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Title: The Camp Fire Girls' Larks and Pranks - or, The House of the Open Door
Author: Frey, Hildegard G. (Hildegard Gertrude), 1891-1957
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          The Camp Fire Girls’
                            Larks and Pranks


                       The House of the Open Door
                          By HILDEGARD G. FREY

                               AUTHOR OF
                       The Camp Fire Girls Series

                           A. L. BURT COMPANY
                     Publishers           New York



                                  THE
                         Camp Fire Girls Series

          A Series of Stories for Camp Fire Girls Endorsed by
           the Officials of the Camp Fire Girls Organization


                          By HILDEGARD G. FREY


  The Camp Fire Girls in the Maine Woods

  The Camp Fire Girls at School

  The Camp Fire Girls at Onoway House

  The Camp Fire Girls Go Motoring

  The Camp Fire Girls’ Larks and Pranks

  The Camp Fire Girls on Ellen’s Isle

  The Camp Fire Girls on the Open Road

  The Camp Fire Girls Do Their Bit

  The Camp Fire Girls Solve a Mystery

  The Camp Fire Girls at Camp Keewaydin


                            Copyright, 1917
                         By A. L. Burt Company


                 THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS’ LARKS AND PRANKS



                          THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS’
                            LARKS AND PRANKS



                               CHAPTER I
                       THE HOUSE OF THE OPEN DOOR


It was the crisp chill of an early October evening; in the still air the
dead leaves came rustling down with a soft sound like whispers, while the
crickets chirped a cheery welcome from the waiting earth. Over the
treetops a big yellow hunter’s moon was rising; its comical face grinning
good-naturedly. It looked down on the dark outlines of a large barn
standing in the shadow of a tall tree and the grin widened perceptibly.
Evidently something was happening on earth.

A dark form stole softly up the long drive leading to the barn and paused
before the door. Through the silence there rose the whistling wail of the
whippoorwill, repeated three times, and ending abruptly in the squall of
a catbird. From within the blackness of the barn came an echo of the
whippoorwill’s call, followed by a much more cheerful note—the carol of
the bluebird. Then a clear voice called from inside, “Who goes there?”

“A friend,” came the reply.

“Stand and give the countersign,” commanded the voice inside.

“Other Council Fires were here before,” responded the newcomer.

“Advance and give the Inner Password,” said the invisible sentinel.

The figure passed through the dark entrance and came to a halt just
inside, crying, “Kolah Olowan!”

“Mount!” commanded the voice above, and the stranger lost no time in
obeying the invitation. Scrambling up the ladder fastened to the wall
which did duty as a staircase, she thrust aside the curtain at the top
and stepped out into the lighted upper chamber.

Anyone seeing that dark and deserted looking building from the outside
would never guess how bright and cheerful was that upper room within. A
wood fire roared in a cobblestone fireplace, its gleam lighting up walls
hung with leather skins and gay Indian blankets and festooned with sprays
of bittersweet. Several more Indian blankets were spread out on the floor
in lieu of rugs, while from the rafters were suspended woven baskets and
pieces of pottery. Ranged around the sides of the chamber, where the
sloping roof met the floor, were four beds, all different, and only one
indicating that the dwellers in that secret lodge were civilized persons.
The first was a neat cot bed with blankets tucked in smoothly all around,
and a dust cover folded up at the foot; the second was an “Indian bed”
made of pine branches, dried ferns and sweet grasses, piled several feet
high and ingeniously confined by woven reeds and pliant twigs. The scent
of the sweet grasses, mingled with the aromatic odor of the pine, filled
the room with a dreamy fragrance that seemed like a charm to lure down
the Sleep Manitou. The third was a pile of bearskins and the fourth was
another kind of Indian bed, made of smooth round willow rods tied
together with ropes and laid across two poles fastened into the wall.

No windows were visible, as these had been covered with skins. Except for
the camp bed, the wide hearthstone and one other detail it might have
been the lodge of some Indian Chief of olden time. That other detail was
a green felt pennant stretched across the chimney above the stone shelf
of the fireplace, bearing in clean-cut English letters the word
WINNEBAGO. Most of our readers have probably guessed the truth before
this—the Indian lodge we have been describing is the meeting place of the
Winnebago Camp Fire Girls and the solitary visitor who uttered the
plaintive cry of the whippoorwill with its grotesque ending in a cat call
is none other than our old friend, Sahwah the Sunfish.

“O Nyoda, such larks!” cried Sahwah, skipping across the room and
bestowing a hasty embrace on the sentinel guarding the fire, whom the
reader has doubtless suspected of being Miss Kent, the Guardian of the
Winnebago group.

Nyoda laughingly shook herself free and smoothed out the Ceremonial dress
she held in her hand, which had become sadly crumpled during the process
of Sahwah’s bear hug. “What mischief are you into this time?” she asked
fondly, smiling down into Sahwah’s dancing eyes.

Sahwah went into a gale of giggles before she could explain. “You know
Gladys was going to drive all of us girls down in the Glow-worm
to-night,” she said, controlling her laughter with an effort, “and she
telephoned Hinpoha while I was there to dinner that she was over at Mrs.
Varden’s, the dressmaker’s, having a fit, and the Glow-worm was standing
out in front of the house, so we should gather up the other girls and get
into the car and wait for her to come out, to save her the time of going
around after the girls, for her fit threatened to be a lengthy one. So
Hinpoha started out after Medmangi and Nakwisi and I went back home after
these apples, which I’d forgotten to take along to Hinpoha’s. When I got
to the corner of the street along came Gladys in the Glow-worm and said
she had an errand to do for her mother in a hurry and we had better come
straight out here without her and she would come later. I hurried over to
Mrs. Varden’s house to tell the girls, but when I got nearly there I saw
a black car standing out in front and Hinpoha and Nakwisi and Medmangi
sitting in it as cool as cucumbers, thinking they were in the Glow-worm.
I recognized the car as belonging to that horribly bashful son of Mrs.
Varden’s, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to let the girls sit in it
until he came out. So I stole back up the street, keeping in the shadow
of the trees so the girls wouldn’t see me, and came out here. Oh, won’t
there be a situation though, when ‘Dolly’ Varden comes out and finds his
nice bachelor car full of bold, bad girls!”

The picture was too much for Sahwah, and she rolled on the bed shrieking
with laughter, in which Nyoda joined heartily. “I wonder how long it will
be before they come,” said Sahwah, rising from the bed and wiping her
eyes. “What shall we do to pass away the time?”

“If I were you,” advised Nyoda, “I would spend it searching a nice safe
retreat to which you can fly when they come and find out you didn’t tell
them.”

Hardly had she spoken the words when there floated up from below the
familiar cry of the whippoorwill, followed successively by the long,
eerie laugh of the loon, the blithe whistle of the quail and the song of
the robin. “There they are!” exclaimed Sahwah in mock terror. “Where
shall I hide? Oh, I have it, I’ll get inside of that pile of bearskins
and listen while they tell their tale of woe to you and then I’ll hop out
and laugh at them.” Quick as a flash she jumped into the bearskin bed and
pulled the skins over her so that she was entirely concealed.

With a great deal of chattering and giggling the three arrivals were
mounting the ladder. “Keep on going, Hinpoha!” exclaimed Nakwisi, “you’re
stepping on my hand.”

“Keep on going yourself,” retorted Hinpoha, “you haven’t a pie in your
hand.” Just at that moment her foot slipped and she clutched wildly at
the ladder for support.

“There goes the pie!” shrieked someone, as it described a circle in the
air and landed with a thud. Hinpoha wrung her hands in grief, for her
mouth was already watering for that crisp pastry.

Medmangi walked over to view the remains. “It isn’t hurt a mite,” she
said calmly, picking it up and dusting it off. “Fortunately it landed
right side up in the tin.”

“O Nyoda,” cried Hinpoha, beaming once more now that the feast of pie was
assured, “we had the most fun getting here! Gladys told us the Glow-worm
was standing out in front of the Varden’s house and we should get in and
wait for her, and we saw a car and got in. Pretty soon out came young Mr.
Varden, got into the front seat without looking to the right or left and
drove off. We thought of course he was driving Gladys’ car away and we
all three shrieked at him at once. He pretty nearly dropped dead when he
heard us, and stopped the car so suddenly we all flew out of the seat.
But he was perfectly grand about it when we found out our mistake. He
told us Gladys had gone home fifteen minutes before, but he would be
perfectly delighted to drive us where we wanted to go. And so he brought
us out,” she finished with a dramatic flourish, and sat down heavily on
top of the bearskin bed where Sahwah lay hidden. Immediately there was an
upheaval and a grotesque animal sprang from the bed, an animal which had
the skin of a bear and two red stockinged legs which capered wildly about
while their owner shrieked piercingly, “She sat on my breathing apparatus
and I won’t be able to talk for a week!”

“You _are_ talking, you goose,” said Hinpoha, calmly seating herself
again after poking the bed to see if it were further inhabited.

“You missed it, Sahwah, by going home,” she continued. “Too bad you
weren’t along to share the fun.”

Sahwah’s expression was funny to behold when she learned how the joke had
turned out, for it was not on the girls after all, but on herself, for
she had walked all the way to the lodge by herself. She looked rather
silly as she caught Nyoda’s eye, but while Nyoda twinkled mischievously
at her Sahwah knew that she would never give her away. But of course when
Gladys arrived a few minutes later and heard the story, Sahwah’s part in
it came out and she had to stand the gibes of the others because her joke
had turned round on herself, until Nyoda called the beginning of the
Ceremonial and peace was restored.

One name has been dropped from the Count Book of the Winnebagos since
last we heard the roll called, and to another there is no reply, although
it is always called. Early in the fall Chapa the Chipmunk moved to a
distant city, and so for the first time the close circle of the
Winnebagos was broken. Then shortly afterward Migwan went away to college
and her departure caused a fresh bereavement. Though Migwan had been of
such a very quiet nature, her influence had been widely felt, and the
girls missed her more and more as the days went on. Hinpoha, especially,
was almost inconsolable, for she and Migwan had always stood a little
closer together than the rest of the girls. This was the first Ceremonial
Meeting without the two and it seemed very strange indeed to omit Chapa’s
name from the roll, and when Migwan’s name was called and was followed by
silence, Hinpoha sniffed audibly and wiped her eyes.

“Sister, this is a very solemn occasion,” said Sahwah the irrepressible,
in such a forced tone of sorrow that it was impossible not to laugh at
her.

“That’s right,” said Nyoda. “It won’t do for us to pull long faces. We
have vowed to ‘be happy’ you know. Think how much worse off Chapa is
alone in a strange city. Come, be cheerful and tell what kind deeds you
have seen done today. You begin, Sahwah.”

Sahwah took hold of her toes with her hands and tilted back and forth on
the floor as she spoke. “Sally Jones did me a great service yesterday in
composition class. You know Sally Jones—the one they call the
Blunderbuss. Well, you know what a pig I am when it comes to writing
composition. I never wrote one yet that I didn’t get a blot on. Last week
when I handed mine in Miss Snively said that if there was a blot on my
paper this week she would mark me zero for the month. So yesterday when
we had to write one in class I took the utmost care and got it all done
spotlessly and was just signing my name when Anna Green behind me tried
to pick a thread off my collar and laid her fishy cold hand against my
neck. I jumped and wriggled and the result was a beautiful blot on my
composition. There wasn’t time to copy it over because it was almost the
end of the hour, so I resigned myself to a nice fat cipher on my report
card this month. Then Miss Snively sent Sally around to collect the
papers and when she came to my desk she leaned across it in such an
awkward way that she upset my inkwell all over my composition and my one
small blot was completely hidden by the deluge. Miss Snively graciously
requested me to do it over in rest hour, which I did, and handed it in in
perfect shape. Upsetting that inkwell was the kindest thing anybody ever
did for me.”

There was a moment of laughter at Sahwah’s tale of kindness and then
quiet fell on the group again. “Tell us a story, Nyoda,” begged Hinpoha,
breaking the silence, “we’re getting low in our minds again.”

“Yes, do,” begged the others.

Nyoda sat silent a moment staring thoughtfully into the fire. Her hands
were clasped around her knees and the light shone on the diamond ring
which now encircled the fourth finger of her left hand—the only thing
which made the girls realize that their amazing adventures of the first
week in September had been a reality and not a dream.

“In a village in eastern Hungary,” began Nyoda, “there lived a girl about
your age. Her father was a very wealthy man, and lived on a great estate.
Veronica—that was the girl’s name—was the only child, and had everything
that her heart desired. The thing she loved to do the best was ride
horse-back and she had a beautiful horse for her very own. She showed
great talent on the violin and had the best masters. Veronica grew to be
seventeen as happy as a girl could be, with an indulgent father and a
beautiful, sweet mother. Then a dreadful thing happened. War was declared
in the country and the village where they lived was taken by the enemy.
Her father was killed, their home was burned and her mother died.
Veronica, with the rest of the people in the village, ran away toward the
mountains when the village burned. But Veronica became separated from her
friends and fell, and could not get up again, for her leg was broken. She
lay there a long time, and gave herself up for lost, when she heard a
whinny beside her and there was her pet horse, who had been following her
all the way. She managed to swing herself up on his back and he galloped
away to the safety of the mountains. They found their way across the
border into another country where some kind people took care of the
orphan girl. The faithful horse fell after he had brought her to safety
and hurt himself so badly that he had to be shot. The people who took
care of Veronica sent her across the ocean to her aunt and uncle. So, sad
and lonesome, she came to this country to be an American.”

Here Nyoda paused for breath, and Hinpoha burst out quickly, “Oh, how I
wish this had happened in our time and that poor lonely girl had come to
this city and we had met her and made her happy. Wouldn’t we be kind to
her, though, if we had a chance?”

Nyoda proceeded quietly. “All this _has_ happened in your time, and this
lonesome girl _has_ come to our city, and you are going to have a chance
to be kind to her often.”

“Nyoda!” shrieked all the girls at once. “You mean she lives in our city,
and you actually know her?” “Where does she live?” “When will we see
her?” “What is her whole name?” “How old did you say she was?”

“Have mercy!” exclaimed Nyoda, putting her hands over her ears. “I can
only answer ten questions at once. Veronica’s uncle is Mr. Lehar, the
conductor of the Temple Theatre orchestra. I live next door to them, you
know, and am well acquainted with Mrs. Lehar. She told me about Veronica
some time ago and last week she went to New York to get her. I
immediately asked her to allow her niece to join the Winnebago group, if
you girls were willing to take her, that she might not be lonely here.
Will you take her in, girls?”

“We certainly will!” cried Gladys and Hinpoha in a breath, and Sahwah
sprang to her feet exclaiming vehemently, “Well, I guess so!”

“When is she coming?” they wanted to know next.

“I’ll bring her to the next meeting,” promised Nyoda, “and I want you
girls to—”

What it was she wanted them to do they never found out, for just at that
minute there was a terrific thump on the floor below followed by the
hurried clatter of heavy footsteps, then the scraping of feet on the
ladder, a great waving and billowing of the curtain at the top and then
it was wrenched aside, and into the Council Chamber there burst the
fattest boy they had ever seen. His great cheeks hung down over his
collar; his eyes were nearly buried. His face was purple from violent
exertion and he sat limply against the bearskin bed, panting heavily. The
girls stared open-mouthed at the intruder. Before they had recovered
sufficiently from their astonishment to utter a single word, the barn
below was filled with the noise of many footsteps and the shouting of
many voices, and the next minute the sacred Council Chamber of the
Winnebagos was filled to overflowing with boys.

At the sight of the lighted chamber and the girls in Indian costumes the
intruders stopped and stared in speechless surprise. Then with one accord
seven hats were snatched from as many heads and seven voices exclaimed as
one, “Beg pardon, we didn’t know anyone was here.”

It was so funny to hear them all saying the same thing at once that the
Winnebagos could not help laughing aloud. The confusion of the boys was
so painful that the girls actually felt sorry for them.

“There are only _seven_ of you,” said Sahwah, as usual breaking the
silence first. “I thought at first there were _hundreds_.”

Here one of the boys found his voice to speak. He was a tall boy with
curly brown hair and nice eyes, and his face was suffused with blushes of
embarrassment. “Sorry to disturb you girls,” he said soberly, but with a
twinkle in his eye. “We were chasing _him_”—and he pointed to the fat boy
still puffing away for dear life on the floor—“and we couldn’t see any
light from the outside and we didn’t know anybody was up here and when
Slim ran in we just followed him. We’ll go right away again, and let you
go on with your meeting.”

Nyoda looked from one face to the other—nice refined boys they were, she
decided, and it would do no hurt to show them courtesy. “You needn’t be
in such a great hurry to go,” she said cordially. “You may at least stay
until you have recovered your breath.” And she looked quizzically at the
fat boy leaning against the bearskins who did not seem ever to be going
to breathe again.

He tried to show his appreciation of her hospitality by getting up and
making a bow, which threw him into such an advanced stage of
breathlessness that he sank down again directly and had to be fanned.
This caused another general laugh and the boys and girls rubbed elbows so
closely trying to revive him that all feeling of embarrassment vanished
and it suddenly seemed as if they were old friends, in spite of the fact
that none of them knew the others’ names. Nyoda came to herself with a
start.

“Excuse us, boys,” she said, “for not introducing ourselves. I am Miss
Kent, Guardian of the Winnebago Camp Fire Girls, and these are the
Winnebagos,” and she named them in order. “We were having a rather
doleful time when you arrived. You broke up the spell of gloom and we are
deeply grateful.”

The tall boy spoke again, this time smiling broadly. “We’re the ones who
ought to apologize for not introducing ourselves,” he said in a pleasant
voice, “since we have caused so much disturbance. We’re the Sandwich
Club,” he continued, including all the boys in a sweeping gesture of his
hand. “We go to Carnegie Mechanic. That’s Slim over there,” he said,
pointing to the fat one, while all the girls laughed. “His real name’s
Lewis Carlton, but it’s so long since anyone has called him that that
he’s forgotten what it is himself. We chase him all over the country to
reduce him, but sometimes he gives us the slip and hides and it takes us
so long to find him that in the meantime he gains more than he lost while
we were chasing him.”

The girls fairly shouted at this and Slim doubled up a cushion-like fist
and declared in a choking voice that if the fellows didn’t leave him in
peace he’d sit down on them some day and that would be the end of them.
The tall boy who was doing the introducing smiled sweetly at Slim and
went on with the introductions.

“This one,” he said, indicating an extremely thin, hungry-looking,
gaunt-featured lad with sombre brown eyes and a grave mouth, “is Bill
Pitt. ‘Bottomless Pitt,’ we call him, because it’s impossible to fill him
up. You girls have heard of the Sheep Eaters?” he asked suddenly, looking
from one to the other.

“Yes,” chorused the Winnebagos, not wishing to appear ignorant, but not
sure whether the Sheep Eaters were beasts of prey or persons overfond of
mutton.

“Well,” continued the spokesman, pointing to the “Bottomless Pitt,” “he’s
a Pie Eater, he is. He eats ’em whole.”

Hinpoha’s glance strayed nervously to the shelf where the apple pie stood
awaiting the end of the Ceremonial Meeting. The tall boy’s eyes followed
here and his teeth showed in a wide smile, as he seemed to read her
thoughts. Hinpoha blushed fiery red and dropped her eyes. But he looked
away again immediately and did not increase her embarrassment.

“This,” he said, drawing forward a spidery little fellow with red hair
and freckles all over his face, “is Munson K. McKee, called for short,
Monkey, and those,” indicating the other three, “are Dan Porter, Peter
Jenkins and Harry Raymond. We seven boys have always gone together, so we
decided to form a club, and we all like sandwiches so well that we named
ourselves the Sandwich Club. There, now you know all about us.”

“But you haven’t told us _your_ name,” said the Winnebagos, who were
beginning to like the spokesman very much, and were anxiously waiting to
hear him introduce himself.

“Haven’t I?” he asked. “That’s right, I haven’t. My name,” he said
solemnly, but with that suggestion of a twinkle in his eye again, “is
Cicero St. John—and the fellows _don’t_ call me Cissy for short.” Here
the corners of his mouth twitched as at some humorous memory.

“You bet they don’t call him Cissy!” put in the Bottomless Pitt.

Hinpoha’s eyes met Gladys’ in comical dismay. How could anyone in their
right senses name a boy—an American boy—Cicero! The St. John part sounded
very fine, but that awful Cicero!

“How do you keep them from calling you—Cissy?” ventured Sahwah.

“He licked the tar out of them!” spoke up the Monkey. “And he dumped one
fellow overboard out in the lake when he tried it. Everybody calls him
‘Cap’ now, because he’s captain of the football team.”

“Indeed,” murmured the Winnebagos, looking at Cicero St. John with fresh
interest and great respect, for all the world loves a football player.

And then the boys wanted to know all about the Winnebagos, and thought
their symbolic names and “queer duds” even funnier than the girls had
considered theirs. But they all voiced their unqualified approval of the
Camp Fire Girls when they heard that the Ceremonial Meeting was to be
topped off with a feast of apple pie, doughnuts and cider, and did not
need to be asked more than once to stay, and share the feast.

“Say, this is a peach of a meeting place,” said the Captain with his
mouth full. “How did you happen to get it, and whoever thought of putting
a fireplace upstairs in a barn?”

“We got it as the result of a sort of wager,” explained Hinpoha. “Gladys’
father promised that if we could go on an automobile trip all by
ourselves without once telegraphing to him for aid he would build us a
Lodge to hold our meetings in, and we did and so he did.”

“‘So _they_ did, and _he_ did, and the bears did,’” quoted Nyoda
teasingly.

Hinpoha laughed and went on. “He owned this empty barn out here in the
field and he turned it over to us. But we just had to have a fireplace or
it wouldn’t have been a regular Camp Fire Lodge, so he built this
splendid chimney. We have named the Lodge ‘The House of the Open Door,’
or the ‘Open Door Lodge,’ to signify hospitality. Mr. Evans wanted to
build a fine stairway, too, but we wouldn’t have it. It’s lots more fun
to climb the ladder.”

“Why don’t you use the ground floor?” asked Slim, who could never see the
sense of exerting one’s self needlessly.

“It’s much cosier up here,” replied Hinpoha. “We have these adorable
peaks and gables to hang things on. Besides, we wanted to leave the big
floor downstairs clear for dancing.”

“Dancing? Do you dance?” cried the boys, pricking up their ears.

“We surely do,” replied the girls. “Would you like to come down and try?”

Down the ladder they went in a hurry, Slim being pushed from above and
pulled from below, and landing on the floor in his usual breathless
state. A few lanterns were hung around the walls and the big door opened
wide to let in the bright rays of the full moon and the place was nearly
as light as day. Nyoda played her banjo and the twelve pairs of feet
shuffled merrily to the lively strains. As there were only five girls,
Slim and Peter Jenkins were left without partners and consoled themselves
by dancing together. Peter came just to Slim’s shoulder and weighed
ninety-five pounds against Slim’s two hundred and thirty, and the result
was so ludicrous that the rest could hardly dance for laughing. It was
like a monkey dancing with an elephant. Slim took mincing little steps
and looked down at his partner with a simpering, languishing expression,
while Peter strained heroically to encircle his fair one’s waist with his
arm. Rocking back and forth in exaggerated rhythm, Slim tripped over a
board and fell with a great crash, pinning his gallant partner under him.
The rest flew to the rescue and propped Peter up against the wall,
fanning him vigorously.

“He’ll recover,” pronounced the Captain, after a thorough going over of
his bones, “but he’ll never be the same again.”

“All is over between us,” said Slim, wringing his hands in mock despair.
“Miss Kent, won’t _you_ dance with me?”

“It’s time we were going home,” said Nyoda calmly. “Come, girls.”

“Go home!” echoed the Captain. “I thought you lived here.”

“But how about all the beds upstairs?” asked the Captain.

“Oh,” explained Nyoda, “we all constructed different kinds of beds to win
honors, and left them there in case we might want to stay some time.”

“It’s a pretty fine clubhouse, I’ll say,” remarked the Bottomless Pitt in
a tone of envy. “I wish we Sandwiches had one like it. We have no place
to call our own.”

Hinpoha’s thoughts leaped to the Fire Song, the words of which hung
beside the fireplace up above:

  “_Whose house is bare and dark and cold,_
  _Whose house is cold,_
  _This is his own._”

She spoke impulsively. “Oh, Nyoda, couldn’t we let them use the ground
floor to hold their meeting in?”

A cheer burst from the seven boys’ lips. “Hooray! May we, Miss Kent?”

Nyoda was silent and looked at the boys with a troubled expression, and
her glance as it rested on Hinpoha held a reproof. There was an awkward
silence. Then the Captain spoke up.

“I understand what you mean, Miss Kent,” he said simply and
straightforwardly. “You don’t know anything about us and of course you
wouldn’t want to share your club house with us on such short
acquaintance. We wouldn’t think much of you if you did. It was all right
of course for you to ask us to stay and dance with the girls this one
evening when you were here with us, but that doesn’t mean that you’re
willing to adopt us. But we like you girls first rate, and want to know
you better if you will let us. You can go to any of the teachers at
Carnegie Mechanic and find out all you want to know about us. Pitt’s
father is Math teacher there and my father is Dr. Cicero St. John. It was
simply great of you to offer to let us come here and hold our meetings,
and if you’ll still keep the offer open after you have investigated us to
your satisfaction we’ll be mighty grateful and will promise not to bother
you upstairs.”

The boy’s face was so open and manly that it was impossible not to
believe in him then and there. Nyoda smiled into his earnest face. “All
right, Captain,” she said, “we’ll agree to put you on probation, and if
you stand the test we’ll consider the matter of sharing the Open Door
Lodge.”

The Captain smiled back at her and held out his hand. “You’re a peach and
I like you,” he said emphatically, and the two were sworn friends from
that moment on.



                               CHAPTER II
                                VERONICA


At four o’clock one afternoon some few days later Hinpoha and Sahwah,
breathless from hurrying, ran up the steps of the house where Nyoda lived
and rang the bell. The other Winnebagos were already assembled when they
entered, and Nyoda was not there.

“Where’s Nyoda?” demanded Sahwah.

“Sh, she’s gone over to get—_her_,” answered Gladys, smoothing out the
folds of her pretty new pleated dress with one hand and tucking in a
stray lock with the other.

“What did you say ‘sh’ for?” demanded Sahwah curiously. “There’s no one
sleeping, is there?”

“I don’t know why I said it,” answered Gladys, rumpling up the hair she
had just tidied, “I’m so excited about meeting Veronica that I don’t know
what I’m doing. I just can’t sit still.” And she jumped up from her chair
and began to pace nervously up and down the room.

“Doesn’t it remind you of the time we stood on the dock at Loon Lake and
waited for Gladys to make her first appearance?” said Hinpoha to Sahwah.
“Don’t you remember how we wondered what she would be like and you and
Migwah nearly fought over whose affinity she was going to be?”

“Did you really, girls?” said Gladys, pausing in her walk. “And was I as
nice as you hoped I’d be?”

Footsteps on the porch saved Hinpoha from having to reply and Gladys
hurried to her chair and seated herself properly. A moment later Nyoda
entered the room with a young girl beside her whom she led into the
center of the group.

“Girls,” she said, with one hand on the stranger’s shoulder, “this is our
new member, Veronica Lehar.”

All eyes centered on the newcomer. She was a small, slender girl with
short curly black hair, olive complexion, bright red lips and a straight,
finely modeled nose. She wore a dark red velvet dress which suited her
complexion wonderfully, and fell in soft folds about her lithe form. She
was as straight as an arrow and as graceful as a deer. From the crown of
her finely poised head to her little fur-topped boots she was an
aristocrat. The simple Winnebagos were abashed before her. Never had they
met such a high-born little lady. There was an air about her which they
could never acquire if they lived a hundred years. They felt like
peasants in the presence of a queen. But they forgot her aristocratic air
when they looked into her eyes. Large and dark and velvety as a pansy,
but so sad it almost broke your heart to look into them. All the sympathy
which the girls had worked up for her since hearing her story came back
in a rush and they surrounded her with cordial greetings and expressions
of welcome. Veronica held her violin, which she had brought over with
her, under one arm while she shook hands politely with all the girls. She
answered all their pretty speeches in a friendly manner, but she never
once smiled, and her eyes had a look as if her thoughts were not there in
the room at all, but back in the far country across the ocean. Although
she had an accent she spoke a beautiful English, in fact, she used far
better language than the majority of American schoolgirls, and more than
once the girls felt embarrassed when they had forgotten themselves so far
as to utter a slang phrase.

Conversation soon languished, for Veronica did not seem inclined to talk,
so Nyoda started the girls singing camp songs to amuse her, and led the
talk around to the Winnebagos’ doings which she was now to take part in.
Of course the new lodge was the main topic of conversation with the
Winnebagos and they waxed so enthusiastic over its splendors that
Veronica exclaimed with some show of warmth, “Oh, I must see it soon!”
Then she added, “Tell me what I must do to become a Camp Fire Girl like
yourselves.”

“You must have a symbolic name,” answered Gladys eagerly, anxious to be
the one to explain things to Veronica, “and a Ceremonial dress, and learn
the songs, and know the Camp Fire Girls’ Desire, and the Winnebago
passwords and oh, lots of delightful things.”

“What are they, the Winnebago passwords, and what are they for?” asked
Veronica.

“Well,” answered Gladys, “you know what a password is, don’t you? Well,
we have passwords to admit us into the Lodge on Ceremonial night. But
before I tell you about the passwords I must tell you about the signal
calls, for they come first in order. You see, the general signal of the
Winnebagos is the call of the whippoorwill, like this”—and she
illustrated her words with a clear call. “You repeat that three times and
at the end of it you must give your own individual bird call. We all have
different ones. Mine is the robin, like this. Nyoda’s is the bluebird;
Hinpoha’s the loon; Medmangi’s is the owl; Nakwisi’s the meadowlark and
Sahwah’s the catbird.”

“Whatever made you take such a hideous screech for your call, Sahwah?”
interrupted Hinpoha. “There are lots of nicer bird calls than that of the
catbird.”

“I don’t care, I wanted the catbird,” returned Sahwah. “It suits my
individuality, as my dear friend, Miss Snively, would say. I am the ‘cat
that walks by himself and all places are alike to me!’”

“Be a catbird as much as you like,” said Gladys pacifically, “as long as
you don’t eat us poor bird-birds. But to go back to the passwords. You
see, Nyoda is Guardian of the Fire, and she always goes up to the Lodge
room first on Ceremonial night. If any of us get there ahead of her we
have to stay out until she comes. Then we announce our coming by giving
the call of the whippoorwill and she knows one of the Winnebagos is
below; and she knows which one it is by the individual bird call. So she
calls out ‘Who goes there?’ and we answer ‘A friend.’ When she says,
‘Stand and give the countersign,’ we have to say, ‘Other Council Fires
were here before.’”

“What does that mean, ‘Other Council Fires were here before?’” asked
Veronica.

The girls looked at one another. “What does it mean?” asked Gladys.

“I don’t know,” said Sahwah.

“I don’t know,” said Hinpoha.

“You insisted on our having it, Sahwah,” said Gladys. “Why did you choose
it if you didn’t know what it meant?”

“Oh,” explained Sahwah lightly, “I saw it written over the door of one of
the historical buildings at the Exposition, and it sounded as if it might
mean something grand, so I chose it. You girls were all delighted with
it, so that’s proof it’s a good catch-word.”

“It is a good countersign,” said Nyoda, “although I confess I can’t tell
wherein the charm lies.”

“Well, to proceed,” said Gladys, “after you have given the countersign
you will be asked to give the Inner Pass Word, and then you must say
‘Kolah Olowan.’ That means ‘Song Friend.’ You know we pride ourselves on
being a singing group, that is, we have a great many songs that we sing
together, and I think our dearest friends are those we sing with. So we
Winnebagos call each other ‘Song Friends,’ or friends bound together by
the power of our familiar songs. That’s why we chose bird notes for our
personal symbols. The birds are the original Song Friends. What bird are
you going to choose for your own, Veronica?”

Veronica’s sad eyes stared thoughtfully into the fire for a moment. Then
they filled with a smouldering light. “I shall be the gull that flies
over the sea,” she said in a low voice, “because some day I am going to
fly over the sea to my dear home.”

“We were all nearly ready to cry when she said that,” wrote Gladys to
Migwan, “only Nyoda popped up then and asked Hinpoha and Sahwah to sing
‘The Owl and the Pussycat,’ and they climbed on the sofa for the
beautiful pea-green boat—you know what a beautiful pea-green it is—and
for a small guitar Nyoda gave Sahwah a little pasteboard fiddle that
produced three notes when you turned a crank, and the whole thing was so
ridiculous that we laughed until our sides ached.”

After the Owl and the Pussycat had sung themselves over the back of the
sofa and down on the floor with a thump Nyoda made tea in her new
electric teapot and passed platefuls of thin sandwiches, and Sahwah upset
her cup into her lap demonstrating how perfectly she could balance it on
her knee and had to stand before the fire to dry her skirt.

“You brought your violin along; won’t you play for us?” asked Nyoda of
Veronica when the excitement over Sahwah’s mishap had subsided.

In graceful compliance with Nyoda’s request, and without waiting to be
urged, Veronica took her violin from its case, settled it under her chin
with a movement that was a caress, and drew the bow across the strings.
With the first note teacups and sandwiches were forgotten and the girls
sat in a spellbound circle, while Sahwah stopped mopping her skirt with
her handkerchief and the wet spot dried and scorched unheeded. Such a
witching melody as rose from the strings—now light as a fairy dancing on
a bubble, now hurrying like the brook over its pebbles, now sighing like
the wind in a rose tree, now slow and stately like the curtseying of a
grande dame in the movements of a court dance. When it came to an end the
girls sat breathless, too dazed to applaud.

“Play some more!” begged Gladys in a whisper. It seemed like a
desecration to talk.

Veronica played on, now fast, now slow, now sad and now gay, and finally
whirled into a wild gypsy dance that set the blood tingling in her
hearers’ veins as the swift measures followed on each other’s heels,
until they could see in their mind’s eye the leaping figures of the
dancers in their bright costumes. Faster, faster, flashed the bow on the
magic strings and Veronica’s whole soul was in her eyes as she played the
familiar strains of her homeland. Her lips parted in a flashing smile and
one foot tapped the carpet in time to the music.

Suddenly a string snapped with a discordant crash. Veronica came to
herself with a start. The light left her eyes and she stood staring into
the fire with a sad, bitter expression.



                              CHAPTER III
                           AN UNINVITED GUEST


Rain fell in torrents on the roof of the hospitable House of the Open
Door, and the wind howled dismally around its friendly gables. Inside the
“lofty loft” of the Winnebagos the fire shone brightly on the hearth and
the rafters rang with merriment. Sahwah had a new hobby, and was riding
it to death. This was a Hawaiian guitar, known as a “ukelele,” from which
she was producing a series of hair-raising noises.

“Sounds like a cat in its last agony,” remarked Hinpoha.

“Well, that just suits me,” replied Sahwah, undisturbed, drawing a long
shivering wail from the strings. “I am the cat that walks by himself——”

“And all racket is alike to you,” finished Hinpoha. “Who’s getting supper
tonight, Nyoda? I’m nearly starving.”

“I appointed Gladys and Veronica,” answered Nyoda. “The combination of
blonde and brunette ought to produce something pretty good.”

Gladys promptly laid down the bit of leather in which she was cutting a
pattern and moved toward the “kitchen end” of the Lodge. “Come on,
Veronica,” she said, “let’s make a carload of scones for these hungry
wolves.”

Veronica looked up at her without moving. On her face was an expression
of surprise; almost amazement. “What, _I_ cook?” she asked scornfully.
“That is for servants to do!”

