Ruth Fielding at Lighthouse Point/Chapter 2
THE FOX AT WORK
Ruth Fielding, after the death of her parents, when she was quite a young girl, had come from Darrowtown to live with her mother's uncle at the Red Mill, on the Lumano River near Cheslow, as was related in the first volume of this series, entitled, "Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill; Or, Jasper Parloe's Secret." Ruth had found Uncle Jabez very hard to get along with at first, for he was a miser, and his kinder nature seemed to have been crusted over by years of hoarding and selfishness.
But through a happy turn of circumstances Ruth was enabled to get at the heart of her crotchety uncle, and when Ruth's very dear friend, Helen Cameron, planned to go to boarding school, Uncle Jabez was won over to sending Ruth with her. The fun and work of that first half at school are related in the second volume of the series, entitled "Ruth Fielding at Briarwood Hall; Or, Solving the Campus Mystery."
In the third volume of the series, "Ruth Fielding at Snow Camp; Or, Lost in the Backwoods," Ruth and some of her school friends spend a part of the mid-winter vacation at Mr. Cameron's hunting lodge in the Big Woods, where they enjoy many winter sports and have adventures galore.
Ruth and Helen occupied a "duo" room on the second floor of the West Dormitory; but when Mercy Curtis, the lame girl, had come to Briarwood in the middle of the first term, the chums had taken her in with them, the occupants of that particular study being known thereafter among the girls of Briarwood as the Triumvirate.
Helen, when deserted by The Fox, who, from that first day at Briarwood Hall, had shown herself to be jealous of Ruth Fielding, for some reason, went slowly up to her room and found Ruth and Mercy there before her. There was likewise a stout, doll-faced, jolly girl with them, known to the other girls as "Heavy," but rightly owning the name of Jennie Stone.
"Here she is now!" cried this latter, on Helen's appearance. "'he candidate will now advance and say her a-b-abs!' You looked scared to death when they shot you with the lime-light. I was chewing a caramel when they initiated me, and I swallowed it whole, and pretty near choked, when the spot-light was turned on."
Mercy, who was a very sharp girl indeed, was looking at Helen slily. She saw that something had occasioned their friend annoyance.
"What's happened to you since we came from the supper, Helen?" she asked.
"Indigestion!" gasped Heavy. "I've some pepsin tablets in my room. Want one, Nell?"
"No. I am all right," declared Helen.
"Well, we were just waiting for you to come in," the stout girl said. "Maybe we'll all be so busy to-morrow that we won't have time to talk about it. So we must plan for the Lighthouse Point campaign now."
"Oh!" said Helen, slowly. "So you can make up your party now?"
"Of course! Why, we really made it up last winter; didn't we?" laughed Heavy.
"But we didn't know whether we could go or not then," Ruth Fielding said.
"You didn't know whether I could go, I suppose you mean?" suggested Helen.
"Why—not particularly," responded Ruth, in some wonder at her chum's tone. "I supposed you and Tom would go. Your father so seldom refuses you anything."
"I didn't know how Uncle Jabez would look at it," pursued Ruth. "But I wrote him a while ago and told him you and Mercy were going to accept Jennie's invite, and he said I could go to Lighthouse. Point, too."
"Oh!" said Helen again. "You didn't wait until I joined the S. B's, then, to decide whether you would accept Heavy's invitation, or not?"
"Of course not!"
"How ridiculous!" cried Heavy.
"Well, it's to be a Sweetbriar frolic; isn't it, Heavy?" asked Helen, calmly.
"No. Madge and Bob Steele are going. And your brother Tom," chuckled the stout girl. "And perhaps that Isadore Phelps. You wouldn't call Busy Izzy a Sweetbriar; would you?"
"I don't mean the boys," returned Helen, with some coolness.
Suddenly Mercy Curtis, her head on one side and her thin little face twisted into a most knowing grimace, interrupted. "I know what this means!" she exclaimed.
"What do you mean, Goody Two-Sticks?' demanded Ruth, kindly.
"Our Helen has a grouch."
"Nonsense!" muttered Helen, flushing again.
"I thought something didn't fit her when she came in," said Heavy, calmly. "But I thought it was indigestion."
"What is the matter, Helen?" asked Ruth Fielding in wonder.
"'Fee, fi, fo fum! I see the negro run!'—into the woodpile!" ejaculated the lame girl, in her biting way. "I know what is the matter with Queen Helen of Troy. She's been with The Fox."
Ruth and Heavy stared at Mercy in surprise; but Helen turned her head aside.
"That's the answer!" chuckled the shrewd little creature. "I saw them walk off together after supper. And The Fox has been trying to make trouble—same as usual."
"Mary Cox! Why, that's impossible," said Heavy, good-naturedly. "She wouldn't say anything to make Helen feel bad."
Mercy darted an accusing fore-finger at Helen, and still kept her eyes screwed up. "I dare you to tell! I dare you to tell!" she cried in a sing-song voice.
Helen had to laugh at last.
"Well, Mary Cox said you had decided to have none but Sweetbriars at the cottage on the beach, Heavy."
"Lot she knows about it," grunted the stout girl.
"Why, Heavy asked her to go; didn't she?" cried Ruth.
"Well, that was last Winter. I didn't press her," admitted the stout girl.
"But she's your roommate, like Belle and Lluella," said Ruth, in some heat. "Of course you've got to ask her."
"Don't you do it. She's a spoil-sport," declared Mercy Curtis, in her sharp way. "The Fox will keep us all in hot water."
"Do be still, Mercy!" cried Ruth. "This is Heavy's own affair. And Mary Cox has been her roommate ever since she's been at Briarwood."
"I don't know that Belle and Lluella can go with us," said the stout girl, slowly. "The fright they got up in the woods last Winter scared their i mothers. I guess they think I'm too reckless. Sort of wild, you know," and the stout girl's smile broadened.
"But you intended inviting Mary Cox?" demanded Ruth, steadily.
"Yes. I said something about it to her. But she wouldn't give me a decided answer then."
"Ask her again."
"Don't you do it!" exclaimed Mercy, sharply,
"I mean it, Jennie," Ruth said.
"I can't please both of you," said the good-natured stout girl.
"Please me. Mercy doesn't mean what she says. If Mary Cox thinks that I am opposed to your having her at Lighthouse Point, I shall be offended if you do not immediately insist upon her being one of the party."
"And that'll suit The Fox right down to the ground," exclaimed Mercy. "That is what she was fishing for when she got at Helen to-night."
"Did I say she said anything about Lighthouse Point?" quickly responded Helen.
"You didn't have to," rejoined Mercy, sharply. "We knew."
"At least," Ruth said to Heavy, quietly, yet with decision, "you will ask your old friend to go?"
"Why—if you don't mind."
"There seems to have been some truth in Mary's supposition, then," Ruth said, sadly. "She thinks I intended to keep her out of a good time. I never thought of such a thing. If Mary Cox does not accept your invitation, Heavy, I shall be greatly disappointed. Indeed, I shall be tempted to decline to go to the shore with you. Now, remember that, Jennie Stone."
"Oh, shucks! you're making too much fuss about it," said the stout girl, rising lazily, and speaking in her usual drawling manner. "Of course I'll have her if she'll go. Father's bungalow is big enough, goodness knows. And we'll have lots of fun there."
She went her leisurely way to the door. Had she been brisker of movement, when she turned the knob she would have found Mary Cox with her ear at the keyhole, drinking in all that had been said in the room of the triumvirate. But The Fox was as swift of foot as she was shrewd and sly of mind. She was out of sight and hearing when Jennie Stone came out into the corridor.