Author: Persons, Helen M.
Women college students — Juvenile fiction
The Mystery of Arnold Hall
Rhoda helped them to scramble up the rough stones, slippery with moss.
THE MYSTERY OF
By HELEN M. PERSONS
“Finding the Lost Treasure,” etc.
THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY
Akron, Ohio New York
The Saalfield Publishing Company
Printed in the United States of America
- I Pat’s Chance 5
- II Anne 16
- III “Hill Top” 27
- IV The Alley Gang 37
- V Moss 48
- VI A Meddler 59
- VII A Fall 71
- VIII Jack or Tut? 84
- IX A Tough Proposition 95
- X Jack in Danger 103
- XI Aunt Betsy to the Rescue 115
- XII On Duty 123
- XIII A Fire 131
- XIV An Investigation 139
- XV Under Arrest 149
- XVI A Picnic 159
- XVII A Robbery 177
- XVIII A Week End 188
- XIX A Weird Experience 200
- XX The Reward 214
- XXI Pat’s Sacrifice 222
- XXII Clarice 235
- XXIII Solutions 242
THE MYSTERY OF
“Will you go, Patricia?” called Mrs. Randall from the living room, one cool evening late in August, as the doorbell rang imperatively. “I’m starting a fire in the grate.”
From the dining room across the hall, where she had been putting away the last of the supper dishes, hurried a tall slender girl, whose short wavy yellow hair and big brown eyes were set off to perfection by a green jersey dress. Expecting to see one of the neighbors when the door was opened, she was startled into an involuntary gasp as a messenger thrust forward a special delivery letter, inquiring curtly—“Miss Patricia Randall?”
Patricia signed his book, closed the door, and walked slowly into the living room staring down at the unexpected missive in her hand.
“What is it, Pat?” inquired her mother, glancing up from the hearth rug where she knelt trying to coax a blaze from a bed of charcoal and paper.
“A special delivery letter—for me.”
“For you?” repeated Mrs. Randall in surprise. “From whom?”
“I don’t know,” replied her daughter, frowning in a puzzled fashion.
“Well, open it and find out. Don’t stand staring at it like that,” urged her mother briskly.
Patricia sank into a low tapestry chair beside the fireplace and tore open the envelope. As she drew out the single sheet it contained, a slip dropped from it onto her lap. Still holding the folded letter she picked up the slip and exclaimed:
“A cashier’s check for a thousand dollars!”
“Pat!” cried Mrs. Randall, reaching for the yellow paper to read it for herself. “Look at the letter, quick, and see who sent it!”
“It’s only a line. ‘For Patricia Randall to spend on a year at Granard College.’ Oh—why—Mums!”
Patricia flung herself on her mother so suddenly that Mrs. Randall lost her balance, and the two fell in a heap on the rug.
“Mary! Patricia!” ejaculated a horrified masculine voice from the doorway. “What in the world—”
“Oh, Dad!” cried the girl, springing up and giving a helping hand to her mother. With scarcely more effort than that of her daughter Mrs. Randall regained her feet, and they stood facing Mr. Randall’s astonished gaze.
“Just look at this!” Patricia thrust the magic papers into his hand. “Isn’t it marvelous?”
Mr. Randall read the brief message, turned the check over and over as if to discover its sender by inspecting it from all sides, and then looked inquiringly at his wife and daughter.
“Is this a joke of some kind?”
“Joke!” retorted Patricia in disgust. “I should say not! A messenger just brought it, special delivery.”
“Strange, very strange,” commented her father, shaking his head. “Do you know anything about it, Mary?” addressing his wife, with a suspicious look.
“I most certainly do not. Do you?”
“You ought to know that I don’t. Where would I get that much money? Didn’t we send Pat here to Brentwood College last year because we couldn’t afford to send her away?”
“Keep your shirt on, Dad!” laughed Patricia. “Keep your shirt on, and say I may go.”
“I—I don’t know what to say,” replied the puzzled man, sinking heavily into his favorite chair, and pulling his pipe out of his pocket.
“Do you suppose,” began Patricia, perching on the arm of her father’s chair, “that Aunt Betsy could have gotten big-hearted and sent it?”
“Pat!” cried her mother derisively. “Of course not. She has all she can do to keep Ted in college.”
“Be rather nice for me, having Ted at Granard,” mused Patricia, recalling her cousin’s beguiling ways and good looks.
