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Title: Camp Fire Girls in War and Peace
Author: Hornibrook, Isabel
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                    CAMP FIRE GIRLS IN WAR AND PEACE

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                       BOOKS BY ISABEL HORNIBROOK
                     Cloth. Illustrated. $1.50 each

                  CAMP AND TRAIL
                  FROM KEEL TO KITE
                  GIRLS OF THE MORNING-GLORY CAMP FIRE
                  CAMP FIRE GIRLS AND MT. GREYLOCK
                  CAMP FIRE GIRLS IN WAR AND PEACE

                       LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.
                             BOSTON, MASS.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: "My name is Fenn," he volunteered, bowing over the
Guardian's hand.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                            CAMP FIRE GIRLS
                                   IN
                             WAR AND PEACE

                                   By

                           ISABEL HORNIBROOK

           Author of "Girls of the Morning-Glory Camp Fire,"
                "Camp Fire Girls and Mt. Greylock," etc.

                        ILLUSTRATED BY JOHN GOSS

                                 BOSTON

                       LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                        Published, August, 1919

                            Copyright, 1919,
                     By Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co.

                          All Rights Reserved

                    Camp Fire Girls in War and Peace

                             Norwood Press
                          BERWICK & SMITH CO.
                             Norwood, Mass.
                                U. S. A.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                CONTENTS

               I. Gas Valley
              II. The Minute-Girl
             III. The Camp at Twilight
              IV. A Wandering Powder-Puff
               V. Camouflage
              VI. Playing Submarine
             VII. Menokijábo
            VIII. The Leader
              IX. The "Creature Far Above"
               X. Aviators Unawares
              XI. Knights of the Wing
             XII. A Good Line
            XIII. The Main Bitt
             XIV. The Launching
              XV. Seeking the Spark
             XVI. Wigwag
            XVII. A Radio Freak
           XVIII. The Peace Babe
             XIX. The Gold Star
              XX. Christmas of 1918

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             ILLUSTRATIONS

    "My name is Fenn," he volunteered, bowing over the Guardian's
    hand

    Supported on either side by his comrades

    "W'at for you painta her like dat--de leetla boat--eh?"

    "I don't care what anybody says; I'm going to rest a while"

    He sprang from under the wildly swaying timber

    "I do believe it is the--mysterious--seal-hunter"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                    CAMP FIRE GIRLS IN WAR AND PEACE

                               CHAPTER I

                               GAS VALLEY


"Gas!"

Briefest and biggest of all words thrust by the Great War into the
fore-ranks of speech, the word rang aloud upon the summer air.

A kernel of compressed menace, it burst explosively, spread elastically,
until the very sky--the peaceful, lamb's-wool New England sky--seemed
darkened by its threat, until the brown buds, withered in their tender
youth, and the rags of yellow grasses blighted before by its poisoned
breath, trembled and wilted, as it were, anew!

It even withered the morning-glory bloom upon the faces of a quartette
of young girls, who stood a few yards to windward of a little
red-and-white post labeled "Danger Zone," on the other side of which the
warning was given.

Breathlessly, nervously, they shrank together until their shoulders
touched, like fledgling birds struck by the terrors of the first storm
that assails them in the nest, seeking for contact and comfort.

"_Now_ the party is beginning--the ball opening, as our boys say over in
France, when a gas attack is being launched against them. That
smoke-candle off there on the edge of the trench, which is doing more
than's required of it--bursting into flame as well as smoke--that's the
illumination for 'Fritzie's' party! And the rattle--you hear the
policeman's rattle, don't you, shaking its teeth down _in_ the
trenches--that's the opening stunt of the orchestra. See?"

It was a young lieutenant, a boy-officer of twenty-three, who spoke,
with a silver dart in his gray eye matching the gleaming bars upon his
shoulders, as he bent towards the tallest of the four girls whose face
was paling under her velvet hat, uniquely embroidered by her own hand
with certain silken emblems, typifying her name and symbol, together
with the rank she held as a Camp Fire Girl.

"Smoke-candle! D'you mean that foot-high metal thing flaring away there
behind the sand-bags, one of a dozen or so, stationed along the
trench-brim? They don't look much like ordinary candles, but they
certainly can smoke! Such horrid, blinding sulphur smoke, too! Bah!"

She caught her breath a little, that oldest girl, her wide dark eyes
watering, as a tiny yellow feather of the sulphur fumes, stealing
stealthily to windward, wafted from the wing of the main cloud drifting
off to leeward, tickled her throat in teasing fashion.

"Yes, it is blinding thick, isn't it? We must move farther to windward,
away from it." The lieutenant smiled down at her, thinking the hat with
its wide brim, and its delicate, emblematic frontispiece against the
rich velvet--representing crossed logs, a tongue of flame rising from
them and shading into a pearly pinion purporting to be smoke--was the
prettiest headgear he had ever seen.

