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Ruth Fielding At College; or, The Missing Examination Papers By Alice B. Emerson Characters: 7376

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Ruth Fielding was quite as eager for fun between lessons as either Helen or Jennie, and the prospect of skating on such a large lake as Remona delighted her. The second day following the incident in the chorus class, the ice which had bound Lake Remona was officially pronounced safe.

Gymnasium athletics lost their charm for those girls who were truly active and could skate. There were luxurious damsels who preferred to be pushed about in ice-chairs by more active girls or by hired attendants; but our trio of friends did not look upon that as enjoyment.

Even Jennie Stone was a vigorous skater. After a day or two on the ice, when their ankles had become strong enough, the three made a circuit of Bliss Island-and that was "some skate," to quote Jennie.

The island was more than a mile from the boathouse, and it was five or six miles in circumference. Therefore, the task was quite all of an eight-mile jaunt.

"But 'do or die' is our motto," remarked Helen, as they set forth on this determined journey. "Let's show these pussy girls what it means to have trained at Briarwood."

"That's all right! that's all right!" grumbled Jennie. "But your motto is altogether too grim and significant. Let's limit it. I want to do if I can; but mercy me! I don't want to die yet. You girls have got to stop and rest when I say so, or I won't go at all."

Ruth and Helen agreed. That is why it took them until almost dinner-time to encircle the island. Jennie Stone was determined to rest upon the least provocation.

"We'll be starved to death before we get back," Helen began to complain while they were upon the south side of the island. "I should think you would feel the pinch of privation, Heavy."

"I do," admitted the other hollowly.

"Well, why didn't you escape it by refusing to come, or else by bringing a lunch?" demanded the black-eyed girl.

"No. This is a part of the system," groaned Jennie.

"What system, I'd like to know?" Ruth asked, in surprise.

"System of martyrdom, I guess," sniffed Helen.

"You've said it," agreed the plump girl. "That is the truest word yet spoken. Martyrdom! that is what it means for me."

"What means to you?" snapped Helen, exasperated because she could not understand.

"This dieting and exercising," Jennie said more cheerfully. "I deliberately came so far and without food to see if I couldn't really lose some weight. Do you know, girls, I am so hollow and so tired right now, that I believe I must have lost a few ounces, anyway."

"You ridiculous thing!" laughed Helen, recovering her good nature.

"Should we sacrifice ourselves for your benefit, do you think, Jennie?" Ruth asked.

"Why not? 'Love thy neighbor as thyself,' only more so. I need the inspiration of you girls to help me," Jennie declared. "Do you know, sometimes I am almost discouraged?"

"About what?" asked Helen.

"About my weight. I watch the bathroom scales with eagle eye. But instead of coming down by pounds, I only fall by ounces. It is awfully discouraging. And then," added the fleshy girl, "the other day when we had such a scrumptuous dinner-was it Columbus Day? I believe so-I was tempted to eat one of my old-time 'full and plenty' meals, and what do you think?"

"You had the nightmare," said Helen.

"Not a chance! But I went up two pounds and a half-or else the scales were crazy!"

"Girls!" exclaimed Ruth, suddenly. "Do you know it is snowing?"

"My! I never expected that," cried Helen, as a feathery flake lit upon the very point of her pretty nose. "Ow!"

"Well, we'd better go on, I guess," Ruth observed. "Put your best foot forward, please, Miss Jennie."

"I don't know which is my best

foot now," complained the heavy girl. "They are both getting lame."

"We'll just have to make you sit down on the ice while we drag you," announced Helen, increasing the length of her stroke.

"Not much you won't!" exclaimed Jennie Stone, "I'm cold enough as it is."

"Shall we take off our skates and walk over the island, girls?" suggested Ruth. "That will save some time and more than a little work for Heavy."

"Don't worry about me," put in Jennie. "I need the exercise. And walking would be worse than skating, I do believe."

It was snowing quite thickly now; but the shore of the island was not far away. The trio hugged it closely in encircling the wooded and hilly piece of land.

"Say!" Helen cried, "we're not the only girls out here to-day."

"Huh?" grunted Jennie, head down and skating doggedly.

"See there, Ruth!" called the black-eyed girl.

Ruth turned her face to one side and looked under the shade of her hand, which she held above her eyes. There was a figure moving along the shore of Bliss Island just abreast of them.

"It's a girl," she said. "But she's not skating."

"Who is it? A freshie?" asked Jennie, but little interested.

Ruth did not reply. She seemed wonderfully interested by the appearance of the girl on shore. She fell behind her mates while she watched the figure.

The snow was increasing; and that with the abruptly rising island, furnished a background for the strange girl which threw her into relief.

At first Ruth was attracted only by her figure. She could not see her face.

"Who can she be? Not one of the girls at Dare Hall--"

This idea spun to nothingness very quickly. No! The figure ashore reminded Ruth Fielding of nobody whom she had seen recently. The feeling, however, that she knew the person grew.

The snow blew sharply into the faces of the skating girls; but she on shore was somewhat sheltered from the gale. The wind was out of the north and west and the highland of the island broke the zest of the gale for the strange girl.

"And yet she isn't strange-I know she isn't," murmured Ruth Fielding, casting another glance back at the figure on the shore.

"Come on, Ruth! Do hurry!" cried Helen, looking back. "Even Heavy is beating you."

Ruth quickened her efforts. The strange girl disappeared, mounting a path it seemed toward the center of the island. Ruth, head bent and lips tightly closed, skated on intent upon her mystifying thoughts.

The trio rounded the island at last. They got the wind somewhat at their backs and on a long slant made for the boathouse landing. It was growing dusk, but there was a fire at the landing that beckoned them on.

"Glad it isn't any farther," Helen panted. "This snow is gathering so fast it clogs one's skates."

"Oh, I must be losing pounds!" puffed Jennie Stone. "I bet none of my clothes will fit me to-morrow. I shall have to throw them all away."

"Oh, Heavy!" giggled Helen. "That lovely new silk?"

"Oh-well-I shall take that in!" drawled Jennie.

"I've got it!" exclaimed Ruth, in a most startling way.

"Goodness me! are you hurt?" demanded Helen.

"What you got? A cramp?" asked Jennie, quite as solicitous.

"I know now who that girl looked like," declared Ruth.

"What girl?" rejoined Helen Cameron. "The one over yonder, on the other side of the island?"

"Yes. She looks just like that Maggie who came to the mill, Helen. You remember, don't you? The girl I left to help Aunt Alvirah when I came to college."

"Well, for the land's sake!" said Jennie Stone. "If she's up there at the Red Mill, how can she possibly be down here, too? You're talking out of order, Miss Fielding. Sit down!"

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