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´╗┐Title: Ruth Fielding at Briarwood Hall - or Solving the Campus Mystery
Author: Emerson, Alice B.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ruth Fielding at Briarwood Hall - or Solving the Campus Mystery" ***

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[Illustration: Cover art]



[Frontispiece: "IT'S A BEAUTIFUL OLD PLACE, HELEN," SIGHED RUTH.]



Ruth Fielding

at Briarwood Hall

OR

Solving the Campus Mystery


BY

ALICE B. EMERSON


  AUTHOR OF "RUTH FIELDING OF THE RED MILL,"
  "RUTH FIELDING AT LIGHTHOUSE POINT," ETC.



_ILLUSTRATED_



NEW YORK

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY

PUBLISHERS



Books for Girls

BY ALICE B. EMERSON


RUTH FIELDING SERIES

l2mo Cloth. Illustrated.

RUTH FIELDING OF THE RED MILL
  Or, Jasper Parloe's Secret.

RUTH FIELDING AT BRIARWOOD HALL
  Or, Solving the Campus Mystery.

RUTH FIELDING AT SNOW LODGE
  Or, Lost in the Backwoods.

RUTH FIELDING AT LIGHTHOUSE POINT
  Or, Nita, the Girl Castaway.

RUTH FIELDING AT SILVER RANCH
  Or, Schoolgirls Among the Cowboys.


CUPPLES & LEON Co., PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK.



COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY


RUTH FIELDING AT BRIARWOOD HALL



CONTENTS

CHAPTER

     I.  THE EXODUS
    II.  THE MAN WITH THE HARP
   III.  APPROACHING THE PROMISED LAND
    IV.  THE RIVALRY OF THE UPEDES AND THE FUSSY CURLS
     V.  THE DUET
    VI.  THE ENTERING WEDGE
   VII.  THE UPEDES
  VIII.  THE MARBLE HARP
    IX.  THE GHOSTLY TRIBUNAL
     X.  SOMETHING MORE THAN GHOSTS
    XI.  THE VOICE OF THE HARP
   XII.  THE MYSTERY DEEPENS
  XIII.  BEGINNINGS
   XIV.  THE SWEETBRIARS
    XV.  THE NIGHT OF HARPOCRATES
   XVI.  THE HAWK AMONG THE CHICKENS
  XVII.  GOODY TWO-STICKS
 XVIII.  THE MYSTERY AGAIN
   XIX.  THE TRIUMVIRATE
    XX.  AT TRITON LAKE
   XXI.  ON THE ICE
  XXII.  THE HARPIST ONCE MORE
 XXIII.  THE SECRET
  XXIV.  WHO IS THE "TATTLE-TALE?"
   XXV.  GETTING ON



RUTH FIELDING AT BRIARWOOD HALL


CHAPTER I

THE EXODUS

The sun was a regular lie-abed on this Autumn morning, banked about by
soft clouds and draperies of mist; but they glowed pink along the
horizon--perhaps blushing for Old Sol's delinquency.  The mist hung
tenderly over the river, too--indeed, it masked the entire Valley of
the Lumano--lying thick and dank upon the marshes and the low meadows,
but wreathed more lightly about the farmhouses and their outbuildings,
and the fodder and haystacks upon the higher ground.

But suddenly the sun flung off the bedclothes and leaped right into the
sky.  That long, low bank of cloud that had been masking him, melted
away and the shreds of mist were burned up in a hurry as his warm rays
spread abroad, taking the entire valley in their arms.

Farmhouses, where the kitchen chimney smoke had been rising straightly
into the air, immediately put on a new bustle.  Doors opened and shut.
There was the stamping of horses in the stables as they crunched their
corn; cows lowed as the milk-pails rattled; sheep baa-a-ed in their
folds, and the swine, fearing that some other of the farm stock would
get _their_ share of the breakfast, squealed in eager anticipation.

On a knoll by the river side stood the rambling buildings belonging to
Jabez Potter, who kept the Red Mill.  The great wheel beside the mill
end of the main structure had not yet begun to turn, but there was
plenty of bustle about the pleasant house.

The sun had scarcely popped up when a very pretty, bright-looking girl
ran out upon the porch and gazed earnestly along the road that followed
the Lumano toward Osago Lake.  She looked out from under a shielding
hand, for the sun was in her eyes.  Around the corner of the house came
a tall, dark-faced man whose long jaws were cleanly shaven and deeply
lined.  His clothing was full of milldust and it seemed to have been
ground into his face for so many years that it was now a part of the
grain and texture of his skin.  He did not smile at the girl as he said:

"You ain't looking for them yet; air you, Ruth?  It's much too early.
Help your Aunt Alviry put breakfast on the table.  She'll hev it all to
do when you're gone."

The tone was stern, but the girl seemed to be used to it, for her face
did not cloud over, and the smiles rippled about her mouth as she
replied:

"I'm so full of happiness, Uncle Jabez, that you mustn't mind if I'm
looking for Helen and Tom ahead of time.  It doesn't seem possible that
I am actually going with them."

"It seems real enough to me," grumbled Jabez Potter.  "I hope you'll
get enough out of it to pay us for all the trouble and cost of your
going--that I do."

But even this seemingly unkind speech did not ruffle the girl's temper.

"You wait and see, Uncle Jabez--you just wait and see," she said,
nodding to him.  "I'll prove it the best investment you ever made."

He didn't smile--Jabez Potter was not one of the smiling kind; but his
face relaxed and his eyes twinkled a little.

"I sha'n't look for cent. per cent. interest on my money, Niece Ruth,"
he said, and stumped into the house in his heavy boots.

Ruth Fielding, who had come to the Red Mill only a few months before,
having lost all other relatives but her great-uncle, who owned the
mill, ran into the kitchen, too, where a little old woman, with bent
back and very bright eyes, was hovering over the stove.  The breakfast
was ready to be served and this little woman was pottering about,
muttering to herself a continual complaining phrase:

"Oh, my back and oh, my bones!"

Aunt Alvirah Boggs (who was everybody's Aunt Alvirah, but no blood
relation to either Ruth or her uncle) was not a morose person, however,
despite her rheumatic troubles.  She smiled on Ruth and patted her hand
as the girl sat down beside her at the table.

"Seems like we'd be lost without our pretty leetle creetur about," said
Aunt Alvirah.  "I don't see what the old house will do without her."

"I'll be home at Thanksgiving--if Uncle will let me," said Ruth,
quickly, and glancing at the old man; "and again at Christmas, and at
Easter.  Why, the intervals will go like _that_," and she snapped her
fingers.

"All this junketing up and down the country will cost money, Niece
Ruth," admonished Uncle Jabez.

He was, by nature, a very close and careful man with money--a reputed
miser, in fact.  And that he did hoard up money, and loved it for
itself, must be confessed.  When he had lost a cash-box he kept in the
mill, containing money and other valuables, it had been a great trouble
to Uncle Jabez.  But through a fortuitous train of circumstances Ruth
Fielding had recovered the cash-box for him, with its contents
untouched.  It was really because he considered himself in her debt for
this act, and that he prided himself upon paying his debts, that Jabez
Potter had come to agree that Ruth should go away to school.

He had not done the thing in a niggardly way, when once he gave his
consent.  Ruth's new trunk was at the Cheslow railroad station and in
it was an adequate supply of such frocks and necessities as a girl of
her age would need in the school to which she was bound.  Her ticket
was bought, too, and in her purse was a crisp ten-dollar note--both
purse and money being a special present from Uncle Jabez.

Ruth had learned that the miller was by no means as grim as he looked,
and she likewise knew that now he was kindly disposed toward her and
really was doing a great deal for her.  She was determined to never be
ungrateful to Uncle Jabez for satisfying the greatest longing she had
ever had--to go to Briarwood Hall, a boarding school.

Suddenly a young man put his head in at the kitchen door, grinned, and
said:

"They're a-comin', Miss Ruthie.  I see 'em up the road."

Ruth jumped up at once and ran for her coat and hat.

"There, child!" cried Aunt Alvirah, "ye haven't eaten enough breakfast
to keep a fly alive.  Lucky I've got a good basket of lunch put up for
ye.  It'll be a long journey--by train, boat, and stage coach.  You'll
be hungry enough before ye git there----  Oh, my back and oh, my
bones!" she added, as she hobbled to the dresser for the luncheon box.

Ruth flashed back into the room and cried to the youth on the porch:

"Is the car really in sight, Ben?"

"It's almost here, Miss."

Indeed, they could hear the purring of a motor-car coming up the river
road.  Ruth flung her arms about Uncle Jabez's neck, although he did
not rise from the table where he was methodically putting his breakfast
away as though nothing unusual was happening.

"You've been a dear, good uncle to me," she whispered, "and I love you
for it.  I'll be careful of the money, and I'll get all the learning I
can for the money you pay out--now just you see if I don't!"

"I ain't sure that it'll do either of us much good," grumbled Uncle
Jabez, and he did not even follow her to the door as she ran out.

But Aunt Alvirah hobbled after her, and pressed her close before she
would let the girl run down the walk.

"Blessin's on ye, ye pretty creetur," she crooned over Ruth.  "I'll
think of ye ev'ry moment ye air away.  This is your home, Ruthie; ye
ain't got nary 'nother--don't fergit that.  And yer old A'nt Alviry'll
be waitin' for ye here, an' jest longin' for the time when ye come
home."

Ruth kissed her again and again.  Two excited young voices called to
her from the automobile.

"Come on!  Come on, Ruth.  Do come away!"

She kissed Aunt Alvirah once more, waved her hand to bashful Ben, who
was Uncle Jabez's man-of-all-work, and ran down to the waiting car.  In
the seat beside the chauffeur was a bright-looking, black-haired boy in
a military uniform of blue, who seized her lunch basket and handbag and
put them both in a safe place.  In the tonneau was a plainly dressed
lady and a brilliantly pretty girl perhaps a year older than Ruth.
This young lady received the girl from the Red Mill rapturously when
she sprang into the tonneau, and hugged her tightly as the car started
on.  She was Ruth's dearest friend, Helen Cameron.  It was her brother
Tom in front, and the lady was Mrs. Murchiston, who had been the
governess of the Cameron twins since their babyhood, and was now to
remain in the great house--"Outlook"--Mr. Macy Cameron's home, as
housekeeper, while his son and daughter were away at school.

For Tom was bound for Seven Oaks Military Academy, and that was only
ten miles, or so, this side of Lumberton, near which was situated
Briarwood Hall, the boarding school which was the girls' destination.
Tom had attended Cheslow High School for a year; but Ruth and Helen
were about equally advanced in their studies and expected to be both
roommates and classmates at the Hall.

Ruth stood up in the car as it rolled up the hill toward Cheslow and
looked back at the Red Mill.  She fluttered her handkerchief as long as
she could see the little figure of Aunt Alvirah on the porch.  Uncle
Jabez came out and strode down the path to the mill.  Then the car shot
around a curve in the road and the scene was blotted out.

How much was to happen to her before she saw the Red Mill again!



CHAPTER II

THE MAN WHO PLAYED THE HARP

In the first volume of this series, entitled, "Ruth Fielding of the Red
Mill; Or, Jasper Parloe's Secret," is related how Ruth and Helen and
Tom came to be such close friends.  The Camerons had been with Ruth
when the lost cash-box belonging to Uncle Jabez Potter was found, and
out of which incident Ruth's presence in the Camerons' automobile on
this beautiful September morning, and the fact that she was
accompanying Helen to school, arose.

Mr. Macy Cameron, a wealthy dry-goods merchant, and a widower, had
selected the best school for his daughter to attend of which he could
learn.  Briarwood Hall, of which the preceptress was Mrs. Grace
Tellingham, was a large school (there being more than two hundred
scholars in attendance for the coming term), but it remained "select"
in the truest sense of the word.  It was not an institution
particularly for the daughters of wealthy people, nor a school to which
disheartened parents could send either unruly girls, or dunces.

Without Mrs. Murchiston's recommendation Helen Cameron could not have
gained entrance to Briarwood; without the attested examination papers
of Miss Cramp, teacher of the district school, who had prepared Ruth
for entering Cheslow High School before it was supposed that she could
go to Briarwood, the girl from the Red Mill would not have been
starting on this journey.

"My goodness me!" exclaimed Helen, when Ruth had sat down and Cheslow
was coming into view before them.  "I'm just as excited as I can be.
Aren't you afraid of meeting Mrs. Tellingham?  She's got an A. B. after
her name.  And her husband is a doctor of almost everything you can
think!"

Mrs. Murchiston smiled, but said with some sternness; "I really hope,
Helen, that Briarwood will quell your too exuberant spirits to a
degree.  But you need not be afraid of Dr. Tellingham.  He is the
mildest old gentleman one ever saw.  He is doubtless engaged upon a
history of the Mound Builders of Peoria County, Illinois; or upon a
pamphlet suggested by the finding of a fossilized man in the caves of
Arizona."

"Is he a great writer, Mrs. Murchiston?" asked Ruth, wonderingly.

"He has written a great many histories--if that constitutes being a
great writer," replied the governess, with a quiet smile.  "But if it
was not for Mrs. Tellingham I fear that Briarwood Hall could not exist.
However, the doctor is a perfectly harmless person."

From this Ruth drew the conclusion (for she was a thoughtful
girl--thoughtful beyond her years, as well as imaginative) that Mrs.
Grace Tellingham was a rather strong-minded lady and that the doctor
would prove to be both mild and "hen-pecked."

The car sped along the beautifully shaded road leading into Cheslow;
but there was still ample time for the travelers to catch the train.
On the right hand, as they advanced, appeared a gloomy-looking house
with huge pillars upholding the portico roof, which was set some
distance back from the road.  On two posts, one either side of the
arched gateway, were set green lanterns.  A tall, stoop-shouldered old
gentleman, with a sweeping mustache and hair that touched his coat
collar, and a pair of keen, dark eyes, came striding down the walk to
the street as the motor-car drew near.

"Doctor Davison!" cried Helen and Ruth together.

The chauffeur slowed down and stopped as the doctor waved his hand.

"I must bid you girls good-bye here," he said, coming to the automobile
to shake hands.  "I have a call and cannot be at the station.  And I
expect all of you to do your best in your studies.  But look out for
your health, too.  Take plenty of gym work, girls.  Tom, you rascal!  I
want to hear of you standing just as well in athletics as you do in
your books.  Ah! if Mercy was going with you, I'd think the party quite
complete."

"What do you hear from her, Doctor?" questioned Ruth, eagerly.

"My little Goody Two-sticks is hopping around pretty lively.  She will
come home in a few days.  Too bad she cannot see you before you go.
But then--perhaps you'll see her, after all."

"What do you mean?" demanded Helen, looking sharply at the physician.
"You're hiding something.  I can see it!  You've got something up your
sleeve, Doctor!"

"Quite so--my wrist!" declared the physician, and now, having shaken
hands all around, he hurried away, looking vastly mysterious.

"Now, what do you suppose he meant by that?" demanded Helen.  "I'm
suspicious of him.  He's always bringing unexpected things about.  And
poor Mercy Curtis----"

"If she could only go to Briarwood with us," sighed Ruth.

"She would make you and Helen hustle in your work, all right," declared
Tom, looking over the back of his seat.  "She's the smartest little
thing that I ever saw."

"That's what Dr. Davison says," Ruth observed.  "If the surgeons have
enabled her to walk again, and dispense with the wheel chair, why
couldn't she come to Briarwood?"

"I don't think Sam Curtis is any too well fixed," said Tom, shaking his
head.  "And Mercy's long illness has been a great expense to them.
Hello! here we are at the station, with plenty of time to spare."

Mrs. Murchiston was not going with them; the trio of young folk were to
travel alone, so Tom took the tickets, got the trunk checks, and
otherwise played escort to the two girls.  There were several friends
at the station to bid the Camerons good-bye; but there was nobody but
the stationmaster to say a word to Ruth Fielding.  It was his lame
daughter whom they had been discussing with Dr. Davison--an unfortunate
girl who had taken a strong liking for Ruth, and for whom the girl from
the Red Mill, with her cheerful spirit and pleasant face, had done a
world of good.

The train was made up and they got aboard.  Just below Cheslow was the
Y where this train branched off the main line, and took its way by a
single-track, winding branch, through the hills to the shore of Lake
Osago.  But the young folks did not have to trouble about their baggage
after leaving Cheslow, for that was checked through--Tom's grip and box
to Seven Oaks, and the girls' over another road, after crossing Lake
Osago, to Lumberton, on Triton Lake.

Lake Osago was a beautiful body of water, some thirty miles long, and
wide in proportion; island-dotted and bordered by a rolling country.
There were several large towns upon its shores, and, in one place, a
great summer camp of an educational society.  Steamboats plied the
lake, and up and down the rivers which either emptied into the Osago,
or flowed out of it, as far as the dams.

The trio of school-bound young folk left the train very demurely and
walked down the long wharf to the puffy little steamboat that was to
take them the length of the lake to Portageton.  Tom had been adjured
by his father to take good care of his sister and Ruth, and he felt the
burden of this responsibility.  Helen declared, in a whisper to Ruth,
that she had never known her twin brother to be so overpoweringly
polite and thoughtful.

Nevertheless, the fact that they were for the very first time traveling
alone (at least, the Camerons had never traveled alone before) did not
spoil their enjoyment of the journey.  The trip down the lake on the
little side-wheel steamer was very interesting to all three.  First the
Camerons and Ruth Fielding went about to see if they could find any
other girl or boy who appeared to be bound to school like themselves.
But Tom said he was alone in that intention among the few boys aboard;
and there were no girls upon the _Lanawaxa_, as the little steamboat
was named, save Ruth and Helen.

Tom did not neglect the comfort of the girls, but he really could not
keep away from the engine-room of the _Lanawaxa_.  Tom was mightily
interested in all things mechanical, and in engines especially.  So the
girls were left to themselves for a while upon the upper deck of the
steamboat.  They were very comfortable under the awning, and had books,
and their luncheon, and a box of candy that Tom had bought and given to
Ruth, and altogether they enjoyed the trip quite as much as anybody.

The breeze was quite fresh and there were not many passengers on the
forward deck where the girls were seated.  But one lady sitting near
attracted their attention almost at first.  She was such a little,
doll-like lady; so very plainly and neatly dressed, yet with a style
about her that carried the plain frock she wore, and the little hat, as
though they were both of the richest materials.  She was dark, had
brilliant eyes, and her figure was youthful.  Yet, when she chanced to
raise her veil, Ruth noted that her face was marred by innumerable fine
wrinkles--just like cracks in the face of a wax doll that had been
exposed to frost.

"Isn't she a cunning little thing?" whispered Helen, seeing how much
Ruth was attracted by the little lady.

"She's not a dwarf.  There's nothing wrong with her," said Ruth.
"She's just a lady in miniature; isn't she?  Why, Helen, she's no
taller than you are."

"She's dainty," repeated her chum.  "But she looks odd."

Below, on the other deck, the music of a little orchestra had been
tinkling pleasantly.  Now a man with the harp, another with a violin,
and a third with a huge guitar, came up the companionway and grouped
themselves to play upon the upper deck.  The three musicians were all
foreigners--French or Italian.  The man who played the harp was a huge,
fleshy man, with a red waistcoat and long, black mustache.  The
waistcoat and mustache were the two most noticeable things about him.
He sat on a little campstool while he played.

The musicians struck into some rollicking ditty that pleased the ear.
The two girls enjoyed the music, and Helen searched her purse for a
coin to give whichever of the musicians came around for the collection
at the end of the concert.  There was but one person on the forward
deck who did not seem to care for the music.  The little lady, whose
back was to the orchestra, did not even look around.

All the time he was playing the huge man who thrummed the harp seemed
to have his eyes fixed upon the little lady.  This both Ruth and Helen
noted.  He was so big and she was so fairy-like, that the girls could
not help becoming interested in the fact that the harpist was so deeply
"smitten."

"Isn't he funny?" whispered Helen to Ruth.  "He's so big and she's so
little.  And he pays more attention to her than he does to playing the
tune."

Just then the orchestra of three pieces finished its third tune.  That
was all it ever jingled forth before making a collection.  The man who
played the guitar slipped the broad strap over his shoulders and stood
up as though to pass his cap.  But instantly the huge harpist arose and
muttered something to him in a guttural tone.  The other sat down and
the big man seized the cap and began to move about the deck to make
such collection as the audience was disposed to give for the music.

Although he had stared so at the unconscious lady's back, the big man
did not go in her direction at first, as the two girls quite expected
him to do.  He went around to the other side of the deck after taking
Helen's toll, and so manoeuvred as to come to the end of the lady's
bench and suddenly face her.

"See him watch her, Ruth?" whispered Helen again.  "I believe he knows
her."

There was such a sly smile on the fat man's face that he seemed to be
having a joke all to himself; yet his eyebrows were drawn down over his
nose in a scowl.  It was not a pleasant expression that he carried on
his countenance to the little lady, before whom he appeared with a
suddenness that would have startled almost anybody.  He wheeled around
the end of the settee on which she sat and hissed some word or phrase
in her ear, leaning over to do so.

The little woman sprang up with a smothered shriek.  The girls heard
her chatter something, in which the word "_merci_" was plain.  She
shrank from the big man; but he was only bowing very low before her,
with the cap held out for a contribution, and his grinning face aside.

"She is French," whispered Helen, excitedly, in Ruth's ear.  "And he
spoke in the same language.  How frightened she is!"

Indeed, the little lady fumbled in her handbag for something which she
dropped into the insistent cap of the harpist.  Then, almost running
along the deck, she whisked into the cabin.  She had pulled the veil
over her face again, but as she passed the girls they felt quite sure
that she was sobbing.

The big harpist, with the same unpleasant leer upon his face, rolled
down the deck in her wake, carelessly humming a fragment of the tune he
had just been playing.  He had collected all the contributions in his
big hand--a pitiful little collection of nickels and dimes--and he
tossed them into the air and caught them expertly as he joined the
other players.  Then all three went aft to repeat their concert.

An hour later the _Lanawaxa_ docked at Portageton.  When our young
friends went ashore and walked up the freight-littered wharf, Ruth
suddenly pulled Helen's sleeve.

"Look there!  There--behind the bales of rags going to the paper-mill.
Do you see them?" whispered Ruth.

"I declare!" returned her chum.  "Isn't that mysterious?  It's the
little foreign lady and the big man who played the harp--and how
earnestly they are talking."

"You see, she knew him after all," said Ruth.  "But what a
wicked-looking man he is!  And she _was_ frightened when he spoke to
her."

"He looks villainous enough to be a brigand," returned her chum,
laughing.  "Yet, whoever heard of a _fat_ brigand?  That would take the
romance all out of the profession; wouldn't it?"

"And fat villains are not so common; are they?" returned Ruth, echoing
the laugh.



CHAPTER III

APPROACHING THE PROMISED LAND

Tom had tried to remove the smut of the steamboat engine-room from his
face with his handkerchief; but as his sister told him, his martial
appearance in the uniform of the Seven Oaks cadets was rather spoiled
by "a smootchy face."  There wasn't time then, however, to make any
toilet before the train left.  They were off on the short run to Seven
Oaks in a very few minutes after leaving the _Lanawaxa_.

Tom was very much excited now.  He craned his head out of the car
window to catch the first glimpse of the red brick barracks and dome of
the gymnasium, which were the two most prominent buildings belonging to
the Academy.  Finally the hill on which the school buildings stood
flashed into view.  They occupied the summit of the knoll, while the
seven great oaks, standing in a sort of druidical circle, dotted the
smooth, sloping lawn that descended to the railroad cut.

"Oh, how ugly!" cried Helen, who had never seen the place before.  "I
do hope that Briarwood Hall will be prettier than _that_, or I shall
want to run back home the very first week."

Her brother smiled in a most superior way.

"That's just like a girl," he said.  "Wanting a school to look pretty!
Pshaw!  I want to see a jolly crowd of fellows, that's what I want.  I
hope I'll get in with a good crowd.  I know Gil Wentworth, who came
here last year, and he says he'll put me in with a nice bunch.  That's
what I'm looking forward to."

The train was slowing down.  There was a handsome brick station and a
long platform.  This was crowded with boys, all in military garb like
Tom's own.  They looked so very trim and handsome that Helen and Ruth
were quite excited.  There were boys ranging from little fellows of
ten, in knickerbockers, to big chaps whose mustaches were sprouting on
their upper lips.

"Oh, dear me!" gasped Ruth.  "See what a crowd we have got to go
through.  All those boys!"

"That's all right," Tom said, gruffly.  "I'll see you to the stage.
There it stands yonder--and a jolly old scarecrow of a carriage it is,
too!"

He was evidently feeling somewhat flurried himself.  He was going to
meet more than half the great school informally right there at the
station.  They had gathered to meet and greet "freshmen."

But the car in which our friends rode stopped well along the platform
and very near the spot where the old, brown, battered, and dust-covered
stage coach, drawn by two great, bony horses, stood in the fall
sunshine.  Most of the Academy boys were at the other end of the
platform.

Gil Wentworth, Tom's friend, had given young Cameron several pointers
as to his attitude on arrival at the Seven Oaks station.  He had been
advised to wear the school uniform (he had passed the entrance
examinations two months before) so as to be less noticeable in the
crowd.

Very soon a slow and dirge-like chant arose from the cadets gathered on
the station platform.  From the rear cars of the train had stepped
several boys in citizen's garb, some with parents or guardians and some
alone, and all burdened with more or less baggage and a doubtful air
that proclaimed them immediately "new boys."  The hymn of greeting rose
in mournful cadence:

  "Freshie!  Freshie!  How-de-do!
  We're all waiting here for you.
    Hold your head up!
    Square each shoulder!
    Thrust your chest out!
    _Do_ look bolder!

  Mamma's precious--papa's man--
  Keep the tears back if you can.
    Sob!  Sob!  Sob!
    It's an awful job--
  Freshie's leaving home and mo-o-ther!"


The mournful wailing of that last word cannot be expressed by mere
type.  There were other verses, too, and as the new boys filed off into
the path leading up to the Academy with their bags and other
encumbrances, the uniformed boys, _en masse_, got into step behind them
and tramped up the hill, singing this dreadful dirge.  The unfortunate
new arrivals had to listen to the chant all the way up the hill.  If
they ran to get away from the crowd, it only made them look the more
ridiculous; the only sensible way was to endure it with a grin.