"Thick! So thick that you could drink it, if--if it wasn't so horridly
pea-soupy and pungent, eh?" laughed another girl, who stood next to the
tallest one, their shoulders touching. "It's as dense as the fog our
Captain Andy used to tell us about; the fog out on the fishing
banks--Grand Banks--which he declared was so thick at times that the
poor fish didn't know when they were atop of the water; they went on
swimming up in the fog. Don't you remember, Olive?" she asked as she
merrily nudged the older, dark-eyed girl who wore the Torch Bearer's
insignia of logs, flame, and smoke--an insignia that stood for a
high-beating heart, as ready and eager to do its share in this moment of
world conflict, as that typified by the silver bars on the lieutenant's
shoulders and the cross-gun on his khaki collar.

It was he, Lieutenant Iver Davenport, or, to come down to detail,
Lieutenant Iver O. P. Davenport, who, thanks to his middle initials and
that keen silver of scrutiny between his narrowed eyelids, was
christened in his infantry company "O Pips," the camp nickname for an
observation post, he who answered, with brotherly freedom, glancing over
the Torch Bearer's shoulder at the brown-eyed girl beyond her.

"Yes, sis, it's as thick as the fogged-fish yarn, or as the fabled fog
that the half-breed pathfinder who was attached to our Boy Scout troop
used to tell of when he'd begin quite modestly that _he_ 'hadn't seen
fog ver' tick--_non_--only one time he see fog so tick dat one mans try
for drink eet an' mos' choke hisself; and wen dey take out dat fog wat
dat mans try for drink, dey take dat for make broomstick--yaas!' Oh! you
couldn't get ahead of _Toiney_; he who--was it three summers
ago?--pulled one of your Camp Fire Group out of dangerous quicksands,
eh?"

"Yes, that will be three years ago next August and we're going to camp
in that same region of white sand-dunes this coming summer, too, under
the spell of the Green Com Moon," returned the boy-officer's sister,
Sara Davenport, named by the Council Fire Sesooā, the Flame.

"Well! we won't see Toiney again." The eyes of the taller girl, Olive
Deering, watered, but in their dark, liquid depths shone Toiney's gold
star, never to be eclipsed. "He sleeps under the daisies of France. You
should have heard him march off to enlist, singing:

               "'C'est un longue chemin à Tip-per-airee,
               Eet's a long way forre go-o--
               C'est un longue chemin à Tip-per-airee,
               To dat chèrie girl--I--know!
               Adieu, Peekadil-lee!
               Adieu Leicestaire Square,
               C'est un longue chemin à Tip-per-airee,
               But my heart--she's dere!'"

"Bravo! Ah, well, he's gone on the _longue chemin_ now--the long
trail--a trail of light it must be," murmured Lieutenant O Pips half
under his breath, his eyes, keen and misty, searching that dense yellow
cloud to leeward, billowing down into a ziggagging maze of trenches--the
cloud thrown off by the smoking sulphur candles, of which here and there
one did more than was required of it, yielded complete combustion and
burst into a ragged, rose-red banner of flame, that added weirdness to
the daylight scene.

Speaking of Toiney--light-hearted, raggedly romantic half-breed--who had
made the supreme sacrifice, presently drew the girls' thoughts to those
living comrades-in-arms of Toiney, the American soldiers now lined up
under that baleful yellow cloud, down in the invisible trenches,
undergoing the training of being "put through gas," in order to render
them expert in adjusting their gas-masks directly the warning was
given--the rattle sprung.

"'Fritzie's party,' as you call it, seems rather halting; they haven't
brought on all the fireworks yet, have they?" suggested a third girl,
known by the Council Fire as Munkwon, the Rainbow, in every-day life, as
now, Arline Champion, the shell-like tint of her cheeks deepening to a
hectic flush from the same expectant emotion which had paled her
sisters.

"No, sometimes the chemists of the Gas Defense Department who have
charge of these sham attacks, turn loose the smoke-cloud several minutes
before they thicken it with the poison waves--gas waves," the officer
answered. "They send it over every old way so that no man down there may
be caught napping," with a brief excited puff of laughter.

"And I suppose this sham 'party' is just as dangerous for the men in the
trenches here, being trained to meet gas, as the real one over there?"
Arline persisted.

"Sure! With them, too, it's the Quick or the Dead, as we say in the
army!... If any one is slow about getting into his mask--otherwise his
_chlorine-fooler_----"

It was at that moment that the whole round earth began, as it seemed, to
"fool" and make believe that an earthquake heavingly rocked it. Up from
the trenches came a loud, rolling report that echoed like thunder
through the yellow cloud. Tearing its veil asunder, a broad sheet of
flame leaped towards the sky. The ground shook under the girls' feet.
Wildly they clutched each other upon the sere skirts of Gas Valley, as
this portion of the great military training-camp, where soldiers were
initiated into the horrors of poison gas, was nicknamed.

"Ha! _Now_ the fun's really on! That turns loose the bitter
tear-gas--worse than a corner on onions for making one weep!" blithely
exclaimed the officer. "Don't be nervous! It's only the explosion of six
sticks of dynamite down in the middle of the trenches, which bursts the
shells on the surface, each containing a little paraffin cup--rice-paper
cup--holding a small quantity of oil, and under that the lachrymatory
liquid--the oniony 'tear-stuff' that would wring tears from a stone
image. There go the chlorine-cylinders, gasping, too!"

