Read CHAPTER I - AN INITIATION of Ruth Fielding at Lighthouse Point Nita / The Girl Castaway, free online book, by Alice B. Emerson, on

A brown dusk filled the long room, for although the windows were shrouded thickly and no lamp burned, some small ray of light percolated from without and made dimly visible the outlines of the company there gathered.

The low, quavering notes of an organ sighed through the place.  There was the rustle and movement of a crowd.  To the neophyte, who had been brought into the hall with eyes bandaged, it all seemed very mysterious and awe-inspiring.

Now she was set in a raised place and felt that before her was the company of masked and shrouded figures, in scarlet dominoes like those worn by the two guards who had brought her from the anteroom.  The bandage was whisked from her eyes; but she could see nothing of her surroundings, nor of the company before which she stood.

“Candidate!” spoke a hollow, mysterious voice somewhere in the gloom, yet sounding so close to her ear that she started.  “Candidate! you stand before the membership body of the S. B.’s.  You are as yet unknown to them and they unknown to you.  If you enter the secret association of the S. B.’s you must throw off and despise forever all ties of a like character.  Do you agree?”

The candidate obeyed, in so far as she prodded her sharply in the ribs and a shrill voice whispered:  “Say you do ­gump!”

The candidate obeyed, in so far as she proclaimed that she did, at least.

“It is an oath,” went on the sepulchral voice.  “Remember!”

In chorus the assembly immediately repeated, “Remember!” in solemn tones.

“Candidate!” repeated the leading voice, “you have been taught the leading object of our existence as a society.  What is it?”

Without hesitation now, the candidate replied:  “Helpfulness.”

“It is right.  And now, what do our initials stand for?”

“Sweetbriar,” replied the shaking voice of the candidate.

“True.  That is what our initials stand for to the world at large ­to those who are not initiated into the mysteries of the S. B.’s.  But those letters may stand for many things and it is my privilege to explain to you now that they likewise are to remind us all of two virtues that each Sweetbriar is expected to practice ­to be sincere and to befriend.  Remember!  Sincerity ­Befriend.  Remember!”

Again the chorus of mysterious voices chanted:  “Remember!”

“And now let the light shine upon the face of the candidate, that the Shrouded Sisterhood may know her where’er they meet her.  Once!  Twice!  Thrice!  Light!”

At the cry the ray of a spot-light flashed out of the gloom at the far end of the long room and played glaringly upon the face and figure of the candidate.  She herself was more blinded by the glare than she had been by the bandage.  There was a rustle and movement in the room, and the leading voice went on: 

“Sisters! the novice is now revealed to us all.  She has now entered into the outer circle of the Sweetbriars.  Let her know us, where’er she meets us, by our rallying cry.  Once!  Twice!  Thrice! Now!

Instantly, and in unison, the members chanted the following “yell”: 

“S.  B. ­Ah-h-h!  S. B. ­Ah-h-h!  Sound our battle-cry Near and far!  S. B. ­All!  Briarwood Hall!  Sweetbriars, do or die ­ This be our battle-cry ­ Briarwood Hall! That’s All!

With the final word the spot-light winked out and the other lights of the hall flashed on.  The assembly of hooded and shrouded figures were revealed.  And Helen Cameron, half smiling and half crying, found herself standing upon the platform before her schoolmates who had already joined the secret fraternity known as “The Sweetbriars.”

Beside her, and presiding over the meeting, she found her oldest and dearest friend at Briarwood Hall ­Ruth Fielding.  A small megaphone stood upon the table at Ruth’s hand, and its use had precluded Helen’s recognition of her chum’s voice as the latter led in the ritual of the fraternity.  Like their leader, the other Sweetbriars had thrown back their scarlet hoods, and Helen recognized almost all of the particular friends with whom she had become associated since she had come ­with Ruth Fielding ­the autumn before to Briarwood Hall.

The turning on of the lights was the signal for general conversation and great merriment.  It was the evening of the last day but one of the school year, and discipline at Briarwood Hall was relaxed to a degree.  However, the fraternity of the Sweetbriars had grown in favor with Mrs. Grace Tellingham, the preceptress of the school, and with the teachers, since its inception.  Now the fifty or more girls belonging to the society (fully a quarter of the school membership) paired off to march down to the dining hall, where a special collation was spread.

Helen Cameron went down arm-in-arm with the president of the S. B.’s.