Tom grinned widely himself, for he had certainly been overlooked.  Or,
he thought so until he had placed the two girls safely in the big
omnibus, had kissed Helen good-bye, and shaken hands with Ruth.  But
the girls, looking out of the open door of the coach, saw him descend
from the step into the midst of a group of solemn-faced boys who had
only held back out of politeness to the girls whom Tom escorted.

Helen and Ruth, stifling their amusement, heard and saw poor Tom put
through a much more severe examination than the other boys, for the
very reason that he had come dressed in his uniform.  He was forced to
endure a searching inquiry regarding his upbringing and private
affairs, right within the delighted hearing of the wickedly giggling
girls.  And then a tall fellow started to put him through the manual of
arms.

Poor Tom was all at sea in that, and the youth, with gravity, declared
that he was insulting the uniform by his ignorance and caused him to
remove his coat and turn it inside out; and so Helen and Ruth saw him
marched away with his stern escort, in a most ridiculous red flannel
garment (the lining of the coat) which made him conspicuous from every
barrack window and, indeed, from every part of the academy hill.

"Oh, dear me!" sighed Helen, wiping her eyes and almost sobbing after
her laughter.  "And Tommy thought he would escape any form of hazing!
He wasn't so cute as he thought he was."

But Ruth suddenly became serious.  "Suppose we are greeted in any such
way at Briarwood?" she exclaimed.  "I believe some girls are horrid.
They have hazing in some girls' schools, I've read.  Of course, it
won't hurt us, Helen----"

"It'll be just fun, I think!" cried the enthusiastic Helen and then she
stopped with an explosive "Oh!"

There was being helped into the coach by the roughly dressed and
bewhiskered driver, the little, doll-like, foreign woman whom they
thought had been left behind at Portageton.

"There ye air, Ma'mzell!" this old fellow said.  "An' here's yer
bag--an' yer umbrella--an' yer parcel.  All there, be ye?  Wal, wal,
wal!  So I got two more gals fer Briarwood; hev I?"

He was a jovial, rough old fellow, with a wind-blown face and beard and
hair enough to make his head look to be as big as a bushel basket.  He
was dressed in a long, faded "duster" over his other nondescript
garments, and his battered hat was after the shape of those worn by
Grand Army men.  He limped, too, and was slow in his movements and
deliberate in his speech.

"I s'pose ye _be_ goin' ter Briarwood, gals?" he added, curiously.

"Yes," replied Ruth.

"Where's yer baggage?" he asked.

"We only have our bags.  Our trunks have gone by the way of Lumberton,"
explained Ruth.

"Ah!  Well!  All right!" grunted the driver, and started to shut the
door.  Then he glanced from Ruth and Helen to the little foreign lady.
"I leave ye in good hands," he said, with a hoarse chuckle.  "This here
lady is one o' yer teachers, Ma'mzell Picolet."  He pronounced the
little lady's name quite as outlandishly as he did "mademoiselle."  It
sounded like "Pickle-yet" on his tongue.

"That will do, M'sieur Dolliver," said the little lady, rather tartly.
"I may venture to introduce myself--is it not?"

She did not raise her veil.  She spoke English with scarcely any
accent.  Occasionally she arranged her phrases in an oddly foreign way;
but her pronunciation could not be criticised.  Old Dolliver, the stage
driver, grinned broadly as he closed the door.

"Ye allus make me feel like a Frenchman myself, when ye say 'moosher,'
Ma'mzell," he chuckled.

"You are going to Briarwood Hall, then, my young ladies?" said Miss
Picolet.

"Yes, Ma'am," said Ruth, shyly.

"I shall be your teacher in the French language--perhaps in deportment
and the graces of life," the little lady said, pleasantly.  "You will
both enter into advanced classes, I hope?"

Helen, after all, was more shy than Ruth with strangers.  When she
became acquainted she gained confidence rapidly.  But now Ruth answered
again for both:

"I was ready to enter the Cheslow High School; Helen is as far advanced
as I am in all studies, Miss Picolet."

"Good!" returned the teacher.  "We shall get on famously with such
bright girls," and she nodded several times.

But she was not really companionable.  She never raised her veil.  And
she only talked with the girls by fits and starts.  There were long
spaces of time when she sat huddled in the corner of her seat, with her
face turned from them, and never said a word.

But the nearer the rumbling old stagecoach approached the promised land
of Briarwood Hall the more excited Ruth and Helen became.  They gazed
out of the open windows of the coach doors and thought the country
through which they traveled ever so pretty.  Occasionally old Dolliver
would lean out from his seat, twist himself around in a most impossible
attitude so as to see into the coach, and bawl out to the two girls
some announcement of the historical or other interest of the localities
they passed.

Suddenly, as they surmounted a long ridge and came out upon the more
open summit, they espied a bridle path making down the slope, through
an open grove and across uncultivated fields beyond--a vast blueberry
pasture.  Up this path a girl was coming.  She swung her hat by its
strings in her hand and commenced to run up the hill when she spied the
coach.

She was a thin, wiry, long-limbed girl.  She swung her hat excitedly
and although the girls in the coach could not hear her, they knew that
she shouted to Old Dolliver.  He pulled up, braking the lumbering
wheels grumblingly.  The newcomer's sharp, freckled face grew plainer
to the interested gaze of Ruth and Helen as she came out of the shadow
of the trees into the sunlight of the dusty highway.

"Got any Infants, Dolliver?" the girl asked, breathlessly.

"Two on 'em, Miss Cox," replied the stage driver.

"Then I'm in time.  Of course, nobody's met 'em?"

"Hist!  Ma'mzell's in there," whispered Dolliver, hoarsely.

"Oh!  She!" exclaimed Miss Cox, with plain scorn of the French teacher.
"That's all right, Dolliver.  I'll get in.  Ten cents, mind you, from
here to Briarwood.  That's enough."

"All right, Miss Cox.  Ye allus was a sharp one," chuckled Dolliver, as
the sharp-faced girl jerked open the nearest door of the coach and
stared in, blinking, out of the sunlight.



CHAPTER IV

THE RIVALRY OF THE UPEDES AND THE FUSSY CURLS

The passengers in the Seven Oaks and Lumberton stage sat facing one
another on the two broad seats.  Mademoiselle Picolet had established
herself in one corner of the forward seat, riding with her back to the
driver.  Ruth and Helen were side by side upon the other seat, and this
newcomer slid quickly in beside them and smiled a very broad and
friendly smile at the two chums.

"When you've been a little while at Briarwood Hall," she said, in her
quick, pert way, "you'll learn that that's the only way to do with Old
Dolliver.  Make your bargain before you get into the Ark--that's what
we call this stage--or he surely will overcharge you.  Oh! how-do, Miss
Picolet!"

She spoke to the French teacher so carelessly--indeed, in so scornful a
tone--that Ruth was startled.  Miss Picolet bowed gravely and said
something in return in her own language which made Miss Cox flush, and
her eyes sparkle.  It was doubtless of an admonishing nature, but Ruth
and Helen did not understand it.

"Of course, you are the two girls whom we ex--that is, who were
expected to-day?" the girl asked the chums, quickly.

"We are going to Briarwood Hall," said Ruth, timidly.

"Well, I'm glad I happened to be out walking and overtook the stage,"
their new acquaintance said, with apparent frankness and cordiality.
"I'm Mary Cox.  I'm a Junior.  The school is divided into Primary,
Junior and Senior.  Of course, there are many younger girls than either
of you at Briarwood, but all newcomers are called Infants.  Probably,
however, you two will soon be in the Junior grade, if you do not at
once enter it."

"I am afraid we shall both feel very green and new," Ruth said.  "You
see, neither Helen nor I have ever been to a school like this before.
My friend is Helen Cameron and my name is Ruth Fielding."

"Ah! you're going to room together.  You have a nice room assigned to
you, too.  It's on my corridor--one of the small rooms.  Most of us are
in quartettes; but yours is a duet room.  That's nice, too, when you
are already friends."

She seemed to have informed herself regarding these particular
newcomers, even if she _had_ met them quite by accident.

Helen, who evidently quite admired Mary Cox, now ventured to say that
she presumed most of the girls were already gathered for the Autumn
term.

"There are a good many on hand.  Some have been here a week and more.
But classes won't begin until Saturday, and then the work will only be
planned for the real opening of the term on Monday.  But we're all
supposed to arrive in time to attend service Sunday morning.  Mrs.
Tellingham is very strict about that.  Those who arrive after that have
a demerit to work off at the start."

Mary Cox explained the system under which Briarwood was carried on,
too, with much good nature; but all the time she never addressed the
French teacher, nor did she pay the least attention to her.  The cool
way in which she conducted the conversation, commenting upon the school
system, the teachers, and all other matters discussed, without the
least reference to Miss Picolet, made Ruth, at least, feel unhappy.  It
was so plain that Mary Cox ignored and slighted the little foreign lady
by intention.

"I tell you what we will do," said Mary Cox, finally.  "We'll slip out
of the stage at the end of Cedar Walk.  It's farther to the dormitories
that way, but I fancy there'll be few of the girls there.  The stage,
you see, goes much nearer to Briarwood; but I fancy you girls would
just as lief escape the warm greeting we usually give to the arriving
Infants," and she laughed.

Ruth and Helen, with a vivid remembrance of what they had seen at Seven
Oaks, coincided with this suggestion.  It seemed very kind of a Junior
to put herself out for them, and the chums told her so.

"Don't bother," said Mary Cox.  "Lots of the girls--especially girls of
our age, coming to Briarwood for the first time--get in with the wrong
crowd.  You don't want to do that, you know."

Now, the chums could not help being a little flattered by this
statement.  Mary Cox was older than Ruth and Helen, and the latter were
at an age when a year seemed to be a long time indeed.  Besides, Miss
Cox was an assured Junior, and knew all about what was still a closed
book to Ruth Fielding and Helen Cameron.

"I should suppose in a school like Briarwood," Ruth said, hesitatingly,
"that all the girls are pretty nice."

"Oh! they are, to a degree.  Oh, yes!" cried Mary Cox.  "Briarwood is
very select and Mrs. Tellingham is very careful.  You must know _that_,
Miss Cameron," she added, point-blank to Helen, "or your father would
not have sent _you_ here."

Helen flushed at this boldly implied compliment.  Ruth thought to
herself again that Mary Cox must have taken pains to learn all about
them before they arrived, and she wondered why the Junior had done so.

"You see, a duo-room costs some money at Briarwood," explained Miss
Cox.  "Most of us are glad, when we get to be Juniors, to get into a
quarto--a quartette, you understand.  The primary girls are in big
dormitories, anyway.  Of course, we all know who your father is, Miss
Cameron, and there will be plenty of the girls fishing for your
friendship.  And there's a good deal of rivalry--at the beginning of
each year, especially."

"Rivalry over what?" queried Ruth.

"Why, the clubs," said Mary Cox.

Helen became wonderfully interested at once.  Everything pertaining to
the life before her at Briarwood was bound to interest Helen.  And the
suggestion of society in the way of clubs and associations appealed to
her.

"What clubs are there?" she demanded of the Junior.

"Why, there are several associations in the school.  The Basket Ball
Association is popular; but that's athletic, not social.  Anybody can
belong to that who wishes to play.  And we have a good school team
which often plays teams from other schools.  It's made up mostly of
Seniors, however."

"But the other clubs?" urged Helen.

"Why, the principal clubs of Briarwood are the Upedes and the Fussy
Curls," said their new friend.

"What ridiculous names!" cried Helen.  "I suppose they _mean_
something, though?"

"That's just our way of speaking of them.  The Upedes are the Up and
Doing Club.  The Fussy Curls are the F. C.'s."

"The F. C.'s?" questioned Ruth.  "What do the letters really stand for?"

"Forward Club, I believe.  I don't know much about the Fussy Curls,"
Mary said, with the same tone and air that she used in addressing the
little French teacher.

"You're a Upede!" cried Helen, quickly.

"Yes," said Mary Cox, nodding, and seemed to have finished with that
subject.  But Helen was interested; she had begun to like this Cox
girl, and kept to the subject.

"What are the Upedes and the F. C.'s rivals about?"

"Both clubs are anxious to get members," Mary Cox said.  "Both are
putting out considerable effort to gain new members--especially among
these who enter Briarwood at the beginning of the year."

"What are the objects of the rival clubs?" put in Ruth, quietly.

"I couldn't tell you much about the Fussy Curls," said Mary,
carelessly.  "Not being one of them I couldn't be expected to take much
interest in their objects.  But _our_ name tells our object at once.
'Up and Doing'!  No slow-coaches about the Upedes.  We're all alive and
wide awake."

"I hope we will get in with a lively set of girls," said Helen, with a
sigh.

"It will be your own fault if you don't," said Mary Cox.

Oddly enough, she did not show any desire to urge the newcomers to join
the Upedes.  Helen was quite piqued by this.  But before the discussion
could be carried farther, Mary put her head out of the window and
called to the driver.

"Stop at the Cedar Walk, Dolliver.  We want to get out there.  Here's
your ten cents."

Meanwhile the little foreign lady had scarcely moved.  She had turned
her face toward the open window all the time, and being veiled, the
girls could not see whether she was asleep, or awake.  She made no move
to get out at this point, nor did she seem to notice the girls when
Mary flung open the door on the other side of the coach, and Ruth and
Helen picked up their bags to follow her.

The chums saw that the stage had halted where a shady, winding path
seemed to lead up a slight rise through a plantation of cedars.  But
the spot was not lonely.  Several girls were waiting here for the
coach, and they greeted Mary Cox when she jumped down, vociferously.

"Well, Mary Cox!  I guess we know what you've been up to," exclaimed
one who seemed older than the other girls in waiting.

"Did you rope any Infants, Mary?" cried somebody else.

"'The Fox' never took all that long walk for nothing," declared another.

But Mary Cox paid her respects to the first speaker only, by saying:

"If you want to get ahead of the Upedes, Madge Steele, you Fussy Curls
had better set your alarm clocks a little earlier."

Ruth and Helen were climbing out of the old coach now, and the girl
named Madge Steele looked them over sharply.

"Pledged, are they?" she said to Mary Cox, in a low tone.

"Well!  I've been riding in the Ark with them for the last three miles.
Do you suppose I have been asleep?" returned Miss Cox, with a malicious
smile.

Ruth and Helen did not distinctly hear this interchange of words
between their new friend and Madge Steele; but Ruth saw that the latter
was a very well dressed and quiet looking girl--that she was really
very pretty and ladylike.  Ruth liked her appearance much more than she
did that of Mary Cox.  But the latter started at once into the cedar
plantation, up a serpentine walk, and Helen and Ruth, perforce, went
with her.  The other girls stood aside--some of them whispering
together and smiling at the newcomers.  The chums could not help but
feel strange and nervous, and Mary Cox's friendship seemed of value to
them just then.

Ruth, however, looked back at the tall girl whose appearance had so
impressed her.  The coach had not started on at once.  Old Dolliver did
everything slowly.  But Ruth Fielding saw a hand beckoning at the coach
window.  It was the hand of Miss Picolet, the French teacher, and it
beckoned Madge Steele.

The latter young lady ran to the coach as it lurched forward on its
way.  Miss Picolet's face appeared at the window for an instant, and
she seemed to say something of importance to Madge Steele.  Ruth saw
the pretty girl pull open the stage-coach door again, and hop inside.
Then the Ark lumbered out of view, and Ruth turned to follow her chum
and Mary Cox up the winding Cedar Walk.



CHAPTER V

"THE DUET"

Helen, by this time, having recovered her usual self-possession, was
talking "nineteen to the dozen" to their new friend.  Ruth was not in
the least suspicious; but Mary Cox's countenance was altogether too
sharp, her gray eyes were too sly, her manner to the French teacher had
been too unkind, for Ruth to become greatly enamored of the Junior.  It
did really seem very kind of her, however, to put herself out in this
way for two "Infants."

"How many teachers are there?" Helen was asking.  "And are they all as
little as that Miss Picolet?"

"Oh, _she_!" ejaculated Mary Cox, with scorn.  "Nobody pays any
attention to her.  She's not liked, I can tell you."

"Why, she seemed nice enough to us--only not very friendly," said
Helen, slowly, for Helen was naturally a kind-hearted girl.

"She's a poverty-stricken little foreigner.  She scarcely ever wears a
decent dress.  I don't really see why Mrs. Tellingham has her at the
school at all.  She has no friends, or relatives, or anybody that knows
her----"

"Oh, yes she has," said Helen, laughing.

"What do you mean?" inquired Mary Cox, suspiciously.

"We saw somebody on the boat coming over to Portageton that knew Miss
Picolet."

"Oh, Helen!" ejaculated Ruth, warningly.

But it was too late, Mary Cox wanted to know what Helen meant, and the
story of the fat man who had played the harp in the boat orchestra, and
who had frightened the French teacher, and had afterward talked so
earnestly with her on the dock, all came out in explanation.  The
Junior listened with a quiet but unpleasant smile upon her face.

"That's just what we've always thought about Miss Picolet," she said.
"Her people must be dreadfully common.  Friends with a ruffian who
plays a harp on a steamboat for his living!  Well!"

"Perhaps he is no relative or friend of hers," suggested Ruth, timidly.
"Indeed, she seemed to be afraid of him."

"He's mixed up in her private affairs, at least," said Mary,
significantly.  "I never could bear Miss Picolet!"

Ruth was very sorry that Helen had happened upon this unfortunate
subject.  But her chum failed to see the significance of it, and the
girl from the Red Mill had no opportunity of warning Helen.  Mary Cox,
too, was most friendly, and it seemed ungrateful to be anything but
frank and pleasant with her.  Not many big girls (so thought both Ruth
and Helen) would have put themselves out to walk up to Briarwood Hall
with two Infants and their baggage.

Through breaks in the cedar grove the girls began to catch glimpses of
the brown old buildings of Briarwood Hall.  Ivy masked the entire end
of one of the buildings, and even ran up the chimneys.  It had been cut
away from the windows, and they showed brilliantly now with the
descending sun shining redly upon them.

"It's a beautiful old place, Helen," sighed Ruth.

"I believe you!" agreed her chum, enthusiastically.

"It was originally a great manor house.  That was the first building
where the tower is," said Mary Cox, as they came out at last upon the
more open lawn that gave approach to this side of the collection of
buildings, which had been more recently built than the main house.
They were built around a rectangular piece of turf called the campus.
This, however, the newcomers discovered later, for they came up in the
rear of the particular dormitory building in which Mary declared their
room was situated.

"You can go to the office afterwards," she explained, kindly.  "You'll
want to wash and fix up a little after traveling so far.  It always
makes one so dirty."

"This is a whole lot better than the way poor Tom was received at his
school; isn't it?" whispered Helen, tucking her arm in Ruth's as they
came to the steps of the building.

Ruth nodded.  But there were so many new things to see that Ruth had
few words to spare.  There were plenty of girls in sight now.  It
seemed to the girl from the Red Mill as though there were hundreds of
them.  Short girls, tall girls, thin girls, plump girls--and the very
plumpest girl of her age that Ruth had ever seen, stood right at the
top of the steps.  She had a pretty, pink, doll-like face which was
perpetually a-smile.  Whereas some of the girls--especially the older
ones--stared rather haughtily at the two Infants, this fat girl
welcomed them with a broadening smile.

"Hello, Heavy," said Mary Cox, laughing.  "It must be close to supper
bell, for you're all ready, I see."

"No," said the stout girl.  "There's an hour yet.  Are these the two?"
she added, nodding at Ruth and Helen.

"I always get what I go after," Ruth heard Mary say, as they whisked in
at the door.

In the hall a quiet, pleasant-faced woman in cap and apron met them.

"This is Helen Cameron and Ruth Fielding, Miss Scrimp," said Mary.
"Miss Scrimp is matron of our dormitory, girls.  I am going up, Miss
Scrimp, and I'll show them to their duet."

"Very well, Miss Cox," said the woman, producing two keys, one of which
she handed to each of the chums.  "Be ready for the bell, girls.  You
can see Mrs. Tellingham after supper."

Ruth stopped to thank her, but Mary swept Helen on with her up the
broad stairway.  The room the chums were to occupy (Mr. Cameron had
made this arrangement for them) was up this first flight only, but was
at the other end of the building, overlooking the campus.  It seemed a
long walk down the corridor.  Some of the doors stood open, and more
girls looked out at them curiously as they pursued their way.

Mary was talking in a low voice to Helen now, and Ruth could not hear
what she said.  But when they stopped at the end of the corridor, and
Helen fitted her key into the lock of the door, she said:

"We'd be delighted, Miss Cox.  Oh, yes!  Ruth and I will both come."

Mary went away whistling and they heard her laughing and talking with
other girls who had come out into the corridor before the chums were
well in their own room.  And what a delightful place it seemed to the
two girls, when they entered!  Not so small, either.  There were two
single beds, two dressing tables, running water in a bowl, two closets
and two chairs--all this at one end of the room.  At the other end was
a good-sized table to work at, chairs, a couch, and two sets of shelves
for their books.  There were two broad windows with wide seats under
them, too.

"Isn't it just scrumptious?" cried Helen, hugging Ruth in her delight.
"And just think--it's our very own!  Oh, Ruthie! won't we just have
good times here?"

Ruth was quite as delighted, if she was not so volubly enthusiastic as
Helen.  It was a much nicer room, of course, than the girl from the Red
Mill had ever had before.  Her tiny little chamber at the Red Mill was
nothing like this.

The girls removed such marks of travel as they could and freshened
their dress as well as possible.  Their trunks would not arrive at the
school until morning, they knew; but they had brought their toilet
articles in their bags.  These made some display--on Helen's dresser,
at least.  But when their little possessions came they could make the
room look more "homey."

Barely had they arranged their hair when a gentle rap sounded at the
door.

"Perhaps that's Miss Cox again," said Helen.  "Isn't she nice, Ruth?"

Her friend had no time to reply before opening the door to the visitor.
It was not Miss Cox, but Ruth immediately recognized the tall girl whom
Mary Cox had addressed as Madge Steele.  She came in with a frank smile
and her hand held out.

"I didn't know you were going to come to my corridor," she said,
frankly.  "Which of you is Miss Fielding, and which is Miss Cameron?"

It made the chums feel really grown up to be called "Miss," and they
liked this pretty girl at once.  Ruth explained their identity as she
shook hands.  Helen was quite as warmly greeted.

"You will like Briarwood," said Madge Steele.  "I know you will.  I
understand you will enter the Junior classes.  I have just entered the
Senior grade this year.  There are lots of nice girls on this corridor.
I'll be glad to introduce you after supper."

"We have not been to the office yet," said Ruth.  "I believe that is
customary?"

"Oh, you must see the Preceptress.  She's just as nice as she can be,
is Mrs. Tellingham.  You'll see her right after supper?"

"I presume so," Ruth said.

"Then, I tell you what," said Madge.  "I'll wait for you and take you
to the Forward Club afterwards.  We have an open meeting this evening.
Mrs. Tellingham will be there--she is a member, you know--so are the
other teachers.  We try to make all the new girls feel at home."

She nodded to them both brightly and went out.  Ruth turned to her chum
with a smile.

"Isn't that nice of her, Helen?" she said.  "We are getting on
famously----  Why, Helen! what's the matter?" she cried.

Helen's countenance was clouded indeed.  She shook her head obstinately.

"We can't go with her, Ruth," she declared.

"Can't go with her?"

"No."

"Why not, pray?" asked Ruth, much puzzled.

"We can't go to that Forward Club," said Helen, more emphatically.

"Why, my dear!" exclaimed Ruth.  "Of course we must.  We haven't got to
join it.  Maybe they wouldn't ask us to join it, anyway.  You see, it's
patronized by the teachers and the Preceptress herself.  We'll be sure
to meet the very nicest girls."

"That doesn't follow," said Helen, somewhat stubbornly.  "Anyway, we
can't go, Ruth."

"But I don't understand, dear," said the puzzled Ruth.

"Why, don't you see?" exclaimed Helen, with some exasperation.  "I told
Miss Cox we'd go with her."

"Go where?"

"To _her_ club.  _They_ hold a meeting this evening, too.  You know,
she said there was rivalry between the two big school clubs.  Hers is
the Upedes."

"Oh! the Up and Doings," laughed Ruth.  "I remember."

"She said she would wait for us after we get through with Mrs.
Tellingham and introduce us to _her_ friends."

"Well!" gasped Ruth, with a sigh.  "We most certainly cannot go to
both.  What shall we do?"



CHAPTER VI

THE ENTERING WEDGE

Since Ruth Fielding had first met Helen Cameron--and that was on the
very day the former had come to the Red Mill--the two girls had never
had a cross word or really differed much on any subject.  Ruth was the
more yielding of the two, perhaps, and it might be that that was why
Helen seemed so to expect her to yield now.

"Of course, Ruthie, we can't disappoint Miss Cox," she said, with
finality.  "And after she was so kind to us, too."

"Are you sure she did all that out of simple kindness, Helen?" asked
the girl from the Red Mill, slowly.

"Why! what do you mean?"

"Aunt Alviry says one should never look a gift-horse in the mouth,"
laughed Ruth.

"What _do_ you mean?" demanded her chum.

"Why, Helen, doesn't it seem to you that Mary Cox came out deliberately
to meet us, and for the purpose of making us feel under obligation to
her?"

"For pity's sake, what for?"

"So that we would feel just as _you_ do--that we ought if possible to
attend the meeting of her society?"

"I declare, Ruth Fielding!  How suspicious you have become all of a
sudden."

Ruth still laughed.  But she said, too: "That is the way it has struck
me, Helen.  And I wondered if you did not see her attention in the same
light, also."

"Why, she hasn't asked us to join the Upedes," said Helen.

"I know.  And neither has Miss Steele----"

"You seem to have taken a great fancy to that Madge Steele,"
interrupted Helen, sharply.

"I think she is nice looking--and she was very polite," said Ruth,
quietly.

"Well, I don't care," cried Helen.  "Miss Cox has shown us much more
kindness.  And I promised for us, Ruth.  I said we'd attend her club
this evening."

"Well," said her chum, slowly.  "It _does_ look as though we would have
to go with Miss Cox, then.  We'll tell Miss Steele----"

"I believe your head has been turned by that Madge Steele because she's
a Senior," declared Helen, laughing, yet not at all pleased with her
friend.  "And the F. C.'s are probably a fussy crowd.  All the teachers
belonging to the club too.  I'd rather belong to the Upedes--a real
girls' club without any of the teachers to boss it."