He pointed--that young officer, charged like a live bomb himself, the
heated tension of the scene and the excitement of having visitors
reacting upon a naturally fiery disposition--pointed across the
twenty-five yards of blighted vegetation which separated his group from
the trenches, at two tall iron cylinders near which stood a couple of
masked sentries, looming like brown goblins amid the yellow fringes of
the smoke-cloud.

"_What!_ Can they get as near to the horrid, deadly chlorine as all
that?" breathlessly gasped the youngest girl, Ko-ko-ko, Little Owl--amid
scenes like this, remote from the Council Fire, Lilia Kemp.

"Yes, if their masks are perfect, and properly adjusted. Those are two
of the young chemists from the Gas Defense, who are putting over the
'show,' and----"

"Oh, goody! I know now why we're urged to save and collect peach-stones
next summer--ever so many other kinds of pits, too--to make carbon for
soldiers' masks! 'Save the peach-stones; waste not one!' A few may save
a soldier's life! When I'm drying them in the oven--incidentally burning
my fingers, as I'm sure to do, I'll feel really like--like----"

"Like the real girl behind the lines," put in Lieutenant O Pips, his
eyebrows lifting, in turn interrupting Little Owl as she had blinkingly
interrupted him. "See, now, the 'ball' is on in good shape! There go the
big firecrackers simulating shells, so that the men's nerves may be
prepared for bursting shrapnel; and the electric bombs exploding
everywhere, in and out along the surface of the trenches, loosing more
tear-gas!--Oh! this--this is spectacular now. But you should just see it
at night. Then it's Inferno, sure enough!"

"It--it's that, in daylight, when one thinks of the _men_ down there!"
Olive Deering bit her lip, gazing steadfastly in the direction of the
veiled trenches, above which the yellow smoke-screen was torn by the
popping of monster firecrackers, pricked by the laughter of roseate
flashes, so bright, so elfin, that who could dream their fairy splendor
was but the glitter of a key to unlock tears?

"The men undergoing initiation in the trench-bays? Oh, bless you!
they're all right, unless--unless it should be a case of:

           "'The gas came down and caught the blighter slow.'

"But there _won't_ be any 'blighter' to-day--there couldn't be!" He
bent, that very tall young officer, nearer to Olive's ear, the
nineteen-year-old girlish ear under the Torch Bearer's hat. "Nobody
knows how I have been looking forward to this day, Olive, this spring
day, when you girls would visit me in camp before I went over! I'm sorry
that your father, Colonel Deering, and your aunt chose to pay a visit to
Headquarters, Brigade Headquarters, instead--instead of coming on here
to inspect the fireworks in Gas Valley."

"Fireworks never to be forgotten!" murmured Olive, coloring a little as
the luck of this longed-for holiday coined itself into a silver bar in
the eager eyes bent upon her, matching the luck of those other silver
shoulder-bars for which the young Plattsburg graduate had "plugged" so
hard.

"Father has an old friend who is Captain of Headquarters Troop, but
we'll find him again later," she said, suddenly rather breathless from
the moving conviction that when the youth--for he was little
more--beside her faced the poisoned horror-waves of the real Gas Valley
"over there," when he crouched, sleepless, in a cold and muddy
trench-bay or led his men over the top, she, for him, would be beyond
all others--even more than the brown-eyed sister to whom his glance
roved now--the girl behind the lines, beyond the ocean, typifying
America the Beautiful, standing for all he would die, smiling, to
defend.

It may be that the prospect unrolled itself vaguely before the young
soldier's mind, for, as he straightened himself again, training his keen
gaze once more upon the smoke-cloud, thickened with poison-waves, he was
humming unconsciously, involuntarily, lines of a crude camp-song:

          "Only one more kit-inspection,
            Only one more dress-parade,
          Only one more stifling stand-to--bleeding stand-to,
            And the U. S. will be saved!"

"Stifling stand-to! Well, I guess the men down there in the trenches are
having that now, 'gooing' up their masks--their chlorine-foolers--in
that popping, heated cloud," gasped his sister, racy little Sesooā,
turning from a certain "kit-inspection" which she was holding upon the
toilet and general get-up of another visitor to Camp Evens, not attached
to her girlish party.

"Um-m! Isn't that muff of _hers_ pretty, the--the 'spiffiest' thing!"
appraised Sara in silent soliloquy, the springy elasticity in herself
causing her to rebound more readily than did her companions from the
shock of seeing a gas attack launched; at her core there was a gay
flame--a buoyant "pep"--which refused to succumb even to Inferno, with
its yellow acres of sulphur smoke, its deadly waves of chlorine gas, its
tormenting "tear stuff."

"Humph! Rather late for a muff, though, seeing it's April. We've
discarded ours," reflected further the self-constituted inspector of
"kit," otherwise clothing and equipment, upon the skirts of the
military training-camp, as she shot a firefly glance towards the sky,
more like July than April--flecked with lamb-like fleeces nestling in
an arch of blue. "But then one may be forgiven for holding on to a
thing like that! Adds the last touch of style to her costume! I wonder
how many birds gave up their lives to make that muff: all dove-gray
breast-feathers--tiny feathers--and the fashionable turban which goes
with it.

