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´╗┐Title: The Camp Fire Girls at Sunrise Hill
Author: Vandercook, Margaret
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Camp Fire Girls at Sunrise Hill" ***

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THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT SUNRISE HILL

By Margaret Vandercook

First of a series



  CONTENTS

  I.  THE VOICE
  II.  "METHINKS YOU ARE MY GLASS"
  III.  "WORK, HEALTH AND LOVE"
  IV.  "MEG"
  V.  THEIR FIRST MEETING
  VI.  THE LAW OF THE CAMP FIRE
  VII.  WHITE CLOUDS
  VIII.  OTHER GIRLS
  IX.  THE GUARDIAN
  X.  PIPES OF PEACE
  XI.  UNDER THE ROSE MOON
  XII.  NAN
  XIII.  "NOBODY WANTS TO BE DONE GOOD TO"
  XIV.  SURPRISING THE CAMP
  XV.  A WARNING
  XVI.  LEARNING TO KEEP STEP
  XVII.  THE SUSPICION
  XVIII.  ONE WAY TO FIND OUT
  XIX.  THE DISAPPEARANCE
  XX.  "POLLY"
  XXI.  THE END OF THE SUMMER CAMP



CHAPTER I

THE VOICE


Betty Ashton sighed until the leaves of the book she held in her hand
quivered, then she flung it face downward on the floor.

"Oh dear, I do wish some one would invent something new for girls!" she
exclaimed, although there was no one in the room to hear her.  "It seems
to me that all girls do nowadays is to imitate boys.  We play their
games, read their old books and even do their work, when all the time
girls are really wanting girl things.  I agree with King Solomon: 'The
thing that hath been, it is that which, shall be; and that which is done
is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun.'
At least not for girls!"

Then with a laugh at her own pessimism, Betty, like Hamlet, having found
relief in soliloquy, jumped up from her chair and crossing her room
pressed the electric button near the fireplace until the noise of its
ringing reverberated through the big, quiet house.

"There, that ought to bring some one to me at last," she announced.
"Three times have I rung that bell and yet no one has answered.  Do the
maids in this house actually expect me to build my own fire?  I suppose
I could do it if I tried."

She glanced at the pile of kindling inside her wood box and then at the
sweet smelling pine logs standing nearby, but the thought of actually
doing something for herself must have struck her as impossible, for the
next moment she turned with a shiver to stare through the glass of her
closed window, first up toward the sullen May sky and then down into her
own garden.

Outside the gray clouds were slowly pursuing one another against a
darker background and in the garden the lilacs having just opened their
white and purple blossoms were now looking pale and discouraged as
though born too soon into a world that was failing to appreciate them.

In spite of her petulance Betty laughed.  She was wearing a blue
dressing gown and her red-brown hair was caught back with a velvet
ribbon of the same shade.  Her room was in blue, "Betty's Blue" as her
friends used to call it, the color that is neither light nor dark, but
has soft shadows in it.

Betty herself was between fifteen and sixteen.  She had gray eyes, a
short, straight nose and her head, which was oddly square, conveyed an
effect of refinement that was almost disdain.  Her mouth was a little
discontented and somehow she gave one the impression that, though she
had most of the things other girls wish for, she was still seeking for
something.

"The outdoors is as dismal as I am, no wonder we used to be sun
worshipers," she said after a few more minutes of waiting; "but since
Prometheus stole the fire from heaven some ages ago, I really don't see
why I should have to freeze because the sun won't shine."

Frowning and gathering her dressing gown more closely about her with
another impatient gesture, Betty swept out into the hall.

The house was strangely silent for the middle of a week-day afternoon;
not a sound came either from below stairs or above, not the rattle of a
window blind nor the echo of a single pair of footsteps.

At some time has a sudden silence ever fallen upon you with a sense of
foreboding like the hour before a storm or the moment preceding some
unexpected news or change in your life?

Betty hurried toward the back-stairs.  She was leaning over the
banisters and had called once for one of the maids, when she ceased
abruptly, and stood still for several moments with her head tilted back
and her body tense with surprise.

So long as Betty could recall, there had been a vacant room in the rear
of the old Ashton homestead, which had stood for more than a hundred
years at the comer of Elm Street in Woodford, New Hampshire.  She was
stupider than other people about remembering the events of her childhood
and yet she was sure that this room had never been used for any purpose
save as a storehouse for old pieces of furniture, for discarded
pictures, for any odds and ends that found no other resting place about
the great house.  It was curious because the room was a particularly
attractive one, with big windows overlooking the back garden, but then
there was some story or other connected with it (old houses have old
memories) and this must have made it unpopular.  Betty did not know what
the story was and yet she had grown up with a queer, childish dread of
this room and rarely went into it unless she felt compelled.

Now, though she was not a coward, it did give her an uncanny sensation
to hear a low, humming sound proceeding from this supposedly empty room.

Cautiously Betty stole toward its closed door and quietly turned the
knob without making the least noise.  Then she looked in.

What transformation had taken place!  The room was a store place no
longer, for most of the old furniture and all the other rubbish had been
cleared away and what was left was arranged in a comfortable, living
fashion.  An old rug was spread out on the floor, a white iron bed stood
in one corner with an empty bookshelf above it.  There was a vase on a
table holding a branch of blossoming pussy willow, and seated before one
of the big, open windows was a strange girl whom Betty Ashton never
remembered to have seen before in her life.

The girl was sewing, but this was not what kept Betty silent.  She was
also singing a new and strangely beautiful song.

"Lay me to sleep in sheltering flame, O Master of the Hidden Fire; Wash
pure my heart, and cleanse for me My soul's desire."

Unconscious of the intruder and forgetful of everything else the
singer's voice rose clearer and sweeter with the second verse.

"In flame of sunrise bathe my mind, O Master of the Hidden Fire, That
when I wake, clear-eyed may be My soul's desire."

Then in silence, as she leaned closer to the window to get a better
light on her sewing, an unexpected ray of sunshine managing at this
moment to break through the clouds fell directly on her bowed head.  Her
hair was not auburn, like Betty's, but bright, undeniable red.

"That is a charming song and you have lovely voice, but would you mind
telling me who you are, where you have come from and how you happen to
be so at home in a room in our house?" Betty Ashton inquired, coolly,
still keeping her position just outside the opened door.

The stranger jumped instantly to her feet, letting fall some brown
embroidery silk and a number of bright-colored beads, then she stood
with her eyes fixed anxiously on the apparition before her, nervously
twisting her big, rather coarse-looking hands.  She was a year older
than Betty Ashton and at the first glance it would have been difficult
to imagine two persons more unlike.  Betty was slender but perfectly
proportioned and had an air of unusual beauty and refinement, which her
friends believed must come of her long line of distinguished ancestors,
while the new girl was thin and angular, with hands and feet that seemed
too big for her, and a pale, freckled skin.  She too had gray eyes, but
while Betty's brows and lashes were the color of her hair, this girl's
were so light that they failed to give the needful shadows to her eyes.

In order to gain time and courage the newcomer walked slowly across the
room, but when she spoke the beauty of her voice gave her unexpected
charm and dignity.

"Hasn't your mother told you of my coming? didn't she ask you if you
wanted me to come?" she questioned slowly.  "I am sorry; my name is
Esther Clark, but my name can mean nothing to you.  Your mother has
asked me here to live, to take care of your clothes, to read to you, to
take walks when there is no one else--"

"Oh, you mean you are to be my maid," Betty finished, coming now into
the center of the room and studying the other girl critically, her eyes
suddenly dark with displeasure and her lips closed into a firm red line.

"I must say it is strange no one has thought to mention your coming to
me, and as I am not a child, I think I might have been consulted as to
whether I wished to be bothered with you."  Betty bit her lips, for she
did not mean to be unkind; only she was extremely provoked and was
unaccustomed not to having her wishes consulted.

The older girl's face was no longer pale but had suddenly grown crimson.
"No, I am not to be your maid," she returned.  "At least Mrs. Ashton
said I was to be a kind of companion; though I am to be useful to you in
any way you like, I am still to go to school and to have time for
studying.  Of course the holidays are nearly here now, but later on I
hope to graduate. If you don't wish me to stay you will please explain
it to your mother, only--"  Esther tried to speak naturally, but her
voice faltered, "I hope you will be willing to let me stay at least
until I can find some other place.  I am too old to go back to the
asylum."

"Asylum!" Betty stepped back in such genuine that her companion laughed,
showing her white, even teeth and the softer curve to her mouth that
relieved her face of some of its former plainness.

"Oh, I only meant the orphan asylum, so please don't be frightened," she
explained.  "I have lived there, it is just at the edge of town, ever
since I was a little girl, because when my mother and father died, there
was nothing else to do with me.  But you need not feel specially sorry,
because I have never been ill-treated in the fashion you read about in
books.  Most of the people in charge have been very kind and I have been
going to school for years.  Only when your mother came last week and
said she wanted me to come here to live, why it did seem kind of
wonderful to find out what a beautiful home was like, and then most of
all I wanted to know you.  You will think it strange of me, but I have
been seeing you with your mother or nurse ever since you were a little
girl of three or four and I a little older, and I have always been
interested in you."

Betty smiled, showing a dimple which sometimes appeared after an
exhibition of temper of which she felt ashamed.  "Oh, you will be sorry
enough to know what I am really like," she answered, "and will probably
think I am dreadfully spoiled.  But do please stay for a while if you
wish, at least until we find how we get on together."

Since Betty's first speech at the door had startled her, Esther had
never for a moment taken her eyes from her face.  Never in all her life,
even when she had seen and learned far more of the ways of the world,
could this girl learn not to speak the truth.  So now she slowly shook
her head. "Your mother did say you were spoiled; it was one reason why
she wished me to come here to live," she replied.  "You see, she said
that you had been too much alone and had too much done for you and that
your brother was so much older that he only helped to spoil you. But,"
Esther was hardly conscious of her listener and seemed only to be
thinking aloud, "I shall not mind if you are spoiled, for how can you
help being when you are so pretty and fortunate and have all the things
that other girls have just to dream of possessing."

It was odd, perhaps, but the new girl's speech was made so simply and
sincerely that Betty Ashton instead of feeling angry or complimented was
instead a little ashamed.  Had fortune been kinder to her than to other
girls, kinder than to the awkward girl in front of her in her plain gray
linen dress?

Betty now backed toward the door which she had so lately opened.  "I am
sorry to have disturbed you, but usually this room isn't occupied and I
was curious to know who could be in here.  I should have knocked.  Some
day you must sing that lovely song to me, again, for I think I would
like very much to know just what my soul's desire is.  The worst of life
is not knowing just what you want."

Esther had followed Betty toward the hall.  "How funny that sounds to
me," she returned shyly, "because I think the hard part of life is not
having what you want.  I know very well.  But can't I do something for
you now? Your mother said you were not well and perhaps would not wish
to see me this afternoon, but I could read to you or--"

Betty's irritability returned.  "Thank you very much," she returned
coldly, "but I can think of nothing in the world that would amuse me at
present.  I simply wish not to freeze, and to save my life I can't get
one of our tiresome maids to answer my bell."

Betty's grand manner had returned, but in spite of her haughtiness the
newcomer persisted.  "Do let me make the fire for you. I am only a
wood-gatherer at present, but pretty soon I shall be a real fire-maker,
for I have already been working for two months."

"A wood-gatherer and fire-maker; what extraordinary things a girl was
forced to become at an orphan asylum!"  Betty's sympathies were
immediately aroused and her cheeks burned with resentment at the sudden
vision of this girl at her side trudging through the woods, her back
bent under heavy burdens.  No wonder her shoulders stooped and her hands
were coarse.  Betty slipped her arm through the stranger's.

"No, I won't trouble you to make my fire, but do come into my room and
let us just talk.  None of my friends have been in to see me this
afternoon, not even the faithless Polly!  They are too busy getting
ready for the end of school to think about poor, ill me."  And Betty
laughed gayly at the untruthfulness of this picture of herself.

Once inside the blue room, without asking permission, Esther knelt
straightway down before the brass andirons and with deft fingers placed
a roll of twisted paper under a lattice-like pile of kindling, arranging
three small pine logs in a triangle above it.  But before setting a
match to the paper she turned toward the other girl hovering about her
like a butterfly.

"I wonder if you would like me to recite the fire-maker's song?" she
asked.  "I haven't the right to say it yet, but it is so lovely that I
would like you to hear it."

Betty stared and laughed.  "Do fire-makers have songs?" she demanded.
"How queer that sounds!  Perhaps the Indians used to have fire songs
long ago when a fire really meant so much.  But I can't imagine a maid's
chanting a song before one's fire in the morning and I don't think I
should like being wakened up by it."

"You would like this one," the other girl persisted.

Little yellow spurts of flame were now creeping forth from between the
sticks, some leaping away into nothingness, others curling and enfolding
them.  The paper in the grate crackled noisily as the cold May wind
swept down the chimney with a defiant roar and both girls silently
watched the newly kindled fire with the fascination that is eternal.

Betty had also dropped down on her knees.  "What is your song?" she
asked curiously an instant later, raising her hands before her face to
let the firelight shine through.

Esther's head was bent so that her face could not be seen, but the
beauty of her speech was reflected in the other girl's changing
expression.

"As fuel is brought to the fire, So I purpose to bring My strength, my
ambition, My heart's desire, My joy And my sorrow To the fire Of
humankind."

Purposely Esther's voice dropped with these last words, and she did not
continue until a hand was placed gently on her shoulder and a voice
urged: "Please go on; what is the 'fire of humankind'?"

"For I will tend As my fathers have tended And my fathers' fathers Since
time began, The fire that is called The love of man for man, The love of
man for God."

At the end, Esther glancing around at the girl beside her was surprised
to see a kind of mist over her gray eyes.

But Betty laughed as she got up to her feet and going over to her table
stooped to pick up the book she had thrown on the floor half an hour
before.

"I might have made my own fire if I had known that song," she said,
switching on the electric light under the rose-colored shade.  For the
clouds outside had broken at last, the rain was pouring and the blue
room save for the firelight would have been in darkness.

Betty sat down, putting her feet under her and resting her chin on her
hands.  "I wonder what it feels like to be useful?" she asked, evidently
questioning herself, for afterwards she turned toward her companion.
"You must have learned a great many things by being brought up at an
orphan asylum, how to care for, other people and all that, but I never
would have dreamed that poetry would have played any part in your
education."

Esther had turned and was about to leave the room, but now at Betty's
words, she looked at her strangely.

Her face had reddened again and because of the intensity of her feelings
her big hands were once more pressed nervously together.

"Why, no, I never learned anything at the asylum but work," she answered
slowly, "just dull, hateful, routine work; doing the same things over
again every day in the same way, cooking and washing dishes and
scrubbing.  I suppose I was being useful, but there isn't much fun in
being useful when nobody cares or seems to be helped by what you do.  I
know I am ugly and not clever, but I love beautiful people and,
beautiful things."

Unconsciously her glance traveled from her listener's face to the small
piano in the corner of the room.  "And it never seemed to me that
things, were divided quite fairly in this world, but now that I know
about the Camp Fire Girls I am ever so much happier."

"Camp Fire Girls?" Betty queried.  "Do sit down, child, I don't wish you
to leave me, and please don't say horrid things about yourself, for it
isn't polite and you never can tell how things are going to turn out.
But who are the Camp Fire Girls; what are the Camp Fire Girls; are they
Indians or Esquimaux or the fire-maidens in 'The Nibelungen'?  Perhaps,
after all, something new has been invented for girls, and a little while
ago I felt as discouraged as King Solomon and believed there was nothing
new and nothing worth while under the sun."

Betty's eyes were dancing with fun and anticipation, her bored look had
entirely disappeared, but the other girl evidently took her question
seriously.  She had seated herself in a small desk chair and kept her
eyes fixed on the fire.  "It seems very queer to me that you don't know
about the 'Camp Fire Girls'," she answered slowly, "and it may take me a
long time to tell you even the little bit I know, but I think it the
most splendid thing that has ever happened."



CHAPTER II

"METHINKS YOU ARE MY GLASS"


Just across the street from the old Ashton place was another house
equally old and yet wholly unlike it, for instead of being a stately,
well-kept-up mansion with great rooms and broad halls and half an acre
of garden about it, this was a cottage of the earliest New England type.
It was low and rambling, covering a good deal of ground and yet without
any porch and very little yard, because as the village closed about it
and Elm Street became a fashionable quarter the land had been gradually
sold until now its white picket fence was only a dozen feet from the
front door and passers-by could easily have looked inside its parlor
windows save for the tall bushes that served as a shield.  By immemorial
custom the cottage had always been painted white and green, but for a
good many years it had not been troubled by any paint at all, "but had
lived," as Polly said, "on its past, and like a good many persons in
Woodford had gotten considerably run down by the process."

Now there were no lights at any of the front windows, although it was
eight o'clock in the evening, but as the warm steady glow of a lamp
shone from the rear of the house, it was plainly occupied.

There was no doubt of this in the mind of the girl who stood knocking
noisily at the closed door, saying in an imploring voice:

"Oh, do please hurry, Polly dear, you know it is only me and that I
can't bear to be kept waiting."

At this moment a candle was evidently being borne down the hall, for the
door opened so quickly afterwards that two girls, one on either side the
door, fell into, one another's arms.

"Dear me, it's 'The Princess' and she is no more ill than I am, though
we were told she couldn't possibly be at school to-day on account of her
ill health," the girl on the inside spoke first, recovering her breath.
"I suppose royal persons may lie abed and nurse their dispositions,
while poor ones have to keep on washing dishes.  But come on into the
kitchen, Betty, we are in there to-night and I haven't yet finished my
chores."

She led the way with the candle down the shabby hall until both girls
entered the lighted room.  There, with a little cry of surprise, Betty
ran over and dropped down on her knees by the side of a lounge.

The woman on the lounge was not so large as the girl, although her brown
hair showed a good deal of gray and her face looked tired and worn.  She
had been holding a magazine in her hands, but evidently had not been
reading, for her eyes had turned from the girl, who stood only a few
feet away from her drying some cups and saucers, to the two others who
had just come in, without an instant's delay.

"I am quite all right, dear," she answered the newcomer, "only the
kitchen seemed so warm and cozy after the wet day and I was tired."

Betty was too familiar with the lovely, old-fashioned kitchen of her
dearest friends even to think about it, but to-night she did look about
her for a moment.

The room was the largest in the cottage; the walls were of oak so dark a
brown from age that they were almost black; there were heavy rafters
across the ceiling and swinging from them bunches of dried,
sweet-smelling herbs. The windows had broad sills filled with pots of red
geraniums and ground ivy, and as they were wide open the odor of the
wet, spring earth outside mingled with the aromatic fragrance of the
flowers.

An old stove was set deep into the farthest wall with a Dutch oven at
one side and above it a high, severely plain mantel holding a number of
venerable pots and pans of pewter and copper and two tall, copper
candlesticks.  The candles were lighted, as the room was too large for
the single light of the lamp on the table near the lounge.

Polly O'Neill had gone straight to her sister and putting both hands on
her shoulders had pushed her steadily back inch by inch until she forced
her into a large armchair.

"Mollie Mavourneen, you know I hate washing dishes like an owl does the
day light, but I am not going to let you do my work and to-night you
know the agreeable task of cleaning up belongs to me.  I asked you to
leave things alone when I went to the door and I don't think you play
fair."  Polly seized a cup with such vehemence that it slipped from her
hand and crashed onto the floor, but neither her mother nor Mollie
showed the least sign of surprise and only Betty's eyes widened with
understanding.

Strangers always insisted that there were never twin sisters in the
world so exactly alike as Mollie and Polly O'Neill (not that their names
had ever been intended to rhyme in this absurd fashion, for they had
started quite sensibly, as Mary and Pauline), but to the friends who
knew them both well this idea was absurd.  It was true they were of the
same height and their hair and eyes of the same color, their noses and
mouths of somewhat the same shape, but with these superficial likenesses
the resemblance ended. Anybody should have been able to see that in each
detail Polly was the more intense; her hair was blacker and longer, her
eyes bluer, her cheek bones a little higher with brighter color and her
chin and delicate nose a trifle longer and more pointed.  Of the two
girls, however, Mollie was the prettier because her features were more
regular and her expression more serene; but once under the spell of her
sister, one never thought much of her appearance.

Polly had a temperament and she was having an attack of it to-night; the
room was fairly electric with it.  From some far off Irish ancestor she
must have inherited it, for though her father had been an Irishman and
had spent forty out of the fifty years of his life in Ireland, he had
quite a different disposition and had been as amazed by Polly in her
babyhood as the rest of her family.

Captain O'Neill had resigned from the English army eighteen years before
and crossed the ocean to spend a few years in the neighborhood of the
White Mountains on account of his health; he had no more money than most
Irish gentlemen, but had charming manners, was extremely handsome and
had soon fallen in love and married a girl twenty years younger than
himself.  Mary Poindexter had been the girl most loved in Woodford, one
of its belles and heiresses, but her money had not amounted to much and
soon disappeared after her marriage, until now she had only the cottage
in which she and her daughters lived and the income earned by her work
as private secretary to Mr. Edward Wharton of "The Wharton Granite Co."
Captain O'Neill had lived only until his twin daughters were eight years
old and since then the girls and their mother had kept up their small
home together.

"You are dead tired and Polly is cross as two sticks and poor Mollie
does not know what to do with you.  Would you rather I should go away?
I only came to tell you something wonderful," Betty whispered in Mrs.
O'Neill's ear.

The older woman shook her head.  "No, you have come just at the right
time. I am not very tired, only my daughters chose to think so and
wouldn't let me help with dinner and so, as I am an obedient, well
brought-up mother, I am doing as I am told.  And Polly is not in a bad
humor, at least I hope--"

The girl, who had been picking up the bits of broken china from the
kitchen floor, now straightened up and for the first time Betty
discovered that she must have been crying a short while before.

"Oh, yes, I am anything you may like to call me," Polly announced
indifferently, "and I am not in the least ashamed to have 'The Princess'
know it.  If Betty had to stand all the things I have stood to-day, she
would be in a far worse humor.  She and I are not angels like Mary and
Mollie, so I suppose that is the reason why we love one another part of
the time and hate one another the rest.  I am sure I never pretend not
to being dreadfully envious of 'The Princess'."

Polly came over and sat down cross-legged on the old rug near her mother
and best friend, and though she smiled a little to remove the sting from
her words, something in her expression kept Betty from answering at
once. In the meantime Mollie joined the group, taking her place at the
foot of the lounge.

The three girls were nearly the same age and the closest friends, and
Betty probably spent nearly as much of her waking time, at the cottage
as she did in her own home, for whenever she was lonely or bored, or,
tired perhaps of having too much done for her, she had been used to run
across the street to play or work with her friends from the time they
were children.  Mrs. O'Neill had never seemed very much older than her
daughters and had always been called "Mary" by the three girls.

Now Betty reached over and laid one and lightly on Polly.  "Don't say we
hate no another just because we quarrel now and then and both have bad
tempers.  I never hate Polly, do I Mary?"

But before Mrs. O'Neill could answer, Polly suddenly faced fiercely
about. "I hate you to-night, Betty," she insisted, and then to make her
words entirely unlike her actions, slipped one arm around her friend.
"Oh, you know that I don't really mean I hate you, I only mean that I am
horribly envious and jealous of your having all the money you want and
being able to do things without worry, not just things for yourself, but
things for other people."  And Polly bit her lips and ceased speaking,
both because of the note of warning in her mother's face and because the
brightness had died away from Betty's.

"I wish you would understand, Polly, that just having things does not
necessarily make one happy; I often think it must be nicer to be poor
and to have to help like you and Mollie do.  This afternoon I was
feeling quite forlorn myself, as I had a kind of headache and no one
came to see me, and then just like magic from out our haunted chamber
there appeared well, I can hardly call her a good fairy, she was too
homely, but at least a girl who told me of something so delightful that
it sounds almost like a fairy tale.  I talked of it to father at dinner
and then rushed over to tell you, as I thought you might be interested,
but perhaps I had better wait--"

From the foot of the lounge Mollie O'Neill now interrupted.  Utterly
unlike either her sister or friend in her disposition, her influence
often held them together.

"We do want to hear what you have to tell us, Betty, most dreadfully.
Just because we happen to be specially worried about something to-night
is no reason why Polly should be so mysterious.  I vote we tell you what
our trouble is and then you tell us your secret."

Polly got up from the floor.  She was always curiously intense, not
deliberately, but perhaps as a part of her inheritance.  Now she made a
little bow to Betty.  "I am sorry I was rude to you, Princess," she said
gently, "but tell you the reason for my special tirade against poverty
to-night, I will not and Mollie shall not tell either."

Without replying Betty turned to pick up her blue cloak which had
dropped from her shoulders as she knelt by the lounge.  It had a cap
attached with a blue silk lining and this she slipped over her head.

"It isn't worth while for me to talk of my plan to-night, then," she
returned, "for if Polly won't be interested, you and, I could never make
a go of it by ourselves, Mollie.  Good-night; I promised not to stay
very long."  Passing by the lounge Mrs. O'Neill reached out, slipping
her hand in Betty's and drew her to a place beside her.  Usually a girl
with the three other girls there was now and then a note in Mrs.
O'Neill's voice which they seldom failed to recognize.

"Mollie is right, as Betty is almost one of our family, it is only fair
to tell her what has put Polly in her present mood.  The truth is, dear,
the doctor thinks I am not very well and am needing a rest, so I am
being made to lie down every evening after my work, by my daughters, and
I am sure when warm weather comes I shall be all right again."

"You won't," Polly interrupted, "and if that is all you mean to tell
Betty, why I shall certainly tell her everything now you have started."