Ruth laughed again; but there was no sting in what she said: "I guess
you have made up your mind already that the Up and Doing Club is the
one Helen Cameron wants to join."

"And the one Ruth Fielding must join, too!" declared Helen, in her old
winning way, slipping her arm through Ruth's arm.  "We mustn't go
separate ways, Ruthie."

"Oh, Helen!" cried Ruth.  "Don't talk like that.  Of course we will
not.  But let us be careful about our friendships here."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean," said Ruth, smiling, "that we must be careful about joining
any crowd of girls until we know just how things are."

"Well," said Helen, dropping her arm and walking to the other end of
the room for no reason whatsoever, for she walked back again, in a
moment, "I don't see why you are so suspicious of Mary Cox."

"I don't know that I am," laughed Ruth.  "But we have no means of
comparison yet----"

A mellow bell began to ring from some other building--probably in the
tower of the main building of Briarwood Hall.

"There!" ejaculated Helen, in some relief.  "That must be to announce
supper."

"Are you ready, Helen?" asked Ruth.

"Yes."

"Then let us go."

There was a card on which were printed several simple rules of conduct
tacked to the door.  The chums had read them.  One was that rooms
should be left unlocked in the absence of the occupants, and Ruth and
Helen went out into the corridor, leaving their door open.  There were
other girls in the passage then, all moving toward the stairway.  Some
of them nodded kindly to the Infants.  Others only stared.

Ruth saw Miss Steele in advance, and whispered to Helen:

"Come, dear; let us speak to her and tell her we cannot accept her
Invitation for this evening."

But Helen held back.  "You can tell her if you like," she said, rather
sullenly.

"But, let us be nice about it," urged Ruth.  "I'll tell her we
overlooked the fact that we were already engaged for the meeting of the
Up and Doing Club.  I'll explain."

Helen suddenly seized her chum's arm more tightly.  "You _are_ a good
little thing, Ruthie," she declared.  "Come on."

They hurried after the Senior and caught up with her at the foot of the
stairs.  She was not alone, but Ruth touched her arm and asked to speak
with her.

"What's the matter, Infants?" demanded the Senior, but smiling at them.

Helen flushed at the expression, but Ruth was too earnest in her
intention to smooth over the difficulty to notice so small a thing.

"Oh, Miss Steele," she said, "I am sorry to beg off from the kind
invitation you gave us.  We cannot go with you this evening.  It seems
that it was already understood with Miss Cox that we should go with
her."

"Oh!" exclaimed Madge Steele, a little stiffly, "you are already
pledged, then?"

"Yes, we are pledged to attend the meeting of the Up and Doing Club
this evening.  It was very kind of Miss Cox to invite us," said Ruth,
calmly.  "And it was kind of you to invite us to the F. C.'s, too.  But
we cannot attend both meetings--not in one evening."

Madge Steele was looking at her earnestly and found that Ruth neither
dropped her gaze nor appeared confused by her scrutiny.  Helen was the
one who seemed confused.

"It is not our usage to interfere with those who are pledged to other
school clubs," said Miss Steele, speaking distinctly.  "I understand,
then, that you are _not_ pledged?"

"Only to attend this meeting as visitors of Miss Cox," said Ruth,
simply.

"Very well, then," said Madge Steele, her pleasant face breaking into a
smile again, "I shall hope to see you at some future meeting of the
Forward Club.  Here we are on the campus.  It is cool and shady here,
even in the hottest weather.  We think it is a decidedly pleasant
place."

She walked beside them, conversing pleasantly.  Helen recovered her
good temper and ventured a remark about the fountain which graced the
center of the campus.  It was a huge marble figure of a sitting female,
in graceful draperies and with a harp, or lyre, on the figure's knee.
The clear water bubbled out all around the pedestal, and the statue and
bowl were sunk a little below the level of the greensward, like a small
Italian garden.

"What is the figure supposed to represent, Miss Steele?" asked Helen.

"You are allowed three guesses--and then you won't know," laughed the
Senior.  "You can see by the stains and moss on it that the fountain
has been there a great many years.  Long before Briarwood Hall was a
school.  But it is supposed to represent either _Poesy_, or _Harmony_.
Nobody knows--not even Mrs. Tellingham."

The bell stopped tolling with three, sharp, jerky taps.  Madge Steele
quickened her pace along the path and the newcomers followed her.
Other girls were pouring into the building nearest to the main
structure of Briarwood.  A broad stairway led up to assembly rooms; but
out of the lower hall opened a large dining room, in which were ten or
twelve long tables, and at which the girls were already being seated by
some sort of system.

"I don't know where you will be seated," said Madge Steele, hastily.
"I am at the second Senior table.  Here comes Miss Picolet.  She will
attend to you Infants."

"Oh, it's the little French teacher," said Helen.

Ruth met the little lady with a smile.  Miss Picolet nodded to them
both and put out her tiny hand.  She really was no taller than Helen.

"I am glad, young ladies, to see you in such good company.  Miss Steele
is well worth cultivating," she said.  "Come this way.  You will be
seated in the Junior division.  It is probable that you will be placed
in that grade permanently.  Mrs. Tellingham will see you in her office
in the next building immediately after supper."

Ruth and Helen followed the doll-like teacher to their seats.  The girl
whom Mary Cox had called "Heavy" (and, indeed, it was a most
appropriate name) was already seated, and was right at Ruth's elbow.

"Oh, I hope they'll be seated soon," Ruth heard this over-plump girl
murmur.  "This is cup-custard night, and I'm so-o hungry."

The tables were laid nicely.  There were several waitresses, and
besides Miss Picolet, there were at least four other ladies whom Ruth
knew must be teachers.  The hall was by no means filled.  There were
not more than a hundred and fifty girls present.  The door at the far
end opened and a handsome, white-haired, pink-cheeked lady entered.
She mounted a slightly raised platform and stood for a moment
overlooking the room.

"It's Mrs. Tellingham," whispered the fat girl to Ruth, seeing the
question in the latter's face.

The Preceptress was a really handsome lady--perhaps forty-five, perhaps
ten years older.  Her perfectly white hair, thick and well arranged,
seemed to have been the result of something besides age.  Here face was
quite free from any age-marks.  There was a kind look in her eyes; a
humorous expression about her mouth.  Helen leaned toward Ruth and
whispered:

"I know I shall just love her, Ruth--don't you?"

"And you won't be alone in that, Infant," said the girl on Helen's
other hand.  "Now!"

Mrs. Tellingham raised her hand.  The school arose and stood quietly
while she said grace.  Another motion of the hand, and they sat down
again.  The bustle of supper then began, with the girls talking and
laughing, the waitresses serving a plain, hot meal, and everybody in
apparent good-nature, and happy.  Ruth could scarcely pay attention to
the food, however, she was so much more interested in these who were to
be her school-fellows.



CHAPTER VII

THE UPEDES

It was all so new and strange to Helen and Ruth that neither had
considered the possibility of homesickness.  Indeed, how could they be
homesick?  There was too much going on at Briarwood Hall for the
newcomers to think much of themselves.

The plump girl next to Ruth seemed of a friendly disposition, for when
she had satisfied the first cravings of her appetite--oh, long before
she came to the cup-custard!--she said:

"Which are you--Cameron, or Fielding?  I'm Stone--Jennie Stone."

Ruth told her their names and asked in return:

"Are you on our corridor, too?  I know you are rooming in the same
building as Helen and I."

"Yes," said the fat girl.  "I'm in a quartette with Mary Cox, Lluella
Fairfax and Belle Tingley.  Oh, you'll see plenty of us," said Heavy.
"And I say! you're going to the Upede meeting to-night; aren't you?"

"Why--yes.  Do you all belong?"

"Our quartette?  Sure," said the plump girl in her off-hand way.
"We'll show you some fun.  And I say!"

"Well?" asked Ruth.

"How often are they going to send you boxes from home?"

"Boxes from home?" repeated the girl from the Red Mill.

"Yes.  You know, you can have 'em sent often if you keep up with your
classes and don't get too many demerits in deportment.  I missed two
boxes last half because of black marks.  And in French and deportment,
too.  _That_ was Picolet's doing--mean thing!"

"I had no idea that one would be allowed to receive goodies," said
Ruth, who of course expected nothing of the kind from home, but did not
wish to say so.

"Well, you want to write your folks that you can receive 'em right
away.  A girl who gets things from home can be very popular if she
wants to be.  Ah! here's the custard."

Ruth had difficulty in keeping from laughing outright.  She saw plainly
that the nearest way to Miss Jennie Stone's heart lay through her
stomach.

Meanwhile Helen had become acquainted with the girl on the other side
who had called them "Infants."  But she was a good-natured girl, too,
and now Helen introduced her to her chum as Miss Polk.  She was a
dark-haired, plain-faced girl and wore eye-glasses.  She was a Junior
and already Helen had found she belonged to the F. C.'s.

"I guess most of the stiff and starched ones belong to that Forward
Club," whispered Helen to her chum.  "But the jolly ones are Upedes."

"We'll wait and see," advised Ruth.

Supper was over then and the girls all rose and strolled out of the
room in parties.  Ruth and Helen made their way quietly to the exit and
looked for the office of the Preceptress.  The large building with the
tower--the original Briarwood Hall--was partly given up to recitations
and lecture rooms and partly to the uses of the Tellinghams and the
teachers.  Besides this great building there were two dormitory
buildings, the gymnasium, the library building, and a chapel which had
been built only the year before by subscriptions of the graduates of
the school and of the parents of the scholars then attending.  But it
was growing dusk now and the two friends could not see much of the
buildings around the campus.

Mrs. Grace Tellingham and her husband (the Doctor never by any chance
came first in anybody's mind!) had started the school some years before
in a small way; but it had grown rapidly and was, as we have seen, very
popular.  Many girls were graduated from the institution to the big
girls' colleges, for it was, in fact, a preparatory school.

The chums went in at the broad door and saw a library at the right hand
into which a tidy maid motioned them, with a smile.  It was a large
room, the walls masked by bookshelves, all filled so tightly that it
did seem as though room for another book could not be found.  But Mrs.
Tellingham was not there.

Bending over the table, however, (and it was a large, leather-covered
table with a great student lamp in the center, the shade of which threw
a soft glow of light in a circle upon it) was a gentleman whose
shoulders were very round and who seemed to be so near-sighted that his
nose must have been within an inch or so of the book which he read.  He
was totally unconscious of the girls' presence, and he read in a half
whisper to himself, like a child conning a lesson.

Ruth and Helen looked at each other, each thinking the same question.
Could this be Doctor Tellingham, the great historian?  They glanced
again at the hoop-shouldered man and wondered what his countenance was
like, for they could not see a feature of it as he read.  But Ruth
_did_ notice one most surprising fact.  The stooping gentleman wore a
wig.  It was a brown, rather curly wig, while the fringe of natural
hair all around his head was quite white--of that yellowish-white that
proclaims the fact that the hair was once light brown, or sandy in
color.  The brown wig matched the hair at one time, without doubt; but
it now looked as though two gentlemen's heads had been merged in
one--the younger gentleman's being the upper half of the present
apparition.

For several minutes the chums stood timidly in the room and the old
gentleman went on whispering to himself, and occasionally nodding his
head.  But at length he looked up, and in doing this he saw the girls
and revealed his own countenance.

"Ah-ha!" he ejaculated, and stood upright.  He was not a small man, but
he was very bony.  He had a big, long, smoothly-shaven face, on which
his beard had sprouted in patches only, and these shaven patches were
gray, whereas the rest of his face was smooth and dead-white.  Indeed
he had so much face, and it was so bald, that if the brown wig had
chanced to tumble off Ruth thought that his appearance would have been
actually terrifying.

"Ah-ha!" he said again, and smiled not unkindly.  The thick spectacles
he wore hid his eyes, however, and to look into his big face was like
looking at the white wall of a house with the windows all shuttered.
"You want something!"

He said it as though he had made a most profound discovery.  Indeed,
they found afterward that Doctor Tellingham always spoke as though he
were pronouncing a valedictory oration, or something quite as important
as that.  The doctor never could say anything lightly.  His mind was
given up entirely to deep subjects, and it seldom strayed from his work.

"You want something," he repeated.  "Stop! never mind explaining.  I
shouldn't be able to aid you.  Mrs. Tellingham--my wife, my dears--will
be here anon."

He at once bobbed down his head, revealing nothing to the eyes of the
two girls but the brown wig and the hair that didn't match, and went on
whispering to himself.  Helen and Ruth exchanged glances and Helen had
difficulty in keeping from laughing outright.

In a moment more Mrs. Tellingham came into the room.  At close view
Ruth saw that she was even more attractive than she had seemed at a
distance.  Her countenance was firm without being stern--the humor
about the mouth relieved its set expression.

"My dear! my dear!" ejaculated the Doctor, raising his head so that the
long, bald expanse of his face came into view again for a moment,
"somebody to see you--somebody wants something."

Mrs. Tellingham approached Helen first and took her hand.  Her
handclasp was firm, her manner one to put the girl at her ease.

"You are Mr. Macy Cameron's daughter?" she questioned.  "We are glad to
see you here.  You have found your room?"

"Yes, Mrs. Tellingham," replied Helen.

The Preceptress turned to Ruth and shook hands with her.  "And you are
Ruth Fielding?  Do as well this first half as your last teacher tells
me you did, and we shall be good friends.  Now, girls, sit down.  Let
us talk a bit."

She had a quick, bright way of speaking; yet her words were not
wasted--nor her time.  She did not talk idly.  Nor did the two chums
have much to say but "Yes" and "No."  In the course of her remarks she
said:

"This is your first experience, I understand, away from home and in a
school of this character?  Yes?  Ah, then, many things will be new and
strange to you, as well as hard to bear at first.  Among two hundred
girls there are bound to be girls of a good many different kinds," and
she smiled.  "You will find some thoughtless and careless--forgetting
what they have been sent to the school for.  Avoid that class.  They
will not aid you in your own intention to stand well in the classes.

"Keep before you the fact that your friends have sent you here for
improvement--not to kill time.  All girls like fun; I hope you will
find plenty of innocent amusement here.  I want all my girls happy and
content.  Use the advantages of our gym; join the walking club; we make
a point of having one of the best basketball teams in this part of the
State.  Tennis is a splendid exercise for girls, and we have an indoor
as well as outdoor courts.  Yes, do not neglect the good times.  But
remember, too, that amusement isn't the main issue of life at Briarwood
Hall.  Let nothing interfere with the study hour.  Keep the rules--we
strive to have as few as possible, so that there may be less temptation
to break them," and the Preceptress smiled her quick, understanding
smile again.

"By the way, there are social clubs in the school.  To-night--have you
been invited to any gathering?"

"Both the Forward Club and the Up and Doings have invited us to attend
their meetings," said Ruth, quietly.

"Ah!"

"We are going to the Up and Doings, Mrs. Tellingham," said Helen.

"Ah!" was again the lady's comment, and they learned nothing from her
countenance.  Nevertheless, Ruth thought it better to explain:

"We were very kindly received by Miss Cox, and shown our room by her,
and she invited us to her club first of all."

"Indeed!  We shall be glad to have you come to our club, too, before
you make up your minds to join any," said Mrs. Tellingham, with an
accent on one word that made both Ruth and Helen mark it well.  The F.
C.'s were plainly approved by the Preceptress.

"There!" she continued, nodding smilingly at the chums.  "I am sure we
shall get on together.  You will become acquainted with both your
school-fellows and your instructors in course of time.  There are not
so many at Briarwood Hall but that we are still one great family.  One
thing girls come away from home for, to an institution like this, is to
learn self-control and self-government.  If you need help do not be
afraid to go to your instructors, or come to me.  Confide in us.  But,
on the other hand, you must learn to judge for yourself.  We do not
punish an act of wrong judgment, here at Briarwood."  And so the
Preceptress bade them good-evening.

"Isn't she nice?" whispered Ruth, as she and Helen made their exit from
the room.

"Ye-es," admitted her chum.  "But you can see she is dreadfully
'bossy.'"

At that Ruth laughed heartily.  "You foolish child!" she said, shaking
her chum a little.  "Isn't she here to 'boss'?  My goodness! you didn't
expect to do just as _you_ pleased here at Briarwood; did you?"

Helen Cameron had been used to having her own way a good deal.  Being
naturally a sweet-tempered girl, she was not much spoiled.  But Mrs.
Murchiston had been unable to be very strict with the twins when Mr.
Cameron was so indulgent himself.

Mary Cox and "Heavy" Stone were waiting on the steps for the friends as
they came out.  There was another group of girls on the path, too, who
eyed Ruth and Helen interestedly as the latter came down the steps with
the two Juniors.  "'The Fox' has been in the poultry yard again, and
has caught two chickabiddies," laughed one of these idle girls.

Ruth flushed, but Helen did not hear the gibe, being much interested in
what Mary Cox was saying to her.  Ruth walked beside the good-natured
Jennie Stone.

"My, my!" chuckled that damsel, "aren't those Fussy Curls jealous?
They had to take the teachers into their old club so as to be more
numerous than the Upedes.  But I guess Mary Cox will show 'em!  She
_is_ a fox, and I guess she always will be!"

"Is that what they call Miss Cox?" asked Ruth, not a little troubled.

"Oh, she's foxy, all right," said this rather slangy young lady.  "She
will beat the Fussy Curls every time.  She's President of the Upedes,
you know."

Ruth was still troubled, and she hastened to say:

"You know, we haven't been asked to join the club, Miss Stone.  And my
chum and I are not sure that we wish to join any of the school clubs at
first.  We--we want to look around us, you know."

"That's all right," said Jennie Stone, cordially.  "You'll be put up
for membership when you want to be.  But we'll show you some fun.  No
use getting in with those poky F. C.'s.  You'll never have a bit of fun
if you train with them."

They went back to the building in which they had supped and upstairs to
one of the assembly rooms.  The stairway and hall were well filled with
girls now, and several of them nodded smilingly to Ruth and Helen; but
their escorts did not let the chums stop at all, ushering them at once
into the room where the Up and Doing clan was gathering.

Mary Cox left Heavy to introduce the newcomers while she went at once
to the rostrum and with two or three of the other girls--who were
evidently officers of the club, likewise--held a short executive
session in secret.  By and by Mary rapped on the desk for order, and
the girls all took seats.  Ruth, who was watchful, saw that the company
numbered scarcely a score.  If these were all the members of the club,
she wondered how many of the Briarwood girls belonged to the rival
association.

The meeting, as far as the business went, was conducted briskly and to
the point.  Then it was "thrown open" and everybody--but the
visitors--talked just as they pleased.  Helen and Ruth were made to
feel at home, and the girls were most lively and good-natured.  They
heard that the Upedes were to have a picnic at a grove upon the shore
of Lake Triton on the Saturday week, and that Old Dolliver and his
ramshackle stage, and another vehicle of the same caliber, were engaged
for the trip.

"But beware of black marks, girls," warned Mary Cox.  "Picolet will be
watching us; and you know that, this early in the term, two black marks
will mean an order to remain on the school premises.  That old cat will
catch us if she can."

"Mean little thing!" said Heavy, wheezily.  "I wish anybody but Miss
Picolet lived in our house."

From this Ruth judged that most of these Up and Doings were in the
dormitory in which she and Helen were billeted.

"I don't see what Mrs. Tellingham keeps Picolet for," complained
another girl.

"For a spy," snapped Mary Cox.  "But we'll get the best of her yet.
She isn't fit to be a teacher in this school, anyway."

"Oh, she's a good French teacher--of course.  It's her native tongue,"
said one of the other girls, who was called Belle Tingley.

"That's all very well," snapped Mary.  "But there's something secret
and underhand about her.  She claims to have nobody related to her in
this country; but if the truth were known, I guess, she has reason to
be ashamed of her family and friends.  I've heard something----"

She stopped and looked knowingly at Ruth and Helen.  The former flushed
as she remembered the man in the red waistcoat who played the harp
aboard the steamboat.  But Helen seemed to have forgotten the incident,
for she paid no attention to Mary's unfinished suggestion.

It worried Ruth, however.  She heartily wished that her chum had said
nothing to the Cox girl about the man who played the harp and his
connection with the little French teacher.



CHAPTER VIII

THE MARBLE HARP

The social meeting of the Up and Doing Club lasted less than an hour.
It was quite evident that it had been mainly held for the introduction
of Ruth Fielding and her chum into the society of the Briarwood girls.
Those gathered in the assembly room did not number any Seniors, but
were all of the Junior grade, and all older than Ruth and Helen.
"Primes" were not allowed by Mrs. Tellingham to join any of the
class-governed societies.

In spite of the fact that Ruth suspected Mary Cox of deliberately
throwing herself in the way of Helen and she on their arrival at the
school, with the sole object of getting them pledged to this society,
the girl from the Red Mill could not fail to appreciate the
good-natured attempts of the Upedes to make them both feel at home in
their new surroundings.  They _must_ be grateful for that.

Nor were they urged at this time to join the club.  At least, nobody
said more to Ruth about joining than had the stout girl, Jennie Stone,
on their way to this meeting.  The party broke up in such good season,
that it was scarcely dark when the chums left the room in the dining
hall and strolled back to their dormitory with their new friends.  The
lamps around the campus were being lighted by a little old Irishman,
who wore a wreath of short, gray whiskers and hair about his face--a
regular frame.  His long upper lip and his chin were shaven, and this
arrangement gave him a most comical appearance.

"You're late again to-night, Tony," Jennie Stone remarked, as she and
Ruth came down the steps of the dining hall together.

The little Irishman backed down the short flight of steps he carried,
with a groan.  He had just lighted the final lamp of the series that
surrounded the campus.

"And well I might be--well I might be," grumbled the man.  "'Tis me
needs fower pair of hands, instead of wan pair, and as many legs as a
cinterpig."  Tony evidently meant _centipede_.  "'Tis 'Tony, here!' and
'Tony, there!' iv'ry blissid minute av th' day.  An' 'tis movin' trunks
an' boxes, and the like--Mis' Grace should hire a nelephant at this
time of the year, an' so I tell her.  An' what with these here
foreigners too--bad 'cess to them!  I have to chase ev'ry rag tag and
bobtail on the place, so I do----"

"Not tramps again, Tony?" cried Jennie Stone.

"'Tis worse.  Musickle bodies, they be.  Playin' harps an' fiddles, an'
the loikes.  Sure, 'twill be hand-organs an' moonkeys to-morrer,
belike.  Ah, yes!"

"Maybe some of these traveling musicians can play the marble harp
yonder," said Heavy, with a chuckle, pointing to the now half-shrouded
figure in the center of the campus.

"Oh, wirra, wirra! don't be sayin' it," grumbled the old man.  "There's
bad luck in speakin' of _thim_ folks."

Jennie Stone squeezed Ruth's arm, still laughing, as they went on and
left the old Irishman.  "He's just as superstitious as he can be," she
whispered.  "He really believes the old story about the harp."

"He ought to believe in a harp," laughed Ruth, in return, "he being
Irish.  Tell me, who is he?"

"Anthony Foyle.  He's the only workman about the place who sleeps on
the premises.  His wife's our cook.  They're a comical old couple--and
she _does_ make the nicest tarts!  They'd melt in your mouth if you
could only make up your mind to hold them long enough on your tongue,"
sighed Heavy, rapturously.

"But what's the story about the marble harp?" queried Ruth, as they
came to the dormitory and joined the other girls.  "You mean the harp
held by that figure at the fountain?"

"Hello!" cried Belle Tingley.  "Heavy's trying to scare the Infant with
the campus ghost story."

"Oh! a real ghost story!" cried Helen.  "Do let's hear it."

"Come into our room, Cameron," said Lluella Fairfax, lazily, "and I
will tell the tale and harrow up thy young soul----"

"And make thy hair stand on end like quills upon the fretful
'porkypine,'" finished Mary Cox.  "Yes! let Lluella tell it.  It is
well for Infants to learn the legends as well as the rules of Briarwood
Hall."

Helen was used to being called "Infant" by now and didn't mind so much.
She was so much taken with their new friends and the Upedes in general
that she went right into the room occupied by Mary Cox and her chums,
without a word to Ruth, and the latter followed with Heavy, perforce.

The windows of the "quartette" looked out upon the campus.  The lights
in the other dormitory shone brightly and the lamps around the open
space, which the buildings of Briarwood surrounded, glimmered in the
dark.  Voices came up to them from the walks; but soon these ceased,
for the girls were all indoors.  The campus was deserted.

"Don't let's light the lamp," said Lluella.  "I can tell stories better
in the dark."

"And ghost stories, too," laughed Helen.

"Not so much of a ghost story--at least, there's nothing really
terrible about it," returned Miss Fairfax, slowly.  "I suppose there
are not many people who talk about it, outside of our own selves here
at Briarwood.  But once--before the school came here--the marble statue
down there was the talk of the whole countryside.  I believe Mrs.
Tellingham doesn't like the story to be repeated," added Miss Fairfax.
"She thinks such superstitions aren't good for the minds of the Primes
and Infants," and the story-teller laughed.

"However, it is a fact that the original owner of Briarwood Hall had a
beautiful daughter.  She was the apple of his eye--all beautiful
daughters are apples of their fathers' eyes," said Lluella, laughing.
"Jennie is _her_ father's apple----"

"Adam's apple," suggested Mary Cox.

"Such a size for an Adam's apple would choke a giant," murmured Belle
Tingley, for the three were always joking poor Heavy because of her
over-plumpness.

"Don't you bother about my father," said Jennie, calmly.  "He gives me
a dollar every month for chocolate creams, and you girls help eat them,
I notice."

"Hurrah for the Stone _pere_!" cried Mary Cox.  "Go on, Lluella."

"You sound as though you cheered for a sea-wall of masonry, or some
such maritime structure," complained Jennie.  "'Stone _pere_,' indeed!"

"She sha'n't have any of the next box of creams, Heavy," said Lluella,
soothingly.

"And I'm not sure that _you_ will, either," replied the fat girl.
"_Do_ tell your story, Miss!" and Heavy yawned monstrously.

"How _dare_ you yawn before 'taps'?" cried Belle.  "I'll douse the
water-pitcher over you, Jennie."