"Her tailored suit is perfect, too; almost puts Olive's new jersey one
in the shade," was the next random comment after a few seconds of
absorption in the noise and novelty of the near-by attack, the monster
fire-crackers, snapping, bursting, momentarily flowering in the yellow
field of smoke. "And her gray cloth blouse with that soft, swathing
collar around the throat, high under her ears!... Some officer's wife
most likely! Wonder what age she might be--thirty--thirty-two? For all
her style she isn't quite thoroughbred-looking like Olive--our Blue
Heron," shooting a sidelong glance at the pale, emotional face under the
velvet hat adorned with the delicately embroidered logs and flame. "And
she's not in the same class at all for beauty; judging by the profile,
that young woman could dispense with a little of her cheek-bone and
chin. But--but what a wonderfully smooth pink skin; looks as if it had
just been massaged--was massaged every day! Her skirt's a trifle long; I
suppose her feet aren't pretty; that would be in keeping with her
shoulders, for they're rather broad--looks as if she played basket-ball
and hockey. Athletic type, I guess. Her hair's much the color of mine,
but those silver threads in the mat over the ears--they--they add
distinction; almost wish _I_ were turning gray! What!"

The critic caught her breath, for the lone visitor, perhaps feeling the
scrutiny, turned and boldly looked at her--looked through her, felt the
Camp Fire Girl--with a glance as cool as an Arctic snow-blink. Bluish
eyes--this stranger had, the gray-blue of salt ice, that.... Were they
trying to infuse a little warmth into the ice-blink? Sesooā's confused
thoughts--rather abashed--never knew. For she hastily turned from this
kit-inspection in which she had been furtively indulging, to seek refuge
in the smoke-cloud.

And it was at that very moment that she heard a strange, hoarse
exclamation from her soldier brother. At that very moment, too, she,
together with her Camp Fire Sisters, felt as if the ground, now steady,
rocked once more violently, sickeningly, under their feet.

What was happening upon the near edge of that dense sulphur-cloud, to
leeward?

Its yellow muzzle was lifting.

Silently, stealthily, it was opening its poisoned mouth--and giving
forth!



                               CHAPTER II

                            THE MINUTE-GIRL


Up the brown sod-steps, from the yellow-veiled trenches, out over the
lumpy, skirting sand-bags, out into the withered vegetation of Gas
Valley, stumbled three figures! Masked figures they were, goggle-eyed,
grotesque, with white beaks of tubing which, curving downward from those
brown face-masks, pecked in the satchels upon their own breasts!

Forth from the cloud they came, goblin figures, with horrid green spots
upon their khaki blouses where the deadly chlorine had preyed on their
metal buttons.

And before the petrified girlish gaze one--the middle one--rocked and
pitched, like a corroded ship at sea, pitching to windward!

"Oh, somebody is injured--poisoned--_g-gassed_!"

Sesooā heard Olive's cry, which pitched like the advancing figure, and
forgot completely the informal "kit-inspection" to which she had been
subjecting the buxom young woman of the skin and shoulders, who carried
a feather muff under the April sky.

"Yes! Some one has got it--was muddle-headed--did not get his mask on
quickly enough. Or else something was wrong with his 'chlorine-fooler.'"

Now it was her brother's voice, that of the boy-officer, and she
realized--hot-hearted little sister--what it would mean to him that, on
this day of all days, it should be that:

           "The gas came down and caught the blighter slow."

Poor Blighter! Supported on either side by his comrades, who dragged him
along by the arms, he, the stumbling middle man, wildly clutched his
khaki breast, as if holding it together--as if keeping it from bursting!

"Lay him on his side, men--feet higher than his head! Remove his mask,
and give him air!"

Again it was the young lieutenant who spoke, and, glancing up at him,
the girls saw that the silver luck of this long-anticipated day was
tarnished in his eyes, as if the villainous chlorine had preyed upon
that, too.

Concern was in those eyes, strong concern. Behind it lurked bitter
chagrin, only needing a spark to the fire and tow of a hasty temper to
ignite it to leaping anger--with a headlong haste to fix the
responsibility for the most untimely accident.

But, through it all, he was aware of another responsibility--that of his
four girl-guests.

"Stand off!" he ordered them, almost violently. "Get farther to
windward. Some of the gas is clinging to his clothing!" This while the
two uninjured soldiers were removing the victim's mask and their own,
tossing his aside upon the grass, together with the respirator-satchel
to which it was attached (the type of satchel which would by and by hold
the purifying carbon made from Camp Fire Girls' peach-stones and pits),
so that the gas, which had somehow penetrated the mask, might leak out.

[Illustration: Supported on either side by his comrades.]

"_Keep off!_ Get away--off--to windward! Don't you--don't you get
it--the whiff of chlorine from his uniform--r-rich smell----"

Her brother was almost beside himself by this time--Sara knew--in his
concern over the whole untimely mishap, and his anxiety for his
visitors' safety.