Polly went on quickly, with two bright spots of color in her cheeks:
"Resting in the evenings is not going to help mother; Dr. Hawkes says
she needs months and months of rest and unless she has it she will soon
be having a nervous breakdown or something else; that working for nearly
eight years in an office supporting herself and two daughters is enough
to tire any woman out.  Then to-day a wonderful invitation came from my
father's relatives, who have never paid the least attention to us
before, asking mother to spend the summer with them in Ireland, and--"

Betty's hands were clapped eagerly together as she concluded, "So you
are going to accept and Polly's blue at the thought of being separated
from you, but really I can't see any reason why I should not have been
told of this."

Instead of replying, Polly frowned and Mrs. O'Neill shook her head, so
the explanation fell to Mollie.  "No, mother is not going to accept;
that is what the trouble is and that is why Polly and I sometimes feel
cross with you, Betty, because rich people never seem to be able to
understand about poor ones.  You do what you like without thinking of
the money, and we can't do anything we like without thinking of it.
Mother feels she can't afford to go."

Looking almost as depressed as her two friends, Betty now turned her
back deliberately on both girls to whisper in the older woman's ear.

"Oh, Mary, won't you, can't you; you know how happy it would make us."
But she knew her answer even before it was given and also understood
that Polly's pride would never have agreed to let her mother accept any
favor through her.  Indeed, never in all the long years of their
friendship had Betty ever dared do half the things she longed to do for
her two friends, and indeed Mrs. Ashton often said that Betty accepted
far more than she was able to return, since she spent so much of her
time in Mrs. O'Neill's home.

"You are awfully foolish, Mary," Betty argued, "because if you should
really get ill--"

"That is just what I have been saying, Betty dear, for the past two
hours," Polly protested, forgetting the difference between herself and
her friend and edging close enough to the lounge to lay her head in, the
other girl's lap.  "And the worst of it is, Mr. Wharton says mother can
have the holiday, he will pay her salary while she is away, and she only
won't go because she says she can't leave Mollie and me alone and can't
afford to pay any one to look after us.  It is so foolish, when we are
old enough to be taking care of her!  I suppose she wouldn't be afraid
to leave Mollie, it is just me!  Sometimes it does not seem quite fair
to be born a twin, because see how things are put into Mollie divided,
all the good got and all the bad into me; so I suppose mother thinks I
would set the house on fire or run away and go on the stage as I
sometimes threaten, so soon as her back was turned.  Oh, Mavourneen
darling of the world, the very name of Lake Killarney, where our cousins
live, would make you well."

But again Polly stopped talking because Betty had seized her by both
shoulders, giving her a decided shake.  "Say it again to me quickly.  Is
it just because Mary does not know what to do with you and Mollie that
she won't go away?"

And both sisters nodded silently.

With a cry of what sounded like delight, Betty rose hurriedly to her
feet, letting the blue cloak slip away from her for the second time.

Then dancing across the kitchen she seized the two tall candlesticks
from the mantelpiece and setting them down in the center of the floor
afterwards added the third, with which Polly had lighted their way
through the hall. Above them she made a mystic sign by flattening the
fingers of her right hand against those of her left, while slowly she
revolved about them chanting: "Wohelo, Wohelo, Wohelo, in you lies the
answer to all our difficulties," to the entire amazement of her small
audience.



CHAPTER III

"WORK, HEALTH AND LOVE"


"Much learning hath made her mad," sighed Polly mournfully, Betty being
a notoriously poor student.

Mollie was staring thoughtfully at their visitor.  "That is an Indian
folk dance; perhaps Betty is pretending to be Pocahontas," she
suggested, with such an evident attempt to explain away her friend's
eccentricities that Betty stopped in her dance to laugh, and Polly and
Mrs. O'Neill followed suit.

"I am not mad and I am not playing at being Pocahontas, but as usual
Mollie is nearer right than her sister Polly because there is a good
deal about the Indians in what I want to tell you." Betty sat down
before the three shining candles and taking a little stick from the pile
of wood near by she pointed it at her third candle.  "You are to guess
what my strange word, 'Wohelo' means.  No, it is not an Indian, word,
although it sounds like it. Mary, you begin by taking the last syllable
first.  What is the greatest thing in the world?"

Mrs. O'Neill, some minutes before, had risen half way up from her lounge
and was leaning her head on her arm, while she watched Betty's curious
proceedings.  "The greatest thing in the world?" she repeated softly.
"Far wiser persons than I found the answer to that question many years
ago.  The greatest thing in the world is love."

Betty nodded.  "Now, Polly, you may have the next guess, though you are
sure to say the wrong thing.  What is the next greatest thing to love?"

Polly shrugged her thin shoulders, her face still moody in spite of her
recently awakened interest.  "Oh, I told you the answer to that question
when you first came into this room, Betty Ashton, though none of you
chose to believe me.  It is plain as a pipe-stem to me that wealth is
the next best thing to love and sometimes it is better when you happen
to love the wrong thing--or person."

"It rhymes with wealth but begins with the letter 'h'," the questioner
returned hastily, too much in earnest to waste further time in argument.
"Now, Mollie, you have the third turn, remember you are to decide what
the first syllable stands for, 'Wo'."

For a few seconds the third girl hesitated, her cheeks flushing
uncomfortably.  Not so quick or clever with her tongue as Polly and
Betty she was far more gifted with her fingers.  "I am sure I don't know
what you mean," she replied.  "'Wo' is the beginning of the word
'woman', but you can't mean woman.  I know you and Polly think books of
plays and novels the greatest things in the world, but I don't and
besides I can't find the right word for them.  You know what I really
like best is just cooking and cleaning up and putting flowers on the
table, stupid household things that can't have anything to do with your
wonderful word."  And Mollie looked so apologetic for her own domestic
tastes that her mother took both her hands and held them tight.

"For goodness' sake, Mollie dear, even in these days of the advanced
female it is still something to be proud of, to have real womanly
tastes.  Because some women go out into the world is no reason why they
should lose their womanly instincts.  What we are all working for, both
men and women, is really just the making of a home, a big or a little
one.  I don't know myself what word Betty is searching for, but I do
believe these very things that you like best come very close to my own
guess.  For if love is the greatest thing in the world, the making of a
home to shelter it is most important.  I have an idea that love would
come to a tragic end if, when it returned home to dinner, Polly should
meet it in the character of Ophelia, with wild flowers in her hair,
offering it rosemary and rue for dinner instead of meat and vegetables."

Again the audience laughed because of Polly's well-known devotion to the
drama and because if she were left alone to look after the cooking, her
mother and Mollie often returned to find her poring over her recitations
with the dinner burning on the stove.

"If mother is going to preach a sermon with me for a text, Betty's
candles will sputter and die out before ever she explains her word,"
Polly suggested.

"Oh, the word is 'work'; Mollie wasn't so far wrong, though work may
mean different things to different people.  Wohelo means 'Work, Health
and Love'," Betty explained quickly, still keeping her eyes on the
candle flames.

But Polly rising from her place slipped over and took Betty by both
shoulders.

"Elizabeth Ashton, more commonly known as 'The Princess,' Bettina or
Betty, will you kindly explain yourself?  No doubt those are three
estimable things you are recommending to us, but please tell me how
Work, Health and Love are going to solve our present difficulties and
help mother get the rest she needs.  It seems to me she has given us too
much of the first and last of your watchword already and has too little
of the middle thing left in consequence."

Betty's long lashes swept her cheeks in a tantalizing fashion and her
color deepened as, clasping her hands over her knees, she began slowly
swaying back and forth, her eyes fastened on Polly.

"I am dreadfully long in coming to my point," she confessed, "but it is
such fun to keep you guessing and I do so want you to be interested.
You see, I suppose you know about the Camp Fire Girls, everybody seems
to have heard except me, but now 'That light which has been given to me,
I desire to pass undimmed to others.'  Will you, won't you, will you,
won't you be a Camp Fire Girl?"  Her manner, which had been a queer
combination of fun and seriousness, now at last appeared entirely grave.
"Mollie and Polly," she continued quietly, "You know how often we have
talked lately of being dissatisfied, of feeling that here we are growing
older and older every day and yet not learning half the things we ought
to learn nor having half the fun we ought to have.  Of course we read
novels all the time, because it is the only way for nice girls to learn
about romance or adventure, but we would like really to live the things
we think about just the same as boys do.  They don't dream and scold
about the things they want to do; they go ahead and do them, teaching
one another by working things out together. They belong to things and
don't just have to have things belong to them' to make them happy like
girls do."

"Hear, hear!" cried Polly, not exactly seeing what Betty was driving at
and desiring to tease her into greater confusion.

But as Mrs. O'Neill shook her head encouragingly, Betty would not deign
to consider her tormentor.

"Oh, it is foolish for me to try to explain all the Camp Fire idea
means," she added simply.  "I couldn't if I tried, for Esther Clark, the
strange girl who has been living at the asylum and has just come to our
house, only told me what she knew this afternoon.  But I want to find
out by living the Camp Fire idea, I want to see what we could get out of
forming a Camp Fire Club, the first one here in Woodford.  Just take
Polly and Mollie and me, for example, Mary dear," she continued
coaxingly.  "I am longing to know the things Mollie does about cooking
and housekeeping and all the rest and I can't learn at home.  Think what
it means to go messing about in our kitchen with, cook and half a dozen
servants laughing at you!  Then Mollie really would like to know what
Polly and I find so fascinating in books and in prowling about together
in the woods and Polly--well, I don't know that she wishes to learn
anything from Mollie or me or anybody else who joins our club, but if
she doesn't, that is just what she ought to learn."

Polly held up both hands.  "For goodness sake, Betty, stop talking, I
will join your Camp Fire Club and be made an example of at any time,
also I will use my noble influence to persuade any girls you wish to
join.  All the same I don't see what your wretched club has to do with
helping us solve our problem about mother, and that is all I care about
at present."

"Has to do,--why everything," Betty repeated slowly.  But before she was
able to finish her sentence there was a sudden loud ringing of the front
door bell and the three girls jumped to their feet.  In another moment
Polly had disappeared into the hall, returning with her expression
changed again to its original look of gloom.

"It's that granite man, mother, Mr. Wharton, with his entire family, son
and daughter.  I wonder why they can't leave you alone after business
hours?  I had to ask them in the parlor, since we can't entertain any
one in the kitchen except 'The Princess,' but we simply can't join you
until we hear what she has to say."

Polly sighed as her mother rose without replying and left the room, and
Betty did he her best to hide her smiles, for everybody in Woodford
believed that Mrs. O'Neill's employer had more than a friendly interest
in her, and though Polly constantly railed at their poverty and Mr.
Wharton was the richest man in the village, the very sound of his name
used often to irritate her.

The candles had at last burned down to their sockets and softly Betty
blew out the last flickering flames.  With a nod of understanding Mollie
turned down the lighted lamp and after a fashion of many years the three
girls drew three little old fashioned rockers in a semicircle up before
the kitchen fire.

"My plan is to form our Camp Fire Club of just the right girls and to
have just the right guardian and then to spend our whole summer camping
in the woods," Betty explained quickly at last.  "You see I don't want
to go to Europe with mother and father this summer one bit, I am dead
tired of hotels and sights.  So at dinner to-night I talked over the
Camp Fire plan with father and though mother wasn't enthusiastic I could
see father didn't think it in the least a bad idea, so I am sure he will
give us the camping outfit if I beg very hard and we can all share
expenses afterwards.  Can't you understand that if Mary lets you spend
your summer in camp she can go away and rest and think no more about you
and we can have such a wonderful time."

In the half darkness Polly danced a shadow dance and then flung her arms
about her friend.  "Oh, Princess, I might have known you were as clever
as 'Sentimental Tommy' and would surely 'find a wa'.  I am sure mother
will think it a beautiful plan for us.  Just to live among the trees and
the stars and hear the birds sing, and tell stories about our own camp
fire and to sing."

"Yes, and to do our own cooking and cleaning and wood gathering and a
thousand other practical things," laughed Betty, to stop Polly's
rhapsodizing.  "But the truly important part of our scheme is to find
congenial girls for our club and the right guardian."

"There are four of us already," Mollie suggested.

Betty appeared surprised.  "Just you and Polly and me; what fourth girl
do you mean?"

As Mollie did not answer at once, a low whistle came from between
Polly's closed lips.  "Do you mean, Princess, that you do not intend to
invite the girl who told you about the Camp Fire Club, Esther Clark?  I
know her by sight at school."

Betty frowned.  "Certainly I had not meant to include her; she does not
belong to our set.  I don't mean to be rude, but she has been raised in
an orphan asylum and nobody knows who she is.  I suppose she comes of
some very common family."

"Common families sometimes produce very uncommon characters," Polly
returned dryly.  "And s-n-o-b spells snob, but not Betty, I hope.  I
wish you wouldn't think so much about 'family', Princess; I do believe
we ought to judge people by what they are themselves and not by what
their ancestors have been."

With a quick movement Betty half overturned her chair.  "Good-night,"
she said, "we can talk things over to-morrow.  I promised not to be too
late to-night.  It isn't that I really mind having Esther in our club,
only we don't know her very well and it seems most important that we
should all be congenial."

But Betty could not move toward the door because her skirts were held
fast. "If you go now I shall cry my eyes out all night," Polly protested
in a tone that was almost convincing.  "It was horrid of me, darling, to
tell you the truth and me Irish and believin' in the blarney stone," she
apologized in her Pollyesque fashion.  "Please never, never tell me the
truth about myself and have anybody in your club you like.  Only if you
expect to have twelve girls who exactly agree you will have to leave
both you and me out to start with."

Betty laughed, only half appeased, but Mollie was speaking quietly and
because she talked less frequently than the other two girls they usually
paused to listen to her.

"I think the more unlike we girls are the more fun we will have and the
more we will help one another," she suggested.  "But, Betty, do you know
who has started this Camp Fire idea in Woodford and who knows just what
we ought to do?"

Betty groaned.  "Who else could it be, my dear, but my arch-enemy, the
person I like least and who likes me even less in all this village.  Ah,
is anything ever perfect in this life?  Martha McMurtry, the science
teacher at the high school, who will certainly cause me to remain in the
sophomore class another year unless I learn something more than what H2O
means, is the only woman Esther could suggest."

The sisters laughed, since Betty's battles with this teacher had kept
things lively.

"You poor dear, we can't have her for our guardian," Polly insisted
sympathetically.  "Can you imagine such a prim, scientific old maid ever
understanding anything of the beauty and romance of life in the woods?
I would like Titania, Queen of the Fairies, to be our only chaperon."

Before the other girls could dispute the absurdity of Polly's final
suggestion, the kitchen door opened and Mrs. O'Neill returned looking
unusually cross.  "Why didn't you join me, you wicked children?" she
said reproachfully.  "Mr. Wharton came to ask me, since I was not going
away, to look after his little girl this summer.  He has to leave on
some business trip and as Frank is to camp in the woods, there was
nothing for the poor man to do with Sylvia.  I hope you won't mind very
much, for I have promised to take care of her."

"Sylvia!" The three voices made a dismal chorus.

"That stupid, ill-mannered child!  I am sorry, dear, but you are not
going to look after anything or anybody this summer but yourself.  You
see you are sailing for Ireland in a few weeks and we are going to live
in the woods and be taken care of by our old mother earth and our
father, the sun," Polly replied dramatically.

"You are talking nonsense, Polly; please don't be tiresome any more
to-night," Mrs. O'Neill urged, lying down on the sofa again, as though
she were too weary to be up another minute.  "I can't discuss the matter
with you, but Mr. Wharton has been too kind for me to refuse him this
request."

Betty found her blue cloak again and softly slipped over to kiss the
older woman good-night.  "Don't worry, what Polly told you is true, but
Sylvia shall be looked after just the same."

She slipped away, Polly following to watch her safely across the street
as she always did.  Outdoors the girls stood silent for a moment looking
up at the beauty of the night.  The stars were shining and the warmth
the day had failed to bring to the earth had been followed by some
unseen messenger of the night.

"You are going to include that hateful child in your Camp Fire Club
after what I said to you, Betty?" Polly whispered.  "Oh, if only her
name wasn't Sylvia and she didn't have a snub nose and wear goggles I
could forgive her.  But think how absurd the combination is!  Anyhow you
are a dear, and it must be because I am Irish that I am always in the
wrong."



CHAPTER IV

"MEG"


Thump, thump, thump came the sound of a heavy object rolling slowly step
by step down a long stairway and then after an interval of ten seconds a
prolonged, ear-piercing roar.

Immediately a girl darted out of a room on the second floor of a pretty
brick house, colliding with a young man several years older, who came
forth at the same time from his own room across the hall.

"Great Scott, Meg, what are you doing only half-dressed at this hour of
the day?" he demanded with brotherly contempt.

"We will discuss my costume or lack of it later," she returned, holding
her short flannel dressing sacque together and laughing over her
shoulder where one long blond plait hung neatly braided, the rest of her
hair falling loose.  "Methinks that was Horace Virgil Everett trying to
break up the furniture somewhere!  Was there ever such an infant born
into this suffering world?  I simply never turn my back without his
getting into fresh trouble."

While she was talking she was also running downstairs, followed in a
more leisurely manner by her brother.  Both of them glanced into the
empty library and untidy dining-room as they passed and finally arrived
in a dark passageway at the end of the back stairs.

A small object lay on the floor with its arms and legs outspread,
showing not the slightest inclination to pick itself up, and on Meg's
bending over it the wails broke out afresh.

"Oh, do shut up, 'Bumps'," Jack Everett said good-naturedly.  "You
haven't killed yourself and you're much too big for Meg to carry."

But the small boy clung desperately to his sister, his fat arms about
her neck and his legs about her waist until with difficulty she was able
to get him upstairs and into her own room.

He was probably about three feet high and almost as broad, between three
and four years old, with brown hair that would stand up in a pompadour
simply because it was too stiff to lie down, a perfectly insignificant
nose, a Cupid's bow of a mouth and two large grave blue eyes, as
innocent of mischief as any lamb's.

At the present moment, however, his eyes were simply raining tears, as
though they had their source in a cloudburst, and over one of them a
bump appeared as large as an egg.  Indeed, Horace Virgil, named for his
Professor father's favorite Latin poets, had been rechristened 'Bumps'
by his older brother and was more commonly known by that title.

Meg kept glancing at the clock as she dampened her small brother's
forehead with witch hazel.  "I am afraid I can't go," she said in a
disappointed tone, "and I am dreadfully sorry because I promised.  But
if I leave Horace with the servants now he will howl himself ill.  I
don't suppose you were going to stay in for a few hours.  Oh, of course
not!" she concluded, seeing that her older brother was wearing his khaki
service uniform and held a big, broad-brimmed hat in his hand.  "Heigh-ho,
don't I wish I were a boy," she sighed whimsically, turning at last
toward her mirror, decorated with college flags, and beginning to braid
the second half of her hair.

John Everett, frowned and fidgeted.  "I am sorry, Meg," he replied after
a moment.  "I would stay at home, only there is a meeting of my brigade
and when a fellow belongs to a thing why he owes it some of his time.  I
don't see why you have to stay at home so much.  Of course it is a good
deal for a girl to have to look after, a house and father and the kid
and me, but you have two maids and if you only were a better manager.
Why you don't seem even to take time to dress like other girls, you are
always kind of flying apart with a button off your waist or the braid
torn on your skirt, and I do love a spick and span girl.  Why don't you
look like Betty Ashton, she's always up to the limit?"

Margaret Everett coiled her yellow plaits about her head, keeping her
back turned to hide the trembling of her lips until she was able to
answer cheerfully.  "Why yes, I should like to look like 'The Princess'
and wear clothes like she does, but in the first place I am not so good
looking as Betty, I haven't a maid to see after my clothes and fifty
dollars a month to dress on--and I haven't a mother."

Jack Everett flushed.  He was a splendid looking fellow, big and brown,
with light hair of almost the same coppery tones as his sister's, and
although but eighteen was nearly six feet tall.  It was his last year at
the Male High School of which his father was President, and already he
had passed with high honors his entrance examinations for Dartmouth
College.

"Oh, I say, Meg, don't pile it on," he protested.  "You are handsome
enough all right, and it was only on your own account that I was wishing
you could run things better."

Meg had evidently given up the idea of her engagement by this time, for
she had seated herself in a big chair with her small brother on her lap
and was rocking him slowly back and forth, his head resting on her
shoulder.

"You are right, Jack, I am not offended," she answered.  "I know I am a
poor manager, but somehow I don't just take to housekeeping and
mothering naturally.  Men always think girls know such things by
instinct.  They don't understand that we have to learn them just as boys
learn bookkeeping or office work and I have never had any one to teach
me."

"The late Miss Everett," a new voice called unexpectedly, apparently
coming from about midway up the front steps.  "Meg, may I come on
upstairs, the front door was half open and I knew full well that you
would never keep your promise to me unless I came and got you."

Meg put down her small burden hastily and John unconsciously stiffened
his broad shoulders until his appearance was more than ever military.

"Come on up, Betty dear, I am sorry I am such a sight, but the baby has
just gotten hurt and I have to give up the club meeting," Meg called
back.

The next instant Betty Ashton appeared at the open bedroom door, wearing
a light woolen motor coat, a blue hat with a red-brown wing in it
fitting close over her hair which was tucked up out of sight in a very
grown-up fashion.  She had a great deal of color and her eyes were
bright with desire.

"Oh, you can't disappoint me, Meg; I shall never forgive you," she
protested, and then came to a sudden stop seeing that John Everett was
also in her friend's room.  But as he bowed low to her it was impossible
for him to have observed her slight blush.

"Do take Meg with you by force, Miss Ashton," he urged.  (It was always
quite thrilling to Betty at fifteen to be called "Miss Ashton," and no
other boy of her acquaintance seemed to realize that one could grow out
of being addressed as "Betty".)  "She spoils the small boy and all the
rest of us far too much.  'Bumps' has just taken another tumble."  Jack
Everett then backed out of the room in soldierly fashion and at the
instant of his disappearance Betty tucked her arms about the small
Horace, critically surveying his injured eye.

"Do hurry and get dressed, Meg, that's a dear.  You know we simply can't
get on without you this afternoon.  I will button you up in a jiffy and
we can take this bumptious little person along with us.  He will
probably escape and fall down somewhere while we are having our meeting,
but we can both keep our eyes on him."

"He would be too much trouble," Meg demurred, but already she was
surveying her only clean shirt waists, a blue and a white one, to see
which was in the better state of repair.  The blue was faded but whole,
so she slipped into it, letting Betty button it up the back, and then
with her brother's words still rankling in her mind carefully adjusted
her skirt at, the belt. "You are awfully good to let me come this
afternoon, Betty, because I told you it would be just impossible for me
to spend the summer with you girls as it would be for me to take a trip
to the moon.  John is going camping and father is to have a summer
lecture course in Boston and--"

"Oh yes, and you are to stay at home and take care of this house and
baby! I don't think it is fair, or that your father or brother in the
least realize what you do for them.  But see here, dear, if what I
thinks is true, as my old nurse used to say, and you come to be a Camp
Fire girl this summer, why you will learn an awful lot about keeping
house and being first aid to broken babies and everything you need to
know.  Never mind, don't let's argue about the question now, just come
along, for the motor is waiting at the gate.  Nearly all the girls I
have asked must be at home by this time, but I have to collect two more
people, Martha McMurtry--you know how I love her--and yet she carries
the information in her brain of the right way to organize a Camp Fire
club.  Also there is Eleanor Meade; being a genius, you know Eleanor
can't be expected to remember anything, should a wave of inspiration
happen to flow over her."



CHAPTER V

THEIR FIRST MEETING


The drawing-room at the Ashton homestead ran the whole length of one
side of the house and on this particular May afternoon was so filled
with sunshine and light that even the old portraits on the walls
appeared to change their severe Puritanical expressions and to look
down, from out their heavy gold frames, with something almost
approaching friendliness, on the strange girl now alone in the room,
although nothing in her appearance or manner suggested the birth and
breeding partly responsible for their New England pride.

The girl was also humbly engaged in placing fresh flowers on the tables
and mantel and in rearranging the chairs and ornaments in the room to
their best advantage.  Finally, after a lingering glance out the front
window, she picked up her last vase of flowers, a single branch of apple
blossoms in a tall, green jar, and, crossing over to the grand piano so
placed it that the sunlight shone full upon it.  Then she stood for a
moment looking thoughtfully at the open keyboard, which had a small
sheet of music spread before it.  Esther Clark next sat down at the
piano and lightly ran her fingers over the keys so that it could
scarcely have been possible for any one farther away than the adjoining
hall to have heard her playing.  The refrain was simple and repeated
itself, yet had dramatic force and lingered in one's memory, the musical
call of the watchword for the Camp Fire Girls.

Only that morning Betty had asked Esther to try to teach this call to
her friends when they came together at her home that afternoon to form
their club, and though Esther was painfully shy she felt obliged to do
her best. Some few of Betty's friends were known to her through their
acquaintance at school, but into not one of their homes had she ever
been invited socially.

The door of the drawing-room farthest from the piano opened quietly.

"Betty," a young man's voice inquired reproachfully, "aren't you even
glad enough to see me to say hello?  When before did I ever know you so
devoted to practicing that you wouldn't stop for any excuse, and yet
here I have come all the way home from Portsmouth on your account!"

Richard Ashton ceased talking abruptly, for instead of the pretty figure
of his sister, Betty, he now beheld rising from the piano stool a tall
girl with bright red hair, looking as though she had been frightened
speechless.

"Great Caesar's ghost, what a homely girl!" was his first thought, but
not a change in his expression revealed what was in the young man's mind
as he stretched forth his hand.

"I am sorry to have interrupted you," he said quickly, "but I am Richard
Ashton, Betty's brother."

Of course he expected that the strange girl would then answer him, at
least tell him who she was or give some explanation of her presence, but
instead Esther stood silently looking down at the floor and twisting her
hands together in a wholly unnecessary state of embarrassment.

