Read CHAPTER IV - THE RIVALRY OF THE UPEDES AND THE FUSSY CURLS of Ruth Fielding at Briarwood Hall / Solving the Campus Mystery, free online book, by Alice B. Emerson, on

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.