Obediently--loyally--she moved in the direction from which the fresh
breeze blew, herself, dragging two of her companions with her.

But one girl, sneezing, choking, with the flame of the Torch Bearer's
emblem upon her hat, striking downward, lighting her cheeks with a
counter-fire--one dared to disobey.

"Gas clinging to his clothing! What--do--I care?" she gasped, feeling
her own smooth lungs scorched, her sweet breath seared, not only by the
unlaid ghost of chlorine gliding by her, but also by a reflection of the
torture going on in that poisoned breast upon the grass, where the
victim's blue, pinched nostrils fought desperately for the wavering
breath of life.

Blue Heron, Torch Bearer, looked down at him and, on the instant, she
went over the top, as brave men do, in the first wave of knowledge--the
seasoned wave of training.

"I--I know what to do for him," she panted on the wings of a gassed
sneeze. "I've taken an elementary Red Cross course--have talked with
nurses who've been across. Some--some idea of going over as a nurse's
aid, if father would let me!... Aromatic spirits of ammonia--that would
help! Carry it always when I'm off with dad, because--because of
his--faint----"

Even as the unfinished sentence tickled her throat like a tainted
feather, she was kneeling beside the gassed soldier, plucking wisps from
a tiny fleece of cotton-wool in her pin-seal bag, moistening them from a
little phial, holding them, one by one, to the laboring nostrils, or
chaffing the victim's right hand, stiffening like a poisoned claw,
between her own girlish palms--trying to rub the life back into it.

Her younger Camp Fire Sisters watched her from the position which they
had been ordered to take up, a few yards to windward, where the young
April breeze, keeping guard over them like a skipping brother, warded
off the ghost of gas.

They clasped their hands tensely as they saw her forced to a position
behind the sufferer's head, to windward of his tainted clothing, by the
pale, strained officer who forebore to interfere further because the
vanishing gas-ghost was too weak for danger--as they beheld her kneeling
there, dauntlessly ministering, quailing not before the staggering
horrors of the gas sickness--the spewed blood upon the ground.

"Olive! _Olive!_ Look at her! Isn't she wonderful--wonderful! And
she--she was 'reared in cotton-wool' herself, as the saying is!" Tears
sprang to Sesooā's eyes. "Nothing but ease and luxury!... 'Elementary
Course!' Oh, she never jumped to this by fifteen lessons--and talking
with nurses!" The voice was the low moaning of a Flame. "_Never!_ She
came to it by the long trail, the Camp Fire trail--hiking, climbing,
sleeping out on mountain-tops, or by the seashore, having our little
accidents, until--until we just forgot that we were _we_!"

"You forgot that you were you!" echoed the guardian breeze.

"Not one of us--one of us--was a flower-pot plant!"

"True! You weren't!" corroborated Brother Gust.

"But Iver--Iver! Oh, this is terribly hard for him!" was the Flame's
next moaning outburst. "Besides his sympathy for the poor soldier, he's
feeling bitterly now that there--there goes his reputation for a smart
and seasoned company! He--he's all ready to be splitting mad with
somebody. And he has a temper, my brother Iver. Mine's like it only I
don't--can't--explode with quite so much force."

Lieutenant Iver was exploding now, with all the luck of the holiday
tarnished in his eyes, his nostrils smoking like a sulphur-candle in his
eagerness to nail the blighter who was responsible for the ghastly
accident that had, incidentally, withered the flowers of this day of
days for him.

"How--how did it happen?" he asked tensely, addressing one of the
infantrymen who had dragged the gassed victim up out of the trenches, a
tall sergeant--a young sergeant--to whom it had fallen to inspect the
gas-masks, to make sure that they were in perfect order, before the men
entered the smoky trench-bays.

"Was he muddle-headed--slow about getting his mask on--when the alarm
was given--the rattle sprung?"

"No, it didn't 'rattle' him a bit," the sergeant answered, meeting the
question with level eyes. "He had his mask on quicker than I had,
sir--properly adjusted, too--was jollying us through it----"

"Then--then the fault _must_ have been yours. Something was wrong with
the mask itself! As Gas N. C. O. for to-day, you were detailed to
inspect all respirator-masks before the men entered the trenches. I'll
report you for neglect of duty. You'll be put in the guardhouse for
disobedience.... I don't know how _you_ came by your stripes!"

The lightning-flash of the officer's eye withered the drab chevron upon
the sergeant's arm.

"Oh, mercy! that Gas N. C. O. (non-commissioned officer) is in for it
now. He--he'll get a 'skinning.' Iver's temper is up. He's going to
'bawl him out,' or, as they say in camp, give him a fearful rating."

The hands of Iver's brown-eyed sister clasped and unclasped feverishly
as she spoke, hanging on tiptoe upon the skirts of the main group around
the convulsed victim.

Her ears were deliriously strained to catch the next words of that
figurative "bawling out" in which scorching satire would take the place
of shrill sound. They were low, but fiery enough to sear even her, at a
distance.

But before the sergeant had been thoroughly "skinned" an
interruption occurred. An older man who happened to be passing,
hurriedly--anxiously--joined the group.