Richard Ashton was of medium height, slenderly built, but with broad
shoulders, and at this time of life twenty-three years old.  His hair
and eyes were light brown; he bore no resemblance to Betty and had a
curiously serious expression for so young and fortunate a fellow.
Although not handsome, Dick had a look of purpose and distinction and
always had unconsciously served as the ideal for Betty's girl friends.
He was a Princeton graduate, but was now studying medicine in Portsmouth
and expected later to continue his studies in Germany.  Perhaps it was
his own seriousness and settled purpose that had made him assist in
spoiling his small sister almost from her babyhood, yet lately seeing
Betty's restlessness and discontent he had begun to wonder if he and his
father and mother had been as kind to her as they had meant to be.
Betty was growing up and it might be she too needed to have something
asked of her, that she too wished to give as well as to receive.

"I am not your sister's friend (the girl near the piano had finally made
up her mind to speak), I am only a kind of companion, to help her with
her studying or to do whatever she desires."

Dick Ashton laughed, his face immediately losing its look of gravity.
"Well, that is no particular reason why you should not be her friend as
well, is it?  At least I hope Betty won't make the task too hard for
you, but as to doing all the things she desires, I am afraid that will
keep you pretty busy.  I believe I remember now, my mother did write me
about asking you to come here to stay; you have lived before--"  The
young man hesitated.  But Esther had now come nearer and really she
seemed almost too plain even to serve his pretty sister, Betty, the
contrast might be too hard for the homely girl.

"You were playing something when I came in, won't you go on," Dick
continued hastily, fearing that the strange girl, with her pale eyes
fixed on his, might be able to read his inmost thoughts and not desiring
to hurt her feelings.  However she had started, edging toward the door.
"I would much rather not; your sister is to have some friends here this
afternoon and wishes me to teach them a few lines of music.  I hope your
mother won't mind my touching this splendid piano."

"What on earth is the girl afraid of?  I have no desire to eat her,"
Richard thought to himself, continuing to observe Esther's frightened
expression and nervous manner, but only answering good-naturedly:
"Certainly she won't mind.  Please use the piano whenever you like, for
Betty hates practicing and I don't care much for a man musician,
especially a poor one, though I love music."

Just for a moment the newcomer's timidity vanished and her smile of
pleasure, showing her big, strong mouth with its white teeth, relieved
her face of its entire plainness.  "I should love it more than anything
in the world; would you mind asking your mother if I may?  I am afraid
to ask her."

"But not afraid of asking me?" Richard laughed; he had made his
suggestion without any special thought, but the girl might as well be
allowed to bang at their piano if she liked.  Should she get it out of
order why it could soon be straightened out again.  And then kindness to
persons less fortunate than himself was second nature with Richard
Ashton.

"Here is the mater coming, I will ask her at once," he returned, and
then seeing Esther's unspoken look of entreaty, as he went forward to
open the door for his mother, he silently agreed to postpone his
request.

Mrs. Ashton was a tall, blonde, handsomely dressed woman, who rarely
showed affection for anyone save her husband and children and whose
leisure time was largely devoted to playing bridge.  Neither Betty nor
her son looked like her.  Richard resembled his father, while Betty must
have inherited her appearance from some more remote ancestor.  In one
comer of the parlor hung an oil painting of one of Mr. Ashton's
great-aunts, a young English girl in a white muslin dress and picture
hat, whom Betty always insisted she resembled.

Mrs. Ashton was frowning anxiously.

"Hasn't Betty returned, Dick?" she inquired.  "It is an hour since
luncheon and her friends may arrive at any moment.  The child was not at
all well yesterday and, I do wonder if her science teacher can be
keeping her in, Miss McMurtry is so inconsiderate.  I really don't know
what to do about Betty this summer, she is so opposed to going to Europe
with us again and wants to form a club or a camp, something perfectly
extraordinary, so as to spend her summer in the woods.  She almost
talked your father into the idea last evening, but I do hope, dear
Richard, that you will oppose her.  You have such influence with Betty."

Dick and his mother were standing together by the window now on the
lookout, for the truant.  "Don't be such a weakling, mother," the young
man replied teasingly.  "If you really wish Betty to go to Europe with
you and father say so and let that settle the matter, but I am not so
sure this new scheme of hers is a bad one.  Betty sent me a night
telegram at bedtime last night (telephoned it, I suppose, when you
thought she was in bed) asking me to come home for the day and help her
get her own way.  Living out of doors all summer, mother, and learning
to look after herself and to rub up against other girls may be the best
thing in the world for Betty.  I am afraid she has been growing up to be
more ornamental than useful."

"There is no reason why Betty should be anything but ornamental," Mrs.
Ashton argued, although plainly thinking over her son's words.

Dick Ashton shook his head.  "No, mother, the modern world has no place
in it but for useful people nowadays.  And somehow it seems to me that
even more is going to be asked of women than has been asked of men.
They have got to do their own housekeeping and some of the world's too,
pretty soon."

Before the young fellow finished speaking he and his mother were both
smiling and waving their hands toward Mollie and Polly O'Neill, who were
at this moment crossing the street with several other girl friends.
Before they entered the house, however, Betty's automobile, driven by
herself, dashed into sight, containing five other passengers: Margaret
Everett and her small brother; Miss McMurtry, the science teacher at the
high school; a tall girl with a clever face and a far-away expression in
her near-sighted blue eyes; and a fifth girl, an entire stranger both to
Mrs. Ashton and Dick and until a short while before an equal stranger to
Betty.

Almost before the car stopped Betty was out of her seat and ushering her
visitors into their big, sweet-smelling drawing-room.  There Esther
stood close against the wall, trying her best to shrink out of sight
even while she reproached herself for her unnecessary awkwardness and
fear.  Suppose she had had no home and no social training like the
greater number of these other girls, yet did she not mean to follow
forever the law of the Camp Fire and would it not teach her in time to
gain the knowledge necessary to happiness?



CHAPTER VI

THE LAW OF THE CAMP FIRE


"Esther, won't you repeat the Law of the Camp Fire for the girls?" Miss
McMurtry asked, fifteen minutes later, when Betty's guests were seated
in a close circle about the drawing-room, their faces eager with
curiosity.

Esther alone sat at some distance from the others, so that Betty was
compelled to draw her forward toward the center of their group.  How she
longed to refuse to recite, for instead of a dozen pairs of eyes
fastened upon her she felt there must be at least a hundred!  Yet
catching an expression of amused sympathy on Dick Ashton's face somehow
she felt encouraged to go on.

"Esther and I have been studying the plan of the Camp Fire organization
for the past two months and it is really very simple," Miss McMurtry
continued. "One must just follow certain general rules and then add
whatever seems appropriate to give one's special camp originality and
character.  I had been hoping to form a club in the village this summer,
but of course if we can carry out Betty's idea and spend our summer
together in the woods, why we will learn in a few months what it might
have taken us years to find out in weekly meetings in town."  The young
woman stopped, turning toward Esther, and the girl then felt obliged to
speak.  Esther's voice was low, but had that rare quality given to but a
few voices of being heard at even a great distance without being raised.

"Seek beauty. Give service. Pursue knowledge. Be trustworthy. Hold on to
health. Glorify work. Be happy."

With each line, feeling the sympathy of her small audience increase,
Esther gained courage until at last she was able to finish her verse
with fervor and conviction.

After her conclusion most of the faces near her were unusually
thoughtful until Polly O'Neill, seated next Mrs. Ashton, gave a
characteristic laugh followed by a sigh.

"My dear children, if we ever learn to live up to that law of the Camp
Fire, then shall we be angels and not girls!" she exclaimed.

And she might have added more had not an imploring frown from Betty
silenced her.  Of course some of the girls would understand that Polly
rarely meant what she said, but there we're other members of the little
company with whom Betty wished to take no risks.  Besides, Polly's laugh
could sometimes dampen even her own enthusiasm!  And had she not placed
her friend next her mother in order that she might interest Mrs. Ashton
in their plan, for Polly was a great favorite with the older woman and
never afraid of using her pretty blarney stone with her.

However, except for a laugh no one seemed in the least influenced by
Polly's skepticism.

"We can at least try to live up to the law," Mollie replied quietly,
answering from her chair a few feet away.

In a few moments, however, Betty no longer feared the effect of her
friend's attitude.  Perhaps to some of the girls the idea of a summer
camp seemed too beautiful to be possible, yet plainly the ideals of the
Camp Fire organization, as Miss McMurtry explained them more fully, had
fired their imaginations, filling them with new hopes and enthusiasm.

Meg had been listening to what had been said with glowing cheeks,
meaning to become a Camp Fire girl even though it was entirely
impossible for her to join the summer camp.  She was holding her small
brother tight in her arms, trying to distract his attention with objects
to be seen out the front window, and so entirely oblivious of the fact
that the hastily adjusted hairpins had been slipping out of her hair,
until one yellow braid now dangled over her pink ear.

Mollie O'Neill's cheeks were also flushed, but she sat perfectly still,
keeping her hands clasped tight together in a fashion she had when
desiring a thing greatly and not feeling sure she would receive it.

Eleanor Meade had even forgiven Betty for dragging her away from her
unfinished painting of the May, sky (a painting which Meg and Betty had
assured her resembled soap suds), so enthralled had she become with the
summer plan.  If her parents could be persuaded to allow her to stay in
camp with the girls during the summer, why then surely she need not be
bothered with having to take exercise and help with the housework, as
her mother insisted, she could simply give up all her time to her
drawing and painting.  You see Eleanor, like a good many other girls,
did not at once grasp the meaning of the Camp Fire idea.

Apparently only one person in Mrs. Ashton's drawing-room up to this time
seemed to have gotten nothing at all out of Miss McMurtry's explanations
and the girls' discussion of a Camp Fire club.  But then how could she,
for Sylvia Wharton apparently had not listened and certainly had never
taken her eyes from Polly's face?  She appeared a stupid child, short
and stout and, although fourteen, hardly seemed more than twelve.  Her
clothes were expensive but always inappropriate, indeed they were far
too handsome for such a plain little girl.  However, they were in accord
with her father's taste, and although Mr. Wharton was now a wealthy man,
he had begun life as a stone-cutter and could hardly be expected to know
much about the proper way to dress a small, motherless daughter.

Several times in the past half hour Polly had almost yielded to the
inclination to implore Sylvia to take her eyes off her, for the little
girl did not look sensitive and her eyes were so large and
expressionless they made one uncomfortable, but then Polly forbore,
until, as her own interest in their meeting proceeded, she forgot all
about her inquisitor.

It must have been about five o'clock when Betty at last arose and
holding a curiously wrought silver ring, a bracelet and a pin in her
hand, started to walk slowly about among the circle of her guests.

"If you wish to join our Camp Fire club this afternoon," she invited
coaxingly, "you are simply to repeat the lines Esther has just recited
for us.  Then Miss McMurtry says you may each receive a woodgatherers'
ring. Afterwards, when we have acquired sufficient honors in the seven
crafts, 'Health Craft, Home Craft, Nature Lore, Camp Craft, Business and
Patriotism'," (Betty repeated the list slowly as though not quite
certain of herself), "why then we may attain next to the rank of
Fire-Makers and wear their bracelets.  The highest honor of all, which I
for one shall probably never attain, is to become a Torch Bearer and
receive the Torch Bearer's pin.  It is all right for me to give the girls
the rings, isn't it, Miss McMurtry, after they have repeated the law to
you?" Betty asked, "since you have been appointed official guardian by
the headquarters in New York?  Later on I suppose the girls will tell us
when they will wish to come into camp."

Miss McMurtry laughed.  Never until this afternoon had she had any
liking for Betty Ashton.  They were such utterly different types of
woman and girl!  Yet, now Betty's habit of expecting to have her own
way, which her teacher so disliked, was assuredly making their Camp Fire
plans go ahead with a rush.

"Yes, I am a properly appointed guardian," Miss McMurtry answered
slowly, "and Esther and I have been studying the Camp Fire program until
she is almost ready to become a Fire-Maker, but I wonder if, you girls
wish me to be your guardian in camp this summer?  Perhaps I am not
suited to it!"  She turned to look at Betty, but failing to catch her
eye, looked toward Polly. For the same reason both girls kept their
heads bowed, until Betty was finally able to reply with as much
enthusiasm as she could muster:

"Oh, of course we wish you, and we shall try to give as little trouble
as possible."  Really in her present enthusiasm Betty believed that she
and her science teacher would be able to put away all past differences
and live in perfect accord under the influence of their new ideals.

Miss McMurtry now turned again to Esther; there were special reasons for
her unusual interest in this girl, although even Esther herself was
unaware of them.

"You are wearing your bead chains, aren't you?" the new guardian asked,
slipping two narrow strips of leather, one strung with orange and the
other with bright red beads, from about Esther's throat.  "You see each
one of these beads represents some honor a girl has attained in the Camp
Fire," she explained, "so the girl who finally arrives at the rank of
Torch Bearer, really an assistant to the guardian, may own seven
different chains of bead, one color for each of the seven crafts."

"My honors so far have been won in health and home craft because of what
I was taught at the orphan asylum," Esther added frankly and then
blushed uncomfortably, for several of Betty's friends were staring at
her curiously.  What had inspired Mrs. Ashton and Betty, supposed to be
the most exclusive persons in Woodford, to introduce this unknown girl
into their home as though she were a member of their family?

Moreover, Betty must have suffered another change of heart for she was
now engaged in almost forcing a Wood-Gatherer's ring upon the stranger
whom she had lately brought home in the automobile with her.

Mrs. Ashton lifted her lorgnettes to gaze at the visitor.  "Tell me,
Polly dear," she whispered, "who is that girl with whom Betty is now
talking? She is not one of her school friends and yet I feel I have seen
her somewhere before, though I am not able to place her."

Polly smiled, shaking her head.  "You have seen her, I know I have many
times, although she is not a friend or even an acquaintance of mine.
But I don't know what has happened to 'The Princess', so I would rather
you would put your question to her after we go away."

Mrs. Ashton kept hold of Polly's hand.  Two maids had just come into the
drawing-room at this moment and were passing plates of cake and cups of
hot chocolate about among the guests.  The greater number of the girls
were crowding around Miss McMurtry and Betty, so only Dick Ashton
happened to notice that no one, not even a maid, had come near Esther.
Securing chocolate and cake for her himself, he sat down next her,
talking but asking no questions, since he feared to embarrass her as he
had earlier in the afternoon.

"Do you think, Polly, that this is really a good plan of Betty's?" Mrs.
Ashton inquired thoughtfully.  "She has seemed so restless and
dissatisfied lately.  Of course I don't understand all this Camp Fire
idea seems to mean to her, I suppose I would have to be a girl again to
understand thoroughly, but there may be possibilities in it.  Even a
conventional society woman longs sometimes to get away from her
monotonous life, and surely you will find romance and adventure awaiting
you in the woods.  I have decided I shall not stand in Betty's way, I
shall go away this summer and leave you girls to work things out
together, then when I return I may be able to discover what miracles
have been wrought in you."

"Oh, you will find us entirely reformed," Polly answered carelessly, not
realizing that she of all the girls in the room would be the one to bear
the ordeal of fire, the symbol that cleanses and purifies.

But both the girl and woman suddenly became silent, for Dick Ashton had
persuaded Esther Clark to the piano and now the entire group of guests
closed in about her.

Once again she was singing the morning and evening hymn of the Camp Fire
Girls' "My Soul's Desire."

Mrs. Ashton sat listening intently with an odd expression of something
almost like relief crossing her face.  "Polly dear," she whispered
unexpectedly at the close of Esther's song, "perhaps life does even
things up more justly than we know, for this strange girl, Esther Clark,
has a truly remarkable voice."



CHAPTER VII

WHITE CLOUDS


"White clouds, whose shadows haunt the deep, Light mists, whose soft
embraces keep The sunshine on the bills asleep."

The sun was just rising above the crests of a group of the White
Mountains called long ago by the indians "Waumbek" because of their
snowy foreheads. But this morning, instead of shining like crystal, the
snow at their summits was opal tinted rose, yellow and violet from the
early rays of the June sun.

Sunrise Hill, standing in the foreground, seemed to catch an even
stronger reflection from the sky, for the colors drained down its sides
until they emptied into a small, wooded lake at its base.

On either side this hill the sloping lands were a soft green and the
meadows beyond golden with the new summer grain, but only fifty yards
away a grove of pine trees made a deep mass of shade, and with the birds
in their branches singing their daily matins, suggested an old cathedral
choir.

The singers were evidently indifferent to intruders, for, close by, four
white tents were pitched in a square as though a caravan had halted on
its travels.  But the caravaneers must have been in the place for some
days and showed no intention of moving on, for their arrangements had
been made with the idea of permanent comfort.

Around each tent a narrow trench several inches deep had been dug to
prevent flooding in case of rain, farther off two large bins held all
rubbish until such time as it could be conveniently burned.  The camp
ground was also beautifully clean, not a scrap of paper nor a tin can
could be seen anywhere, and even the grass itself had been swept with a
novel, but at the same time, a very old-fashioned broom, for a stake
tightly bound with a few sprigs of birch rested against one of the
tents, plainly--from the evidences about it--the kitchen tent.  At a
safe distance a camp fire was smoldering, a fire built according to the
best scout methods.  Two stout stakes driven slantwise in the ground
with three logs cut the same length, one on top the other, resting
against these stakes.  On either side this elevation two logs lay on the
ground like fire logs, with a third crossing them in front, and inside
this enclosure a bed of ashes still glowed, carefully covered over for
the night.  On the lake two birch bark canoes were moored to willow
stakes, and hanging on a line stretching from a tree to a pole a number
of girls' bathing suits flapped and danced in the air, but no human
being was yet in sight.

Suddenly there came a ripple of music from one of the pine trees,
"Whee-you, whee-you," a small bird with a spotted breast and a cream-buff
coat sang to itself and then began a whistling, ringing monotone that for
a moment silenced the other bird chorus.

A girl in a dark red dressing gown quietly opened a tent flap.

"There, the morning has come at last, for that is the voice of
'Oopehanka', the thrush.  So after a week in the woods I really am
beginning to recognize some of the birds and the Indian names for them."
She clapped her hands softly together.

"Oh, Princess, do wake up and let us have a swim before any one else
wakens," she whispered imploringly.

Then disappearing inside her tent, she knelt by a bed of hemlock
branches covered with soft blue blankets.  "Princess," she whispered
again.

A sleepy voice answered.  "Polly child, please go back to bed, it must
be the middle of the night and I ache all over from carrying water and
digging trenches.  Who could have supposed camping would be such a lot
of work!"

"Or such a lot of joy!" Polly laughed.  "Ah, Betty, I thought you were
yearning to be useful; think of the honor beads you mean to earn!  But
come now and be useful to me; do let us have a swim together."

Betty was never proof against her friend's pleading.  "All right," she
agreed, searching about near her bed for her sandals while Polly wrapped
a light woolen gown about her, "I don't know whether Miss McMurtry will
like our going off by ourselves, but I don't remember her having said we
should not, though Camp Fire life does mean doing things together."

The two girls had been talking in the lowest possible tones and were now
tiptoeing softly out of their tent, when another voice from another bed
interrupted them.

"Betty and Polly, you are sneaks!" Mollie O'Neill exclaimed indignantly.
"Just because I can't swim as well as you do and Esther can't swim at
all, you are going off without us.  You are fine Camp Fire girls; please
bring our bathing suits here, too."

Both girls nodded and laughed in rather an abashed fashion.  But at a
safe distance away Betty turned to Polly.  "Won't you confess, please,
that it is rather a nuisance having Esther Clark in the tent with us?  I
don't see why Martha McMurtry insisted upon it when we might have had
Meg or most anybody else."

Polly looked unusually grave.  "You don't care for Esther, do you?" she
questioned.  "It is curious, because though you haven't been
particularly nice to her, she is devoted to you and I believe would do
anything in the world for you."

Ten minutes later the four girls in their Camp Fire bathing suits were
in the waters of the lake near their camp, Polly and Betty swimming with
long even strokes toward its center, Mollie hovering near the shore,
while Esther stood shivering in a foot of water trying vainly to warm
herself by splashing and throwing handfuls of water on her chest and
face.

Half a mile out Betty turned over on her side.  "Say the Law of the Camp
Fire to yourself, Polly.  I have just said it and I am going back toward
shore.  I suppose if one makes a vow to 'give service' it is little
enough to show another girl how to swim.  If Esther didn't look so big
and wasn't so horribly shy, I am sure I should like her better, but here
goes!"

It wasn't easy work teaching Esther to swim, for she was so much larger
than Betty and had such an absurd fashion of keeping both feet down and
splashing the water into her own and her teacher's face.  Polly laughed
softly to herself as she swam slowly forward to offer her assistance.
She was wondering if a single week in camp had really begun to reform
her spoiled Betty and if it had, had any change also been wrought in
her?  She was to find out in a very few minutes.

One Camp Fire law, that there was no escaping, was that the girls were
not to spend but fifteen minutes in bathing.  Really it hardly seemed
like half that time before the four girls were once again on land
getting into their bathing gowns which had been left hanging on a willow
tree nearby.  They were to dress later on in their tent, so they were
hardly on shore more than a few moments, but even in that short space of
time a noise a few yards away startled them.  The four girls turned
indignantly.  In the entire week of their stay in camp they had not been
disturbed by a single intruder.  Sunrise Hill, with its tall pines--the
emblem of the Camp Fire--its wooded lake for fishing, bathing and
canoeing, and its utter seclusion, had seemed, after several weeks of
careful search in the neighborhood about Woodford, the ideal place for
the girls' summer camp. So far not even a friend, man or woman, had been
allowed to visit them, because the camp was to be in running order
before they received any outside criticism.

Now a young fellow of perhaps sixteen stood only a short distance off
from the lake with an expression of superior amusement on his face.  He
was a country boy, for he wore no hat and his hair was burnt to a light
straw color at the ends, his skin was almost bronze.

"Please go away," Polly demanded haughtily.  She had gathered her
bathing gown about her as though it were a Roman matron's robe and was
feeling that her presence must be impressive although her hair was
extremely wet and drops of water were trickling down her face.

However, the intruder paid not the least attention to her request,
except to laugh as though her indignation gave him special pleasure.  He
was carrying a large tin pail on one arm and a basket on the other and
of course his behavior was hardly that of a gentleman.

Anger for the moment kept Polly speechless, but a chorus of protests
arose from Betty, Mollie and Esther.  "We are camping here and we would
rather not have visitors, so would you mind going back the way you have
come?" Betty requested in her most Princess-like fashion.

"Not until I have seen the sights," the newcomer answered.  He did not
really look impertinent, only mischievous, and his eyes were as blue as
Polly's.

"You don't suppose that I have walked a mile before breakfast and
carried these heavy things except to find out what on the face of the
earth you crazy girls are doing here, trying to pretend you are scouts
or Indian squaws.  Of all the foolishness!"

Perhaps even this short acquaintance with Polly O'Neill has suggested
that she had, what is for some reason or other called an Irish temper,
though temper does not belong wholly to Irish people.  Polly herself did
not know when this temper would take possession of her nor where it
would lead her. At present the young man continued to walk slowly on
toward the white tents, whistling to show his complete indifference,
while the four girls could see that their friends were now stirring
about in camp evidently getting ready to start breakfast.

Without reflecting Polly stooped.  There on the ground before her lay a
sharp rock, ground and polished by the waters of the lake, and like a
shot from a bow she flung this stone whistling through the air at the
intruder.

Whether she thought her stone would strike the young man or what
particular effect her childish bad manners would have if it should,
Polly herself did not know.  However, she was startled and flushed hotly
when, with an exclamation of pain, the boy put down his pail, placing
one hand quickly to his head.

The four girls had started for their camp, but now Mollie, first
flashing a look of surprise and scorn at her usually beloved sister, ran
on ahead of the others.  "I am so sorry," she said in a gentle, reserved
manner peculiar to her, "you were rude not to go away when we asked you,
but it is far worse for one of us to have been so childish as to strike
you.  I am dreadfully ashamed."

The young man smiled, not very cheerfully it must be admitted, but at
least not looking so angry as he had the right to.  "Did you throw the
stone?" he inquired.  "I never would have believed a girl could throw
straight if I hadn't felt the blow, so perhaps you are learning one or
two things by living like boys.  Never mind, I can see you are not the
guilty one."

"We are not trying to live in the least like boys, only like sensible
girls," Mollie started in to reply quietly, but the last part of her
sentence trailed off into a faint whisper, for the young man had just
taken his hand down from his head and his fingers were covered with
blood, a few drops were even trickling down the back of his neck inside
his soft flannel shirt.

The other three girls had now come close enough to see the blood also,
and except for Betty, Pony would everlastingly have disgraced herself.
There are many persons in the world whom the sight of blood fills with a
strange shrinking and terror that is almost like faintness, and Polly
was one of them.  Now she wanted to run away, she even turned to fly,
when her friend caught hold of her.  "Don't be utterly stupid, Polly,
you have done a foolish trick and you've got to face the music, for if
you don't, you know Mollie is apt to take the blame upon herself."

Polly's knees were shaking and her thin expressive face so pale that she
looked quite unlike herself.  However, she managed to save a part of her
dignity by saying with an attempt at a smile, as she stopped alongside
Mollie and the young fellow, "I am sorry, I cannot tell a lie, I did it
with my little hatchet, so please feel all the anger against me.  I do
hope I haven't hurt you very much."

The young man now stared at Polly and then at Mollie and afterwards back
again from one to the other.  He started to whistle but stopped himself
in time.  "Gee, but you are alike--with a difference," he returned,
neither accepting nor refusing to accept Polly's half-hearted apology.

Hardly knowing why, except that the back of his neck was apparently
covered with perspiration when there was no heat to explain it, the boy
again put up his hand to his head.  This time it was impossible to
ignore the amount of blood that covered his hand nor the horrified faces
of his small audience.