At this threat the fat girl sat up promptly and again urged Lluella to
continue her tale.  So Miss Fairfax continued:

"This rich old gentleman with the apple in his eye--in other words, a
beautiful daughter--had a great deal more money than sense, I think.
He engaged a sculptor to design a fountain for his lawn, and the draped
figure you have seen upon that pedestal down yonder, is supposed to be
the portrait of the beautiful daughter cut into enduring marble by the
man who _sculped_.  But, unfortunately for the old gentleman's peace of
mind while he _sculped_ the marble the artist likewise made love to the
young lady and they ran away and were married, leaving the old
gentleman nothing but the cold marble statue playing the marble harp,
in place of a daughter.

"The father's heart at once became as adamant as the marble itself, and
he refused to support the sculptor and his wife.  Now, either the
runaway couple died miserably of starvation in a garret, or were
drowned at sea, or were wrecked in a railroad accident, or some other
dreadful catastrophe happened to them--I'm not sure which; for after a
time there began to be something strange about the fountain.  The old
man lived here alone with his servants for a number of years; but the
servants would not remain long with him, for they said the place was
haunted."

"Oh my!" exclaimed Helen.

"That's right, Miss Cameron.  Please show the proper amount of
thrilling interest.  They said the fountain was queer.  The water never
poisoned anybody; but sometimes the marble strings of the marble harp
in the marble hand or the marble daughter would be heard to twang in
the night.  Weird music came from the fountain at ghostly hours.  Of
course, the little harp the statue holds is in the form of a lyre; and
what the people were who told these stories about the ghostly twanging
of the instrument--you may draw your own conclusions," laughed Lluella
Fairfax.

"However, the old gentleman at last broke up his household, or died, or
moved to town, or something, and Briarwood was put up for sale and the
school came here.  That was a good many years ago.  Dr. Tellingham's
wig matched his fringe of hair when the school first began here, so
that must have been a good while ago.  The twanging of the marble harp
has been heard down through the school ages, so it is
said--particularly at queer times----"

"Queer times?" asked Ruth.

"Why, when something out of the common was about to happen.  They say
it twanged the night before our team beat the basket-ball team from
Varden Preparatory.  There was a girl here once who ran away because
her folks went to Europe and left her behind at school.  She was
determined to follow them, and she got as far as New York and stole
aboard a great steamer so as to follow her parents; only the steamship
she boarded had just come in instead of just going out.  They say the
marble harp twanged _then_."

"And when Heavy failed to oversleep one morning last half the marble
harp must have twanged _that_ time," declared Mary Cox.

A gentle snore answered from the window seat, where Jennie Stone had
actually gone to sleep.

"Wasted humor," said Mary, laughing.  "Heavy is in the Land of Nod.
It's been a hard day for her.  At supper she had to eat her own and
Miss Fielding's share of the cup-custards."

Ruth and Helen had already risen to go.

"You'll remember, Infants," said Lluella, "when you hear the twang of
the ghostly harp, that something momentous is bound to happen at
Briarwood Hall."

"But more important still," warned Mary, "be sure that your lights are
out within twenty minutes after retiring bell sounds.  Otherwise you
will have that cat, Picolet, poking into your room to learn what is the
matter."



CHAPTER IX

THE GHOSTLY TRIBUNAL

"Aren't they just fine?  Isn't it just fun?"

These were the enthusiastic questions that Helen Cameron hurled at Ruth
when they returned to their own room.  The girl from the Red Mill was
glad that their school life had opened so pleasantly; but she was by no
means blinded--as Helen seemed to be--to the faults of their neighbors
in the room they had just left.

"They have been very friendly and we have no complaint to make, that is
sure, Helen," she said.

"How exasperating you are at times!" exclaimed her chum.  "Just the
same, I am glad we didn't go with those poky Fussy Curls to _their_
meeting."

Ruth made no reply to this.  The bell in the tower had tolled nine, and
they knew that there were twenty minutes only in which to get ready for
retiring.  Those girls who had lights after twenty minutes past nine
were likely to be questioned, and any who burned a lamp after half
after nine would find a demerit against their names in the morning.

The chums hurried, then, to get ready for sleep.  "Don't you hope we'll
dream something very nice?" whispered Helen as she plunged into bed
first.

"I hope we will," returned Ruth, waiting to see her comfortable before
she turned out the light and bent over her chum to kiss her.
"Good-night, Helen.  I hope we'll be just as good friends here, dear,
as we have been since we met."

"Of course we will, Ruthie!" declared Helen, quite as warmly.

"We will let nobody, or nothing, come between us?" said Ruth, a little
wistfully in the dark.

"Of course not!" declared Helen, with added emphasis.

Then Ruth crept into her own bed and lay looking at the whiter patch of
the nearest window long after Helen's gentle, regular breathing
announced her chum asleep.  There were few other sounds about the
dormitory.  A door shut softly in the distance.  Somewhere a dog barked
once.  Ruth was not sleepy at all.  The day's doings passed in a not
unpleasant procession through her mind.

It seemed a week--yes! a month--since she had left the Red Mill that
morning.  She again went over the pleasant road with the Camerons and
Mrs. Murchiston to Cheslow.  She remembered their conversation with
good Dr. Davison, and wondered if by any possibility the time would
come when poor Mercy Curtis could go to school--perhaps come to this
very Briarwood Hall.

The long ride on the train to Lake Osago was likewise repeated in
Ruth's mind; then the trip by boat to Portageton.  She could not fail
to recount the mysterious behavior of the big man who played the harp
in the boat orchestra, and Mademoiselle Picolet.  And while these
thoughts were following in slow procession through her mind she
suddenly became aware of a sound without.  The nearest window was
open--the lower sash raised to its full height.  It was a warm and
windless night.

The sound was repeated.  Ruth raised her head from the pillow.  It was
a faint scratching--at the door, or at the window?  She could not tell.

Ruth lay down again; then she sat upright in her bed as the sound
continued.  Every other noise about the house now seemed stilled.  The
dog did not bark.  There was no rustle in the trees that shaded the
campus.  Where was that sound?  At the door?

Ruth was not afraid--only curious.  If somebody was trying to attract
her attention--if somebody wished to communicate with her, to get into
the room----

She hopped out of bed.  Helen still slept as calmly as though she was
in her own bed at home.  Ruth went softly to the door.  She had latched
it when they came in.  Now she pushed the bolt back softly.  Was there
a rustle and a soft whisper behind the panels?

Suddenly, as the fastening was removed, the door was pushed inward.
Ruth stepped back.  Had she been of a very nervous disposition, she
would have cried aloud in fright, for two figures all in white stood at
the door.

"Hush!" commanded the taller of the two shrouded figures.  "Not a word."

Thus commanded, and half frightened, as well as wholly amazed, Ruth
remained passive.  The two white figures entered; two more followed;
two more followed in turn, until there were eight couples--girls and
all shrouded in sheets, with pillow-case hoods over their heads, in
which were cut small "eyes"--within the duet room.  Somebody closed the
door.  Somebody else motioned Ruth to awaken Helen.

Ruth hesitated.  She at once supposed that some of their school-fellows
meant to haze them; but she did not know how her chum would take such a
startling awakening from sound sleep.  She knew that, had she been
asleep herself and opened her eyes to see these shrouded figures
gathered about her bed, she would have been frightened beyond
expression.

"Don't let her see you first!" gasped Ruth, affrightedly.

Instantly two of the girls seized her and, as she involuntarily opened
her lips to scream, one thrust a ball of clean rags into her mouth,
thrusting it in so far that it effectually gagged her, nor could she
expel the ball from her mouth.  It was not a cruel act, but it was
awfully uncomfortable, and being held firmly by her two assailants,
Ruth could do nothing, either in her own behalf, or for Helen.

But she was determined not to cry.  These big girls called them
"Infants," and Ruth Fielding determined not to deserve the name.  She
had no idea that the hazing party would really hurt them; they would
have for their principal object the frightening of the new-comers to
Briarwood Hall; and, secondarily, they would try to make Ruth and Helen
appear just as ridiculous as possible.

Ruth was sorry in a moment that she had breathed a syllable aloud; for
she was not allowed to awaken Helen.  Instead, a girl went to either
side of the bed and leaned over Ruth's sleeping chum.  The tall, peaked
caps made of the pillow-cases looked awful enough, and Ruth was in a
really unhappy state of mind.  All for Helen's sake, too.  She had
opened the door to these thoughtless girls.  If she only had not done
it!

Suddenly Helen started upright in bed.  Her black eyes glared for a
moment as she beheld the row of sheeted figures.  But her lips only
opened to emit a single "Oh!"

"Silence!" commanded one of the figures leaning over the bed, and Ruth,
whose ears were sharpened now, believed that she recognized Mary Cox's
voice.  She immediately decided that these girls who had come to haze
them were the very Juniors who had been so nice to them that
evening--"The Fox" and her fellow-members of the Upedes.  But Ruth was
more interested just then in the manner in which Helen was going to
take her sudden awakening.

Fortunately her chum seemed quite prepared for the visitation.  After
her first involuntary cry, she remained silent, and she even smiled
across the footboard at Ruth, who, gagged and held captive, was
certainly in no pleasant situation.  The thought flashed into Ruth's
mind: "Did Helen have reason for expecting this visit, and not warn
_me_?"

"Up!" commanded the previous speaker among the white-robed company.
"Your doom awaits you."

Helen put her bare feet out of bed, but was allowed to put her slippers
on.  The chums were in their night apparel only.  Fortunately the air
breathed in at the open window was warm.  So there was no danger of
their getting cold.

The two new girls were placed side by side.  Helen was not gagged as
Ruth was; but, of course, she had uttered only that single startled cry
when she awoke.  There was great solemnity among the shrouded figures
as the chums stood in their midst.  The girl who had previously spoken
(and whom Ruth was quite positive was Mary Cox--for she seemed to be
the leader and prime mover in this event) swept everything off the
table and mounted upon it, where she sat cross-legged--like a tailor,
or a Turk.

"Bring the culprits before the throne!" she commanded, in a sepulchral
voice.

Helen actually giggled.  But Ruth did not feel much like laughing.  The
ball of rags in her mouth had begun to hurt her, and she was held
tightly by her two guards so that she could not have an instant's
freedom.  She was not, in addition, quite sure that these girls would
not attempt to haze their prisoners in some unbecoming, or dangerous,
way.  Therefore, she was not undisturbed in her mind as she stood in
the midst of the shrouded company of her school-fellows.



CHAPTER X

SOMETHING MORE THAN GHOSTS

Helen pinched Ruth's arm.  It was plain that her guards did not hold
Helen as tightly as they did Ruth.  And why was _that_? Ruth thought.
Could it be possible that her chum had had warning of this midnight
visitation?

Not that Ruth felt very much fear of the outcome of the exercises; but
the possibility that her old friend had kept any secret knowledge of
the raid from her troubled Ruth immensely.  Since they had come among
the girls of Briarwood Hall--and that so few hours before--Ruth felt
that she and Helen were not so close together.  There was danger of
their drifting apart, and the possibility troubled Ruth Fielding
exceedingly.

The thought of it now, however, was but momentary.  Naturally she was
vitally interested in what was about to be done to her by the party of
hazers.

"I am pained," said the girl sitting on the table, "that one of the
neophytes comes before us with a bigger mouthful than she can swallow.
If she understands fully that a single word above a whisper--or any
word at all unless she is addressed by the Sisters--will be punished by
her being instantly corked up again, the gag may be removed.  Do you
understand, Neophyte?  Nod once!"

Ruth, glad to get rid of the unpleasant mouthful on any terms, nodded
vigorously.  Immediately her captors let go of her arms and one of them
pulled the "stopper" out of her mouth.

"Now, remember!" uttered the girl on the table, warningly.  "A word
aloud and the plug goes back."  Helen giggled again, but Ruth didn't
feel like laughing herself.  "Now, culprits!" continued the leader of
the hazing party, "you must be judged for your temerity.  How _dared_
you come to Briarwood Hall, Infants?"

"Please, Ma'am," whispered Helen, who seemed to think the whole affair
a great lark, "our guardians sent us here.  We are not responsible."

"You may not so easily escape responsibility for your acts," hissed the
girl on the table.  "Those who enter Briarwood Hall must show
themselves worthy of the high honor.  It takes courage to come under
the eye of Mrs. Tellingham; it takes supernatural courage to come under
the eye of Picolet!"

"If she wasn't out of the house to-night you may believe we wouldn't be
out of bed," murmured another of the midnight visitors, whom Ruth was
quite sure was Belle Tingley.

"And I hope you made no mistake about _that_, Miss!" snapped the girl
on the table.  "_You_ went to her door."

"And knocked, and asked for toothache drops," giggled another of the
shrouded figures.

"And she wasn't there.  I pushed the door open," muttered the other
girl.  "I know she went out.  I heard the door open and shut half an
hour before."

"She's a sly one, she is," declared the girl on the table.  "But,
enough of Picolet.  It is these small infants we have to judge; not
that old cat.  We say they have shown temerity in coming to
Briarwood--is it not so, friends and fellow members--ahem! is it not
so?"

There was a responsive giggle from the shrouded figures about the room.

"Then punishment must be the portion of these Infants," declared the
foremost hazer.  "They claim that they were sent here against their
will and that it was not reckless bravery that brought them to these
scholastic halls.  Let them prove their courage then--what say the
Sisters?"

The Sisters giggled a good deal, but the majority seemed to be of the
opinion that proof of the Infants' courage should be exacted.

"Then let the Golden Goblet be brought," commanded the leader, her
voice still carefully lowered, for even if Miss Picolet was out of the
dormitory, Miss Scrimp, the matron, was asleep in her own room,
likewise on the lower floor of the building.  Somebody produced a vase
which had evidently been covered with bright gold-foil for the
occasion.  "Here," said the leader, holding the vase out to Helen.
"Take this Golden Goblet and fill it at the fountain on the campus.
You will be taken down to the door by the guards, who will await your
return and will bring you back again.  And remember!  Silence!"

The lights all around the campus had gone out ere this.  There was no
moon, and although it was a clear night, with countless stars in the
heavens, it seemed dark and lonely indeed down there under the trees
between the school buildings.

"Do not hesitate, Infant!" commanded the leader of the hazing party.
"Nor shall you think to befool us, Miss!  Take the Golden Goblet, and
fill and drink at the fountain.  But leave the goblet there, that we
may know you have accomplished the task set you!"

This was said most solemnly; but the solemnity would not have bothered
Helen Cameron at all, had the task been given to somebody else!  The
thought of venturing out there in the dark on the campus rather quelled
her propensity for giggling.

But there seemed to be no way of begging off from the trial.  Helen
cast a look of pleading at her chum; but what could Ruth do?  She was
surprised that the task had not been given to her instead; she believed
that these girls were really more friendly in feeling toward Helen than
toward herself.  At least, it was Mary Cox on the table, and Mary Cox
had shown Helen much more attention than she had Ruth.

Two of the sheeted visitors seized Helen again and led her softly out
of the room.  A sentinel had been left in the corridor, and the word
was whispered that all was silent in the house; Miss Scrimp was known
to be a heavy sleeper, and the French teacher was certainly absent from
her room.

The girls led Helen downstairs and to the outer door.  This opened with
a spring lock.  The guards whispered that they would remain to await
her return, and the new girl was pushed out of doors, with nothing over
her nightgown but a wrapper, and only slippers on her feet.

Although there was little breeze now, it was not cold.  But it was dark
under the trees.  Ruth, who could look out of the windows above,
wondered how her chum was getting on.  To go clear to the center of the
campus with that vase, and leave it at the foot of the figure
surmounting the fountain, was no pleasant experience, Ruth felt.

The minutes passed slowly, the girls in their shrouds whispering among
themselves.  Suddenly there came a sound from outside--a pattering of
running feet on the cement walk.  Ruth sprang to the nearest window in
spite of the commands of the hazing party.  Helen was running toward
the house at a speed which betrayed her agitation.  Besides, Ruth could
hear her sobbing under her breath:

"Oh, oh, oh!"

"You've scared her half to death!" exclaimed Ruth, angrily, as the
girls seized her.

"Put in the stopper!" commanded the girl who had seated herself on the
table, and instantly the ball of rags was driven into Ruth's mouth
again and she was held, in spite of her struggles, by her captors.

Ruth was angry now.  Helen had been tricked into going to the fountain,
and by some means the hazers had frightened her on her journey.  But it
was a couple of minutes before her chum was brought back to the room.
Helen was shivering and sobbing between the guards--indeed they held
her up, for she would have fallen.

"What's the matter with the great booby?" demanded the girl on the
table.

"She--she says she heard something, or saw something, at the fountain,"
said one of the other girls, in a quavering voice.

"Of course she did--they always do," declared the leader.  "Isn't the
fountain haunted?  We know it is so."

This was all said for effect, and to impress _her_, Ruth knew.  But she
tried to go to Helen.  They held her back, however, and she could not
speak.

"Did the Neophyte go to the fountain?" demanded the leader, sternly.

Helen, in spite of her tears, nodded vigorously.

"Did she drink of the water there?"

"I--I was drinking it when I--I heard somebody----"

"The ghost of the very beautiful woman whose statue adorns the
fountain," declared Mary Cox, if it were she, in a sepulchral voice.

Ruth knew now why the story of the fountain had been told them earlier
in the evening, but personally she had not been much impressed by it
then, nor was she frightened now.  She was only indignant that Helen
and she should be treated so--and by these very girls for whom her chum
had conceived such a fancy.

Helen was still trembling.  They let her sit down upon her bed, and
Ruth wanted to go to her more than ever, and comfort her.  But the girl
on the table brought her up short.

"Now, Miss!" she exclaimed.  "You are the next.  The first Infant has
left the Golden Goblet at the fountain--you _did_ leave it there;
didn't you, you 'fraid-cat?" she demanded sharply, of Helen.  Helen
bobbed her head and sobbed.  "Then," said the leader of the hazing
party, "you go and bring it here."

Ruth stared at her in surprise.  She did not move.

"Take out her gag.  Lead her to the door.  If she does not come back
with the Golden Goblet, lock her out and let her cool her temper till
morning on the grass," said the girl on the table, cruelly.  "And if
she stirs up trouble, she'll wish she had never come to Briarwood!"



CHAPTER XI

THE VOICE OF THE HARP

"Among two hundred girls there are bound to be girls of a good many
different kinds."  So had said Mrs. Tellingham when Ruth Fielding and
her chum presented themselves before the Preceptress not many hours
before.  And Ruth saw plainly that some of these shrouded and masked
figures, at least, were of the kind against whom Mrs. Tellingham had
quietly warned them.  These were not alone careless and thoughtless,
however; but the girl whom Ruth believed to be Mary Cox, their whilom
friend and guide, was cruel likewise.

Ruth Fielding was no coward.  She believed these girls had arranged to
terrify their victims by some manifestation at the fountain--why,
otherwise, had they sent Helen there and now were determined to make
Ruth repeat the experience?  Nor was it necessary for the leader of the
crew of hazers to remind the girl from the Red Mill how unpleasant they
could make it for her if the dared report them to the teachers.

"Now, First Neophyte!" exclaimed the leader of their visitors.  "Where
did you leave the Golden Goblet?"

"On the pedestal, right between the feet of the figure," sobbed Helen.

"You hear?" repeated the other, turning her shrouded face to Ruth.
"Then go, drink likewise of the fountain, and bring back the goblet.
Failure to perform this task will be punished not only in the present,
but in the future.  Take her away--and remember your orders, guards."

The door was opened ever so quietly and the sentinel outside assured
them that nobody had stirred.  All had been so far conducted so
carefully that even the other girls not in the plot were not awakened.
As Ruth was led past the door of the larger room, which she knew Mary
Cox and her three chums occupied, she heard the unmistakable snoring of
a sound sleeper within.  It made her doubt if, after all, those four
who had appeared so friendly to Helen and herself that evening, were
among the hazers; and she heard one of her guards whisper:

"Miss Picolet never has to look into _that_ room to learn if they're
asleep.  Listen to Heavy, will you?"

But this puzzlement did not stick in Ruth's mind for long; the guards
hustled her down the stairs and the outer door was opened.

"If the cat should suddenly come back, wouldn't we just _catch_ it?"
whispered one girl to the other.

"Now, don't you be forever and ever going to that fountain," said the
other to Ruth.  "For if you are long, we'll just shut the door on you
and run back."

As she spoke she let go of Ruth's arm and jerked the gag out of her
mouth.  Then the two pushed the new girl out of the door and closed it
softly.  Ruth could hear them whispering together behind the panels.

Like Helen, she had been given her bath-gown.  She was not cold.  But
it was truth that the memory of her chum's state of mind when she had
come back from the visit to the fountain, gave Ruth Fielding an actual
chill.  Helen had set out upon _her_ venture without much worriment of
mind; but she had been badly frightened.  Ruth believed this fright had
been wickedly planned by the hazing crew of girls; nevertheless she
could not help being troubled in her own mind as she looked out into
the dimness of the campus.

Not a sound rose from this court between the buildings.  A few dim
night-lights were visible in the windows about the campus; but the
lamps that illumined the walks and the park itself were burned out.
The breeze was so faint that it did not rustle the smallest branches of
the trees.  There was not a sound from anywhere upon the campus.

Remembering the promise of the two girls who had thrust her out of the
house, Ruth thought it best for her to get the unpleasant business over
as quickly as possible.  Although she could not see the sunken fountain
from the steps of the dormitory where she stood, she knew which path to
take to get to it the quickest.  She started along this path at once,
walking until she was surely out of view of the girls in the windows
above, and then running to the fountain.  She had some objection to
giving her new schoolmates the satisfaction of seeing that she was at
all frightened by this midnight jaunt.

She sped along the path and there was the statue looming right before
her.  The trickle of the water, spouting into the basin, made a low and
pleasant sound.  Nothing moved about the fountain.

"Perhaps, after all, Helen only _imagined_ there was somebody here,"
thought Ruth, and she pattered down the steps in her slippers, and so
climbed upon the marble ledge from which she could reach the gilded
goblet which was, as Helen had declared, placed between the feet of the
marble statue.

And then, suddenly, there was a rustle near at hand.  Was that a
whisper--a sharp, muffled gasp?  Ruth was startled, indeed, and
shuddered so that the "goose-flesh" seemed to start all over her.
Nevertheless, she clutched the goblet firmly and held it beneath one of
the spouts of the fountain.  She was convinced that if there was
anybody behind the figure of marble, he was there for the express
purpose of frightening her--and she was determined not to be frightened.

The goblet was quickly filled and Ruth held it to her lips.  She might
be watched, and she was determined to obey the mandate of the masked
leader of the hazing party.  She would not give them the right to say
that _she_ was panic-stricken.

And then, with an unexpectedness that held her for an instant
spellbound, she heard a hasty hand sweep the taut strings of a harp!
She was directly below the figure and--if the truth must be told--she
looked up in horror, expecting to see the marble representation of a
harp vibrating under that sudden stroke!

There was no movement, of course, in the marble.  There was no further
sound about the fountain.  But the echo of that crash of music vibrated
across the campus and died away hollowly between the buildings.  It had
been no sound called up by her imagination; the harp had been sounded
with a sure and heavy hand.

Ruth Fielding confessed her terror now on the instant.  When power of
movement returned to her, she leaped from the basin's edge, scurried up
the steps to the path, and dashed at top speed for the dormitory,
bearing the goblet in one hand and catching up the draperies of her
long garment so as not to ensnare her feet.

She reached the building and dashed up the steps.  The door was ajar,
but the shrouded guards were nowhere visible.  She burst into the hall,
banged the door after her, and ran up the stairs in blind terror, with
no care for anybody, or anything else!  Into the room at the end of the
corridor she hurried, and found it----

Deserted, save for her chum, Helen Cameron, cowering in her bed.  The
masked and shrouded figures were gone, and Ruth found herself standing,
panting and gasping, in the middle of the room, with the half-filled
goblet in her hand, her heart beating as though it would burst.



CHAPTER XII

THE MYSTERY DEEPENS

There was some movement downstairs now.  Ruth Fielding heard a door
open and a voice speak in the lower corridor.  Perhaps it was Miss
Scrimp, the matron.  But every one of the skylarkers had cut to bed,
and the dormitories were as still as need be.

"Oh, Ruth!" gasped Helen, from her muffling bed clothes.  "Did you hear
it?"

"Did I hear what?" panted Ruth.

"Oh!  I was so frightened.  There is something _dreadful_ about that
fountain.  I heard whisperings and rustlings there; but the harp----"

"They did it to scare us," declared Ruth, in both anger and relief.
She _had_ been badly frightened, but she was getting control of herself
now.

"Then they frightened themselves," declared Helen, sitting up in bed.
"You heard the harp?"

"I should say so!"

"We were all at the window listening to hear if you would be frightened
and run," whispered Helen.  "Oh, Ruthie!"

"What's the matter, now?" demanded her chum.

"I--I tried to help them.  It was mean.  I knew they were trying to
scare you, and I helped them.  I wasn't so scared myself as I appeared
when I came in."

"WHAT?"

"I don't know what's made me act so mean to you this evening," sobbed
Helen.  "I'm sure I love you, Ruth.  And I know you wouldn't have
treated me so.  But they said they were just going to have some fun
with you----"

"_Who_ said?" demanded Ruth.

"Mary Cox--and--and the others."

"They told you they were coming to haze us?"

"The Upedes--ye-es,"  admitted  Helen.  "And of course, it wouldn't
have amounted to anything if that----  Oh, Ruth! was it truly the harp
that sounded?"

"How could that marble harp make any sound?" demanded Ruth, sharply.

"But I know the girls were scared--just as scared as I was.  They
expected nothing of the kind.  And the twang of the strings sounded
just as loud as--as--well, as loud as that fat man's playing on the
boat sounded.  Do you remember?"

Ruth remembered.  And suddenly the thought suggested by her frightened
chum entered her mind and swelled in it to vast proportions.  She
could, in fact, think of little else than this new idea.  She hushed
Helen as best she could.  She told her she forgave her--but she said it
unfeelingly and more to hush her chum than aught else.  She wanted to
think out this new train of thought to its logical conclusion.

"Hush and go to sleep, Helen," she advised.  "We shall neither of us be
fit to get up at rising bell.  It is very late.  I--I wish those girls
had remained in their own rooms, that I do!"

"But there is one thing about it," said Helen, with half a sob and half
a chuckle.  "They were more frightened than we were when they scuttled
out of this room before you returned.  Oh! you should have seen them."