“And having Aunt Betsy there to keep an eye on both of you,” added her mother.
“Some eye! She’ll probably never know I’m there,” laughed Patricia. “Darling Ted takes up all of her time and attention.”
“You two women,” remarked Mr. Randall peevishly, “seem to have this affair all settled.”
“Well, you see, darling, we felt quite sure you would let me go,” laughed Patricia, ruffling up his hair. “You’re going to, aren’t you?” bending down to look pleadingly into his eyes. “You know I’ve longed to go out of town to college where I could live in a dorm. Not that I don’t like living at home, but—”
“We understand,” interrupted her mother; “you need not be apologetic.”
“I wish we knew who sent the money, though,” said Patricia, frowning earnestly. “It must be somebody who knows all about us, but I can’t think of a soul who could or would do it.”
“I shall investigate, of course,” began her father, after some thought; “but if nothing can be found out about the donor of this wonderful gift, it seems to me that since the money has been sent to you for a special purpose, and sent in such a manner, the only course open to us is to use it as stipulated, and not make any further effort to discover its sender.”
“Oh, but, Dad! It’s so tantalizing,” wailed his daughter.
“I know; but, Patricia, when you have a secret, you don’t like to have anyone try to guess it, do you?”
“This is the same thing. Just do your best to be worthy of such a generous gift and wait for its sender to reveal himself when he chooses.”
“Your father is quite right, Pat,” agreed Mrs. Randall; “and I’d like to add one more suggestion: that you do not discuss the matter with anyone else but us. It’s romantic, and your inclination will be to let your new companions in on the secret, but I think you will be wise if you keep it to yourself; unless, of course, some unusual circumstance arises.”
Patricia thought soberly for a few minutes, then said with a sigh, “I suppose you’re right, Mother.”
“Do you think you’ll have any trouble transferring your credits and getting into the Sophomore class?” asked her father presently, after another long pause, while each was busy with his own thoughts.
“I don’t think so. I’ll go to see the Dean the first thing tomorrow morning, and I’ll have to write for a room—”
“And we’ll have to shop and sew,” added Mrs. Randall, almost as eagerly as her daughter.
After Pat had gone to bed to lie awake anticipating all kinds of unknown adventures, Mr. and Mrs. Randall had a long serious talk over the dying fire.
“Then you feel satisfied to let her go?” inquired Mrs. Randall anxiously as they finally rose to go upstairs.
“I don’t see how we can do any different. And who knows what this opportunity may mean to Pat?”
“If I could only be sure that everything was all right, and that no harm would come to the child,” sighed Mrs. Randall, running her fingers through her hair, a habit when troubled over anything.
“Now, Mary, what harm could come to her? She’ll be living with lots of other students under the direct supervision of the house chaperon and the Dean; and Betsy is right near the college. But of course if you don’t want her to go—”
“Oh, I do—at least I haven’t the heart to deprive her of the fulfillment of one of her dreams.”
Mr. Randall locked the front door, put out the lights, and followed his wife up the long stairway. At the door of their room Mrs. Randall paused, grasped his arm and whispered cautiously, with an eye on Pat’s door, “I’m willing to give Pats her chance, but, just the same, John Randall, I wish she were going back to Brentwood. I have a presentiment that—”
“Oh, you and your presentiments!” ejaculated Mr. Randall, pushing her gently but firmly ahead of him into their room. “Nonsense!”
The weeks that followed were very exciting ones for Patricia. Her days were filled to the brim with shopping, sewing, making last calls on old friends, and finally, packing. So many evenings were taken up with farewell parties that Mr. Randall complained that he never saw his daughter any more; that, as far as her parents were concerned, she might as well have gone to college the night she received the money.
“But, dear,” remonstrated his wife soothingly, “all her friends want to entertain for her, and she can’t very well refuse any of their invitations.”
“Where is she tonight?” grumbled Mr. Randall.
“Carolyn is giving a dinner dance at the Club. Poor Carolyn! She’s quite disturbed over having Pat go away. They have been such pals ever since they were little.”
“Pat might ask Carolyn down for a week end some time this year. She and her mother have been more than good to our girl. Besides, I don’t want Pat to be so taken up with the new life and new friends that she will cast aside all her old ties.”