"I expect I can't go up to your camp, after all, when I am in such a
fix, so you've come kind of close to getting your own way.  I guess you,
usually do!" he said, frowning up at Polly.  "I wonder if it is too much
to ask you girls to carry these things up to your tents; the pail has
your morning's milk and is pretty heavy; the basket is only filled with
strawberries.  My father is the farmer who owns the land about here and
I thought it would be a lark to find out what you campers were trying to
do.  Didn't mean anything serious but I guess you'll have to come for
your own supplies after this as there ain't no one but me to bring 'em."
He spoke rather churlishly, but then he did have cause.

"Hadn't you better wash your cut at the lake or come on up to the tent
and let us do something there for you," Betty proposed, not knowing
exactly what they should do in the present situation and yet feeling
that something ought to be done.  "I am afraid walking home in the sun
with your head in that condition may make you ill."

The young man shook his head and then winced.  "It ain't anything," he
replied, beginning to back away, but at the same moment Mollie O'Neill
took firm hold on his sleeve.  "Come down to the water," she demanded
quietly, "you are cut pretty badly, but I think I can stop the bleeding.
I suppose the other girls will laugh at me, but ever since I have been
in camp I have been carrying some gauze bandage about in my pocket and
finding out what to do in case of accidents.  I won't hurt you."

The young fellow had intended utterly to decline Mollie's kindly offer,
but now her suggestion of not hurting amused him, besides he was
sensible enough to know she was right.  It was embarrassing, however, to
have three other girls looking on during the operation, so whatever
anguish Mollie caused him he felt prepared to endure in silence.

In a very business-like fashion the young girl drew her roll of
surgeon's lint from an inside pocket of her bathing gown and a small
pair of scissors.  Then she made her patient sit down on the ground by
the water's edge while she carefully examined his cut.

"I ought to help, Mollie," her sister suggested faintly, but Mollie
shook her head and the young man appeared grateful.  "I don't mind blood
and you do, Polly," she returned, "besides if anybody is to help I would
rather have Esther.  I am afraid, if you don't mind, I have got to cut
your hair away, it is already so matted with blood."

To almost any suggestion the patient would have agreed, since he had but
one desire now, and that to get away from the strange girls about whom
he had been so curious an hour before.

Mollie cheerfully snipped away several locks of his hair covering a
space about as large as a dollar.  The cut she discovered was deeper
than she had expected and, as it was still bleeding profusely, she next
called Esther for advice.  Very carefully then the two girls washed out
the cut with clean water and then Mollie, finding a flat stone, made a
pad by wrapping it a number of times with gauze.  This she placed over
the wound, binding the young man's head, Esther assisting in making the
bandage as tight as he could  endure.

All this time Polly, with Betty's hand firmly clutching hers, had stood
quietly looking on at the scene.  She was feeling penitent and ashamed,
and yet her Irish sense of humor made her a little bit amused as well.
Mollie was so entirely unconscious, but she did seem to be intensely
enjoying her first opportunity to prove herself a worthy Camp Fire Girl.

Perhaps the young man vaguely felt Polly's amusement, although he did
not look at her and certainly did not give her the satisfaction of
knowing whether or not she had been forgiven.  But he managed to thank
Mollie and Esther more politely for what they had done for him, than his
boorish manners earlier in the morning suggested, and even insisted on
going on up to the camp with them in order to carry the heavy pail.

Several others of the Camp Fire girls, were by this time engaged in
getting break fast and although they could hardly help showing surprise
at the unexpected appearance of a wounded hero no questions were then
asked.

Miss McMurtry did not seem annoyed at seeing the young man, indeed it
turned out that she and several of the girls had walked over to Mr.
Webster's farm the day before to ask as a special favor that milk be
sent their camp each day.  If she felt any displeasure, Betty and Polly
were sure it was directed toward them, for the first week of Camp Fire
life had not been altogether smooth and there were still adjustments to
be made between some of the girls and their guardian.



CHAPTER VIII

OTHER GIRLS


Besides the four girls who have just returned from the lake there were
six others in the camp at Sunrise Hill, their guardian, Miss McMurtry
and one small imp or angel, according to one's way of looking at things.
For Margaret Everett had joined the summer campers and, in order to
accomplish it, had brought her small brother, Horace Virgil Everett,
along with her. You see, the girls felt they simply must have Meg, so
after a great deal of discussion it was decided that Horace Virgil would
be an excellent person to practice mother craft upon and would certainly
bring into service whatever first aid information might be required.

Meg was so gay, so sweet tempered and so utterly inconsequential.  If
things were going well in camp, if the sun was shining and everybody was
feeling amiable then she was entirely happy, but if things were going
wrong, then it was that Meg counted, for she kept her temper through
almost any kind of stress.  She did not have so many moods as Polly, she
was not so quiet and reserved as Mollie, nor did she expect the world to
move according to her desires, as Betty Ashton did.  Meg's faults were
that she was not a good manager and did try to do too many things at
once and so did none of them well, but she had not had an easy time
since her mother died two years ago.  Although her father and older
brother adored her, they were selfish in unconscious masculine ways,
President Everett in devoting too much time to his school and John to
his studies and amusements. Unfortunately neither of them realized that
Meg might now and then grow weary of having a small brother, capable of
originating new kind of mischief at least once an hour, everlastingly
tagging after her.  But Meg's cares (if she ever called them by that
name) had for the present been entirely lifted from her, for she had ten
other people now to help, her take care of "Bumps," whom the girls had
rechristened "Hai-yi" or "Little Brother," and if Meg had been asked to
vote upon the happiest week of her life since her mother's death she
would instantly have voted her first week in camp with her own club of
Camp Fire Girls.

Then there was Sylvia Wharton!  Did Sylvia really enjoy the change in
her life from staying cooped up in a great house, looked after by
servants and alone a great part of the time when her father was away?
Her brother Frank, who was several years older, seldom paid the least
attention to her. If the little girl did enjoy the woods and the
companionship of the other girls and all the opportunities that the camp
fire life offered her, so far she showed not the slightest sign.  Her
one pleasure must have been her chance to haunt Polly O'Neill, for
although she did not seem particularly happy when she was with Polly,
certainly she never left her side unless she were compelled to do her
share of the camp work and only then when Polly insisted upon it.
Already Miss McMurtry felt that Sylvia might become difficult, but then
the child had had no training, and besides Miss McMurtry shared the
belief of almost all other persons that Sylvia was simply stupid.
Curiously enough Eleanor Meade now appeared to have been invited into
the first Woodford Camp Fire circle under a false impression. You see,
the girls at the high school where Eleanor was also a student considered
her a genius, and it is agreeable for a community to have one genius in
its midst.  Eleanor did have talent for drawing, and besides she had a
number of characteristics which many persons associate with genius. She
was entirely careless of her other responsibilities, and, if she
happened to wish to paint, considered it entirely unreasonable that
anything or anybody should interfere with her desire.  She was often in
the habit of forgetting engagements and at times there was a faraway
expression in her eyes, which may have come from having neglected to
wear her glasses, but which her friends believed due to the thrall of
some wonderful creative idea which might be presented to the world some
day in the form of a great picture.  And Eleanor, being but human and
seventeen, had done her best to foster this belief.  She would not dress
in modern fashions like the other girls; her parents had little money,
but Eleanor's mother was a clever needlewoman and her eldest daughter
always appeared in gowns made after exactly the same pattern and of some
soft clinging material, whether cashmere or cheesecloth, they were
always short waisted with a folded girdle and deep hem and cut low in
the neck.  Then Eleanor's hair, which was heavy and straight and a kind
of ashen brown, was always worn parted in the middle and fixed in a
great loose knot at the back of her neck. Eleanor was not pretty like
Betty and Meg and Mollie and, at times, Polly O'Neill, but she would
have scorned to have been thought pretty--interesting was the adjective
she preferred.

However, since Eleanor's appearance in camp for almost a week she had
forgotten to be a genius.  For one thing the girls were all wearing the
regulation Camp Fire uniform, a loose blouse and dark blue serge skirt,
and so she could not dress the part.  Then, although the Camp Fire
official log book had been given her to illustrate she had not even
started to paint the totem of the Sunrise Camp on its brown leather
cover, although Sunrise Hill stood, always before her in its changing
beauty.  The girls had taken its name for their camp with the thought
that the hill might symbolize their own efforts to look upward always to
the highest and most beautiful things.

But Eleanor should hardly be blamed for not having done much painting so
far, there, had been such a lot of other work to do, in helping to put
things in order in camp, and besides she had developed the most
surprising talent for making an Irish stew, that was the envy and
delight of all the other girls.  Eleanor said it was because she had a
soul above science and used her imagination in her stew, but whatever
the reason, since the first day when the cooking of dinner fell to her,
this stew had been one of the greatest successes in camp and Eleanor
received her first honor bead for her genius in cooking instead of in
art.

Besides these seven girls already described, there was an eighth girl in
the Sunrise camp, the stranger whom Betty had brought home with her on
the day their club had first been discussed--the girl whose face was so
familiar to Mrs. Ashton but whose name was unknown.  There had been a
question as to whether or not this particular girl could come to summer
camp, not because the other girls were unwilling to have her, but because
she worked in a milliner's shop in Woodford and had to go back and forth
to be at work every day.  Quite by accident on the eventful afternoon
Betty had stooped by this shop in her journey to Meg's to ask about her
new spring hat, and being so full of her plan had poured it into Edith
Norton's ear, while the little milliner was trying on her hat.
Naturally Edith thought it a wonderful plan, so Betty, with one of her
sudden impulses, immediately insisted that the young milliner come home
with her to become a member of their new Camp Fire club.  This seemed at
the time a perfectly impossible dream to Edith, who was a poor girl with
her own living to make, but then she did not understand Betty's ability
to make things happen.  Every obstacle had been smoothed away, Edith was
now riding Betty's bicycle back and forth from camp to town every day
and, already the headaches, which had first wakened Betty's sympathy,
because of the pallor of her face and the dark circles under her eyes,
had begun to grow better from the daily fresh air and exercise.  Of the
Camp Fire Girls Edith was the oldest; she was about eighteen and had
blonde hair and delicate features, with brown eyes. She might have been
pretty, but that she needed to grow stronger in body and character, and
already the girls and their guardian had discovered that Edith was too
fond of tea and coffee and sweets and modern novels for her own health
or happiness.  The trouble was that her home was too filled with small
brothers and sisters and a father and mother too poor to make them
comfortable, so that the eldest daughter had been forced to find her own
pleasures.

The last two members of the Sunrise Hill camp were unknown to the other
girls until a few days before.  They were two sisters, daughters of a
favorite doctor, cousin of Miss McMurtry's, who had been pupils in a
fashionable boarding school in Philadelphia.  They were not alike,
either in appearance or character, for the older one of them thought too
much about clothes and wealth and position, and so immediately fell to
admiring and imitating Betty, while the other was an impossible tomboy,
more like a feminine Puck, the very incarnation of mischief, whose one
idea of happiness seemed to lie in playing pranks.

Juliet Field, the older girl, had light brown hair and eyes, was rather
pretty and had a plump girlish figure, round fat cheeks with a good deal
of color and a piquant, turned-up nose, while Beatrice, whom everybody
called "Bee," wore her curly dark hair cut short, had a melancholy brown
face entirely unlike her character and was as slender and small and
quick in her movements as a tiny wren.

The two sisters and Sylvia Wharton slept in the tent with Miss McMurtry,
while the third tent sheltered Eleanor, Edith, Meg and, of course,
"little brother".

When Miss McMurtry had wakened to discover that four of the Camp Fire
girls had gone in swimming without the others, she had not been pleased,
more because she felt that Betty and Polly were too much inclined to be
leaders among the girls and to disregard her advice.  They had not yet
openly disobeyed her, so of course she had been unable to say anything
to them, but now she made up her mind to hang in each tent the rules for
each day's camp routine so that there could be no more uncertainty.
Miss McMurtry had merely been waiting to decide what rules were wisest
before making her schedule.

As soon as their first masculine visitor departed Eleanor, Meg and
Juliet announced breakfast.  At a comfortable distance from the kitchen
fire a large white cloth had been spread on the grass and in the center
stood the great basket of fresh strawberries just brought over by the
young man to whom Polly had given such an uncomfortable reception.  A
big coffee pot and two jugs of milk stood at opposite ends of the cloth
besides toast and a dozen boiled eggs in a chafing dish, while from the
nearby fire came the most delicious food odor in the world: bacon fried
before open coals. Nevertheless the girls did not sit down to breakfast
at once although they were dreadfully hungry.  Already they had
established certain Camp Fire customs, and one was their morning habit
of reciting some verse of thanksgiving in unison before beginning the
real living of their day.  The hymn, which first introduced Betty to
Esther was always sung at the close of each day, but this morning verse
had always to be original and one girl at a time was allowed to make the
selection.  To-day it had fallen to Polly's lot and she had taught it to
the other girls over their camp fire the night before.

So now the ten girls with their guardian in the center stood in a
semicircle facing Sunrise Hill.  The sun had fully risen and the earth,
as the Indians used to say, had "become white."  Led by Polly they
slowly recited this ancient chant:

"Shine on our gardens and fields, Shine on our working and weaving;
Shine on the whole race of man, Believing and unbelieving; Shine on us
now through the night, Shine on us now in Thy might, The flame of our
holy love And the song of our worship receiving."

And when they had finished, Polly O'Neill, with a note of reverence in
her voice that gave it an unconscious dramatic quality she would have
vainly tried to have at any other time, added: "We Camp Fire girls
worship not the fire but Him of whom in ages past it was the chosen
symbol because it was the purest of all created things."

And then without further ceremony there was a sudden rush for breakfast.



CHAPTER IX

THE GUARDIAN


Miss Martha McMurtry was an odd guardian for a Camp Fire club which owed
its existence to Betty Ashton's enthusiasm, for two more different
persons cannot well be imagined.  Of course the girls in the club were
of many kinds and characters and it would have been almost impossible
for any guardian to have been congenial with all of them, but it was
unfortunate that the head of the Sunrise Camp and the two girls who were
its leading spirits had at the beginning of the summer so little in
common.  For there was no question but that Betty and Polly were
leaders, one week in camp had been more than sufficient to prove this.

Betty's influence was of course easy to understand, for she was
uncommonly pretty and wealthy, and though spoiled and wayward, given to
sudden generous impulses and affections which made her friends willing
to overlook her faults.  With Polly, O'Neill the case was different, she
had no money and was not particularly good looking, it was simply that
the intensity of her emotions would always, whether as a woman or child,
make her a force for good or evil.  When Polly was happy persons about
her found it almost impossible not to share in her mood, she had such a
delicious sense of humor and was so full of clever jokes and delicate,
unconscious flatterings.  Then when an ugly mood descended upon her,
and, as Polly in Irish fashion used to say, "a witch rode on her
shoulders," it was almost equally impossible to ignore her foolishly
tragic points of view.  There is an old name for Ireland, Innis Fodhla,
which means the Island of Destiny, and though Polly had been born in a
little New England village, nevertheless, in her blood there was a
strain of those inheritances which have made the Irish nation so unlike
all others.

While Betty and Polly were friends there was apt to be peace among all
the girls in camp, but if they should disagree?  Ah well, they had never
really had any serious differences of opinion in their lives which
Mollie, after the passing of a day or two, had not been able to smooth
over.  And they both had every intention of making themselves as
agreeable as possible to their guardian.

Of course from the beginning of things it had been perfectly apparent
that Betty would never voluntarily have chosen Miss McMurtry for their
camp guardian, but finding that her science teacher was the only woman
in Woodford who knew about the Camp Fire movement and was able to spend
the summer with them, she had accepted the situation with as good a
grace as possible.

Miss Martha McMurtry was not an attractive woman when she first came
into the Sunrise Camp.  Names have an odd fashion of describing the
persons who own them and Miss McMurtry's exactly described her.  Have
you not a mental picture of a tall, learned young woman, with straight
black hair, which she wore pulled back very tight, forming an
unattractive knot at the back of her head?  Of course she also wore
glasses, having spent all her life inside of books until her pupils were
convinced that she knew everything in the world.  She did know a great
deal and because of her knowledge was a splendid Camp Fire guardian, but
there were a few things about human nature which her girls were to teach
her in exchange for her science.  Her information covered a number of
fields, for while she taught botany and chemistry at the Girls' High
School, she had also taken a two years' course in domestic science
before beginning her teaching.  Miss McMurtry was only twenty-six, had
no family and lived all alone in a small house in Woodford. However, she
appeared much older, and one of the questions her pupils were never able
to answer was whether she had ever had a man call on her in her life.
About her early history there was very little known, as she did not care
to talk about herself and no one asked about her past.

About five o'clock on the next afternoon Miss McMurtry and Esther Clark
were seated not far from a small fire which they had lately built near
their pine grove.  The day was not cold, but New Hampshire is seldom
very warm in June and, besides, no one in camp ever tried to resist the
opportunity for having a fire when most of their pleasure in being in
camp centered around it.

Back and forth from the pine grove to his friends Hai-ya, Little
Brother, traveled.  He was cheerfully engaged in bringing pine cones to
Miss McMurtry, and piling them into a small mound, later to be thrown on
the fire.  On the ground between the woman and girl were some odd pieces
of khaki galatea, bits of leather fringe, shells and beads, and Esther
was busily sewing.  Miss McMurtry was writing: several times she had
torn up what she had written, throwing the waste paper into the fire,
but finally she handed a sheet to Esther in a hesitating way.

"See what you think of this, Esther?" she asked.  "You see the Camp
Guardians are advised to follow certain rules and regulations in camp
life and I have been trying to decide what would best suit us.  Please
tell me what you think?"

Esther looked the paper over thoughtfully, and then began reading it
aloud.

6:30 A.M. Arise, wash, either bathing in lake or tent, then air bedding
thoroughly.  Hoist American flag, salute it.  Three girls prepare
breakfast.

7:30 A.M.  Recite in unison morning verse, eat breakfast, make up own
bed and clean tent, also do whatever share of work is apportioned for
the day.

10 to 12 A.M.  Devote to practice in one of the seven Camp Fire crafts
for obtaining honors.

12 to 1 P.M.  Three girls prepare dinner.

1 to 2 P.M.  Dinner served.

2 to 3 P.M.  Rest.

3 to 5:30 P.M.  Recreation.

5:30 to 6:30 P.M.  Three girls prepare tea.

6:30 to 7 P.M.  Tea served.

7:00 to 8:30 P.M.  Camp Fire, stories, songs, confidences, etc.

8:30 P.M. Milk and crackers, bed.

9 P.M.  Lights out.

Ester read the schedule over the second time and then nodded her head
approvingly.  "It's splendid and I am sure the girls will think it can't
be improved upon," she answered, adding the latter part of her speech as
she handed the paper back, for Miss McMurtry was looking troubled and
Ester half guessed the cause.

Miss McMurtry said nothing, however, only picking up a piece of Ester's
sewing.

"What is this you're making, Ester?" she inquired.  "I thought you had
made your ceremonial Camp Fire dress some time ago!"

Ester did not reply at once as she bent more closely over her work, but
on being asked the question the second time returned with an attempt at
speaking carelessly: "Oh, it's Betty's costume, I hope you won't mind,
but she says really she never has had time to do any sewing since our
club was formed.  So, as we are to have our June Council Fire to-night,
I promised to finished it for her.  You see this is our most important
meeting because that afternoon in town we did not have an opportunity to
arrange appropriate ceremonies."

Miss McMurtry nodded, "Yes, but I thought it was part of our plan to
have each girl make her own dress.  Even Sylvia Wharton has done her
best to help."

Miss McMurtry picked up a portion of the neglected dress, however, and
began to assist Esther.  "I wonder if it is a good thing for you and
Betty to be together," she remarked thoughtfully.  "Of course I know
Mrs. Aston's intentions were for the best in taking you to live with
them at this late date and  they will probably be very kind to you, but
really there isn't any reason, Esther, why you should take all the cares
away from Betty. She seems to be one of the persons in the world for
whom nothing is ever made difficult, while you--"  Breaking off abruptly
she turned to see if her small charge was still busy and then shaded her
eyes from the sun.

Esther laughed happily.  Not so shy and awkward here in the woods with
the other girls, she had lately thought little of her own lack of
advantages. "You needn't worry about me," she now replied, stopping her
work for a moment to look off across the fields for the return of the
other Camp Fire Girls.  "Already I perfectly adore Betty.  Of course she
does not care a great deal for me, for there is nothing in me to attract
her, but all my life I have wanted some one to love, and sort of take
care of and do things for.  Of course Betty has so many people she does
not need me much now, but some day.  Oh well, as she herself says, one
never can tell just how things may turn out in this world."

"Wohelo, Wohelo, Wohelo!" A far cry from several voices sounded across
the fields and a few moments later Betty Ashton, Meg, Eleanor and Juliet
Field came into view.  Betty was wearing her every day Camp Fire costume
with the official hat of blue cloth embroidered with a silver gray "W"
on a dark red background and over her shoulder was strapped a smart
knapsack.  She seemed to dance away from the other girls, although she
was not dancing but running.  Yet such was her grace and slenderness
that somehow she appeared:

Like to a lady turning in the dance, Foot before foot from earth so
slightly moved, That scarce perceptible her advance.

Arriving first she threw herself down on the ground near Esther, tossing
off her hat and resting her head on the other girl's lap.

"I am nearly dead!" she exclaimed rather irritably.  "Two miles walk
into town and two miles back is a good deal when one has been doing a
thousand things beforehand.  Besides, I didn't find a letter from mother
or father, and Mollie and Polly have seven from Mrs. O'Neill, one for
each day of her trip from New York to Queenstown.  Of course it does
take longer for a ship to land in Naples, so I am silly to be
disappointed, yet I am just the same!  Besides, Polly was dreadfully
obstinate and would insist on coming back to camp by another route, said
it was shorter and much more adventurous than the open road.  So we
parted, and Mollie and Sylvia and Bee axe returning with her.  She may
be having more adventures than we did, but the way is not shorter, for
we appear to have arrived first."

Opening her knapsack Betty then handed two letters to Miss McMurtry and
gave a little rolled package to Esther.  "Here is something for you from
Dick; he doesn't seem to have written me either."

Esther unwrapped her parcel.  "It is just a piece of music your brother
told me about, an Indian love song.  He thought perhaps I could learn it
and we could sing it together in camp.  He is very kind."

Betty shrugged her shoulders.  "Oh yes, Dick is kind to nearly
everybody, except to me sometimes when he thinks I need discipline.  But
he and mother both think you have a remarkable voice, Esther, and that
it will be a pity if you don't have it cultivated some day."

Esther laughed, touching Betty's auburn hair affectionately.  It was
loosened from her walk and curling round her face.  "That is my soul's
desire, Betty," she whispered, surprised at her sudden burst of
confidence. But Betty's manner with her was unexpectedly more intimate
than it had been since their first meeting.  She could hardly have known
that it was owing to the fact that she had just quarreled with her
adored Polly.  Of course Betty did not intend to be deceitful, she was
simply in the habit of seeking consolation from some source, whenever
things went wrong with her.

Now she put her hand the second time into her knapsack and, drawing
forth a square white box, she proceeded to open it in a slightly
shamefaced fashion and then handed it to Miss McMurtry.  "I am a
dreadful backslider from Camp Fire rules, but I just had to have some
candy this afternoon.  Do eat some with me, so I won't be the only
sinner in camp," she begged.

Miss McMurtry shook her head.  "Don't tempt Esther or any of the other
girls, Betty," she replied in a tone that Betty was familiar with at
school.  "One of the health craft rules you girls have promised to
observe is to give up candy between meals for three months.  Of course
if you wish to break your word you may, but I had rather you would not
try to influence any one else."

Betty banged the lid back on her box.

"Oh," she replied unsteadily.  "I am sorry you feel about me in that
way. I didn't mean to be a mischief maker, but you need not worry about
Esther, for she is not the kind that falls from grace."

She sat a few moments longer leaning her chin on her hand and looking
toward the grove of pine trees where the shadows were now growing longer
and darker as the afternoon lengthened.  Sorry to have fallen from grace
herself, Betty at this moment would have perished rather than confess
it.

The other three girls had gone straight on up to the tents, Meg taking
"Little Brother" with her.  But now Eleanor appeared at the opening
before their kitchen tent and began vigorously ringing a large dinner
bell.

"Betty Ashton," she called, "it is half-past five o'clock and time to
begin dinner.  You know it is your turn to help with Juliet and me.  Meg
is putting the baby to bed."

Betty encircled her hand above her lips forming a small trumpet.  "I am
not going to help with dinner to-night, I am too dead tired," she
halloed back. "I will help to-morrow instead."

"To-morrow?" Eleanor cried indignantly.  "What has to-morrow, got to do
with it?  You are no more tired than the rest of us and besides it is
your turn to-night and we have promised not to try to get out of things
unless we are ill."  Eleanor said nothing more, but even at a distance
of a good many yards it was plain that she had flounced back inside the
tent.  When she came out again with some pots and pans her air was one
of conscious and offended virtue.

A moment later Betty sighed.  "I wonder if you would mind taking my
place this afternoon, Esther?" she inquired.  "I am very tired and you
haven't been doing anything.  Would you mind, Miss Martha?"

Betty made her request very prettily and really without the least idea
that it could be refused, for she was not in the habit of being made to
do what she did not wish.  With her own family to have said she was
tired would have been regarded as a sufficient excuse for any change of
plan.

Perhaps Miss McMurtry would have been wiser had she agreed to Betty's
request, and had she been another girl she possibly might have been more
lenient.  Now she decided that Betty was simply trying to shirk her
responsibilities and so slowly shook her head.

"Of course if you are not well, Betty, I will be glad to take your place
myself," she answered, trying to speak kindly.  "However, if I were you,
I would hardly say that Esther has been doing nothing since she has been
sewing all afternoon on the ceremonial dress you promised to make your
self, so that you may wear it to our Council Fire to-night."