Then it was the Winnebagos’ turn to look amazed. Sahwah dropped her
instrument on the floor with a clatter, and the rest sat silent, not
knowing what to say to Veronica. Nyoda bridged over the embarrassing
situation as best she could. “I’ll be cook tonight,” she said quietly. As
she moved about helping Gladys she thought and thought how this new
problem must be met. “It’s the fault of her training,” she told herself,
“and she really isn’t a snob at heart. She’ll be all right when she has
been with the girls awhile and watched them. It won’t do to insist on her
doing the things she considers beneath her. She must be made to want to
do them first. But we’ll make a real Winnebago of her in time!” And her
eyes strayed thoughtfully over to the corner of the hearth where Veronica
sat, a little apart from the rest, her brooding eyes on the fire, her
sensitive lip twisting into involuntary shivers of disgust when Sahwah
produced a particularly ear-splitting yowl.

“Hear and attend and listen, everybody,” said Nyoda when the buttered
scones had been reduced to crumbs. “I have been doing some important
research work lately and am now ready to present the result of my
investigations.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Hinpoha curiously.

“Two weeks ago tonight,” continued Nyoda, “our meeting was broken up by a
band of young braves bearing the appetizing title of ‘The Sandwich Club,’
who implored us to let them come and play with us in our Lodge and be
lodgers—kindly overlook the pun; it was quite unintentional—providing we
weighed them in the balance and found them not wanting.”

“Is there any scale on which ‘Slim’ would be found wanting?” giggled
Sahwah,

“I have spent the last two weeks obtaining information,” resumed Nyoda,
“which I am happy to report is of a highly satisfactory nature. So, all
things considered, and in spite of the informality of the request, I
humbly recommend that the aforesaid braves be allowed to lodge in the
bottom half of our Lodge at any and all times they may so desire. I might
add that I have already obtained the consent of our Bountiful Benefactor,
Gladys’ papa. All in favor of letting in the Sandwich Club say ‘Aye.’”

There was a perfect shout of “Ayes,” followed by a ringing cheer.

“When are they going to take possession?” Sahwah wanted to know.

“I’m to tell them tomorrow what your decision was,” replied Nyoda. “It
being Saturday, I suppose they will be down in a body to fix up according
to their own ideas.”

“What will the interior of a Sandwich Club look like, I wonder?” said
Gladys.

“Hark, what was that noise?” asked Nyoda abruptly. The girls listened
intently. From the lower floor of the barn there came a thumping noise,
followed by a subdued crash.

“Somebody’s in the barn,” said Hinpoha in a frightened whisper.

The sound came again, thump, thump, and a noise as of a box being shoved
aside. “It’s a burglar!” said Sahwah, and Nakwisi gave a frightened
squeak which Sahwah stifled with a sofa cushion.

“There’s nothing in here to steal,” said Nyoda. “Perhaps it’s a tramp.”
Again came the noise from below. Leaving the curtain drawn over the
opening, Nyoda went to the top of the ladder and called down, “Who’s
there?” There was no answer but another thump. “We have a gun,” said
Nyoda coolly, taking Sahwah’s little rifle down from the wall, “and if
you put one foot on the ladder I’ll shoot.” Still no answer.

“I’m going down to investigate,” said Nyoda. “This is growing uncanny.”

“Don’t go down,” begged the girls, clinging to her, “something dreadful
will happen to you.”

“If you go I’m going with you,” declared Sahwah when Nyoda appeared
determined to rush into the jaws of danger. Nyoda threw aside the curtain
and flashed her bug light on the floor below. Nothing was visible within
the radius of the light, but over in the far corner where the old horse
stall was something was moving and thumping about and a sound like a
groan came from the darkness.

“Somebody’s hurt,” said Nyoda, hastening down the ladder. “Bring a
lantern with you, Sahwah.”

Together they moved toward the corner while the girls above crowded
around the opening and watched in breathless suspense. The light revealed
a small donkey lying on the floor of the stall. He was kicking out with
his hind feet against the partition wall and it was this sound that had
frightened the girls above. At Sahwah’s shout the others came hurrying
down to behold the find. The donkey made no effort to rise and looked at
the faces around him with an imploring look in his eyes as if to say,
“Help me, I’m in trouble.”

“What’s the matter, old chap?” asked Nyoda, kneeling down beside him. The
donkey answered with a distressed bray that was more like a groan and
pawed the air with his front feet, which seemed to be fastened together
in some manner. Nyoda turned the lantern around so the light fell
directly on him and then they saw what the matter was. A length of barbed
wire had become tangled around his front legs, binding them together, and
his frantic efforts to get it off had resulted in its becoming deeply
imbedded in the flesh, lacerating it badly. The girls shuddered when they
saw it and drew back.

“This won’t do, girls,” said Nyoda firmly; “we’ve got to get that wire
off the poor animal’s leg. Medmangi, have you the nerve to do it? I’m
afraid I can’t.”

“His hind legs would have to be tied together first, so he can’t kick,”
said Medmangi. The girls looked at each other and all drew back. All but
Veronica. She came forward quietly and took the rope which the others
were afraid to use and skilfully slipped a noose over the tiny heels and
fastened them down to a ring in the floor.

“I have done it before, when a horse was sick,” she explained in response
to the girls’ expressions of amazement at the neat performance. The
girls’ liking for her, which had suffered a sudden chill at the cooking
episode, warmed again, and they were inclined to overlook that now that
she had stepped so neatly into the breach when they were helpless.

Then Medmangi, the Medicine Man Girl who was going to be a doctor, and
had no horror of surgery, bent calmly to her task while the others held
the lantern for her. Quickly and skilfully she worked, removing the cruel
points as gently as possible. Then she washed the wounds with an
antiseptic solution from the First Aid Cabinet upstairs and bound them up
with clean bandages. Then Veronica took the rope from the donkey’s hind
legs and he struggled to his feet, plainly delighted to find his front
legs in working order again in spite of the pain. He looked at the girls
with a dog-like devotion in his intelligent eyes and when Medmangi patted
him soothingly he laid his head on her shoulder affectionately. “My first
lover—a donkey!” she said laughingly.

“Poor little mule,” said Hinpoha, stroking him from the other side. “He
knew the right place to come to all right. ‘Whose house is bare and dark
and cold, whose house is cold, this is his own,’” she quoted
dramatically. “We certainly have succeeded in creating the right
atmosphere of hospitality if even a lonely donkey can feel it and come
straight to our ‘Open Portals!’”

“Now that he has come,” said Nyoda, rather puzzled, “the question is what
to do with him. If he goes wandering off again he’ll have those bandages
off in no time—he probably will anyhow—and his legs will get so sore he
will have to be shot. He undoubtedly belongs to somebody—very likely some
children’s pet—and I think we had better keep him right here in the barn
until we find the owner. The boys will have to postpone their taking
possession in favor of the other donkey if his presence interferes with
their activities.” Here the “other donkey” leaned against the wall in
such a pathetic attitude, as if his weight were too much for his sore
legs, that if they had had any intentions of turning him out into the
rain they would have speedily relented.

“It’s a good thing this old stall is still here,” said Gladys. “There
isn’t any straw, but there is a box of excelsior and we can spread that
out and cover it with a blanket and make him a soft bed. We can give him
water tonight and bring food in the morning.”

“And I’ll telephone the Sandwiches about him,” said Nyoda, “so if they
are coming over tomorrow they won’t turn him out.”

But that telephone message was unnecessary, for at that moment a number
of dark figures appeared in the doorway and after a moment of hesitation,
entered.

“Why, here are the Sandwiches,” exclaimed Nyoda cordially, advancing with
extended hand. “We were just talking about you. Speaking of angels—you
know the rest.”

“We were just going by,” said the Captain (it was likely that they were
“just going by” that out of the way place in the rain!) “and saw your
light now you’ve left the windows uncovered, and thought we’d just step
in and inquire our fate. We just couldn’t wait until tomorrow,” he
finished in a boyish outburst. “Is it going to be the Open Door for us?”

“Bless you, yes,” said Nyoda, smiling reassuringly at this manly lad who
was already her favorite, “there wasn’t a dissenting vote in the jury
box. We——” but the remainder of her sentence was drowned in an
ear-splitting cheer that was decidedly less musical than the Winnebago
cheers, but none the less hearty.

“Pedigrees satisfactory, and all that?” inquired the Captain.

“Perfect,” answered Nyoda with twinkling eyes. “I’ve dug up more facts
about you than you know yourselves. So,” she added demurely, “if you’re
still minded to ‘know us better,’ as you flatteringly remarked on the
occasion of our first meeting, why, we’re perfectly willing to be known.

“But you can’t take immediate possession of your club room because we’ve
rented it temporarily to another don—another fellow,” she said
mischievously, turning the light of the lantern away from the stall where
the donkey was. The boys’ eager faces fell a trifle.

“Of course,” they answered politely, “that’s your privilege.”

“He’s a very nice chap,” pursued Nyoda, with a warning glance at the
girls behind her, who were stuffing their handkerchiefs into their mouths
in an effort not to laugh.

“Yes,” assented the boys without enthusiasm.

“Is it anyone we know?” asked the Captain politely, trying to make
conversation after a moment of silence.

“Maybe you do know him,” answered Nyoda. “He’s here tonight. Would you
like to meet him?”

She led the way to the stall and turned the light on the donkey. There
was a moment of surprised silence, followed by a perfect explosion of
laughter. “Where’d you get the donkey with the trousers on?” squeaked
Slim in his high thin voice. In the dim light of the lantern the bandages
on the donkey’s front legs looked like a pair of trousers. Then the
girls, after their laugh was out, explained about the visitor who had
come to them from out of the vast, and the Sandwiches declared that they
did not in the least mind sharing their club room with a needy donkey,
and offered to relieve the girls of the entire care of him, besides
trying to find the owner.

They were as good as their word about taking care of him, but the weeks
slipped by and no amount of advertising produced anything in the shape of
an owner.

“We’ll have to adopt him,” the Winnebagos decided. “A Camp Fire Donkey
sounds thrilling to me,” said Sahwah. “Think of all the fun we’ll have
with him. As long as the boys don’t mind, we can keep him right here in
the stall.”

“What shall we name him?” asked Gladys.

“Call him ‘Wohelo,’” advised Hinpoha. “It was the spirit of Wohelo that
led him to us. From now on he’ll be a symbolic donkey.”

“But where do we come in on this?” inquired the Captain. “We take care of
him and he lives in our house.”

“That’s right,” said Hinpoha. “Then let’s call him ‘Sandwich-Wohelo,’
contracted to ‘Sandhelo.’” And “Sandhelo” he was until the end of the
chapter. His sore legs became very stiff until they were healed and he
hobbled painfully when he walked at all, which was very seldom. But the
scratches healed at last and the day came when Medmangi took off the
bandages for good, and led him around the barn for exercise.

Then an amazing thing happened. Sahwah was upstairs in the Lodge, amusing
herself with a mouth organ she had just discovered in the depths of her
bed. But she had no sooner blown half a dozen notes when Sandhelo jerked
up his head, pulling the bridle out of Medmangi’s hands, and rose up on
his hind legs. Then he walked on his hind legs over to a box, climbed up
on it and sat there with his feet in the air, like a dog sitting up.
Medmangi screamed and brought the Winnebagos flying from all directions,
to behold the marvel in open-mouthed astonishment.

“He’s a trick mule!” shouted Sahwah, tumbling down the ladder in her
excitement and never stopping to pick herself up. “Now I know where he
came from. He was with that dog and pony show that was in town a few
weeks ago. He must have strayed from the show and got left behind. Hats
off to the newest member of the Winnebago group! We certainly do have a
way of attracting all the best talent in town to our ranks!”



                               CHAPTER IV
                           A SANDEBAGO CIRCUS


Just how it started nobody ever knew—it may have been Sandhelo’s turning
out to be a trick mule, or it may have been because Slim was fat and
would make such a beautiful clown, besides being fine for a sideshow—but
before they knew it the Winnebagos and the Sandwich Club were hard at
work getting up a circus. The Sandwiches had taken possession of their
half of the Open Door Lodge and had converted it into a gymnasium. They
had built it on purpose to reduce Slim, they carefully explained to their
friends, and regularly put him through a course of exercises strenuous
enough to reduce a hippopotamus to an antelope in three weeks, but at the
end of that time he had gained just five pounds, so the Sandwiches
declared their efforts to be love’s labor lost and left him in peace.

Sandhelo was becoming a well-known and conspicuous figure in the streets.
Hitched to an old pony cart of Gladys’, with bells jingling around his
neck and ribbons flying from his harness, he never failed to attract a
crowd of children. He had all the vagaries of the artistic temperament,
some of which caused his drivers no little inconvenience. For one thing,
he would not go at all unless he heard music, and it was no small
accomplishment to drive with one hand and play a mouth organ with the
other if you happened to be alone in the cart. And then, if he happened
to pass anything unusual in the street he had a way of sitting back on
his haunches and holding up his front feet and looking at them. As he
invariably sat down unexpectedly, the cart would go on and bump into him
and the shock would throw the driver from her seat, besides making a
great mess of the harness. Several times he had done this in the middle
of a busy crossing and held up traffic in both directions, while motormen
fumed and policemen threatened, and Sahwah (it usually was Sahwah,
because she drove him more than the others) played her sweetest on the
mouth organ in an effort to make him go on. Nothing would make him move
until his curiosity was satisfied and then he would dash off like an
arrow from the bow for half a block, after which he would slow down and
look over his shoulder to see how his driver was getting on. There was
always such a look of anxious solicitude in his eye on these occasions
that it was impossible to be angry with him and he continued to exercise
his temperament without reproof.

After half a dozen of these free shows Sahwah declared that such an
ability to draw a crowd was worth money, and they had better give a real
show and charge admissions.

The big space in front of the Open Door Lodge was an ideal place for the
ring. Seating arrangements for the audience gave them some anxiety at
first.

“We ought to have a grand stand,” said the Captain, who had been chosen
Ringmaster.

“Well, we can’t build one,” said the Bottomless Pit. “The audience will
have to stand through the performance, and that’ll be a grand stand, all
right.”

“Innovation in circuses,” said Nyoda. “Have the audience stand and the
circus sit down. Like the picture of the bride standing while the groom
sprawls at ease in the photographer’s gilt chair.”

“I think I can get a lot of chairs from a man who rents them out,” said
the Captain. “He lets people have them for nothing if it’s a charitable
enterprise.”

“Do you call a circus a charitable enterprise?” asked Nyoda.

“Well, ours will be,” said the Captain. “We’re doing it to make money so
we can buy the new apparatus for the gym, which will surely make Slim
thin, and that surely is charity.”

Upstairs in the Lodge the six Winnebagos were all seated on the bearskin
bed having a lively argument as to who should drive Slim in the Chair-iot
Race. The Chair-iot Race was a grand inspiration of Sahwah’s, who was
keen on features in the circus line. Once, on a rummage, through Gladys’
attic, they had found six horsehair covered chairs furnished with
excellent china castors, which caused the chairs to roll with enchanting
speed. Sahwah now thought of the chairs and conceived the brilliant idea
of harnessing a Sandwich to each one, seat a Winnebago in the chair, and
race six abreast down the long cement walk from the barn to the road. The
idea was hailed with delight until the Winnebagos began comparing the
merits of the prospective steeds, and nobody wanted to be the one to
drive Slim and go lumbering along like an ice-wagon in the rear of the
others.

“It’s too bad the Captain had to be Ringmaster and can’t take part in the
show,” sighed Hinpoha. “Then there’d be enough without Slim.”

“We wouldn’t dare leave him out, anyway,” said Gladys. “It would hurt his
feelings. So we’ll just have to draw lots for him, and whoever gets him
will have to make the best of it, that’s all.” So they drew slips of
paper from a hat and Hinpoha drew Slim, just as she had feared right
along. Sahwah drew the Monkey, which suited her down to the ground, for
he was a famous sprinter, and she lost no time getting the girls to ask
the boys whose names they had drawn in that secret ballot upstairs to be
their steeds in the race. Slim’s face lighted up with such a delighted
smile when Hinpoha apparently chose him for her own that her heart smote
her when she thought how this choice had been thrust upon her. Slim was
already beginning to learn the bitter truth that nobody loves a fat man.
Nyoda and the Captain plotted the circus parade and it was a triumph of
ingenuity. The advance bills which they scattered broadcast among their
friends announced that the parade would embrace “Five ferocious animals
from the Other Side of Nowhere, these animals being respectively The
Camelk, The Crabbit, The Alligatortoise, The Kangarooster, and The
Salmonkey.

Other numbers on the program were as follows:

  Ivan Awfulitch, world’s greatest magician; royal entertainer to the
  King of Spain. Was banished to Siberia; escaped and swam to America;
  has now opened up a complete line of magic. One day only.

  Mr. Skygack, from Mars, in a special song feature entitled the
  Mars-y-lays.

  La Zingara, the bareback rider.

  Sandhelo, the famous trick mule. As intelligent as two men and a school
  teacher.

  Mr. Avoirdupois Slim, fattest man on earth. Will sit on a toothpick.

  Mr. E. Lastic, Inja rubber man.

  Archibald Dimples the better baby.

  Chair-iot Race. Feat never attemped before on any stage.

  Monkey, the Aerial Gymnast, in the sensational dupe-the-dupes.

                      Twenty Other Great Features


             ALL CHILDREN WILL GET A FREE RIDE ON SANDELHO,
                      THE FAMOUS TRICK MULE, AFTER
                            THE PERFORMANCE


Bottomless Pitt owned a little hand-printing press and printed wonderful
tickets to be sold at five cents apiece, which Gladys declared were worth
the money as souvenirs, with the circus thrown in extra.

“What are you making, a circus tent?” asked Gladys, dropping into the
Lodge, where Nyoda sat stitching together great lengths of red and white
striped material.

“No; only a clown suit for Slim,” laughed Nyoda. “Gracious, how much it
does take!”

“It reminds me of the riddle: ‘If it takes thirty yards of cloth to make
a shirtwaist for an elephant, etc.,’” said Gladys. “Poor Slim! You would
have died to see him practice his clown stunt with Sandhelo. You know the
boys built him a tiny red cart with two big wheels, and when he sat down
in it, it tilted way over backward and the shafts stuck up in the air and
pulled poor little Sandhelo right up off his feet, and there he dangled,
pawing for dear life. But, whatever are you making, Hinpoha?” she
finished, examining the thing which Hinpoha was working on and which
resembled nothing in the universe.

“This is Peter’s costume,” answered Hinpoha; “he’s the hind leg of the
Kangarooster, you know. By the way, Nyoda, has a Kangarooster one hump or
two?”

“None at all,” answered Nyoda hastily. “The humps are on the ‘Cam’ part
of the Camelk. That reminds me, have we something to stuff the humps
with?”

“Take excelsior,” advised Gladys. “Dear me, who’s screeching like that
downstairs?”

They all crowded down the ladder at the sound of a lusty yell from below
and found Sahwah hanging head downward from a heavy hook in the wall. She
had improved a moment’s leisure to climb up to the top of the window with
a spray of bittersweet to see how it would look, and in descending had
caught her skirt on the hook and lost her footing. The skirt tore through
until the stout serge hem was reached and that offered successful
resistance, and Sahwah hung, as Nyoda remarked, like a lamb on the spit.

“I got an idea hanging upside down,” were the first words she gasped as
they restored her to the perpendicular and revived her with peanuts.

“It’s the only way you ever would get an idea,” said Hinpoha.

“Is that so?” returned Sahwah, with spirit “Who thought up the Chair-iot
Race, I’d like to know?”

“Stop bickering and tell us your idea,” said Nyoda.

“Why, it’s this,” said Sahwah. “Sell hot cocoa with marshmallows in it
after the show. Everybody’ll be cold sitting around. We can make almost
as much money that way as with the circus.”

“A lake of hot cocoa with an island of marshmallows in it is my dream of
heaven,” said Hinpoha, clasping her hands in ecstasy. “Sahwah, you’re a
genius. I yield the palm to you without a struggle. You have a ‘head in
your mind,’ as absent-minded old Fuzzytop used to say. There’s nothing in
the whole world that’ll separate a nickel from its owner like a cup of
hot cocoa with a marshmallow floating in it on a cold day.”

“Another innovation,” said Nyoda. “We’ll have that instead of circus
lemonade. See to getting the supplies, will you, Sahwah dear? I have so
many details to look after now that I simply cannot be responsible for
another thing, or my head will burst and out will come everything that’s
safely packed in now. Come in, Captain. What’s on your mind?”

“Slim,” said the Captain, with a look of comical despair, as he sat down
among the girls. “I’m afraid he won’t do for a Better Baby. He’s smashed
three perambulators and a high chair and we can’t get any more. And the
biggest size white dress we could buy in the store won’t go half-way
around him.”

Nyoda knitted her brows. “We simply have to have a Better Baby,” she
affirmed. “It’s one of the best features. We’ll drape cheesecloth around
him for a dress and he can play on a quilt on the floor—I mean the
ground—instead of being taken for a ride by his nurse in a perambulator.”

“Poor Slim!” said Hinpoha. “How many more things are going to be wished
on him? I’m afraid his ‘gall will be divided into three parts,’ too!”

“That would have been a very clever thing for you to say,” remarked the
Captain, “if it had been original, but it wasn’t. They spring that over
at our school, too. Slim isn’t doing any more than the rest of us at
that. Only he’s so conspicuous that everything he does seems like a lot
more than it really is.”

“How are the tickets going?” asked Sahwah.

“We’ve sold over a hundred,” announced the Captain with pride. “We’re
famous people, we are.”

“Speak for yourself,” said Sahwah. “It isn’t we who are the attraction,
though—it’s Sandhelo. I rode him through the streets and sold nearly
fifty tickets to the children that followed us. They’re all attracted by
the promise of a free ride after the show.”

“It’ll probably take all evening to give them the ride, and we’ll never
get to that jubilation spread we’re going to have after the show, but we
have to make our word good,” said Nyoda.

“Put them on four at once and we’ll get done somehow,” said Sahwah.

Hinpoha laid down her sewing and stretched her arms above her head. “I
never knew circuses were such a pile of work,” she sighed.

  “‘Wohelo means work,’
  So dig like a Turk,”

chanted Sahwah.

“I move we all go to the ‘movies’ tonight and see ‘If I Were King,’”
continued Hinpoha.

“Can’t,” said Nyoda briefly, checking up on her fingers the things she
still had to do. “I still have to evolve a tail for the Salmonkey and a
frontispiece for the Camelk, make four banners, rehearse the living
statuary, make a bonnet for the Better Baby, teach the Crabbit how to hop
and crawl at the same time and make a costume for the bareback rider.”

“I’d come and help you,” said Sahwah, “but we’re going to have a test in
Latin tomorrow and I have to cram tonight. I’ll just have time to
practice with the band.”

“A test in time saves nine,” murmured Hinpoha. “What are the Sandwiches
doing now?”

“Erecting the flying trapeze,” answered Sahwah, looking out of the
window. “Captain is hanging by his eyebrow to the top of a pole and
Bottomless Pitt is standing below, waiting to catch him when he falls.”

The Captain caught her eye, as she leaned over the sill and shouted:

  “All right below,
  O Wohelo,
  Now _please_ go mix some pancake dough!”

“All right,” called Sahwah cheerily. “You’ll soon smell something
doughing!”

Nyoda and Gladys went home on an errand, and Hinpoha, worn out with her
arduous labors with the needle, stretched out on the bearskin bed and
fell sound asleep in the warmth of the fire. Sahwah puttered about
collecting the ingredients for flapjacks to make a treat for the boys,
who had worked like Trojans ever since school was out. The wood in the
fireplace had burned down to lovely glowing embers, and she laid the
toaster on top of them to act as a rest for the frying-pan. The Captain,
tying ropes into the branches of the big tree just outside of the window,
looked in and admired the scene. Hinpoha, with her marvellous red curls
falling around her face in the light of the fire, looked like a sleeping
princess in a fairy tale, and Sahwah, holding her dish of batter in one
hand and skilfully putting grease into the pan with the other, was a
cheery little housewife indeed. Through the half-open window he could
hear her singing “A Warrior Bold.”

A moment he looked in, filled with whole-souled admiration for these
many-sided girls who were his new friends, and then without warning
something happened inside. The panful of sizzling fat suddenly burst into
a sheet of flame that left the confines of the fireplace and seemed to
leap all around Sahwah. A burning spark shot out and fell into a pile of
cheesecloth lying on the floor at the far side of the room, and it blazed
up instantly, the flames enveloping the sleeping Hinpoha. It took less
than a moment for the Captain to spring down from the tree, run into the
barn and up the ladder. But it was too late for him to do anything. In
the twinkling of an eye Sahwah had seized the burning cheesecloth and
flung it into the fireplace, thrown a bearskin rug over Hinpoha and now
stood calmly pouring sand from a bucket on top of the burning fat in the
pan. And all the while she was doing it she had never stopped singing!
The Captain stood still in his amazement and listened idly to the words:

  “So what care I, though death be nigh?
  I’ll live for love or die——”

A hoarse sound made her turn around and she saw the Captain standing
beside her with face pale as ashes. The dreadful sight he had seen from
the tree when the room seemed filled with flame was still in his mind.

“How did you manage to keep so cool and do everything so quickly?” he
asked in amazement.

Sahwah laughed at his expression of astonishment. “That’s not the first
fire I’ve put out,” she said calmly. “We always keep both water and sand
on hand whenever we have an open fire, to prevent serious accidents.
Having the cheesecloth go up at the same time rather complicated matters,
but I got it into the fireplace without any trouble. I don’t know what
made the fat in the pan take fire; it’s never done that before up here.
But don’t worry; I’ll get your flapjacks made, all right.”

The Captain looked at her with more admiration than ever. “Most girls
would have been in a faint by that time, and have had to be doused with
smelling salts,” he told the Sandwiches later, “instead of coolly
promising you your flapjacks anyway and apologizing for the delay!”

“Your hands are burned!” he exclaimed in concern, as he saw Sahwah
looking ruefully at her blackened fingers. “Let me do something for
them.”

“Nothing serious,” said Sahwah, turning them down so he could not see the
blistered palms.

“They are, too!” persisted the Captain. “Have you any oil handy?”

“In the First Aid box over there,” said Sahwah. “It’s in that bottle
labeled A Burned Child Dreads the Fire.”

The Captain returned with cotton and gauze and the oil and proceeded to
bandage the scorched hands that had been so quick to avert disaster.

“Won’t Hinpoha be furious when she wakes up and finds her costume that
she worked so hard on all burned up?” she said, as he wound the bandages
under her direction. “I hated to throw it into the fire, but it had to be
done.”

“She’d better not be furious,” returned the Captain. “She’s got you to
thank that she didn’t burn up herself. She had a close call that time,
and if you hadn’t snatched that burning rag off her and covered her with
a rug I’d hate to think what would have happened. I tell you it’s great
to be able to do the right thing at the right time. A lot of people talk
about what they would do in an emergency, but very few of them ever do
it.”

“Well,” returned Sahwah coolly, holding up her hands and inspecting the
bandages with a critical eye, “there is an emergency before us right now.
Suppose you stop talking and get busy and fry those pancakes for the
boys. They’re dying of starvation outside.”

The Captain started, blushed and looked at her keenly to see if she were
making fun of him, and then fell to work without a word finishing
Sahwah’s interrupted labor.



                               CHAPTER V
                        THE ARRIVAL OF KATHERINE


Preparations were completed and the day for the presentation of the
greatest show on earth had arrived. It was crisply cool, but clear and
sunshiny, as the last Saturday in beloved October should be; and not too
cold to sit still and witness an out-of-doors performance. Tickets had
sold with such gratifying readiness that a second edition had been
necessary, and the Committee on Seating Arrangements was nearly in
despair over providing enough seats.

“It’s no use,” declared Bottomless Pitt, “we’ve done the best we could
and half of them will still have to stand. It’ll be a case of ‘first
come, first served.’”

Sahwah and Hinpoha, their arms filled with bundles of “props,” which they
had spent the morning in collecting, sank wearily down at a table in the
“Neapolitan” soda dispensary and ordered their favorite sundaes. “Now,
are you perfectly sure we have everything?” asked Hinpoha, between
spoonfuls.

“There’s the Better Baby’s rattle,” recounted Sahwah, identifying her
parcels by feeling of them, “the Magician’s natural hair a foot long, the
china eggs he finds in the lady’s handbag, the bareback rider’s spangles,
and—O Hinpoha!” she cried in dismay, dropping her spoon on the tile floor
with a great clatter, “we forgot the red, white and blue cockade for
Sandhelo. I’ll have to go back to Nelson’s and get it. Dear me, it’s
eleven o’clock now and we still have to go out home and dress. And the
marshmallows have to be bought yet; that’s another thing I promised Nyoda
I’d see about. Won’t you please get them, Hinpoha, while I run up to
Nelson’s? There’s a dear. Get them at Raymond’s—theirs are the freshest;
and then you had better go right on home without waiting for me. It will
take me a little longer, but I’ll hurry as fast as I can. And please tell
Nyoda that I didn’t forget the marshmallows this time; I just turned the
responsibility over to you.” And Sahwah gathered up her bundles and
retraced her steps toward the big up-town store, while Hinpoha took her
way to Raymond’s. Five pounds of marshmallows make a pretty big box, and
Hinpoha had several other parcels to carry. She had them all laid out on
the counter with an eye to tying some of them together to facilitate
transportation when a voice suddenly called out: “Dorothy! Dorothy
Bradford!” She turned and saw Miss Parker, one of the teachers at
Washington High, at the other end of the counter. “Come and meet my
cousin,” said Miss Parker, and brought forward a young girl she had with
her. “This is Katherine Adams,” said Miss Parker. “Katherine, I would
like you to meet one of my pupils, Dorothy Bradford.”

Hinpoha acknowledged the introduction cordially, but it was all she could
do to suppress a smile at Katherine’s appearance. She was an extremely
tall, lanky girl, narrow chested and stoop shouldered, with scanty
straw-colored hair drawn into a tight knot at the back of her neck, and
pale, near-sighted eyes peering through glasses. She wore a long
drab-colored coat, cut as severely plain as a man’s, and a narrow-brimmed
felt sailor hat. She wore no gloves and her hands were large and bony.
Her shoes—Hinpoha looked twice in her astonishment to make sure—yes,
there was no mistake, the shoes she had on were not mates! One was a
cloth-top button and the other a heavy laced walking boot. Miss Parker
followed Hinpoha’s surprised glance and looked distressed. But Katherine
was not at all disconcerted when she discovered the discrepancy in her
footgear.

“That’s what you get for interrupting me in the middle of my dressing,”
she said coolly. “Now, I’ve forgotten which pair I intended to wear.” She
had an odd, husky voice, that made everything she said sound funny.

Miss Parker seemed rather anxious that her cousin should make a good
impression on Hinpoha. Katherine was from Spencer, Arkansas, she
explained, and had gone as far in school as she could out there and had
now come east to stay with her cousin and take the last year in high
school. Hinpoha promised to introduce her around to the girls in the
class, with her eyes on the clock all the while and her mind on the
performance she should be helping to prepare that minute instead of
standing there talking.

“Won’t you come to our circus this afternoon?” she said politely, fishing
among the small “props” in her handbag. “Here’s a ticket. It’s going to
be in the big field at the corner of May and ——th streets. Come into the
barn if you come and I’ll introduce you to some of my friends.”

Miss Parker and her caricature of a cousin finally departed, and Hinpoha
hastily gathered up her bundles. Something about the package of
marshmallows struck her as unfamiliar, and she examined it in
consternation. It certainly was not her package, though like it in shape.
Somebody had taken hers by mistake. She looked around the store and was
just in time to see her box being carried out the front door under the
arm of a woman. Hinpoha gathered her packages into her arms hit and miss
and rushed after her. But impeded as she was she got stuck in the
revolving door and was delayed a full minute before she escaped to the
sidewalk. She was just in time to see the object of her pursuit board a
car at the corner. Before Hinpoha could reach the corner the car had
started. Hinpoha stamped her foot with vexation, mostly directed toward
Miss Parker and her freak cousin for taking her attention away from her
belongings. Then she considered. The car the woman had boarded must make
a loop and come out a block below and it would be possible to catch it
there. Hinpoha puffed along the sidewalk at a great rate, worming her way
through the Saturday noon crowds and colliding with people right and
left. She reached the corner just as the car did and made a mad dash over
the pavement, dodging in among wagons and automobiles at dire peril of
life and limb. She scrambled aboard and landed sprawling on the back
platform, while her bundles scattered over the floor in every direction.
Breathless and embarrassed, she gathered them up and entered the car just
in time to see the lady carrying her box of marshmallows get out of the
front door. Hinpoha made a wild dash for the rear exit, but the door was
closed and the car already in motion. She rang the bell frantically, at
the same time following the woman with her eyes to see in which direction
she went. The car finally released her two blocks up street, and then
began the mad chase back again. Poor Hinpoha was never built for speed;
her breath gave out and she developed an agonizing pain in her side. Her
bundles weighed her down and her hat flopped into her eyes. Chugging
along thus she ran smartly into someone and again her packages covered
the sidewalk.

“Oh, excuse me!” she gasped, struggling to get her hat back on her head.
“I couldn’t see where I was going. _Why, Captain_——” For it was none
other than he with whom she had collided.

“Pretty well loaded down, aren’t you?” said the Captain, stooping to pick
up the litter on the sidewalk.

“Never mind them,” said Hinpoha hastily, “go after _her_.”

“Go after _her_?” repeated the Captain in a tone of bewilderment.

Hinpoha pointed speechlessly up the street and then with a mighty effort
regained a speck of her breath and panted “Lady—blue coat—plush
collar—our marshmallows—left this—Raymond’s—go get them,” and, shoving
the stranger’s package into his hands, she indicated with waving arms
that he was to pursue the lady in question and regain the club’s
property. The Captain started off obediently, though her explanation was
not yet clear in his mind, but the truth flashed over him when he
presently overtook a lady that fitted the description just turning into
the door of Raymond’s store with a large package under her arm, and he
soon made his errand known and recovered the marshmallows. She was just
in the act of returning them to Raymond’s, having discovered her mistake.

Hinpoha was out in front when the Captain emerged from the store, and she
surrendered her bundles to him gratefully, saying with a breathless sigh,
“Boys _are_ useful to have around once in a while, after all.”

“Only once in a while?” asked the Captain.

“Well, maybe twice in a while, then,” said Hinpoha graciously.

Hinpoha arrived on the scene of action so late that there was no time to
press her for explanations; she was summarily hustled out of her street
clothes and into her orchestra costume. The audience was arriving in
crowds and the Sandwiches, who were detailed as ticket takers, had much
to do to keep legions of small boys from climbing the fence and seeing
the show without the formality of buying a ticket.

The Grand Parade, “including every single member of the entire show,” was
scheduled to start promptly at two. The parade was necessarily held in
sections, as all hands were needed for each section. The clock in a
neighboring steeple had not finished chiming the hour when there was an
unearthly blare of trumpets and crashing of drums, and the band issued
from the entrance of the Open Door Lodge. Nyoda led the band and made a
stunning drum major in a fur hat a foot high, made out of a muff. The
members of the band were dressed as Spanish troubadours in costumes of
blinding scarlet, with their instruments hung around their neck by
ribbons. They marched around the ring at a lively pace, playing the music
of a popular football song, which made the audience cheer wildly, for it
was largely composed of students from the two great rival schools,
Washington High and Carnegie Mechanic. In the wake of the troubadours
stumbled an enormously fat clown in a suit half red and half white,
blowing up a rubber bladder, which emitted a plaintive squawk. Loud
applause greeted every move the clown made and when he accidentally
stumbled into a hole and measured his length on the ground the small boys
shrieked in ecstasy.