Ruth would say no more to her.  There had been no light lit in all this
time, and now she snuggled down into her own bed.  The excitement of
the recent happenings did not long keep Helen awake; but her friend and
room-mate lay for some time studying out the mystery of the campus.

Miss Picolet was out of her room.

The old Irishman, Tony Foyle, had mentioned chasing itinerant musicians
off the grounds that very evening--among them a harpist.

The evil-looking man who played the harp on board the steamship, and
who had so frightened little Miss Picolet, had followed the French
teacher ashore.

Had he followed her to Briarwood Hall?  Was he an enemy who plagued the
little French teacher--perhaps blackmailed her?

These were the various ideas revolving in Ruth Fielding's head.  And
they revolved until the girl fell asleep from sheer exhaustion, and
they troubled her sleep all through the remainder of the night.  For
that the man with the harp and Miss Picolet had a rendezvous behind the
marble figure on the campus fountain was the sum and substance of the
conclusion which Ruth had come to.

In the morning Ruth only mentioned these suppositions to Helen, but
discussed them not at all with the other girls, her new school-fellows.
Indeed, those girls who had set out to haze the two Infants, and had
been frightened by the manifestation of the sounding harp upon the
campus, were not likely to broach the subject to Ruth or Helen, either.
For they had intended to surround their raid upon the new-comers' peace
of mind with more or less secrecy.

However, sixteen frightened girls (without counting Ruth and Helen)
could not be expected to keep such a mystery as this a secret among
themselves.  That the marble harp had been sounded--that the ghost of
the campus had returned to haunt the school--was known among the
students of Briarwood Hall before breakfast time.  Jennie Stone was
quite full of it, although Ruth knew from the unimpeachable testimony
of Jennie's nose that _she_ was not among the hazers; and the sounding
of the mysterious harp-strings in the middle of the night really
endangered Heavy's appetite for breakfast.

The members of the Upedes who had been so pleasant with them at the
evening meeting seemed rather chary of speaking to Ruth and Helen how;
and, anyway, the chums had enough to do to get their boxes unpacked and
their keepsakes set about the room, and to complete various
housekeeping arrangements.  They enjoyed setting up their "goods and
chattels" quite as much as they expected to; and really their school
life began quite pleasantly despite the excitement and misunderstanding
on the first night of their arrival.

If the crowd that Ruth was so sure had hazed them were slow about
attending on the two Infants in the West Dormitory (as their building
was called) there were plenty of other nice girls who looked into the
duet in a friendly way, or who spoke to Ruth and Helen on the campus,
or in the dining room.  Miss Polk and Madge Steele were not the only
Seniors who showed the chums some attention, either; and Ruth and Helen
began secretly to count the little buttons marked "F. C." which they
saw, as compared with the few stars bearing the intertwined "U" and "D"
of the Upedes.

Just the same, Helen Cameron's leaning toward the lively group or girls
in their house who had (it seemed) formed their club in protest against
the Forward Club, was still marked.  The friends heard that the last
named association was governed by the Preceptress and teachers almost
entirely.  That it was "poky" and "stuffy."  That some girls (not
altogether those who formed the membership of the Upedes) considered it
"toadying" to join the Forward Club.  And on this second day Ruth and
Helen saw that the rivalry for membership between the clubs was very
keen indeed.  A girl couldn't have friends among the members of both
the F. C.'s and the Upedes--that was plain.

Many new girls arrived on this day--mostly from the Lumberton
direction.  That was another reason, perhaps, why Ruth and Helen were
shown so little attention by the quartette of girls next door o them.
They were all busy--even Heavy herself--in herding the new girls whom
they had entangled in the tentacles of the Upedes.  The chums found
themselves untroubled by the F. C.'s; it seemed to be a settled fact
among the girls that Ruth and Helen were pledged to the Upedes.

"But we are _not_," Ruth Fielding said, to her friend.  "I don't like
this way of doing business at all, Helen--do you?"

"Well--but what does it matter?" queried Helen, pouting.  "We want to
get in with a lively set; don't we?  I'm sure the Upedes are nice
girls."

"I don't like the leadership of them," said Ruth, frankly.

"Miss Cox?"

"Miss Cox--exactly," said the girl from the Red Mill.

"Oh--well--she isn't everything,"  cried Helen.

"She comes pretty near being the boss of that club--you can see that.
Now, the question is, do we want to be bossed by a girl like her?"

"Then, do you want to be under the noses of the teachers, and toadying
to them all the time?" cried Helen.

"If that is what is meant by belonging to the Forward Club, I certainly
do not," admitted Ruth.

"Then I don't see but you will have to start a secret society of your
own," declared Helen, laughing somewhat ruefully.

"And perhaps _that_ wouldn't be such a bad idea," returned Ruth,
slowly.  "I understand that there are nearly thirty new girls coming to
Briarwood this half who will enter the Junior classes.  Of course, the
Primary pupils don't count.  I talked with a couple of them at dinner.
They feel just as I do about it--there is too much pulling and hauling
about these societies.  They are not sure that they wish to belong to
either the Upedes or the F. C.'s."

"But just think!" wailed Helen.  "How much fun we would be cut out of!
We wouldn't have any friends----"

"That's nonsense.  At least, if the whole of us thirty Infants, as they
call us, flocked together by ourselves, why wouldn't we have plenty of
society?  I'm not so sure that it wouldn't be a good idea to suggest it
to the others."

"Oh, my! would you dare?" gasped Helen.  "And we've only just arrived
ourselves?"

"Self-protection is the first selfish law of nature," paraphrased Ruth,
smiling; "and I'm not sure that it's a bad idea to be selfish on such
an occasion."

"You'd just make yourself ridiculous," scoffed Helen.  "To think of a
crowd of freshies getting up an order--a secret society."

"In self-protection," laughed Ruth.

"I guess Mrs. Tellingham would have something to say about it, too,"
declared Helen.

It was not the subject of school clubs that was the burden of Ruth
Fielding's thought for most of that day, however.  Nor did the arrival
of so many new scholars put the main idea in her mind aside.  This
troubling thought was of Miss Picolet and the sound of the harp on the
campus at midnight.  The absence of the French teacher from the
dormitory, the connection of the little lady with the obese foreigner
who played the harp on the _Lanawaxa_, and the sounding of harp-strings
on the campus in the middle of the night, were all dovetailed together
in Ruth Fielding's mind.  She wondered what the mystery meant.

She saw Tony Foyle cleaning the campus lanterns during the day, and she
stopped and spoke to him.

"I heard you tell Jennie Stone last night that you had to drive street
musicians away from the school grounds, sir?" said Ruth, quietly.  "Was
there a man with a harp among them?"

"Sure an' there was," declared Tony, nodding.  "And he was a sassy
dago, at that!  'Tis well I'm a mon who kapes his temper, or 'twould
ha' gone har-r-rd wid him."

"A big man, was he, Mr. Foyle?" asked Ruth.

"What had that to do wid it?" demanded the old man, belligerently.
"When the Foyles' dander is riz it ain't size that's goin' to stop wan
o' that name from pitchin' into an' wallopin' the biggest felly that
iver stepped.  He was big," he added; "but I've seen bigger.  Him an'
his red vest--and jabberin' like the foreign monkey he was.  I'll show
him!"

Ruth left Tony shaking his head and muttering angrily as he pursued his
occupation.  Ruth found herself deeply interested in the mystery of the
campus; but if she had actually solved the problem of the sounding of
the harp at midnight, the reason for the happening, and what really
brought that remarkable manifestation about, was as deep a puzzle to
her as before.



CHAPTER XIII

BEGINNINGS

Youth adapts itself easily and naturally to all change.  Ruth Fielding
and her chum, before that second evening at Briarwood Hall drew in,
felt as though they had known the place for months and some of the
girls all their lives.  It was thus the most natural thing in the world
to assemble at meals when the school-bell tapped its summons, to stand
while the grace was being said, to chatter and laugh with those at the
table at which they sat, to speak and laugh with the waitresses, and
with old Tony Foyle, and with Miss Scrimp, the matron of their house,
and to bow respectfully to Miss Picolet, Miss Kennedy, the English
teacher; Miss O'Hara, before whom Ruth and Helen would come in
mathematics, and the other teachers as they learned their names.

Dr. Tellingham, although affording some little amusement for the pupils
because of his personal peculiarities, was really considered by the
girls in general a deeply learned man, and when he chanced to trot by a
group of the students on the campus, in his stoop-shouldered, purblind
way, their voices became hushed and they looked after him as though he
really was all he pretended to be--or all he thought he was.  He delved
in histories--ate, slept, and seemed to draw the breath of his nostrils
from histories.  That the pamphlets and books he wrote were of trivial
importance, and seldom if ever saw the light of print, was not made
manifest to the Briarwood girls in general.

Ruth and Helen were not unpopular from the start.  Helen was so pretty
and so vivacious, that she was bound to gather around her almost at
once those girls who were the more easily attracted by such a nature;
while for Ruth's part, the little Primes found that she was both kind
and loving.  She did not snub the smaller girls who came to her for any
help, and before this day was over (which was Friday) they began to
steal into the chums' duet, in twos and threes, to talk with Ruth
Fielding.  It had been so at the school near the Red Mill, and Ruth was
glad the little folk took to her.

Late in the afternoon the two friends from Cheslow went out to the main
entrance of the grounds to meet Old Dolliver's stage from Seven Oaks.
It had been noised abroad that a whole _nursery_ of Infants was
expected by that conveyance, and Mary Cox and Madge Steele, each with
her respective committee, were in waiting to greet the new-comers on
behalf of their separate societies.

"And we'll welcome them as fellow-infants," whispered Ruth to Helen.
"Let's hold a reception in our room this evening to all the newcomers.
What say, Helen?"

Her chum was a little doubtful as to the wisdom of this course.  She
did not like to offend their friends in the Upedes.  Yet the suggestion
attracted Helen, too.

"I suppose if we freshmen stick together we'll have a better time,
after all," she agreed.

As the time for the appearance of the stage drew near, approximately
half the school was gathered to see the Infants disembark from Old
Dolliver's Ark.  Mary Cox arranged her Upedes on one side of the path
and they began to sing:

  "Uncle Noah, he drove an Ark--
      One wide river to cross!
  He made a landing at Briarwood Park--
      One wide river to cross!
          One wide river!
          One wide river of Jordan!
          One wide river!
          One wide river to cross!"


Old Dolliver, all one wide grin and flapping duster, drove his bony
horses to the stopping place with a flourish.

"Here we be!" he croaked.  "The old craft is jest a-bulgin' over with
Infants."

Mary Cox pulled open the door and the first newcomer popped out as
though she had been clinging to the handle when The Fox made the
movement.

  "The Infants got out, one by one--
    One wide river to cross!
  First Infant bumps into a great big Stone--
    One wide river to cross!"


And there really was Heavy to receive the newcomer with open arms, who
said, while the others chanted the refrain:

"My name's Jennie Stone, and you're very welcome to Briarwood, and
what's your name, Infant?"

The girls in the stage-coach had been forewarned by Old Dolliver as to
their probable greeting, and they took this all in good part.  They
disembarked with their bags and parcels, while Tony Foyle appeared to
help Old Dolliver down with the heavier luggage that was strapped upon
the roof and in the boot behind.  Mary Cox continued to line out the
doggerel, inventing some telling hits as she went along, while the
Upedes came in strongly on the refrain.

There was much laughter and confusion; but the arriving Infants were
lined up two by two between the long rows of Briarwood girls and were
forced to march toward the Hall by this narrow path.

"Come! we are Infants, too," exclaimed Ruth, pulling Helen by the
sleeve.  "We will lead the march."

She drew her chum away with her, and they introduced themselves to the
girls at the head of the column of freshies.

"We are Helen Cameron and Ruth Fielding," said Ruth, cordially.  "We
only got here yesterday, so we are Infants, too.  We will take you to
the office of the Preceptress."

So the chums bore their share of the indignity of being marched up
through the grounds like culprits, and halted the file at the steps of
the main building.

"We have Duet Number 2 in the West Dormitory," said Ruth, boldly, to
the new-comers.  "When you have found your rooms and got settled--after
supper, that will be,--you are all invited to come to our room and get
acquainted with the other Infants.  We're going to get as many together
this evening as we can.  Now, _do_ come!"

"Oh, Ruth!" whispered Helen, when they were out of ear-shot of the
others.  "What will the Upedes say?"

"We're not interfering with either of the school clubs," declared her
chum, emphatically.  "But I guess it won't hurt us to become acquainted
with those who are as new here as ourselves.  The old girls don't feel
strange, or lost; it is these new ones that need to be made to feel at
home."

Timid for herself, Ruth had begun to develop that side of her character
which urged her to be bold for the general good.  She appreciated
keenly how awkward she had felt when she arrived at Briarwood the day
before.  Helen, although not lacking in kindliness, was less thoughtful
than her chum; and she was actually less bold than her chum, too.

Ruth made it a point to see and speak with all the new scholars whom
she could find, repeating her invitation for a meeting in her room.
Whether Helen helped in this matter she did not know.  Her chum was
_not_ enthusiastic in the task, that was certain.  And indeed, when the
hour came, after supper, Helen was closeted with Mary Cox in the
quartette room next door to the chamber and study which she and Ruth
Fielding shared together.

That Ruth felt more than a little hurt, it is unnecessary to say.  She
had felt the entering wedge between them within a few hours of their
coming to the school.  The Upedes were much more friendly to Helen than
to herself, and Helen was vastly interested in Mary Cox, Belle Tingley,
Lluella Fairfax, and some of the other livelier members of the Up and
Doing Club.

But, after a while Helen strolled into her own room and mingled with
the Infants who had there assembled.  They had come almost to their
full strength.  There were no sessions of either the F. C.'s or the
Upedes on this evening, and Miss Picolet, to whom Ruth had spoken about
the little reception to be held in her room, approved of it.  Helen was
bound to be popular among any crowd of girls, for she was so gay and
good-tempered.  But when somebody broached the subject of school clubs,
Ruth was surprised that Helen should at once talk boldly for the
Upedes.  She really urged their cause as though she was already a
member.

"I am not at all sure that I wish to join either the Forwards or the Up
and Doings," said Ruth, quietly, when one of the other Infants asked
her what she intended doing.

"But you'll have no friends here--not among the Juniors and Seniors, at
least--if you don't join some club!" Helen exclaimed.

"There are enough of us right here to found a society, I should say,"
laughed Ruth.  "And we're all in the same boat, too."

"Yes!" agreed Sarah Fish, one of the Infants just arrived.  "And what
do these older girls really care about us?  Very little, I am sure,
except to strengthen their own clubs.  I can see that," she continued,
being a very practical, sensible girl, and downright in speech and
manner.  "Two of them came into our room at once--the girl they call
The Fox, and Miss Steele.  One argued for the Forwards and the other
for the Up and Doings.  I don't want either."

"I don't want to join either," broke in another girl, by name Phyllis
Short.  "I think it would be nicer for us Infants, as they call us, to
keep together.  And we're no younger than a good many of the Juniors!"

Ruth laughed.  "We expect to take all _that_ good-naturedly.  But I
don't like the idea of being driven into one society, or the other.
And I don't mean to be," she said, emphatically.

"Hear! hear!" cried Miss Fish.

"Well, I don't think it will be nice at all," said Helen, in some heat,
"to refuse to associate with the older girls here.  I, for one, want to
get into the real school society----"

"But suppose we start a club of our own?" interrupted the practical
Sarah.

"Why, what could just a handful of new girls do in a society?  It would
look silly," cried Helen.

"We won't keep the older girls out of it, if they want to join,"
laughed Sarah.

"And there has to be a beginning to everything," rejoined Phyllis Short.

"I don't believe those Upedes have many more members than are right in
this room to-night," said Ruth, quietly.  "How many do we number
here--twenty-six?"

"Twenty-six, counting your room-mate," said Sarah.

"Well, you can count her room-mate out," declared Helen, sharply.  "I
am not going to make myself a laughing-stock of the school by joining
any baby society."

"Well," said Phyllis Short, calmly.  "It's always nicer, _I_ think, to
be a big frog in a little puddle than to be an unrecognised croaker in
a great, big pool."

Most of the girls laughed at that.  And the suggestion of a separate
club for the Infants seemed to be well received.  Ruth, however, was
very much troubled by Helen's attitude, and she would say no more
beyond this:

"We will think of it.  There is plenty of time.  Only, those who feel
as we do----"

"As _you_ do!" snapped Helen.

"As _I_ do, then, if you insist," said Ruth, bravely, "would better not
pledge themselves to either the F. C.'s or the Upedes until we have
talked this new idea over."

And with that the company broke up and the new girls went away to their
rooms.  But Helen and Ruth found a barrier raised between them that
evening, and the latter sprinkled her pillow with a few quiet tears
before she went to sleep.



CHAPTER XIV

THE SWEETBRIARS

Mail time!

Until Saturday morning Ruth and Helen had not realized how vital that
hour was when the mail-bag came out from the Lumberton post office and
the mail was distributed by one of the teachers into a series of
pigeonholes in a tiny "office" built into the corridor at the
dining-room door.  The mail arrived during the breakfast hour.  One
could get her letters when she came out of the dining-room, and on this
Saturday both Ruth and Helen had letters.

Miss Cramp, her old teacher, had written to Ruth very kindly.  There
was a letter, too, from Aunt Alvirah, addressed in her old-fashioned
hand, and its contents shaky both as to spelling and grammar, but full
of love for the girl who was so greatly missed at the Red Mill.  Uncle
Jabez had even declared the first night that it seemed as though there
had been a death in the house, with Ruth gone.

Helen had several letters, but the one that delighted her most was from
her twin brother.

"Although," she declared, in her usual sweet-tempered manner, "Tom's
written it to both of us.  Listen here, Ruthie!"

The new cadet at Seven Oaks began his letter: "Dead [Transcriber's
note: Dear?] Sweetbriars," including Ruth as well as Helen in his
friendly and brotherly effusion.  He had been hazed with a vengeance on
the first night of his arrival at the Academy; he had been chummed on a
fellow who had already been half a year at the school and whose sister
was a Senior at Briarwood; he had learned that lots of the older
students at Seven Oaks were acquainted with the Seniors at Briarwood,
and that there were certain times when the two schools intermingled
socially.

"Dear old Tom!" exclaimed Helen.  "Nice of him to call us
'Sweetbriars'; isn't it?  I guess there's a good many thorns on _this_
'sweetbriar'; 'eh, Ruthie?" and she hugged and kissed her chum with
sudden fierceness.

"And Tom says he can get permission to come over and see me some
Saturday afternoon if Mrs. Tellingham will allow it.  I'll have to get
her to write to Major Paradell, who commands at Seven Oaks.  My! it
sounds just as though poor old Tom was in the army; doesn't it?" cried
Helen.

"It will be nice to have him over," said Ruth, agreeing.  "But I
suppose we'll have to meet him in the office?  Or can we walk out with
our 'brother'?" and she laughed.

"We'll go to Triton Lake; Tom will take us," said Helen, decidedly.

"I guess Mrs. Tellingham will have something to say about that, my
dear."

Helen seemed to have forgotten the little difficulty that had troubled
her chum and herself the night before, and Ruth said nothing further
about the Infants forming a society of their own.  At least, she said
nothing about it to Helen.  But Sarah Fish and Phyllis Short, and some
of the other Infants, seemed determined to keep the idea alive, and
they all considered Ruth Fielding a prime mover in the conspiracy.  It
was noised abroad that neither the F. C.'s nor the Upedes were getting
many new names enrolled for membership.

Saturday morning the remainder of the expected new girls arrived at
Briarwood, and with then came the last of the older scholars, too.
There was an assembly called for two o'clock which Mrs. Tellingham
addressed.  She welcomed the new-comers, greeted the returning pupils,
and briefly sketched the plans for the school year then beginning.  She
was a quick, briskly-speaking woman, who impressed the most
rattle-pated girl before her that she meant to be obeyed and that no
wild prank would go unpunished.

"Proper amusement will be supplied in due time, young ladies.  For the
present we shall all have enough to do getting settled into our places.
I have heard something regarding picnics and outings for the near
future.  Postpone all such junketing until we are pulling well
together.  And beware of demerits.  Remember that ten of them, for
whatever cause, will send a girl home from Briarwood immediately."

This about the picnics hit the Upedes.  Ruth and Helen knew that they
were planning just such amusements.  Helen took this interference on
Mrs. Tellingham's part quite to heart.

"Isn't it mean of her?" she asked of Ruth.  "If it had been the Fussy
Curls who wanted to go to Triton Lake, it would have been another
matter.  And--besides--I was going to write to Tom and see if he
couldn't meet us there."

"Why, Helen; without asking Mrs. Tellingham?" cried Ruth.

"I suppose Tom and some of his chums could _happen_ to go to Triton
Lake the same day we went; couldn't they?" Helen asked, laughing.
"Dear me, Ruthie!  Don't you begin to act the Miss Prim--please!  We'll
have no fun at all if you do."

"But we don't want to make the bad beginning of getting Mrs. Tellingham
and the teachers down on us right at the start," said Ruth, in a
worried manner.

"I don't know but that you _are_ a Miss Prim!" ejaculated Helen.

Ruth thought, probably, from her tone of voice, that Helen had heard
some of her friends among the Upedes already apply that term to her,
Ruth.  But she said nothing--only shook her head.  However, the girl
from the Red Mill did her best to dodge any subject in the future that
she thought might cause Helen to compare her unfavorably with the girls
next door.

For Ruth loved her chum dearly--and loved her unselfishly, too.  Helen
and Tom had been so kind to her in the past--all through those
miserable first weeks of her life at the Red Mill--that Ruth felt she
could never be really angry with Helen.  It only made her sorrowful to
think that perhaps Helen, in this new and wider school life, might
drift away from her.

The regular program of the working days of the school included prayers
in the chapel before the girls separated for their various classes.
These were held at nine o'clock.  But on Sunday Ruth found that
breakfast was an hour later than usual and that at ten o'clock several
wagonettes, besides Old Dolliver's Ark, were in waiting to take those
girls who wished to ride to the churches of the several denominations
located in Lumberton.  A teacher, or a matron, went in each vehicle,
and if any of the girls preferred to walk in pleasant weather there was
always a teacher to walk with them--for the distance was only a mile.

Dinner was at half-past one, and at three there was a Sabbath School,
conducted by Mrs. Tellingham herself, assisted by most of the teachers,
in the large assembly hall.  At night there was a service of music and
a lecture in the chapel, too.  The teacher of music played the organ,
and there was a small string orchestra made up of the girls themselves,
and a chorus to lead the singing.

This service Ruth found delightful, for she had always loved music and
never before had she had the opportunity of studying it under any
teacher.  Her voice was sweet and strong, however; and she had a true
ear.  At the end of the service Miss Maconahay, the organist, came and
spoke to her and advised her that, providing she would give some time
to it, there was a chance for her to become a member of the chorus and,
if she showed improvement, she might even join the Glee Club.

On Monday school began in earnest.  Ruth and Helen were side by side in
every class.  What study one took up, the other voted for.  The fact
that they had to work hard--especially at first--kept Ruth and Helen
together, and during the first week neither had much time for any
society at all.  Between supper and bedtime each evening they
faithfully worked at their lessons for the ensuing day and every hour
of daylight brought its separate duty.  There seemed to be little
opportunity for idle hands to find mischief at Briarwood Hall.

Mrs. Tellingham, however, did not propose that the girls should be so
closely confined by their studies that their physical health would be
neglected.  Those girls who stood well in their classes found at least
two hours each day for outdoor play or gym work.  The tennis courts at
Briarwood were in splendid shape.  Helen already was a fair player; but
Ruth had never held a racket in her hand until she was introduced to
the game by her chum during this first week at school.

The girl from the Red Mill was quick and active.  She learned the rules
of play and proved that her eye was good and that she had judgment
before they had played an hour.  She knew how to leap and run, too,
having been country bred and used to an active life.

"Oh, dear me!" gasped Helen, out of breath.  "You are tireless, Ruth.
Why, you'll be an athlete here."

"This is great fun, Helen," declared her chum, "I believe I can learn
to play _this_ game."

"Learn to play!" gasped Helen.  "Why, all you want is practice to beat
Tom himself, I believe.  You'll be a crack player, Ruthie," prophesied
her friend.

It was while they were loitering on the tennis courts after the game
that Sarah Fish and Phyllis Short, with a number of the other Infants,
joined them.  Sarah came out bluntly with:

"When are we going to form our club, Ruth Fielding?  I think we should
do it at once.  I've told both the Forwards and the Upedes that I am
not in the market.  I guess they'll let me alone now."

"I think they will," said Helen, sharply.  "At least, the Upedes don't
want you, Miss."

"You seem to knew exactly what they _do_ want," said Sarah,
good-naturedly.  "Have you joined them?"

"I intend to," declared Helen.

"Oh, Helen!" ejaculated Ruth.

"Yes, I am," said Miss Cameron.  "And I am not going to join any baby
society," and so walked off in evident ill-humor.

Therefore the new club was not formed in the Number 2 Duet Room in the
West Dormitory.  The Infants considered Ruth the prime mover in the
club, however, and that evening she was put in the chair to preside at
the informal session held in the quartette in the East Dormitory
occupied by Sarah Fish and three other Infants.  She was made, too, a
member of the Committee on Organization which was elected to draw up a
Constitution and By-Laws, and was likewise one of three to wait on Mrs.
Tellingham and gain permission to use one of the small assembly rooms
for meetings.

And then came up the subject of a name for the society.  It was not
intended that the club should be only for new scholars; for the new
scholars would in time be old scholars.  And the company of girls who
had gathered in Sarah's room had no great or important motive in their
minds regarding the association.  Its object was social and for
self-improvement simply.

"And so let's find a name that doesn't sound bigger than we are," said
Sarah.  "The Forward Club sounds very solid and is quite literary, I
understand.  What those Upedes stand for except raising particular Sam
Hill, as my grandmother would say, I don't know.  What do _you_ say,
Ruth Fielding?  It's your idea, and you ought to christen it."

"I don't know that I ought," Ruth returned.  "I don't believe in one
person doing too much in any society."

"Give us a name.  It won't hurt you if we vote it down," urged Sarah.

Now Ruth had been thinking of a certain name for the new society for
some days.  It had been suggested by Tom Cameron's letter to Helen.
She was almost afraid to offer it, but she did.  "Sweetbriars," she
said, blushing deeply.

