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Ruth Fielding At College; or, The Missing Examination Papers By Alice B. Emerson Characters: 6871

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

It was some time before Ruth could quiet the almost hysterical girl. Rebecca Frayne had held herself in check so long, and the bitterness of her position had so festered in her mind, that now the barriers were burst she could not control herself.

But Ruth Fielding was sympathetic. And her heart went out to this lonely and foolish girl as it seldom had to any person in distress. She felt, too, did Ruth, as though it was partly her fault and the fault of the other freshmen that Rebecca was in this state of mind.

She was fearful that having actually forced herself upon Rebecca that the girl might, when she came to herself, turn against her. But at present Rebecca's heart was so full that it spilled over, once having found a confidant.

In Ruth Fielding's arms the unfortunate girl told a story that, if supremely silly from one standpoint, was a perfectly natural and not uncommon story.

She was a girl, born and brought up in a quiet, small town, living in the biggest and finest house in that town, yet having suffered actual privations all her life for the sake of keeping up appearances.

The Frayne family was supposed to be wealthy. Not as wealthy as a generation or so before; still, the Fraynes were looked upon as the leaders in local society.

There was now only an aunt, Rebecca, a younger sister, and a brother who was in New York struggling upward in a commission house.

"And if it were not for the little Fred can spare me and sends me twice a month, I couldn't stay here," Rebecca confessed during this long talk with Ruth. "He's the best boy who ever lived."

"He must be," Ruth agreed. "I'd be glad to have a brother like that."

Rebecca had been hungry for books. She had always hoped to take a college course.

"But I was ignorant of everything," she sighed.

Ruth gathered, too, that the aunt, who was at the nominal head of the Frayne household, was also ignorant. This Aunt Emmy seemed to be an empty-headed creature who thought that the most essential thing for a girl in life was to be fancifully dressed, and to attain a position in society.

Aunt Emmy had evidently filled Rebecca's head with such notions. The girl had come to Ardmore with a totally wrong idea of what it meant to be in college.

"Why! some of these girls act as waitresses," said Rebecca. "I couldn't do that even to obtain the education I want so much. Oh! Aunt Emmy would never hear to it."

"It's a perfectly legitimate way of helping earn one's tuition," Ruth said.

"The Fraynes have never done such things," the other girl said haughtily.

And right there and then Ruth decided that Rebecca Frayne was going to have a very hard time, indeed, at Ardmore unless she learned to look upon life quite differently from the way she had been taught at home.

Already Ruth Fielding had seen enough at Ardmore to know that many of the very girls whose duties Rebecca scorned, were getting more out of their college life than Rebecca Frayne could possibly get unless she took a radically different view of life and its comparative values from that her present standards gave her.

The girls who were waitresses, and did other work to help pay for their tuition or for their board were busy and happy and were respected by their mates. In addition, they were often the best scholars in the classes.

Rebecca was wrong in scorning those who combined domestic service with an attempt to obtain an edu

cation. But Ruth was wise enough to see that this feeling was inbred in Rebecca. It was useless to try to change her opinion upon it.

If Rebecca were poverty-stricken, her purse could not be replenished by any such means as these other girls found to help them over the hard places. In this matter of the tam-o'-shanter, for instance, it would be very difficult to help the girl. Ruth knew better than to offer to pay for the new tam-o'-shanter the freshman could not afford to buy. To make such an offer would immediately close the door of the strange girl's friendship to Ruth. So she did not hint at such a thing. She talked on, beginning to laugh and joke with Rebecca, and finally brought her out of her tears.

"Cheer up," Ruth said. "You are making the worst possible use of your time here-keeping to yourself and being so afraid of making friends. We're not all rich girls, I assure you. And the girls on this corridor are particularly nice."

"I suppose that may be. But if everywhere I go they show so plainly they don't want me--"

"That will stop!" cried Ruth, vigorously. "If I have to go to Dr. Milroth myself, it shall be stopped. It is hazing of the crudest kind. Oh! what a prettily crocheted table-mat. It's old-fashioned, but pretty."

"Aunty does that, almost all the time," Rebecca said, with a little laugh. "Fred once said-in confidence, of course-that half the family income goes for Aunt Emmy's wool."

"Do you do it, too?" Ruth asked suspiciously.

"Oh yes. I can."

"Say! could you crochet one of these tams?" cried Ruth, eagerly.

"Why-I suppose so," admitted the other girl.

"Then, why not? Do it to please the seniors and juniors. It won't hurt to bow to a custom, will it? And you only need buy a few hanks of wool at a time."

Rebecca's face flamed again; but she took the suggestion, after all, with some meekness.

"I might do that," she admitted.

"All right. Then you'll be doing your part. And talk to the girls. Let them talk to you. Come down to the dining-room for your meals again. You know, the housekeeper, Mrs. Ebbets, will soon be getting into trouble about you. Somebody will talk to Dr. Milroth or to some other member of the upper faculty."

"I suppose so," groaned Rebecca. "They won't let poor little me alone."

"Oh, you can't expect to have your own way at school," cried Ruth, laughing. "Oh, and say!"

"Well, Miss Fielding?"

"Do call me Ruth," begged the girl of the Red Mill. "It won't cost you a cent more," but she said it so good-naturedly that Rebecca had to laugh.

"I will," said the other girl, vehemently. "You are the very nicest little thing!"

"Well, now that's settled," laughed Ruth, "do something for me, will you?"

"Any-anything I can," agreed Rebecca, with some doubt.

"You know we girls on this corridor are going to have a sitting-room all to ourselves. That corner room that is empty. Everybody is going to buy-is going to give something to help furnish the room."

"Oh, Ruth! I can't--"

"Yes you can," interrupted Ruth, quickly. "When you stop this foolish eating by yourself, you can bring over your alcohol lamp. It's just what we want to make tea on. Now, say you will, Rebecca!"

"I-I will. Why, yes, I can do that," Rebecca agreed.

"Goody! I'll tell the girls. And you'll be as welcome as the flowers in May, lamp or no lamp," she cried, kissing Rebecca again and bustling out of the room.

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