The band made a stately and melodious exit in the House of the Open Door
and once inside broke ranks in haste to prepare for the second section of
the parade—the procession of the animals. This was a much more
complicated matter than the band had been, but it had been so well
rehearsed that the crowd, who were being amused by the antics of the
clown, had not time to grow impatient before they were ready. Shrieks of
delight went up at the appearance of the five ferocious animals from
Nowhere—The Camelk, The Crabbit, The Alligatortoise, The Kangarooster and
The Salmonkey, and they had to go around the ring five times before being
allowed to retire. The parade being such an unqualified success, it is
needless to say that the circus proper went even better. The actors had
all worked themselves up into the right mood for it.

The magician gave more entertainment than he had counted on, for the
mice, which he had concealed in his pocket ready to produce from under
the folded handkerchief, bit him before their turn in the show came, and
the beholders were startled to see the magician suddenly spring into the
air, uttering a wild yell and, thrusting his hand into his hip pocket,
throw the cause of the disturbance half-way across the ring. The Fattest
Man on Earth, who was Slim, with the addition of several pillows fore and
aft, mounted the small stage and laboriously sat on a toothpick, breaking
down the stage in the process; and the Inja Rubber Man did such amazing
contortions that the audience began to hold their breath for fear he
would never come untangled again.

When it happened to be her turn to go out in one of the numbers Hinpoha
looked the audience over to see if Katherine Adams had come in response
to her invitation, but she did not see her. But, while looking for
Katherine, her eye was caught by a strange figure, the like of which she
had never seen before. She was a woman, old and bent, and dressed in such
old-fashioned clothes that she looked like a caricature out of a funny
page. She had on a tight green basque, which flared out below the waist
in a ripple and a very full red skirt, held out in a ridiculous curve by
that atrocity of bygone days known as a “bustle.” She was climbing
stiffly up and down among the spectators trying to sell papers which she
was crying in a shrill voice. As she went up and down among the benches
she held up her skirt in her hand, disclosing purple stockings and
enormous flapping slippers. Wherever she went she was followed by a
ripple of laughter; the audience seemed to be getting as much fun out of
her as they were out of the show. Hinpoha told Nyoda about it when she
was in the barn again and Nyoda asked all the players not to do anything
to drive her away, as she was no doubt trying to make an honest living by
selling papers wherever there was a crowd, and she was adding an
unexpected touch to the circus to amuse the audience.

The bareback rider proved a real sensation. Up to that time the numbers
had merely been in the nature of stunts—clever and original and highly
diverting, and yet something which any group of young people could
produce. But here was something different. Veronica was so dark that in
her costume she looked like a real gypsy, and as she was not yet well
known she was not recognized. She came in riding a beautiful black horse
that belonged to Mr. Evans, and, after galloping around the ring several
times and making him rear up on his hind legs until the audience thought
she must slide off, she set him to leaping obstacles, keeping her seat
all the while with amazing ease. There was a touch of realism in her act,
too, which made the audience tingle for a while. In their eagerness to
see the horse and the daring rider the children down in the front row had
pressed forward until they were fairly under the ropes. Without warning a
little girl lost her balance and fell out into the ring, rolling right
into the path of the galloping horse. An exclamation of horror went up
from the crowd, and many covered their eyes with their hands. The others,
gazing as if fascinated, saw the horse in obedience to a quick command
leap into the air with all four feet and come down several feet beyond
the little form on the ground. Shouts rose up from every side and cheers
for the skilful horsewoman who had been able to avert a tragedy when it
was too late to turn aside. But Veronica sat unmoved, a graceful statue
on the beautiful horse, looking out over the audience with brooding eyes
that saw them not.

Of course the _piece de resistance_ of the whole show was the trick mule,
Sandhelo. He had been the most widely advertised feature and had been the
means of selling the most tickets. The small boys came lured by the
promise of a free ride after the show and could hardly wait for that time
to come. His appearance in the ring was hailed with tumultuous applause.
Led by the clown, who played the mouth organ constantly to assure his
continuous locomotion, he did his tricks over and over again, lying down
as if dead when Slim played “John Brown’s Body,” and springing to his
feet with a lively bray when he played “Yankee Doodle”; and sitting up on
the table and waving his fore feet at the audience while he tossed a lump
of sugar on his nose.

Then the clown tried to ride him and fell off, first on one side and then
the other, and after several vain attempts offered a quarter to anyone in
the audience who would come out and ride him around the ring. As the
players along knew that Sandhelo would only go to music, they anticipated
no little fun from this business. Sandhelo was perfectly safe to ride—he
was as gentle as a kitten—but his refusal to stir when commanded made him
appear a very balky mule indeed, and there was no response to Slim’s
invitation for somebody to come out and ride him. Even the small boys,
who were eager to ride him, preferred to wait until the show was over
before making the trial.

“Don’t all come at once,” appealed Slim in derision. “One at a time,
please. Who’ll ride the famous trick mule, Sandhelo, around the ring and
win the handsome prize of twenty-five cents, a whole quarter of a
dollar?” Still no volunteers. Sandhelo yawned and looked bored to death.
Slim stretched out his hands to the audience imploringly.

Suddenly there was a commotion at one end of the seats and down from the
top of the picnic tables, where the raised seats were, there climbed the
little old woman who had gone around selling papers. “I’ll ride him for
twenty-five cents,” she cackled in her high shrill voice. And she hobbled
across the ring to where Sandhelo stood. The players were ready to hug
themselves with joy. Here was a real circus-y touch they had not counted
on.

“Aren’t you afraid she’ll get hurt?” whispered Hinpoha to Nyoda.

“No danger,” returned Nyoda. “Sandhelo won’t go a step without the mouth
organ.”

The little old woman, her back bent almost double, shuffled over and
grasped Sandhelo, not by the bridle, but by the cockade on his head. Then
she suddenly straightened up and a gasp of astonishment went around the
circle. She was taller than the tallest of them. Without assistance from
anyone she climbed on Sandhelo’s back and sat with her face toward his
tail. The audience, suspecting that it was a “put-up job,” and this was
another stunt, roared its appreciation, but the players looked at each
other in utter bewilderment. Who was this strange character?

Sandhelo was a very small donkey, standing no higher than a Shetland
pony, and when the old lady was seated on his back her feet dragged on
the ground. Calmly crossing them underneath his body, she gave his tail a
smart jerk, accompanied by the shrill command, “Giddap!” Sandhelo,
mortified to death at the undignified position of his rider, had but one
idea in his mind—to escape from the gibing crowd and hide his head in his
stable. Around the ring he flew as fast as his tiny legs would carry him,
the old woman sticking to him like a burr, her bonnet strings flying in
the wind, her big slippers flapping against his sides, and her shrill
voice urging him on to greater speed. The act brought down the house and
a whole row of folding camp chairs collapsed under the strain of the
applause.

Beside himself with rage and shame, Sandhelo bolted into the barn and
carried his strange rider into the midst of the company of players.
Sliding off his back, she looked around the ring of curious faces before
her with little twinkling gray eyes. Then she held out her hand
suggestively. “Where’s the quarter I git fer ridin’ the mule?” she asked.
Something in her voice awakened a memory in Hinpoha’s mind. In a
twinkling she was carried back to the incident at Raymond’s that noon
when Miss Parker stopped to present her cousin from the west. Surely
there never were two such voices! At the same time Hinpoha noticed that
the old woman’s gray hair was sliding back on her head, and a long wisp
of yellowish hair was hanging out underneath. She stared at the curious
figure in growing wonder, and the woman stared back at her with a knowing
grin that became wider every moment. Then with a quick movement the old
woman snatched off a gray wig, mopped a damp handkerchief over her face,
produced a pair of glasses from some pocket in the wide skirt, and stood
before them the same awkward, ungainly creature that Hinpoha had met that
noon. It was Katherine Adams, Miss Parker’s cousin.

Such a babel there was when Hinpoha recognized the strange comedian and
presented her to the others! The waiting audience was completely
forgotten as they listened fascinated while Katherine explained how she
had come “by special invitation” to the circus and had decided that
people who had “pep” enough to get up a circus were worth knowing, and
the best way to get acquainted with the players was to be in the show
herself. So she had joined the company without the formality of being
asked.

“You’re appointed assistant clown for the remainder of the circus,” said
Nyoda.

“And you’re invited to the spread upstairs afterwards,” said Hinpoha.

“It’s time for the Chair-iot Race,” said the Captain warningly, and the
players returned to their duties with a guilty start. The new comedian
proved such a diversion and put the regular clown up to so many tricks
that he would never have thought of by himself, that the audience refused
to go home when the big show was over, and called for encore after
encore.

“Let’s get her to sell cocoa,” suggested Gladys; “they’ll buy from her
when they wouldn’t from us.”

So Katherine, who up until a few hours ago had never heard of the
Winnebagos and Sandwiches, did more for them in the way of dispensing
cups of cocoa at five cents a cup than they were able to do for
themselves. She made such inimitably droll speeches in her efforts to
advertise her wares that the audience crowded around her just to hear her
talk, and bought and bought until the huge kettles were empty and the
paper box till was full. The small boys crowded around the Ringmaster,
demanding their ride on the trick mule, and, tearing himself away from
the fascinating orator, he betook himself to the barn, followed by the
whole string of would-be riders. But when he arrived there the stall was
empty and Sandhelo was nowhere to be found. Loud chorus of disappointment
from the small boys. The Captain turned their interest in Sandhelo to
account by enlisting them in the search for him, but it was vain. Nowhere
could they find a trace of him. His shame at the indignity heaped upon
him that afternoon had been too great. Finding his stall left open in the
excitement he had escaped and wandered off while the attention of
everyone was riveted on the antics of the new comedian, and hid his head
among new scenes and faces. The small boys finally gave up and went home,
partly consoled by the assurance that if Sandhelo ever turned up again
the promised ride would still be theirs, and the players, rather
exhausted, but exulting over the success of the performance, gathered in
the Winnebago room of the Open Door Lodge for the jollification spread.

Katherine Adams was the lioness of the evening. Begged for a speech, she
obligingly mounted the table and held a discourse that left her hearers
limp with merriment. What she said was sidesplitting enough, but her
gestures, her expression and her voice were beyond description. She spoke
in a lazy southern drawl, mixed up with a nasal twang, and the peculiarly
veiled, husky quality of her voice gave it a sound the like of which was
never heard before. She still wore the big flapping slippers and had much
ado to keep them on when she climbed on the table with the mincing air of
a young miss making an elocution lesson. She planted her feet carefully,
heels together and toes apart, taking several minutes in the operation,
and then surveyed them with a silly smirk of satisfaction that was
convulsing. When her discourse became a little heated the feet suddenly
flew around and toed in until both heels and toes were in a straight
line. At the ripple of laughter which this called forth she looked down
at her feet with a sad, pained expression and carefully set them right
again. A few moments later she again waxed eloquent and again the feet
turned, seemingly of themselves, and this time her toes pointed outward
until toes and heels were all one straight line. The shrieks of delight
made her look down again, with that same puzzled, pained expression, and
again she set them right in an affected manner.

When the speech was over the boys and girls begged her to do it again,
and kept her speechifying until she declared she had no voice left to
whisper. “You know I have to be very careful of my voice,” she said in a
tone of confiding simplicity. “It’s so sweet that I’m afraid of cracking
it all the time.”

Katherine was too good to be true. “Just like a character out of a book,”
the delighted Winnebagos whispered to one another. Before the evening was
over they had unanimously decided to urge—not merely invite, mind you,
but urge—her to become a Winnebago. Katherine was delighted with the idea
and accepted the invitation with another convulsing speech. It seemed
incredible to the girls that they had met her just that afternoon. It
seemed as if they had known her always. She fitted into their group like
a thumb on a hand. She was plied with slumgullion and every other
delicacy, and her health was drunk in numerous cups of cocoa. The
continual flow of banter which the Winnebagos usually kept up among
themselves was hushed, and everyone was willing to put the soft pedal on
her own speech if only Katherine would talk some more. She told
fascinating things about her life on a big stock farm out in Arkansas.

“Are there any Indians around there?” asked Veronica, whose ideas of the
American Far West were rather hazy and romantic.

“Indians!” said Katherine. “I should say there were! They’re something
terrible. Why, you don’t dare hang your clothes on the line, because the
Indians will shoot them full of arrows! And then,” she continued, as she
saw Veronica’s eyes becoming saucerlike, “there are all kind of wild
animals out there, too. We can’t keep milk standing around in the pantry
because the wildcats come in and drink it up, and the bears shed their
hair all over the carpet! Why, one day I came in from the yard and there
was a rattlesnake curled up on the piano stool!”

The Winnebagos and the Sandwiches doubled up with merriment at her awful
“yarns,” but Veronica believed every word of it.

“O Katherine, you awful thing, I’m in love with you,” cried Hinpoha, in
rather mixed metaphor, and drew her down on the bearskin bed beside her.
“Goodness, Veronica, don’t look so excited. All the Indians there are in
this country now are on reservations, and they’re entirely peaceable. You
mustn’t believe a word she says.”

The jollification supper ended in a hilarious Virginia Reel, which hardly
anyone could dance for laughing at Katherine’s big slippers, as she
shuffled up and down the line.

“What a day this has been,” sighed Hinpoha to Gladys, with whom she was
spending the night, as she sank down on the bed with all her clothes on.
“We’ve made enough money to equip the Sandwiches’ gym be-yoo-tifully;
we’ve made Veronica famous as a horsewoman; we’ve lost our trick mule and
gained a new member for the Winnebagos. In the classic words of our
gallant Captain, I think that’s ‘going some.’”



                               CHAPTER VI
                           A MORAL OBLIGATION


Katherine’s entry into High School life was a complete success—one of
those rare, astonishing successes that happen about once in a decade. The
regular members of the class, who have been together since the beginning,
will by constant effort have attained a fair measure of popularity by the
fourth year, when suddenly a personality will appear out of the vast and
seize and hold the center of the stage. Katherine’s spectacular exploit
at the Sandebago Circus was heralded far and wide, and when she entered
school the following Monday morning she found herself already famous.
Everywhere she was pointed out as “the girl who had ridden the donkey,”
“the girl with the funny voice,” “the girl who made the screaming
speeches.” Teachers agreed unanimously that she was the most erratically
brilliant student they had ever had in their classes—when she could
remember to turn her work in. Her compositions were read out in class and
brought down the house. When she rose to recite you could hear a pin
drop. It was an open secret that the two English teachers had drawn lots
to see who would get her, and not a few pupils suddenly discovered
conflicts in their recitations and got themselves changed into the class
where Katherine was.

Her absent-mindedness soon became proverbial. Odd shoes—gloves of two
different colors—hat on hind side before, or somebody else’s hat
altogether—these were everyday occurrences. Her friends told with
chuckles how she had climbed one flight of stairs too many on her way to
Math class and walked into a Freshman English class, her mind busy
working out the solution of a problem in geometry. When some other
Katherine was called upon to recite she rose solemnly and, going to the
board, gave a masterly demonstration of a knotty theorem in solid
geometry, and then marched out with the class, serenely unconscious of
her mistake, oblivious to the laughter of the class and the amusement of
the teacher, who let her go on without interruption to see how far she
would go. Her bewilderment when asked by the regular geometry teacher to
explain why she had cut class that morning was comical.

Possessing neither beauty, style, pretty clothes, nor all the dozen other
things that make the ordinary girl popular, her very unusualness gave her
a distinction, and inside of two weeks she was the best-known girl in the
whole school. To be counted as one of her friends was an honor, and to be
able to say, “Katherine told me this,” or, “Katherine did this up at our
house,” was to incite the envy of less favored ones. The Uranians, the
most exclusive and select girl’s society in the school, voted her in as a
member because they must have all the prominent girls, although they
generally scorned both worth and brains, if clothed in poor garments, and
great was their chagrin to find that their disdained rivals, the clever
and democratic Dramatic Club, had held a special meeting and taken her in
the afternoon before. Urania had not noticed that Katherine had been
wearing the Dramatic Club pin a whole day because she had stuck it over a
hole in her stocking which she did not have time to mend.

How the Winnebagos exulted because Hinpoha had been polite enough to
invite her to the circus and she had consequently landed in their bosom
the first thing! No other group of girls would ever know her as
intimately as they would. The Camp Fire idea appealed to her from the
start. The Open Door Lodge was a paradise for her. The ladder stairs were
a constant source of delight.

“One would think you had never climbed a ladder before,” said Hinpoha,
watching curiously as Katherine climbed up and down and up again just for
the fun of the thing. Katherine draped her feet around a rung to support
herself and sat on the top bar.

“I never did,” she said simply.

“Never climbed a ladder!” said Hinpoha incredulously. “Why, where did you
live?”

“In Arkansas,” answered Katherine significantly. “Do you know,” she went
on, “that until I came east I had never seen a flight of stairs? _I had
never seen a flight of stairs!_” she repeated, as Hinpoha and the other
girls in the Lodge gasped unbelievingly. “We lived in a one-story house,
the floor level with the ground, so you just walked in from the outside
without going up steps. The house was in the middle of a big farm, as
level and flat as this floor. I rode ten miles to school and that was
built just like our house. Oh, of course I knew there were such things as
stairs, because I had seen them in pictures, but until I came here I had
never seen any.”

“But didn’t you see any when you went traveling?” asked Hinpoha, still
incredulous.

“Never went traveling,” returned Katherine. “It took considerable
hustling to stay right where we were. One year the locusts ate up
everything, down to the clothes on the line, and we couldn’t get enough
feed to fatten the stock; the next year there were prairie fires that
licked the earth as clean as a plate; one year the cattle all died of
disease, and so on. It wasn’t until this year that we came out ahead
enough to send me here to school.”

And when the girls heard what a hard time she had had they adored her
more than ever because she could be so funny when she had had so little
to be funny about.

Another thing that charmed her beyond measure was the color of the autumn
leaves. The Winnebagos could hardly pull her past a tree. “There was only
one tree in sight on our farm,” she would tell them, “and that wasn’t
green like the trees are in the east; it was just a dusty, greenish gray.
And the leaves didn’t turn colors in the fall; they just withered up and
dropped off. Oh-h-h, look at that one over there—isn’t it just too
gorgeous for words?”

When we said that both teachers and pupils regarded Katherine as too good
to be true, we should have made one exception. That exception was Miss
Snively, the Senior Oratory teacher. Most of the teachers were liked by
some scholars and disliked by some, according to disposition or
circumstance; but all pupils agreed heartily that they did not like Miss
Snively. She was neither old nor bad looking; in fact, she was rather
handsome when you saw her for the first time, but she was so bitingly
sarcastic that her classes stood in fear and trembling of being singled
out for some poisoned shaft. Sarcasm and ridicule are the most deadly
weapons to use against boys and girls of the high school age. They are
not old enough to know how to come back, and can only nurse the smart and
writhe impotently. And of all classes to have a sarcastic teacher, Senior
Oratory is the worst. It is bad enough to stand up and make a speech with
appropriate gestures before a sympathetic teacher who corrects
diplomatically and never, never laughs, but to have one who eyes you
coldly all the while and then gets up and does it the way you did, only
ten times worse—more buckets of tears had been shed over Senior Oratory
than all other subjects put together.

When Katherine entered the class Miss Snively took immediate exception to
her voice. Miss Snively’s particular hobby was Woman’s Voice. Hers was
high and artificially sweet—it fairly oozed syrup—and she did her level
best to make her girl pupils imitate it. So when Katherine began reading
in her husky nasal drawl, Miss Snively promptly read the piece after her,
imitating her voice as best she could, and then looked around the room
for the laughter of the pupils which would complete Katherine’s
mortification. But nobody laughed. They all sympathized with Katherine.
They had been in her shoes themselves. The blood mounted to Katherine’s
temples when she realized that Miss Snively was deliberately making fun
of her, and a hurt look came into her eyes. She was sensitive about her
voice, even if she did get endless fun out of it. When Miss Snively
handed her the book again and bade her in sarcastic tones to read further
for the edification of the class, Katherine sat silent. To her horror she
found there was a lump in her throat and she would most likely break down
utterly if she tried to say a word. She did not mean to be stubborn—she
was only waiting for control of her voice, for she was too proud to let
Miss Snively see how badly she felt. So she sat silent, miserably
twisting her handkerchief in her hands.

“Go back to your session room,” said Miss Snively sharply, who boasted of
her summary measures with her scholars. So Katherine left the room in
disgrace. From that time on there was a marked antagonism between those
two. Miss Snively lost no chance to make Katherine ridiculous in class,
and, while Katherine had too much respect for teachers to openly defy
her, she “took off” her affected manners to delighted audiences outside
of class, and Miss Snively knew it and was powerless to stop it. But,
outside of her skirmishes with Miss Snively, Katherine’s progress through
school was a triumphal march.

In every school, and Washington High was no exception, there will be
found various elements—some good and some bad. Color rushes, which had
given an annual vent to the mysterious feeling of hostility which always
exists between junior and senior classes, had been abolished. But the
feeling still existed, and manifested itself in various skirmishes. The
year before, when the juniors gave their annual dance, the seniors
carried away the refreshments. On the night of the senior dance the
lights refused to work, and, of course, the juniors were at the bottom of
the mystery. The principal, thinking rightly that pranks of this kind
reflected little credit on his school, wrathfully declared that if any of
the seniors attempted to spoil the juniors’ party this year there would
be trouble. But there were certain lawless spirits in the senior class
who still thought pranks of that nature funny, and it was not long before
plans were hatching as merrily as before. It was all very vague, what was
going to be done and who was going to do it, but it was in the air, and
everybody who was up on school affairs knew there was a storm brewing.

The first definite news came to the Winnebagos through Katherine. “I’ve
been asked to a select party,” she announced one night up in the Open
Door Lodge, spreading her bony hands out before the blazing log on the
hearth. “It’s something like the Boston Tea Party,” she went on.

“Must be going to be quite an affair,” said Gladys, who was stirring
fudge over the fire. “May we inquire where?”

“Oh, girls,” said Katherine, with a serious face, “do you know what’s in
the wind? The Seniors are to put a lot of live mice through the windows
in the middle of the Junior dance.”

“The Seniors?” exclaimed Hinpoha and Gladys in one breath. “What
Seniors?”

“Oh, Charlie Hughes and Eddie Myers and that bunch. You know the half
dozen that go around together and call themselves the Clan? Well, those.
They were mixed up in the business last year.” Although Katherine was a
newcomer in the school she was already well versed in its history.

“How did you find it out?” asked Hinpoha.

“Cora Burton told me.” Cora was one of Katherine’s devoted admirers and
tried hard to be chummy with her, although Katherine did not care for her
in the least. “Cora’s a particular friend of Charlie Hughes, and she and
some other girls are going along to see the fun. But she couldn’t keep it
secret and told me today and asked if I wanted to go along.”

“Oh, Katherine, you’re not going?” said Sahwah anxiously.

The disgusted expression on Katherine’s face was answer enough.

“Hadn’t we better tell some of the teachers?” asked Gladys, pausing in
her stirring. “I wish Nyoda were here.” Miss Kent had been called out of
town on account of the death of an aunt and would be away until after the
party.

“We ought to, I think,” said Hinpoha.

Katherine stood up beside the fireplace, and resting one elbow on the
shelf humped her shoulders in her favorite attitude and began to speak.
“Girls,” she said, “this Junior-Senior business is going to be an awful
mess, and the result will be that somebody will be expelled or not
permitted to graduate. Students are going to take sides in the affair and
there will be no end of hard feelings. I for one don’t care to play the
rôle of informer. So far we Winnebagos have kept entirely out of anything
of this kind and wish we could get along without having any connection
with this.”

“But the teachers would never tell who told them,” said Hinpoha.

“The teachers wouldn’t,” answered Katherine, “but Cora Burton would. And
then maybe someone would say that I had been in the thing to start with
and then grew afraid and told on the others. You know how those stories
grow. Stay out of it altogether, say I, and avoid publicity.”

“But don’t you think it’s our duty to try and stop such horrid pranks?”
asked Hinpoha doubtfully.

“I certainly do,” said Katherine, “and if we were the only ones who
suspected anything it would be different. But all the teachers know that
something is going to happen and they will be on the lookout. And the
Juniors know it also, and they will be on their guard. I doubt very much
if those mice ever get into the room, even if we keep silent.”

And the Winnebagos, remembering Hinpoha’s sad experience the year before,
decided that it was perhaps better after all to keep out of the affair
altogether.

“I thought you’d see it my way after you’d considered all sides,” said
Katherine, reaching out her long fingers and taking three pieces of fudge
off the plate where it was cooling, “but that isn’t what I wanted to talk
about tonight. It’s Cora Burton that bothers me. She isn’t a bad sort of
girl, and I can’t see why she should want to get mixed up in that sort of
thing, especially when there’s bound to be trouble later. If she were to
be seen with those boys Friday night it would go hard with her. I suppose
she thinks she’s right in the swim being connected with a prank, because
she isn’t very popular otherwise. The other girls that are in it aren’t
ladylike and it’s not much use getting after them, but Cora’s different,
somehow. I wish something could be done about it.” And she crunched a
piece of fudge between her teeth with violence.

“We might get up a show that night and each one bring a friend, and you
could invite Cora,” suggested Sahwah. “Counter attraction, you know.”

The suggestion was voted a good one and promptly acted upon. But Cora
declined Katherine’s cordial invitation. “What’s to be done now?” asked
Katherine of the hastily called meeting of the Winnebagos. “Our counter
attraction didn’t work.”

“Girls,” said Gladys solemnly, “I believe it’s our duty to keep Cora away
from that business somehow. If we were smart enough we’d find a way. I
don’t believe we ought to let the matter drop and say if she wants to get
into trouble let her do it, it’s none of our affair. It _is_ our affair,
because we’re pledged to Give Service, and it would be doing Cora a great
service to keep her out of this. If she’s weak and we’re strong we must
hold her out of water. You remember what Dr. Harper said at the lecture
about saving people from themselves. Well, I think we ought to save Cora
from herself.”

The phrase, “Save Cora from herself,” sounded very fine to the ears of
the Winnebagos, and they decided that Cora must be saved from herself at
all costs. But how?

“I think I can manage it,” said Katherine, who had been buried deep in
thought all the while the last discussion was going on. “It’ll be quite
an undertaking, but the end justifies the means.”

“Tell us,” begged the girls.

“Why, it’s this,” said Katherine. “I shall tell Cora that I’ve changed my
mind and want to go with her Friday night and will meet her on the corner
of her street at eight o’clock. When I’ve met her I’ll tell her that I
left my purse up here and ask her to come along till I get it. You know
she doesn’t live very far from here. Once up here we’ll keep her safely
all evening. Oh, I know that holding people against their will isn’t one
of the rules of polite society, but in her case I think we’re justified.
She’ll thank us for it before very long. And we’ll try to make it
pleasant for her. We’ll give the show just as we intended and have a
spread and her captivity won’t seem long.”

As there seemed no other way out of the difficulty, Katherine’s plan was
accepted.

“It’s working fine,” she confided to the Winnebagos the next day. “Cora
was tickled to pieces because I wanted to go with her. She agreed to meet
me on the corner, as I suggested, and we’re both going to wear green
veils so we won’t be recognized so easily. Hoop la!” and she did a double
shuffle with her toes turned in down the aisle of the empty class room
where the girls had gathered.

On Friday night the Winnebagos met early in the House of the Open Door.
Mrs. Evans, Gladys’ mother, was acting as leader tonight in the absence
of Nyoda. She had been let into the secret about Cora and under the
circumstances thought that their action was right. Cora lived with an old
uncle, who was stone deaf and didn’t care a rap what she did, so there
was no use talking to her folks about it. Several girl friends of the
Winnebagos were present, all having raptures over the decorations of the
Lodge, and watching with interest the waving curtain in the corner,
behind which Sahwah was making herself up as a Topsy for their
entertainment later on. Gladys was making sandwiches in another corner
and lamenting because the bread knife was broken half off, and was
accusing Sahwah of prying bricks apart with it, when stealthy footsteps
sounded on the walk below, together with the noise of the door being
pushed back quietly. Gladys heard it and started nervously. She was
beginning to feel rather embarrassed at the thought of meeting Cora
Burton, and wondered just how it would come out, anyway. She wished it
were safely over.

Katherine and her prisoner seemed a long time in reaching the foot of the
ladder. Did Cora suspect something, perhaps, and was refusing to mount?
Gladys strained her ears to listen and thought she heard a smothered
giggle from below, but she could not be sure. The next minute the lights
flashed below and the patent signal knock of the Sandwiches sounded on
the wall.

“Here come the boys!” cried Hinpoha, hastening to answer the signal with
a series of mystic thumps on the wall with the poker.

Then the Captain’s voice sounded at the foot of the ladder. “How many of
you are up there?”

“Five,” answered Hinpoha, “and three guests.”

“Is Miss Kent there?”

“No.”

“What are you doing?”

“We’re going to have a show. Want to come up?”

“Well, maybe, later,” answered the Captain. “Won’t you come down a
minute? We’ve got something to show you.” And again Gladys thought she
heard a smothered giggle from below stairs.

The girls trooped down the ladder, Sahwah running out with her face
blackened and her hair in tiny pigtails, to see what the excitement was
about. All seven of the Sandwiches stood there with sparkling eyes and
prenaturally solemn faces. On the floor stood a good-sized box.

“What’s in the box?” asked Sahwah.

“Oh, nothing,” answered the Captain, trying to speak indifferently.

“There is too, something,” said Sahwah, looking critically at the express
tags fastened to it. “Oh, I know what is is,” she cried, suddenly jumping
up and clapping her hands in glee. “Your uncle in Boston has sent you the
electric motor he promised you!”

The Captain tried to look indifferent and failed utterly. His lips would
twitch into a smile in spite of all he could do.

“Do open it and let us see it,” said Hinpoha, and all the girls crowded
closely around.

“You may have the honor, Miss Brewster,” said the Captain, bowing
formally to Sahwah. The nails had been drawn and all Sahwah had to do was
lift off the cover of the box, which she did with a great flourish. The
next moment the girls sprang back in dismay and scattered wildly. The box
was full of live mice, which jumped out and ran in all directions.
Screaming at the tops of their voices the girls fled toward the ladder
and crowded up as fast as they could go. Sahwah jumped for the swinging
rings, which hung from the ceiling of the barn, and dangled safely in
mid-air, making horrible faces at the Captain, at which he laughed
uproariously. Sahwah and the Captain were always playing tricks on each
other and this time she had to admit that he had scored heavily. So the
Captain jeered and Sahwah vowed vengeance and the other Sandwiches stood
around and laughed until their sides ached, for Sahwah, with blackened
face and Topsy braids, hanging in the rings and sputtering, was the
funniest sight imaginable.

“Joke’s over now, boys,” said the Captain, when the mice had run around
the barn for several minutes. “We’ve had enough of a good thing. Let’s
catch them and put them back into the box.”

The girls above sat around the ladder opening and watched the
proceedings.

“Wherever did you get so many mice, boys?” asked Mrs. Evans.

“We found them,” said the Captain, “all boxed up, just like this, They
were right out in the middle of that field over there. We were on the way
over here and saw the box and looked in. When we saw what it was we
thought we could play a joke on the girls. So we brought them along.
Looks as though someone had fixed them that way for a joke. Probably were
going to send them by express. They were in an express box, although it
was not nailed shut.”

The girls began to look at one another significantly. The same thought
came into all their minds at once. Were not these the mice that were to
attend the Junior party?

“The joke is on the Seniors, after all,” said Hinpoha.

“What do you mean?” asked the boys. “The joke is on the Seniors?”

“Shall we tell them?” asked Hinpoha.

“I don’t see any harm now,” said Gladys. “The scheme has collapsed like a
pricked balloon.”

And they told the Sandwiches what they knew about the plot of the Senior
boys to interrupt the Junior party.

“Wasn’t such a bad idea to try to play a joke on you girls after all, was
it?” said the Captain. “Because if we hadn’t done it we wouldn’t have
nipped their little scheme in the bud. We’ll play lots more jokes on
them, won’t we, Slim? Don’t you girls think you ought to invite us up to
supper to celebrate?”

“Not until the last mouse is back in the box,” said Gladys firmly.

The boys worked hard to catch them again and the girls sat above and
cheered their efforts, and in the middle of it in came Katherine and her
companion, swathed in green veils. There was such an uproar in the barn
that Cora never noticed that Katherine locked the door and put the key in
her pocket. Cora gave a great start at the sight of the mice, which was
not all from fright, and the girls could not help enjoying the situation.
What must be her thoughts by this time? But Cora, obeying the natural
impulse of women at the sight of mice, fled up the ladder with Katherine.
If she thought it odd that the barn was full of girls and boys when she
had gained the impression that it was empty and dark, she made no sign,
but stood still with her veil over her face. With all those horrible
creatures running around the floor downstairs she made no move to escape.

“Won’t you take off your things?” asked Katherine, beginning gently to
break the news to Cora that she was to stay for the evening. Without
demur Cora unfastened her coat and slid it off and then took off her hat
and veil. The girls stood as if turned to stone. The person who stood
before them was not Cora Burton. It was Miss Snively. _It was Miss
Snively!_

She looked around her with a sneering smile and a snapping light in her
eyes. “You may think it was a master stroke on your part to lure me here
and lock me in so I could not join the conspirators and thus find out who
they were,” she said with biting emphasis. “But you shall pay dearly for
this, my young friends. I know who you all are—you needn’t try to hide
behinds the others, Gladys Evans—and the information I shall be able to
give Mr. Jackson tonight is what he has been trying to find out for a
long time. Katherine Adams, you are the ringleader of this affair, as we
might have expected. I know all about the plan to put the mice into the
dance hall, and while the boys downstairs who are getting them ready are
not the ones I should have expected to be doing it, it is just like you
to get strange boys to do it for you, hoping to get away unsuspected. But
it didn’t work, I am happy to say. You are very clever, Miss Adams, but
not clever enough. I overheard you asking Cora Burton to meet you on the
corner this evening. I took the liberty of being there first. I thought I
had deceived you perfectly, not knowing that you were bringing me right
into the mouse’s nest, so to speak.”

She paused for breath and looked around her with an expression of relish
at the consternation visible on the faces before her. For Katherine was
staring at her with startled, unbelieving eyes; Gladys was clutching her
mother’s arm in a frightened manner; Hinpoha had sunk weakly down on the
bearskin bed, and Sahwah stood with her mouth open and the perspiration
running down her face in black streaks, and the others were dumb with
astonishment. The boys, not knowing just what was going on, but guessing
that something was the matter, stood by the ladder opening, silently
taking in the scene. The girls looked helplessly into each other’s eyes.
Somebody must speak and explain. They all looked at Katherine.

“But we aren’t mixed up in the House Party at all, Miss Snively,” she
said earnestly. “We heard about it, and I found out that Cora Burton was
going to be in it and I tried to make her stay home and she refused, so
we girls decided we would take action to take her out of it by luring her
up here and keeping her until the thing was over. That’s why I asked Cora
to meet me on the corner, and I really thought you were Cora all the
while. You imitated her squeaky voice to perfection.”

As Katherine was telling her perfectly truthful story she had a dreadful
feeling that it didn’t sound plausible at all. Under Miss Snively’s cold
eye nothing seemed real.

“Likely story!” said Miss Snively sneeringly. “And how does it happen
that if you wanted to bring Cora out of temptation you should take her to
the place where the mice were being boxed up ready to be taken to the
party?” All the girls looked so disconcerted. Those dreadful mice did
complicate matters so! They would have given anything if Nyoda had been
there then.

The Captain was beginning to take in the situation. He came forward
frankly. “It’s our fault about the mice,” he said, looking Miss Snively
straight in the eye. “We found them in a field near here all boxed up and
thought it would be a good joke on the girls to bring them over here and
let them out. We don’t know anything about your squabbles at Washington
High, except what little the girls here have told us; we’re all from
Carnegie Mechanic. And we know the girls didn’t have a hand in it,
because they were giving a show here to-night.”