Betty got up quickly.  "Please don't do any further work for me while we
are in camp together, Esther," she demanded, "for it is evident that
Miss McMurtry thinks I spend my time trying to impose upon you.  As far
as the dress is concerned, I shall not need it to-night, for I shall not
come to the Council Fire.  I will do my part in helping to get dinner,
of course, but I prefer to rest afterwards."

Hardly, knowing what she was doing because of her anger, Betty yet
managed to get up quietly from her place and start toward camp without
glancing at either Esther or Miss McMurtry, although she heard Esther
following close behind her.  "Please don't disappoint us, dear," Esther
pleaded.  "I know Miss Martha will be willing to let me do your work
to-night, if we ask her again, and it will quite ruin our Council Fire if
you are not with us. What will Polly say when you and she have planned
the whole ceremony?  And I--I shall be so disappointed, for I am to be
made a Fire-Maker to-night. Besides, you know we are to talk over the
names we hope to be known by in our club."

But Betty only walked steadily on as though deaf to the other girl's
entreaty.  Near her own tent she turned at last and Esther could see
that her eyes were full of tears.  "You are mistaken, Esther, though I
am sure you are very kind," she insisted with her offended Princess air,
about which Polly used so often to tease her.  "I am sure no one will
miss me in the least and my absence will give you a chance to bestow on
me the title you think really belongs to me, such as: 'Betty who won't
bear her own burdens' or anything you prefer.  Please leave me alone
now."

So there was nothing more for Esther to do but to return to her work,
knowing how little influence she had with Betty at any time.



CHAPTER X

PIPES OF PEACE


Half an hour later Polly discovered Esther seated alone by her slowly
perishing fire taking the last stitches in Betty's rejected ceremonial
dress.  She had even embroidered on the left sleeve a small crown in
gold colored silk, since Betty's old title "The Princess" would scarcely
be changed whatever new names might be awarded to the other girls in
their Camp Fire.

"Where's Betty?" Polly inquired carelessly.  "I hope she wasn't cross; I
suppose it was not kind of me to leave her and return another way, and
she was right, it did make us late, but we had a delicious adventure!"
Polly had dropped down on the ground and put her arms about her, knees,
slowly rocking herself back and forth, her face shining with mischief
and excitement, so that her color came and went quickly and tiny sparks
appeared to dart forth from the blueness of her eyes and the blackness
of her hair.

But as Esther neither answered nor asked any questions Polly stared at
her in amazement.  She had no particular emotion for Esther one way or
the other, perhaps because she was not yet a rival in Betty's
affections, but she had always tried to make herself agreeable to her
and to have her feel like one of them; moreover, she did not enjoy being
disregarded.

Halfway up on her feet a glance at Esther's face made her drop back into
her old position, except that she put one hand under the girl's chin,
turning her face toward her.

"For goodness' sake, Esther, what is the matter?" she demanded.  "I
suppose it is Betty!"

And Esther nodded, feeling an absurd disposition to shed actual tears of
disappointment.  So much had been planned for to-night's Council Fire
and this was the first disagreement in their camp.  Should Betty fail to
appear, the other girls, learning the cause, were sure to take sides and
no one would be really happy.

Until Esther finished her story Polly listened without comment, although
her face flushed and her lips were pressed close together.

"I do think Miss McMurtry was a little hard," she said finally.  "It
isn't fair to expect us to reform all at once and she might remember
that Betty has never had the discipline of having to do things when she
didn't wish to before.  It is different when one has been poor, isn't
it, Esther?  Never mind, I will do my best.  Betty hasn't any right to
make everybody uncomfortable just because she is offended, particularly
when she has had so much to do with our plans for to-night."

Polly disappeared, but when tea was served a short time later a signal
to Esther reported that she had met with no success.  Betty helped with
the evening work, saying nothing but looking pale and tired, so that
Miss McMurtry wondered if she had been too severe.  Perhaps Betty was
used up by her walk!  She would have liked to have talked to her but had
no opportunity, for as soon as supper was over (and three other girls
always did the clearing up) Betty immediately disappeared inside her
tent, and when her three friends came in to dress for their meeting they
found her in bed covered up with her blue blankets and not in the mood
for conversation.

Vainly Mollie and Esther attempted persuasion, reproaches, they received
always the same answer--fatigue and not ill temper kept Betty from their
entertainment.  She was sorry of course but they would probably have a
better time without her.

Curious, but in the half hour required by the three girls for their
dressing, Polly, in spite of her promise, added not a single word of
regret or entreaty in spite of Esther's pleading looks and Mollie's
outspoken demands that her sister exert her influence.  Appearing
utterly absorbed in her own costume and in admiring Esther's and
Mollie's, Polly only shook her head.

The June afternoon was a long one, so there still remained sufficient
daylight for the girls to see to dress in their tent.  Over the crest of
Sunrise Hill a pale crescent moon with a single star glowing beneath it
had now arisen and the moonlight later on promised to be radiant.

There were bursts of laughter, cries of admiration floating from one
open tent to the other, for this was the first time the girls had seen
one another dressed in their new costumes.

Polly plaited her long black hair in two braids, twining it in and out
with narrow strips of bright orange ribbon, and then around her head she
bound a broader band of ribbon the same color with a single black
feather just above her forehead on the left side.  With her dark hair
and high cheek bones, which to-night were crimson with excitement, she
made an unusually picturesque Indian girl.  Mollie's hair was softer in
texture and less heavy, so that she wore it hanging loose over her
shoulders.

At first, however, Esther's appearance was not much of a success.
Although, apparently lost in languor and uninterested in anything, from
her couch Betty observed her, wondering what could be done.  For Esther
to look so awkward and plain to-night, when as the first of their Camp
Fire girls to be raised to the rank of Fire Maker she would be the
center of all eyes, did seem hardly fair.

Trying to make the best of herself and without the gift most girls have
in this direction, Esther had also arranged her hair in two braids, but
while her hair was thick it was too short to be effective in this style,
and parted in the middle accentuated the plainness of her long face with
its irregular features, light blue eyes and large mouth; moreover, the
bright yellow of her khaki costume with its red fringes, gay shell and
beads made her complexion appear in contrast paler than ever.  In
despair she was twisting a band of bright red cotton decorated in brass
spangles about her forehead, when a cry from Polly, who happened at this
moment to catch sight of her, made her drop her head-dress.

"Stop, and don't you ever so long as you live, Esther Clark, dare to put
a touch of red near your face," Polly demanded autocratically, rummaging
at the same time in a small box on a table which she knew held a number
of trinkets belonging to Betty.  The next moment drawing forth a band of
dull silver embroidery about an inch and a half wide, she crossed over
to the older girl.

"Please let me fix you a little differently," she urged coaxingly,
beginning at once to unwind Esther's hair and combing it out over her
shoulders; then loosening it in front she put the silver band like a
crown about it.  Esther's hair wag red, of this there could be no
denial, but now unbound it showed bright strands of gold and darker
shades of red that could never have been discovered when tightly
fastened to her head. Perhaps it was partly due to Polly's little act of
friendliness making the other girl happier, but certainly there was a
marked change for the better in Esther's appearance, so much so that
Betty decided she looked almost pretty when a few moments afterwards her
three friends bidding farewell to her went out leaving her alone in her
tent, where the darkness was now closing in.  In parting, Mollie and
Esther had added a final plea to Betty to join them, but still Polly had
spoken no word.

Lying alone on her couch Betty wondered why?  Of course Polly was always
being swept off her feet by new people and new interests and so after
ten days in camp would not be so fond of her, but it was odd that she
cared nothing for her presence at their Council Fire to-night, since
they had planned the whole ceremony together and were to play leading
parts.

Partly to close out the moonlight, which was now shining faintly inside
her tent, and partly to shut her ears to the voices and laughter of her
friends, Betty turned over on her balsam pillow with her face to the
tent side, and there covering up her head lay perfectly still, so still
that she would not even put her handkerchief to her eyes, although for
some reason or other they were uncomfortably moist.

Fifteen minutes passed and there was no noise of a returning footfall,
but presently there was a faint, sweet odor in the lodge and Betty heard
a low call such as a boy would make on a wild reed whistle.

She did not stir, so the sound was repeated more shrilly, and by and by
a pair of hands forcibly pulled the blankets down from her face.

There stood Polly in her Indian costume with her intense love for the
dramatic shining in her eager face and holding above Betty's head two
perforated sticks, one painted blue to represent the sky, the other
green to represent the earth, and both of them decorated in tiny
feathers of birds and a pair of wing-like pendants.

"Betty," Polly asked quietly, "do you remember the names of these two
Indian treasures and how hard we have worked to make them as like the
originals as we could?"

"Of course, they are the calumets you are to use in the Council Fire
ceremony to-night.  They are pretty!" Betty conceded.

But Polly had dropped down by the side of her bed.  "They have another
name, Betty, which isn't calumets and you know it, and we were to use
them at our Council Fire to-night.  They are called 'pipes of peace' and
I can't very well lead the party that is to bring them to camp and also
the children who are to receive them."

A silence in the tent then followed, lasting several moments.

"Aren't you a little ashamed, Princess, thinking of the character of our
ceremony this evening, not to be willing to be present?  It is to be war
and not peace then, isn't it?"

Betty laughed.  "I only said I was tired," she argued faintly.  "I am
sure no one has the least reason for thinking I am angry if I happen to
prefer to rest."

Then Polly began to feel that her case was won.  Very quietly she
slipped over to a wooden dress-good's box covered with bright cretonne
and, opening it, drew forth the ceremonial dress so recently finished by
Esther, then she lighted two candles on either side the table underneath
their small mirror.  Betty's head-dress was there, a band of her
favorite blue velvet ribbon with three white feathers crossed in front.
Catching it up Polly waved it temptingly.

"Come on, Betty, and let me help you dress, everybody is waiting for us
and there never was such a night!"  But seeing that her friend still
hesitated, added in a tone which was a question, not a reproach: "Don't
you think, dear, that so long as you really originated our Camp Fire
club and asked Miss McMurtry to be our guardian, it is rather a pity for
you to make the first break?  Isn't one of the Camp Fire ideas to learn
to put the happiness of a good many people before our own personal
desires?"

In a half minute Betty was out of bed with her Camp Fire dress nearly
on. "If you are going to turn preacher and reform at this time of life,
Polly O'Neill, then goodness knows what is to become of me!  Once you
were my partner in crime, but now--well, it is hard to think of you even
yet as 'Saint Polly'!"

"And will be to the end, me darling," Polly agreed, dropping into her
Irish brogue from sheer pleasure that her purpose was accomplished.

Five minutes later the two friends were hurrying forth toward a circular
piece of ground some yards from their tent, which to-night the girls
wished known as their "earth lodge."  There the other Camp Fire members
had already assembled with a great pile of wood in their midst waiting
to be kindled.



CHAPTER XI

UNDER THE ROSE MOON


In June the moon of the Camp Fire girls is known as the Rose Moon.  But
there were no roses blooming near their camping grounds at Sunrise Hill
to-night and only the odor of the pines made the night air fragrant.

Betty went straight up to Miss McMurtry, however, and in her hand
carried a small cluster of pink roses.

"I brought you these from our garden at home this afternoon; the house
is closed, but our old gardener is miserable because no one is about to
enjoy his flowers.  Please wear them."

Then before the older woman could do more than murmur "Thank you," Betty
had slipped away and taken her place in the circle of girls between Meg
and Esther, not without noticing, however, that their guardian looked
unusually well in a dress of plain white serge with her dark hair bound
about her head like a coronet.  Also she saw that Miss McMurtry's face
had brightened, as she placed the flowers in her belt and felt that
peace was restored between them even before the beginning of their
ceremony of peace.

The little company had evidently been waiting for the appearance of
Betty and Polly, for now Miss McMurtry stepped into the center of their
group and there was instant silence.  She looked slowly about at the ten
faces gazing upon her with rapt attention and then sang in a low tone,
and yet one that could be distinctly heard, this ancient Indian chant.

"To-day our Father (Sun) shone into our lodge, his power is very strong,
To-night our mother (Moon) shines into our lodge, her power is very
strong, I pray the Morning Star (their Son) that when he rises at
daybreak, he too will shine in to bless us and give us long life."

This chant signified the opening of the Council Fire.  For the next
moment Miss McMurtry turned toward the heap of wood carefully placed in
the center of the circle, by the wood-gatherers.  A little pile of paper
with some small chips and dried twigs on top of it lay on the ground,
above which leaned a pyramid of larger logs, waiting to be lighted.

Kneeling close by this pile the guardian of the Sunrise Camp Fire took
from her pocket a bit of flint and a piece of steel, striking them
sharply together.  Tiny sparks flew forth but no answering crackle
resounded from the wood and paper, although the sparks darted in and out
among them like miniature fireflies.  Once more Miss McMurtry tried her
flint and steel according to the prescribed rules, but again the result
was failure.

Of course matches were not a luxury at Sunrise Camp and in the making of
their daily fires the campers were not superior to the using of them,
but this lighting of their first real Council Fire was to be a truly
important ceremony and greatly the members desired to return to the
primitive method of fire-making.

There must be something more than superstition in the old axiom that the
third time is charm, perhaps three efforts are required for the training
of the human will; but however that may be, at the third striking
together of the metal and the flint the Sunrise Council fire sprang into
life, stick by stick it blazed forth, until at last a tongue of flame
leaping up in the air encircled the whole pyramid, setting the pine logs
into a splendid flare.

On ten different faces it shone, revealing as many characters when,
seated in Indian fashion on straw mats upon the ground, the Camp Fire
girls now repeated in unison their "Ode to Fire."

"Oh, Fire! Long years ago when our fathers fought with great animals you
were their protection. From the cruel cold of winter, you saved them.
When they needed food you changed the flesh of beasts into savory meat
for them. During all the ages your mysterious flame has been a symbol to
them for Spirit. So (to-night) we light our fire in remembrance of the
Great Spirit who gave you to us."

Then Polly slowly arose from her place, approached the flames and cast
upon them a great bunch of sweet dried grass; a moment later the rising
smoke filled the air with an odor like incense.

But the chief feature of to-night's ceremony was to be the elevation of
Esther Clark to the rank of Fire-Maker.  For three months had she been
working to gain the fourteen necessary requirements and the twenty
elective honors, yet now as the moment for receiving her reward drew
near she felt a strong disposition to run away.  Betty must have guessed
her feeling, for at the critical moment she slipped her arm through the
older girl's, smiling at her and pressing her hand encouragingly.

"Don't be foolish and don't be frightened, Esther," she whispered
encouragingly, "for you are only to receive the honor that is your just
due!"

Curious how often in the years that would follow, these same simple
words of Betty's were to be repeated in almost the same form to the girl
now seated at her side!

Seeing that Esther was too timid to approach the center of the circle
alone, Betty accompanied her, standing a little to one side, while
Esther, in order to show her complete understanding of the whole Camp
Fire idea, repeated once again in her low beautiful voice (almost her
only attraction at this time of her life) "The Firemaker's Desire," the
same verse she had recited to Betty Ashton over her own fire on the day
of their first meeting in the Ashton home.  Then Miss McMurtry slipped
over Esther's head a string of twenty shining beads representing her new
honors, and amid much clapping of hands from their small audience the
two girls returned to their places, Esther wondering if she were not
almost as happy in Betty's companionship as in her new title.  For
remember, she had never had any intimate tie in her life, no father or
mother, no sisters or brothers, and only the care and kindness of
strangers until Miss McMurtry had made of her a friend.

All this time Polly O'Neill has been vainly trying to pretend that she
is devoutly interested in what is taking place, although any one knowing
her would have understood that Polly's real attention was absorbed in
the feature of their Council Fire ceremony in which she was to play the
leading role.  Now without further delay, and followed by Meg, Eleanor,
Beatrice and the faithful Sylvia, she disappeared into the Pine grove
not far from the gathering of the Council, while the remaining girls and
their guardian drew nearer to their own fire, heaping it with fresh pine
branches.

And by and by, from the edge of the trees, the same notes from the
reed-like whistle that had called Betty to her place in the ceremony of
peace, now about to take place, were repeated.  Then along a white path
of moonlight, in their Indian costumes, the five girls led by Polly,
swaying her pipes of peace slowly above her head, came dancing with a
queer, rhythmical movement of their bodies, arms and feet.

A strange spectacle for these modern days, and yet many such an Indian
dance had taken place in these same New England hills hundreds of years
before!

As they drew near enough to be plainly seen by the little party waiting
in their "earth lodge," Betty got up from her place, lifting on high a
fluttering white handkerchief tied to a birch pole.

In the old days there were always two parties to this ancient Indian
ceremony of peace: those bringing the calumets were called "the fathers"
and those receiving them "the children".  So it was necessary that Betty
should now indicate that "the children" were willing to receive the
blessing the other party desired to bring.

The five visiting girls stood facing those seated on the ground; Polly
standing before their guardian and still waving her blue and green
perforated sticks made her carefully memorized speech with the dramatic
intensity dear to her theatrical soul.

"These pipes of peace once symbolized heaven and earth to the Indians
and the mysterious power that permeates all nature.  In their presence
the Indians were taught to care for their children, to think of the
future welfare of their people and to live at peace with one another.
The Indians were supposed to be a savage race and yet their prayer seems
to come very near to the ideals of the Camp Fire girls.  May we also
live in peace with one another, learning from the women of the past all
that was best in their lives and refitting it to the needs of the now
women of to-day and to-morrow."

Then at the end of her invocation she moved quietly from one Camp Fire
girl to the other, waving her blessing of peace over each bowed head.
And as she moved she sang the Indian song of peace, the other girls
straightway joining in, but it was not Polly's voice but Esther's that
carried the music of the refrain far out over the fields, carried it at
last to the ears of some one who had been seeking the home of the
Sunrise Camp for the past two hours.

"Down through the ages vast On wings strong and true, From great
Wa-kon-da comes Good will to you--Peace that shall here remain."



CHAPTER XII

NAN


At the close of the calumet ceremony the girls immediately drew closer
together about the fire, making ready for an informal discussion.  Of
course they had been uncommonly serious for the past hour, but the night
was so mystically beautiful with the new moon casting a silver radiance
over the hills and fields, that there in the yellow glow of the Council
Fire the girls had felt the inspiration of its beauty and their own
seclusion.

Since darkness had fallen there had been no noise save the murmur of
their own voices and the cry of "Hinakaga", the owl, like a sentry at
his post making his report from the grove of pines.

Once or twice as the time slipped away Miss McMurtry had faintly
suggested that the hour had come for retiring, but always the girls, led
by Polly O'Neill, had pleaded that to-night was not like other nights,
and they must be allowed a slightly longer respite.  During the earlier
part of the evening, when she had believed no one observing her, Polly
had evidently been on the lookout for something or some one, for she had
kept glancing slyly out across the country toward the path leading to
their camp; now, however, this idea must have passed from her mind, for
she was as completely absorbed as her companions in the selection of the
new names, which the girls might hope to bear in their Camp Fire club.

Miss McMurtry talked very little--persons who are deep students rarely
do; far more apt are those of us who play upon the surface of life to
like to do our thinking aloud.  So now, the Council was surprised to
hear her speak in so earnest a tone that every one else was silenced:

"Girls, I want you to do me a favor to-night.  I don't know whether it
is usual for the guardian of a Camp Fire club to have a new title
awarded her, but nevertheless I want you to give me one.  You see I am
Miss Martha or Miss McMurtry to most of you at school and really I wish
to forget that I am a schoolmarm this summer and to have you forget it.
I have been finding out a good many things since I came into camp,
though it hasn't been very long, and one of them is that a guardian does
not need so much to be a teacher as a friend to her girls.  You see no
guardian can know everything that you girls are studying to gain your
elective honors, but, if we are friends we can work them out together."

Deeply grateful was Betty Ashton for the night and the shadows of the
firelight that were playing on her face while Miss McMurtry was making
this little speech, which she could hardly help knowing was directed in
a large measure to her.  However, she could not refrain from giving
Esther's arm a knowing pinch and then raising her eyes to intercept a
returning glance from Polly.

Possibly Miss McMurtry expected Betty's point of view, even if she did
not see her express her surprise, for although some distance away from
her place in the circle her next remark was addressed to Betty.

"Betty, can't you think of a name for me?" she asked deliberately,
wondering what answer under the circumstances she would be apt to
receive. "I know you and Polly have been reading a good deal in order to
find new names to suggest to the girls, so haven't you come across a
name that might be suitable for me?  There are astrologers and fortune
tellers who believe that one's good or evil fate depends on bearing an
appropriate name and I have always hated mine."

"But it exactly suits you and doesn't make you ridiculous like my name
does me!" Sylvia Wharton announced unexpectedly, breaking into the
conversation for the first time during the evening in her dull, even
tones.  "What is really horrid is to have a name that suggests some one
very beautiful and graceful--a name that sounds like water running over
pebbles in a brook and then to look like I do.  I wish everybody would
call me Mary Jane!  I would like to have a plain, homely name."

Such was the astonishment following Sylvia's protest that no one spoke
for at least half a minute.  Who could have supposed her capable of
developing so much of an idea?  For once in their acquaintance Polly
(for of course Sylvia managed to be next her) laughed with the little
girl instead of at her, at the same time taking the trouble to give one
of her stiff flaxen braids an amused tug, while Miss McMurtry, in order
to break the silence, went on talking about herself.

"Of course my name suits me, Sylvia, that is the worst of it," she
laughed. "How can any one named Martha escape being a Martha?  Oh, I
presume the name taken by itself is a good old-fashioned one, but in
combination with McMurtry it has such an old-maidy, school-teachery
sound that I have been compelled to live up to it.  Now, Betty, please
make a suggestion."

Betty flushed and at the same time smiled to herself.  The Indian name
"Pokamp" or catbird had come to her mind shortly after her quarrel with
Miss McMurtry during the afternoon.  "Minerva," she now proposed
faintly, "she was the Goddess of Wisdom."

"Gracious no, that is worse than Martha to live up to!" Miss McMurtry
objected and also declined just as decisively the dignity of "Hypatia"
and "Aspasia', when those learned ladies of ancient times were offered
for her consideration.

"We might call you 'Our Lady Protector'; it is just another expression
for guardian," Mollie O'Neill proposed uncertainly, not because she had
any enthusiasm for her idea but because no one else had anything better
to introduce, but before Miss McMurtry could answer, Polly's laugh had
settled the proposition.

"Or we might call Miss Martha 'Chest Protector' or 'Bella Donna
Plaster', which is a very soothing title, meaning 'Beautiful Lady
Covering'," she teased.  "Suppose, Miss Martha, that we just wait and
perhaps follow the old Indian custom of choosing your name through a
dream or the first object we see at an appointed time.  But I must be
allowed to bestow Mollie's new name upon her," she added, gazing
sentimentally up into the sky and putting her arm apologetically about
her sister, riot knowing how much she might have enjoyed being laughed
at in public.

This time, however, it was Mollie who plainly scored, for she only
laughed good humouredly saying: "Go ahead, Polly, you have arranged
everything else for me in my life except my name and you only didn't do
that at baptism because you were but a few weeks old!"

During the shouts of merriment, Polly, acknowledging her autocratic
tendencies, could only hide her diminished head on her sister's
shoulder; nevertheless, sitting up again a few moments later she pointed
one hand in a dramatic fashion toward the heavens.  "Only hear the name
I have found for you and you will forgive me much, Mollie Mavourneen,"
she pleaded.  "It is a part of our Camp Fire education to study the
stars, isn't it?  Well, see the Seven Brothers, the Great Bear family
forming the Big Dipper in the northern sky.  How many of us know that
those stars were shot up there to escape the wrath of their terrible
brother, Grizzly Bear, according to Indian astronomy.  Now see that
small star just at one side of the handle of the Dipper, known as
'Sinopa'.  Don't you think we ought to call Mollie, 'Sinopa,' when it
means 'Little Sister'?"

Overwhelmed by the general approval of Polly's suggestion, Mollie would
never have had the courage to oppose it, but fortunately had no such
desire and so as usual agreed to her sister's wishes.

"Marjoram" the girls next voted an appropriate new name for Margaret
Everett if she needed one, because in the first place the word was like
her own name and more important was its pretty German meaning,
"happy-minded", one of those rare plants that has no single ugly quality.

Edith Norton agreed to be called "Apoi-a-kimi," because the Indian word
meant "light hair" and she was particularly proud of her own fluffy
blonde hair even though since becoming a Camp Fire girl she had felt
compelled to hide away her puffs.

Very easily might the girls have continued this discussion of their
titles until the sun rose beyond their Sunrise Hill, had not Miss
McMurtry suddenly looked at her watch by bending close to the light of
their fire. Then she rose so quickly and with such a sharp exclamation
of surprise that several of the girls got up with her.

"Camp Fire maidens, what are we thinking of?  It is after ten o'clock
and we must say good-night and extinguish our fire.  What a wonderful
night it has been, so quiet, so serene that I think no one of us will
soon forget it!"  Very naturally she looked away from the group of girls
close about her for a wider view of the landscape, hoping that this
vision of its beauty might remain with her.  Already the early splendor
of the night was beginning to fade and although the moonlight still made
the objects near by fairly distinct, farther off they were black and
ghostlike.  Perhaps for this reason Miss McMurtry at first made no sign,
though believing she saw a small object dart forth from the shelter of
the pine trees, run a few steps, crouch down and then getting up again
run on a few feet more.

Of course she and the Camp Fire girls felt perfectly safe in their
retreat in the woods, although just at the beginning of their
encampment, when the nights closed down upon them, some few of the girls
had felt awed and nervous, now after ten such experiences the sense of
unfamiliarity was quite gone.