"Dandy!" exclaimed Phyllis Short.

"Goody-good!" cried somebody else.  "We're at Briarwood Hall, and why
_not_ Sweetbriars?"

"Good name for initials, too," declared the practical Sarah Fish.
"Make two words of it--Sweet and Briars.  The 'S. B.'s '--not bad that,
eh?  What say?"

It was unanimous.  And so the Sweetbriars were christened.



CHAPTER XV

THE NIGHT OF THE HARPOCRATES

It was from Heavy Stone that Ruth first learned of an approaching
festival, although her own room-mate was the prime mover in the fete.
But of late she and Helen had had little in common outside of study
hours and the classes which they both attended.  Since the launching of
the Sweetbriars Helen had deliberately sought society among the Upedes,
and especially among the quartette who dwelt next door to the chums.

"And she is going to have almond cakes.  She says she has an old nurse
named Babette who makes the most de-lic-i-ous almond cakes--Is that so,
Ruth Fielding?"

Heavy had been enthusiastically discussing this subject with her
nearest neighbor on the other side from Ruth, at the dining table.  But
Ruth had caught the name of "Babette" and knew that Heavy spoke of
Helen Cameron.

"Is what so?" she asked the plump girl.

"Why, it's about your spoon's box from home.  I told _you_, you know,
to be sure and have the folks send you one; but Helen Cameron's got
ahead of you.  And whisper!" pursued Jennie Stone, in a lowered tone,
"tell her not to invite too many girls to the Night of Harpocrates.
Remember!"

Ruth was a bit puzzled at first.  Then she remembered that Harpocrates
was the Egyptian god of silence, and that his sign was a rose.  The
expression "sub-rosa" comes from that root, or "under the rose."  It
was evident that there were to be "midnight orgies" when Helen's
goodies came from home.

One of the quartettes on their corridor had indulged in a fudge party
after hours already, and Ruth had been invited to be present.  But she
found that Helen was not going, so she refused.  Besides, she was very
doubtful about the propriety of joining in these forbidden pleasures.
All the girls broke that retiring rule more or less--or so it seemed.
But Miss Picolet could give such offenders black marks if she wished,
and Ruth craved a clean sheet in deportment at the end of the half.

She wondered how and when Helen proposed to hold the "supper sub-rosa";
but she would not ask.  Not even when the great hamper arrived (being
brought up from Lumberton by Old Dolliver, who only drove his stage
every other day to Seven Oaks at this time of year) did she ask Helen a
single question.  Tony Foyle brought the hamper up to Duet Two in the
West Dormitory and it just fitted into the bottom of Helen's closet.
Heavy could not keep away from the door of the room; whenever the door
was opened and Ruth raised her eyes from the table where she was at
work, there was the broad, pink and white face of the fat girl, her
eyes rolling in anticipation of the good things--Mary Cox declared
Heavy fairly "drooled at the mouth!"

The arrival of the hamper was not unnoticed by the sharp eyes of Miss
Picolet; but advised by the wily Miss Cox, Helen unpacked a certain
portion of the good things and, during the afternoon, asked permission
of Miss Scrimp to make tea and invite some of the girls to the duet to
sample her goodies.  The French teacher was propitiated by the gift of
a particular almond cake, frosted, which Helen carried down to her room
and begged her to accept.  Helen could be very nice indeed, if she
wished to be; indeed, she had no reason to be otherwise to Miss
Picolet.  And the teacher had reason for liking Helen, as she had shown
much aptitude for the particular branch of study which Miss Picolet
taught.

But although most of the girls In the West Dormitory, and some others,
were asked to Helen's tea (at which Ruth likewise did the honors, and
"helped pour") there was an undercurrent of joking and innuendo among
certain of the visitors that showed they had knowledge of further
hidden goodies which would, at fit and proper season, be divulged.
Jennie Stone, gobbling almond cakes and chocolate, said to Ruth:

"If this is a fair sample of what is to be divulged upon the Night of
Harpocrates, I shall fast on that day--now mind!"

When the girls had gone Ruth asked her chum, point-blank, if she
proposed to have a midnight supper.

"A regular debauch!" declared Helen, laughing.  "Now, don't be prim and
prudish about it, Ruthie.  I won't have it in here if you don't
want----"

"Why not?" demanded Ruth, quickly.  "Don't think of going to any other
room."

"Well--I didn't know," stammered her chum.  "You being such a stickler
for the rules, Ruth.  You know, if we _should_ get into trouble----"

"Do you think that _I_ would complain?" asked Ruth, proudly.  "Don't
you trust me any more, Helen?"

"Oh, Ruthie! what nonsense!" cried her chum, throwing her arms about
Ruth Fielding's neck.  "I know you'd be as true as steel."

"I did not think the suggestion could have come from your own heart,
Helen," declared Ruth.

So the second night thereafter was set for the "sub-rosa supper."
Slily the chums borrowed such plates and cups as the other girls had
hidden away.  Not a few quartette rooms possessed tea-sets, they being
the joint possession of the occupants of that particular study.  At
retiring bell on this eventful night all things were ready, including a
spirit lamp on which to make chocolate, hidden away in Helen Cameron's
shirt-waist box.

Ruth and Helen went to bed after removing their frocks and shoes only
and waited to hear the "cheep, cheep" of Miss Scrimp's squeaky shoes as
she passed up through the house, turning down the hall lights, and then
went down again.  The hour for the girls to gather was set for
half-past ten.  First of all, however, The Fox was to go down and
listen at Miss Picolet's door to make sure that she had gone to bed.
Then Miss Cox was to tap softly but distinctly at the door of each
invited guest as she came back to their corridor.

Meanwhile Helen and Ruth popped out of bed (it had been hard to lie
there for more than an hour, waiting) and began to lay out the things.
The bedspreads were laid back over the foot of each bed and the feast
was laid out upon the bed-clothes.  Mary Cox warned them to have the
spreads ready to smooth up over the contraband goodies, should the
French teacher get wind of the orgy.

"Forewarned is forearmed," urged Mary Cox.  "We know what old Picolet
_is_!"

"But 'four-armed' doesn't always mean 'fore-handed'," chuckled Jennie
Stone.

"Nor quadrumanous!" snapped the Fox.  "If _you_ had four hands, Heavy,
there would be little chance for any of the rest of us at Helen's
party.  My goodness me! how you _would_ mow the good things away if you
had four hands instead of two."

"It isn't that I'm really piggish," complained Miss Stone.  "It's
because I need more nourishment; there is so much of me, you know,
Mary."

"And if you hadn't been stuffing yourself like a Strasburg goose all
your life, there wouldn't be so much of you.  Ha! it's the old story of
the hen and the egg--which was here first?  If you didn't eat so much
you wouldn't be so big, and if you weren't so big you wouldn't eat so
much."

All this, however, was said after the girls had begun to gather in
Number 2 duet, and Belle Tingley, who had drawn the unlucky short
toothpick, was banished to the corridor to keep watch--but with a great
plateful of goodies and the "golden goblet" used in the hazing
exercises, filled to the brim with hot chocolate.

"Though, if Miss Picolet is awake she'll smell the brew and will be up
here instanter," declared the Fox, crossly, as Belle insisted in having
her share of the drinkables as well as eatables.

Miss Picolet was forgotten in the fun and the feasting, however.  There
were twenty girls in the room, and they had to sit on the floor in two
rows while Ruth and Helen passed out the good things.  And my! they
were good!  Lovely chicken salad mayonnaise, served on a fresh lettuce
leaf (the lettuce being smuggled in that very day in the chums' wash
basket)--a little dab to each girl.  There were little pieces of
gherkins and capers in the mayonnaise, and Heavy reveled in this dish.
The most delicious slices of pink ham between soft crackers--and other
sandwiches of anchovy paste and minced sardines.  _These_ were the
"solids."

Cakes, sweet crackers, Babette's cookies and lady-fingers were heaped
on other plates, ready to serve.

"My!" exclaimed Lluella Fairfax, "isn't that lay-out enough to punish
our poor digestive organs for a month?  The last time we were caught
and brought up before Mrs. Tellingham she warned us that sweetcake and
pickles were as immoral as yellow-covered novels!"

"And she proved it, too," laughed the Fox.  "She declared that a girl,
or woman without a good digestion could not really fill her rightful
place in the world and accomplish that which we are each supposed to
do.  Oh, the Madam always proves her point."

"And I _was_ sick for a week afterward," sighed Lluella.  "And had to
take _such_ a dose!"

At that moment, without the least forewarning, there came a smart rap
on the door.  The sound smote the company of whispering, laughing girls
into a company of frightened, trembling culprits.  They hardly dared
breathe, and when the commanding rap came for a second time neither
Ruth nor Helen had strength enough in their limbs to go to the door.



CHAPTER XVI

THE HAWK AMONG THE CHICKENS

Lluella and The Fox, more used to these orgies than some of the other
girls, had retained some presence of mind.  Their first thought--if
this should prove to be the teacher or the matron--was to try and save
such of the feast as could be hidden.  Each girl flung up a spread to
the pillows, and so hid the viands on the two beds.  Then Mary Cox went
quickly to the door.

The cowering girls clung to each other and waited breathlessly.  Mary
opened the door.  There stood the abashed Belle Tingley, her plate in
one hand, the gilded vase in the other, and beside her was the tiny
figure of Mademoiselle Picolet, who looked very stern indeed at The Fox.

"I might have expected _you_ to be a ringleader in such an escapade as
this, Miss Cox," she said, sharply, but in a low voice.  "I very well
knew, Miss Cox, when the new girls came this fall that _you_ were
determined to contaminate them if you could.  Every girl here will
remain in her seat after prayers in the chapel to-morrow morning.
Remember!"

She whipped out a notebook and pencil and evidently wrote Mary Cox's
name at the head of her list.  The Fox was furiously red and furiously
angry.

"I might have known you would be spying on us, Miss Picolet," she said,
bitingly.  "Suppose some of us should play the spy on _you_, Miss
Picolet, and should run to Mrs. Tellingham with what we might discover?"

"Go to your room instantly!" exclaimed the French teacher, with
indignation.  "You shall have an extra demerit for _that_, Miss!"

Yet Ruth, who had been watching the teacher's face intently, saw that
she became actually pallid, that her lips seemed to be suddenly blue,
and the countless little wrinkles that covered her cheeks were more
prominent than ever before.

Mary Cox flounced out and disappeared.  The teacher pointed to the
chums' waste-basket and said to Bell, the unfaithful sentinel:

"Empty your plate in that receptacle, Miss Tingley.  Spill the contents
of that vase in the bowl.  Now, Miss, to your room."

Belle obeyed.  So she made each girl, as she called her name and wrote
it in her book, throw away the remains of her feast, and pour out the
chocolate.  One by one they were obliged to do this and then walk
sedately to their rooms.  Jennie Stone was caught on the way out with a
most suggestive bulge in her loose blouse, and was made to disgorge a
chocolate layer cake which she had sought to "save" when the unexpected
attack of the enemy occurred.

"Fie, for shame, Miss Stone!" exclaimed the French teacher.  "That a
young lady of Briarwood Hall should be so piggish!  Fie!"

But it was after all the other girls had gone and Ruth and Helen were
left alone with her, that the little French teacher seemed to really
show her disappointment over the infraction of the rules by the pupils
under her immediate charge.

"I hoped for better things of you two young ladies," she said,
sorrowfully.  "I feared for the influence over you of certain minds
among the older scholars; but I believed you, Ruth Fielding, and you,
Helen Cameron, to be too independent in character to be so easily led
by girls of really much weaker wills.  For one may _will_ to do evil,
or to do good, if one chooses.  One need not _drift_.

"Miss Fielding! take that basket of broken food and go down to the
basement and empty it in the bin.  Miss Cameron, _you_ may go to bed
again.  I will wait and see you so disposed.  _Alons_!"

But before Ruth could get out of the room, and while Helen was hastily
preparing for bed, Miss Picolet noticed something "bunchy" under Ruth's
spread.  She walked to the bedside and snatched back the coverlet.  The
still untasted viands were revealed.

"Ah-ha!" exclaimed the French teacher.  "At once! into the basket with
these, if you will be so kind, Miss Fielding."

Had Heavy seen those heaps of goodies thus disposed of she must have
groaned in actual misery of spirit!  But Helen, being quick in her
preparations for bed, hopped into her own couch before Miss Picolet
turned around to view that corner of the room, and with Helen under the
bedclothes the hidden dainties (though she _did_ mash some of them)
were not revealed to the eye of the teacher, who stood grimly by the
door as Ruth marched gravely forth with the basket of broken food.

For a minute or two Helen was as silent as Miss Picolet; then she
ventured in a very small voice:

"Miss Picolet--if you please?"

"Well, Mademoiselle?" snapped the little lady.

"May I tell you that my chum Ruth had nothing to do with this
infringement of the school rules?  That the feast was all mine; that
she merely partook of it because we roomed together?  That she had
nothing to do with the planning of the frolic?"

"Well?"

"I thought perhaps that you might believe otherwise," said Helen,
softly, "as you made Ruth remove the--the provisions," said Helen.
"And really, she isn't at all to blame."

"She cannot be without blame," declared Miss Picolet, yet less harshly
than she had spoken before.  "An objection from her would have stopped
the feast before it began--is it not, Miss Cameron?"

"But she is not so _much_ to blame, Miss Picolet," repeated Helen.

"Of that we shall see," returned the little lady, and waited by the
door until Ruth returned from the basement.  "Now to bed!" ejaculated
Miss Picolet.  "Wait in chapel after prayers.  I really hoped the girls
of my dormitory would not force me to call the attention of the
Preceptress to them because of demerits this half--and I did not
believe the trouble would start with two young ladies who had just
arrived."

So saying, she departed.  But Helen whispered Ruth, before she got in
bed, to help remove the remaining goodies to the box in the closet.

"At least, we have saved this much from the wreck," chuckled Helen.

Ruth, however, was scarcely willing to admit that that the salvage
would repay them for the black marks both surely had earned.



CHAPTER XVII

GOODY TWO-STICKS

To tell the truth the young ladies of the West Dormitory who attended
Helen's sub-rosa supper looked pretty blue when the rest of the school
filed out of chapel and left them sticking, like limpets, to their
seats.  Mrs. Tellingham looked just as stern as Helen imagined she
could look, when she ended a whispered conference with Miss Picolet,
and stood before the culprits.

"Being out of bed at all hours, and stuffing one's self with all manner
of indigestible viands, is more than a crime against the school rules,
young ladies," she began.  "It is a crime against common sense.
Besides, I take a pride in the fact that Briarwood Hall supplies a
sufficient and a well-served table.  Fruit at times between meals is
all very well.  But a sour pickle and a piece of angel cake at eleven
or twelve o'clock at night would soon break down the digestive
faculties of a second Samson.

"However," she added grimly, "that will bring its own punishment.  I
need not trouble myself about this phase of the matter.  But that
distinct rules of the school have been broken cannot be ignored.  Each
of you who were visitors at the study of Misses Fielding and Cameron
last evening after hours will have one demerit to work off by extra
exercises in Latin and French.

"Miss Cox!"

She spoke so sharply that The Fox hopped up quickly, knowing that she
was especially addressed.

"It is reported to me by Miss Picolet that you spoke to her in a most
unladylike manner.  You have two demerits to work off, instead of one."

Mary Cox ruffled up instantly.  She flounced into her seat and threw
her book aside.

"Miss Cox," repeated the Preceptress, sharply, "I do not like your
manner.  Most of these girls are younger than you, and you are their
leader.  I believe you are all members of the Up and Doing Club.  Have
a care.  Let your club stand for something besides infractions of the
rules, I beg.  And, when you deliberately insult the teacher who has
charge of your dormitory, you insult _me_."

"I suppose I'm to be given no opportunity of answering Miss Picolet's
report, or accusation?" cried Mary Fox.  "I don't call it fair----"

"Silence!" exclaimed the Preceptress.  "You may come to me after
session this afternoon.  Miss Cameron may work off a full demerit, and
before the Christmas Holidays, for being the prime mover in this orgy,
I am told about," said Mrs. Tellingham, bitingly.  "I understand there
are some extenuating circumstances in the case of Ruth Fielding.  She
will have one-half mark against her record--to be worked off, of
course.  And, young ladies, I hope this will be the last time I shall
see you before me for such a matter.  You are relieved for classes."

Two unexpected things happened to Ruth Fielding that morning.  As they
came out from breakfast she came face to face with Mary Cox, and the
older girl "cut" her plainly.  She swept by Ruth with her head in the
air and without returning the latter's nod, and although Ruth did not
care much about Mary Cox, the unkindness troubled her.  The Fox had
such an influence over Helen!

The second surprising happening was the receipt of a letter from Mercy
Curtis, the lame girl.  Dr. Davison's protege wrote:


"Dear Ruth:

"Mrs. Kimmons, next door, is trundling her twin babies--awfully homely
little mites--up and down her long piazza in my wheel-chair.  To what
base uses have the mighty fallen!  Do you know what your Uncle
Jabez--Dusty Miller--has done?  He had waiting for me when I got home
from the sanitarium a pair of the loveliest ebony crutches you ever
saw--with silver ferrules!  I use 'em when I go out for a walk.  Fancy
old miserable, withered, crippled me going out for a walk!  Of course,
it's really a hobble yet--I hobble-gobble like a rheumatic goblin; but
I may do better some day.  The doctors all say so.

"And now I'm going to surprise you, Ruth Fielding.  I'm coming to see
you--not for a mere 'how-de-do-good-bye' visit; but to stay at
Briarwood Hall a while.  Dr. Cranfew (he's the surgeon who helped me so
much) is at Lumberton and he says I can try school again.  Public
school he doesn't approve of for me.  I don't know how they are going
to 'rig' it for me, Ruth--such wonderful things happen to me all the
time!  But Dr. Davison says I am coming, and when he says a thing is
going to happen, it happens.  Like my going to the Red Mill that time.

"And isn't old Dusty Miller good to me, too?  He stops to see me every
Saturday when he is in town.  They miss you a lot at the Red Mill,
Ruthie.  I have been out once behind Dr. Davison's red and white mare,
to see Aunt Alviry.  We just gabbled about you all the time.  Your
pullets are laying.  Tell Helen 'Hullo!' for me.  I expect to see you
soon, though--that is, if arrangements can be made to billet me with
somebody who doesn't mind having a Goody Two-Sticks around.

"Now, good-bye, Ruthie,
  "From your fidgetty friend,
    "MERCY CURTIS."


This letter delighted Ruth, and she went in search of Helen to show it
to her.  The chums were due at their first recitation in a very few
moments.  Ruth found Helen talking with Mary Cox and Belle Tingley on
the steps of the building in a recitation room in which Ruth and Helen
were soon to recite.  Ruth heard Belle say, earnestly:

"I believe it, too.  Miss Picolet wasn't downstairs in her room at all.
When she caught me she came from upstairs, and that's how I didn't give
any warning.  I didn't expect her from that direction and I was looking
downstairs."

"She had been warned, all right," said the Fox, sharply.  "It's plain
enough who played the traitor.  Nasty little cat!"

"I believe you," said Belle.  "And she only got half a demerit.  They
favored her, of course."

"But why any demerit at all, if she was a spy for Miss Picolet?"
demanded Helen, in a worried tone.

"Pshaw! that's all for a blind," declared the Fox.

And then all three saw Ruth at the bottom of the steps.  The Fox and
Belle Tingley turned away without giving Ruth a second glance, and went
into the building.  But Helen smiled frankly on Ruth as her chum
approached, and slipped an arm within her own:

"What have you got there, Ruthie?" she demanded, seeing the open letter.

"It's from Mercy.  Read it when you get a chance," Ruth whispered,
thrusting it into her chum's hand as they went in.  "It's just as you
said--Dr. Davison is going to bring it about.  Mercy Curtis is coming
to Briarwood, too."

Helen said nothing at all about The Fox and her room-mate.  But Ruth
saw that the Upedes--especially those who had been caught in the French
teacher's raid on Duet Number 2--whispered a good deal among
themselves, and when they looked at Ruth they did not look kindly.

After recitation, and before dinner, several of the girls deliberately
cut her as Mary Cox had.  But Helen said nothing, nor would Ruth speak
first.  She saw plainly that The Fox had started the cabal against her.
It made Ruth feel very unhappy, but there was nothing she could do to
defend herself.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE MYSTERY AGAIN

The organization of the Sweetbriars had gone on apace.  Two general
meetings had been held.  Every new-comer to the school, who had entered
the Junior classes, saving Helen Cameron, had joined the new society.
The committee on constitution and by-laws was now ready to report and
this very afternoon Ruth and two other girls waited on Mrs. Tellingham
to ask permission to hold social meetings in one of the assembly rooms
on stated occasions, as the other school societies did.

The trio of Sweetbriars had to wait a little while in the hall outside
the library door, for Mrs. Tellingham was engaged.  Mary Cox came out
first and as she passed Ruth she tossed her head and said:

"Well, are you here to tattle about somebody else?"

Ruth was stricken speechless, and the girls with her asked wonderingly
what the older girl had meant.

"I--I do not know just what she means," gasped Ruth, "only that she
means to hurt me if she can."

"She's mad with you," said one, "because you started the S. B.'s and
wouldn't join her old Upede Club.

"That's it," said the other.  "Don't you mind, Miss Fielding."

Then the maid told them they could go into the library.  Mrs.
Tellingham looked very grave, and sat at her desk tapping the lid
thoughtfully with a pencil.  This was one occasion when Dr. Tellingham
was not present.  The countenance of the Preceptress did not lighten at
all when she saw Ruth come in.

"What is it, Miss Fielding?" she asked in her brusque way.

Ruth stated the desire of the new society briefly, and she was positive
before Mrs. Tellingham replied at all that the mention of the
Sweetbriars did not please the lady.

"You girls will fill your time so full, with societies and leagues, and
what all, that there will be little space for studies.  I am half sorry
now that I ever allowed any secret, or social clubs, to be formed at
Briarwood.  But while we have the Forward Club, I cannot well deny the
right of other girls to form similar societies.

"But I am not pleased with the Up and Doing Club.  I understand that
every girl but one reported out of her room after retiring bell last
evening, in the West Dormitory, was a member of the Up and Doings--and
the other girl was you, Miss Fielding!" she added sternly.  "And you
are a member of this new organization--  What do you call it?  The 'S.
B.'s,' is it?"

"The Sweetbriars," said Ruth bravely.  "And I am sorry I did anything
to bring any cloud upon the name of the new club.  I promise you, Mrs.
Tellingham, that I will do nothing in the future to make you sorry that
you sanctioned the formation of _our_ society."

"Very well!  Very well!" said the Preceptress, hastily.  "You may have
the same rights, and under the same conditions, that the older clubs
have.  And now, Miss Fielding, stop here a moment, I have another
matter to speak to you about."

The other girls went away and Ruth, somewhat troubled by the manner of
Mrs. Tellingham, waited her pleasure.  The Preceptress took up a letter
from her desk and read it through again.

"Dr. Davison you know, Ruth," she said, quietly.  "He and your uncle,
Mr. Jabez Potter, have arranged to send here to school a lame girl
named Curtis------"

"My uncle!" gasped Ruth.  "O, I beg your pardon, Mrs. Tellingham.  But
are you sure it is my uncle who is sending Mercy Curtis?"

"With Dr. Davison--yes," the Preceptress said, in some surprise.  "They
have equally charged themselves with her expenses at Briarwood--if she
can remain here.  You know her, of course?"

"Helen and I have talked of her almost every day, Mrs. Tellingham,"
said Ruth warmly.  "She is very quick and sharp.  And she is much
improved in disposition from what she used to be."

"I hear you speak of her so kindly, with pleasure, Miss Fielding," said
the head of the school.  "For it opens the way to a suggestion that Dr.
Davison makes.  He wishes Mercy Curtis to room with you."

"With Helen and me!" cried Ruth, in delight.  "Of course, I slept in
Mercy's room all the time she was at the Red Mill last summer, and we
got on nicely together."

"But you do not know how Miss Cameron will receive the suggestion of
having a third girl in your small room?"

"Oh, Helen is so kind!" Ruth cried.  "I do not believe she will object.
And she is sorry for Mercy."

"I know you have been Helen's constant companion.  Do you think you
have been as good friends as you were when you came to Briarwood,
Ruth?" asked Mrs. Tellingham, with sharpness.

"Helen!  Oh, I hope so, Mrs. Tellingham!" cried Ruth, in great
distress.  "I am sure I love her just the same--and always shall."

"But she evidently finds her friends among the Upedes.  Why did she not
join this new society that you have started?"

"I--I did not mean to start it without her," stammered Ruth.  "It was
really only my suggestion.  The other Infants took it up----"

"But you named it?"

"I _did_ suggest the name," admitted Ruth.

"And you did not join the Up and Doing Club with your chum."

"No, Mrs. Tellingham.  Nor did I join the F. C.'s.  I did not like the
manner in which both societies went about making converts.  I didn't
like it the very first day we came."

"Miss Picolet, your French teacher, told me something about Mary Cox
meeting the stage and getting hold of you two girls before you had
reached Briarwood at all."

"Yes, ma'am."

"By the way," said the Preceptress, her brow clouding again and the
stern look coming back into her face that had rested on it when Ruth
had first entered the room, "you had met Miss Picolet before you
arrived at the school?"

"She spoke to us in the stage--yes, ma'am."

"But before that--you had seen her?"

"Ye-es, ma'am," said Ruth, slowly, beginning to suspect that Mrs.
Tellingham's curiosity was no idle matter.

"Where?"

"On the _Lanawaxa_--the boat coming down the lake, Mrs. Tellingham."

"Miss Picolet was alone aboard the boat?"

Ruth signified that she was.

"Did you see her speaking with anybody?"

"We saw a man speak to her.  He was one of the musicians.  He
frightened Miss Picolet.  Afterward we saw that he had followed her out
upon the wharf.  He was a big man who played a harp."

"And you told this to your school-fellows after you became acquainted
here?"

Mrs. Tellingham spoke very sternly indeed, and her gaze never left
Ruth's face.  The girl from the Red Mill hesitated but an instant.
_She_ had never spoken of the man and Miss Picolet to anybody save
Helen; but she knew that her chum must have told all the particulars to
Mary Cox.

"I--I believe we _did_ mention it to some of the girls.  It impressed
us as peculiar--especially as we did not know who Miss Picolet was
until after we were in the stage-coach with her."