His story was backed up by all the other boys, and then Mrs. Evans got in
a word and declared that Katherine was telling the whole truth about
Cora, and Miss Snively was forced, however ungraciously, to admit that
she had been mistaken in her suspicions.

“If she’d been a man I’d have made her eat her words,” declared Slim
wrathfully, after Miss Snively had departed from the scene.

Mrs. Evans and Gladys, with perfect courtesy, offered to drive her home
in their car, and for the present oil was poured on the troubled waters.

Katherine sat hunched gloomily before the fire and held-forth to the
Winnebagos. “I don’t know whether the joke’s on her or on us,” she said
pessimistically; “but one thing I’m sure of, and that is, that never,
never, as long as I live, will I ever again try to save a girl from
herself.”

And the Winnebagos wearily agreed with her.



                              CHAPTER VII
                      AN ADVENTURE IN PHILANTHROPY


Katherine became officially a member of the Winnebago Camp Fire Group at
the first Ceremonial after the circus, with the Fire Name of Iagoonah,
the Story Maker. The name itself was an accident and the manner of its
bestowing is cherished in the chronicles of the Winnebagos as one of the
group’s best jokes. Just about the time Katherine was to be installed as
a Winnebago, word was received that the Chief Guardian of the city was
going to be present at the meeting and would take charge of the
Ceremonial. Katherine had chosen the name, “Prairie Dandelion,” because
she came from the plains, and because her hair was so fly-away. During
the supper which preceded the Ceremonial meeting Katherine made such
funny speeches and told such outrageous yarns about her life in the West
that Nyoda said jestingly: “Your name ought to be Iagoo, the Marvellous
Story Teller.” And the others began calling her Iagoo in fun. The Chief
Guardian heard them calling her Iagoo and supposed that was the Camp Fire
name she wished to take. So, when she was receiving Katherine into the
ranks, she said: “Your name is Iagoo, isn’t it?”

Katherine, sobered and almost voiceless from the solemnity of the
occasion, mumbled half-inarticulately, “Iagoo? Nah!”

And before anyone knew what had happened she had been officially
installed as _Iagoonah_! The joke was so good that the name stuck, and
Katherine was known to the Winnebago Circle as Iagoonah to the end of the
chapter, although they did consent to change the interpretation to Story
Maker instead of Story Teller as being more dignified and not so
suggestive.

Katherine was one of the most enthusiastic Camp Fire Girls that ever
lived, and her inspirations led the girls into more activities and
adventures than they had ever dreamed of before. It was Katherine who
started the Philanthropic Idea. They had been talking about the different
things Camp Fire Girls could do together for the good of the community.

“Girls,” said Katherine, standing in her favorite attitude beside the
fireplace, with her toes turned in and her elbow on the shelf, “I don’t
believe we’re doing all we ought. We’re having a royal good time among
ourselves and learning no end of things to our own advantage, but what
are we doing for others? Nothing, that I can see.”

“We gave a Thanksgiving basket to Katie, the laundress,” said Hinpoha,
“and we collected a barrel of clothes for the Shimky’s when their house
burned down, and we gave a benefit performance to pay little Jane
Goldman’s expenses in the hospital, and we send toys and scrapbooks to
the Sunshine Nursery every Christmas.”

“And I earned three dollars and gave it to the Red Cross,” said Sahwah.
“Don’t you call that doing something for other people? We haven’t meant
to be selfish, I’m sure. By the way, Katherine, your elbow’s in the
fudge.”

Katherine shoved the dish away absently and returned to her subject.
“Yes,” she admitted, “the Winnebagos have done a great deal that way, but
it’s all been _giving_ something. We haven’t _done_ anything. It’s easy
enough to pack a basket and hand it to someone, and collect a lot of old
clothes from people who are anxious to get rid of them anyway, or pay the
bill for somebody else to do something. But I think we ought to do
something ourselves—give up our own time and put our own touch into it.”

“What do you mean we should do?” asked Gladys, hunting through the dish
for a piece of fudge that had not been demolished by Katherine’s elbow.

“Well, there’s the Foreign Settlement,” said Katherine. “I’m sure we
could find something to do there. It’s a grand and noble thing to show
the foreigners how to live better.” And she launched into such an
eloquent plea in behalf of the poor overburdened washerwomen who had to
neglect their babies while they went to work that the girls wiped their
eyes and declared it was a cruel world and things weren’t fairly divided,
and surely they must do what they could to lighten the burdens of their
sisters in the Settlement.

“What will we do, and when will we do it?” asked Hinpoha, all on fire to
get the noble work started.

“Tomorrow’s Saturday,” answered Katherine. “We ought to go out into the
Settlement and see what’s to be done. We’ll make a survey, sort of, and
then we’ll step in and see where we’re needed most.”

Nyoda, appealed to for advice, told them to go ahead. She liked the idea
of their trying to find out for themselves what needed a helping hand.
She could not go with them to the Settlement on Saturday morning, but it
was all right for them to go by themselves in daylight.

So, full of a generous desire to help somebody else, the Winnebagos
followed Katherine’s lead toward the Settlement the next day. The
Settlement, as it was called, embraced some three or four square miles of
land adjacent to several large factories. In it dwelt some few thousand
Slovaks, Poles and Bohemians, packed like sardines in narrow quarters.
The Settlement had its own churches, stores, schools, theaters, dance
halls and amusement gardens, and looked more like an old world city than
a section of a great American Metropolis, with its queer houses and signs
in every language but English. The girls wandered up and down the narrow
dirty streets, filled with chickens and children, and tried to decide
what they should do first. They met the village baker, carrying a
washbasket full of enormous round loaves of rye bread without a sign of a
wrapping. He was going from house to house, delivering the loaves, and if
no one came to the door he laid the loaf on the doorstep and went on.

Before one house, which had a small front yard, between twenty and
twenty-five men were lounging on the steps, on the two benches and
against the fence. “What do you suppose all those men are doing in front
of that house?” whispered Hinpoha curiously.

Just then a woman came from the house carrying in her hand a huge iron
frying-pan full of pancakes. She passed it around and each man took a
pancake in his hand and ate it where he stood.

“They’re having their dinner!” exclaimed Gladys. “It’s just a little past
noon. That’s one way of disposing of the dishwashing problem. I’ll store
up that idea for use the next time it’s my turn to cook supper at a
meeting. What a large family that woman has, though. I wonder if they are
all her husbands?”

“Gracious no,” said Katherine. “These people aren’t poly—poly—you know
what I mean, even if they are foreigners. Those men are boarders. Every
family has some. Let’s go into that big house over there and ask if there
are any babies the mothers would like to leave with us while they go
washing.”

They picked their way across the muddy road toward a large building which
opened right on to the sidewalk. The hall door stood open and they went
in. There were more than a dozen doors leading from the hall on the first
floor. “Gracious, what a number of people live here!” said Gladys,
putting her arm through Katherine’s.

While they stood there, trying to make up their minds at which door to
knock, one was opened and a barefooted woman came out, carrying a pan of
dishwater, which she threw out on the sidewalk. At the same time another
door opened and out came another woman, who stopped short when she saw
the first one, and began to talk in a harsh foreign tongue. The second
woman replied angrily and the girls could see that they were quarreling.
Before long they were shaking fists in front of each other’s noses and
shouting at the tops of their voices. Doors everywhere flew open and the
hall was soon filled with excited women who took sides with one or the
other and shook fists at each other while the girls huddled under the
stairway, expecting to be set upon and beaten. The quarrel was waxing
more violent, when the girls spied a door at the end of a hallway which
had been opened to let in some of the shouting women. As quickly and as
quietly as they could they darted down this passageway and out of the
door which brought them into the back yard of the place. Terrified, they
fled up the street and stood on the corner, discouraged and irresolute.
Hinpoha was for going home right away. But Katherine talked her out of
it.

“Let’s go up to the Neighborhood Mission on the hill and ask them for
something to do,” suggested Katherine, when the rest inquired what they
should do next. So they turned their footsteps toward the white building
at the end of the street.

“If you really want to do something,” said the mission worker to whom
they explained their errand, “come down here next Saturday morning and
help take care of the children that are left with us. Two of the nurses
will be away and we will be short-handed.”

The Winnebagos were charmed with the idea. “Oh, may we each take one home
for the day?” begged Katherine, “if we promise to bring them back all
right?”

Permission was granted for the next Saturday and Katherine was jubilant
over the good beginning of their work. “I thought it best that we each
take one home and take care of it by ourselves,” she explained. “We’ll
have such fun telling experiences and comparing notes afterward.”

Promptly at nine o’clock the next Saturday morning the four Winnebagos,
Katherine, Gladys, Hinpoha and Sahwah, presented themselves at the
Neighborhood Mission and drove away ten minutes later in Gladys’
automobile, each with a youngster in tow.

At eight that night there was a lively experience meeting in the House of
the Open Door. “Oh, girls, you never saw such a dirty baby as the one I
had,” cried Gladys, with a little shiver of disgust at the remembrance.

“It couldn’t have been any worse than the one I had,” broke in Hinpoha.

“But I gave him a bath,” said Gladys, with a satisfied air, “and put all
new clothes on him, and he was as sweet as a rose when I took him home.”

“Mine beat them all,” said Katherine, when she was able to get in a word
edgewise. “He had a little fur tail of some kind tied around his neck on
a string. I suppose it was meant for a ‘pacifier,’ for he was sucking it
all the while.”

“Why, mine had one of those on, too,” said Gladys.

“So did mine,” said Hinpoha.

“There must have been a million germs on it,” continued Katherine. “I
took it off and burned it up.”

“So did I,” said Gladys.

“So did I,” echoed Hinpoha.

After all things were talked over the Winnebagos decided that they had
done pretty good work that day in cleaning up the dirty babies and
unanimously voted to take them again the next Saturday.

When they arrived at the Neighborhood Mission the next Saturday morning
they were met on the walk by half a dozen excited women with
handkerchiefs on their heads, who formed a circle around them, shouting
in a foreign tongue and making fierce gestures.

“What is the matter? What are they saying?” gasped Hinpoha in terror to
Katherine, struggling to pull away from the hand that was clutching her
coat lapel.

“I don’t know,” answered Katherine, completely at sea and vainly trying
to understand the gibberish that was being uttered by the brown-skinned
woman dancing up and down before her.

A startled group of workers ran from the Mission to see what the trouble
was, and, forcing themselves through the circle, drew the frightened
girls inside the fence of the Mission. Then from the group of women
outside there arose a voice in broken English, demanding angrily: “Where
is the charm that hung on the neck of my Stefan? The charm to keep away
the fever and the sore eyes? I give you my boy to watch, you steal away
the charm. Give it back! Give it back!” Here the angry shouting and
gesticulating began again and threatening hands were waved over the
fence.

“What does she mean?” asked Hinpoha. “What charm?”

“We didn’t steal any charms,” said Katherine indignantly. “We didn’t take
a thing off the babies except some dirty old rabbits’ tails that were
full of germs. We burned them up, and a good thing it was, too.”

Here the angry shouts of the women gave way to wails of despair. “They
burned the rabbits’ tails!” groaned one woman, who could talk English,
lifting her hands heavenward, “the rabbits’ tails that the Wonder Woman
tied about their necks on Easter Sunday! Now Stefan will get the fever
and the sore eyes and the teeth will not come through!” And she beat her
breast in despair. Then her anger blazed forth again and she fell to
berating the girls in her own language, and the other women fell in with
her until there was a perfect hubbub. The workers at the Mission hustled
the girls inside the building and the women finally departed, shaking
fists at the Mission and raging at all the dwellers.

“It was nothing but a dirty old rabbit’s tail,” declared Hinpoha
tearfully, as the shaken Winnebagos hastened homeward. “I hate
foreigners! I guess we’ll never try to do anything for them again.”

“Oh, yes, we will,” answered Katherine optimistically; “we’ll learn not
to make mistakes in time.”

“Look at that donkey over there,” said Sahwah. “Doesn’t he remind you of
Sandhelo?”

“Poor old Sandhelo,” mourned Hinpoha. “I wonder what became of him? We
certainly had fun with him, even if he never would go unless he heard
music.”

“Seems to be characteristic of the donkey tribe not to want to go,”
observed Katherine. “That one over there is balking, too. Doesn’t the
fellow that’s trying to drive him look like a pirate, though? I wouldn’t
go for him either, if I were a donkey.”

“O look!” cried Sahwah in amazement, and they all stopped still.

A small boy was coming down the street blowing lustily on a wheezy horn,
and as soon as the donkey heard it he wheeled around, facing the music,
pricked up his ears, uttered a squeal of rapture and rose up on his hind
legs, almost upsetting the queer little cart to which he was harnessed.

“Katherine! I do believe it _is_ Sandhelo,” cried Sahwah, excitedly
gripping Katherine’s arm.

The man sprang from the cart and seizing the donkey by the bit brought
him down to earth with a rough pull that almost jerked his head off,
shouting abuse at him in a foreign tongue. The little boy, frightened at
the uproar, ran away, taking his music with him. The man got into the
cart again and tried to drive away. The donkey refused to move. The man
began to beat him unmercifully.

“Oh, girls, we must do something to stop him!” cried Hinpoha, hopping up
and down in distress.

“Here, you, stop that!” shouted Katherine, running forward and waving her
muff at him threateningly. “I’ll have the law on you!” The man either did
not understand, or did not care, for he paid not the slightest heed to
her words. “Stop it, stop it, I say!” she commanded, stamping her foot
angrily and wildly wishing she were a man, that she might beat this bully
even as he was beating the poor little beast.

The man looked at her and grinned derisively. “Who says so?” he growled.

“I say so!” said a voice behind Katherine, and she turned to see the
Captain standing beside her. “You stop beating that donkey or I’ll punch
your head.” He put his fingers to his lips and uttered a long shrill
whistle which the girls recognized as the call of the Sandwiches, and the
next minute the other boys came running up the side street, Bottomless
Pitt, Monkey, Dan, Peter and Harry, with Slim trailing along in the rear,
puffing violently in his efforts to keep up with the rest. They
surrounded the cart threateningly and the man sulkily left off beating
the donkey.

Sahwah went forward and stroked the little animal’s head and then she
uttered a triumphant cry.

“It _is_ Sandhelo!” she exclaimed. “Here’s part of his red, white and
blue cockade still sticking in his hair.”

“That’s our donkey,” cried all the girls and boys, pressing close around.
“Where did you get him?”

“He is not,” declared the man angrily. “I raise him myself since he was
young.”

“That is not true,” said Sahwah shrewdly. “If you had had him very long
you would know how to make him go. It seems to me that this is the first
time you’ve ever tried to drive him.”

“He is mine, he is mine,” declared the man. “I know how to make him go.
He always go for me.”

“Then make him go,” said Sahwah coolly.

The man tried to urge the donkey forward, but in vain.

“Now, _we’ll_ show you how to make him go,” said Sahwah. “Where’s that
boy with the horn?” She ran up the street a distance and found the boy
seated on a doorstep and bribed him with a few pennies to let her take
the horn. Then, walking along ahead of Sandhelo she played a half dozen
lively notes, such as had sent him flying round the circus ring. No
sooner had she started than he started at a great rate. When she stopped
he stopped.

“It’s Sandhelo without mistake,” they all cried, and the last doubt
vanished when he came up alongside of Sahwah and laid his head on her
shoulder the way he always had done.

“He belongs to us,” said the Captain, looking the man in the eye, “and
you’ll have to give him up.”

The man shifted his gaze. “I give him to you for five dollar,” he
muttered. “I pay so much for him.”

“Not much,” said the Captain. “Nobody sold you a donkey for five dollars
and you can’t get that much out of us. Now you either give him to us or
we’ll report it to the police.” The man protested loudly, but he was
evidently thinking all the while that a donkey that only went when he
heard music was not such a good bargain after all, even if he did get it
by the simple and inexpensive method of finding it in his dooryard and
tying it up. So, after growling some more that they were robbing him, he
suffered Sandhelo to be unharnessed from the cart and led away in triumph
in the wake of the horn.

“Well, our charitable enterprise didn’t turn out so badly, after all,”
said Katherine, when Sandhelo was once more established in his cozy stall
in the House of the Open Door. “If it hadn’t been for that fuss about the
babies we wouldn’t have been on the street in time to see Sandhelo. And
if we hadn’t wanted to help those people there wouldn’t have been any
fuss. It does really seem that virtue is its own reward and one good turn
deserves another. Let’s do it some more.”

And as usual the others agreed with her.



                              CHAPTER VIII
                        A SELECT SLEEPING PARTY


“Gracious, Katherine, what is the matter with your fingers?” asked Gladys
curiously, as Katherine came into the room with all five fingers on her
right hand tied up.

“Oh,” replied Katherine cheerfully, “I burned one, cut one, pounded one
with a hammer and slammed the door on one, and that left only one good
one, so I tied that up, too, for safe-keeping and only take it out when I
want to use it. It’s a good thing I don’t need my hand to sing carols
with, or I would be out of the running. Are we all here?”

“All but Veronica,” answered Nyoda, “and Sahwah—and Sahwah will be here
presently. By the way, where is Veronica?”

“She’s over at the theater where her uncle is orchestra director,”
answered Gladys. “She goes over there almost every Saturday afternoon. I
believe she plays sometimes when one of the regular violinists is
absent.”

Veronica, it must be confessed, was a great puzzle to the Winnebagos. Try
as they might, they could never get her to enter into their work and fun
with any degree of vim. She always sat aloof, her brooding eyes staring
off into space. Not that they loved her any the less—they were too
genuinely sorry for her—but they never seemed to be able to break down
the barrier between them and her. They constantly stood abashed before
her aristocratic airs. When the friends went together to get ice cream
Veronica had a way of flinging a dollar bill down on the table and
bidding the waitress keep the change that made the others feel cheap
somehow, although they knew it was useless extravagance. When a poor
woman came to the door one day, just as she was going out, and asked if
she had any old clothes to give away she promptly took off her expensive
furs and gave them to her.

The girls were mightily impressed by this act until Nyoda talked it over
with them and made them see that the gift was entirely inappropriate. So
while they admired her to distraction and each one secretly hoped that
Veronica would single her out as a special friend, they had to admit that
as yet they had not made much headway.

“If Sahwah doesn’t come in five minutes, we’ll have to start without
her,” said Hinpoha, walking impatiently to the window. “Carol practice
begins at two and it’s half-past one now.”

Just then the telephone rang. “It’s Sahwah,” reported Hinpoha, upon
answering, “and she says she’s got a real charity case for us to look
into—some old woman—and she’s down at Sahwah’s house now and we should
all come down. She says it’s the saddest thing she ever heard. What shall
we do, girls, shall we go?”

“Of course,” said Katherine promptly.

“What about carol practice?” asked Gladys. “Won’t it make us dreadfully
late?”

“We’ll just have to be late, then,” said Katherine, jabbing her hatpins
in swiftly. “Come on.”

Sahwah met them at the door with an unusually solemn countenance. “You’re
a load of bricks to come, girls,” she said, “but I knew you would. Come
right upstairs. In here,” she said, pausing before the door of her room.
“Maybe you’d better go in one at a time. You go first, Hinpoha.”

Hinpoha, feeling queer, passed in. The next minute those outside heard a
great shout. “Migwan! My Migwan! When did you come? We thought you
weren’t coming for two whole days yet. Sahwah, you wretch, how could you
get us so worked up?”

The others burst in and smothered Migwan in embraces while Katherine
stood looking on curiously, until Gladys remembered her manners. “This is
our Katherine,” she said, drawing her forward, “that we have all written
you about. Make a speech, Katherine, to show her how you do it!”

And Katherine obligingly complied and Migwan laughed extravagantly and
was soon sitting on the bed beside her with her arm locked in hers, and
talking to her as if she had known her all her life instead of only five
minutes. That was the effect Katherine had on everybody.

Then they dragged Migwan out to the House of the Open Door and introduced
her to the Sandwiches, who were playing basket ball in their half of the
barn. The Sandwiches began to plan a Christmas barn dance in her honor on
the spot, and nobody thought of carol practice again until it was too
late to go. Migwan had to explain how she got through with her work at
college two days earlier than she had expected and came home to surprise
them. She went to see Sahwah first and Sahwah worked the little stratagem
which brought them all down to her house in such a hurry. Each one
insisted upon Migwan’s going home with her to spend the night, but she
could not be enticed away from her own home. “I guess you’d want to stay
at home, too, if you hadn’t seen your mother for three months.” But she
promised to attend a select sleeping party some night up in the House of
the Open Door, which Sahwah had just “germed.”

“There’s a loose shingle on the roof and the snow comes in a little,”
said Hinpoha regretfully. “It really ought to be fixed.”

“Never mind the shingle,” cried the others. “When did the Winnebagos ever
balk at a snowflake or two on their beds?”

The barn dance was a grand success in spite of the fact that Slim fell
down the ladder in his excitement and sprained all the portions of his
anatomy that he needed most for dancing, besides demolishing a frosted
cake in the tumble.

“Too bad you can’t dance,” said the Captain sympathetically, when Slim’s
ankles had been strapped with plaster and he had been comfortably settled
on a pile of bearskins brought down from the bed upstairs. “But you don’t
need to waste your time. You can be musician and play the banjo while the
rest of us dance.”

“But I can’t play the banjo,” objected Slim.

“Play anyway,” commanded the Captain. “Here, I’ll teach you a couple of
tunes that you can play with one finger that we can do most of the dances
to.” So Slim learned to play the banjo under pressure and picked
banefully away while the rest whirled about on the floor. Sometimes he
got his tunes or his time so badly mixed that it was impossible to dance
and then the Captain would make him sing and beat time with a hatchet on
the floor. Finally Nyoda took pity on him and took over the banjo,
producing such lively strains and keeping the dancers going at such a mad
pace that they sank down breathless one by one, and a series of loud
thumps from Sandhelo’s stall told them that he was also capering to the
music and nearly battering his stall down in the process.

The boys went home reluctantly at eleven o’clock and the girls climbed
the ladder to the joys of the “select sleeping party.” This was the first
time any of them had stayed all night in the House of the Open Door.
“Covers were laid for nine,” as Katherine wrote in the Count Book. Nyoda
had her camp bed, Sahwah had her pile of bearskins, Gladys her Indian Bed
and Nakwisi her willow bed. Migwan was invited to share them all and
chose the bearskins. Katherine had brought a couch hammock, which she
declared surpassed them all in comfort. The rest of the girls played John
Kempo for the privilege of sleeping with Nyoda, and Veronica got it, and
the other two spread their blankets on mattresses on the floor. The
fireplace was filled with glowing hard coals, which would keep all night,
and the Lodge was as warm as toast, so the snowflakes which drifted in
through the hole in the roof were never noticed. Of course they talked
half the night, for there was so much to tell Migwan and so much she had
to tell them it seemed they never would get it all told. But finally the
conversation was punctuated by steadily lengthening yawns, and then
trailed off into silence.

Nyoda was awakened by the touch of a cold hand on her face. “What is it?”
she asked, sitting up.

“It’s I—Migwan,” said the figure standing beside her. “Do you know where
Sahwah is?”

“Isn’t she in bed with you?” asked Nyoda, still in a low tone of voice,
so as not to disturb the other girls.

“No, she isn’t,” whispered Migwan. “I woke up a minute ago and felt
around for her and she wasn’t there. I called and asked where she was and
there was no answer.”

Nyoda got up and lit a candle, and looked carefully around the room. All
the other girls were sound asleep in their beds; Sahwah’s clothes lay on
a chair, but there was no sign of Sahwah. “She can’t be under the bed,”
said Migwan, “because this bed has no ‘under.’”

Nyoda went to the top of the ladder and called: “Sahwah, are you down
there?” No answer. All was dark and silent below. When it was evident
that Sahwah was not in the barn, Nyoda roused all the sleepers
unceremoniously.

“What’s the matter? What’s happened?” they all cried sleepily. There was
a great uproar when Sahwah’s disappearance became known. “Where could she
have gone without her clothes?” they all asked.

“Do you think she was dragged from her bed, Nyoda?” asked Hinpoha
anxiously, filled with the wildest fears.

“No, I don’t,” answered Nyoda promptly, suddenly remembering certain
facts in Sahwah’s history. “I think she’s walking in her sleep again. She
always does when she gets excited. She’s probably gotten out of the barn
and is wandering around somewhere and we must find her and bring her in
without delay. This is altogether too cold a night to be promenading
without a coat on.” She had dressed herself fully while she was talking
and the others followed suit with all speed.

The barn door was carefully closed, but the big inside bolt was
unfastened and they knew by that that Sahwah was outside somewhere. The
wind had swept the snow off the drive and there was not a footprint to be
seen. They spent some time looking all around the barn and up on the roof
and then concluded that she must have gone down the drive, because, if
she had gone anywhere else, there would be footprints. The snow in the
road had been so packed down by passing vehicles that a person walking
would leave no trace.

“Where can she be?” exclaimed Nyoda anxiously after a fruitless search of
some ten minutes.

“Do you think she could have climbed a tree?” asked Hinpoha.

“And be roosting on a branch?” asked Katherine, and they all had to laugh
in spite of their concern.

“Well, you never can tell what Sahwah will do next,” returned Hinpoha,
“especially in her sleep. You haven’t known her as long as we have. Once
in camp she climbed to the top of the diving tower and jumped off. So I
guess climbing a tree wouldn’t be impossible for her.”

“Hark, girls,” said Nyoda, bending her head in a listening attitude.
“Don’t you hear music?” The others listened, but could hear nothing.
“When that breath of wind came in this direction I thought I heard it,”
said Nyoda. “There it is, again.” This time they all heard it, faint and
far, a soft strain of music, but what kind of music or whence it came
they could not make out.

“It came with the wind,” said Nyoda, “so we must walk against the wind
and see if we can find it.” Heading into the wind they walked up the
road. They shivered as they walked and the snow crunched under their
feet. The very moonlight seemed cold as it touched them and the stars
glistened like splintered icicles. Verily, it was a cold night to be
sleepwalking. The music began to sound more clearly now, and at a turn in
the road they stopped still in amazement at the sight before their eyes.
There in the road just ahead of them ambled Sandhelo, and by his side
walked Sahwah, dressed in her troubadour costume, the red cloak flying
out in the breeze. She held her mouth organ to her lips, and the drawing
of her breath in and out of it was producing the strains of music which
the girls had followed. As they suspected, she was sound asleep. They
hurried forward to waken Sahwah, and she turned around and faced them.
Her eyes were wide open in the moonlight. A moment she looked at them and
then turned suddenly and swung herself onto Sandhelo’s back. At her touch
on his bridle Sandhelo started and then began running down the road as
fast as he could. Sahwah woke up, gave one shriek of fright, and then
mechanically dug her knees into his sides and hung on. Sandhelo did not
have his regular harness on, only his bridle, and she was riding bareback
in this strange adventure. The girls pursued as fast as they could,
shouting at the top of their voices, but of course they were soon left
behind. Far ahead of them in the moonlit road they saw Sandhelo stop
suddenly and slide his rider over his head into a snowdrift and then sit
down on his haunches beside her like a dog. Sahwah had emerged from her
drift and was shaking the snow off when the others came up. “What’s the
matter?” she asked in a bewildered tone. “How did I get out here?”

“Home first, explanations afterward,” said Nyoda, wrapping her in the
bear rug she had brought with her. And they made Sahwah run every step of
the way back to the Lodge, and swallow quarts of hot lemonade before they
would tell her a single thing.

Migwan insisted on tying Sahwah’s foot to the post of Nyoda’s bed for the
rest of the night to insure her being there in the morning. They had just
gotten quieted down when the ropes of Katherine’s hammock broke and down
she came with a resounding crash.

Morning found them heavy-eyed and full of yawns, but to all inquirers
they stoutly maintained that the select sleeping party had been the best
ever.



                               CHAPTER IX
                        THE CANDLE IN THE WINDOW


“What’s all this about singing carols?” asked Migwan. “Everywhere I go
the talk is all of carols, carols, carols. And the air is full of ‘God
Rest You, Merry Gentlemen,’ and similar melodies.”

“It’s the Music Club League,” explained Gladys. “They have revived the
old custom of going through the streets on Christmas Eve with lanterns
and singing carols, and are training the boys and girls all over the city
to sing them. People who are interested in the work of the Music Club
League and wish to give a gift of money for its support will put a candle
in their windows and we will stop outside and sing carols for them. Isn’t
it a pretty idea?”

“Beautiful,” said Migwan. “I wish I might have attended the rehearsals so
I could go around with you.”

“We’ll teach you the carols,” said Gladys eagerly, “and I’ll explain to
Miss Jones and I know she’ll let you be in our group. We’ve been given
one of the best districts in the city—Garfield Avenue, from the Cathedral
to the Park, where all the rich people live—and we expect to bring in
more money than any other group. There was great rivalry among the groups
for that district, and Miss Jones tested and tested us to see which sang
the best. I nearly passed away from surprise when she decided in favor of
our group. Oh, won’t it be glorious, though, stopping before all those
fine houses?” and Gladys and Hinpoha, unable to keep still any longer,
got up and began to dance.

“That isn’t the best part of it, though,” said Sahwah. “All the carolers
are invited to the Music League’s clubhouse after the singing is over for
an oyster supper and a frolic. And the troupe of midgets that are playing
in the Mansfield Theater this week are coming and will give a real Punch
and Judy show. Hurrah for the Music Club League! Hurrah for carols!
Hurrah for Christmas!”

“I smell something burning,” said Gladys, sniffing the air suspiciously.

“It’s probably something that has been spilled on the stove,” said
Katherine serenely. They were all up at Katherine’s house.

“Here are the carols we are going to sing,” said Gladys, pulling Migwan
toward the piano. “We might as well begin at once.”

“Do you really think Miss Jones will let me do it?” asked Migwan rather
doubtfully.

“I’m sure she will,” said Gladys, “if we all——Katherine, there _is_
something burning; it smells like cloth.” And she rushed off
unceremoniously to investigate. The kitchen was full of smoke when she
reached it, proceeding from the ironing board, where Katherine had left
the electric iron standing without being turned off.

“You ought to have a leather medal, Katherine,” scolded Hinpoha,
switching off the current and setting the smoking board outside the back
door, while Katherine stood idly by with such a look of pained surprise
on her face that the others went into gales of laughter.

“I can’t get used to these self-starting, big city flat-irons, nohow,”
she drawled mildly in self-defense. “Back where I come from the irons
cool off when you leave them by themselves; here they start heatin’ up.”
Katherine always left off her g’s when she spoke earnestly.

“Katherine, you’re hopeless,” said Hinpoha with a sigh, and then she
added affectionately, “that’s why we love you so.”

“There’s Slim outside with his big bob-sled,” said Sahwah, looking out of
the window. “He promised to take us all coasting down College Hill this
afternoon. Come on.” And they trooped out.

Nyoda took a few round trips on the bob with the girls, and then, having
other things to do, walked home by herself through the early winter
twilight. A few blocks from her home she saw Veronica walking along just
ahead of her. By her side walked a young man whom Nyoda recognized as
Alex Tobin, one of the violins in the Temple Theater Orchestra. He was
talking animatedly and earnestly to her, his white teeth showing often in
a smile beneath his small black moustache. Veronica was listening eagerly
with flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes. As Nyoda drew near she heard
Veronica say: “Oh, a chance to study with him would be the greatest
happiness of my life, but uncle would never allow it. Never!”

And Alex Tobin answered: “Does it have to depend upon your uncle’s
permission? You have money in your own right, have you not?”

And then Veronica noticed that Nyoda was behind her and turned and spoke
and Alex Tobin took his departure down the cross street. Nyoda looked
after him thoughtfully. She was not fond of Alex Tobin, although she knew
him only very slightly. He was a young Pole, and quite handsome, but
there was something about his eyes that made a keen observer dislike him.

“I was at the rehearsal of the Symphony Orchestra this afternoon,” said
Veronica, with more animation than Nyoda had ever seen her display. “You
know uncle plays this year and he lets me go along and listen, that I may
benefit from the director’s criticisms.”

“Does Mr. Tobin play in the Symphony Orchestra, too?” asked Nyoda idly.

“Yes,” answered Veronica. “He’s a wonderful player; and so kind to me. He
takes such an interest in my playing. He says I will play at concerts in
time.”

“I don’t doubt it in the least,” said Nyoda heartily. “But you mustn’t
study music to the exclusion of everything else. You are growing quite
thin. You must stay out of doors more and romp with the girls. You are
missing all the coasting and skating. ‘Hold on to Health,’ you know.”

“Yes, of course,” murmured Veronica absently, and fell silent, as if she
were day-dreaming.


“The Midgets are going to give Punch and Judy dolls to the carol singers
as souvenirs of the occasion,” announced Sahwah, as the Winnebagos
assembled before starting out for the singing on Christmas Eve. “Won’t
they be jolly to put up in our rooms?”

“And did you know that Jeffry, the famous bird imitator, was going to be
there and give some of his wonderful bird calls?” asked Gladys. “Migwan,
you’re in luck, being home this week to take in all the good things.”

“The frolic afterwards is going to be as much fun as the carol singing,”
said Hinpoha. “I wouldn’t miss it for anything. And the group that brings
in the most money is going to get a prize,” she added, “and have its
picture in the Sunday paper. Oh, I do hope we’ll get the most! We must
sing our very best.”

“Oh, what a glorious night!” they all cried, as they passed out into the
sparkling snow.

“Oh, but I’m glad I’m a carol singer,” said Katherine, and slipped and
sat down on her lantern in her enthusiasm.

“Have you time to walk over to Division Street with me before we go to
Mrs. Salisbury’s?” asked Gladys, as they went down the street. Mrs.
Salisbury was the lady who had gathered together the band of carolers to
which the Winnebagos belonged, and they were all to meet at her house.

“It’s early yet,” said Hinpoha, “we ought to have time. Come on.”

So they all went with Gladys to deliver a Christmas parcel to a poor
family whom Gladys’ mother had taken under her wing. Along the big
avenues through which they walked candles were already glimmering in
windows in friendly invitation to the coming singers. But there were no
candles in the windows on Division Street. The houses were all poor
little one-story ones, with never a wreath or a bit of decoration
anywhere to show that it was Christmas. The very lamp-posts burned dimly
with a discouraged air. The girls delivered their bundle and hastened
back up the dark street.

“Let’s stop a minute and sing the songs through once more so Migwan will
be sure of them,” suggested Hinpoha. “We wanted to before we left the
house, you know, and then we forgot it.”

So they stood still before a bleak, empty looking house, and sang through
all the songs they were to sing with the group that night on Garfield
Avenue.

                       *    *    *    *    *    *

In a bare little room in the shabbiest house on Division Street a young
girl lay in bed day after day, staring wistfully through the flawed
window pane at the dingy row of houses opposite. She suffered from hip
disease and could not walk, and a frail little mother cleaned offices to
support them both. Living was cruelly high and there was no thought of
spending anything for Christmas. Martha dreaded its coming, for she could
remember other days when Christmas had been very different. Besides,
Martha was very lonely. She and her mother were strangers in town, having
come only six months before, and in all that time not a soul had come to
see them. And because Martha felt so lonely and so left out of the busy,
happy world, the treatment for which she had come to the city was doing
her no good, and she was not improving at all. And her mother saw the
trouble and sorrowed, but did not know how to mend the matter. Martha
read in books about the good times girls had together and longed with all
her soul to be part of such frolics, until it seemed that she could not
bear her loneliness any longer.

Her mother often brought home newspapers from the offices and in them
Martha read about the groups of boys and girls who were going through the
streets on Christmas Eve singing carols before the houses where the
candles shone in the windows.

