Read CHAPTER XI - THE VOICE OF THE HARP of Ruth Fielding at Briarwood Hall / Solving the Campus Mystery, free online book, by Alice B. Emerson, on

“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.