“I don’t think she will, John. Of course just at first her whole mind will be on Granard, but after the novelty wears off—”
“I’ve been thinking,” interrupted her husband, who evidently had his mind on something else, “that it would be nice for Pats to have a little car—”
“John! How ‘galumptious’ as Pat says. Could we manage it?”
“I think so. We’ll have the money we expected to spend on her year at Brentwood, and Everet Schuyler has a coach he’s very anxious to sell. If I can drive any kind of a bargain with him, I think I’ll do it. Of course don’t say anything to Pat. I thought we might drive down some week end, and surprise her with it; and then come back on the train.”
“How did you ever happen to think of such a thing?” inquired Mrs. Randall, knitting very fast on the green sweater she was making for her daughter.
“Oh, I haven’t been blind to the fact that more than half of the college girls here have some kind of a car, and I often wished I could get Pat one. Never been able to, before, but now I guess we can swing it. It will be a saving, too; for she can drive back and forth whenever she has a vacation, and save carfare. And maybe, once in a while, she could come home for a week end?” he added, hopefully.
“Perhaps,” Mrs. Randall smiled and leaned forward to pat his arm.
“Let’s go down to Schuyler’s now and look at the bus,” proposed Mr. Randall ten minutes later.
“All right,” agreed his wife, laying aside her work and getting briskly out of her easy chair.
If Patricia had not been so absorbed in her own affairs she would certainly have wondered the next day what ailed her parents; for there was such an air of suppressed excitement about them that vented itself in significant glances and knowing smiles. The thrill of buying her ticket, however, made Patricia oblivious to all else.
“Why don’t you take a sleeper,” asked her mother, “and get a good rest on the way down? You’ve been up so late every night.”
“Nothing doing!” retorted Patricia decidedly. “When I travel I want my eyes wide open so I won’t miss a single thing.”
Her positive decision recurred to her three days later as she snuggled deep into her comfortable chair, with a sigh of satisfaction, a sigh which was unceremoniously cut short by a very big yawn. The farewells at the station had been exciting and gratifying, but yet something of a strain. Almost all of her crowd had assembled to see her off, bearing gifts of candy, fruit, books, and magazines; her mother had clung to her till the very last minute, and her father had fussed about time tables, porters, tips, and a dozen other things. It had seemed as if she were being torn into a dozen pieces trying to pay attention to everybody. Now the train was bearing her rapidly away from Dad and Mother and all the dear old friends toward a new life at Granard.
“Perhaps I’d have been wiser to have followed Mother’s suggestion about the sleeper,” she thought, as she tried to stifle another great yawn. “Maybe if I take a little nap now, I’ll feel fresh for the rest of the day.”
Turning her chair toward the window, and leaning back, her hands on the broad arms, she was almost immediately floating in a delicious sea of semi-unconsciousness which became deeper and deeper until she was completely lost to the world about her. After a while, however, a most persistent dream began to disturb her peaceful sleep, a dream about a soft grey kitten whose silky fur she kept stroking, stroking until her hand was tired; but yet she could not stop. After a time she began to realize that she was dreaming, and made a desperate effort to free herself from the world of sleep by closing her fingers sharply on the little animal’s neck and giving it a shove.
Then with a sudden start at some movement close to her she sat bolt upright and opened her eyes just in time to see a pair of long legs, the ankles clad in grey silk socks, hastily removing themselves from the ledge beside her chair.
“Good Heavens!” she thought, horror-stricken. “I do hope those weren’t the kitten!”
Swinging her chair sharply about to face the aisle, she met the amused gaze of a red-haired girl of about her own age.
“Tell me,” begged Patricia impulsively, leaning forward, “was I—doing anything—unusual while I was asleep?”
“I’ll say you were,” responded the girl, smiling broadly.
“You—you were—stroking the ankles of that young man back of you as if your life depended on it,” choked the stranger.
“No!” cried Patricia, in great distress.
“Yes! Then suddenly you pinched the poor fellow, and I thought I’d just die!”
At that moment the man in question rose and hurried down the aisle toward the smoker. With crimson face, Patricia watched the slight boyish figure, with its crown of smooth yellow hair, disappear before she again addressed her neighbor.
“I’m embarrassed to death! What must he think of me? I can’t apologize for something I didn’t know I was doing; and if I try to explain, it will look as if we were trying to scrape up an acquaintance. What would you do?”
“I’d just let it go, and try to forget it,” advised the other girl, raising up in her chair to lower the shade a little; for the sun was shining full upon her.