“How I wish I could hear those carols sung!” she sighed enviously. “How
wonderful it must be to be rich and live in a fine house and put a candle
in the window to make the singers stop outside! And I must always stay in
the darkness, and miss all the fun! Oh, Mother, it isn’t fair!”

The sad-eyed little mother cast about in her mind for some way to amuse
her lonely daughter this dreary Christmas Eve. “Let us pretend that we
are rich and great,” she said soothingly, “and play that we are putting a
lighted candle in our window and listening to the fine songs of the
singers below and giving them large sums of money for their good cause.”

“What good would it do to play it?” asked Martha. “We would have to
imagine it all. We haven’t even a candle!”

“Let’s play it, anyway,” coaxed her mother. “What color candle shall we
use tonight?”

“A red one, with gold designs on it, and a cut glass candlestick,” said
Martha, playing the game to please her mother.

So they pretended to set a shining glass candlestick holding a red and
gold candle on the window sill. “Now we must wait awhile in our elegant
parlor for the singers to come,” said her mother, playing the game with
spirit.

Then a wonderful thing happened. There was a sound of footsteps in the
creaking snow outside, footsteps that came to a halt beneath the window,
and then the air was filled with joyous, ringing melody:

  “God rest you, merry gentlemen,
    Let nothing you may dismay,
  For Jesus Christ our Savior
    Was born this happy day!”

Martha and her mother looked at each other with faces suddenly grown
pale, and listened with unbelieving ears. The song changed as the singers
swung into the measures of a new carol. Surely these were human voices
and not a band of fairies! The mother crept silently to the window and
looked out.

                       *    *    *    *    *    *

When the last note of the songs had died away the door of the dark house
opened and a woman came out on the steps. “Thank you a thousand times for
the singing,” she said. “Won’t you come in where my daughter can see you?
She won’t believe you are real. She is so sick and lonesome. Please do.”

The Winnebagos started in surprise and looked at each other somewhat
doubtfully. They had not been aware that they were singing to an
audience. It was getting near the time when they should be meeting the
rest of the group. But this was Christmas Eve and here was a girl sick
and lonesome——

“Let’s go in for a minute,” said Gladys and Hinpoha together. They went
in, singing as they went, and swinging their little lighted lanterns.

Martha’s mother lit the one pale little gas flame, for they had been
sitting in the dark before, and by its light the girls saw the shabby
room and the wan girl lying on the bed. So amazed was Martha at the
sudden appearance of the carolers out of the night that she forgot to be
shy, and before she knew it she had told them all about the Christmas Eve
game she and her mother had been playing and how they had set the
imaginary candle in the window. And all of the six months’ loneliness was
in that little tale, and the girls as they listened became afflicted with
a queer weakness of the eyes that made them turn their faces away from
the light. Over on the lighted avenue the twinkling candles beckoned in
the gleaming windows of the most beautiful homes in the city; still
farther on the revellers at the singers’ party stretched out gay hands to
them; but over it all each one seemed to see the words of the Fire Law
written in letters made of Christmas stars:

              ——“Whose house is bare and dark and cold——”

Mysterious communications and hand signs flew back and forth between the
Winnebagos. Like magic Gladys and Hinpoha slid out of the door and like
magic they returned a few minutes later, loaded down with bundles. As the
enchanted forests rise in the fairy tales, so the room was swiftly
transformed and began to blossom in green and red. Garlands and wreaths
hung from the head and the foot of the bed, and from the gas-jet. Riotous
little bells swung from the doorways; sprigs of holly and gorgeous
poinsettias framed the cheap pictures; bright candles in cheerful red
shades burned on the table.

Other bundles when opened revealed the “makings” of the grandest spread
the Winnebagos had ever had. The Lonesome House was turned into the Home
of Joyous Spirits. Gladys poked up the fire and made her most tempting
Shrimp Wiggle; Sahwah made the best pan of fudge she had ever made;
Katherine made cocoa, and the rest spread sandwiches with delicious
“Wohelo Special” chicken salad, and cut up cake and dished ice cream.
Then there followed such a joyous feast as Martha had never conceived in
her rosiest dreams. Healths were drunk in cocoa, side-splitting toasts
proposed by the witty toastmistress, Migwan, and songs sung that made the
roof ring. Gladys did her prettiest dances; Sahwah and Hinpoha did their
famous stunt of the goat that ate the two red shirts right off the line,
and Katherine gave her very funniest speech—the one about Wimmen’s
Rights—three times; once voluntarily and twice more by special request.
Martha laughed until she could laugh no more, and applauded every number
enthusiastically, her usually pale cheeks glowing red with excitement and
her eyes shining like stars. It was late when they left her, promising to
come again soon, and slipping into her hands various packages containing
gifts of things every girl loves, which Gladys had hastily bought when
she had slipped out to get the supplies. Among them was a beautifully
intricate puzzle which would keep her interested for months to come.

Thus it was that the candle which was never lit guided the feet of the
Song Friends to the Dark House, and gave into their tending yet another
fire. Reports of the gay party at the Music League Club House came to the
Winnebagos from all sides, and loud expressions of regret that they had
missed it. And the group they were to have sung with brought in by far
the most money, carrying off the prize and getting its picture in the
Sunday paper—and the Winnebagos were not in it.

But over on Division Street a wonderful new look had come into the face
of a sad-eyed girl—a look of happiness and ambition, and the Winnebagos,
having seen that look, were content.



                               CHAPTER X
                         A TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT


January closed with its immemorial thaw and February drew near in a mist
of speculation as to whether it would come in like a lion or a lamb. But
whatever may have been the state of the weather outside when the new
month arrived, the Winnebago barometer registered a tempest in a teapot.
It was Katherine who was responsible for that particular barometric
activity. That is, it was she who attached the fuse to the bomb and set
the match to it. All the bomb did was blow up.

The Winnebagos were all over at Katherine’s one Friday afternoon after
school, painting a buffalo robe that was to hang on the wall in the Open
Door Lodge and cover an unsightly board. Veronica was in one of her rare
cheerful moods and played gay tunes on her violin while the other girls
worked. She was gradually thawing toward the girls, although she was
still very conservative in her friendships. She was most friendly toward
Gladys and Hinpoha, the two girls who came from the best family. She was
not particularly drawn to merry, tomboyish Sahwah, because she was not
musical, although they got along. Thus also it was with Medmangi and
Nakwisi. But from the first Katherine Adams had seemed to rub her the
wrong way. Big, clumsy, awkward Katherine, uncultured and hopelessly
plebeian! She always managed to step on Veronica’s dainty shoes or sit on
her cherished violin or spill cocoa on her dress. And her flyaway
appearance constantly jarred on Veronica’s artistic nature. And that
ridiculous, unmusical voice!

Looking only at these defects, Veronica failed to appreciate the
wonderful magnetism of Katherine’s personality and the unfailing good
nature which made her a boon companion any hour out of the twenty-four
whatever the weather might be. Not being American-born, Veronica believed
firmly in class distinctions, and to her Katherine was a peasant and thus
an inferior.

However, to the others it seemed that the strangeness between them and
Veronica was wearing away, and this afternoon they felt closer to her
than they ever had before. She even asked, actually _asked_, to be shown
how to make “slumgullion”—she who a few months before had scornfully
maintained that cooking was for servants and not for ladies. “She’s
getting there!” whispered Gladys to Hinpoha, with a delighted squeeze.
Spirits ran high and before long everybody felt they must dance or burst.

“It’s too bad we haven’t Nyoda’s old banjo over here,” said Sahwah. “Then
some of the rest of us could play and Veronica could dance.”

“I’ll go over and get it,” said Katherine obligingly. So she went over to
Nyoda’s house and got the banjo, and it was on this errand that her feet
became entangled in the fuse that led to the bomb. On the doorstep of the
house next to Nyoda’s, the house where Veronica dwelt, there sat a snowy
white poodle, fresh from a bath and rivalling in purity a field of virgin
snow. This was Fifi, Veronica’s French poodle, who had come to her as a
Christmas gift, and whose pedigree was considerably longer than he was.
Fifi did not share his young mistress’s ideas as to the unfitness of the
peasantry for association with the high born, and took a decided fancy to
Katherine at first sight. Just how much he was influenced by half a sugar
cookie, which she held out to him over the fence, it is impossible to
say, but when Katherine turned out of Nyoda’s yard and went up the
street, Fifi was at her heels and refused to be shooed home.

“Well, come along, then, if you want to,” she said good-naturedly. “I
suppose you’re lonesome with all your folks gone and want some improvin’
company, like us. A great hostess I’d be, if I turned down a dog that
wanted to come to my At Home Day.”

The January thaw was still in progress, although it was the first of
February, and the streets were lakes of slush and mud. Katherine did not
mind mud in the least and stepped cheerfully into the puddles. Fifi did
likewise. By the time they arrived at the house the comparison of the
field of virgin snow no longer held good. Even Katherine hesitated about
admitting him.

Veronica shrieked when she saw him and did not share his delight at the
unexpected meeting. “Oh-oh-oh!” she exclaimed in dismay. “He is to go to
the Dog Show tonight. Katie spent all morning washing and combing him.
How did he ever get out? She must have left the door open. And then you
had to coax him over here, and now look at him!” After a hasty glance the
rest decided they would rather not look at him.

“Well,” said Katherine, much taken aback, but still mistress of the
situation, “I’ll just give him a nice bath and carry him home and
everything will be all right. Go on dancing, girls, there’s the banjo;
Fifi and I will entertain ourselves in the basement.”

She set the squirming lump of mud into one of the wash tubs and let warm
water run over him from a faucet for a few minutes to remove the clods.
Then she set to work in earnest. She hesitated for some time about what
kind of soap to use and finally decided that dog’s hair was the same as
camel’s hair; camel’s hair was wool; and therefore, according to the most
familiar problem in the whole geometry, Fifi was all wool and needed Wool
Soap. Now the mud through which Fifi and Katherine had come was the
yellow clayey kind that sticketh closer than a brother, and Wool Soap was
not designed especially to dissolve it. After three scrubbings and
rinsings Fifi was still a muddy, yellowish gray, and there was no hope
that he would dry into a field of virgin white as a yellow popcorn kernel
bursts into snowy blossom.

Katherine was discouraged. Then she suddenly remembered something.
“Clothes always come out yellow if you wash them in just soap,” she said
triumphantly to herself. “It’s the bluing that makes them white. Fifi
needs bluing!”

But a thorough search of the laundry room failed to reveal any bluing.
“Shucks!” exclaimed Katherine in vexation. “We’re out of it. I heard Aunt
Anna mention it this morning. And the stores are closed this afternoon.
What will I do? I don’t dare produce Fifi unless he’s all white and
nice.” Then it was that Katherine’s mighty genius set to work. A less
resourceful person would have been at a standstill when confronted with
such a difficulty; a genius makes a way when there is none. In one
respect Katherine was an equal of the gods—what she wished and did not
have she created. She wished bluing; she must have it; so she calmly set
about making it. Katherine took chemistry and knew that iodine, applied
to starch, will turn it blue. There was iodine in the house and there was
starch. The pucker vanished from her brow. A far-sighted person would
have foreseen other results from the mixture beside the chemical action
of the iodine on the starch. But Katherine was not a far-sighted person.
She was a genius. It is said that geniuses, entirely absorbed in one
idea, often forget the most commonplace fact altogether. Thus it was that
Katherine, filled with the idea that starch turns blue when mixed with
iodine, forgot the original purpose for which starch was invented. And
Katherine had used flat-iron starch, the kind that gets stiff without
boiling. It turned blue—a beautiful bright purple blue—and she immersed
Fifi again and again. Katherine had to admit that he looked dreadfully
blue when he emerged from the final dip, but serene in the belief that he
would dry pure white like the clothes did, she rolled him up in a piece
of carpet and set him in a wash basket beside the furnace to dry. Then
she went upstairs and joined the dancers, announcing with a sigh of
relief that Fifi was clean once more and could come up as soon as he was
dry.

Having been told that Fifi was clean, they naturally looked for a white
dog, and it was not their fault that they did not recognize the creature
that slunk into their midst in the middle of the revels. As an Animal
from Nowhere he would have taken the prize over the head of the famous
Salmonkey. His hair was pasted flat to his sides in long, stringy waves,
giving him a queer, corrugated effect. His head was a dirty, yellowish
white, for, in keeping his eyes out of the blue bath, Katherine had held
his whole head out; and the rest of him was a bright purplish blue. With
his excited red tongue hanging out in front he looked like a dilapidated
remnant of the American flag. The girls shrieked and fled before him.
Katherine sank weakly down on the couch and viewed him in consternation.

“Whatever did you do to him?” wailed Veronica, when informed that this
was actually Fifi and not some freak animal from the Zoo.

“I wanted to blue him to make him nice and silvery white,” explained
Katherine ruefully, “and there wasn’t any bluing, so I made some with
iodine and starch. I thought he would come out all nice and fluffy, but
instead of that he got—all—stiff!”

The Winnebagos burst out into a wild peal of laughter that made the
windows rattle. They were simply helpless, and laughed until they sank
limply on each other’s shoulders. The simplicity of Katherine’s
inspirations was nothing short of sublime.

Gaining a measure of control over themselves, they became aware that
Veronica was standing before them with eyes flashing lightning, in such a
passion as they had never seen any girl display. Holding her translated
pet in her arms, she stamped her foot and almost hissed at Katherine:
“Don’t you ever come near me again, you—you great big kangaroo from out
of the west!

“And the rest of you are just as bad,” she cried, blazing at them
collectively. “You think it’s funny. I wish I had never met you, and from
this day I am no more a Camp Fire Girl! I am through with you!” And
before they could collect their wits to reply she had rushed out of the
house like a whirlwind.

Completely sobered by the result of her act, Katherine called herself one
name after another and proposed the most extravagant things in the nature
of penance. She and Nyoda talked it over a long time, and Nyoda made her
see how a habit of doing things without thinking of the consequences led
to more trouble than deliberately planned evil did, and she promised
faithfully that this was the last rash act she would ever perform.

“Now that Veronica has had time to think it over and see the funny side,
and realize that Fifi is not hurt, I think you may go over and present
your sincere apologies and make your peace with Veronica,” said Nyoda.
And Katherine, humble as the dust, set forth.

But Veronica would have none of her peace offerings. She received her
apology coldly, and declared she would never come back into the ranks of
the Winnebagos. Then did Katherine go to Nyoda and offer to resign from
the group if that would bring Veronica back. “She has a better right to
be in it than I,” she said. “She was in it first.”

But Nyoda would not consent to that at all. “The whole thing isn’t worth
such heroic measures,” she declared. “I’ll talk to Veronica myself.”

And she did, with no better results than Katherine. Veronica would not be
appeased, even now that Fifi was white once more, and had suffered no
evil effects from his bluing. Veronica declared that Katherine was low
class, and not fit for her to associate with. And she wouldn’t forgive
the others for laughing. So Nyoda had to go back and report her failure
to the other girls. And sadly they realized that their hope of making
Veronica into a Winnebago had evaporated.



                               CHAPTER XI
                             A WINTER HIKE


A long cherished wish of the Winnebagos came true that winter, for they
all got snowshoes for Christmas. So did the Sandwiches. They brought them
down to the Open Door Lodge to show to the girls. “See what we’ve got,”
said the Captain, with a slightly superior air as becomes the owner of a
pair of snowshoes in the presence of a mere girl.

“Wait until you see ours,” returned the girls merrily, producing their
“slush walkers,” as Katherine had dubbed them.

“You didn’t all get them, did you?” asked the Sandwiches, in comical
surprise. It was hard for them to realize that the Winnebagos were as
adept at outdoor sports as they were.

“We surely did,” answered Sahwah. “What good would it do us for some to
have them and some not? We always travel together.”

The Captain had Hinpoha’s in his hand and was examining them critically.
“You girls haven’t the right kind of harness on your snowshoes,” he said,
with the air of an expert. “Straps like yours, that buckle over the toes
and around the heel are ‘tenderfoot’ harness. They don’t give enough to
your motions and you are likely to freeze your feet. See our bindings.
They are made of lamp wicking and calfskin thongs. By putting your foot
on the shoe so that your toes come just under the bridle and binding it
fast with the wick, making a half-hitch on each side and tying a knot at
the back of your shoe you can make a fastening that will hold tightly as
long as you want it too, but will permit you to free your foot with a
single twist in an emergency.”

“Did you learn all that down at Tech?” asked Hinpoha, with just a touch
of sarcasm. It seemed to her that the Captain was trying to show off his
knowledge.

“He won’t admit that we know as much as they do about some things,” she
was saying to herself. “They couldn’t get ahead of us by getting
snowshoes, so now they must claim that theirs are right and ours are
wrong. Ours are more expensive, that’s the whole trouble.”

“My uncle told me about it,” said the Captain earnestly. “He’s been up
north and he knows all about snowshoes. Wait a minute, and I’ll show you
what I mean.” He bound his snowshoes on his feet in the approved fashion,
and then, by stepping on one shoe with the other foot, skilfully wriggled
his toe free without injuring the binding. “You couldn’t do that if it
were buckled,” he said simply, turning to Nyoda for approval.

“You’re right,” said Nyoda. “We never thought of that side of it before.
Don’t you think, girls, we’d better change ours?” They all agreed, all
except Hinpoha. For some odd reason she still fancied that the Captain
was crowing over her, and she was determined to show him that his opinion
meant nothing to her.

“I like the straps much better,” she declared. “And the buckles look so
pretty flashing in the sunlight. Much prettier than your old lamp wicks.
They’ll be dirty in no time.” And they could not induce her to change the
bindings.

Followed days of learning how to run on snowshoes. It was not so very
difficult, after all, not nearly so hard as the skiing Sahwah had tried
the winter before. There were tumbles, of course, when they struck
unexpected snags, but the snow was soft and no one was hurt. Hinpoha was
glad she didn’t change her smart buckle binding for the wicking-thong
affair of the others, because hers looked much nicer, and there was no
occasion for getting out of them suddenly. The first day everybody
returned home full of enthusiasm for the new sport. Sahwah in particular
was so anxious for the morrow to come when she could be at it again, that
she could hardly go to sleep. But when she woke up in the morning she
felt a strange disinclination to get up. Her limbs ached so fiercely that
she could hardly stand. Her muscles were so cramped and sore that she was
ready to shriek with the pain. She limped stiffly into the class room
half an hour late, to see Gladys going in just ahead of her, traveling
with a sidewise motion like a crab, and stumbling as though her feet were
made of wood. Poor Hinpoha never appeared in school at all that day.
“What’s the matter with us?” they groaned, dropping into Nyoda’s class
room at lunch hour. “We’re ruined for life.” Nyoda could not conceal a
smile of amusement. “I knew you’d get it,” she said, with gentle
raillery. “That’s why I advised you not to stay out more than fifteen
minutes the first day. But you were bound to stick to it all afternoon.”

“What did you know we’d get?” they asked in tones of concern. “Are we
lamed for life?”

“Hardly as bad as that,” laughed Nyoda. “I have good hopes of your
ultimate recovery. You have what the French call ‘mal de racquette’—the
snowshoe sickness. You use a different set of muscles when snowshoeing
than you do ordinarily, and these muscles become very stiff and sore. All
you need is a little limbering oil. Little Sisters of the Snow, you are
learning by experience!”

It was fully a week before either the Winnebagos or Sandwiches went
snowshoeing again, although they made excellent excuses. Neither group
would admit to the other that they had become stiff, and would not limp
for worlds when in the sight of the others, although it nearly killed
them to walk naturally. Nevertheless, they understood each other
perfectly.

In February came a three days’ snow storm that covered the earth with a
blanket several feet thick, and a slight thaw followed by a zero snap
produced an excellent crust. The Winnebagos were having a solemn
ceremonial meeting in the Open Door Lodge when without warning there was
a sound of scrambling up the ladder and the Captain burst in among them.

“Oh, I say,” he shouted, and then stopped suddenly as he became aware
that the girls were engaged in singing some kind of a motion song.
“Excuse me,” he stammered in confusion, “I didn’t know you were having a
pow-wow. I heard you singing up here and thought you were just having a
good time.”

“What news can you be bringing that made you burst in on us in such a
fashion?” said Nyoda sternly, but with a twinkle in her eye. “Speak sir,
the queen commands.”

The Captain seemed ready to burst with his message and fired his words
like bullets from an automatic pistol. “My Uncle Theodore’s here, you
know, the one I said had been up north, and he knows a dandy place in the
country where there are some log cabins and he wants us all to go down
there on our snowshoes for a winter hike and stay three days over the
Washington’s Birthday holiday. Oh, please, can you girls come?”

“But——” began Nyoda.

“Oh, I forgot,” went on the Captain, “my aunt’s here, too, and she’s just
as good on snowshoes as Uncle Theodore is, and she’s going along, too,
and will see that you girls don’t take cold or anything. Please say
you’ll come.”

There never was such sport as a winter hike. The preliminaries were
arranged with much reassuring of parents and relatives; buying of
all-wool clothing and blankets; selecting of cooking utensils and what
the boys elegantly referred to as “grub.” “Uncle Theodore” was a real
woodsman, who had spent most of his life in lumber camps; bluff, hale and
hearty; a man to whom you would be perfectly willing to entrust your life
after the first meeting. “Aunt Clara” was a little round dumpling of a
woman, who radiated smiles like sunshine, and declared the Winnebagos
were the handiest girls she had ever seen. It was their skilful way of
packing supplies that called forth this praise.

Food and blankets were sent down by automobile a day ahead, so that the
hikers would have to carry nothing but their cameras and notebooks. The
morning of Washington’s Birthday found them all assembled on the station
platform, for they were to go by cars to a certain town down state and
from there to strike across the open country on their snowshoes.

“What are you going to do with the torpedo?” shouted the Captain, as Slim
appeared carrying a strange looking package.

Slim smiled mysteriously. “Shoot rabbits,” he replied evasively.

“It isn’t a torpedo,” said quick-witted Sahwah, after one look at the
package. “It’s a thermos bottle.”

A chorus of derision went up. “Better Baby has to have his bottle!” “Oh,
Slim! Are you afraid you’ll starve before we get our dinner?” “What’s in
it, Slim, let’s see!”

Slim turned fiery red and shot a dark look at Sahwah.

“It’s hot chocolate, I know,” continued his red-cheeked tormentor. “Slim
has to have a dose every hour or he feels faint.” Sahwah had long ago
discovered Slim’s pet weakness.

“Where’s Katherine?” said somebody suddenly.

“Why, isn’t she here?” said Nyoda, counting over the group. “I thought I
saw her here.”

“She hasn’t come yet,” declared Hinpoha and Gladys.

“Oh, I hope she hasn’t had an absent-minded fit and forgotten this is
Washington’s Birthday,” said Sahwah, clasping her hands in distress.

Uncle Teddy pulled out his watch. “It’s too late to go and look for her,”
he said, “just five minutes until train time.”

Consternation reigned in the group. The Captain gallantly offered to miss
the train and hunt her up, but the others would not hear of it. Hasty
telephoning to her house brought the news that Katherine had left half an
hour ago for the station.

“Then she’ll be here,” said Nyoda, eyeing the clock nervously. “If she
doesn’t make it she’ll have to miss it, that’s all.” There were times
when she would have liked to shake Katherine for her unbusiness-like
ways.

But eight twenty-five came and no Katherine. The long train pulled in and
Uncle Teddy swung them all aboard, and with a great cheering and waving
of snowshoes they were off. Other passengers looked with interest at the
lively group that occupied one whole end of the car, singing, laughing,
shouting nonsense at one another.

“Time for the Better Baby to have his bottle!” said the Bottomless Pitt,
gaining possession of the thermos bottle. He unscrewed the lid and held
it to Slim’s lips, making him drink willy-nilly. It was hot chocolate, as
Sahwah had guessed. Slim choked and sputtered and had to be patted on the
back.

“Do behave, children,” said Nyoda, as the fun threatened to block the
aisle, “that magazine man can’t get through.”

The man stood in the midst of the scufflers, patiently trying to cry his
wares above the din.

“Buy a maggyzine,” he chanted. “All the latest maggyzines!”

  “Good ones for the ladies,
    Bad ones for the gents;
  All the latest maggyzines
    For fifteen cents!”

Amused, they stopped talking to listen to his ridiculous singsong.

“Buy a maggyzine, lady?” he said, holding one out to Nyoda. On the last
sentence his voice cracked in three directions and leaped up the scale a
full octave, so the word “lady” was uttered in a high falsetto squeak.

“Katherine!” exclaimed Nyoda, seizing the magazine seller by the arm in
amazement.

“At yer service, mum,” replied that worthy, with a low bow.

Then, amid the hubbub that ensued she calmly proceeded to remove the
fuzzy little black mustache that had adorned her upper lip, took off the
fur cap that had covered her hair and threw back the long ulster that
covered her from neck to heels, and stood smiling wickedly at them.

“Katherine, you awful, awful, wonderful, wonderful girl, how did you
manage to do it?” gasped Gladys, breathless with astonishment.

“And when did you get on the train?” cried Hinpoha in the same breath.
“You didn’t get on with us.”

“I got into the wrong street car this morning,” replied Katherine,
producing her glasses from her sweater pocket and polishing them on the
end of her muffler, “and got carried east instead of west. When I found
it out there wasn’t time to come back to the Union Station, so I went on
out to the Lakeside Station and go on the train there. I had planned to
be waiting for you on the step when we got into the Union, but on the way
out I met a magazine seller and had an inspiration. I bribed him to let
me take his cap and books and coat for ten minutes. The mustache I had
with me. I thought it might be useful in case I should be called up to
perform a ‘stunt’ at Lonesome Creek. The rest you already know, as they
say in the novels.” She tossed the borrowed plumage into an empty seat
and settled herself beside Slim.

“By the way,” she said quizzically, looking at the boys, “what was it I
heard you declaring a while ago, that no girl could masquerade as a boy
and really fool a boy?”

“Pooh, you didn’t really fool us,” said Slim.

“Oh, no, I didn’t,” jeered Katherine.

“Well, we’d have found you out before long,” said the Captain.

“Maybe you would and maybe you wouldn’t,” said Katherine. “The only thing
I noticed you doing was looking with envy at my little mustache.”

The Captain blushed furiously and the rest shouted with laughter.

“Anyway, Nyoda knew me first,” she continued, “and that shows that girls
are smarter than boys. I can just see us being fooled by one of you
dressed as a girl.”

“I bet I could do it,” said the Captain.

“Maybe _you_ could, Cicero,” said Hinpoha sweetly. Relations between her
and the Captain were somewhat strained these days, but how it began or
what it was all about, no one could tell.

The Captain turned angrily at the taunting use of his name. He knew it
was meant to imply that he was “Cissy” enough to pass off for a girl. “So
you think I’m a Cissy, do you?” he said hotly. If Hinpoha had been a boy
there would have been a scuffle right there, but as it was he was
helpless.

“Tell them how you trailed the fox up in Ontario, father,” interrupted
Aunt Clara hastily, and Uncle Teddy began a thrilling tale of adventure
in the backwoods that held them spellbound until they reached their
station.

“Now for the long white trail!” cried Uncle Teddy cheerily, when all
snowshoes were adjusted to their owners’ satisfaction. “Nine o’clock and
all’s well! Catertown and dinner at twelve o’clock, ten miles due south
as the crow flies! Here, Captain, you be the first pathfinder. Here is a
map of the way we are to take. You may be leader until you get us off the
track, and then we’ll let one of the girls try her hand. Forward, march!”

Whole new worlds lie before the hiker on snowshoes. All the ugliness in
Nature is concealed by the soft white mantle of snow, like a scratched
and stained old table covered with a spotless cloth, and everything is
glistening and wonderful and beautiful. The snowshoes are seven league
boots in very truth. On them you go right over stumps and fences and
hummocks and stones and little hollows. You do not need to keep to the
road or to the beaten track. Dame Frost, like Sir Walter Raleigh, has
spread her mantle over the unpleasant places and over it you may pass in
safety.

“Where are we now?” asked the Bottomless Pitt.

“Casey’s Woods,” replied the Captain, referring to his map.

“Oh,” cried Sahwah, “don’t you remember how we wanted to come here to a
picnic once in the summer, but we couldn’t go into the woods at all,
because the mosquitoes were just terrible? Why didn’t we ever think of
holding a picnic in the winter? There are no ants to crawl into your
shoes and no spiders to get into your cocoa.”

“And no poison ivy,” said Gladys. “Why, winter is the very best time to
hold a picnic!”

And they made up a hiking song to the tune of “Marching Through Georgia,”
and sang it until the woods echoed:

  “Hurrah, hurrah, said the possum to the ’coon,
  Hurrah, hurrah, what makes you come so soon?
  We started in the morning, and we’ll get there before noon,
  As we go hiking on our snowshoes!”

“Doesn’t Aunt Clara look just like a Teddy Bear in that brown fur coat?”
whispered Gladys to Sahwah. Aunt Clara was nearly as broad as she was
long, and, wrapped in furs as she was, seemed rounder yet.

“Halt!” cried Uncle Teddy, as the company came out on the edge of a deep
ravine. “Oh, I say, Captain, what’s this? It doesn’t seem to me I
included this in my order.”

Much confused, the Captain spread his road map on a log and set the
compass on it, trying to find out where he had gone wrong. “Shucks,” he
said disgustedly, after a moment’s study. “We should have gone at right
angles to that hundred-foot pine tree instead of in a line with it.
Everybody back up—I mean, right about face. Shucks!” And he handed the
map and the compass to Sahwah with as good grace as he could and took the
end of the line, as became an officer who had been reduced to the ranks.

Sahwah led them back to the pine tree and in the right direction from it,
as indicated on the map, and they soon came to the bridge which spanned
the gorge a mile below the spot where the Captain had reached it. Detour
and all they reached Catertown at twelve o’clock, where their ravenous
appetites worked fearful havoc with the good dinner set before them.
Uncle Teddy insisted upon having Slim’s thermos bottle filled with milk,
to guard against his getting faint on the way, although Slim blushed and
protested. Ten more miles to make in the afternoon. But to these
practised hikers the distance before and behind them seemed nothing
wonderful and they declared the going was so good on snowshoes that they
could keep on forever. Sahwah followed the map accurately, and brought
them out at the right crossroads at the end of five miles, where she
relinquished her office as pathfinder to Bottomless Pitt, who was next in
line. It had been decided en route that five miles should be the length
of any leader’s service.

“Honorable discharge,” said Uncle Teddy, patting Sahwah on the head.
“I’ll wager there aren’t many girls who could have done that.”

“All of us could,” answered Sahwah, eager to sing the praises of the
group as a whole.

The Captain said nothing. He felt that he had disgraced the Sandwiches by
letting a girl get ahead of him. It did not help him any to note that
Hinpoha was looking at him and evidently thinking the same thing. The
Captain was very sore at heart. He liked and admired Hinpoha more than
any of the other Winnebagos, and they had always been the best of friends
until suddenly, for some reason which he could not explain, she had
turned against him. And she had done the one thing to him that he could
never forgive. She had called him “Cicero.” All was over between them.
Winter hikes weren’t such a lot of fun after all, he told himself.

“Hi, look at the rabbit,” shouted Pitt, pointing out an inquisitive bunny
that sat upon his haunches under a tree, “to see the parade go by.”

“Don’t hurt him, don’t hurt him,” cried Sahwah, dancing up and down and
trying to focus her camera on him.

“Who’s hurting him?” said the Captain. “We haven’t anything to hurt him
with, unless Slim steps on him.” Sahwah clicked her camera and at the
click Br’er Bunny vanished into space.

“Let’s see what kind of tracks he made,” said Sahwah, and they all
willingly detoured a trifle to examine the footprints in the snow.

“There are some others beside his,” said Bottomless Pitt. “What kind of
an animal is that, Uncle Teddy?”

Uncle Teddy examined the tracks and nodded his head with a satisfied air.
“You boys ought to know those tracks,” he said provokingly. “What kind of
scouts are you, anyway? Here, Captain, quit your scowling like a
thundercloud and tell us what animal has been taking a walk. I certainly
have taught you enough about woodcraft to know that.”

The Captain looked at the tracks closely. “I think it’s a ’coon,” he said
finally.

“Think so!” scoffed Uncle Teddy. “Don’t you know so? Pitt, what do you
say?”

“Looks like a ’coon to me,” answered Pitt.

“And what do you say, Redbird?” asked Uncle Teddy, pulling Sahwah’s hair.

“There’s where you boys have us beaten,” said Sahwah frankly. “We never
have had a chance to learn animal tracks.”

“I’m sure it’s a ’coon,” said the Captain, his spirits rising with the
chance to crow over the girls.

“All right, if you’re sure of it, we’ll follow the trail awhile and see
where he is,” said Uncle Teddy. “But you always want to be sure of what
you see, after you’ve learned it once. A good woodsman always fixes a
thing in his mind so he’ll know it the next time he sees it.”

“I’m sure it’s a ’coon,” repeated the Captain. “May we follow the trail
awhile?” Eagerly they trotted along beside the footprints in the snow,
impatient to have a sight of the animal. This was a new sport to the
Winnebagos and they were greatly excited about it. The Captain had
forgotten his low spirits and was in the lead now.

“I say, the fellow that spies him first ought to be pathfinder for the
rest of the way,” he said.

“What does a ’coon look like?” panted Sahwah, trying to keep up with him.

“He has a short, thick, striped tail,” said the Captain, “and a—— Oh,
goodness gracious! Oh, Methuselah’s great grandmother!” For just then the
wind began to blow strongly from the direction in which they were going,
carrying with it an unmistakable odor. With one accord they took to their
heels.

“O Uncle Teddy,” said the Captain, furious at himself, “you knew what it
was all the while! Why didn’t you tell us?”

“Well,” said Uncle Teddy dryly, “you were so blooming sure it was a ’coon
that I couldn’t contradict you very well without being impolite. ‘There’s
nothing like being dead sure,’ I says to myself. And I knew you would
never be satisfied until you had found out for yourself.”

The Captain, permanently abashed, retired to the rear of the line and
ventured no more opinions about anything they saw, and took not the
slightest interest when Hinpoha discovered a rare little moosewood maple
and identified it by its beautiful green bark.

“Last lap!” shouted Pitt, consulting the map for the hundred and fortieth
time. “Turn east by the twin oaks and approach the camp from the rear!
Company, forward march!”

“There are the cabins now,” cried the Monkey, throwing his cap into the
air. “Maybe I won’t sit down and hold my feet up, though!”

“Maybe you won’t jump around and get some firewood, though!” remarked
Uncle Teddy. “End of the hike, messmates,” he shouted, executing a droll
dance on his snowshoes and waving his long arms like windmills. “All
together, now, three cheers and a tiger for the end of the hike!” And
they gave them with a will.

The place where they were to spend that night and the next was an
abandoned sugar camp. It had once been a fine grove of trees, but so many
had been killed by the boring worms that it was no longer profitable. Two
cabins remained standing and were used on and off by hunters during the
season.

“Oh-h-h, ours is a real log cabin,” cried Sahwah, dancing around in
ecstasy when quarters had been assigned. “It’s lots nicer than the old
board shack the boys are going to have. I’ll feel just like Abraham
Lincoln to-night, only so much more elegant, because Abraham Lincoln had
to split his own rails, and we can sit at ease and let the boys tote our
wood for us.”

“But—where are the beds?” cried Hinpoha, in perplexity, as they went
inside.

“Why, _those_,” said Aunt Clara, pointing to some bin-like things ranged
in a double tier along one wall. “Those are our bunks.”

“Bunks!” echoed the girls in rather a dismayed tone. “We didn’t think
we’d have to sleep in bunks. We expected camp beds, at least.”