Sunrise Hill was on the border of the Webster farm, two miles from the
village and well out of the way of trespassers.  There were no wild
animals about in these New Hampshire hills, for hunters had long since
driven them away, and yet Miss McMurtry wondered dimly if the object
plainly intending to come up to them could be an animal.  She did not
have to wonder very long, however, for the object soon rose on two legs
and was plainly a human being.

What should be done?  Miss McMurtry did not wish to alarm the younger
girls, when there was no possible reason for fear, and yet she was
annoyed, for if some one were trying to spy upon them at this hour the
intruder must be summarily dealt with.  Fortunately, Polly O'Neill had
risen when her guardian did and happened to be standing next her at this
minute.  Slipping her arm through Polly's a slight movement drew her
aside.

"Polly," she whispered, "there is something or someone coming toward us;
let us go forward quietly and find out what or who it is."

Instantly catching the direction of Miss McMurtry's guarded glance,
Polly, not hesitating a second, broke away and ran forward alone to meet
the advancing figure.  Nevertheless, the older woman followed so
promptly that she was able to catch the girl's first words even before
seeing the person to whom they were addressed.

"Why, Nan Graham, what do you mean by coming out here so late?" Polly
demanded.  "When I told you that you might look on at our Council Fire
to-night I thought of course that you would come to camp before dark so
that I could ask permission and explain."

Half leading, half pulling the newcomer, who after all was only another
young girl, Polly drew her closer to the circle of their slowly dying
fire. First she looked appealingly at their guardian, who had walked
forward with them, and then from one of her friends' faces to the other
until she found Betty's.  There were no returning glances of sympathy
from a single one of the Camp Fire girls.

Unfortunately, Nan Graham was not a stranger to any member of the
Sunrise Hill club except to Juliet and Beatrice Field, who were
themselves strangers in Woodford.  Had Nan been, her reception would
have been more cordial, even though appearing at night in so
unconventional a fashion. But the newcomer had been a student with most
of the girls at the high school the winter before and had been expelled
for supposed dishonesty. Her family was impossible, the father, a man of
good birth fallen so low that his own people would have nothing to do
with him, had married an emigrant woman and Nan was one of many
children.  The girl had tried working in the village, but no one cared
to trouble with her long.  And yet she was just a little more than
fifteen years old and not an unattractive looking girl, although her
face was curiously older than any other girl's in the group about her.
To-night she was wearing a shabby black frock, torn and dusty, and her
coarse short black hair was unpleasantly disheveled.

"I couldn't leave home until late and then I lost my way," she replied
finally, answering Polly's question in a sullen fashion because of the
weight of disapproval.

"What right had you to say she could come, Polly O'Neill, when you
understand that we like to keep our Council Fires to ourselves?" flashed
Betty, and then stopped, knowing that it was plainly not her place to
speak first.

"You should have returned home when you found you had mistaken the way,"
Miss McMurtry frowned.  "You ought not to have come through the woods
alone at this hour of the night, Nan, as you know perfectly well.  But
there is no way now for me to send you back to-night, though I am sure I
don't know what to do with you.  Polly, I think you owe it to us to
explain why you invited a guest to camp and then gave us no warning so
that we might have been prepared."

Under the influence of the meeting of the Council Fire and perhaps more
under the spell of Polly's magnetism than she realized, Miss McMurtry,
although it was plain that she was a good deal vexed, did not put her
question severely.

So it was naturally irritating, not only to her but to a number of the
girls as well, to have Polly, in the midst of the general disapproval,
suddenly shrug her shoulders and give a characteristic laugh.  "Oh, for
goodness' sake, don't let us make a mountain out of a molehill!" she
begged.  "I was coming back to camp this afternoon and happening to pass
Nan's home, she told me something that I thought it great fun for us to
know.  Some of our boy friends are coming out to camp to-morrow
disguised as Indians and mean to take us by surprise.  We can be
prepared for them and so turn the joke around the other way.  Well,
after Nan told me this we talked for a little while, while Mollie and
Bee and Sylvia walked on ahead. She seemed desperately anxious to hear
about our camp and how we were living and what we were doing, so I told
her to come along and see us.  I really don't see that she can do us any
harm.  As far as to-night is concerned, why I will make up beds for us
just outside our tent, for I have been wishing to sleep outdoors ever
since we came into camp."

"And then I can go back home again in the morning," the newcomer said
with a scowl.  "I wasn't meaning to do any harm just by looking on."

Polly would have liked to have embraced Margaret Everett on the spot,
for now separating herself from her friends she came shyly forward
taking the strange girl's hand.  "I am sorry you have had such a
tiresome walk," she said kindly; "come let us all get ready for bed."

Mollie and Sylvia Wharton followed Meg's example in speaking to their
unwelcome visitor, but Betty set the example for the others, by merely
passing her by with a nod of her head.

However, when Esther and Mollie were both asleep, Betty came out from
her tent and stood for a moment looking down at the two figures on their
hastily improvised beds only a few feet away from her own tent.

One of them stirring, she bent over her whispering: "Good-night, Polly;
of course there is no harm in Nan's being here one night, but please
don't ask her to stay longer."



CHAPTER XIII

"NOBODY WANTS TO BE DONE GOOD TO"


A canoe containing three girls had been out on the waters of the lake
near the foot of Sunrise Hill for the past two hours.  A part of the
time it had been swiftly shot through the water only to rest afterwards
in certain shadowed places, where fishing lines were quietly dropped
over its sides, until now a flat birch basket in its stern was filled
with freshly caught fish.

There had been little conversation during this time, but now Polly
O'Neill, letting her paddle rest for a moment, said to her fellow
oarsman:

"Come, Betty, let us drift for a while.  We don't have to get back to
camp just yet, for it will be another two hours probably before our
supposedly unexpected guests arrive, so we will have plenty of time to
help with the preparations, to fry the fish and have Mollie make her
inspired corn dodgers.  It will be rather good fun when the Indian
chiefs appear to strike terror to our hospitality, if not to our souls,
for us to be ready and waiting for them, Semper paratus, always
prepared, we can assure them is a Camp Fire girl's motto.  But just now
I wish to talk."

Betty's back was turned to the speaker, but her sister, Mollie, sat
facing her midway between the other two seats.  Quietly and without
replying Betty acquiesced in the request, permitting their canoe to
glide slowly toward a small island and getting her kodak ready for
action.  One of her summer amusements was the making of a collection of
animal and bird pictures, and now a large nest overhanging the water
attracted her attention.

Therefore it was Mollie who replied to her sister, although the remark
had not been made directly to her.

"Yes, Polly, we know you want to talk and we think we know what you want
to talk about.  I saw it on your face at breakfast even if Betty didn't
and knew perfectly well why you persuaded Miss Martha to let us come
with you for the fishing and no one else, even when Sylvia Wharton was
almost in tears at being left behind."

"You don't know what I want to talk about, do you, Princess?  Mollie is
absurd, for I am sure I was not thinking of it at breakfast," Polly
halloed, wishing that her friend's face was toward her so that she might
gain something from her expression.  A moment longer she had to wait for
her answer because a great heron, startled by the noise, rose out of its
nest flapping its great wings and ungainly legs and Betty's kodak
instantly clicked with its appearance.  Then she shook her head slowly,
still not turning around, as she replied:

"Yes, I do know, Polly.  That is why I would not agree to come with you
until I had first had a little talk with Miss McMurtry.  I didn't want
to be obstinate if I am wrong, but she feels exactly as I do."

Polly whistled softly, two bright spots of color showing on her high
cheek bones, a signal with her of being desperately in earnest.
Nevertheless she returned indifferently: "Of course if Betty and our
guardian agree, then have righteousness and truth met together and there
is no use wasting my breath by putting in my poor little plea."

"There is no use in your being disagreeable, Polly," Mollie advised, who
was not in the least afraid of scolding her sister, although rarely
quarreling with her.  "In this case I think Betty is entirely in the
right, for this is not a question of money or family or many of the
things you and Betty disagree about, it is a question of the person!"

"Gracious, what person?" Polly protested.  "You are both talking
riddles. Have I mentioned anybody's name or proposed any mortal thing?
If I happen to be interested in this Nan Graham and to believe that
things have been made pretty hard for her, is it anybody's business?  I
don't know just what it is about her that makes me feel as if she were a
poor little hunted animal.  I really don't think anybody has ever been
even decently kind to her in her life; she has always had a bad name,
and it must be a pretty hard thing to have to grow up in the shadow of
one with no one to give you a boost.  Take that affair at school; it was
never positively proven that Nan was dishonest.  Only she had told a few
lies and her family was so horrid.  Another girl might have been given
another chance!"

"Well, we can't give her a chance at our Camp Fire club this summer,
dear, Miss Martha is positive about it, so don't pretend that is not
what you have on your mind," Betty interrupted.  "I am sorry, but Miss
Martha says she is a very different type of girl from the rest of us and
might get us into trouble, and she is afraid our parents would not like
her being with us."

"I don't know about parents, but I am sure mother wouldn't mind our
helping another girl, perhaps just because she is different."  And
Polly's eyes filled with quick tears at the thought of her first long
separation from her mother.

But Mollie shook her head slowly though not unsympathetically.  "I am
not so sure, Polly," she argued.  "You know mother is always urging you
to be sensible first and sentimental afterwards, and says that half the
trouble in your life will come from working the other way round.  Just
take the question of the money; Nan Graham would never be able to pay
her share, and although we let Mr. Ashton give us our camping outfit,
each one of us is to pay her portion of our expenses and to try and find
out how economical we can be.  It isn't fair to impose a girl on Betty--"

"I have no idea of imposing Nan Graham on Betty," Polly interrupted
hastily.  "If it ever comes to be just a question of money, why I will
promise to pay her expenses and to try to be responsible for her."

"You?"  Mollie stared.  "Polly O'Neill, you must be out of your senses.
You know we have just barely enough for ourselves and are even trying to
save a bit out of that, besides working at basket making and anything
else we can do, to send mother some extra money."

Polly smiled in a superior fashion.  "There are more ways for making
money, Sinopa, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.  I have my own
reasons for not telling you, but I expect to come into a sum of money
shortly which will certainly be more than enough to pay this poor Nan's
expenses."

"But it is not the money that I care about in the least, Poay," Betty
exclaimed, "and you know it!  Somehow I am just afraid that in some way
Nan will bring unhappiness among us."

"Of course it is not the money you care about, Princess."  (Polly's
apology was as ardent as her suggestion.)  "Sometimes I wonder what
would happen to you if you should ever be poor and have to learn to
think about such an ugly, commonplace thing as money.  Never mind, I am
going to be an American Sarah Bernhardt and you and Mollie can travel
about in my private car with me.  But you understand if you agree to let
Nan Graham stay in camp with us, I can't let her be an expense to you or
the other girls."

By way of answer Betty looked at her watch.  "It is getting pretty late,
Polly, don't you think we had better get back to camp?" she proposed.

In perfect accord the two girls now swept their canoe back to their
landing place, for they could row perfectly together, swim, paddle a
canoe, ride, play tennis, in fact do everything except have the same
opinions.

The two girls carried the basket of fish, leaving Mollie to tie up the
canoe.

"I hope you don't feel very disappointed, Polly, it was because I was
afraid you might think it a good idea to have Nan Graham join our Camp
Fire club that I asked you not to think of it last night," Betty said,
apologetically, sorry as always to disappoint her friend and not
unaffected by her point of view.

"Ah, but you put it in my head, Betty Ashton.  Really I never dreamed at
first of letting Nan do anything more than come and see what our Camp
Fire life was like.  She was so eager and so interested when I met her
yesterday that she seemed kind of pitiful to me.  She told me she was
dreadfully lonely because nice girls wouldn't have anything more to do
with her now and yet she didn't want really to be bad.  No one will take
her to work, so she couldn't think what she could do with herself all
summer.  Last night when you went in to bed I kept on thinking about her
and about what our Camp Fire may mean some day when we are older and
stronger ourselves and understand more about it.  Of course no one wants
to be done good to, that is horrid and patronizing, but everybody wants
to be made happier, rich people: and poor people too.  Remember how you
once said that Wohelo, Work, Health and Love, solved all life's
difficulties.

"Wohelo means love. We love Love, for love is life, and light and joy
and sweetness, And love is comradeship and motherhood, and fatherhood,
and all dear Kinship. Love is the joy of kinship so deep that self is
forgotten."

"Now I wonder if comradeship and kinship really mean just caring about
the people we would have had to care about anyway, our own friends or
our own family?"

Having unconsciously touched upon one of the biggest questions in the
world and having no answer, the two girls were both silent for a moment.
Then Polly added in a surrender unusual to her:

"Don't worry, Betty, perhaps you are, right after all.  Nobody can live
up to all the things we preach.  Anyhow it was, good of you to ask Miss
Martha to let Nan spend the day with us.  She says she will never get
over the pleasure of it as long as she lives."

"Don't, Polly, really I do not think I can be expected to bear any more.
You, have made me feel already that if Nan Graham ever does anything
wrong or brings any sorrow on herself by her behavior, why it will
somehow be my fault.  Why do you make me responsible when you know Miss
McMurtry and most of the other girls are just as opposed to having her
with us as I am?" said Betty, realizing that her defense was a sign of
weakness and yet feeling that Polly had somehow driven her to the wall.

"Because, Betty, you know that if you try you can bring some of the
girls to your way of thinking and I can work on the others.  Then
together if we promise to be responsible for Nan's good behavior, why we
may be able to influence Miss Martha."

Betty sighed.  Mollie was catching up with them and they had almost
reached camp, which was a scene of the most amazing activity.

"Ask me again to-night, Polly, I will try to think things over a little
more."

There was no opportunity for any further discussion, for at this instant
Meg and Eleanor swept down upon them.



CHAPTER XIV

SURPRISING THE CAMP


In the middle of the camping grounds on their return the girls now
beheld Miss Martha McMurtry waving a large kitchen spoon in somewhat the
same fashion that a conductor uses his baton to direct the energies of
his orchestra.  Rushing from one spot to the other her aides were
engaged in putting fresh wood on one smoldering camp fire, stirring up
slumbering ashes in another, removing kettles to different points of
vantage and generally giving the impression that they were preparing for
the feeding of an army.  However, they were only getting ready for the
entertainment of a few of their Boy Scout friends.

Early that morning Nan Graham had been made to explain more fully the
information bestowed on Polly the day before.  It seemed that her father
had been engaged to do odd jobs at the camp of the Scouts several miles
away from Sunrise Hill and had overheard the plan of the young men to
test the mettle of the Camp Fire girls.  Take them by surprise, bear
down upon them without warning, that was the way to discover whether the
girls were lolling about reading novels and eating sweets as they
suspected, or attending to the sterner duties of camp life.  Subject
them to the trial of preparing an impromptu meal for hungry guests, in
short, see whether the effort of the girls to effect an organization
similar in many respects to the Boy Scouts wasn't sheer bluff.

Nothing had been said, because of course it must have been so easy to
surmise the amount of criticism and discussion that arose in Woodford
when the village learned of the decision of the first Camp Fire girls'
club to spend the summer together in the woods.  And sternest of all
critics were the brothers, boy cousins and friends, most of whom
belonged to the Boy Scout brigades, spending most of their spare time
and money in them.  For of course the thing that was good for a boy was
for that very reason bad for a girl, an age old argument, beginning with
the question of educating women at all and extending now to their right
to the vote.

Curiously John Everett, Margaret's brother, was at first more bitterly
opposed to the Camp Fire idea than any one else in Woodford.  Meg's
place was at home, every girl's was, even though there was no one at
home with her.  It was hard lines that his father had to be in Boston
the greater part of the summer and that he would be in camp, but he was
not going to have Meg getting drowned or burned up or worn out without
masculine protection--away from home.  Should any one of these
misfortunes overtake her at home--why somehow it would be different.

But fortunately for Meg's summer happiness, her Professor father did not
share in his son's opinions and after John had a long talk with Betty
Ashton he became well, not convinced, but at least more open to
conviction. Usually Betty did have this effect upon him, which was
perhaps fortunate for them both.

So John Everett might certainly be expected as one of the surprise party
and probably Jim Meade, Eleanor's brother Frank Wharton, and Ralph and
Hugh Bowles, who belonged to the same group of friends, besides, well,
it was the entire uncertainty in regard to the actual number of their
visitors which was keeping the Camp Fire girls so extraordinarily busy,
their idea being to have everything prepared and hidden away and then
produced as though they were in the habit of having just such a
magnificent supply of rations always on hand.

Eleanor and Meg had made an Irish stew of half their week's supply of
meat and vegetables; Esther, assisted by Juliet Field, had baked enough
beans for feeding half Beacon Street; while Miss McMurtry herself had
presided over the giant loaves of brown bread, which can be easily
boiled in closed tins and make specially superior camp food.

Upon Beatrice, Sylvia and the unwelcome newcomer, Nan Graham, had
devolved the cleaning up of the camp grounds and their work had been
most thoroughly done, but indeed no one could be accused, of anything
approaching sloth this morning when so much of their future reputation
was at stake.  Only Edith Norton had been unable to help because of her
work in town, but she hoped to be able to return to camp by noon so as
not to miss the good times.

At eleven o'clock every bit of the work, of preparation had been
accomplished and Nan's report had said that the Scouts expected to
appear just about the noon luncheon hour.  The food was hidden away in
the kitchen tent and the girls rearranged their costumes, then after
posting Nan, Beatrice and Sylvia as sentinels to give warning of the
first approach of their guests, the other girls settled themselves to
whatever occupations they considered might make the best impression.

Eleanor got out the Camp Fire log book, whose cover she had previously
decorated with a wonderful sunrise appearing above the summit of a
purple hill, and now began to illustrate some of the inside pages with
scenes recalling the events of the past ten days.  Mollie's tastes were
too domestic for any deception, so she went on with her pretty basket
weaving, while Esther sat near her studying the Indian song received the
day before. However, the really impressive occupation was conceived and
engineered by Polly's dramatic sense, for she engaged Miss McMurtry and
the rest of the girls in the mysteries of knot tying, one of the
difficult feats of camp craft, since there are a good many more
varieties of knots than one has fingers.  For example, there is the
square knot, bowline, alpine, kite string, half hitch, clove hitch for
tying two ends together, and as many more for making knots at the end of
a rope, and yet, unless one happens to be a Camp Fire girl, these
comparatively simple accomplishments are entirely closed arts.

Now everybody at Sunrise Camp is accounted for excepting its solitary
masculine member--Little Brother.  During all the morning preparations
he had been a very difficult problem, but finally washed and arrayed in
a stiff white Russian blouse, Meg conceived the brilliant idea of
attaching him to the camp totem pole.  The pole was simply a tree
cleared of its branches at the present time, which the girls hoped later
on to develop into a real Indian totem pole, but standing just a few
yards in front of the group of tents it formed a center for all eyes and
therefore seemed the best possible place for keeping a little boy always
in sight.  Little Brother was at first very happy because he had with
him the things he loved best: a discarded bathing shoe, a bottle of hard
brown beans and an old cream whipper, that made the most delectable
noises as one turned it about. Indeed, so soothing did its noises become
that, on returning for the sixth time from her game to see that the
small boy was safe, Meg discovered him fast asleep in a patch of
sunshine on the grass.

Five minutes before noon Sylvia Wharton came running breathless with
excitement from her sentry post.  Dust was rising at some distance off
in the curve of the lane where a path led across the fields to Sunrise
Camp. Harder and faster the girls continued at their work, of course
appearing superbly unconscious of possible interruption and yet ten
minutes later, when Edith Norton returned from the village on her
bicycle along the way of Sylvia's warning, there was a sort of general
let-down feeling though no one confessed to it.

Then half an hour passed, noon was in the background of the day and
hunger was laying fierce hold on the camp members.  Their practice of
knot tying abruptly ceased, Eleanor put her book and paints aside with a
sense of relief, Mollie and Esther arose sighing.

"We have got to have our own lunch, girls, we simply can't wait any
longer," Miss McMurtry insisted, and no one seemed sufficiently
inspirited to discuss the question, when unexpectedly a cry from Meg
brought everybody to life.

Little Brother had disappeared!  In spite of the professional knot-tying
he had managed to slip away, leaving his moorings still attached to the
pole. Ten seconds afterwards as many girls were searching for him, only
Esther remaining behind with Miss McMurtry.  As his small footprints led
directly to the grove of pines, his favorite playing ground, the entire
party sought him there, and after running about for an eighth of a mile
searching and calling, they came across the young man throned high on
the shoulders of a six-foot Scout, clothed in khaki and leather boots
but wearing a perfectly absurd Indian head-dress and false-face.  He was
followed by ten other youths, gotten up in equally absurd fashions for
the complete bewilderment of the Camp Fire girls.

"Do take those ridiculous things off at once, John Everett," Betty
demanded first, as she happened to be in advance of the other girls, and
on John's immediately complying with her request, his companions
followed his example.  Then gaily the entire procession made for camp,
but as Miss McMurtry and Esther heard them coming when some distance
off, they did not seem particularly surprised at their advance.  Indeed,
the ridiculous fact was that the Scouts failed altogether to mention
that their intention had been to steal into Sunrise Camp unperceived,
and the girls were equally negligent in not expressing more profound
amazement at their wholly unlooked-for visit.

Only there was one special bit of surprise for Betty Ashton and possibly
for Esther as well.  Richard Ashton had come down from Portsmouth to
find out how Betty was getting on, and on hearing of the scouting
expedition had joined their party.  Of course he only spoke to Esther in
the same fashion that he did to his sister's other friends, nevertheless
she felt more at her ease, perhaps because he was her one acquaintance
in the group of young men.

And Polly also had a surprise, though not so pleasant a one, for the
youth whom she had tried to slay, like David did Goliath, was one of
their Boy Scout guests and Polly wondered if it were her duty to inquire
in regard to his wounded feelings or to pretend that to-day's more
formal meeting was in reality their first?



CHAPTER XV

A WARNING


But the girl did not have to decide the problem, for the young man
solved it for her.

They were in the midst of luncheon, which was spread out on a vast
table-cloth covering ten or fifteen square feet of ground, when he arose
solemnly and bearing his plate in his hand came over and sat down on the
grass alongside of Polly.  In his khaki uniform, with his hair, skin and
clothes so much the same color, he was far less countrified, indeed,
almost good looking the girl conceded to herself, while waiting for him
to speak first, giving her the clue to his attitude toward her.

"You were awfully kind the other day and, I am much obliged to you," he
said a trifle awkwardly, but with gracious intention.  "I am afraid I
should have had rather an uncomfortable time of it but for you."

Polly cast her eyes demurely toward her lap, turning her head slightly
to one side, "I am afraid you did have an uncomfortable time anyhow.  I
was very sorry."  She had flushed the least little bit, but her lips
were twitching with amusement.

The young fellow smiled.  "Oh, don't you be sorry," he protested, "leave
that to the guilty person, or I am afraid she may keep you being sorry
for her sins all the days of your life."

"I will not!" Polly snapped, in such evident irritation that the young
man leaned deliberately over her shoulder staring into her face.  Then
he actually laughed.  "I am sorry myself now," he apologized, "but I
thought you were the pretty one."

"Well I am not and that is a horrid way to get even!"

Again the young man laughed.  "I beg your pardon, I mean I thought you
were the nice one!"  And this time Polly happening to catch his eye,
which had some of her own sense of humor in it, laughed to herself and
then swung round to talk to him more directly.

"No, I am neither the pretty one nor the nice one," she avowed.   "There
is Mollie sitting between Ralph Bowles and Frank Wharton and you can go
talk to her in a moment.  But just the same I am sorry that I happened
to hit you the other day and I was just as much surprised at its having
happened as you could possibly have been."

Her companion nodded as though to dismiss the subject.  "If Mollie is
the nice one and the pretty one, would you mind telling me your name,
then perhaps next time I may be able to tell you apart without your
giving me such strenuous examples of your differences in character."

The girl shrugged her shoulders pretending to be entirely indifferent
and yet a little piqued at the suggestion in the last sentence.  The
difference between herself and Mollie, all in her opinion in her
sister's favor, was a sensitive subject.

"I was christened Pauline in baptism but I am usually known as Polly.
However, my sister and I both recognize ourselves when called Miss
O'Neill."  This was such an evident attempt on Polly's part to put her
questioner in his proper place that he could not rise entirely superior
to it, even though her intention to hit back was so transparent.

"May I tell you my name now?" he asked in a more humble tone, as though
wishful to make peace.

"You don't have to tell me your name for I am very sure I know it
already," the girl answered in a provoking manner, for which she had a
peculiar talent.  "You see our guardian told us that you were the son of
the Mr. Webster who owns the land on which we are camping, and I am
convinced that there is no young man in New Hampshire boasting the last
name, Webster, whose first name isn't Daniel!  Do you think we would so
fail to commemorate our greatest statesman?  It must be rather dreary to
be named for so great a person that you know whatever you may achieve
yourself you must always sound like an anti-climax."

This time it was surely Polly who had struck home, for the young man
colored and applied himself to the food on his plate for at least a
moment before he replied: "You are right, my name is Daniel and I have
felt about it a little as you say, but then I am also called William,
which is a better name for a farmer."

"Farmer?" Polly forgot that she and her companion had been sparring and
let a genuine interest creep into her tone.  "Do you really mean that
you are going to be content to be a farmer all the days of your life, to
stay right on here and never see anything or be anything else?  It
sounds so strange to me--for a man to have no ambition!"  Almost she
forgot her companion and sat frowning with her eyes more serious than
usual and her thin face with its sensitive features and high cheek bones
turned upward toward the peak of Sunrise Hill.  "I am a girl, but I am
going all over the world and I am going to be an actress and do ten
thousand delightful things just as fast as I can before I have a chance
to get old."

