Read CHAPTER XII - THE MYSTERY DEEPENS of Ruth Fielding at Briarwood Hall / Solving the Campus Mystery, free online book, by Alice B. Emerson, on

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.”


“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.