“They’re quite comfortable,” said Aunt Clara reassuringly, “when they’re
filled with clean straw. Our blankets are in that big box and we’d better
get our beds made the first thing, so we can roll into them as soon as we
get tired.” She bustled around, smoothing out the straw in the bunks with
a practised hand and showing the girls how to fold their blankets to the
best advantage. “Be sure you have just as much under you as over you,”
she advised them again and again. “Camping in winter is a very different
proposition from sleeping out in summer.”

Now that the girls had gotten used to the idea of the bunks, they began
to think it was a jolly good lark to sleep in them. “If bunks it must be,
bunks it is,” said Katherine, in a lugubrious tone that sent them all
into gales of laughter, “but I never thought I’d live to see the day!”

“Me for the upper berth,” said Sahwah, standing on a table to accomplish
the spreading of her blankets. It was not long before they were all
singing:

  “Oh, we’re bunking tonight on the side of the wall,
    Give us a ladder, please,
  We’ve slept in many beds, both hard and soft,
    But never in bunks like these!”

  “Bunking tonight,
  Bunking tonight,
  Bunking on the side of the wall!”

And they raised such a din with the chorus that the boys came streaming
over to see what the fun was about and to inquire casually if supper
wasn’t nearly ready.

“Goodness, no,” answered Nyoda; “we’ve just got our beds made. Go
overpower Slim, if you are hungry, and take his bottle away from him. By
the way, which cabin is to be honored by the smell of the cooking?”

“The log cabin is the largest,” said Uncle Teddy, “and it has both the
fireplace and the little stove. The other is just a sleeping cabin. I
guess the honor is yours. All aboard for the dining car! Where’s that
canned soup? Bring in the wood, boys, and make a cooking fire in the
stove. You know what a cooking fire is, I suppose. Everybody get to work.
Too many cooks can’t spoil this broth.”

They flew around, getting in each other’s way dreadfully, but under Uncle
Teddy’s and Aunt Clara’s able management they did contrive to accomplish
the things they were trying to do, and in less than no time the supper
was steaming on the table.

“Maybe I won’t do anything to that soup and that creamed fish!” sighed
Slim, his face beaming at the sight of the banquet spread before him.

“Maybe it won’t do anything to him!” said Katherine in an aside to
Sahwah. “I got a whole teaspoonful of Hinpoha’s old talcum powder in the
cream sauce before I discovered it wasn’t flour, and then it was too late
to take it out again.”

“Never mind,” Sahwah giggled back, “it’s so hot you can’t taste it, and
it won’t last long enough to get cold. Your secret is safe in our
stomachs!”

The paper plates made a grand glare in the fireplace after supper was
over and in its light Katherine and Slim gave a Punch and Judy show until
Slim showed symptoms of bursting from want of breath, whereupon the play
came to an end and it was discovered that Bottomless Pitt had fallen
asleep in a corner.

“Hide his shoes!” suggested the Monkey, and promptly took them off and
tied them by strings to a tack in the ceiling.

“Let’s enchant him altogether,” said the gifted Katherine, and fastened
the little mustache to his lip. Then they stuck his head full of paper
curls and powdered his face with flour. The effect when he woke up was
all they had hoped for. They had set a small wall mirror on the floor
beside him, so he got the full benefit of his altered appearance on his
first glance around. Uttering a startled yell, he sprang to his feet,
looking wildly around. Brought to himself by the laughter on all sides,
he shook his fist fiercely at Slim and the Captain, declaring that he
would make the fellow who did that eat soap. As Katherine was the
“fellow” in question this only increased the merriment at his expense.
Slim leaned against the wall so helpless from laughter that he didn’t
even resist when Pitt climbed on his shoulders to haul down his shoes,
but went on chuckling violently until he sagged to one side and down came
both boys in a heap, shoes, tack and all.

“I wish you boys would go home,” said Katherine primly. “You’re
altogether too rough for us little girls to play with. I think it’s
horrid and nasty to play tricks on people when they’re asleep.” From her
gently shocked and disapproving expression you never would have guessed
that she was the one who had started it all.

“Come on home, fellows, we’re invited out,” said Uncle Teddy, with a
pretended injured air. “It’s time we little gentlemen were in the hay—I
mean the straw. Come on, Pitt, never mind looking for the tack; Mother
will find it when she gets up in her stocking feet to see if she locked
the door!” With which shot he retired in haste through the doorway and
over to the other cabin, and just in time, for Aunt Clara sent a snowball
flying after him that fell short by a bare inch.

Then she closed and barred the door, fixed the fire with hardwood which
would last the rest of the night, plastered adhesive strips over the
various blisters which the Winnebago feet had acquired on the long march,
and tucked them all in warmly with a motherly pat and a goodnight kiss.
After a twenty-mile walk in the open air a hard plank would be a
comfortable resting place, and the straw filled and blanket padded bunks
were far from the hard plank class. For the first time in the history of
Winnebago sleeping parties there was strictly “nothing doing” after they
were tucked in. Most of them fell asleep during the process of tucking.

Thus it was that when the first thump came at the door nobody stirred. A
second thump followed like a blow from a battering ram. Aunt Clara sat
up.

“Who’s there?” she called. No answer save a series of blows and thumps
that threatened to break the door down. The rest were awake by this time,
trembling in their beds.

“Theodore, is that you?” shrieked Aunt Clara above the noise. “What do
you want?” Again came a shower of blows, as if somebody were trying to
force their way in with an axe. This time the bars gave way and the door
swung inward. There was a loud bellowing, roaring sound, which seemed to
their startled ears like a deep-throated whistle, and into the cabin
there walked a cow. The girls shrieked and disappeared under the
bed-clothes, for to their excited fancy she looked like a wild animal.

“Shoo, get out!” shouted Aunt Clara, throwing her slipper with neat aim
into the cow’s face. Bossy looked reproachfully at her and walked farther
into the cabin, standing close beside the row of bunks.

Katherine raised her head from the blanket to see what was going on and
looked right into the open mouth of the creature as it stood over her.
“Murder! It’s going to eat me up!” she shrieked, diving under the covers
with a prolonged howl.

By this time Aunt Clara had found the whistle with which she always
summoned her husband when she needed him and blew a long, shrill blast. A
few minutes later Uncle Teddy appeared at the door, with a string of
startled boys running out of their cabin behind him, and at a word of
command from him, accompanied by several emphatic pokes and proddings,
Mrs. Bossy meekly turned and walked out through the doorway, which was
considerably the worse for her entrance. She had probably strayed from
the nearest farmhouse and was suffering from the intense cold. Attracted
by the light streaming from the little window of the cabin she had come
to find shelter, and when nobody answered her first gentle knocks with
her horns, she had taken matters into her own hands and become
housebreaker. She was stabled in a lean-to shelter for the rest of the
night and made comfortable with straw and a blanket.

“Isn’t it funny how all the suffering critters come to our hospitable
door for shelter?” said Katherine at the breakfast table. “Just like
Sandhelo. He came of his own accord, also.”

“They must know that we keep the Fire Law,” answered Hinpoha. “‘Whose
house is bare and dark and cold, whose house is cold, this is his own’!”

“Isn’t it strange that she came to our door, and not to the boys’,” said
Gladys. “They had a light shining, too, but her footprints show that she
came past their door to stop at ours.”

“That’s because she was a lady,” replied Uncle Teddy, helping himself to
his fifth slice of fried bacon, “and no lady would come bustling into a
gentleman’s apartment like that. Hurry up and get your chores done, you
housekeepers and wood-gatherers, and let’s go out and make a snow man.”

“Let’s make a totem-pole,” suggested Katherine, when they were all out
playing in the snow. “It’s lots more epic than making a snow man.”

“You mean a ‘snowtem pole,’” observed Uncle Teddy.

So they set to work and made a marvellous totem-pole, higher than the
cabin, with figures carved into its sides such as were never on land or
sea. Then Uncle Teddy and the boys, who had done less carving on their
sections and consequently were finished first, set up a barber pole on
the other side of the doorway, containing the stripes with a crimson of
their own concocting, which was a secret, but which involved several
trips to the kitchen and the food supply box. All this time the Captain
had never spoken one word to Hinpoha. Whenever he would have relented
under the spell of the jolly larks they were having, something whispered
to him, “She called me Cicero! I won’t stand that from anyone!”

“Who’s ripe for a trifling sprint of five miles this afternoon?” asked
Uncle Teddy at the dinner table, taking three scones at once from the
plate.

“I! I! I!” cried a chorus of voices, and a dozen hands waved frantically
above the table.

“Have you any special place in mind?” asked Aunt Clara, pretending not to
see Uncle Teddy stealing yet another buttered scone from her plate.

“Well,” said Uncle Teddy, “I happen to know that there’s a real sugar
camp in action somewhere about here, and I think five miles covers it,
there and back. It might not be the worst idea in the world to look in
and see how they are getting on. I dare say most of these folks here have
never seen maple syrup outside of a can.”

A sigh of delight ran around the table. “Hurry up, everybody, and put
everything you have left into your mouths, so I can collect the plates,”
said Sahwah, impatient to start at once.

But when the time came to start Hinpoha had developed such a dizzy
headache that going along was out of the question. “It’s nothing
serious,” she stoutly maintained, in reply to anxious inquiries. “Too
much noise, that’s all. We might call it ‘Mal de racket’!” She would not
hear of any of them staying at home with her, however, although Aunt
Clara and Nyoda both insisted. “Go on, all of you,” she begged, pressing
her hand to her throbbing temples. “It would make it so much worse if I
thought I had kept you away from the fun. All I want is to lie down
quietly. I’ll be perfectly all right here. If I feel better soon I’ll
follow your tracks and either catch up with you or meet you there and
come back home with you. Please go.” And so insistent was she that they
went without her.

“Be sure you lock the door carefully,” called Aunt Clara.

“And be sure you put out a sign, NO COWS ADMITTED,” said Sahwah. And
laughing they set out, leaving her tucked in her bunk. With the cessation
of the noise that had almost lifted the roof of the cabin during the
dinner hour, the headache gradually disappeared, and in an hour Hinpoha
was herself again. Swiftly buckling on her snowshoes she ran out into the
stinging air, which seemed like a cool hand laid on her forehead.

She found the trail of the others easily, for the crust was slightly
dented in by every step. The way led through a thick strip of woods.
Hinpoha noticed that there were many tracks of animals here and wished
with all her heart that she knew what they were. “It would be such a
grand thing to say to the folks at home, ‘I followed the trail of a
’coon,’ and be sure it was a ’coon,” she said to herself, and then
laughed aloud at the ridiculous mistake of the Captain. Then she stood
still in delight, for just before her a dark, furry body was slipping
along over the snow. “I believe that really is one,” she said to herself
joyfully. “I can’t catch him, of course, but maybe he’ll run up a
tree—people always talk about ’coons being treed—and then I can see what
he looks like.” And she sped after the little animal, who took alarm at
her first step and disappeared between the trunks of the trees.

Hinpoha looked for him for a while and then realized it was a hopeless
search and with a sigh turned to resume her own way through the woods.
Then she stopped in dismay. The broad trail she had been following so
easily had vanished from the earth! The only marks on the white ground
were those of her own snowshoes. “Of course,” she said, coming to herself
with a shake, “I got off the trail when I followed that ’coon. I’ll
follow my own tracks back.” But her own tracks led her round and round in
a circle, in and out among the tree trunks, and did not end up in what
she sought. It took her some minutes to realize that she was actually
lost in the woods. Then, of course, the first thing she did was to go
into a panic, and run wildly back and forth. “Come, this will never do,”
she told herself severely, standing still. “I must stop and think before
I do anything else. Let me see, what was it Migwan did the time she was
lost up in the Maine woods? She sat down on the ground and wrote poetry,
and waited until we came and found her! I can’t write poetry, that’s out
of the question, and I can’t sit on the ground, either, it’s too cold.
I’ll have to stand up and wait.” But that proved a dreary amusement. It
was getting bitterly cold, and a strong wind whistled through the bare
branches till it made her flesh creep. To make things worse, an early
twilight was setting in and the light was rapidly fading. To keep from
taking cold she walked up and down bravely among the trees, growing more
terrified every minute. She tried to sing, to call, to shout, to make her
voice carry across the snow, but it was lost in the moaning of the wind.
Her feet grew numb with the cold and she stamped them vigorously to start
up the blood. The crust broke through, and down she went through several
feet of snow to her waist. She braced herself with her hands and tried to
draw her feet out, but they went through also and she floundered with her
face in the icy snowflakes. Then with a growing sense of horror she
realized what had happened. The ends of her snowshoes had become firmly
wedged under the roots of a tree, and she was unable to pull them out.
And her feet, tightly bound to the snowshoes by the pretty straps and
buckles, were trapped. She struggled furiously, and only sank deeper in
the snow.


As the “syrup party,” as they called themselves, were just ready to cool
off the bit of boiled sap that had been given them to taste, the Captain
suddenly sprang to his feet and smote his forehead. “Daggers and dirks!”
he exclaimed, “I left my sweater hanging right in front of the fire when
we came away—you remember it got all wet in the snowball fight this
morning—and I bet it’s scorched to cinders by this time. Do you folks
mind if I go back to the cabin in a hurry? I got that sweater for
Christmas and I hate to lose it so soon. I’m all right, uncle, I can find
the way, even if it is getting dark. Don’t hurry yourselves. Give my
share of the syrup to Slim. He’s getting thin.” And adjusting his
snowshoes with a skilled “jiffy twist,” he was off down the trail.

Now the Captain, although he had been mistaken about the tracks the day
before, was nevertheless an observant lad, and when he came to the place
where Hinpoha had left the trail, he noticed the marks going off in
another direction and stood still and looked at them. He knew that they
most likely belonged to Hinpoha, and he knew also that she had not
arrived at the sugar camp and he had not met her on the trail coming
home, so, putting two and two together, he decided that she must be in
the woods somewhere. A mean little instinct whispered to him to go on his
way and let her be wherever she was, and get a good fright until the rest
found her; then his better nature rose to the top and he decided to hunt
her up and show her the trail to meet the others.

“Glory, she certainly did mess up the trail some,” he said to himself, as
he followed the marks which wandered up and down and doubled back on
themselves and crisscrossed everywhere. It was slow going, for the
darkness was hiding the footprints and he had to bend down to the ground
to see them clearly. He almost stepped on her at last when he did find
her. She was numb from the cold and very nearly asleep and he thought she
was dead. The imprisoned snowshoes held her down and he could not pull
her out of the snow at first. Finally he suspected what had happened and
dug down in and loosened the buckles. It took a good deal of working
after she was freed to get life back into the numb feet and ankles, but
it was accomplished at last and Hinpoha was ready to walk home.

Then a moment of embarrassment fell between them. Hinpoha flushed and
looked uncomfortable. “I’m sorry I called you Cicero,” she said, with a
sneeze between every word. “You aren’t a Cissy at all. You’re a hero!”
And then for no reason at all, except that the afternoon’s strenuous
adventure had unstrung her nerves, she burst into tears.

“Here,” said the Captain, entirely light-hearted again, and holding up
the little bucket he had carried away from the sugar camp, “cry into the
pail. Evaporate the water. Save the salt. It’s worth money.”

And Hinpoha giggled foolishly and dried her tears and raced back to the
cabin as fast as she could go, to stave off pneumonia on her arrival with
hot blankets and steaming drinks.

“He _is_ a hero,” she murmured dreamily to Gladys, who hovered around her
like an anxious grandmother, after the others were satisfied that she was
all right, and had set to work getting supper; “he never once said, ‘I
told you so’!”



                              CHAPTER XII
                           HINPOHA’S ROMANCE


An indistinct murmur floated down from the Winnebago room of the Open
Door Lodge, punctuated by little squeals and exclamations. The firelight
shown on four tense faces, and four pairs of eyes were riveted on the two
figures in the center of the group who were engaged in a very singular
occupation. Balanced between two stiffly outstretched and quivering right
forefingers hung a key, and suspended from it by a string was a
black-covered book, supposed to be set apart from all secular uses. In a
breathless undertone Hinpoha—for she was the owner of one of the
aforesaid fingers—was chanting a passage of scripture designed for a
widely different application. A strained hush was followed by another
outbreak of exclamations. “Look, it’s turning! It began to turn the
minute she said, ‘Turn, my beloved.’ What letter did it turn on, ’Poha?”

“D,” replied Hinpoha, in a solemn whisper.

“D,” repeated the chorus, “what does that stand for?”

“Daniel,” supplied Sahwah promptly.

“His name’s going to be Daniel,” chanted the chorus. “Now try for the
last name.”

Again the mystic rite was performed. At “I” the Bible trembled with a
premonitory movement. “It’s turning!” whispered the chorus in an awed
tone. “No, it isn’t either; it’s still again.” After that one tremor the
soothsaying volume remained bafflingly motionless through the recitation
of the mysteries which accompanied the letter J. K likewise began
uneventfully. But no sooner had Hinpoha uttered the fateful words, “Turn,
my beloved,” when with a suddenness that scared them half out of their
wits the key turned sharply in the supporting fingers, twisted itself
free and fell to the floor with an emphatic bang.

“It’s K,” cried Hinpoha, covering her face with her hands. “What names
begin with K?”

“King,” said Gladys.

“Knight,” suggested Katherine.

“All the noble names,” said Nakwisi dreamily.

“Mrs. Daniel King,” said Sahwah experimentally, whereupon Hinpoha hid her
face in the bearskin rug.

“You try it, Katherine,” said Gladys. “I’ll hold the key with you.”

“Oh, I’m afraid to try it,” said Katherine, hanging back and looking
uncomfortable. “It’s no use, anyway; nobody’d have me for a gift.”

“It always tells the truth,” said the blushing Hinpoha. “You know Miss
Vining, Clara Morrison’s old maid aunt? Well, Clara persuaded her to try
it and it wouldn’t turn for her at all, and they went through the
alphabet three times in succession.”

With a skeptical expression Katherine suffered herself to be placed on
the box covered with an old piece of tapestry displaying a threadbare
figure of the three fates, which was the seat of those engaged in the
mysteries. “My beloved is mine, and I am his,” she recited jerkily,
keeping her eyes glued to the key. “He feedeth upon a row of lilies——”

“It’s ‘He feedeth upon the lilies,’ just ‘the lilies’; the ‘row’ part
comes later,” interrupted Gladys in a sharp whisper.

“He feedeth upon the lilies, just the lilies, the row part——” repeated
Katherine dutifully.

“No, no; it’s all wrong,” said Gladys impatiently. “Begin again.”

“My beloved is mine——”

“Katherine! Oh-h-h-h Katherine! Are you up there?” the voice of Slim
suddenly called from below.

The girls all started guiltily and fell into confusion. “Sh! Hide the
Bible, quick!” cried Hinpoha in a sibilant whisper, darting forward and
snatching it from Katherine’s hand and concealing it under the bear rug.

“What are you girls doing up there?” came from below.

“Oh, nothing,” floated down the illuminating reply from above.

If Nyoda had not been so completely engrossed in her private affairs just
at this time she would have noticed the subtle undercurrent which seemed
to have caught hold of the toes of the entire feminine half of the senior
class at Washington High. It was not the Winnebagos only. In fact, they
had caught it from the others. Every class has its epidemic, be it
tonsillitis, friendship link bracelets or Knox hats. This year it was
fortune telling. Where the mystic rite described above originated nobody
could exactly tell, but in less than a week every girl in the class had
been initiated into the secret, and was busy discovering what her future
initials were to be. The performance was always carried on behind locked
doors or in places otherwise secure from adult eyes, and was often
interrupted right at the most exciting point by approaching footsteps,
but questions as to how the innocent maids had been improving the shining
hour invariably brought out the reply, “Oh, we weren’t doing
_anything_—much.” Missing keys and books of family worship led to
embarrassing questions once in a while, but somehow the situation was
always bridged over and parents and teachers never really did find out
what the fascinating something was that drew their young friends off into
groups by themselves from which they emerged to day dream instead of
getting their lessons and to make mysterious references to certain
initials.

The book and key oracle reigned supreme for several weeks and then gave
place to the horoscope. For ten cents in stamps a certain seer dwelling
in a remote town in Oregon offered to “cast” the principal events, past,
present and future, in the lives of all young lady correspondents. It was
not long before intimate heads were bent over scraps of paper comparing
horoscopes. Hinpoha’s was acknowledged by all to be the gem of the
collection.

“You have a brilliant future before you,” it read. “You will have a
romantic love affair and will marry your first lover. He is a great
scholar who will afterwards become president. You will meet him when you
are very young.” Then followed a dozen lines more of brilliant prophecy.
The special friends of Hinpoha, who had been allowed to peep at her
fortune, Gladys, Sahwah, Katherine, Nakwisi and Medmangi, and one or two
others, who had fore-gathered ostensibly to rehearse a school song, sat
back and regarded their fortunate friend with awe. None of their fortunes
had contained anything so dazzling.

“You’re going to be the President’s wife!” murmured Sahwah. “You won’t
forget us, will you?”

“Never!” declared Hinpoha magnanimously, stealing a sly glance into the
mirror.

“I hope you won’t be ashamed of me when I’m married and come calling at
the White House,” said Katherine, rather dolefully. “All I drew was a
farmer.”

“I only got an automobile manufacturer,” echoed Gladys.

“That’s what comes of having red hair,” said Sahwah enviously. “Her
fortune said he would be drawn to her by her beautiful tresses.”

When Hinpoha was preparing for bed that night she stood fully an hour
before the mirror and regarded her shining curls. Up until now she had
never paid much attention to them except when the boys called her redhead
and pretended to light matches on her head, and then she wished with all
her heart, like the little girl in the song, that she had been “born a
blonde.” Now for the first time her hair appeared beautiful to her. She
arranged the curls this way and that, piling them on her head and letting
them fall over her white shoulders. And all night she dreamed of standing
up in a carriage and bowing graciously to cheering multitudes and
clasping in her arms the forms of her girlhood friends who were among the
crowd.

The horoscopes had their day and gave way to something still more
exciting, something so secret that at first it could not be mentioned in
words, but was only alluded to by mysterious references.

“Marjorie King went,” said Gladys to Hinpoha, “and she won’t tell a thing
she found out, but she says it was the grandest thing.”

“I don’t believe it’s worth fifty cents,” said Sahwah skeptically.
“Anyhow, I haven’t that much to spend.”

“You don’t ever dare tell anybody, they say, not a soul,” reported Gladys
later. “If you do, the nice things won’t happen and the bad ones surely
will.”

“She’s the Seventh Daughter of a Seventh Daughter,” observed Hinpoha in
an awe-stricken tone. “Did you ever hear of anything so wonderful?”

“Are _you_?” asked Sahwah anxiously, of Hinpoha.

This last question was entirely unrelated to the preceding statement
concerning the Seventh Daughter of a Seventh Daughter. It was part of the
cryptic jargon employed in the discussion of a momentous question.

“I don’t know,” answered Hinpoha uncertainly. “Would you?”

“Oh, do,” begged Gladys, “and then if you find out something nice we’ll
go in after you. Oh, I forgot, you can’t tell us anything.”

“Would your mother mind if you did?” asked Hinpoha, hesitating on the
brink.

“She really wouldn’t mind, but she’d think it awfully silly,” answered
Gladys, “so I don’t believe I’ll tell her.”

“You might find out the whole name,” said Sahwah, looking at Hinpoha.

“And just when it’s going to happen,” finished Gladys.

Hinpoha suddenly made up her mind. “I believe I will,” she said, looking
at Sahwah.

Where Hinpoha’s thoughts were the next day in school nobody knew, but
they were certainly not on her lessons. She failed signally in every
class.

“And what were the initials of the great poet, Longfellow?” cooed Miss
Snively, in her honeydrip voice.

The word “initials” penetrated Hinpoha’s wandering mind. “D. K.,” she
murmured dreamily.

“Indeed?” purred Miss Snively. “Can it be that I have been misinformed?”
But today sarcasm was lost on Hinpoha.

After school was out a select group, half of which seemed to be hanging
back and being coaxed on by the other half, walked ten blocks to an
unfamiliar car line and transferred to a cross-town line. There was a
much more direct route to their destination, but that laid them open to
the risk of meeting friends and relatives who might casually inquire
whither they were bound. Just wherein lay the crime in what they were
doing, no one could have told, nor why it should be kept such a dark
secret, but singly and collectively they would have died rather than
reveal the nature of the latest epidemic.

By devious ways they reached the end of their journey and stood
irresolute on the sidewalk before a house which bore a plate on the door
announcing that that same roof sheltered the object of their desire.

“Shall we all go in together?” whispered Gladys. There was no need of
whispering, for no one was within earshot, but with one accord they
lowered their voices. They went up the steps and held another
consultation. “You ring the bell,” said Gladys.

“No, you ring it,” said Hinpoha. Thus encouraged, Hinpoha pushed the
button, the door swung inward and they passed through. An hour later they
stood on the corner again, waiting for the car to take them home.

“Did she say anything about—about——” inquired Gladys.

Hinpoha clapped her hand over her mouth and made inarticulate sounds
beneath it, but her eyes were sparkling, as they never sparkled before.

“Excuse me,” gasped Gladys; “I forgot you mustn’t tell.”

“Can’t you give us a hint?” begged Sahwah, who had gone along for moral
support.

Hinpoha shook her head and retained her finger on her lips to stop any
leaks.

“Well, it couldn’t have been any nicer than mine,” said Gladys, with an
air of satisfaction. “Mine was just splendid. Maybe yours
wasn’t—favorable?” she added, stricken with a sudden doubt as to the
superiority of Hinpoha’s future.

“It was, too!” declared Hinpoha. “If you took all the nice things out of
ten fortunes it wouldn’t be as nice as mine!”

Gladys looked unconvinced. “Well, we’ll wait a year or two until they
begin to come true, and then we’ll see which had the nicer,” she
remarked.

Hinpoha laughed outright. “I don’t have to wait a year or two before mine
comes true,” she announced triumphantly. “It’s coming true in the very
near future. I’m going to meet a light-haired young man and he’s going to
admire my hair and fall in love with me, so there! Is yours any nicer
than that?”

“Oh, you told,” cried Sahwah. “Now it won’t come true.”

Hinpoha stopped in dismay. “Well, Gladys made me,” she wailed. “If she
hadn’t said hers was better——” The car came along then and a truce was
patched up. Such a delicate subject could not be discussed openly in the
street-car, even to quarrel about it.

But if Hinpoha spent a bad night mourning because she had broken the
spell of her good fortune, the next day sent all doubts flying to the
winds. The week before the bald-headed teacher of the literature class
had occasioned a bad break in the routine of the course by
inconsiderately dying of pneumonia in the middle of the term. For several
days thereafter the grief of the class was tempered by the fact that
there were no recitations. But on the day after Gladys and Hinpoha, with
Sahwah and Katherine as chaperones, had visited the Seventh Daughter of a
Seventh Daughter, an announcement appeared on the session room blackboard
to the effect that literature recitations would be resumed that morning.
As they filed into the literature class room they were greeted by the
sight of the new teacher standing beside the desk.

“Boys and girls,” said the principal, who was doing the honors, “this is
Mr. David Knoblock, who will have charge of this class in the future.”
And he hurried out.

“David Knoblock!” whispered the wit of the class to his neighbor.
“Knoblock, No Block, see?” And a titter ran through the class.

“David Knoblock!” said Katherine to herself. “He looks as though his name
might be Percy Pimpernell.”

“David Knoblock!” repeated Hinpoha to herself, and sat mute before the
workings of fate. David Knoblock. D. K. The Car of Destiny had stopped
before her door and from it had alighted the fair-haired stranger!

Standing before the class in the glory of his yellow hair, pale,
sprouting mustache, blue eyes and pink cheeks, Mr. Knoblock seemed to
them a composite of Adonis, Paris and Apollo Belvidere, whose mythical
charms had been impressed upon them by the late lamented instructor.

“What has the class been reading, Miss—ah—Miss Katherine?” he inquired,
consulting the class roll.

“Tennyson, Mr. Knoblock,” answered Katherine briefly.

“_Professor_ Knoblock, if you please,” he corrected gently. “Ah, yes;
Tennyson.” And turning the pages of his book with a manicured finger, he
found the place and began to read aloud, glancing up at one or another of
his girl pupils from time to time. More and more often that glance rested
on Hinpoha, for with the sun shining through the window on her hair she
was the most vivid spot of color in the room. Finally he did not take his
eyes away at all, and, looking her straight in the face, he read in
sentimental tones:

  “Queen of the rosebud garden of girls,
    Come hither, the dances are done,
  In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls,
    Queen, lily and rose, in one;
  Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls,
    To the flowers, and be their sun.”

In the blaze of that glance Hinpoha’s romantic heart melted like a lump
of wax. The room swam in a rose-colored mist. The great thing that she
had read about in books had happened to her; she was in love! It was not
long before the whole school knew about the affair. Whenever there was a
sentimental passage in the book Professor Knoblock looked at Hinpoha and
at her alone. He often detained her a moment after class to inquire if
that last paragraph had been entirely clear to her; he thought she had
looked not quite satisfied with his explanation. As he roomed in the next
street to her home he generally met her on the corner in the morning and
walked to school with her. Certain sour-dispositioned damsels in the
class, who had made eyes at the new Lochinvar in vain, made sneering
remarks about a girl who had so few boy friends in the class that she had
to ogle a teacher; others sighed enviously when they looked at her
woman’s crown of glory and realized their handicap; the Winnebagos
regarded the whole thing as the workings of fate, pure and simple, for
was it not even as the Seventh Daughter of a Seventh Daughter had
predicted?

As for Hinpoha herself, she was too transported to care what anyone else
thought about it. She was surrounded by a rarified atmosphere and the
voices of earth troubled her not. Just now she sat blushing deeply and
crushing in her hand a note which had appeared mysteriously between the
pages of her _Selections from the Standard English Poets_. It was written
in Mr. Knoblock’s slanting backhand, and read:


“My Dear Miss Bradford:

“Never have I seen such glorious hair as yours. I cannot take my eyes
from it while you are in the room, and it haunts me by night. May I ask a
great favor of you—that you grant me one lock, one small lock, as a
keepsake? I fear you will be too modest to make this gift in person, and
all I ask is that you slip it into the dictionary on my desk.”


The signature was a long ornamental K, with a running vine entwined about
its upright stroke.

Hinpoha scarcely raised her eyes above the level of her book during the
whole recitation. She sat nervously toying with a long perfect curl that
hung down over her shoulder. Toward the close of the recitation period
she came out of her abstraction and touched the boy in front of her on
the shoulder. “Lend me your penknife,” she whispered in answer to his
look of inquiry. The Senior Literature Class occupied the last hour of
the day, and as Mr. Knoblock had no session room, the passing of the
class left the room empty. On this day Mr. Knoblock left the room with
the class on the stroke of the bell, and the boys and girls, trooping out
in a hurry to get home, did not notice that Hinpoha loitered. She glanced
around nervously, satisfied herself that she was unobserved and then
darted toward the dictionary on Mr. Knoblock’s desk. Going out of the
door a minute later she ran violently into Katherine, who had carried out
her inkwell instead of her English book, and was coming back to replace
it. Katherine looked at her curiously.

“Excuse me,” said Hinpoha in a flustered tone, “I really didn’t see you.
I was thinking about something.”

Hinpoha looked at Mr. Knoblock with an air of expectancy when she entered
the room the next morning, looking for some sign of gratitude for the
lock of hair, but he said, “Good morning, Miss Bradford,” in his usual
tone and made no further remarks. But before the hour was over he took
occasion to borrow her book for a moment, and directly after he returned
it a note fell from its pages into her lap. With starry eyes she unfolded
it and read:

  “O Morning Star that smilest in the blue,
  O star, my morning dream hath proven true,
  Smile sweetly, thou! my love hath smiled on me.”

The lines were from “Gareth and Lynette.” The universe turned into song.
It was getting altogether too much for Hinpoha to hold and that afternoon
before the fire in the Open Door Lodge she revealed the progress of her
romance to the other Winnebagos.

“Did you really give him a lock of your hair?” asked Gladys.

Hinpoha nodded. “Just a tiny curl. It doesn’t show much at all where I
cut it out.”

“Collecting locks of hair doesn’t mean so terribly much,” said Katherine
dryly. “I read about a boy once who begged a lock of hair from every girl
he met and then had his sister embroider a sofa cushion with them. And
another one used them for paint brushes.”

“Oh, but this is—different,” said Hinpoha with lofty pity. It had just
dawned on her that Katherine was jealous. The same miracle that had
dropped the scales from her eyes and revealed to her the fact that she
was beautiful had also made her realize that Katherine was hopelessly
plain.

“And then the verse he wrote afterward,” said Gladys, hastening to uphold
Hinpoha. “That proves he is in earnest. And, anyway, it must be true.
Didn’t all the fortunes say he was fair and his initials were D. K., and
he was a great scholar, and would be president, and he would fall in love
with Hinpoha’s hair?” And Katherine had to admit that whatsoever was
written in the stars was written.

It mattered little to any of them, Hinpoha least of all, that Professor
Knoblock had thus far said nothing openly upon the subject to Hinpoha.

“Isn’t his bashfulness adorable?” cooed Gladys. “He’s too shy to express
himself face to face with her; he puts all his—his passion into writing.”

“Won’t those notes be lovely to read over together when you’re old?” said
Sahwah, also stricken with a sentimental fit. But at the mere mention of
such a thing Hinpoha fled with burning cheeks.

“Hello, Red,” said a cheerful voice in her ear, as she went dreaming down
the street one day. “Where have you been keeping yourself for the last
few weeks? You haven’t been down in the gym once.”

“Hello, Captain,” she said sweetly. (How young he was, she was thinking.
How hopelessly kiddish beside the manly form of Professor Knoblock!)

“Say, you must have your tin ear on today,” remarked the Captain
jovially. “I had to call you three times before you answered.”

“I was thinking,” said Hinpoha, and blushed.

“Must have been an awful hard think,” remarked the Captain, stooping to
throw a stone at a cat. (He’s nothing but a kid, thought Hinpoha for the
second time.)

It was on this occasion that the Captain, happily believing all was well
between himself and Hinpoha, invited her to go to the Senior dance at
Washington High with him.

“I’m awfully sorry, Captain,” she said kindly, “but I’m going
with—someone else.”

“Who?” asked the Captain blankly. The “bid” for that party had cost the
Captain just a dollar and a half, as he was not a member of the class,
and he had made the investment for the sake of going with Hinpoha and no
one else. So he repeated in a startled tone, “Who?”

“Oh, someone,” answered Hinpoha tantalizingly, and with that he had to be
content. To herself she was saying, “How foolish it would be to promise
to go with the Captain and then not be able to accept when—when _he_ asks
me.” For word had gone round the school that all the faculty were going
to honor the Senior Dance with their presence, and whom else would
Professor Knoblock ask but herself?

But of all things to happen just at this time, the very next day Hinpoha
came down with the mumps, or rather the mump, for only one side of her
throat was affected. The first half she had had in childhood.

“That horrid mump stayed away on purpose before,” she wailed, “and waited
all these years to jump out on me just at this time. And my new party
dress is too sweet for anything, and my gilt slippers—oh-oh-oh-oh was
there ever such a disappointment?” Gladys and Sahwah and Katherine, who
had all had theirs “on both sides” and were therefore allowed to call,
were consumed with sympathy, and were loud in their efforts to console
the stricken mumpee.

“Has _he_ come to see you?” ventured Gladys.

Hinpoha shook her head, which was a somewhat painful process.

“Of course he can’t come,” said Sahwah, “he probably hasn’t had them.”

Katherine’s expression seemed to say that a really brave knight wouldn’t
hesitate to expose himself to any danger for the sake of seeing his lady,
seeing which Hinpoha croaked hoarsely, “They probably wouldn’t let him
come,” the “they” in this case presumably referring to the school
authorities.

“I saw him down in Forester’s this noon when I was ordering the flowers
for mother’s birthday,” said Gladys, and they all sighed.