Gazing at her more intently than ever before in their conversation, the
young fellow shook his head.  "No you won't,"' he said bluntly, "you
will never be strong enough and you had better stay here in the hills
and let some one look after you, your sister or--some one.  Yet you need
not talk as though being a farmer was a thing to look down upon.  I am
sure our great men all used to be farmers, George Washington and the
rest of  'em. You must know their names better than I do.  So please
bear in mind that I intend to do my best to make things grow--hayseed!"
he laughed good humouredly, guessing Polly's secret scorn of him, "but
at the same time I expect to see something and if I'm lucky to be
something, though if I'm a first-class farmer it isn't so worse.  Do
give me your plate, you have eaten very little and the rest of the crowd
is getting dreadfully ahead of us."

But Polly, jumping up hastily and the young man following her, led him
over and introduced him to Mollie, with whom he spent the greater part
of the afternoon.

From two o'clock till sundown the hours at Sunrise, Camp were fairly
strenuous ones since the Camp Fire girls insisted on comparative tests
of skill with their Boy Scout guests.  Of course the young men agreed,
although they were pleasantly scornful, until possibly owing to their
morning's contest the girls actually won out in the knot-tying contest,
which was supposed to be a peculiarly masculine accomplishment.  In
running, jumping and feats of marksmanship the girls of course were
easily outclassed by their opponents; however, Beatrice Field, who was
so light and so small that no one considered her in the race, did come
in second in a short thirty-yard dash.  Then Miss McMurtry held a kind
of impromptu examination in questions of patriotism and nature lore, the
girls and men managing to about equally divide the honors.  But the
really extraordinary feature of the afternoon was that dull little
Sylvia Wharton, the youngest member of the company, was easily first in
half a dozen observation games most important in the training of Camp
Fire girls and Boy Scouts.  For instance, in a Quick-sight experiment,
the girls and boys walking rapidly from the camping ground to the shores
of the lake, Sylvia had seen eight small objects more than any one else
and she was so quiet and looked so stolid while doing it that Polly
wanted to laugh, and began to doubt her stupidity.

At six o'clock it still appeared as though the Boy Scouts intended
remaining for the evening meal and camp fire; however, Miss McMurtry
kindly but firmly bade them farewell.  The girls were tired and it was a
long tramp back to the Scout camp.  There had been no suggestion from
any one that the surprise visit had been made in any spirit of criticism
and yet John Everett made a half-hearted apology to Betty and his
sister.

When the farewells were being said all round, he called the two girls
aside:

"I say," he murmured boyishly, in spite of his years and six feet, "I
have got to confess that I never saw you girls looking so well, so kind
of up to the limit before, and I thought by this time you would surely
be fagged out, or bored, or sick of trying things out together.  Now I
don't say I approve of this Camp Fire business, I won't go so far as
that, but it does not seem to have done either of you any harm yet."

And then laughing at his grudging attitude the three of them rejoined
their friends, who were waiting to end their day together by singing "My
Country, 'Tis of Thee."  And they were waiting because Esther Clark was
needed for leading the song and in the last few moments she had
disappeared with Richard Ashton, who had been watching the proceedings
all day with an expression that was sometimes amused but the greater
part of the time grave.  He had no opportunity for speaking to Betty or
to any one else alone and only to Esther because he had just made a
deliberate effort.  As they came slowly back from the pine grove
together, Betty felt cross at Dick's choice of a companion when any one
of her other friends would have been pleased by his attention.

Then, too, Esther looked as serious as her brother and Betty hated
unnecessary seriousness, besides Dick needed some one to make him gay,
not an awkward, uninteresting acquaintance like Esther.  But there was
no use in arguing with Dick, for he would always be kind to the people
who were left out of things and seemed most to require kindness.  Sorry
to have seen so little of her brother during his short visit, Betty now
slipped her hand into his and held it tight while Esther, standing some
distance apart from them, started the air for their parting hymn.  The
girl was not thinking of herself and so was unconscious that the others,
even while singing, were also listening with surprise and pleasure to
the clear, rounded tones of her beautiful mezzo-soprano voice.  In
reality Esther Clark was thinking only of Betty and the news that Dick
Ashton had just told her.  Mr. Ashton, his father, had been taken ill in
Italy and, though there was no immediate danger, might never be well
again.  For the present it was thought best that he remain indefinitely
in Europe, so the family had not decided whether or not to tell the
facts to Betty.  She could do no good; even Dick was not going to him,
and it was always best to keep every possible sorrow from Betty.  But
really, because Dick Ashton could not make up his mind just what was the
wisest course, he confided his secret to Esther, asking her to think
matters over and write him her judgment.  You see there was no question
of Esther's unusual devotion to Betty and readiness to sacrifice
everything for her, though there seemed to be no reason, and surely
Betty was entirely careless of it.

Before the twilight of the long afternoon had entirely faded into night,
every Camp Fire girl, including Nan Graham, who was not a member, had
vanished into bed.  The child was too tired to be sent home to-night and
word would be taken to her parents by one of the boys.  Miss McMurtry
herself was asleep as soon as her girls.  And indeed Polly entirely
forgot that Betty had suggested she put the question of Nan's remaining
in camp with them to her again during the evening.

How many hours Polly had been asleep outside her tent with the newcomer
by her side she did not know, but suddenly she was awakened by a sound
that was like a sob.  Sitting up quickly she saw Nan kneeling on the
ground and looking up at the sky.

Polly waited in silence until the girl, feeling her wakefulness, came
slowly back to her own bed and somehow Polly could see that her face had
lost its sharp, old look and was like a child's.

"I was praying you'd keep me in camp with you long enough to give me a
try," she explained.

Like a flash Betty's suggestion that she might change her opinion after
thinking things over came back to Polly's mind.  Of course the day had
not been conducive to reflection, but perhaps it might be just as well
not to give Betty too much time to think.

Half an hour afterwards Polly crawled under the blue blankets and
putting her arms about her friend whispered her request.  And just at
first Betty was too sleepy to know what was being asked of her and later
on was possibly too tired to resist, for she yawned an agreement.

"Oh yes, I will do my best to persuade the girls to let her stay on if
you want her and Miss Martha consents.  But if there is trouble, Polly--"
and she was almost asleep again.

Polly gave her another gentle shake.  "Promise to keep your money hidden
and not put temptation in her way.  Esther says she found your
pocketbook stuffed with money in the middle of the tent floor."

"I promise," Betty ended hardly knowing what she said.



CHAPTER XVI

LEARNING TO KEEP STEP


Six weeks had passed by and it was now early August in the New Hampshire
hills. Six wonderful weeks for the Camp Fire girls at Sunrise Hill,
moving so swiftly that it seemed almost incredible so much time could
have gone by. Everybody had kept well, nothing had ruffled their
harmonies, except occasional differences of opinion which were easily
adjusted, and yet Nan Graham had continued a member of the camp.

By this time the new influences in many ways showed their effect upon
her. At first she was inclined to use language that shocked and annoyed
both the girls and their guardian.  She was not lazy and yet regular
hours for work seemed irksome to her; she wanted to work when it was
play time and play when work should be accomplished, and then her
personal habits were not pleasant; but this was because she had never
been taught better, for very soon she grew to be as neat as any of her
companions and though her clothes were worn and shabby they were
carefully washed twice a week by her own hands because she had fewer
possessions than the other girls.  In the beginning Betty had given her
several blouses and some underclothes and would have done far more
except that Miss McMurtry advised her to cease. For it was not fair that
Nan should not also learn a spirit of independence and the desire to
earn her own way.  Miss McMurtry hoped that the Camp Fire might teach
the girls this as one of its best lessons.  Always we have believed that
the American boy can make his own place in the world, given an education
and a healthy body, then why not the American girl as well, now that she
is to have almost the same opportunity and encouragement?

Notwithstanding that, there was one serious, indeed most serious, fault
that the new Camp Fire member had not yet man aged to overcome: she was
not always truthful.  The stories she told did not appear to be
malicious or very important, they merely explained why she was late when
her hour came for work, how she had gained certain elective honors when
no one was by to witness them, and yet they caused a general feeling of
distrust when evidence upon a question depended solely on Nan's word.
Miss McMurtry had talked to her many times and always she had promised
never to offend again and yet a habit of untruthfulness is not so easily
conquered.   In reality, Polly O'Neill had more influence with the girl
whose cause she had championed than anyone else in camp, so that once or
twice Miss Martha had been tempted to ask Polly to talk to her and then
had given up the idea, thinking that perhaps it was hardly fair for one
girl to be told to lecture another.

However, it was surprising to see how kind and sympathetic the little
group of Camp Fire members tried to be to their least fortunate member
and up to the present time Miss McMurtry felt glad that she had yielded
her first judgment in the matter and allowed Nan to stay on with them.
Even Betty, although unable to be intimate with a girl whose family
connections and manners so tried her aristocratic soul, was always
considerate and certainly at the end of each week it had been Betty who
had quietly paid Nan's share of their expenses without a word.  That
there had ever been a question of any one else's doing it, no one except
Betty, Polly and Mollie knew.  And just what Polly had suffered at the
end of each week when she had failed to fulfill her contract no one
except a girl with exactly her disposition can understand.  For the
money which she had spoken of so mysteriously to her sister and friend
had up till now failed to materialize.  Nevertheless Polly had not lost
hope, but several times had assured Betty that she would pay her the
entire amount advanced for Nan almost any day, and the very fact that
Betty begged her not to think of this made her the more insistent.

Thirteen was Polly O'Neill's lucky number.  Possibly because it was
regarded as an unlucky figure by other people Polly had selected and
cherished it for her own, and with the Irish ability to prove things,
because one wishes them to be true, she could give a long list of happy
events in her past history all taking place on the thirteenth day of the
mouth.  Besides, had she and Molly not been born on the thirteenth,
naturally fitting the date to her star?

So on the thirteenth of August (although no one else in camp happened to
have thought of that day of the month) Polly begged leave of their
guardian to go alone into Woodford on a most important errand.  The
girls were not in the habit of going into town alone; perhaps because
the walk was a long one no one had ever wished before to go without
company.  However, there was no conspicuous objection since the way led
through the Webster farm and then on to the high road into the village,
and, moreover, Polly insisted that her reason for wishing to go
unaccompanied was a highly important one.

Nevertheless, with a slight feeling of discomfort, Miss McMurtry saw her
start off after lunch.  Though the subject was not discussed she
realized that Polly O'Neill was physically less strong than most girls
and that her high spirits and nervous energy often gave a wrong
impression.

To-day, however, Polly seemed particularly well and curiously eager, so
that the other girls teased her all through luncheon endeavoring to find
out the cause of her mysterious errand, without gaining the least clue.
Betty and Mollie were both offended by her secrecy in spite of her
promise to tell them everything should matters turn out as she expected.

Polly believed in destiny, or at least in her own destiny as we all
should, but now and then, fear taking possession, her faith was less
secure.

There had been a few of these hours in the past six weeks while she had
prayed, hoped and willed one thing, but almost always she had believed
in it with her whole heart.  Waking at daylight on this morning of the
thirteenth of August and seeing a particularly wonderful sunrise, a
curious wave of conviction had swept over her.  To-day she would see her
desire fulfilled!

Truly the day was a beautiful one, a day for all lovely dreams to come
true, and as Polly walked through the fields, heavy and golden with the
ripened grain, the Irish buoyancy of her temperament asserting itself,
made each object appear an omen of good luck--the sight of a bluebird
meant happiness of course, the flight of a carrier pigeon the arrival of
a longed-for message.  Weary finally of thinking delightful things Polly
fell to reciting poetry aloud.  As a small girl and in spite of her
mother's and sister's protests she had made up her mind to be an actress
and had devoted all her spare hours to the memorizing of poetry and
plays.  Therefore there were many hours when she loved dearly to be
alone just in order to repeat some of the lines over and over, trying to
read into them their deeper meaning, without an audience to be either
bored or amused.

Particularly had she loved and learned the strange, musical Irish poetry
of William Butler Yeats.  Perhaps because the Irish believed in fairies
Polly did too, although she called her fairies by other names.

Now all alone in the yellow fields she recited the closing lines of "The
Land of Heart's Desire," doing her level best to put into it some little
portion of its mystical beauty.  She was not altogether successful
because she was only a girl without any training or knowledge of her
art, but perhaps because of her youth she was less afraid and filled
with a sincerer enthusiasm.

"The wind blows out of the gates of the day, The wind blows over the
lonely of heart, And the lonely of heart is withered away While the
faeries dance in a place apart, Shaking their milk-white feet in a ring,
Tossing their milk-white arms in the air; For they hear the wind laugh
and murmur and sing Of a land where even the old are fair, And even the
wise are merry of tongue; But I heard a reed of Coolaney say, When the
wind has laughed and murmured and sung, The lonely of heart is withered
away."

And then, after having repeated her verse three times and feeling that
she was no nearer than at first to expressing its beauty, Polly found
herself through the fields and after passing by a small stretch of
woodlands would be out on the high road and therefore no longer alone.

And here, just at the entrance to the woodland, Polly's foot struck
against something, and stooping over she picked up from the ground the
answer to her desire, not the expected answer but one that would do as
well in its stead.

Naturally she forgot to be reasonable or sensible, forgot everything
save the good luck that seemed to come as an answer to prayer.

At the village post-office she did not even think to ask for her mail,
although stopping long enough to write a short letter to her mother,
enclosing a portion of her discovery and asking that it be used to
purchase a present for the new English cousin about whom her mother had
lately written so much.

Neither was there a confession made either to Mollie or Betty or any one
else at camp that evening, since it was far pleasanter to appear cloaked
in mystery; but Polly secured peace for herself by bringing back with
her a large basket of peaches to glorify their supper party, and then
later that evening quietly presented Betty with the amount in full
advanced for Nan Graham's expenses.  She said nothing about the way in
which the money had been obtained and although Betty was curious to
know, good taste forbade her asking questions.



CHAPTER XVII

THE SUSPICION


Miss McMurtry and Betty had been alone together in one of the tents for
the past half hour.  Not that this was in any way remarkable or at first
excited any suspicion, for the young woman and girl had become good
friends in the past weeks, often consulting with one another concerning
questions of camp life.  Indeed Betty had been chiefly responsible for
bestowing on their guardian her pretty new title, although the name had
really developed from the suggestion first made by Mollie O'Neill and
later turned into a jest by her sister.

"Our Lady of the Hill" was now Miss McMurtry's title as guardian of the
Sunrise Camp.  But because the expression was too long a one for
ordinary conversation, "Donna," the soft Italian word for "lady," was
more often substituted.

"I don't think I can be mistaken, Donna," Betty now returned seriously,
her face flushed and her gray eyes unusually grave.  "I don't want you
to think I would make trouble in camp for all the world, as it is all
probably my fault, but Esther was with me and has the same impression I
have.  She thought I ought to speak to you as a kind of warning to the
other girls.  I wish you would let me call Esther."

Miss McMurtry agreed, frowning uncomfortably and resting her head on one
hand.  Since outdoor life gives one whatever help is needed, she had
grown far less thin with her months of fresh air, her figure was less
angular, her expression less learned and her whole manner more like a
girl's than an old maid's.  Possibly the gracious dignity of her new
title was also worth living up to.

"I must not be in too much of a hurry or too severe," she afterwards
murmured to herself, "but from the first I have been dreadfully afraid
of something like this."

Esther was discovered sitting with the other girls in a group
surrounding Polly, who had been reading aloud an old folk tale while the
others worked at their various hand crafts.  Betty apologized for the
interruption in leaning over to whisper to Esther, but half guessed at
Polly's irritation as they hurried off together.  However, if it could
be prevented, Polly was to hear of their trouble last of all!

And Polly, although not acknowledging it, was annoyed, for lately Betty
and Esther had seemed more intimate than she could ever have dreamed
they might be.  Not that Betty appeared to feel any affection for the
older girl, but having heard through her of her father's illness they
had been drawn together by Esther's constant sympathy and devotion, and
although Mr. Ashton was now better Betty had not yet forgotten.  Of
course Polly was not jealous, that would be too small minded and absurd,
only it was curious for her dearest friend to be sharing her secrets
with other persons than herself.

Inside the tent with their guardian, Esther was being more explicit in
her explanation than Betty had been.

"You see," she said, "I understand better about temptations of that kind
than Betty, because I have been brought up so differently, so when the
letter came I begged her to be particularly careful, and we hid it
together in a small lock-box in our tent.  The strange thing is that the
letter is still there and the outside envelope, but the envelope in
which the package was enclosed I found crumpled up near Nan's cot when I
was cleaning this morning."

Miss McMurtry shook her head more cheerfully.  "That isn't enough
evidence, children, to use against any human being!  And just because
this poor Nan has one story against her, don't you think we ought to be
especially careful about adding another?"

Instead of replying at once Betty looked more miserable instead of less,
and then biting her lips for an instant answered steadily:

"Yes, you are quite right, Donna, and we won't say another word about
the loss.  I am sorry and I confess a little disappointed, for father
wished us to have a party in honor of his being better, but the party
couldn't make us nearly as happy as this story would make us unhappy
once we allowed it to be told."

Miss McMurtry caught Betty's hand and kissed it unexpectedly.  Betty was
spoiled, accepting love and good fortune too much as a matter of course,
but when it came to a question either of generosity or good breeding
Betty Ashton could always be counted upon.

However, Esther Clark was not so persuaded.  "I am afraid Betty may be
angry with me and that you will be more uncomfortable, Miss McMurtry,"
she added after a moment's hesitation.  "But this is not all the
evidence we have.  You see Mollie told us yesterday that just the next
day after we girls made our trip to town and returned with the mail, she
came across Nan in our tent with Betty's bunch of keys in her hand.  It
is true that Betty had left her keys out on the table, but I don't see
what Nan could have wanted with them?"

"She told Mollie that she wanted to peep in my trunk to look at a dress
I have  because she wanted some day to make herself one like it and did
not know just how," Betty interposed, using no effort to hide the tears
that had been gathering in her gray eyes and were now coursing down her
cheeks. "Oh dear me, I do wish I had not brought the wretched money into
camp, for I promised Polly I would not put temptation in Nan's way and
she will be dreadfully cross with me if she hears!"

"I don't think you should blame yourself, dear," Miss McMurtry
interrupted, drawing Betty closer to her and looking almost ready to cry
herself as they both turned toward Esther for advice.  For somehow
Esther might have a shy and awkward personality and not seem of much
importance when things were going happily, yet in sorrow or difficulty,
insensibly her gravity and unselfishness counted.

"Don't you think we had better send for Nan and let her offer us some
explanation," Esther unhesitatingly suggested, "perhaps she will be able
to make everything clear?"

Miss McMurtry and, Betty were both silent and Betty moved quietly toward
the opening of the tent.  "You really will have to let me go away," she
pleaded, "for I can't stand up and accuse one of our own Camp Fire girls
of having--"  Her sentence remained unfinished, but Miss McMurtry was
able to catch hold of her skirt.  "You can't leave us in the lurch,
Betty, child, though I do understand your feelings, you must stand by to
help Esther and me out.  Certainly we shall not accuse poor Nan of
anything, merely ask her a question.  Esther, will you find her for us?"

Betty smiled tearfully as Esther went away on the errand, wondering if
this time Miss Martha feared to trust her.

Ten minutes passed and then fifteen and yet neither Esther nor Nan
appeared.  Finally, however, Esther returned looking unusually angry and
crestfallen.  "Nan says she won't come until Polly has finished the
story she is reading, and that probably may take another half hour," she
reported.  "I told her that you wished her particularly, Miss McMurtry,
and waited as long as I could, but she showed no sign of obeying."

"That isn't true, or at least it is only half true, which is as bad," a
voice declared at this instant at Esther's elbow, and Nan Graham pushed
her way saucily into the tent, rather pleased at making serious Esther
flush with displeasure.  But at the sight of Betty, whom she always
admired, and their guardian, whom she a little feared, her expression
became less bold and, indeed, before any one spoke the girl's face had a
strange look of guilt.  Why else should she toss her head and bridle so
unnecessarily, why stare into Miss McMurtry's eyes with her own hard and
defiant, even while her lips trembled with nervousness?

"I haven't done anything; what do you want with me?" she asked quickly.

"No, Nan, we only want to ask you a question," Miss McMurtry answered,
speaking as gently as she knew how.  "Would you mind telling us what you
were doing with Betty Ashton's keys the other afternoon and how you
happened to get hold of them?"

"I didn't have her keys, that's a lie," Nan returned fiercely, taken off
her guard and using a word she had always been accustomed to hear in her
home.

To save the situation Betty came quickly forward.  "Please don't say
that, Nan," she begged, "for Mollie has already told us you merely
wanted to look at my blue dress and that was quite all right.  But if
you deny it, why--"

"Why what?" Nan demanded sullenly, her black eyes on the ground and her
face, which had turned a healthier color with her weeks in the woods,
now white and drawn.

"Why we might not believe you when asking a more important question,"
Miss McMurtry said sternly, angered in spite of herself by the girl's
disagreeable manner.  "How many times have I told you that when people
are untruthful about little things one does not believe them in large.
The fact is that Betty has lost a large sum of money and--"

"And you believe I stole it!" Nan burst into such a violent storm of
weeping at this suggestion that Betty for the first time in their
acquaintance actually put her arm about her.

"No, we don't believe you took it just because it has vanished," she
whispered comfortingly, casting appealing glances at her guardian and
Esther, "only we want to ask you to try to help us find out about it.  I
wouldn't be in the least surprised if it should turn up again!"

Neither Miss McMurtry nor Esther spoke, but Nan was not to be so
appeased.

"I am sure you are very kind to give me this opportunity to put your old
money back," she answered bitterly, "but as I did not take it I should
find that pretty difficult.  I didn't even know you had any money,
although I confess I did look into your trunk when perhaps I ought to
have asked permission and I did take out an old blouse, but I was sorry
the next minute and put it back again.  But I expect I might as well
have kept it and anything else I could lay my hands on.  It is the old
story, if a girl does a wrong thing once no one ever believes in her
when she tries to be straight again.  I suppose you will be telling your
suspicion to Polly O'Neill and the other girls so they won't let me stay
any longer in camp. I don't care, I am innocent!" Nan's voice rose to a
shrill cry of protest, but in spite of this there was a note of
sincerity in it that almost convinced Betty, although unfortunately the
effect was not the same upon Miss McMurtry and Esther.

"No one shall say anything against you, Nan, nor spread this story in
any possible way until more is found out," Miss McMurtry now remarked,
briefly dismissing them.



CHAPTER XVIII

ONE WAY TO FIND OUT


Nevertheless within a few days the story had been circulated about the
camp.  Not a word, however, had been spoken concerning it by Betty,
Esther or Miss McMurtry, but poor Nan Graham had betrayed herself.  For
in her effort to gain sympathizers, unfortunately a wider suspicion was
aroused.

Sore and unhappy over what she insisted was a totally unjust
supposition, it was but natural that she should turn to another girl for
consolation. Not to Polly, however; Nan said not a word to her, for
Polly had given no evidence of having heard of her ill-timed visit to
Betty's trunk, having been on her way to the village at the time the
offence was committed, and above everything Nan desired to remain fixed
in Polly's good graces.  No, she confided the account of her interview
first to Beatrice Field, making so tragic a tale of it that Bee, who was
quite young and only a mischievous tomboy in her disposition and never
having heard anything of Nan's past mistakes, was deeply indignant.

"A Camp Fire girl accused of stealing, well not exactly accused but
suspected!" Honestly Bee had never conceived of anything so dreadful,
and so straightway put the whole case before her sister, Juliet.  Then
to her surprise Juliet, who was a far more worldly wise person, did not
accept the story from the same point of view, indeed Juliet became
immediately indignant for Betty's sake, declaring that she was being a
martyr in not spreading the news of her loss abroad and at least
endeavoring to recover her lost property.

Something of Juliet's impression must have crept into Bee, for in her
next conversation with Nan there was a certain cooling off in sympathy
that made Nan feel the need of another partisan.  This time she was more
unwise in selecting Edith Norton, for Edith had always particularly
disliked Nan's presence in the Sunrise Camp and, even while hearing her
side of the story, had unhesitatingly revealed not only a want of pity
for her but a plain lack of faith.

Nan had forgotten to require at the beginning of their conversation that
Edith keep her confidence a secret and so the older girl made no
pretence of doing so.  In her bitterness Nan had not hesitated to say
hard things of Betty, Esther and even of their guardian in speaking of
the injustice of their attitude toward her, and these remarks Edith felt
free to add to her own account.  Not that she really meant to be cruel
or unfair, but honestly feeling it best that Nan stay no longer in their
camp she started a campaign toward that end.  Perhaps because Edith was
poor and self-supporting herself, unconsciously she resented the
presence of another girl whose poverty was of so much less honorable a
kind, for it is more difficult to be fair to persons almost in our own
state of life than to those in far different ones.

Not long did Edith remain alone in her conviction, for the layer of real
faith and affection for poor little Nan in camp was so thin that the
first effort broke through it.  In point of fact no one had actually
wanted her at Sunrise Camp and had only been persuaded into it by Polly
and Betty and by Miss McMurtry's approval, and really these three
persons were still the only three who continued her champions.

Betty would not hear for an instant of Nan's being sent away, threatened
to leave herself rather than be responsible for such an act of
injustice. Miss McMurtry was equally firm, although she added that Nan
was not to be condemned until further proof was secured against her.
Meanwhile Polly O'Neill was really unaware for some time of the actual
circumstances of the case.  In the first place Betty had begged that the
story be kept from Polly as Nan was her especial protegee, and seeing
what a storm had been aroused in camp she herself felt more than sorry
ever to have mentioned her loss.  Of course Polly heard vaguely that
Betty had lost something or other about camp, but she did not know
exactly what, but then Betty had so many possessions that she was always
losing something.  Also she began to suspect, dimly at first, that the
girls were in some kind of quandary, but as no one mentioned the cause
to her, she felt rather too proud to inquire, besides having a problem
of her own on her mind which taxed most of her waking hours, although
she too kept her own counsel.

