way?" Helen went on to say with more force than elegance. "That awful tam again."

One could not fail to see the tam-o'-shanter very well. It was noticeable in any assembly.

Perhaps half of the girls in the reference room were seniors and juniors. Several of the members of the younger classes nodded to the newcomer,

though not many noticed her in this way.

There was, however, almost immediately a general movement by the girls belonging to the senior and junior classes. They got up grimly, put away the books they were at work upon, and filed out, one by one, and without saying a word.

Helen stared after them, and nudged Ruth.

"What is it?" asked her chum, who had been too busy to notice.

"Did you see that?" asked Helen.

"Did I see what?"

"There isn't a senior or a jun left in the room. That-that's something more than a coincidence."

Ruth was puzzled. "I really wish you would explain," she said.

Helen was not the only girl remaining who had noticed the immediate departure of the members of the two older classes. Some of the sophomores were whispering together. Rebecca's fellow-classmen glanced at her sharply to see if she had noticed what had occurred.

"I can't believe it," Ruth said worriedly, after Helen explained. "They would not go out because she came in."

The next day, however, the matter was more marked. Rebecca could sing; she evidently loved singing. In the classes for vocal music there was often a mixture of all grades, some of the seniors and juniors attending with the sophomores and freshmen.

Ruth Fielding, of course, never missed these classes. She hoped to be noticed and have her voice tried out for the Glee Club. Professor Leidenburg was to give a little talk on this day that would be helpful, and the class was well attended.

But when Rebecca Frayne came into the small hall just before the professor himself appeared, there was a stir throughout the audience. The girls, of course, were hatless here; but that morning Rebecca had been seen wearing the "scrambled-egg tam," as Helen insisted upon calling it.

There was an intake of breath all over the room. Rebecca walked down the aisle in search of an empty seat.

And suddenly half the seats were empty. She could have her choice-and a large one.

"Goodness!" Helen gasped.

Every senior and junior in the room had arisen and had left her seat. Not a word had been spoken, nor had they glanced at Rebecca Frayne, who at first was unaware of what it portended.

The older girls filed out silently. Professor Leidenburg entered by the door beside the organ just in time to see the last of them disappear. He looked a bit surprised, but said nothing and took up the matter at hand with but half an audience.

Rebecca Frayne had seen and understood at last. She sat still in her seat, and Ruth saw that she did not open her lips when, later, the choruses were sung. Her face was very pale.

Nobody spoke to her when the class was dismissed. This was not an intentional slight on the part of her mates; simply, the girls did not know what to say.

The seniors and juniors were showing Rebecca that she was taboo. Their attitude could not be mistaken. And so great was the influence of these older girls of Ardmore upon the whole college that Rebecca walked entirely alone.

Ruth and Helen walked down the hill behind Rebecca that afternoon. Ruth was very silent, while Helen buzzed about a dozen things.

"I-I wonder how that poor girl feels?" murmured the girl of the Red Mill after a while.

"Cold, I imagine!" declared her chum, vigorously. "I'm half frozen myself, Ruth. There's going to be a big frost to-night and the lake is already skimmed over. Say, Ruth!"

"Well?" asked her friend, absently.

"Let's take our skates first thing in the morning down to that man who sharpens things at the boathouse; will you?"

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