“Oh, Ruthie!” the new member exclaimed, “I think it’s ever so nice ­much better than the initiation of the old Upedes.  I can talk about them now,” and she laughed, “because they are ­as Tommy says ­’busted all to flinders.’  Haven’t held a meeting for more than a month, and the last time ­whisper! this is a secret, and I guess the last remaining secret of the Upedes ­there were only The Fox and I there!”

“I’m glad you’re one of us at last, Helen,” said Ruth Fielding, squeezing her chum as they went down the stairs.

“And I ought to have been an original member along with you, Ruth,” said Helen, thoughtfully.  “The Up and Doing Club hadn’t half the attractiveness that your society has ­”

“Don’t call it my society.  We don’t want any one-girl club.  That was the trouble with the Up and Doings ­just as ‘too much faculty’ is the objection to the Forward Club.”

“Oh, I detest the Fussy Curls just as much as ever,” declared Helen, quickly, “although Madge Steele is president.”

“Well, we ‘Infants,’ as they called us last fall when we entered Briarwood, are in control of the S. B.’s, and we can help each other,” said Ruth, with satisfaction.

“But you talk about the Upedes being a one-girl club.  I know The Fox was all-in-all in that.  But you’re pretty near the whole thing in the S. B.’s, Ruthie,” and Helen laughed, slily.  “Why, they say you wrote all the ritual and planned everything.”

“Never mind,” said Ruth, calmly; “we can’t have a dictator in the S. B.’s without changing the constitution.  The same girl can’t be president for more than one year.”

“But you deserve to boss it all,” said her chum, warmly.  “And I for one wouldn’t mind if you did.”

Helen was a very impulsive, enthusiastic girl.  When she and Ruth Fielding had come to Briarwood Hall she had immediately taken up with a lively and thoughtless set of girls who had banded themselves into the Up and Doing Club, and whose leader was Mary Cox, called “The Fox,” because of her shrewdness.  Ruth had not cared for this particular society and, in time, she and most of the other new pupils formed the Sweetbriar Club.  Helen Cameron, loyal to her first friends at the school, had not fallen away from Mary Cox and joined the Sweetbriars until this very evening, which was, as we have seen, the evening before the final day of the school year.

Ruth Fielding took the head of the table when the girls sat down to supper and the other officers of the club sat beside her.  Helen was therefore separated from her, and when the party broke up late in the evening (the curfew bell at nine o’clock was abolished for this one night) the chums started for their room in the West Dormitory at different times.  Ruth went with Mercy Curtis, who was lame; outside the dining hall Helen chanced to meet Mary Cox, who had been calling on some party in the East Dormitory building.

“Hello, Cameron!” exclaimed The Fox.  “So you’ve finally been roped in by the ‘Soft Babies’ have you?  I thought that chum of yours ­Fielding ­would manage to get you hobbled and tied before vacation.”

“You can’t say I wasn’t loyal to the Upedes as long as there was any society to be loyal to,” said Helen, quickly, and with a flush.

“Oh, well; you’ll be going down to Heavy’s seashore cottage with them now, I suppose?” said The Fox, still watching Helen curiously.

“Why, of course!  I intended to before,” returned the younger girl.  “We all agreed about that last winter when we were at Snow Camp.”

“Oh, you did, eh?” laughed the other.  “Well, if you hadn’t joined the Soft Babies you wouldn’t have been ‘axed,’ when it came time to go.  This is going to be an S. B. frolic.  Your nice little Ruth Fielding says she won’t go if Heavy invites any but her precious Sweetbriars to be of the party.”

“I don’t believe it, Mary Cox!” cried Helen.  “I mean, that you must be misinformed.  Somebody has maligned Ruth.”

“Humph!  Maybe, but it doesn’t look like it.  Who is going to Lighthouse Point?” demanded The Fox, carelessly.  “Madge Steele, for although she is president of the Fussy Curls, she is likewise honorary member of the S. B.’s.”

“That is so,” admitted Helen.

“Heavy, herself,” pursued Mary Cox, “Belle and Lluella, who have all backslid from the Upedes, and yourself.”

“But you’ve been invited,” said Helen, quickly.

“Not much.  I tell you, if you and Belle and Lluella had not joined her S. B.’s you wouldn’t have been numbered among Heavy’s house party.  Don’t fool yourself on that score,” and with another unpleasant laugh, the older girl walked on and left Helen in a much perturbed state of mind.