Just then the doorbell rang and Gladys, who was sent to answer it,
returned with a long box in her hand addressed to “Miss Dorothy
Bradford.”

“From Foresters,” said Sahwah breathlessly.

“Flowers!” said Gladys. “Hurry and open them.”

The box disclosed a dozen, long-stemmed pink roses. “Oh! Ah!” echoed the
four in unison.

“From—him?” asked Gladys.

“There’s no card in the box,” said Hinpoha, vainly searching.

“They must be from him,” said Gladys decidedly. “Wasn’t he in Forester’s
this morning? And it seemed to me I heard him asking for pink roses.”

Hinpoha put the flowers in a tall vase and regarded them with rapture.
They were the first flowers ever sent to her by a man. In them she found
comfort for having to miss the dance.

“Was he there?” she inquired falteringly of Gladys, the day after the
party.

Gladys answered in the affirmative. “Did—did any of you dance with him?”
Hinpoha wanted to know further.

Gladys shook her head. “I saw him dancing once or twice with Miss
Snively,” she said. “I don’t believe he stayed very long. He disappeared
before it was half over.”

Hinpoha was satisfied. He had not enjoyed himself without her. “Wasn’t it
noble of him to dance with Miss Snively?” she said enthusiastically. “No
one else would, I’m sure.”

At Commencement time the year before an old Washington High graduate, who
had attained fame and fortune since his school days, presented the school
with funds to build a swimming pool. Work had progressed during the year
and now the pool was completed and about to be dedicated. An elaborate
pageant was being prepared for the occasion. Mermaids and water nymphs
were to gambol about in the green, glassy depths and lie on the painted
coral reefs; Neptune was to rise from the deep with his trident; a
garland bedecked barge was to bear a queen and her attendants; and then
after the pageant there were to be swimming races, an exhibition of
diving and then a stunt contest.

The Winnebagos, being experienced swimmers, were very much in the show.
Sahwah had invented a brand new and difficult dive, which she had
christened Mammy Moon; Hinpoha had learned the amazing trick of sitting
down in the water and clasping her hands around her knees; Gladys could
swim the entire length of the pool with the leg stroke only, holding a
parasol over her head with her hands, thus giving the impression that she
was taking a stroll on a sunshiny day. Katherine, alas, could not swim.
The largest body of water she had seen at home had been the cistern, and
most of the time it was low tide in that. But this did not prevent her
from thinking up new and ludicrous stunts for the others to do. It was
she who invented the “Kite-tail” stunt, which was one of the signal
successes on the night of the pageant. In this one of the senior boys,
who was a very powerful swimmer, swam ahead with a rope tied around his
waist, to which another performer clung. Behind this second one four or
five more boys were strung out like the tail of a kite, each one holding
on to the heels of the one ahead, and all towed by the first swimmer.

The great night arrived and the building which housed the pool was
crowded to the doors. The Senior girls and boys had spent hours
decorating the hall with festoons of greens and potted palms and ferns,
so that it looked like the depths of a forest in the center of which the
pool glittered like a magic spring. Cries of admiration rose from the
audience all around. Hinpoha, who in the first part of the performance
was a mermaid, with water lilies plaited in her shining hair, saw only
one face in the crowd, and that was Professor Knoblock, as he leaned over
the polished brass rail and looked at her, and looked, and looked, and
looked. Only that day Hinpoha, filled with the spirit of romance, had
slipped a note into the dictionary on his desk, at the beginning of the
letter “L,” the place where she had put the lock of hair, thanking
Professor Knoblock for the flowers. An hour later, in sudden terror that
he would not find it there and someone else would, she had gone to remove
it. But it had vanished, and in its place was another verse from Gareth
and Lynette:

  “O birds that warble to the morning sky,
  O birds that warble as the day goes by,
  Sing sweetly; twice my love hath smiled on me.”

The opening of the pool was a success in every way. The nymphs nymphed,
and the mermaids wagged their spangled tails to the delight and wonder of
the spectators, and the royal barge swept up and down to the strains of
stately music. Then the pageant retired, the islands folded up their
tents and vanished, and the swimmers went behind the scenes to prepare
for the races and the stunts. To bridge over this interval, Hinpoha had
been left in the pool all alone to amuse the crowd by floating on a
barrel and trying to balance a tray on her head as she bobbed up and
down. The crowd shouted with laughter and cheered her wildly. All but
one. With arms crossed triumphantly over her breast and tray steady on
her head, Hinpoha looked up to see Miss Snively standing by the edge
regarding her with a coldly sarcastic expression. It was as if she said
in words, “Only such a flathead as you could balance a tray on it.” But
the great happiness that surged inside of Hinpoha made her charitable and
forgiving toward all the world, and she sent a sweet and friendly smile
into Miss Snively’s face. But that marble-hearted lady looked away. The
next minute there was a slip, a shriek, the flash of a silk dress, and a
splash, and Miss Snively had disappeared beneath the surface at the deep
end of the pool. Hurling the tray into space Hinpoha made a magnificent
plunge for distance toward the spot where Miss Snively had gone down.
Simultaneously with her plunge there was another movement in the crowd,
and Professor Knoblock, stripping off his coat, jumped over the rail into
the pool. Hinpoha reached Miss Snively first, just as the blue silk
appeared on the surface, and, evading her wildly clutching hand, managed
to hold her head above water while she struck out for the rail toward the
hands that were stretched down to her everywhere. Then she became aware
of another figure struggling at her side. Professor Knoblock had come up
after his plunge, struck out blindly and then suddenly doubled up and
gone down again. Thrusting Miss Snively hastily toward the helping hands,
Hinpoha turned and rescued her professor, who had miscalculated his leap
and struck his head on the side of the pool. The whole business had not
taken two minutes since the first alarm, but Hinpoha was the heroine of
the hour. She was cheered and praised and petted and patted on the head
and exclaimed over until she was quite bewildered. Her heart was thumping
until it deafened her. She had saved her lover’s life, and, bashful as he
was, she knew that now he must speak. It would not happen tonight. They
had rushed him home in a taxicab. But tomorrow——

Somehow she managed to finish her part in the program and drink fruit
punch in the gymnasium afterward. While she stood in a corner cooling her
burning cheeks at an open window somebody came and stood beside her.
Hinpoha turned and faced the Captain, and listened absent-mindedly to his
words of praise. Then one sentence he said caught her attention. “Say,”
he said bashfully, “how did you like the flowers?”

“What flowers?” asked Hinpoha wonderingly.

“The roses—pink ones—I sent you when you had the mumps.”

Hinpoha stared at him blankly, unbelievingly. No, no, it could not be
true, the roses had come from her light-haired professor. “Did _you_ send
them?” she asked in a tone in which no one could have detected any degree
of appreciation for the favor.

“Wasn’t there any card in the box?” asked the Captain. “I gave one to Mr.
Forester to put in.”

“No,” answered Hinpoha, with a gulp, “there wasn’t; and I
thought—somebody else sent them.”

“Didn’t you like them?” asked the Captain, feeling in the air that
something was wrong somewhere. “Don’t you like roses?”

Hinpoha pulled herself together with an effort. Tears of disappointment
were standing in her eyes. “Ye-es,” she answered politely, but without
enthusiasm, “they were lovely; perfectly lovely.” And she ran hurriedly
out of the corner, leaving the Captain staring after her in bewilderment.

“I don’t believe he sent them to me at all!” she told herself in the
solitude of her own room that night. “The horrid thing found out that I
got them and told me that just to tease me. Anyway, it doesn’t make a
particle of difference about Professor Knoblock.” And she fell asleep
whispering to herself with bated breath, “Tomorrow!”

She walked to school with lagging steps the next morning. Now that the
great hour was at hand she was filled with a desire to flee. Then she
heard footsteps behind her, and, glancing out of the corner of her eye,
saw the professor approaching. With a wildly beating heart she walked on,
her face straight to the front. He was coming. He was overtaking her. Now
he was upon her. With a great effort she turned her head to look at him,
her lips parted in a tremulous smile. Professor Knoblock raised his hat
stiffly, nodded frigidly and passed on without a word, leaving Hinpoha
staring after him stunned. Unseeingly she stumbled on to school. One
question was racing back and forth in her mind like a shuttle in a
loom—what was the meaning of it? Classes recited around her in school;
she heard them as in a dream. Professor Knoblock did not look at her as
she entered the Literature class room; he was taking two of the boys
sharply to task for never being able to recite. Hinpoha sat with her eyes
fixed on her book. Professor Knoblock was evidently ill-humored this
morning, though apparently none the worse for his mishap the evening
before. He was dealing out zero marks right and left if the recitations
did not go like clock-work. And as was only to be expected the morning
after such an elaborate affair as the dedication of a swimming pool,
clock-work recitations were very few and far between.

The professor finally lost all patience. “Take your books,” he commanded,
“open and study the lesson the remainder of the hour, and the first one I
see dawdling or whispering will be sent back to the session room.”
Hinpoha’s eyes followed the lines on the page, but she could not have
told what she was reading. The question was still beating back and forth
in her mind.

“Lend me your pencil,” whispered her neighbor. Mechanically she held it
out to him and when he took it he thrust a stick of gum into her hand. He
was still in a festive mood. Professor Knoblock caught the movement. At
the same moment another pair in the back of the room began giggling about
something.

“You two are out of order!” shouted the professor. “Leave the room!” All
eyes were turned toward the two in the back.

“I mean you, George Hancock, and you, Dorothy Bradford,” said the
Professor severely. Hinpoha turned pleading, unbelieving eyes on him.
“Leave the room,” he repeated with rising anger, “go back to your session
room!” And with the world rocking under her feet, Hinpoha went.

As the pupils came back from their respective classes that noon there was
a sensation in the air. Groups of girls stood around whispering to one
another and exclaiming. “Did you ever hear anything like it?” rose on all
sides. “Who would ever dream of her getting——”

Hinpoha, dumb and miserable, sat apart, until some one dragged her into
the center of a group. “Have you heard the news?”

“No,” she answered dully.

“Miss Snively’s engaged!” announced a young lady, in the same tone she
would have said: “The sky has fallen!”

“She is!” said Hinpoha. “To whom?”

“Professor Knoblock!” continued the speaker. “They’ve been engaged a long
time—but it just leaked out yesterday in a teachers’ meeting. That’s why
he came here to teach.”

“But the notes he wrote me,” moaned Hinpoha to the Winnebagos, who had
gathered for an indignation meeting that afternoon. “And the curl I gave
him—— Oh-oh-oh!” and she hid her face in her hands and groaned.

Katherine had been poking about in a corner of the room during the
preliminary wail. She now came forward carrying a box in her hand which
she laid on Hinpoha’s knee.

“What’s this?” asked Hinpoha.

“Open it and see,” advised Katherine.

Hinpoha complied and there fell into her lap a long, curling, red ringlet
and a piece of paper written over in Hinpoha’s hand.

“I have a confession to make,” said Katherine, striking a dramatic
attitude. “I put that note into your book asking for the lock of hair,
and watched until you put it into the dictionary. Then I took it out
after you left the room. I wrote the notes that followed to keep the ball
rolling. I don’t believe Professor Knoblock knows a thing about his great
romance with you.”

“You did it!” cried Hinpoha blankly, turning fiercely upon Katherine.
“You made such a fool out of me that I’ll never be able to show my face
again as long as I live. You—you——” sobs choked her and cut off all
utterance.

“But the flowers,” gasped Gladys, “who sent them?”

“Captain did, the mean old thing!” sobbed Hinpoha.

“But the Key, and the Horoscope, and the Fortune Teller,” continued
Gladys, “they all said he would be the one. I don’t see how it could have
come out any other way.”

Katherine rose from her knees and rapped on the table for attention.
“Girls,” she said seriously, “I suppose you think it was a very unkind
and low-down sort of joke I played on Hinpoha, getting her all worked up
like that with those notes, and under ordinary circumstances it would
have been. But isn’t there a saying somewhere ‘that awfully sick people
need awfully strong medicine,’ or something to that effect? Here you all
were gone completely loony—excuse the expression, but it’s just what you
were—gone perfectly loony about this fortune-telling business. You did it
so much that I actually believe you began to think it was true. Then that
fool fortune-teller told Hinpoha about the light-haired man that was
coming into her life soon, and when the new professor arrived you all
thought he was the one. I just happened to find out soon after he came
that he was engaged to Miss Snively. I knew if I told you then you
wouldn’t believe it, so I waited until it came out. But I was afraid
Hinpoha would do something really silly before she got through, and
decided to take a hand in the game myself. When I wrote that note about
the hair I was sure she would see through it and come to her senses. The
fact that she swallowed it shows how far out of her right mind she was. I
never believed she would put a lock of hair into the dictionary. But when
she seemed to take it all for gospel truth I couldn’t resist the
temptation to go on and have some more fun.”

“But—his handwriting,” said Hinpoha faintly.

“Easiest thing in the world to imitate,” said Katherine, saying nothing
about the weary hours it had taken her to accomplish that feat. “And I
signed my own initial, ‘K.,’ which was certainly not taking the
professor’s name in vain. I never told a soul, so there’s nobody to crow
over you. You stand just exactly where you did at first with the
professor.”

“But,” said Gladys, still not satisfied, “why did he always look at
Hinpoha when he read the sentimental passages?”

“Because he’s built that way,” answered Katherine scornfully. “There are
plenty of men who will make eyes at every pretty girl they see, whether
they have any right to or not. Besides I heard him tell one of the other
teachers once that your red hair reminded him of the hair that belonged
to a dear friend he ‘lost in youth.’”

After hearing Katherine’s clean-cut and sensible version of the affair
the whole thing seemed unutterably ridiculous and one by one they began
to think that she was right, and had played the part of the friend
instead of the mischief-maker, in shocking Hinpoha back into common
sense. Hinpoha advanced shakily and held out her hand. “I thank you,
Katherine,” she said, “for ‘saving me from myself’!” And Katherine seized
her hand in a crushing grip, and soon they were hugging each other, and
their friendship, instead of being shaken to its foundations, was
cemented more strongly.

“I think he’s horrid,” said Gladys, “and if I were you, Hinpoha, I’d
never look at him again—the way he treated you this morning, after you
had taken the trouble to fish him out of the pool last night. He’s an
ungrateful wretch, and doesn’t deserve to be rescued.”

Katherine was looking at them with a queer expression. “There’s something
else I suppose I ought to tell you,” she said, “although I wasn’t going
to at first. But now he’s acted so you really ought to know. Miss
Snively’s falling into the pool wasn’t exactly an accident.”

“Did he push her in?” asked Gladys in a horrified tone.

“Goodness, no,” said Katherine. Then she added: “Yes, in a way he did,
too, for he was responsible for her falling in. You know what a dub the
boys all think him; they never call him anything but ‘that mutt,’ or
‘that cissy.’ He couldn’t help seeing it, and it bothered him that he
wasn’t a hero in their eyes. Besides,” she continued shrewdly, “if he was
thinking of getting married he probably was looking for promotion, and he
never would get it as long as he couldn’t control the boys. So he
complained to Miss Snively about it and she obligingly offered to fall
into the pool and have him rescue her, and so make a hero out of him
overnight. I heard them planning it yesterday; they were on one side of a
big pile of greens waiting to go up and I was on the other. She was to do
it during the intermission when no one was in the pool. They didn’t seem
to know that you were going to be in then. But she did it anyway,
thinking that the professor would reach her first. But you were too quick
for them. That’s why he’s so furious with you; you kept him from being a
hero, and got all the praise he expected to get. Then when he bumped his
head on the side of the tank and had to be rescued himself, it put the
finishing touch to the tragedy.”

“Gee!” exclaimed Hinpoha and Sahwah and Gladys and the other two girls,
all in a breath. In moments of great emotional stress refined language
seems an utter failure as a vehicle of expression. Slang is the only
thing that adequately expresses the feelings. They said it again,
intentionally and emphatically—“_Gee!_”

“What a foolish thing to do,” said Sahwah, when they had all recovered
somewhat, “falling into the pool to give a man a chance to be a hero. She
might have been drowned.”

“She didn’t run such an awful risk,” observed Katherine, the all-knowing.
“She’s a good swimmer herself; I’ve heard people say so.”

And again the girls sought relief in the expression not sanctioned by the
grammar.

“Going to the Lodge?” said the Captain’s voice in Hinpoha’s ear a few
days later, as she swung along the street. The Captain’s manner was
decidedly diffident. He was not at all sure how she would treat him this
time.

Hinpoha nodded companionably. “I’m going to practice with the handball,”
she said energetically. “Come on, I’ll race you across the field.”

“That was great, wasn’t it?” she cried laughingly, as she stopped before
the door, breathless, with her hair flying around her face.

“Say, give us a curl, will you?” begged the Captain, tugging at one that
hung over the collar of her coat.

“Don’t be silly, Captain,” she said reprovingly. “You know I hate people
who are sentimental.”

Hinpoha’s romance was a thing of the past.



                              CHAPTER XIII
                            RANDALL’S ISLAND


“I can’t help it, it simply won’t roll!” exclaimed Katherine in despair.
“I’ve tugged and tugged until my fingernails are all broken, and it just
naturally won’t turn over!” And Katherine sat down with a discouraged
thud and fanned herself with a hair-brush.

“Well, we’ll ‘just naturally’ have to stop and see what’s the matter with
it,” said Nyoda soothingly. The Winnebagos were having a contest in
poncho rolling to be in practice for the coming summer’s camping trips.
The aim of each one just now was to accomplish this in two minutes. Two
minutes to spread out a poncho, two blankets and enough clothes for an
overnight trip, roll it up into a neat stove-pipe, bend it into a tidy
horseshoe and fasten the ends together with a rope tied in square knots.

The record was held by Medmangi, quiet, neat Medmangi, who, while the
others were working like mad, had serenely completed her task in a minute
and three-quarters.

“She’s a regular phenomenay, that woman,” said Sahwah, who had thought
she was doing wonders when she straightened up at the end of two minutes
exactly. “She must have four hands, or else she packed with her feet. But
what else could you expect of a girl who’s going to be a doctor?”

Poor Katherine, alas, made no time at all that could be recorded in
Nyoda’s book. It was only her second attempt at poncho rolling, but it is
doubtful whether it would have been any different if it had been her
hundred and second. She simply was not built for order and speediness. At
the end of ten minutes she still sat beside her pile of belongings, the
poncho askew, the blankets askew on it and hanging over the edge, the
extra middy bundled up into a wrinkled lump and the small articles
sliding off on all sides. She had begun to roll it from the wrong end,
and after one or two turns it absolutely refused to go any farther, in
spite of forceful attempts.

“Here, spread your things out properly, and then it will go,” said Nyoda
patiently, picking up the blankets. Out rolled the object which had
obstructed the wheels of progress—an umbrella, which had been tucked
under the blankets lengthwise of the roll. “No wonder it wouldn’t roll!”
exclaimed Nyoda, laughing aloud. “Did you expect the umbrella to bend
round and round like a hose? Whatever would you want an umbrella for,
anyway?”

“For rain,” answered Katherine with touching simplicity. Nyoda and the
other Winnebagos doubled up in silent mirth. Katherine’s inspirations
invariably left them without power of comment.

“Katherine, you’re _positively_ hopeless,” sighed Gladys affectionately.
“The only safe way is to divide your things up among the other ponchos;
yours would never arrive at a journey’s end, anyhow.”

“Oh, if I had only been born neat instead of handsome!” said Katherine
plaintively, and then joined heartily in the irresistible laughter that
followed.

“Hush, girls!” said Nyoda. “There’s somebody down at the door. Don’t you
hear somebody rapping?”

Hinpoha, who was nearest the window, peeped down. “It’s a whole bunch of
girls,” she reported in an excited whisper. “All strangers. I don’t know
any of them. What can they want?”

“Want to see us, probably,” said matter-of-fact Sahwah. “Isn’t somebody
going down to let them in?”

“The way this place looks!” sighed Nyoda, looking at the floor strewn
with the contents of Katherine’s poncho. “Gladys, you and Hinpoha go down
and let them in and detain them downstairs until the rest of us can put
this room in order. It’s a disgrace to the Winnebagos.”

Gladys and Hinpoha descended the ladder and threw open the door.
“Welcome,” they cried, “whoever you are! Welcome to the House of the Open
Door!”

The six strange girls came in. One who was tall and thin and had hair
almost as red as Hinpoha’s, stepped forward. “We are members of the
San-Clu Camp Fire,” she said. “We have heard quite a bit about you
Winnebagos and thought we would come and call. Is this your famous
Lodge?”

“It certainly is,” said Gladys hospitably. “We are delighted to become
acquainted with you. Make yourselves at home. This gymnasium outfit
belongs to a club of boys who share our Lodge, and over there is
Sandhelo’s stall. Sandhelo is our pet donkey; you must see him right
away.” She led the girls to the stall and kept them there telling about
Sandhelo’s exploits until she was sure from the sounds above that the
room was in order. Then she invited them to ascend the ladder.

“The San-Clu Camp Fire have come visiting,” she announced, as she stepped
out on the floor.

“All Hail to the San-Clu Camp Fire from the Winnebagos,” chanted the
hostess ceremoniously, and seven pairs of hands performed the fire sign.

“San-Clu returns All Hail,” responded the guests with no less ceremony.

The newcomers were shown the beauties of the Winnebago Lodge, and it
seemed they would never get done exclaiming over the rugs and skins and
pottery, and most of all, the beds.

“They aren’t so terribly hard to make,” the Winnebagos assured them
modestly, but at the same time glowing with a feeling of superiority. The
San-Clu girls were plainly older than the Winnebagos; they all wore
dresses down to their ankles and seemed quite grown up, almost enough to
be guardians themselves; yet they did not appear to have won nearly so
many honors as the younger Winnebagos.

During the tour of inspection Nyoda and Gladys held a whispered
consultation in one end of the room. “Nothing here to make a spread
with,” said Gladys. “I’ll have to hurry out and get something.”

“Do,” said Nyoda. Gladys nudged Hinpoha and drew her down the ladder and
together they sped after canned shrimp and condensed milk.

“Now, if you’ll excuse us a minute,” said Nyoda to the San-Clus, “we’ll
retire behind our curtains and prepare to do the stunt with which we
always inflict company. Come, girls,” she added in a whisper, “the Battle
of Blenheim.” And the players retired to array themselves in the
necessary sheets.

Five minutes later the curtains were shoved aside, and the players stood
before the audience. They looked in bewilderment. For seated where they
had left the San-Clu Camp Fire Girls were the Captain, Bottomless Pitt,
the Monkey, Dan Porter, Peter Jenkins and Harry Raymond. The girls had
vanished.

“Why, when did you come in, boys?” asked Nyoda in surprise. “And where
are the girls?”

“What girls?” asked the Captain.

“Why, the San-Clu Camp Fire girls,” said Nyoda, “who were visiting us.”

“Here they are,” said the six boys, rising and speaking together. “We are
the ‘San-Clu’ Camp Fire Girls. ‘San-Clu’—short for Sandwich Club!
Ho-ho-ho, Katherine! You’d know us in a minute with girls’ clothes on,
would you!” And from under the rugs and furniture they drew the dresses,
hats, gloves and wigs which the late San-Clus had worn a-calling.
“Oh-h-h, Katherine, we do this to each other!”

The girls sat staring, speechless for a minute, unable to believe that
there really had been no girls there. But the evidence was before their
eyes and it could not be doubted. And they were far too game not to see
that the joke was on them, and laughed just as heartily over it as the
boys did.

“We’ll have to have the spread, anyhow, for your benefit,” said Nyoda,
taking up the cans of supplies that Hinpoha and Gladys had just brought
in. “You carried that off too splendidly not to be rewarded. We
congratulate you on your ability to act, and confess that we were
completely taken in. Where’s Slim?”

“We left him behind the fence,” said the Captain, with a start of
recollection. “We didn’t dare let him come in with us, because you’d have
recognized him right away.”

“Figures never lie, especially stout ones,” laughed Nyoda. “Go and bring
him to the spread.”

“Are you folks going on a trip?” inquired the Monkey, with his mouth full
of Shrimp Wiggle and his eyes on the ponchos piled in the corner.

“We are, next Saturday,” answered Sahwah. “We were just practicing
rolling the ponchos today. Saturday we’re going to take the steamer
across the lake to Rock Island. Some friends of Nyoda’s have a cottage
there, but they haven’t gone up yet and they said we might stay in it all
night if we wanted to. We’re coming home on the boat Sunday night.”

“Are you going by yourselves?” asked Slim, leaning across the table and
listening to the conversation. He was fishing for an invitation for the
Sandwiches.

“We certainly are going by ourselves,” said Sahwah, to his
disappointment. “We haven’t been off by ourselves for a long time. We’re
going in a lonely place and have a Ceremonial Meeting on the shore of the
lake and tell secrets and do stunts and have a beautiful time. It’s
strictly a Winnebago affair—a hen party, you’d call it.”

Slim sighed and consoled himself with five pieces of fudge and an apple.
He was one of those boys who like to be around girls all the time. Too
fat to enjoy the more strenuous society of the boys, he preferred to sit
with his gentler friends and dip his hand into the dishes of candy that
they usually had standing around. The fact that they made no end of fun
of him and never took him seriously only increased his desire for them.
And, like the Captain, he delighted to look upon the hair when it was
red. He admired Hinpoha with all his corpulent soul.

The winter and spring months had flown by with swifter wings than the
white-tailed swallow, and the clock of the year was once more striking
June. Saturday found the Winnebagos skimming over the blue waters of the
lake in the big daily excursion boat bound for Rock Island. Nakwisi, of
course, had her spy glass and was carefully scrutinizing the empty
horizon. “Has Katherine come into your range of vision yet?” asked Nyoda,
a trifle anxiously. Katherine had boarded the boat with them safely
enough, for she had been personally conducted from home by the whole six,
but had disappeared within ten minutes after the boat started.

Nakwisi lowered her glass and laughed. “No, I don’t see her in the sky,”
she said, “though I shouldn’t be very greatly surprised if I did.”

And they began a thorough search of the boat from top to bottom and
finally found her hanging over the rail of a gangway, trying to touch the
snowy foam flying in the swirling wake of the paddle wheel. It was the
first time she had ever been on a lake, and she took a perfectly childish
delight in the racing water. Pulled back to safety by Nyoda, she gave an
animated account of her adventures since seeing them last, in the course
of which she had nearsightedly walked into the pilot house and caught
hold of the wheel to steady herself when the boat gave a lurch, and had
been summarily put out by an angry first mate. “I’ve been everywhere on
the boat except down the smokestack,” she concluded triumphantly.

Soon Rock Island appeared as a speck on the horizon in Nakwisi’s glass,
then as a long black streak which they could all see, and finally grew by
leaps and bounds into a beautiful wooded island with trees and lawns and
beautiful summer cottages shining in the sunlight. Shouldering their
ponchos, they went ashore, and walked around the point of the island to
the cottage where they were to spend the night. It was close to the
water, where a curving indentation of the shore line made a lovely little
beach. If Sahwah did not make the record at poncho rolling, she left them
all behind in getting into her bathing suit, and five minutes after the
door was unlocked her hands clove the water in a flying dive from the end
of the pier.

Katherine splashed about courageously, trying to swim, and finally
succeeded in propelling herself through the water by a series of jerks
and splashes unlike any stroke ever invented by the mind of man. “This is
too hard on my dellyket constitooshun,” she remarked at last, clambering
out and draping her ungainly length around a rock, thereby disclosing the
fact that her bathing suit was minus one sleeve. Katherine regarded the
yawning armhole with mild vexation. “Broke my needle when my suit was all
done but putting in the one sleeve,” she remarked serenely, “and there
wasn’t time to go out and buy one—I finished the suit at eleven o’clock
last night—so I just pasted that sleeve in with adhesive tape, and it
didn’t show a bit. But it must have let go in the water,” she finished
plaintively. Nyoda looked at the girls, and the girls looked at Nyoda,
and once more they were dumb.

Tired of swimming, they dressed and explored the island and then sat down
on the big boat dock and dangled their feet over the edge. Soon a tug
came up alongside the pier and the sailor who ran it chanced to be a man
whom Nyoda had met the previous summer on the island. “Hello, Captain
McMichael,” she called.

The sunburnt sailor looked up. “Hello, hello,” he answered. “What are you
doing up here so early in the season?” When Nyoda had explained that she
had brought the girls up on a sightseeing trip, Captain McMichael
promptly offered to take them for a ride in the tug. “Got to go over to
Jackson’s Island and get a lighter of limestone,” he said. “I’d have to
set you ashore on Randall’s Island while I went over to Jackson’s to get
the lighter,” he continued, “because you’d get all covered with lime dust
if you stayed in the tug while they were loading, and it’s no place for
ladies to go ashore. But Randall’s is all right. The quarries there
aren’t worked any more and there are only a few summer cottages. But
there are excellent wild strawberries,” he finished with a twinkle in his
eye. “I’ll call for you on the way back and get you here before dark.
Will you come?”

“Oh, Nyoda, may we?” cried the girls, delighted at the prospect.

“Why, yes,” answered Nyoda. “I think that will be a delightful way to
spend the afternoon. I have always wanted to explore Randall’s Island; it
looks so interesting from the steamer. We accept your invitation with
pleasure, Captain McMichael.”

“Glad to have you,” responded the tug master heartily, as he set the
powerful engine throbbing.

“Don’t fall overboard,” he yelled above the steam exhaust a minute later
as Katherine hung over the stern and trailed her hands in the water.
Nyoda clung to her dress and the rest sang in chorus:

  “Sailing, sailing,
    Over to Randall’s I,
  And dear Sister K would fall into the bay
    If Nyoda weren’t nigh!”

The run to Randall’s Island took just fifteen minutes and Katherine
managed to get there without accident, other than upsetting an oil can
into her lap. The wild strawberries were as abundant and as delicious as
Captain McMichael had promised, and it was with sighs of regret that they
finally admitted they could hold no more. Then they scrambled around in
the abandoned limestone quarries until Nyoda, coming face to face with
Katherine, announced it was time to play something else. Katherine had
torn her dress on sharp points until it was nearly a wreck; she had
stepped into a puddle up to her shoetops, her hat brim hung down in a
discouraged loop and her hands and face were scratched with briers.

“If one more thing happens to you, Katherine Adams,” said Nyoda sternly,
“you’ll have to spend the rest of your life on this island, for you won’t
be respectable enough to take home.”

“Then I’ll be Miss Robinson Crusoe,” said Katherine, “and eat up all the
strawberries on the island, and not have to write the class paper. I
believe I’ll consider your offer. Our literary member, Migwan, can write
a book about it—_Living on Limestone_, or _The Queen of the Quarry_.
Wouldn’t that be a fine sounding title!”

“What is that long stone building way over there?” asked Hinpoha, as they
promenaded decorously over the island beyond the quarries, two of them
arm-in-arm with Katherine, to keep her in the straight and narrow path.

“Looks like a fort,” said Sahwah, with immediate interest. “Is it a fort,
Nyoda?”

“I doubt it very much,” answered Nyoda. “I never heard of a fort on any
of these islands. Let’s go over and investigate.”

Katherine hung back, screwing up her face and rolling her eyes like an
old negress. “Don’ lead dis child into temptation,” she begged. “Feel lak
de climbin’ debbil would get into mah feet agin foh sartin sure, ef ah
went near dat pile of stone, an’ den good-bye, dress! Only safe way’s to
keep dis child far away!”

Her veiled, husky voice made her imitation indescribably droll, and the
girls shouted with laughter. “Never fear, my weak sister,” said Gladys,
“we’ll all keep you out of danger.”

“I can’t imagine what this could have been,” said Hinpoha, when they had
reached the ruin. “It looks more like a mill than a fort.”

“Mill!” exclaimed Sahwah scornfully. “There isn’t any wheel, and there
isn’t a sign of a stream. Mills are always on streams.”

“Maybe this was a windmill,” suggested Katherine. “It’s windy enough to
set any kind of machinery going,” and she started in pursuit of her hat,
which that moment had been whirled from her head by a mischievous zephyr.

The ruin which the girls had found that afternoon was the remains of an
old wine cellar which had been used for storing great quantities of grape
wine in the old days when Randall’s Island had been in the heart of the
grape region, before quarrying became the chief industry. Nothing was
left now to tell what valuable stores it had once sheltered, only stones
and crumbling brick walls, overgrown with high weeds and wild vines.

“It’s an enchanted castle,” said Hinpoha. “A beautiful princess used to
live here, only she got married and moved to—to the big hotel on Rock
Island, and when she left the bad imps came and knocked out the mortar
with their little hammers and it all fell to pieces.”

“Oh, wonderful,” drawled Katherine. “Let’s poke about a bit in the ruins
and see if we can find any of the solid gold toothpicks the princes used
to strew around after a meal.”

The ruined wine cellar proved utterly fascinating. They could still see
where it had been divided into rooms; and here and there a thick wall
still stood higher than their heads.

“Hi, what’s this?” asked Katherine, as they stood before a doorway
partially filled with débris, behind which a black hole yawned.

“It’s a cave,” said Sahwah, poking her head forward into the hole like a
turtle. “Let’s explore it,” she continued, stepping carefully over the
pile of bricks. “Come on,” she called over her shoulder; “it’s perfectly
wonderful. It’s a room, but it’s under the hill. Come on in.”

“Are there any bats?” asked Gladys, hanging back.

“Nothing but brickbats,” came Sahwah’s cheerful voice from within.

Gladys and Hinpoha crawled through the opening, and Katherine, with a
resigned, “Goodbye, dress,” followed with Nyoda and Nakwisi and Medmangi.
The room was nothing more than an extension of the cellar, built into the
side of the hill, but to them it was filled with romantic possibilities.

“What do you suppose it was?” asked Hinpoha, straining her eyes in the
semi-darkness.

“The dungeon, of course,” answered Katherine promptly. “Here’s where your
beautiful princess confined the lovers that didn’t suit her
fancy—light-haired ones and fat ones, especially. She chained them to the
wall and the rats nibbled their toes.”

“Oh-oh-oh!” shrieked Hinpoha, stopping her ears. “Don’t say such dreadful
things. I can feel the rats nibbling at my toes this minute.”

The walls of this cellar were badly crumbled, and at the farther side the
girls discovered another cave-like opening. This was entirely dark and
they hesitated before going in. Then Nyoda took her pocket flash and
Gladys found hers, and by the combined glimmer of the two the girls found
their way into the farther cave. At first they had to keep the light on
the ground to see where to put their feet and they were all inside before
Nyoda turned her flash on the walls. Then a great cry of amazement burst
from every girl, ending in a breathless gasp. The walls and roof of the
cave seemed to be made of precious stones—pearls, sapphires, emeralds,
amethysts and diamonds. They caught the gleam from the pocket flashes and
twinkled and reflected in a hundred points of dancing light. Great masses
of crystal, faceted like diamonds, hung suspended from the roof almost
touching their heads, seemingly held up by magic.

“Am I dreaming,” cried Hinpoha, “or is this Alladin’s cave? What is it,
Nyoda? Where are we?”

Nyoda laughed at their open mouths and staring eyes. “Only in one of
Nature’s treasure vaults,” she said. “This is one of the famous crystal
caves that are found throughout these islands. It’s a form of rock
crystal, strontia, I believe some people call it, and I don’t doubt but
what it’s related to the limestone in the quarries. Take a good look at
it, for some of these crystals are simply marvellous.”

Their voices echoed and re-echoed weirdly, as they called to each other,
the sound seeming to roll along the low ceiling. “Look at this mass over
here,” cried Sahwah, penetrating deeper into the cave, “it looks like a
man standing against the wall.”

“And this one looks like a dog lying down,” said Hinpoha, pointing to
another.