But now a sufficient time had gone by, until the date of the meeting of
the August Council Fire had arrived when the original number of Camp
Fire members were to be promoted to the rank of Fire-Makers and Esther
was to be first of the Sunrise Hill girls to be given the highest Camp
Fire title--Torch Bearer.

One of Miss McMurtry's plans for her camp was to leave to three girls
each month the arrangements for the original features of their Council
Fire and in August, the month of the Red or Green Corn Moon, it so
happened that Mollie, Eleanor and Edith Norton formed the special
committee.  Just what their plans were no one knew until the morning
before their meeting, not even the camp guardian, or Miss McMurtry might
possibly have interfered, although I hardly believe it.

Shortly after breakfast, even before the other girls had a chance to
disperse for their morning's work, Eleanor, Mollie and Edith Norton
disappeared inside their tents.

Edith had been chosen to help at this meeting rather than any other
because she was now having her two weeks' August vacation.  Ten minutes
later the girls came out again into the open air, arrayed in their
ceremonial costumes and carrying three Indian baskets which were
solemnly passed about from one girl to the other.  And these baskets
contained invitations to the evening Council Fire painted on bits of
birch bark in crimson lettering by Eleanor Meade.

At the top of the scroll were the three words "The Maidens' Feast."
Then below, the invitation read: "Sinopa the Little Sister, Apoi-a-kimi,
the Light Hair, and Eleanor, the Painter of Sunrises, invite all the
maidens of all the tribes to come and partake of their feast this
evening at the close of the regular Council Fire ceremonies.  It will be
in the Sunrise Camp before the moon reaches the middle sky.  All pure
maidens are invited."



CHAPTER XIX

THE DISAPPEARANCE


The August moon had never been more radiant, indeed it flooded the
Sunrise Camp grounds with a brightness that made it appear almost like
day.  And now the regular Council Fire proceedings were over and the
Indian custom of "The Maidens' Feast" about to begin.

In a circle about a cone-shaped rock, which had been brought with
infinite difficulty to its position in the camp grounds, Miss McMurtry
and the maidens were seated, each person bearing in her lap a round
wooden bowl, while from the smoldering ashes of the Council Fire arose a
delicious odor of roasting ears of corn.

But before the feast could be eaten a ceremony of as grave importance to
the Camp Fire girls as to the Indian maidens of long ago must take
place. Each girl was to take the oath of purity and honor, and then the
maidens' song would be sung and four times they would dance around the
altar.

No one of the group of Camp Fire members and no more their guardian
really knew at first whether in this plan of Eleanor's, Mollie's and
Edith's there was any deeper motive than the entertainment of their
friends and the revival of an old Indian custom seemingly appropriate
and beautiful.  But as the details unfolded themselves the suspicion in
the minds of most of them grew almost into certainty.  Once or twice
Miss McMurtry had thought of stopping the proceedings altogether, but
then she did not feel satisfied that this method of the three girls for
testing the innocence or guilt of their companions was not an admirable
one.  More than she would have acknowledged, since worry is not
permitted in Camp Fire rules, had Miss McMurtry puzzled over what should
be done in their present dilemma. Betty's money had certainly
disappeared and some one must have stolen it; if not Nan, then who else?
For they had had no guests since Esther and Betty returned with the
money from the village post-office.

So by the time Edith Norton, with her light hair hanging loose about her
shoulders and a circle of red about her head, stepped forth into the
center of the circle, looking unusually white and nervous, there was not
but one member of her audience who did not at least partially guess at
what was about to take place.  And this was of course Polly O'Neill!
For not only did she fail to understand Betty's actual money loss and
the suspicion against Nan, but so deeply had she been involved in her
own perplexity that she had hardly been aware of anything that had taken
place that evening. Now, however, having at last made up her mind to
take Miss McMurtry into her confidence when the girls had gone to bed,
she did look up with interest at the picturesque figure of Edith.

Near the cone-shaped rock two arrows had been lightly stuck into the
ground, this forming a sort of altar to which each maiden must come,
touching first the stone and then the arrows as she declares her purity.

As she stood by the side of this altar Edith's voice trembled so that it
was with difficulty her first words could be understood.  The girls who
knew pretty well what to expect understood her immediately, however, but
not Polly!

"Sorrow and much uneasiness have lately crept into our midst, my
maidens," she announced, trying to preserve a certain likeness to the
Indian speech in the form of her words, "and many of us there are who go
about heavy of heart because the sin of one of us must be the burden of
us all, until guilt is established and the innocent cleared.  Some days
ago there vanished from the possession of one of us fifty dollars in
bank notes enclosed in an envelope containing no address.  This money
has not been found, but the envelope has been recognized as crumpled up
and thrown away a few feet from the tent of its rightful owner.  Now no
member of the Sunrise Camp can feel it possible that any one of its
members has been guilty of this sin and yet no visitor has stepped foot
within our camp limits within the time when the deed must have occurred.
Therefore have we three maidens, after deep thought, appointed this
evening wherein the innocent may declare her innocence and the wrong-doer
confess her sin.  For only in confession and by the return of the
money can she ever hope to be at peace with herself.  Moreover, we
believe that no Camp Fire girl will take this oath of purity without
telling the entire truth.  Betty Ashton will you come forward first."

Betty jumped up quickly.  During Edith's long harangue her group of
listeners had been supremely uncomfortable, so that no one of them dared
do more than barely glance at Nan, who sat with her knees up to her
chin, her eyes cast upon the ground and her black hair covering her face
like a veil. If she felt, and of course she did, that Edith's speech was
directed toward her rather than toward any other girl, neither by a
sound nor a movement did she betray it.  Not even when Betty, having
finished with her part in the ceremony, deliberately forsaking her
former place in the circle came back and sitting down next her
deliberately laid her arm across Nan's bowed shoulders.  There was
nothing to do or say, she would only make things worse by any protest
now, and yet Betty was bitterly grieved and offended. If Nan had done
wrong this public method of making her either confess or perjure herself
she felt to be wholly unkind.

So as Nan was in everybody's thoughts during this time no one happened
to glance toward Polly O'Neill or, seeing her, to observe anything
unusual in her manner or appearance, for Polly also neither moved nor
spoke during Edith's recital, although her face turned suddenly white.

Fifty dollars in an envelope, the money in bank notes and the envelope
crumpled up and thrown away near their tent!  Her discovery in the woods
that day had been just this and she herself had thrown away that same
envelope.  Betty of course had lost the enclosure out of her letter in
bringing it home from the post office and, hiding the letter away
afterwards, believed the money still there.

Why did not Polly get up and make this announcement at once?  It would
have been very simple except for one thing, she had spent the money, and
in the first moment of surprised horror had no idea how she would ever
be able to return it.

Like a good many impetuous people Polly O'Neill sometimes had the
misfortune to do her thinking when it was too late.  Finding the money
in the woods, when she felt she needed it so much, had seemed to her
like a miracle, so that it never occurred to her, either that afternoon
or evening, that she should have tried to find out to whom the money
rightfully belonged before using it, although she had been thinking of
little else since then.  That this money should have been Betty's of all
people, and that it was now her duty to stand up and confess her mistake
before her friends.

Polly set her teeth, the circle of girls revolved before her eyes, she
had been worrying too much to be either reasonable or well.  And at any
moment Edith Norton might demand that she step forward and take the oath
which was meant to proclaim that she had had nothing to do with the loss
of Betty's money.  Truly she did not understand that the charge had been
directed against poor Nan, so watching her opportunity Polly slipped
away without being noticed.

When Nan Graham's name was called from the center of the circle the
silence was oppressive.  But the girl rose up quietly, pushing her
coarse black hair from her face, and as quietly walked forward to the
cone-shaped rock where the two arrows were still standing fixed in the
ground.  Before laying her hand on these objects, however, she stood
perfectly still for a moment, letting her accusing eyes sweep from the
face of one of her girl judges to the other and then, touching the stone
and the arrows, came back quickly to her old place.  Not till then did
she betray how deeply the atmosphere of distrust and unfaith had hurt
her, but when Betty's arm came round her for the second time, she burst
into weeping, hiding her face on Betty's shoulder, and hearing her
whisper comfortingly: "I believe with all my heart that you know nothing
of my wretched money, Nan, and I beg your pardon if I even made you
think I suspected you."

Just before the time for Polly to take the oath her absence was
discovered, but not until the feast of the corn had actually begun did
Mollie and Betty go back to their tent to look for her and they did not
return for so long a time that Miss McMurtry, fearing Polly might be
ill, rose up to follow them.  However, she had only gone a few steps
before the two girls joined her.

"We can't find Polly anywhere, Donna," Mollie said in an extremely
annoyed tone.  "We have looked in all the tents and called and even gone
down to the pine grove.  What silly mood do you suppose has overtaken
her?  For the one thing mother most objects to is for Polly to wander
off alone at night. She did it once when she was a very little girl."

"Don't worry, Mollie, she is sure to be back in half a minute when she
remembers," the older woman replied.



CHAPTER XX

"POLLY"


But Polly did not come back within the hour or indeed all night.
Naturally there was little sleep among the Camp Fire girls or their
guardian who imagined all possible tragedies.  Miss McMurtry wondered if
Polly could have gone down to the lake and in the darkness fallen into
the water, but then the moon was shining brilliantly and she could swim
with perfect ease. This idea was only brought on by fear.  What had
probably happened was that she had wandered off for a walk, lost her way
and decided that it was far wiser to spend the night quietly in the
woods rather than wear herself out with tramping.  When the sunrise came
she would return.

With this idea Miss McMurtry comforted and encouraged the girls, for it
was impossible that they should do more than search for their companion
in the near-by woods and fields.  It is true that Betty wanted to
attempt to climb Sunrise Hill, taking lanterns with her, fearing that
Polly had attempted a short walk and managed to sprain her ankle, and
that Esther and Sylvia Wharton were more than anxious to go with her,
but Miss McMurtry would not hear of it, having a vision of four lost
girls instead of one.  There was nothing to do but wait the few hours
now until daybreak and then if Polly did not return, properly organize
searching parties to seek for her.  If the Camp Fire girls had learned
anything of scouting methods, this would be their opportunity.

Mollie O'Neill was of course the person who required the tenderest care
during the night.  She and Polly were closer than other sisters, so
unlike in temperament and yet one another's shadows.  If only she could
have imagined some explanation for her sister's disappearance, for of
course everybody knew of Polly's sudden vagaries and yet it was unlike
her to be so inconsiderate without cause.

Although Betty Ashton probably understood her friend even better than
her sister did, as she sat quietly by Mollie's side for several hours
insisting that there was really nothing alarming in Polly's flight and
that she would doubtless be both vexed and ashamed of herself in the
morning, she too was equally puzzled.  For naturally she was not so
confident as she pretended, although not until her hour came for rest
and after she had actually tumbled into bed did she break down.  Then
Esther and Sylvia Wharton, who in some strange, quiet fashion seemed a
comfort to everyone to-night, had insisted that they relieve Betty's
watch with Mollie.

Dropping on her couch, not to sleep but to gain strength for the next
day's quest, quite by accident Betty's hand slipped under her pillow.
With a low exclamation, overheard by the other three girls in the tent,
she drew out folded square of paper.  Her name was on the outside,
apparently hurriedly addressed in Polly's handwriting.  It read:

DEAR BETTY:

Your money was stolen, at least not in the way you think it was, but
perhaps in another almost as bad.  For I found it in the woods on the
day when I went into the village alone and I made no effort to find out
to whom it belonged.  You must have dropped it out of your letter on
your way back to camp, for there was no mark on the envelope in which I
found it.  But I do not mean this as an excuse, I do not think it one.
If I had not felt like a thief perhaps I would not have been ashamed to
confess my fault before the other girls as I should have done before our
altar fire to-night.  I tried but I did not have the courage, so I am
going away from camp.  Please tell Miss McMurtry, Mollie and the other
girls and do not ask me to come back, for it is impossible.  If I could
return your money, Betty, I should not feel so bitterly humiliated, but
as I cannot at present I would rather not see you until I can.  Of
course we are no longer friends, for you cannot wish it, and always it
has seemed to me that your wealth and my poverty makes the gulf between
us.  I can only say that I am truly sorry.

Yours sincerely,

POLLY

Having finished this ungracious note of apology Betty handed it without
comment to Esther and then buried her own head in the pillow.  If Polly
could feel toward her in this manner because of a mistake which they had
both made, then nothing she could do or say would make any difference.
For to insist to Polly that she had a perfect right to use the money
found by accident would not be altogether true and would not change her
point of view, while to declare that the return of the money to its
rightful owner was a matter of indifference would only deepen the
misunderstanding.

Less accustomed to Polly's writing Esther read the note aloud slowly and
then it was that Mollie's and Betty's positions were changed, and Mollie
became instead of the comforted--the comforter.

"That is exactly like Polly O'Neill," she announced indignantly, "here
she has done something she ought not to do without thinking, like
spending that money without trying to find its owner, and now because
she is so sorry she goes ahead and makes things worse for everybody
instead of better."  Mollie slid off her own hemlock bed and crossing
the tent sat down by Betty. "Don't you worry, dear, or feel in the least
responsible," she whispered, "you know Polly is hateful sometimes just
because she is so ashamed and miserable she does not know how to be
anything else.  She does care for you more than anyone and you know that
she will do almost anything to make peace with you as soon as she comes
to her senses.  Of course, Betty, I understand you don't care for the
money part, why you would give either of us ten times that amount if you
could and we would accept it, but you won't mind my writing mother to
make things all right."

Then after a few words of explanation to their guardian the Camp Fire
girls slept quietly until daylight, but even after they had eaten a
hurried breakfast together the wanderer had not returned.

So immediately afterwards three parties set out, leaving Edith Norton
and Juliet Field behind to protect the camp and to announce by the
ringing of a bell if Polly should return or if they were in any need.

Betty, Sylvia and Esther went off in one direction, Miss McMurtry and
the two younger girls, Nan and Beatrice, in another, while Mollie, Meg
and Eleanor took the interior of the Webster farm.  The chief obstacle
in their search being that it was apparently impossible to discover the
direction of Polly's footprints on first leaving camp, the grass in the
neighborhood being so constantly trodden down by the feet of so many
girls.

Billy Webster, as he preferred to be called, was in a wheat field with
his reaper just about to start to work, when a Camp Fire girl, whether
Mollie or Polly he could not tell at first, came running toward him in
apparent distress.  So as not to make another mistake he let the girl
speak first, only smiling at her in a sufficiently friendly fashion to
make it very simple.

Mollie's first words were luminous.  "Have you seen anything of Polly?
She is lost or gone away or at least we can't find her!"

Therefore until lunch time Billy kept up the search over the farm with
the three girls.  And though they were not successful in making any
discovery it was surprising what a comfort the girls found him,
particularly Mollie, who seemed to depend on him as though he had been
an old friend.

"I am sure there isn't the least reason to be seriously alarmed," he
assured her half a dozen times with a curious understanding of Polly's
character; "you see your sister has got a funny streak in her that makes
her mighty interesting and mighty uncertain."  (How angry Polly would
have been could she have heard him!)  "She has got a lot to learn before
she settles down."

By noon, finding his three companions nearly exhausted, the young man
persuaded them to go up to the big, comfortable farmhouse, see his
mother, have their luncheon and rest.  And straightway on meeting her,
Mrs. Webster took a liking to Mollie that was to last all the rest of
her life.

During this time Betty, Esther and Sylvia were going slowly along the
main path that led through the fields and finally on to the high road
into the village.  Miss McMurtry and her assistants were climbing
Sunrise Hill.

But Sylvia Wharton was so tediously slow.  About every five minutes she
would stop and kneel down in the dirt, attempting to fit an old shoe of
Polly's into any fresh track she happened to observe.  The other two
girls wandered off into bits of woods or meadows near by, calling and
hunting, but Sylvia never went with them.

"There is no use," she explained, "Polly has gone straight into Woodford
and because it was night had to take the regular path instead of going
through the fields as she usually does."

Claiming to have exactly traced her footsteps Esther and Betty were
still not convinced.  "It is such a stupid idea, Sylvia," Betty argued,
"for there isn't anybody in town now to whom Polly would go in the
middle of the night, and besides she would be ashamed to let people know
she had run away from camp."

Nevertheless Sylvia kept stolidly on and because her companions had
nothing better to suggest they followed after her.

On the high road Sylvia, who would still creep like a tortoise, suddenly
stooped down.  The August dust was very thick along the way and wagons
had already been traveling into town, and yet she picked up a string of
red, white and blue beads, which surely were Polly's, since patriotism
had been one of her chief studies during the summer.

It was also Sylvia's suggestion that led the little party of friends
straight to Mrs. O'Neill's closed cottage.  The doors and windows in
front of the house were sealed, but Betty found the door of the old
kitchen halfway open.  And there inside on her mother's lounge lay
Polly!  She seemed to be almost asleep when the girls entered, but
awakened immediately and in a wholly different frame of mind.

Realizing in the last few hours, when it was too late, how great an
anxiety her disappearance must have caused, she wanted to go back to
camp, to confess her fault and at least to persuade Betty to forgive
her.  Yet she dared not trust herself to go alone, for Polly's head was
aching furiously, her face was hot and flushed and any attempt to walk
made her sick and dizzy.

While Betty and Esther were discussing what had best be done, Polly
having trusted herself wholly to their hands, neither of them noticed
Sylvia Wharton's withdrawal.

When they did there was hardly time to comment upon it before she
reappeared at the back door with her round face covered with dust and
looking more freckled and homelier than ever.

"A carriage will be here in five minutes to take us to camp; I have
ordered it," she announced.



CHAPTER XXI

THE END OF THE SUMMER CAMP


Good-by to summer, good-by, good-by, Good-by to summer

Esther's plaintive song ceased abruptly, for Betty Ashton leaning over
suddenly put her hand to her lips.  And at the same moment Meg Everett
holding fast to Little Brother dropped down on the ground by the girls
with one arm full of early goldenrod and Michaelmas daisies.

"No use to make Esther stop singing, it won't help matters, Betty, dear,
the summer has gone," she exclaimed.  "Little Brother and I have just
seen quail whirring about in the underbrush.  See I lay our autumn
bouquet at your feet," and she tossed her flowers over to Betty.  "Where
is Miss McMurtry?"

Betty made a wry face.  "Gone into town, if you please, to see about
some books--school books.  Oh, it wasn't because I didn't agree with
Esther's song that I made her stop singing, it was because it was so
dreadfully true that I felt at the moment I couldn't bear it.  You are
sorry too, aren't you, Nan?" she queried, turning to the girl on the
other side of her who was sewing industriously on a soft blue cashmere
frock, almost similar in color and texture to the one Betty had at this
moment inside her trunk. The gown represented the complete restoration
of peace between Nan and Betty.  At first there had been some difficulty
in persuading Nan to accept it, but after all Betty had been kinder than
most of the other girls! Moreover, there had been many other expressions
of apology in words and deeds that Nan had accepted and stored away in
her heart.

"I just can't bear to think of it either," she replied slowly, letting
her hands rest idly in her lap for a moment.  "I guess you other girls
can't ever know what these weeks in camp have been to me and what a lot
I've learned.  I hope I ain't going to forget it ever and Miss Martha
says she is going to try to get them to let me come back to the High
School.  It will be all right if any one will trust me enough to give me
work to do afternoons."

Before replying Esther Clark put several pine logs and a great bundle of
pine cones on the fire around which she and her friends were seated, and
the girls were quiet for a moment watching them sparkle and blaze.

"I expect I know, Nan, at least better than any one else," Esther
answered finally, "for you see this is the first summer of my whole life
that I haven't spent at the asylum scrubbing and cooking and nobody
caring anything about my work except that I got it done.  Work this
summer has seemed like play, hasn't it?  And I wouldn't be here, except
for The Princess.  I wonder if I shall ever be able to repay her?"

"Oh, wonder something else, Esther," Betty returned ungraciously, for
references of this kind always made her uncomfortable.  "Here comes
Polly and Mollie and, of course Sylvia.  Bee, will you go find Eleanor
and Juliet and let us have tea here by the camp fire.  Donna and Edith
will probably be here before we finish.  Suppose each one of us places a
stick on the fire and while it burns make a good wish for the Sunrise
Camp.  Hello, Polly, yes Sylvia is perfectly right, you must not sit
down on the ground without something under you, yes, and you must let
her put that wrap over your shoulders, the sun will be going down pretty
soon and then it will be quite cool."

Polly submitted to Sylvia's attentions none too graciously, but a moment
later turned toward the younger girl.  "You are a trump, Sylvia," she
murmured.  "I am sure I don't know what I should have done without you
these past two weeks while I will have been ill.  It is funny how you
should happen to know just what to do for people who are sick when you
are so young!"

Sylvia sat stolidly down next the speaker.  "I am going to be a trained
nurse when I am old enough, that's why," she answered calmly, apparently
not even observing the surprise of her companions.  "You see if I
thought I had sense enough I would try to be a doctor, but as I haven't
I shall just take care of sick people.  I have already learned a good
many things this summer."

Polly whistled and several of the girls laughed.  "I don't doubt it for
a moment, Sylvia Wharton!" Polly exclaimed, "for heaven alone can tell
what you do know!  But it is absurd to talk about your being a nurse,
when you will be the richest one of us, child, perhaps even richer than
'The Princess'."

There was no reply from Sylvia, only her lips shut tight and her chin
looked oddly square and determined for a young girl.  But then Sylvia
looked like her father, who, one must remember, was a self-made man.
And sometimes the daughter also inherits the traits of character that
have made the father a success.

Eleanor and Juliet at this moment appearing with the tea things, the
kettle was hung above the fire on an arrangement of three pronged sticks
and not until tea was over did the girls or Betty remember her
suggestion.  Then she handed Polly a pine knot first.  "Thrust this into
the fire, Polly, dear, and make a parting wish for Sunrise Camp," Betty
explained, "for a few days more you know, and we must fold our tents and
say farewell to our summer."

Polly quickly thrust her torch into the hottest blaze.  "I wish," she
said at once, her cheeks hot from the closeness of the flames and from
her own thoughts, "that everybody in Sunrise Camp would promise to
forgive me for my foolish behavior two weeks ago and all the anxiety and
trouble I caused. The camp has given me a new motto this summer that I
shall at least try to live up to.  It reads: 'Think first!"

"Yes, and if you had only thought second and asked for your mail at the
post office that day after finding Betty's money, Polly, you would have
had your own fifty dollar prize for the best essay on 'A Summer Camp
Fire in the Woods'," Mollie added in her usual practical fashion, and
then she gave a little sigh of relief that the money had been paid back
to Betty without troubling the mother still so far away.

"I wonder if Polly is going to be our genius as well as Eleanor," Esther
next suggested quietly, "every Camp Fire club is sure to turn out at
least one extraordinary person and of course ours will have two or
three."  Then she blushed hotly in her old embarrassed, fashion,
clasping her big hands closely together as Betty, half laughing at her
own suggestion, whispered something in her ear.

Juliet Field wished the Sunrise Camp long life, and Meg that they might
keep up their work together in town during the coming winter, Eleanor
that they might spend the next summer together, and then Betty,
happening quite by chance to observe a wistful expression on Nan's face,
passed the fifth pine stick to her.

"Tell us what you are thinking of, Nan," she said, speaking with special
friendliness to the one girl who had not had entirely fair treatment at
their hands.  "I have an idea you have something special on your mind."

Nan shook her head, although she did what was asked of her.  "Oh no,"
she explained, "or at least I am afraid you will think my wish very
silly.  I was just wishing that we were not going back to the village
but were going to spend our winter together amid the snows."

Nan's suggestion was so surprising that everybody stared at her for one,
almost two minutes before Betty spoke.

"Very well, Nan, let's stay," she returned, as though making a perfectly
ordinary remark.  "I can't bear for Esther and me to have to go back
alone to our great, empty house with mother and father away and no
knowing when they may come back."  (There was a catch in Betty's voice
that her friends understood, for Mr. Ashton was again seriously ill and
there was no hope of his returning to America at present.)  "We can't
live in our tents of course, but I don't know why we can't build a log
cabin and somehow manage to get back and forth to school.  When the snow
comes we can use our big sled."

"You are quite mad, Betty Ashton; Esther, please tie a handkerchief
around her lips before she makes us all equally so," Polly requested,
"for there is no hope of our doing anything so impossible, as she
suggests."  And then because she caught an expression almost of
agreement on her sister Mollie's face, Polly paused, almost overcome
with surprise.  Mollie, the sensible; Mollie, the practical--it was
incredible.

"I don't see that Betty's idea is so foolish, for at least some of us
might be able to live in camp this winter," Mollie thinking aloud as she
talked. "For you see, the doctor has said that Polly must be out of
doors as much as possible for the next year, and mother writes she would
rather not come home at present if we can possibly get on without her,
for there is something or other going on in Ireland that she has not
explained to us, but she says if she can stay a few months longer it may
make a difference in all our futures.  I believe she would be glad to
let us remain in Sunrise Camp for the winter if your mother and father
are willing and we can make things comfortable, Betty," she concluded.

The mental conception of a group of girls living together in a winter's
camp in the woods was evidently too surprising to be grasped all at
once, for no one else at the moment had anything to say, and then
Esther, glancing off across the fields where a soft September haze
suggested the approach of the twilight, exclaimed.  "See, there are Miss
McMurtry and Edith returning from town.  Let us give them our Camp Fire
call to welcome them home."

"Wohelo for work, Wohelo for health, Wohelo for love!"

The ten voices carried the refrain far across the country and somehow
the echo returning to them from Sunrise Hill brought with it the
suggestion of even happier days to come.

The second volume in the Camp Fire Girls' Series will be called "The
Camp Fire Girls Amid the Snows."  In this book the history of the girls
will be revealed under very different conditions.  More than ever will
their life be built around the fire which has always been the center of
the home. Various important changes will take place in the circumstances
of the leading characters and mysteries merely suggested in the first
story will be developed in the second.



The End





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