He wore two silver bars upon each level shoulder.

"Look! Look! He's Captain Darling--captain of my brother's company,"
panted Sara to her companions.

Captain Darling did a strange thing--a thing which brought the girls'
hearts skipping into their throats--almost with an hysterical impulse to
titter--like the light spray on the deep, deep wave when it bursts
overwhelmingly.

He strode over to where the sufferer's gas-mask lay upon the yellow
grass--the chlorine-fooler which had failed to fool--put his hand into
the breast-satchel attached to it, pulled out and held up--a few burnt
matches.

"Ha! I thought so. This--this exonerates the sergeant. No doubt he did
make a thorough inspection! Contrary to orders, the man carried matches
in his satchel with his mask. The heat down there, on the threshold of
the smoke-cloud, ignited them _after_ he entered the trench--they're
warm still. They injured the mask--burned a tiny hole in the face-piece;
see!"

The captain held up the goggle-eyed mask, with its brown face-piece, its
white celluloid nose-clip and flutter-valve, through which a soldier's
breath and saliva escaped together. Surely enough, there was a tiny,
blackened hole, no bigger than a pin's head, piercing the rubber of that
khaki-colored face-piece!

"Oh! Oh! _In spite_ of all this, I'm glad we came to-day. I hardly
realized before how much a man's life in this terrible war depends upon
his gas-mask--upon the disinfectants in his satchel through which he
breathes! 'A few peach-stones may save a soldier's life!' Didn't seem
possible! But 'twill make the work we girls are asked to do in war-time
seem so--so--_different_!"

The outburst--low and tearful--came from Arline, a rain-streak, not a
rainbow, now!

But Sara Davenport was beyond speech. A fiery hand clasped the back of
her neck as she glanced from her officer-brother, fiercely biting his
lip while he contemplated the charred match-ends, to the "skinned"
sergeant--completely vindicated.

"O dear! Iver will feel _now_ that he's made a fool of himself, that
he's the blighter, for--for going on the storm-path and fiercely
scolding that sergeant before he _knew_ that he was to blame," thought
the fiery little sister. "Just--like--me! How often I feel that way
after bursting like a hot pepper!... Iver says himself that he has a
'whiz-bang' temper, but it's too bad that he should be caught
discharging 'whiz-bangs' before Olive. He worships Olive. I guess when
he goes over--as he will, oh-h! so soon--when he's lonely or homesick,
lying out in some horrid shell-hole, or rooted in trench-mud until he
feels himself sprouting, he'll be thinking of her, probably as she is
now, kneeling by a gassed soldier--true Minute-Girl--no more the Olive
Deering that she was when I first knew her, two years ago,
than--than.... Oh, for pity's sake! There--there's that 'Old Perfect'
with the muff and skin and shoulders again. I wonder if she heard him
pitching into the sergeant, too. Couldn't! She was too far off. But
she's smiling at those miserable match-ends. What--what an iceberg! If
we had her in camp this summer, we wouldn't need any underground
refrigerator.... Ugh! I'd like--to--bite--her!" From which it may be
inferred that the little sister was right in her self-arraignment; that
there was more than one temper of the whiz-bang order, a flame at this
moment upon the sear skirts of Gas Valley.

But there was no flame under the snow-light smile which shed a peculiar
whiteness over the face of the detached visitor to camp. Perhaps she was
conscious of its frigidity herself, for, curiously enough, she plucked
at the corner of her mouth with her right hand, momentarily withdrawn
from the feather muff.

The gray-gloved fingers of that hand--forefinger in evidence--described
an airy semicircle, a vaguely twirling motion at her smooth, smooth,
lip-corner, with the thumb as pivot! But abruptly the whole hand spread
itself out to the sunshine, in bland elegance, as "Old Perfect" caught
the girlish glance darted, sidelong, towards her, and then dropped to
her side.

Really, it was a glance as preoccupied as the gesture itself, for
two-thirds of Sara Davenport's mind was at the moment a storm-zone,
swept by concern for her brother and anxiety for the gassed victim who
was himself to blame for his misery--and that clouded the other third.

Any point that the movement might have had was blunted against the broad
thrill of an arrival from the base hospital of a stretcher for _him_,
seeing that he must not be tucked away in an ambulance as yet, his only
hope of recovery being fresh air and the gas-allaying power of Brother
Gust.

But, although the troubled eye of the conscious self may be dim and
clouded, there is in each of us, young or old, another self forever on
the alert--even when he seems to be dreaming. Men name him the
Subconscious.

A shy fellow and retiring, he is, nevertheless, an expert photographer,
forever snap-shotting things which concern us, although he has a trick
of hiding away the films--sometimes for long--until some shock compels
him to produce them.

Perhaps he took such a snap-shot now of the elegant young woman whose
smile was a snow-blink--like an Arctic reflection--upon the skirts of
the yellow sulphur-cloud.

Perhaps, some day, he might, under unusual spur, produce the
negative--the indelible negative for a vivid picture of this whole
harrowing scene, when, on the brown outskirts of camp:

            "The gas came down and bowled the Blighter out."