Laughing, shouting, exclaiming, they explored the wonders of the cave
until a heavy shock as of something falling, accompanied by a deafening
crash, rooted them to the ground with fright. “What is it? What has
happened?” they asked one another, and made their way back to the
entrance. But the entrance was no longer there. Where it had been there
was a solid wall of stone. Their climbing around among the ruined walls
had sent some of the bricks sliding and these had released a large rock
which had rolled down directly over the opening into the crystal cave.
With desperate force they pushed against the rock, but their sevenfold
strength made no more impression than a fly brushing its wings against
it. With white faces they turned to each other when they realized the
truth. They were imprisoned in the cave!

“The other direction!” cried Sahwah, shaking off her terror and setting
her wits to work. “We may be able to get out the other way.” Taking the
flashlight from Gladys, whose trembling fingers threatened to drop it,
she led the way into the gloomy recesses of the cave, whose depths they
had penetrated only a short distance before. They shuddered at the icicle
like crystals, which now seemed like long fingers reaching down to catch
a hold of them, and shrank back from the crystal masses that took the
forms of men and animals. These now seemed like ghosts of creatures that
had been trapped in the cave as they were. For trapped they were. In a
few moments their progress was barred by impassable masses of crystal.
Back again they went to the rock-blocked entrance and beat upon it and
pushed with all their might. All in vain. The rock stood firm as
Gibraltar. They shouted and called and screamed until the echoes clamored
hideously, but no answering call came from the outside. From somewhere,
far in the distance, came the dismal sound of falling water, chilling the
blood in their veins.

Helplessly the girls all turned to Nyoda, asking, “What shall we do?”

Nyoda stood still and tried to face the situation calmly. She held her
flashlight close to the rock and looked carefully all around the edge. At
one side there was a tiny fissure, not more than half an inch wide and
about six inches long, caused by the irregular shape of the rock. Nyoda
regarded this minute opening thoughtfully. “If we could put something
through that opening which would act as a signal, we might attract
somebody’s attention who wouldn’t be able to hear us calling,” she said
at length. “Our voices are so muffled in here they can’t carry very far
outside.”

“Is there anybody on the island to see it?” asked Gladys doubtfully.

“There are some people here,” answered Nyoda, “because the fishermen stay
all the year round. You remember those houses we passed on the other side
of the quarry, where the nets were hanging in the yard?”

“What shall we use for a signal of distress?” asked Gladys. “Not one of
us has a tie or a ribbon on today.”

“Use my dress skirt,” said Katherine generously. “It’s so torn anyway
that it’ll never feel the same again, even if it recovers from this
trip.” Which was perfectly true. So they tore the wide hem from her
dress, which made a pennant about six feet long. Then Sahwah had a
further inspiration, and, dipping her finger into a dark puddle formed on
the floor by a thin stream of moisture trickling down the wall, she wrote
the word HELP on the strip. Nyoda poked the end through the opening and
shoved the rest out after it, keeping the other end in her hand, and she
could feel by the tugging at the strip that the high wind had caught the
portion outside and was whipping it about.

“Now shout for all you’re worth,” commanded Nyoda.

Early that Saturday morning the Captain had aroused Slim from his
peaceful slumbers unceremoniously. “Hurry up and come over,” he said, in
response to Slim’s protesting grunt. “Uncle Theodore’s here with his
automobile and he’s going to take a run over to Freeport this morning and
he said he would take all the fellows along that were ready at nine
o’clock. Hurry.”

Slim needed no second invitation and roused himself immediately, while
the Captain sped to collect the remainder of the Sandwiches, which was
accomplished in short order, as none of the other invitations involved
resurrection. Nine o’clock found them all on the curbstone before the
Captain’s house, standing beside Uncle Theodore’s big car, waiting for
the word to pile in. The ride to Freeport was accomplished in a few
hours’ time and after dinner Uncle Theodore turned the boys loose to see
the town by themselves while he transacted the business which had taken
him thither. Freeport had no attraction outside of its harbor, and
thither the boys betook themselves without delay. Passenger steamers left
every half hour for the various islands nearby; lime boats, tugs and
scows crowded the mouth of the river, and the whole atmosphere breathed
of ships. The boys stood and watched a while and then pined for something
to do.

“Let’s hire a launch,” suggested the Captain, who felt that it was up to
him to furnish the amusement, inasmuch as he had invited them to come
along, “and go out on the lake.”

Launches were readily to be had and soon they were curving around in
great circles through the waves, drenched with the spray, and enjoying it
as only boys can enjoy the sensation of riding in a speed boat.

“Let’s go to Rock Island,” said Slim, who had not forgotten who else had
planned to go there that day.

“What for?” asked the Captain.

“Oh, nothing,” answered Slim, “except that there’s a pretty nice aquarium
there, and—and the girls said they were going to be there.”

“But we were politely invited to stay home, if I remember rightly,” said
Bottomless Pitt. “They’re going to have a pow-wow, or something like
that.”

“But if we should run into them accidentally they would probably be glad
to see us,” persisted Slim. Slim was fond of picnics gotten up by girls
on account of the superior quality of the “grub”; he was especially fond
of Winnebago picnics, because the Winnebagos treated him better than any
other girls he knew, and as mentioned before, he had a decided weakness
for red hair. Hence his ingenuous desire to go to Rock Island. The
Captain, knowing Slim like a book, laughed. But he, too, wished he had
been invited to the picnic, and his reasons coincided in their last item
with Slim’s.

“All right,” he said, and turned the boat’s head toward the green outline
of Rock Island. Half of the distance across the bay the launch wheezed
and stopped dead.

“Pshaw,” said Slim disgustedly, when the Captain announced that they had
run out of gasoline. They had come to a stop just off a small rocky
island and with the aid of the one oar the launch boasted the Captain
proceeded to paddle in to shore, in the hope that he could obtain
gasoline there.

“Regular desert island,” grunted Slim, as they walked and met no one.
“None of the cottages seem to be occupied.”

“Cheer up; we’ll find someone,” said the Captain. “The fishermen live on
these islands all winter. Look at the limestone quarries over there.”

“And the ruined something or other behind them,” said the Bottomless
Pitt.

“Let’s cut across here,” said Slim, who was ever on the lookout for short
cuts. “I see some houses over there.”

“And break our necks crawling over those stones,” said Monkey. “Not
much.”

So they started to follow the path that led around the curve of the
shore. “Wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to cut across, anyway,”
said the Captain, when they had gone some distance. “These blooming
little stones are worse to walk on than spikes. Those rocks couldn’t have
been much worse.” And he stood still and looked thoughtfully back at the
ruined cellar.

“Hi!” he exclaimed suddenly. “What’s that?”

“What’s what?” asked Slim.

“That white rag flying from the rock over there. It surely wasn’t there a
minute ago.”

“Probably was, only you didn’t see it,” said Slim, impatient to go on.

“I’m positive it wasn’t,” said the Captain. “I’m going over to have a
look at it. When rags start out of rocks there’s something in the wind.”
And he walked briskly toward it, the rest following. As they drew near
their startled eyes fell on the black letters of the word HELP, traced in
wobbly lines.

“Yay!” shouted the boys at the top of their lungs. “Where are you and
what’s the matter?”

Apparently from inside the rock came the feeble echo of a shout: “We’re
in the cave! The rock covered the doorway!”

“Wait a minute!” called the Captain in answer, and boylike tried to move
the rock himself. “Lend a hand, fellows,” he said, after one shove
against its solid side. They lent all the hands they had, but could not
budge it. “Pull the bricks out from around it,” commanded the Captain,
taking charge of the affair like a general, “and look out for your feet
when she lunges over!” They set to work, dislodging the bricks that held
it in, and before long it moved, tottered, grated and finally, with a
great crash, lunged over and rolled down a little slope.

Pale and shaken, the Winnebagos emerged into the light of day. Had the
ghosts of their great grandmothers appeared before them the boys could
not have been more surprised. Questions and answers flew back and forth
thick and fast until the tale of their finding the cave was told.

“And I’ll never, never, explore anything again!” finished Hinpoha, in an
emphatic tone.

“Oh, yes, you will,” said Gladys; “and so will we all, but the next time
we’ll have a company of guides fore and aft.”

“Wouldn’t it be a better plan,” suggested the Captain mildly, “to take us
along with you wherever you go? I notice we generally have to come to the
rescue, anyway.”

And the Winnebagos promised to consider the matter.



                              CHAPTER XIV
                           KINDLING THE TORCH


Hinpoha and Sahwah were patiently teaching Katherine hand signs one
Saturday afternoon when Gladys burst in with a tragic face.

“Girls,” she cried, with extravagant emphasis, “have you heard the
_news_?” Then, without waiting for reply, she continued: “Nyoda’s going
to be _married_!”

“We know she is,” answered Hinpoha, “a year from this summer.”

“No, not a year from this summer,” said Gladys, swelling with the
importance of the announcement she was about to make, “_this_ summer.
This very month!”

An incredulous exclamation burst from the three.

“It’s true,” continued Gladys. “Sherry’s going to be sent away on a long
trip and he wants to take her with him, so they’re going to be married
right away.”

All four sat stricken, trying to realize that the evil day which they had
dreaded so and which they had thought far in the future was actually upon
them. Only two more weeks and their idolized Guardian, who for three
years had been a part of nearly everything they did, would be gone from
them. It seemed that the world was coming to an end.

In the days that followed gloom hung thick over the House of the Open
Door. Now that Nyoda was to be in it no longer the Winnebagos lost all
joy in its possession. Each article of furniture that she had helped to
make, each sketch of hers on the wall telling in clever little
pictographs the tale of some adventure or frolic, gripped them with a
fresh pang. Plans for summer excursions and activities were dropped.

“And we were all going ca-camping togu-gether!” wailed Hinpoha, and damp
weather prevailed for many minutes.

But this was the end of their Senior year in high school, crowded to the
limit with all the bustle and excitement and festivity of Commencement
time, and the Winnebagos were so busy with examinations and essays and
clothes and songs and parties that there was no time to fold their hands
and grieve. Katherine, as editor of the class paper, was the star
performer on Class Night, although Miss Snively, who trained the
speakers, had tried to sandpaper her speech of everything clever.
Katherine agreed to every change she suggested with suspicious readiness,
and then when the night arrived calmly read her original paper, while the
chandeliers dripped giggles and Miss Snively made sarcastic remarks about
the cracked-voice orator. Somehow the story of Miss Snively’s attempt to
make a hero out of her fiancé had gotten out, although Katherine always
looked preoccupied whenever the subject was mentioned, and of late Miss
Snively had found the seats in her recitation room occupied by rows of
wise grins, which somewhat disturbed her lofty dignity. It was well that
this was to be her last year of teaching.

One of the big events of the last week was the interscholastic track meet
and athletic contest, to be held on the Washington High athletic field,
in which ten big schools took part. The field was thronged with
spectators, the grand stand was crowded, school colors floated from tree
and pole, cheers burst from groups of students every few minutes and the
air was electric with suppressed excitement.

First came the track events, and in these Washington High was tied with
Carnegie Mechanic for second place. The Winnebagos were glad it was so,
because now the Sandwiches could not crow over them. The Captain finished
first in one of the hundred-yard dashes right in front of Hinpoha, where
she sat in the grandstand, and he looked over the heads of the cheering
boys straight at her. Hinpoha dared not applaud him, because he belonged
to Washington’s bitterest rival, but she smiled brightly, and he dropped
his eyes, flushing suddenly.

The girls’ events opened with a game of volley ball between Washington
High and Carnegie Mechanic. Much to the surprise of the Winnebagos, they
saw Katherine come in with the Washington players. Katherine was not on
the team. But just before the game opened the girl’s gymnasium director
had spied Katherine sitting at one side of the field, unconcernedly
shaking a pebble out of her shoe in full view of the grandstand, and
hurried over to her. “Will you fill in this game?” she asked
breathlessly. “One of our team can’t come and we’re short a girl.”

“But I’ve never played volley ball,” protested Katherine.

“Oh,” said the gymnasium teacher disappointedly. Then she added in a kind
of desperation, “Well, I don’t know as it makes any difference. I don’t
seem to be able to find a girl who has played. Just stay in the
background and strike at the ball with the palms of your hands every time
it comes near you. Let the girls in front get it over the net.”

Katherine uncurled her length from the ground and followed the gymnasium
teacher obligingly. She was not in the least sensitive about being asked
at the eleventh hour to “fill in,” when she had not been asked to be on
the team before. Washington’s volley ball team was not a very strong one,
and went all to pieces against the concentrated team work of the Carnegie
Mechanicals. The score rolled up against Washington steadily. The
deafening yells from the grandstand bewildered them, and they could
neither volley the ball over the net nor return the Mechanicals’ volleys.
They were helpless from stage fright.

Katherine dutifully stayed in the background, sending the ball to the
girls at the net, her brow drawing into anxious puckers, as they fumbled
it time after time. She began to comprehend the rules of the game and was
“getting the hang of it.” The Mechanicals, with fifteen points to their
credit, had just lost the ball by sending it out of bounds. It was time
to do something. Katherine had noticed that most of the Washington girls
had been trying to volley the ball across the net from the back line,
instead of passing it on, as she had been doing, and had been falling
short nearly every time. With a commanding gesture, she claimed the
attention of her team.

“Get back on the volley line in a row,” she ordered. They obeyed her like
sheep. Then she took her place half-way between the volley line and the
net, facing the girls. “Now,” she said crisply, “whosoever’s turn it is
to volley, shoot the ball to me and not an inch farther. I’ll get it over
the net. The first one that shoots it over my head is going to get ducked
in the swimming pool!”

In their surprise at this sudden rising up of a leader, they forgot the
racket around them, and the triumphantly clamoring team on the other side
of the net, and calmed down. The girl with the ball sent it straight
toward Katherine, and with a windmill motion of her powerful arms, she
hit it a sounding whack and sent it over the net like a meteor. There was
no returning such a volley.

“One!” cried the scorekeeper, and the Washington corner of the grandstand
gave its first yell of triumph.

“Now, everyone of you do just the same thing, one after another,”
commanded Katherine to the volley line. Her utter lack of excitement was
bringing them out of their confusion. The next girl made an equally good
throw and another loud whack announced that Katherine was volleying.
Backing the net, she could not see where it was going, but a squeal told
her that the girl who should be returning the ball was fleeing it. Then
the machine started to work. As long as one side scored it was privileged
to keep the volley.

When in operation the machine sounded like this: “Next!” Whack! Bump!
That was all. Katherine’s command to the server; the impact of her palms
on the ball; and the thump of the ball on the ground on the Mechanical
side of the net. Up went the Washington score.

Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven! Eight! Nine! Ten! Eleven! Twelve!

  “Washington Rah!
  Washington Rah!
  Katherine Adams,
  Rah! Rah! Rah!”

The atmosphere was rent with the yell.

Thirteen! Fourteen! Fifteen!

“Next!” Whack! Bump!

SIXTEEN SEVENTEEN! EIGHTEEN! NINETEEN! TWENTY!

  “WASHINGTON RAH!
  KATHERINE RAH!
  KATHERINE AD——”

TWENTY-ONE!


The umpire ran along the net, holding up her hands, and the teams broke
ranks.

“Washington High winner in the volley ball game!” shouted the scorekeeper
through her megaphone. “Score, twenty-one to fifteen!”

And the grandstand thundered at Katherine, who suddenly got stage fright
when it was all over and stood pigeon-toed with her head hanging down.
Then she noticed for the first time that her middy was on hind side
before and the long collar was down in front. Her horrified expression
threw the spectators into convulsions. They had been laughing at it all
through the game, but her amazing performance had made it a secondary
consideration.

A few moments later she strolled nonchalantly into the grandstand and sat
down among the Winnebagos. “That certainly is a strenuous game for a
person with a dellyket constitooshun like mine,” she remarked ruefully,
rubbing her swollen knuckles. Three fingers were sprained as a result of
doing all the volleying for twelve girls, but she didn’t think it worth
while to mention the matter.

Thus passed the days, filled to overflowing with fun and excitement.
Katherine, thoroughly uncomfortable in a crisp new white dress and blue
sash, tripped blithely along the elm-shaded avenue in the glow of the
late June sunset. It was the night of the class banquet, and her mind was
intent on the speech she was to make. Thus absorbed, she did not watch
where she was going, and a sprawling root from a big tree tripped her
unexpectedly and brought her to her knees on the soft lawn. Brought into
such close contact with the ground, she spied something lying at the foot
of the giant oak beside which she had fallen. It was a black leather bill
fold, with a heavy elastic band around it.

“Daggers and dirks!” said Katherine, borrowing the Captain’s favorite
expression. “What’s this?” She slipped off the elastic band and opened
the bill fold. Across the inner flap there was a name printed in gold
letters. Katherine squinted at the name and explored the inner recesses
of the wallet. She took one look and hastily bound the wallet together
again with its elastic and dropped it gingerly into her hand bag, as if
it were red hot. Then she proceeded on her way, more absorbed than ever,
but the thing her brain was intent on now was not her banquet speech.

Crossing the little park-like square, which lay on the way to school, she
came upon Veronica walking slowly up and down the sidewalk, intently
searching for something on the ground. She was very pale and showed signs
of great agitation. It was the first time Katherine had met her face to
face since she had left the group.

“Have you lost something?” asked Katherine abruptly.

“No,” said Veronica, straightening up and flushing deeply, “that is,
nothing much, I—I just dropped a—something out of my purse along here
somewhere.”

“What was it?” asked Katherine.

Veronica gave a last frantic look along the walk.

“It was a—” She hesitated, and then burst out:

“Oh, Katherine, it was my bill fold, and it had five hundred dollars in
it!”

“Five hundred dollars!” echoed Katherine faintly.

Veronica ran back and forth along the walk, looking desperately into
every crack and crevice. Every few minutes she held up her hand and
looked at her wrist watch; then she would return to the search with more
energy than before. Katherine also looked at her watch.

“I’ll help you hunt,” she said, taking the other side of the walk. “Are
you sure you lost it along here?” she asked.

“Pretty sure,” answered Veronica. “I know I had it when I was back on Elm
Street, because I looked to make sure.”

“The last time you saw it was back on Elm Street,” mused Katherine.
“That’s two blocks behind us. We’ll have to go all the way back.”

“By the way,” said Katherine, a few minutes later, “it’s none of my
business, I suppose, but what on earth were you doing with five hundred
dollars in your bag?”

Veronica started and looked confused for a minute. But she answered
naturally enough. “I drew it from the bank this afternoon to give my
uncle to pay for some investment he is making for me, and I was to take
it over to his studio, but I was detained and he had gone when I got
there, so I was just bringing it home when I lost it.” She stared up the
road with widening eyes, not toward Elm Street, where the purse might
lie, but toward the big avenue in the other direction, where the
streetcars clanged townward. Katherine stared thoughtfully at the
suitcase Veronica had with her.

“Have you been away?” she asked casually.

“No,” said Veronica, with a start. Then, as her eyes followed
Katherine’s, she added: “I’ve just been carrying some—things in there.”

Katherine looked at her watch again. “What did your bill fold look like?”
she asked.

“It was a small black one,” answered Veronica, “with an elastic band
around it. It had my name in gold letters across the inner flap.”

“Hadn’t we better go home and tell your uncle,” suggested Katherine, “and
get him to help us find it?”

“No, no!” cried Veronica, shrinking back in alarm. “Don’t tell him! I
wouldn’t have him know for worlds that I’ve lost it.”

“But if you don’t find it he’ll know about it, anyway,” said Katherine
practically.

Veronica’s face went white again and she returned to the search with
desperate haste. “I must find it! I must find it!” she was saying over
and over again under her breath.

Katherine was just as diligent in her search. She pawed through the
bushes with her white gloves and sank on her knees in the soft grass,
accumulating more and more grass stains all the while. The last streak of
daylight faded and the big arc lights began to blaze among the tall
trees, and still they searched—Katherine in a patient, systematic way,
Veronica hysterically. The few people who crossed the square were closely
questioned as to whether or not they had found anything, but the same
disappointing answer came from all of them. Veronica looked at her watch
with ever-increasing anxiety; Katherine looked at her furtively almost as
often.

After two hours of nerve-wracking search a steeple clock nearby boomed
out nine strokes; slowly, deliberately, its clamor shattered the summer
night’s stillness. Veronica sank down on a stone which bordered the walk
and covered her face with her hands. Katherine straightened up and stood
for a moment looking thoughtfully at Veronica; then she went on searching
methodically. Veronica sat huddled on the stone for fully five minutes;
then, with an expression which was strangely like relief, she rose up and
followed Katherine’s example. Fifteen minutes more went by with scarcely
a word from either girl. Then the steeple clock chimed the quarter hour.
A moment later came the sound of a train whistle, far off, but borne
clearly on the still air, followed by the faint rumble of distant cars
going over a culvert.

Katherine stood still until the sound had died away, then she went up to
Veronica, led her to an iron bench nearby, and shoved her into it. Then
she opened her handbag and took out a small black wallet fastened round
with an elastic band, and laid it on Veronica’s knee without a word.

Veronica looked at it and uttered an incredulous scream of joy. “Where
did you find it?” she gasped.

“Back on Elm Street, before I met you,” said Katherine quietly.

“Back on Elm Street, before you met me?” repeated Veronica wonderingly.
“You had it all this while?” Katherine nodded. “Then why did you keep it
all this while?” demanded Veronica. “Why didn’t you give it to me at once
and save all this agony?”

Katherine looked at her narrowly. “I didn’t dare give it to you _before
nine o’clock_,” she said significantly.

Veronica started and clutched Katherine’s arm nervously. “What do you
mean?” she asked faintly.

Katherine put her arm around Veronica and drew her toward her so she
could look into her face. The light from the swinging arc was directly
upon her. “You were going to run away on that nine o’clock train, weren’t
you?” she asked quietly.

Veronica jerked away and turned dreadfully pale. “How—how did you know?”
she faltered.

“I didn’t, for sure,” said Katherine. “But I made a pretty good guess.
You see, when I found that wallet, I naturally looked inside. There I saw
your name, five hundred dollars in bills, and a note which read:

“‘Take the New York Central Flyer at nine o’clock Wednesday night.’ It
was signed with the initials A. T., which I suppose stand for that friend
of yours with the plush whiskers, Alex Toboggan.”

“Alex Tobin,” corrected Veronica under her breath.

“That looked suspicious to me,” continued Katherine. “I’ve seen him
around with you a good deal, and I don’t like his looks, not a little
bit. Then a minute later I came upon you with a suitcase, hunting your
wallet and looking at your watch as if you were crazy. So I came to the
conclusion that you were planning to run away on that nine o’clock train,
and decided to hold you up by keeping the money until the train was gone.
Am I right?”

Veronica’s eyes dropped and her face was crimson. “You are right,” she
said unsteadily. “I was planning to run away on that train. After I
dropped out of the Camp Fire Group I had no girl friends and became
lonelier and lonelier all the while. The only interest I had was my
music, and the only place to which I went was to hear the Symphony
Orchestra rehearse. There, Alex Tobin, who is really a fine violinist,
was always very friendly to me and kept telling me I should go to New
York and study with Martini, who is the best teacher in the country.
Uncle would not let me go because he said I was too young and he could
not go with me. But Alex Tobin kept telling me that uncle was jealous of
my talent and was trying to keep me back on purpose, and if I had any
money in my own right I should take it and go anyhow. Uncle quarreled
with Alex Tobin and after that he forbade me to have anything to do with
him, but he used to meet me outside, and always he talked about my
talent, and what a shame it was I could not study with Martini, and
things like that, until I began to think I was abused. I was very lonely,
you know, and had nothing else to think about.

“Well, this week was the end of the Symphony Orchestra rehearsals, and
Alex Tobin was going home to New York. He promised me that if I would
play in a restaurant there in which he is interested he would see me
safely there and introduce me to Martini. He talked so much about it that
I finally yielded and said I would go. I had money in the bank, but could
not draw it out without uncle’s consent. However, just this week he
wanted to invest five hundred dollars for me and gave me his signature so
I could get it. You know how easy uncle is about money matters, and he
thought it was perfectly all right to send me to the bank alone. I have
gone about by myself so much, you know. But instead of going to his
studio with it, as I was supposed to, I kept it with me and did not go
home at all.

“I was to meet Mr. Tobin in the station at a quarter before nine. If I
was not there when the train went he was going without me. I was so
excited all day I did not have time to stop and think what I was doing,
and how terrible it was to run away from uncle and aunt, when they had
been so kind to me, even to study with Martini. I looked upon Alex Tobin
as my friend and benefactor, instead of a horrid, scheming man, as I see
he is now. He just wanted me to play in that restaurant of his for
nothing, and draw crowds, and beyond that he really didn’t care what
became of me.

“When I lost the money I was nearly frantic, because I was afraid I would
miss the train. But when the clock struck nine and I knew the train was
gone, I suddenly felt glad, glad, although I had been so anxious to go.
For I had come to myself and felt sick at the thought of what I had
almost done. Oh, Katherine, how can I ever thank you for keeping me from
doing it?”

“Don’t try,” said Katherine cheerfully, rubbing away at a grass stain on
her skirt with the wreck of a white silk glove.

For the first time Veronica noticed Katherine’s white dress. “Oh,
Katherine,” she exclaimed in distress, “tonight is your class banquet! I
heard some of the other girls talking about it. And you have missed it
for my sake!”

“Why, so it is,” said Katherine, with a well-feigned start of
recollection. “I had forgotten all about it.”

“No, you didn’t forget it,” persisted Veronica; “you deliberately spent
the time here with me.”

“Well, never mind about that,” said Katherine soothingly. “It was worth
it.”

“Worth it? Oh, Katherine, after the way I have treated you! I once called
you a peasant, but you are noble—you are a princess! It is I who am not
fit to associate with you!”

“O Glory!” exclaimed Katherine in an embarrassed way. Katherine was like
a fish out of water when anyone began to express emotion. “Forget about
the whole business,” she said, “and come back into the group. You need to
have something on your mind.”

“They will never take me back now,” said Veronica sadly, “after this
dreadful thing I did.”

“But you didn’t do it,” maintained Katherine, “you came to your senses in
time. We all have done some pretty foolish things, I guess, if they
weren’t quite so startling as the one you planned. But anyway, they’ll
never know a thing about it, so they can’t have the laugh on you.”

“You mean you’ll never tell anyone?” cried Veronica unbelievingly.

“Not a soul,” said Katherine earnestly. “Not any of the Winnebagos, nor
your uncle, nor your aunt, nor even Nyoda. Never a word, on my honor as
a—a peasant! If I had intended telling anyone I’d have taken your wallet
to your uncle right away, with the note in it, instead of keeping you
back in the way I did. But I knew you’d come to yourself presently, and
there was no use making a fuss. I’ll keep your secret, never fear. I
won’t even have to explain my absence from the class banquet. They all
know how absent-minded I am, and they will simply think I forgot. That’s
the advantage of having a reputation!” And Veronica, looking into
Katherine’s homely, honest face, knew that her word would stand against
flood and earthquake.

“Do you really think the Winnebagos will take me back?” she asked
timidly.

For answer Katherine picked up Veronica’s suitcase, linked her arm
through hers, and started homeward at a lively pace. “You _are_ back,”
she said simply. “You never were really ‘put out,’ you know. You left of
your own accord and we have missed you very much and were just waiting
for you to say the word. Oh, I’m so glad!” And her feet began to shuffle
back and forth in a lively manner, and she began to hum in sprightly
tones the tune, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” Thus it was that the
Torch, carried by Katherine, drew Veronica to the Fire after all,
although Katherine did not even know that she held the Torch in her hand.


The last meeting of the Winnebagos with Nyoda came, oh, much too soon!
The boys were warned to stay away, for not even these dear friends were
to be allowed to disturb the sacredness of that gathering. They cooked
supper for the last time, trying to be riotously cheerful, with the tears
dripping off the ends of their noses into the dishes. All the favorite
Winnebago messes were cooked, because Nyoda couldn’t decide which one she
wanted most. There was Shrimp Wiggle and Slumgullion and scones and ice
cream with Wohelo Special Sauce, which was a heavenly mixture of maple
syrup, chocolate and chopped nuts.

The feast was soon spread, and they gathered around the table to sing the
Camp Fire blessing,

  “If we have earned the right to eat this bread,”

and most of the voices quavered before they came to the end.

That supper remained in their memories many years afterward. Katherine
had to deliver all her familiar speeches over and over again; Migwan, who
had come home from college in time to attend the farewell meeting, gave a
fine history of the group from its beginning; Gladys danced her best
dances; and all the favorite stunts were gone through and the favorite
songs sung. And Nyoda looked upon and listened to it all with a smiling
face and tear-dimmed eyes. The Winnebagos had formed a large part of her
life for the past three years. Veronica, who was at the supper, and had
been welcomed back into the group with open arms upon her humble apology,
wept disconsolately most of the time. To have been restored to the good
graces of this wonderful young woman, only to lose her again immediately
afterward! She bitterly regretted her withdrawing from the group during
the winter and thus losing her last opportunity of comradeship with
Nyoda.

Supper over they wandered out into the warm June twilight to watch for
the evening stars before beginning the ceremonial meeting. “We’ll have
the same stars as you do, anyhow,” said Hinpoha, “and when they come out
we’ll think of each other, will you, Nyoda?”

“Indeed I will,” said Nyoda, heartily.

“And when Cassiopea comes out the W will stand for Winnebago,” added
Gladys.

“And that long scraggly constellation will remind you of me,” said
Katherine, and they all had to laugh in spite of their sadness.

By and by they wandered back to the House of the Open Door and Nyoda went
up alone and left them standing before the door. Then pretty soon the
signal bird calls floated up and Nyoda’s voice called down from above,
saying, “Who’s there?” and they answered with the foolish passwords and
countersigns that they loved because they were so foolish. One by one
they climbed the ladder and took their places in the circle, their eyes
on Nyoda, as she twirled the drill with the bow, kindling their last
Council Fire. The spark came immediately and leapt into flame and kindled
the fagots piled on the hearth. Feeling the spell of it as they never had
before, they sang “Burn, Fire, Burn.”

Then came the last roll call. Nyoda’s voice lingered lovingly on each
name: “Hinpoha; Sahwah; Geyahi (Gladys); Iagoonah; Medmangi; Nakwisi;
Waban (Veronica).”

Migwan read the Count, written in her inimitable lilting metre, which
touched on the many happy times they had had together, and ended,

  “All too brief that Moon of Gladness,
  Long shall be the years of parting!”

Then Hinpoha put her head on her knee with a stifled sob, and at that
they all broke down and cried together, with their arms around Nyoda.

“Come girls, be good,” said Nyoda, after a minute, sitting up and wiping
her eyes. “Stand up and take your honors like men!”

And she proceeded to raise all the girls who had not already taken that
honor, to the rank of Torchbearer, excepting, of course, Veronica. As she
awarded the pins she spoke a few words to each girl, telling in what way
she had become worthy of this highest rank. When she came to Katherine,
she laid her hand on her shoulder. “Good wine needs no bush,” she said
with a whimsical smile. “And Katherine needs no advocate. Her actions
speak for themselves. Her masterly handling of that volley ball game the
other day gives the keynote to her character. The ability to snatch
victory from seeming defeat is a gift which will carry one far in the
world. And do not forget that Katherine went into that game as a humble
filler-in, simply to oblige the team, and without a thought of gaining
any glory thereby. That is what I meant by losing one’s self in the
common cause which is a necessary qualification for a Torchbearer.
Katherine would go to any trouble to help somebody else get glory for
themselves, or to help them out of trouble.” And Veronica almost burst
with the desire to tell of the last great service Katherine had done her.

Katherine blushed at Nyoda’s words and winked back the tears and dropped
the pin, and murmured brokenly that she would try to be a worthy
Torchbearer, and would do her best to stop being so absent-minded. And
then all the Torchbearers, new and old, joined hands in a circle and
repeated their desire:

  “The light that has been given to me
  I desire to pass undimmed unto others.”

“And now a word about the future,” said Nyoda, putting wood on the fire
and sending the flames roaring up the chimney. “You girls declare you do
not want another Guardian. I heartily agree with you in this. That does
not mean that I would be jealous of a possible successor. But I think the
time has come when you no longer need a Guardian. For three years you
have been bound together by ties stronger than sisterhood, and have had
all the fun that it is possible for girls to have, working always as a
unit. You have stood in a close circle, always facing inward. Now you
must turn around and face outward. You have been leaders from the
beginning, and I have trained you as leaders. And a leader must stand
alone. Each one of you will have a different way of passing on the light.
The time has come to begin. The old order has passed when you did every
thing under my direction. You must kindle new Camp Fires now and teach to
others the things you have learned.”

“Oh, Nyoda,” cried Gladys sorrowfully, “do you mean that all our good
times together are over? That this is the end of it all?”

“No, dear, this is not the end,” said Nyoda cheerfully, “this is the
‘beginning of it all.’ I do not mean for a moment that you girls are not
to meet and frolic together any more; but that must not be the main
thing. You must begin leading groups of younger girls and teaching them
to have a good time as you have learned to. What wonderful Guardians you
will make in time!” she said musingly.

“Besides,” she added, after a moment’s silence, while the girls
thoughtfully pondered the new idea she had given them, “you had come to
the parting of the ways, although you didn’t seem to realize it. You have
graduated from school, and next year Hinpoha and Gladys and Katherine are
going away to college, each one to a different city, and Nakwisi is to
travel with her aunt, and Veronica will be going to New York to study
music sooner or later. That leaves only Sahwah and Medmangi here in the
city. You couldn’t go on as you have in the past, even if I were not
going away. But come,” she cried in an animated tone, “enough of solemn
talk! We’ve had three years together, and nobody can take them away from
us, never. And we’re all together now. Let the future take care of
itself; this is today! Come, come, a song!”

And once more the rafters rang:

  “O we are Winnebagos and we’re loyal friends and true,
  We always work in harmony in everything we do,
  We always think the weather’s fine, in sunshine or in snow,
  We’re happy all the time because we’re maids of Wohelo!”

The echoes died away and then sprang into life again.

  “For we are Winnebagos,
  For we are Winnebagos,
  For we are Winnebagos,
  And that’s why we’re so spry!”

“A toast!” cried Nyoda, “a toast to the future!” And they drank it in the
remains of the cocoa. Their eyes met as they clinked the cups, and
overflowed. “Oh, my girls,” cried Nyoda, trying to get her arms around
all of them at once, “there never _was_ such a group! And there never
_will_ be such a group! I just can’t leave you!” Then she pulled herself
up again. The time was passing and she must hasten, for she was leaving
on the train late that night. Her marriage was to take place in the East.
“Come, girls, ‘Mystic Fire.’” And once again their voices rose in musical
chant:

  “With hand uplifted we claim thy power,
  Guide and keep us as we go,
  True to Wohelo.
  Thy law is our law from this hour,
  Thy mystic spirit’s flame will show
  Us the way to go.”

And so on to the end.

But when they stood in the close circle with which the song ends, Nyoda
stooped to the hearth, and, plucking forth a burning brand, held it aloft
as a torch, and the girls passed in front of her, each carrying a tiny
torch in her hand, which she lit from the big one. Then the circle stood
complete once more, a ring of shining light. Silence fell on all. The
moment of parting had come.

“Don’t say good-bye,” begged Nyoda. “Act as if I were a guest just
leaving for a short time.”

And bravely, with voices that did not falter to the end, they sang the
familiar guest song:

  “Our guest, may she come again soon——”

and followed it with a fervent cheer:

  “O Nyoda, here’s to you,
  Our hearts will e’er be true,
  We will never find your equal
  Though we search the whole world through!”

Then the circle turned resolutely and faced outward. A moment more they
lingered, and then they went forth into the night, carrying their torches
with them.


                                THE END



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Silently corrected palpable typos in spelling and punctuation

--Adjusted front matter to give a complete list of the series





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