"Then you are sure you have not been one who has circulated stories
among the girls about Miss Picolet--derogatory to her, I mean?"

"Oh, Mrs. Tellingham!  Never!" cried Ruth, earnestly.

"Do you know anything about this silly story I hear whispered that the
marble harp out there on the fountain was heard to play the night you
and Miss Cameron arrived here?"

"Oh!" ejaculated Ruth.

"I see you know about it.  Did you hear the sound?"

"Ye-es, ma'am," admitted Ruth.

"I will not ask you under what circumstances you heard it; but I _do_
ask if you have any knowledge of any fact that might explain the
mystery?"

Ruth was silent for several moments.  She was greatly worried; yet she
could understand how this whole matter had come to Mrs. Tellingham's
knowledge.  Mary Cox, angry at Miss Picolet, had tried to defame her in
the mind of the Preceptress.

Now, what Ruth _knew_ was very little indeed.  What she _suspected_
regarding a meeting between the French teacher and the man with the
harp, at the campus fountain, was an entirely different matter.  But
Mrs. Tellingham had put her question so that Ruth did not have to tell
her suspicions.

"I really know nothing about it, Mrs. Tellingham," she said, finally.

"That is all.  I do not believe you--or Miss Cameron--would willingly
malign an innocent person.  I have known Miss Picolet some time, and I
respect her.  If she has a secret sorrow, I respect _it_.  I do not
think it is nice to make Miss Picolet's private affairs a subject for
remark by the school.

"Now, we will leave that.  Sound Miss Cameron about this Mercy Curtis.
If you girls will take her in, she shall come on trial.  It lies with
you, and your roommate, Miss Fielding.  Come to me after chapel
to-morrow and tell me what you have decided."

And so Ruth was dismissed.



CHAPTER XIX

THE TRIUMVIRATE

Mercy Curtis came in a week.  For Helen of course was only too
delighted to fall in with Mrs. Tellingham's suggestion.  Duet Number 2,
West Dormitory, was amply large enough for three, and Ruth gave up her
bed to the cripple and slept on a couch.  Helen herself could not do
too much for the comfort of the newcomer.

Dr. Davidson and Dr. Cranfew came with her; but really the lame girl
bore the journey remarkably well.  And how different she looked from
the thin, peaked girl that Ruth and Helen remembered!

"Oh, you didn't expect to see so much flesh on my bones; did you?" said
Mercy, noting their surprise, and being just as sharp and choppy in her
observations as ever.  "But I'm getting wickedly and scandalously fat.
And I don't often have to repeat Aunt Alviry's song of 'Oh, my back and
oh, my bones!'"

Mercy went to bed on her arrival.  But the next day she got about in
the room very nicely with the aid of two canes.  The handsome ebony
crutches she saved for "Sunday-Best."

Ruth arranged a meeting of the Sweetbriars to welcome the cripple, and
Mercy seemed really to enjoy having so many girls of her own age about
her.  Helen did not bring in many members of the Upedes; indeed, just
then they all seemed to keep away from Duet Two, and none of them spoke
to Ruth.  That is, none save Jennie Stone.  The fat girl was altogether
too good-natured--and really too kind at heart--to treat Ruth Fielding
as Jennie's roommates did.

"They say you went and told Picolet we were going to have the party in
your room," Heavy said to Ruth, frankly, "and that's how you got out of
it so easily.  But I tell them that's all nonsense, you know.  If you'd
wanted to make us trouble, you would have let Helen have the party in
our room, as she wanted to, and so you could have stayed home and not
been in it at all."

"As she wanted to?" repeated Ruth, slowly.  "Did Helen first plan to
have the supper in your quartette?"

"Of course she did.  It was strictly a Upede affair--or would have been
if you hadn't been in it.  But you're a good little thing, Ruth
Fielding, and I tell them you never in this world told Picolet."

"I did not indeed, Jennie," said Ruth, sadly.

"Well, you couldn't make The Fox believe that.  She's sure about it,
you see," the stout girl said.  "When Mary Cox wants to be mean, she
can be, now I tell you!"

Indeed, Heavy was not like the other three girls in the next room.
Mary, Belle and Lluella never looked at Ruth if they could help it, and
never spoke to her.  Ruth was not so much hurt over losing such girls
for friends, for she could not honestly say she had liked them at the
start; but that they should so misjudge and injure her was another
matter.

She said nothing to Helen about all this; and Helen was as firmly
convinced that Mary Cox and the other Upedes were jolly girls, as ever.
Indeed, they were jolly enough; most of their larks were innocent fun,
too.  But it was a fact that most of those girls who received extra
tasks during those first few weeks of the half belonged to the Up and
Doing Club.

That Helen escaped punishment was more by good fortune than anything
else.  In the study, however, she and Ruth and Mercy had many merry
times.  Mercy kept both the other girls up to their school tasks, for
all lessons seemed to come easy to the lame girl and she helped her two
friends not a little in the preparation of their own.

"The Triumvirate" the other girls in the dormitory building called the
three girls from Cheslow.  Before Thanksgiving, Ruth, Helen, and Mercy
began to stand high in their several classes.  And Ruth was booked for
the Glee Club, too.  She sang every Sunday in the chorus, while Helen
played second violin in the orchestra, having taken some lessons on
that instrument before coming to Briarwood.

Dr. Cranfew came often at first to see Mercy; but he declared at last
that he only came socially--there was no need of medical attendance.
The cripple could not go to recitations without her crutches, but
sometimes in the room she walked with only Ruth's strong arm for
support.  She was getting rosy, too, and began to take exercise in the
gymnasium.

"I'll develop my biceps, if my back is crooked and my legs queer," she
declared.  "Then, when any of those _Miss Nancy_ Seniors make fun of me
behind my back, I can punch 'em!" for there were times when Mercy's
old, cross-grained moods came upon her, and she was not so easily borne
with.

Perhaps this fact was one of the things that drove the wedge deeper
between Ruth and Helen.  Ruth would never neglect the crippled girl.
She seldom left her in the room alone.  Mercy had early joined the
Sweetbriars, and Ruth and she went to the frequent meetings of that
society together, while Helen retained her membership in the Up and
Doing Club and spent a deal of her time in the quartette room next door.

Few of the girls went home for Thanksgiving, and as Mercy was not to
return to Cheslow then, the journey being considered too arduous for
her, Ruth decided not to go either.  There was quite a feast made by
the school on Thanksgiving, and frost having set in a week before,
skating on Triton Lake was in prospect.  There was a small pond
attached to the Briarwood property and Ruth tried Helen's skates there.
She had been on the ice before, but not much; however, she found that
the art came easily to her--as easily as tennis, in which, by this
time, she was very proficient.

For the day following Thanksgiving there was a trip to Triton Lake
planned, for that great sheet of water was ice-bound, too, and a small
steamer had been caught 'way out in the middle of the lake, and was
frozen in.  The project to drive to the lake and skate out to the
steamer (the ice was thick enough to hold up a team of horses, and
plenty of provisions had been carried out to the crew) and to have a
hot lunch on the boat originated in the fertile brain of Mary Cox; but
as it was not a picnic patronized only by the Upedes, Mrs. Tellingham
made no objection to it.  Besides, it was vacation week, and the
Preceptress was much more lenient.

Of course, Helen was going; but Ruth had her doubts.  Mercy could not
go, and the girl of the Red Mill hated to leave her poor little
crippled friend alone.  But Mercy was as sharp of perception as she was
of tongue.  When Helen blurted out the story of the skating frolic,
Ruth said "she would see" about going; she said she wasn't sure that
she would care to go.

"I'm such a new skater, you know," she laughed.  "Maybe I'd break down
skating out to the steamboat, and wouldn't get there, and while all you
folks were eating that nice hot lunch I'd be freezing to death--poor
little me!--'way out there on the ice."

But Mercy, with her head on one side and her sharp blue eyes looking
from Helen to Ruth, shot out:

"Now, don't you think you're smart, Ruth Fielding?  Why, I can see
right through you--just as though you were a rag of torn mosquito
netting!  You won't go because I'll be left alone."

"No," said Ruth, but flushing.

"Yes," shot back Mercy.  "And _I_ don't have to turn red about it,
either.  Oh, Ruthie, Ruthie! you can't even tell a _white one_ without
blushing about it."

"I--don't--know----"

"I do know!" declared Mercy.  "You're going.  I've got plenty to do.
You girls can go on and freeze your noses and your toeses, if you like.
Me for the steam-heated room and a box of bonbons.  But I hope the
girls who go will be nicer to you than some of those Upedes have been
lately, Ruthie."

Helen blushed now; but Ruth hastened to say: "Oh, don't you fuss about
me, Mercy.  Some of the Sweetbriars mean to go.  This isn't confined to
one club in particular.  Madge Steele is going, too, and Miss Polk.
And Miss Reynolds, Mrs. Tellingham's first assistant, is going with the
party.  I heard all about it at supper.  Poor Heavy was full of it; but
she says she can't go because she never could skate so far.  And
then--the ice might break under _her_."

"Whisper!" added Helen, her eyes dancing.  "I'll tell you something
else--and this I know you don't know!"

"What is it?"

"Maybe Tom will be there.  Good old Tom!  Just think--I haven't seen
him since we left home.  Won't it be just scrumptious to see old Tom
again?"

And Ruth Fielding really thought it would be.



CHAPTER XX

AT TRITON LAKE

So on the morning following the feast-day there were two wagonettes
waiting at the entrance to the Briarwood grounds to take the girls two
miles by road to a certain boathouse on Triton Lake.  When Ruth and
Helen came out of their room, leaving Mercy cozily ensconced in the
window-seat with her books and the box of bonbons, the door of the
quartette was open and a faint groan sounded from within.

Helen's eyes twinkled, as she said: "The others have gone, but Jennie's
up in dry-dock for repairs.  No wonder she wouldn't promise to be one
of the skating party.  The pleasures of the table must be paid for----
How do you feel now, Heavy?" she added, putting her head in at the door.

"No better.  Oh!" came back the complaining voice.  "I _do_ have such
dreadful ill-fortune.  I can't eat _just a little bit_ without its
distressing me abominably!"

The chums ran down to the wagonettes and found most of the girls who
were going already there.  Ruth, seeing that there was more room in the
second carriage, whisked into it, and Helen was following her when Mary
Cox came up.

"Going to get in here, Cameron?" she said.  "Well, I'll get in with
you--no, I won't!" she suddenly exclaimed, seeing Ruth peering out.
"Come on to the other wagonette; Belle and Lluella are there."

For a moment Helen hesitated.  Then Mary said, jerking at her sleeve:

"Come on!  We want to start in a minute.  I've heard from the boys and
I want to tell you.  They've sent a whole sleighload of things out to
the _Minnetonka_--the boat that's frozen in, you know--and music, and
we'll have great fun.  Sh!  Miss Reynolds don't know.  She's such a
fuss-budget!  If she knew the boys were coming--well!"

"Oh, Tom, too!" gasped Helen, delighted.  Then she turned and said, in
a whisper: "Ruth!"

"Come on and let that tattle-tale alone!" exclaimed Mary Cox.  "Tell
her, and she'll run to Miss Reynolds with it."

Helen went with her.

Had Ruth Fielding possessed the power of movement just then, she would
have gotten out of the wagon and run away to the dormitory.  But she
was stricken motionless as well as speechless by her chum's defection,
and before she could recover her poise the wagons had begun to move,
rattling over the frozen road toward Triton Lake.

Ah! how it hurt!  For weeks Ruth had endured slights, and haughty
looks, and innuendoes from Mary Cox and her Upedes--and the girl from
the Red Mill had accepted all uncomplainingly.  She had heretofore
believed Helen only thoughtless.  But this was more than Ruth Fielding
could bear.  She was the last girl to get into the wagonette, and she
turned her head away, that her companions might not see her tears.

The other girls chattered, and laughed, and sang, and enjoyed
themselves.  Ruth Fielding passed the few minutes which elapsed during
the drive to the boathouse in trying to stifle her sobs and remove the
traces of her emotion.  She was tempted to remain in the wagonette and
go back to the school at once--for the carriages would return to town,
coming out again for the party of Briarwood students late in the
afternoon.

This thought was her first intention; but as her sobs subsided she felt
more the hurt of the treatment she had received.  And this hurt stirred
within her a self-assertion that was becoming a more prominent
characteristic of Ruth every day.  Why should she relapse into tears
because her chum had done a cruel thing?  Hurt as she was, why should
she give The Fox the satisfaction of _knowing_ she felt the slight?

Ruth began to take herself to task for her "softness."  Let Helen go
with the Upedes if she wished.  Here were nice girls all about her, and
all the Sweetbriars particularly thought a great deal of her, Ruth
knew.  She need not mope and weep just because Helen Cameron, her
oldest friend, had neglected her.  The other girls stood ready to be
her friends.

They had not noticed Ruth's silence and abstraction--much less her
tears.  She wiped her eyes hard, gulped down her sobs, and determined
to have a good time in spite of either the Upedes or Helen's hardness
of heart.

The first wagonette reached the shore of the lake some time ahead of
the second.  And perhaps this fact, as well as the placing of Miss
Reynolds in the latter, had been arranged by the wily Miss Cox.

"Oh, Mary Cox!" cried Helen, looking out, "there's a whole lot of folks
here--BOYS!"

But when one of the boys came running to help her down the steps, Helen
shouted with delight.  She came "flopping" down into Tom Cameron's arms.

"How scrumptious you look, Nell!" cried her brother, kissing her
frankly.  "Here is Bob Steele--I want you to know him.  He's my bunkie
at Seven Oaks.  Isn't his sister with you--Madge Steele?"

"Yes.  Miss Steele's here," gasped Helen.

"But where's Ruth?" demanded the excited Tom.  "Come on and get her.
We want to get our skates on and make for the steamer.  The ice is like
glass."

"Why--Ruth's in the other wagonette," said Helen.

"She's not with you?" exclaimed Tom, rather chagrined.  "Why, how's
that?"

"We--we happened to get into different ones," said his sister.

To tell the truth, she had not thought of Ruth since leaving the school.

"Is that the other one coming--'way back on the road there?"

"Yes," said Helen.  "Here's Miss Cox, Tom.  Mary, this is my brother."

Bob Steele, who was a tall, blond fellow, was at hand to be introduced,
too.  His sister jumped out of the wagon and said: "Hullo, Bobbie!
How's your poor croup?"  Madge was a year and a half older than her
brother and always treated him as though he were a very small boy in
knickerbockers--if not actually in pinafores.

The girls giggled over this, and Bob Steele blushed.  But he took his
sister's chaffing good-naturedly.  Tom Cameron, however, was very much
disturbed over the absence of Ruth Fielding.

"We'd better hurry out on the ice.  We've got an awful strict teacher
with us," said Mary Cox, hastily.

"You take care of my sister, too; will you, Bob?" said Tom, bluntly.
"I shall wait and bring Miss Fielding down."

"Oh, she'll look out for herself," said Mary Cox, slightingly.  "We
must hurry if we want any fun."

"Helen and I wouldn't have much fun if Ruth were left behind," declared
Master Tom, firmly.  "Go on, Bob; we'll catch up with you."

"Hadn't you better come, too, Tom?" whispered Helen, doubtfully.

"Why, we want Ruth with us; don't we?" demanded the puzzled Tom,
looking at her in wonder.  "Go on, Nell.  We'll be with you shortly."

"Why, I want to introduce you to the other girls," said Helen, pouting.
"And I haven't seen you myself for so long."

"It's too bad you got separated from your spoon, Nell," said her
brother, calmly.  "But I shall wait and bring her."

The others--even Madge Steele--were already trooping down to the
landing, where there were settees for the girls to sit on while their
skates were being adjusted.  Helen had to run after them, and Tom
waited alone the arrival of the second wagonette from Briarwood Hall.



CHAPTER XXI

ON THE ICE

If Ruth Fielding's eyes were a bit red when the wagonette finally came
to the landing, nobody would have suspected her of crying.  Least of
all Tom Cameron, for she jumped down with a glad cry when she saw him,
and dropped her skates and shook both his hands in a most cordial
greeting.

"Helen hinted that you might be here, Tom, but I could hardly believe
it," she said.

"We want to hurry and catch up with them," he said.  Some of the girls
were already on the ice.  "We'd better go."

But the other girls had alighted, and following them came Miss
Reynolds.  Now, Ruth liked Miss Reynolds very much, but the teacher
came towards them, looking rather grave.

"This is Helen Cameron's brother Tom, Miss Reynolds," said Ruth.  "He
attends the Seven Oaks Military Academy."

"I see," said the teacher, quietly.  "And where is Miss Cameron?"

"She has gone on with Bob Steele and his sister," explained Tom, seeing
instantly that all was not right.  "You see, some of us fellows got
permission to come over here to Triton Lake to-day.  Mr. Hargreaves,
one of our tutors, is with us."

"I know Mr. Hargreaves," said Miss Reynolds.  "But I had no
warning--nor had Mrs. Tellingham, I believe--that any of the young
gentlemen from Major Parradel's school were to be here."

"Well, it will make it all the nicer, I am sure," Tom suggested, with
his winning smile.  "We'll all--all us fellows, I mean--try to behave
our prettiest, Miss Reynolds."

"Undoubtedly you will be on your good behavior," said the teacher,
drily.

But Tom and Ruth could not hurry on ahead now.  Miss Reynolds walked
sedately with them down to the landing.  By that time Mary Cox and most
of the Upedes were on the ice--and they were joined by all the boys but
Tom.  The Fox had laid her plans well.

Mr. Hargreaves skated back to shake hands with Miss Reynolds.  "This is
a surprise," he said.  "I am sure I did not expect to find you and your
young ladies here, Miss Reynolds."

"Are you sure that the meeting is _quite_ unexpected by both parties?"
she returned, with a grave smile.  "If we are surprised, Mr.
Hargreaves, I fancy that our young charges may have been rather better
informed in advance than we were."

The gentleman shrugged his shoulders.  "I give that up!" he said.  "It
may be.  I see you have your hands full here.  Shall I take my--er--my
remaining young man away with me?" he asked, looking aside at Tom, who
was already fastening Ruth's skates.

"Oh, no," said Miss Reynolds, grimly.  "I'll make use of him!"

And she most certainly did.  Tom was anxious to get Ruth away at once
so that they could catch up with the foremost skaters; but he could not
refuse to aid her teacher.  And then there were others of the girls to
help.  They were all on the ice before Master Tom could get his own
skates on.

Then there was a basket to carry, and of course Tom could not see the
teacher or one of the girls carry it.  He took it manfully.  Then Miss
Reynolds gave Ruth her hand and skated with her, and Master Tom was
fain to skate upon Ruth's other hand.  And so they went on slowly,
while the lively crowd ahead drew farther and farther away.  It was not
an unpleasant journey out across the smooth lake, however, and perhaps
the party who had but one boy for escort had just as pleasant a time in
many respects as those in advance.

Ruth made her friend acquainted with all the Sweetbriars who were
present and whispered to him how he had really named the new Briarwood
society.  That vastly tickled Tom and he made himself just as agreeable
to the girls as he knew how.  Miss Reynolds was no wet blanket on the
fun, either, and she was as good a skater as Tom himself.  Ruth had
improved greatly, and before they reached the frost-bound _Minnetonka_
the teacher relieved Tom of his basket and told him to give the girl
from the Red Mill a lesson in skating with a partner--practice which
she sorely needed.

It was spirited indeed to fly over the ice, guided by Tom's sure foot
and hand.  They described a great curve and came back to Miss Reynolds
and the other girls, who progressed more sedately.  Then Tom gave his
hands to two of the older girls and with their arms stretched at full
length the trio went careening over the ice on the "long roll" in a way
that made Ruth, looking on with shining eyes, fairly hold her breath.

"It's wonderful!" she cried, when the three came back, glowing with the
exercise.  "Do you suppose I can ever learn that, Tom?"

"Why, Ruthie, you're so sure of yourself on the skates that I believe I
could teach you to roll very easily.  If Miss Reynolds will allow me?"

"Go on, Master Tom," the teacher said, laughing.  "But don't go too far
away.  We are nearing the boat now."

The first party that had struck out from the shore had all arrived at
the ice-bound _Minnetonka_ now, and many of them were skating in
couples thereabout.  At the stern of the steamboat was an open place in
the ice, for Ruth and Tom could see the water sparkling.  There was
little wind, but it was keen; the sun was quite warm and the exercise
kept the skaters from feeling the cold.

"Hullo!" exclaimed Tom to Ruth, as they began to get into good
stroke--for the girl was an apt pupil--"who is that old Bobbins has got
under his wing?"

"Who is Bobbins?" asked Ruth, with a laugh.

"My bunkie--that's what we call our chums at Seven Oaks.  Bob Steele."

"Madge Steele's brother?"

"Yes.  And no end of a good fellow," declared Tom.  "But, my aunt!
don't his sister rig him, though?  Asked old Bobbins if he had the
croup?" and Tom went off into a burst of laughter.

"Do you mean the tall, light-haired boy?" Ruth queried.

"Yes.  They're skating back toward the steamboat now--see, towards the
stern."

"That is Mary Cox with your friend," said Ruth, a little gravely.

"Hullo!" ejaculated Tom, again.

He started ahead at full clip, bearing Ruth on with him.  Something had
happened to the couple Tom and Ruth had noticed.  They swerved to one
side and suddenly Bob Steele went down.

"His skate's broke!" erred Tom.  "Hope old Bobbins isn't hurt.  Great
Scott! the girl's with him!"

Mary Cox had indeed fallen.  For a moment the two figures, flung by the
momentum of their pace, slid over the ice.  There came a wild shout
from those nearer the boat--then a splash!

"They're in the water!" cried Ruth, in horror.

She retarded Tom very little, but dashed forward, keeping in stroke
with him.  She heard Tom whisper:

"Poor old Bobbins! he'll be drowned!"

"No, no, Tom!  We can get to them," gasped Ruth.

Indeed, she and her escort were the nearest to the open place in the
lake into which Bob Steele and Mary Cox had fallen.  If anybody in
sight could help the victims of the accident Tom and Ruth could!



CHAPTER XXII

THE HARPIST ONCE MORE

Over all, Ruth wore a woolen sweater--one of those stretchy, clinging
coats with great pearl buttons that was just the thing for a skating
frolic.  It had been her one reckless purchase since being at
Briarwood, she and Helen having gone down into Lumberton on Saturday
and purchased coats.  While Ruth and Tom were yet some yards from the
open water the girl began to unbutton this.

"Careful, Tom!" she gasped.  "Not too near--wait!"

"It's thick 'way to the edge," he returned, pantingly.

"No, it isn't.  That's why Mary Cox went in.  I saw the ice break under
her when she tried to turn and escape."

Thus warned, Tom dug the heel of his right skate into the ice as a
brake, and they slowed down.

Ruth let go of his hand and wriggled out of her coat in a moment.  Then
she dropped to her knees and slid along the ice, while Tom flung
himself forward and traveled just as though he were sliding down hill.

"Take this, Tom!" cried Ruth, and tossed the coat to him.  "We'll make
a chain--I'll hold your feet.  Not too near!"

"Hold on, Bobbins!" yelled young Cameron.  "We'll have you out in a
minute!"

Mary Cox had screamed very loudly at first; and she struggled with her
fellow victim, too.  Bob Steele was trying to hold her up, but finally
he was obliged to let her go, and she went under water with a gurgling
cry.

"Grab her again, Bobbins!" called Tom, flinging Ruth's coat ahead of
him, but holding firmly to it himself by the two sleeves.

"I've got her!" gasped Bob Steele, his teeth chattering, and up The Fox
came again, her hair all dripping, and her face very pale.

"Good!" said Tom.  "She's swallowed enough water to keep her still for
a while--what?  Come on, now, old boy!  Don't wait!  Catch hold!"

As Ruth had warned him, the edge of the ice was fragile.  He dared not
push himself out too far with the sharp toes of his skates.  He dug
them into the ice now hard, and made another cast with the coat.

His chum caught it.  Tom drew them slowly toward the edge of the ice.
Ruth pulled back as hard as she could, and together they managed to
work their bodies at least two yards farther from the open water.  The
ice stopped cracking under Tom's breast.

There was the ring of skates and shouting of voices in their ears, and
Ruth, raising herself slightly, looked around and screamed to the crowd
to keep back.  Indeed, the first of Tom's school friends would have
skated right down upon them had they not thus been warned.

"Keep back!" Ruth cried.  "We can get them out.  Don't come nearer!"

Tom seconded her warning, too.  But mainly he gave himself up to the
work of aiding the two in the water.  Bob Steele lifted the girl up--he
was a strong swimmer even in that icy bath--and did it with one hand,
too, for he clung to Ruth's coat with the other.

Mary Cox began to struggle again.  Fortunately Bob had her half upon
the ice.  Tom reached forward and seized her shoulder.  He dragged back
with all his strength.  The ice crashed in again; but Mary did not fall
back, for Tom jerked her heavily forward.

"Now we've got her!" called Tom.

And they really had.  Mary Cox was drawn completely out of the water.
Mr. Hargreaves, meanwhile, had flown to the rescue with two of the
bigger boys.  They got down on the ice, forming a second living chain,
and hitching forward, the tutor seized the half-conscious girl's hand.
The others drew back and dragged Mr. Hargreaves, with the girl, to firm
ice.

Meanwhile Tom, with Ruth to help him, struggled manfully to get Bob
Steele out.  That youngster was by no means helpless, and they
accomplished the rescue smartly.

"And that's thanks to you, Ruthie!" declared Tom, when the tutor and
Miss Reynolds had hurried the half-drowned girl and young Steele off to
the _Minnetonka_.  "I'd never have gotten him but for you--and look at
your coat!"

"It will dry," laughed the girl from the Red Mill.  "Let's hurry after
them, Tom.  You're wet a good deal, too--and I shall miss my coat,
being so heated.  Come on!"

But she could not escape the congratulations of the girls and boys when
they reached the steamboat.  Even Mary Cox's closest friends gathered
around Ruth to thank her.  Nobody could gainsay the fact that Ruth had
been of great help in the recovery of Mary and Bob from the lake.

But Helen! had the other girls--and Miss Reynolds--not been in the
little cabin of the boat which had been given up to the feminine
members of the party, she would have broken down and cried on Ruth's
shoulder.  To think that she had been guilty of neglecting her chum!