                              CHAPTER III

                          THE CAMP AT TWILIGHT


              "'When you come to the end of a perfect day,
              And you sit alone....'

"Well! we're not sitting alone, so that's more sentimental than
suitable." Sara Davenport broke off short in the low song which she had
started, looking away over the yellow cantonments of broad Camp Evens,
turned to fine gold by the sun's last flaming ray.

"And I'm sure it's been anything but a perfect day! What about the poor
blighter, and his matches?" struck in her officer-brother, who, seated
edgeways upon the railing of the lofty balcony surrounding the camp
Hostess House, half-faced the four girls who had been his guests at the
illuminated "smoke party" in Gas Valley.

At a little distance, absorbed in the sunset effects upon the burnished
rows of elevated barracks brooding like gilded dove-cots, were Olive's
father, Colonel Deering, and a much-loved spinster-cousin, who, during
the morning, had been calling upon an old friend, an officer attached to
Headquarters Troop.

"The Blighter! Oh! he's not _outmatched_ yet," laughed Olive.
"Didn't--didn't the last word from the base hospital proclaim that he
was getting better?"

"Anyhow, we could forgive him," murmured Arline half under her breath,
in quivering rainbowed speech, "because here we've been, for the past
year or two, trying to live up to the hardy Minute-Girl program, hiking
so many hours a week, sleeping out, though at first we 'caved' before a
cow-bell,"--a double rainbow, this, shedding a reflection of
laughter--"and now--now this morning proves that one of our number, at
least, could be truly an Emergency Girl!"

She cast a moved look at Olive.

"Ah, yes!" Sesooā shot an amused glance through her half-closed
lashes--pretty eyelashes they were, which began by being dark and,
shading to amber, now stole gold tips from the sunset--a peculiarity
rather typical of Sara herself, and of her speech at the moment, which
showed that she was determined that any allusion to the morning should
be tipped off with lightness. "Ah, yes! battling with gas is one thing,
but--for Olive--battling with grass and grubs in a war-garden may be
quite another! Wait till it comes to fighting weeds an' witch-grass. How
much--how much of the dauntless Emergency Girl will be on deck then, I
wonder, in our oasis by the seashore?"

"Oh! she'll be there--a hundred per cent of her!" protested the Torch
Bearer, her courage rising to a treble trill.

"Humph! Your voice sounds as if you had just eaten a canary-bird, my
dear--and it was only squab that we had for dinner!" merrily mocked the
Flame. "But will--will the note be as sweet when, on some broiling hot
morning in July or August, the bugle sounds Fatigue on the edge of those
white sand-dunes, where we're going to camp? And it's 'Fall in for work
in the field!' amid the potato-rows on the one semi-green hill that
would grow a 'tater' within a mile of us! A case of 'Joan of Arc, they
are calling you! Lead your comrades to the field!' ... Oh! you should
have seen Olive in silver-scaled armor, as the Maid of France, with her
holy lance uplifted, in some tableaux that we gave for the benefit of
the Red Cross. She did make a hit!"

Sara's eyelashes twinkled in the direction of her brother. He shifted
his edgy position a little on the railing. His color rose slightly as he
glanced towards the modern Joan, a girl like a white orchid, whose dark
eyes and hair, with the capacity for spiritual fervor in her face,
offered rare material for such an impersonation. But he did not answer.

Perhaps, when he did go over, this keen-eyed young officer of the fiery
mettle, nicknamed in camp O Pips, or Observation Post, from the unerring
alertness in him which made him come down hard upon a blunder--he whose
temper exploded like a whiz-bang--the picture on which he would dwell
oftenest, of the oldest girl in this group, would, he felt, outshine
every other.

It would show her kneeling by a gassed soldier, with the flame and smoke
of the Torch Bearer's emblem upon her hat seeming especially designed to
fight that other hateful yellow smoke and flame rolling away from her to
leeward--the one the type of ideality that would finally win out over
the baleful reality of the other, and leave none but the flame of
brotherhood, with its sacred smoke of service, burning in the soul of
man.

It was the ideal for which the soldier himself was going over to
fight--going "shod with the _preparation_ of the Gospel of
Peace"--though humanly rough-shod!

He pulled himself together.

"And so you're going to sport a war-garden on this jumping-off spot that
you're bound for next summer, to camp out during July and August on the
edge of those white sand-dunes. I thought nothing could flourish there
but sand-snails an' seals, with--with, perhaps, this summer, an
occasional submarine thrown in," he laughingly remarked. "Aren't you
afraid that if you're out on the water at all, a sub may come to the
surface and fire a tin fish at you?"

"Oh! catch her wasting a torpedo on us when she'd have nothing to hit
but my little blunt-nosed dory that you gave me, Iver; or Little Owl's
Indian canoe, which she mends with rosin when it sucks in water like a
thirsty cow!" Sara, the lieutenant's sister, burst into a laugh, looking
sidewise at Ko-ko-ko--the Camp Fire Owlet--otherwise Lilia Kemp.