“Do you suppose the rest of these people saw me?” persisted Patricia, glancing anxiously around the car.
There were not many other passengers; an old lady, apparently absorbed in a weighty-looking volume; a couple of middle-aged men, with their heads close together, evidently discussing some important question; a young mother, absorbed in the baby in her arms; and a scared-looking, awkward girl, who gazed moodily out of the window, occasionally munching a chocolate from a box in her lap.
“I don’t think so,” replied the red-haired girl, settling herself anew in her chair, and smoothing out the skirt of her dark green suit. “I probably shouldn’t have, if I hadn’t been watching you.”
“Watching me?” repeated Patricia, opening her brown eyes very wide in surprise.
“Yes; and wondering if by any chance you were going to Granard College.”
“I am, but what in the world made you think so?”
“Oh, you looked like a college girl, some way, and then being on this train, which, this time of year, is a favorite one for the Granard students. Don’t know where they all are today, though. Are you just entering?”
“Yes, and no,” laughed Patricia. “I did my Freshman work at Brentwood; so I’m entering the Soph class here.”
“Congratulations! Welcome to the class of 19—. I’m one of your classmates-to-be. Anne Ford, at your service.”
“My name is Patricia Randall, and I’m very glad to get acquainted with some one before I get to Granard. I confess I have stage fright at the prospect of meeting so many strangers.”
“Don’t let that bother you. The girls are easy to get on with, and you’ll soon feel as if you’d always been at Granard,” said Anne carelessly.
Patricia realized, however, that it would not be quite so simple to break into a class whose cliques and customs had had a whole year’s start before she came on the scene.
“How did you happen to choose Granard?” inquired Anne curiously. “Do you know anyone there?”
“My cousin,” replied Patricia, breathing a prayer of thanks for the second question which enabled her to disregard the first. “Ted Carter; do you know him?”
“Ted Carter! I should say I do!” exclaimed Anne, adding, quickly and somewhat possessively, “Ted’s my best boy friend.”
“How nice!” commented Patricia so heartily that all the suspicions which had arisen in Anne’s mind as to possible claims on the fascinating Teddy were promptly allayed.
“Come on over here,” suggested Anne, turning a vacant chair to face her; “and we’ll have a cozy chat.”
Patricia gladly accepted the invitation, and as she settled herself with one foot tucked under her, a habit whenever she wished to be especially comfortable, Anne asked:
“Do you know yet where you’re to room?”
“Yes; Arnold Hall.”
“You are?” exclaimed Anne, gazing at Patricia in astonishment. “You certainly must have some pull.”
“Why?” inquired Patricia, in a puzzled tone.
“Because Arnold Hall’s the best dorm at Granard, and there’s always a waiting list for it. You’re a lucky girl to be able to break right into it. My reservation was made while I was still in high school.”
“Oh, then you live there? I’m so glad!” There was no mistaking the note of gratification in Patricia’s tone, nor the admiring gaze of her brown eyes which rested somewhat shyly upon her new acquaintance.
Anne smiled in the manner of one who is so accustomed to being popular that it has long ceased to be exciting. There was something unusual about this new girl, evidently, or old Hattersley would never have let her get into Arnold Hall. It evidently wasn’t money; for though Patricia’s clothes were in good taste, they were not expensive. She had no friends there, except her cousin. Perhaps it was scholarship, or some powerful influence from Brentwood or high school.
Patricia, meanwhile, was wondering what Anne would say if she were to tell her that when Dad had written for a room for Patricia, the registrar, somebody by the name of Hattersley, had promptly replied that one had already been reserved for her in Arnold Hall. They had speculated on the strange fact for days, and had been forced to leave the mystery unsolved, just as they had the arrival of the check.
“Do you know Aunt Betsy?” inquired Patricia, presently.
“Not personally,” replied Anne, smiling broadly; “but I’ve heard of her.”
“I’ll warrant you have,” giggled Patricia. “She’s as good as gold, but most awfully funny. You never know what she’s going to say or do next. We say she has only three interests: Ted, and Ted, and Ted. They used to live near us in Brentwood, but when my cousin won a scholarship at Granard, she rented her house and took an apartment down here so she could give Ted all the comforts of home during his course. She meant well, of course; but I feel sort of sorry for Ted. I fancy he’d rather be a bit freer. One night during his Freshman year he stayed out to dinner and for the evening without telling her;