"I believe I have been bewitched, Ruthie," she whispered.  "Tom, I
know, is on the verge of scolding me.  What did you say to him?"

"Nothing that need trouble you in the least, you may be sure, Helen,"
said Ruth.  "But, my dear, if it has taken such a thing as
_this_--which is not a thing to go into heroics over--to remind you
that I might possibly be hurt by your treatment, I am very sorry
indeed."

"Why, Ruth!" Helen gasped.  "You don't forgive me?"

"I am not at all sure, Helen, that you either need or want my
forgiveness," returned Ruth.  "You have done nothing yourself for which
you need to ask it--er, at least, very little; but your friends have
insulted and been unkind to me.  I do not think that I could have
called girls _my_ friends who had treated you so, Helen."

Miss Cox had retired to a small stateroom belonging to one of the
officers of the boat, while her clothing was dried by the colored
stewardess.  Bob Steele, however, borrowed some old clothes of some of
the crew, and appeared when the lunch was ready in those nondescript
garments, greatly adding to the enjoyment of the occasion.

"Well, sonny, your croup _will_ bother you sure enough, after that
dip," declared his sister.  "Come! let sister tuck your bib in like a
nice boy.  And _don't_ gobble!"

Bob was such a big fellow--his face was so pink, and his hair so
yellow--that Madge's way of talking to him made him seem highly comic.
The fellows from Seven Oaks shouted with laughter, and the girls
giggled.  Mr. Hargreaves and Miss Reynolds, both relieved beyond
expression by the happy conclusion of what might have been a very
serious accident, did not quell the fun; and fifty or sixty young
people never had such a good time before in the saloon of the lake
steamer, _Minnetonka_.

Suddenly music began somewhere about the boat and the young folk began
to get restive.  Some ran for their skates again, for the idea was to
remain near the steamer for a while and listen to the music before
going back to shore.  The music was a piano, guitar, violin, and harp,
and when Ruth heard it and recognized the latter instrument she was
suddenly reminded of Miss Picolet and the strange harpist who (she
firmly believed) had caused the startling sound at the fountain.

"Let's go and see who's playing," she whispered to Helen, who had clung
close to her ever since they had come aboard the steamboat.  And as Tom
was on the other side of his sister, he went with them into the forward
part of the boat.

"Well, what do you know about _that_?" demanded Tom, almost before the
girls were in the forward cabin.  "Isn't that the big man with the red
waistcoat that frightened that little woman on the _Lanawaxa_?  You
know, you pointed them out to me on the dock at Portageton, Helen?
Isn't that him at the harp?"

"Oh! it is, indeed!" ejaculated his sister.  "What a horrid man he is!
Let's come away."

But Ruth was deeply interested in the harpist.  She wondered what
knowledge of, or what connection he had with, the little French
teacher, Miss Picolet.  And she wondered, too, if her suspicions
regarding the mystery of the campus--the sounding of the harpstring in
the dead of night--were borne out by the facts?

Had this coarse fellow, with his pudgy hands, his corpulency, his
drooping black mustache, some hold upon Miss Picolet?  Had he followed
her to Briarwood Hall, and had he made her meet him behind the fountain
just at that hour when the Upedes were engaged in hazing Helen and
herself?  These thoughts arose in her mind again as Ruth gazed
apprehensively at the ugly-looking harpist.

Helen pulled her sleeve and Ruth was turning away when she saw that the
little, piglike eyes of the harpist were turned upon them.  He smiled
in his sly way and actually nodded at them.

"Sh! he remembers us," whispered Helen.  "Oh, do come away, Ruth!"

"He isn't any handsome object, that's a fact," muttered Tom.  "And the
cheek of him--nodding to you two girls!"

After the excitement of the accident on the lake our friends did not
feel much like skating until it came time to go back to the landing.
Mr. Hargreaves was out on the ice with those students of the two
schools who preferred to skate; but Miss Reynolds remained in the
cabin.  Mary Cox had had her lunch in the little stateroom, wrapped in
blankets and in the company of an oil-stove, for heat's sake.  Now she
came out, re-dressed in her own clothes, which were somewhat mussed and
shrunken in appearance.

Helen ran to her at once to congratulate Mary on her escape.  "And
wasn't it lucky Tom and Ruth were so near you?" she cried.  "And dear
old Ruthie! she's quite a heroine; isn't she?  And you must meet Tom."

"I shall be glad to meet and thank your brother, Helen," said The Fox,
rather crossly.  "But I don't see what need there is to make a fuss
over Fielding.  Your brother and Mr. Hargreaves pulled Mr. Steele and
me out or the lake."

Helen stepped back and her pretty face flushed.  She had begun to see
Mary Cox in her true light.  Certainly she was in no mood just then to
hear her chum disparaged.  She looked around for Tom and Ruth; the
former was talking quietly with Miss Reynolds, but Ruth had slipped
away when The Fox came into the cabin.

Mary Cox walked unperturbed to the teacher and Tom and put out her hand
to the youth, thanking him very nicely for what he had done.

"Oh, you mustn't thank me more than the rest of them," urged Tom.  "At
least, I did no more than Ruthie.  By the way, where _is_ Ruthie?"

But Ruth Fielding had disappeared, and they did not see her again until
the call was given for the start home.  Then she appeared from the
forward part of the boat, very pale and silent, and all the way to the
shore, skating between Tom and Helen, she had scarcely a word to say.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE SECRET

For there was the burden of a secret on Ruth Fielding's mind and heart.
She had slipped away when she saw The Fox appear in the outer cabin
and, walking forward, had been stopped suddenly in a cross gallery by a
firm touch upon her arm.

"Sh!  Mademoiselle!"

Before she looked into the shadowy place she realized that it was the
harpist.  His very presence so near her made Ruth shrink and tremble
for an instant.  But then she recovered her self-possession and asked,
unshakenly:

"What do you want of me?"

"Ah, Mademoiselle!  Kind Mademoiselle!" purred the great creature--and
Ruth knew well what his villainous smile must look like, although she
could not see it.  "May the unfortunate vagabond musician speak a
single word into Mademoiselle's ear?"

"You have spoken several words into it already, sir," said Ruth,
sharply.  "What do you want?"

"Ah! the Mademoiselle is so practical," murmured the harpist again.

"Be quick," commanded Ruth, for although she had a strong repugnance
for the fellow there was no reason why she should fear him, with so
many people within call.  "State your reason for stopping me, sir."

"The Mademoiselle is from the school--the institute where learning is
taught the lo-fe-ly Misses?"

He thus made three syllables of "lovely" and Ruth knew that he leered
like a Billiken in the dark.

"I am at Briarwood Hall--yes," she said.

"I have seen the kind Mademoiselle before," said the man.  "On the boat
on that other so-beeg lake--Osago, is it?"

"On the _Lanawaxa_--yes," admitted Ruth.

"Ah!  I am proud.  The Mademoiselle remember me," he exclaimed, bowing
in the dark alley.

"Go on," urged Ruth, impatiently.

"It is of the leetle lady--Mademoiselle Picolet--I would speak," he
said, more quickly.

"Our French teacher--yes."

"Then, knowing her, will the Mademoiselle take a small note from the
poor musician to the good Picolet?  'Tis a small matter--no?"

"You want me to do this without telling anybody about it?" questioned
Ruth, bluntly.

"_Oui, oui_, Mademoiselle!  You have the discernment beyond your years.
Indeed!"

"I knew it must be something underhanded you wanted," declared Ruth,
boldly.

He laughed and Ruth saw a small envelope thrust toward her in the dusk
of the passage.  "You will take it?" he said.

"I will take it--providing you do not come there again," exclaimed Ruth.

"Come where?" he demanded.

"To the school.  To the campus where the fountain is."

"Ha! you know _that_, my pretty bird?" he returned.  "Well! this will
perhaps relieve the good Picolet of my presence--who knows?"

"Then I will take it," Ruth said, hastily, her hand closing on the
billet.

"_Comme il faut_," he said, and went away down the passage, humming in
his bassoon voice.

And so, as she sped shoreward between her two friends, Ruth had the
little letter tucked away in the bosom of her frock.  The secret
troubled her.  She was really glad to say good bye to Tom at the
landing, and all the way back in the wagonette, although Helen sat
close to her and tried to show her how sorry she was for her past
neglect, Ruth was very silent.

For she was much disturbed by this secret.  She feared she was doing
wrong in carrying the note to Miss Picolet.  Yet, under different
circumstances, she might have thought little of it.  But after her talk
with Mrs. Tellingham about the mystery of the campus, she was troubled
to think that she was taking any part in the French teacher's private
affairs.

Helen was so filled with the excitement of the day, and of her long
talk with her twin brother, that she did not observe Ruth's distraught
manner.

"And we'll have such fun!"  Ruth finally awoke to hear her chum declare
in a whisper.  "Father's always promised to get a place in the woods,
and Snow Camp is a delightful spot."

"What are you talking about, Helen?" demanded Ruth, suddenly.

"I don't believe you've heard a thing I've been saying," cried her chum.

"I haven't heard everything," admitted Ruth.  "But tell me now; I'll
listen."

"It's about the Christmas Holidays.  You shall go with us.  We're going
'way up in the woods--to a hunting camp that father has bought.  We
were there for a week-end once when Mr. Parrish owned it.  Snow Camp is
the most delightful place."

"I am sure you will have a fine time," Ruth said, generously.

"And so you will, too," declared Helen, "for you're going."

"My _dear_!  I am going home to the Red Mill at Christmas."

"And we'll go home for Christmas, too; but there are three weeks'
holidays, and two of them we will spend at Snow Camp.  Oh, yes we
will!" Helen cried.  "I'd cry my eyes out if you didn't go, Ruth."

"But Uncle Jabez----"

"We'll just tease him until he lets you go.  He'll not object much, I'm
sure.  I should just cry my eyes out if you didn't go with us, Ruthie,"
she repeated.

The plan for the winter holidays sank into insignificance in Ruth's
mind, however, when they left the carriages and ran over to the West
Dormitory just as evening was falling.  Mercy waved a white hand to
them from her window as they crossed the campus; but Ruth allowed Helen
to run ahead while she halted in the lower corridor and asked Miss
Scrimp if the French teacher was in her room.

"Oh, yes, Miss Ruthie," said the matron.  "Miss Picolet is in.  You can
knock."

As Ruth asked this question and received its answer she saw Mary Cox
come in alone at the hall door.  The Fox had not spoken to Ruth since
the accident on the ice.  Now she cast no pleasant glance in Ruth's
direction.  Yet, seeing the younger girl approaching Miss Picolet's
door, Mary smiled one of her very queerest smiles, nodded her head with
secret satisfaction, and marched on upstairs to her own study.

"Enter!" said Miss Picolet's soft voice in answer to Ruth's timid rap
on the panel of the door.

The girl entered and found the little French teacher sewing by the
window.  Miss Picolet looked up, saw who it was, and welcomed Ruth with
a smile.

"I hope you have had a joyful day, Miss Ruth," she said.  "Come to the
radiator--you are cold."

"I am going to run upstairs in a moment, Mademoiselle," said Ruth,
hesitatingly.  "But I have a message for you."

"A message for me?" said the lady, in surprise.

"Yes, ma'am."

"From the Preceptress, Ruth?"

"No, Miss Picolet.  It--it is a letter that has been given me to be
handed to you--secretly."

The little teacher's withered cheek flushed and her bright little eyes
clouded.  By the way one of her hands fluttered over her heart, too,
Ruth knew that Miss Picolet was easily frightened.

"A letter for me?" she whispered.

Ruth was unbuttoning her coat and frock to get at the letter.  She said:

"There was an orchestra on that boat that was frozen into the ice, Miss
Picolet.  One of the musicians spoke to me.  He knew you--or said he
did----"

The girl hated to go on, Miss Picolet turned so pale and looked so
frightened.  But it had to be done, and Ruth pursued her story:

"I had seen the man before--the day we came to school here, Helen and
I.  He played the harp on the _Lanawaxa_."

"Ah!" gasped the French woman, holding out her hand.  "No more, my
dear!  I understand.  Let me have it."

But now Ruth hesitated and stammered, and felt in the bosom of her
dress with growing fear.  She looked at Miss Picolet, her own face
paling.

"Oh, Miss Picolet!" she suddenly burst out.  "What will you think?
What can I say?"

"What--what is the matter?" gasped the French teacher.

"I--I haven't got it--it is gone!"

"What do you mean, Ruth Fielding?" cried Miss Picolet, springing to her
feet.

"It's gone--I've lost it!  Oh, my dear Miss Picolet!  I didn't mean to.
I tried to be so careful.  But I have lost the letter he gave me
addressed to you!"



CHAPTER XXIV

"WHO IS THE TATTLE-TALE?"

The next day the whole school were at their books again--the short
Thanksgiving recess was ended.  It had been just a breathing space for
the girls who really were anxious to stand well in their classes at
Briarwood Hall.  Those who--like some of the Upedes--desired nothing so
much as "fun," complained because the vacation had been so short, and
dawdled over their books again.

But there was no dawdling in Duet Two, West Dormitory.  Had Helen been
inclined to lapse occasionally, or Ruth sunk under the worriment of
mind which had borne her down since the day of the skating party on
Triton Lake, Mercy Curtis kept the two chums to the mark.

"No shirking, you young ones!" commanded the crippled girl, in her
sharp way.  "Remember the hare would have won the race easily if he
hadn't laid down to nap beside the course.  Come! some tortoise will
beat you in French and Latin yet, Helen, if you don't keep to work.
And go to work at that English composition, Ruthie Remissness!  You'd
both be as lazy as Ludlum's dog if it wasn't for me."

And so she kept them up to the work, and kept herself up, too.  There
wasn't much time for larking now, if one wished to stand well at the
end of the term.  The teachers watched for shirkers more closely, too.
Even Mary Cox and her friends next door showed some signs of industry.

"Although it does seem as though we were always being worked to death,"
groaned Heavy, one day, to Ruth.  "I feel as though my constitution was
actually breaking down under the strain.  I've written to my father
that if he wants to see even a shadow of my former self at Christmas,
he had better tell Mrs. Tellingham not to force me so!"

She sighed breezily and looked so hard at the piece of cocoanut pie
beside Ruth's plate (having eaten her own piece already) that Ruth
laughed and pushed it toward her.

"Have it if you like, Heavy," she said.  "I am not very hungry."

"Well, there isn't quite so much of you to nourish, my dear," declared
Jennie Stone, more briskly.  "I really _do_ feel the need of an extra
piece.  Thank you, Ruth!  You're a good little thing."

"Miss Picolet will see you, Ruth," whispered Helen, on her other side.
"She is disgusted with Heavy's piggishness.  But Miss Picolet, after
all, won't say anything to you.  You are her pet."

"Don't say that, Helen," replied Ruth, with some sadness.  "I am sorry
for Miss Picolet."

"I don't see why you need be.  She seems to get along very well,"
returned her chum.

But Ruth could not forget how the little French teacher had looked--how
frightened she was and how tearful--the afternoon when Ruth had told
her of the incident aboard the _Minnetonka_, and of her loss of the
mysterious letter sent by the harpist.  The little French woman had
begged her not to blame herself for the loss of the letter; she had
only begged her to say nothing to a soul about either the man or the
letter.  And Ruth had kept the secret.

Nearly a fortnight had passed since the occurrence, and it lacked not
many days to the close of the term, when one evening, after a meeting
of the S. B.'s in their usual room over the dining hall, Ruth had been
delayed a bit and was hurrying out alone so as not to be caught out of
the dormitory after warning bell, when old Tony Foyle hailed her.

"I was a-goin' to the West Dormitory to ax Miss Scrimp for to call ye,
Miss Ruthie," said the old Irishman, who--like most of the help about
the school--was fond of the girl from the Red Mill.  "Ye're wanted,
Miss."

"Wanted?" asked Ruth, in surprise.  "Who by?"

"The Missus wants ye--Missus Tellingham.  Ye're ter go straight to her
study, so ye are."

Much disturbed--for she feared there might be bad news from home--Ruth
ran to the main building and knocked on Mrs. Tellingham's door.  At her
pleasantly spoken "Come in!" the girl entered and found the Preceptress
at her desk, while the old doctor, quite as blind and deaf to
everything but his own work as usual, was bent over his papers at the
end of the long table.  But at this hour, and in the privacy of the
place, he had cocked the brown wig over one ear in the most comical
way, displaying a perfectly bald, shiny patch of pate which made his
naturally high forehead look fairly enormous.

"Nothing to be frightened about, Miss Fielding," said Mrs. Tellingham,
instantly reading aright what she saw in Ruth's countenance.  "You need
not be disturbed.  For I really do not believe you are at fault in this
matter which has been brought to my notice."

"No, Mrs. Tellingham?" asked Ruth, curiously.

"I have only a question to ask you.  Have you lost something--something
that might have been entrusted to you for another person?  Some letter,
for instance?"

The color flashed into Ruth's face.  She was always thinking about the
note the harpist had given to her on the steamboat to take to Miss
Picolet.  She could not hide her trouble from the sharp eyes of Mrs.
Tellingham.

"You _have_ lost something?"

"I don't know whether I should tell you.  I don't know that I have a
right to tell you," Ruth stammered.

Mrs. Tellingham looked at her sharply for a minute or so, and then
nodded.  Then she said:

"I understand.  You have been put on your honor not to tell?"

"Yes, Mrs. Tellingham.  It is not my secret."

"But there is a letter to be recovered?"

"Ye-es."

"Is this it?" asked Mrs. Tellingham, suddenly thrusting under Ruth's
eye a very much soiled and crumpled envelope.  And it had been
unsealed, Ruth could see.  The superscription was to "Mademoiselle
Picolet."

"It--it looks like it," Ruth whispered.  "But it was sealed when I had
it."

"I do not doubt it," said Mrs. Tellingham, with a shake of her head.
"But the letter was given to me first, and then the envelope.  The--the
person who claims to have found it when you dropped it, declared it to
be open then."

"Oh, I do not think so!" cried Ruth.

"Well.  Enough that I know its contents.  You do not?"

"Indeed, no, Mrs. Tellingham.  I may have done wrong to agree to
deliver the letter.  But I--I was so sorry for her----"

"I understand.  I do not blame you in the least, child," said Mrs.
Tellingham, shortly.  "This letter states that the writer expects more
money from our Miss Picolet--poor thing!  It states that if the money
is not forthcoming to an address he gives her before to-day--to-day,
mind you, is the date--he will come here for it.  It is, in short, a
threat to make trouble for Miss Picolet.  And the person finding this
letter when you dropped it has deliberately, I believe, retained it
until to-day before bringing it to me, for the express purpose of
letting the scoundrel come here and disturb Miss Picolet's peace of
mind."

"Oh, how mean!" gasped Ruth, involuntarily.

"Mean indeed, Ruth," said the Preceptress, gravely.  "And you have
yourself experienced some ill-usage from the person who has played spy
and informer in this matter, since you have come to Briarwood Hall.  I
understand--you know that little can go on about the school that does
not reach my ears in one way or another--that this same person has
called you a 'tattle-tale' and tried to make your friends among the
girls believe that you played traitor to them on a certain occasion.  I
have told Miss Cox exactly what I think of her action in this case,"
and she tapped the letter before her.  "She has shown plainly," said
Mrs. Tellingham, with sternness, "that she is a most sly and
mean-spirited girl.  I am sorry that one of the young ladies of
Briarwood Hall is possessed of so contemptible a disposition."



CHAPTER XXV

GETTING ON

It was a frosty night and snow lay smoothly upon the campus.  Only the
walks and the cemented place about the fountain were cleaned.  Tony
Foyle had made his last rounds and put out the lights; but although
there was no moon the starlight on the snow made the campus silvery in
spots.  But the leafless trees, and the buildings about the open space,
cast deep shadows.

There was a light shining in a study window of the West Dormitory and
that light was in the room occupied by the Triumvirate--Ruth Fielding,
Helen Cameron and Mercy Curtis.  The two latter were abed, but awake
and wondering why Ruth had not returned, and what Miss Scrimp had meant
by coming to the door and telling them to leave the light burning.

The clocks had long since struck eleven and it was close to midnight.
The night was still, for there was no wind.  It was possible that very
few of either the scholars, teachers, or servants at Briarwood were
awake.  But almost directly under the light in the Triumvirate's room
another light burned--in the study of the French teacher.  She seldom
retired early; that is one reason why those girls who considered Miss
Picolet their enemy believed she was always on the watch.

Three figures came out of the basement door under the tower of
Briarwood Hall--a lady much bundled up, a girl ditto, and the old
Irishman, Tony Foyle.

"Sure, ma'am, jest as I told ye this afternoon, the big felly that
sassed me last fall, tryin' ter git in ter play his harp, and with his
other vagabonds, was hanging around again to-day.  I hear him an' his
rapscallion companions is in Lumberton.  They've been playing about
here and there, for a month back.  And now I see him comin' along with
his harp on his back--bad 'cess to him!  P'raps they're walkin' across
to Sivin Oaks, an' are takin' in Briarwood as a 'cross-cut'."

"Hush!" whispered the Preceptress.  "Isn't that somebody over
yonder--by the fountain?"

They were all three silent, keeping close in the shadow.  Some object
_did_ seem to be moving in the shadow of the fountain.  Suddenly there
sounded on the still night air the reverberating note of a harp--a
crash of sound following the flourish of a practised hand across the
wires.

"Bless us and save us!" muttered Tony.  "'Tis the marble harp.  'Tis a
banshee playin'."

"Be still!" commanded Mrs. Tellingham.  "It is nothing of the kind, you
very well know, Tony.  Ah!"

She had looked instantly toward the illuminated window of the French
teacher's study at the other side of the campus.  The shade had snapped
up to the top of the casement, and the shadow of Miss Picolet appeared.
The French teacher had heard the voice of the harp.

"Oh, poor little thing," murmured Mrs. Tellingham.  "This seems like
spying and eavesdropping, Ruth Fielding; but I mean to stop this thing
right here and now.  She shall not be frightened out of her wits by
this villain."

They heard no further sound from the harp at the fountain.  But the
door of the West Dormitory opened and the little figure of Miss Picolet
appeared, wrapped in some long, loose garment, and she sped down toward
the fountain.  Soon she was out of sight behind the marble statue.

"Come!" breathed the Preceptress.

They heard Miss Picolet and the man chattering in their own
language--the man threatening, the woman pleading--when the trio got to
the fountain.  Ruth was a poor French scholar, but of course Mrs.
Tellingham understood what they said.  And the Preceptress glided
around the fountain and confronted the harpist with a suddenness that
quite startled him.

"You, sir!" exclaimed the lady, coldly.  "I have heard enough of this.
Don't be frightened, Miss Picolet.  I only blame you for not coming to
me.  I have long known your circumstances, and the fact that you are
poor, and that you have an imbecile sister to support, and that this
man is your disreputable half-brother.  And that he threatens to hang
about here and make you lose your position unless you pay him to be
good, is well known to me, too.

"We will have no more of this fellow's threats," continued Mrs.
Tellingham, sternly.  "You will give him none of your hard-earned
money, Miss Picolet.  Tony, here, shall see him off the grounds, and if
he ever appears here again, or troubles you, let me know and I shall
send him to jail for trespass.  Now, remember--you Jean Picolet!  I
have your record and the police at Lumberton shall have it, too, if you
ever trouble your sister again."

"Ah-ha!" snarled the big man, looking evilly at Ruth.  "So the little
Mademoiselle betrayed me; did she?"

"She has had nothing to do with it--save to have had the misfortune of
losing the letter you gave her to deliver to Miss Picolet," Mrs.
Tellingham said, briefly.  "I had her here to identify you, had Miss
Picolet not come out to meet you.  Now, Tony!"

And big as the harpist was, and little as the old Irishman seemed,
there was that in Tony Foyle's eye that made the man pick up his harp
in a hurry and make his way from the campus.

"Child! go in to bed," said Mrs. Tellingham.  "Not a word of this,
remember.  Thank goodness, _you_ are one girl who can keep a secret.
Miss Picolet, I want to see you in my study.  I hope that, hereafter,
you will give me your confidence.  For you need fear no dismissal from
the school over such a misfortune as is visited upon you."

She took the sobbing, trembling French teacher away with her while Ruth
ran up to Duet Two in the West Dormitory, in a much excited state of
mind.

Fortunately both Helen and Mercy had dropped to sleep and none of the
other girls seemed to have heard the harp at midnight.  So there was no
talk this time about the Ghost of the Campus.  To the other girls at
Briarwood, the mystery remained unsolved, and the legend of the marble
harp was told again and again to the Infants who came to the school,
with the added point that, on the night Ruth Fielding and Helen Cameron
had come to the hall, the marble harp was again heard to sound its
ghostly note.

No thought of such foolish, old-wives' fables troubled Ruth Fielding's
dreams as she lay down on this night which had seen the complete
exposure of the campus mystery and the laying of the campus ghost.  She
dreamed, instead, of completing her first term at Briarwood with
satisfaction to herself and her teachers--which she did!  She dreamed
of returning to the old Red Mill and being joyfully received by Aunt
Alviry and Uncle Jabez--which she did!  She dreamed, too, of joining
Helen Cameron and her mid-winter party at Snow Camp and enjoying
quantities of fun and frolic in the wintry woods; which, likewise, came
true, and which adventures will be related in good time In the next
volume of this series: "Ruth Fielding at Snow Camp; Or, Lost in the
Backwoods."

"I am so glad it is over!" said Ruth to herself, as she retired.  "I
hope there is no more trouble."

And here let us for the time being say good bye to Ruth Fielding and
her chums of Briarwood Hall.



THE END



PEGGY LEE SERIES

By ANNA ANDREWS

A charming series of stories of a young American girl, Peggy Lee,
living with her family (including many unusual pets) on a large coffee
plantation in Central America, and her many adventures there and in New
York.

The action is rapid, full of fun, and takes the reader not only to many
interesting places in Central America, but in the country as well,
where Peggy attends a school for girls.  The incidents are cleverly
brought out, and Peggy in her wistful way, proves in her many
adventures to be a brave girl and an endearing heroine to her friends
and readers.

  1.  PEGGY AND MICHAEL OF THE COFFEE PLANTATION
  2.  PEGGY LEE OF THE GOLDEN THISTLE PLANTATION
  3.  PEGGY LEE AND THE MYSTERIOUS ISLANDS

(Other Volumes in Preparation)


CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers, New York





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