"Well, if it does leak a little, it's a 'slick bit of birch-bark,' for
all that, as Captain Andy says." Lilia chuckled. "You're all just
envious of my genuine Indian canoe, brought by my father from Oldtown,
Maine, and built by an Indian named Nodolinât--canoe-maker. I'm thinking
of changing my Camp Fire name to Dolina, which has something to do with
a canoe, either making or mending it, see?"

"_Marring_ it, you mean! It's a funny-looking craft when you have the
bottom all plastered over with sticky rosin," challenged Sara. "Oh,
besides dory and birch-shell, I suppose we'll have our old reliable, the
broad, flat-bottomed camp skiff, which Captain Andy calls a 'tender old
wagon,'" laughingly.

"Captain Andy! Are you going to have that old king-pin with you again,
shouldering the safety of a dozen girls or more? I don't envy him." The
soldier smiled.

"Now, you do! You know you do! We can't have him all the time. War got
him back into active service. He's been 'skippering' a coaster carrying
lumber from some part of Maine round to the Essex shipyards," said
Arline. "Wasn't that it, Olive? You had a letter from him."

"Yes, but lately he had to give it up because of his lameness, and is
doing his 'bit' in other directions," replied Blue Heron, her dark eyes
gazing off into the last rays of the sunset. "You know those country
shipbuilding yards aren't so very far from where we're going to camp on
the white Ipswich beach. By the bye,"--laughter trickling through her
speech like sunlit water through a sieve--"by the bye, do you all know
who's going to work in those shipyards, this coming summer, if they
draft him for labor? Why, my cousin, Atty Middleton Atwell!"

"Atwood Atwell, of Atwood and Atwell, city bankers! What! What! That
young sprig from Nobility Hill? I beg your pardon!" The soldier,
slipping off his perch, smiled apologetically at Olive, whose girlhood
had blossomed in the same luxuriant soil of ancestral wealth. "Why! that
kid is worth a million or two in his own right. And his
great-grandfather--plus a couple more 'greats'--signed the Declaration,
eh?"

"Is--isn't that the very reason why he should do his part where it's
most needed, as he's too young to go across?" The oldest girl's eyes
twinkled challengingly. "Take my other cousin, Clayton Forrest; he's not
twenty-one yet! War was no sooner declared than off he went, hotfoot,
and enlisted in the local infantry company being raised in his little
town--about fifty young men from his father's big loom-works signing up
with him. And Clay--up to this, Clay was never a 'grind,'" laughingly,
"any more than--than Atwood was!"

"Good enough! And you have two more cousins in the navy, haven't you?"

"Yes, indeed, she has! Why, it was with one of them, Admiral Haven
Warde's son, that Olive went down in a submarine; actually--actually
submerged! Think of it!" put in the Rainbow--Arline--again, rosy now
with vicarious excitement, as if the wonderful experience for one of
their number touched _her_ with an after-glow. "That--that's what it
means to be daughter of a steel king who's connected with government
shipbuilding yards! Ensign Warde is Junior Aide to the Commandant of the
Miles River Navy Yard."

"And--and it was off there that you--dove! Jove! that was an experience.
What did it feel like?" The soldier's eyes flashed curiously.

"Awfully still an' tense while we were going down--just about half a
minute, you know--with the big engines all stopped and only the electric
motors going! And the swish of the water against the sub's side! I
closed my eyes and felt like a shell-fish. But when I opened them again
on the bottom, oh! it was a fairy palace down there, under the sea--such
bright electric lights glittering on wheels and pipes and I don't know
what not; a--a regular miracle-world of machinery," in awed girlish
tones.

"I suppose so, every inch--about--crammed full of mechanical power,
except the forward quarters, where the officers slept!" suggested the
lieutenant.

"Yes, and made toast and tea on a little electric contrivance attached
to the shining switchboard that controlled the dynamos," supplemented
the favored one who had dived to sea-nymph's regions in a steel shell,
internally so radiant, so charged with magical power that it might make
Neptune himself feel outclassed. "I--I was a fish again when we came to
the surface once more, broke water, and climbed up into the
conning-tower, to look through the periscope's eye! It seemed such a
strange dream-world that I saw outside, not one bit familiar; either
very clear and shining and remote, or with waves and boats--and trees
along the shore--looming unnaturally large and frowning, according as
the telescope was adjusted. Oh-h! I'm sure I was a nice little flounder
or haddock then," merrily, "taking a peep at the upper world."

"You came near 'floundering' out--being shot out, rather--through the
mouth of the conning-tower into the gray pulpit, or superstructure,
where you might have preached a sermon to the fishes on power, if you
hadn't been killed; that was through--gracious!--through one tiny
misstep on an automatic lever, like a sleeping tiger. The Junior Aide,
who could control the beast, saved you just in time, eh?" prompted Sara,
but abruptly swallowed her chaff as she caught her soldier-brother's
eye.

She knew he was envying that Junior Aide, the young naval ensign, with
the gold cord drooping from his left shoulder, thinking that no girl as
attractive as Olive--as game in an emergency, too--should have quite so
many heroic cousins.

What chance, in her memory, could an ordinary peppery lieutenant in an
infantry company have against them--a lieutenant who had let his rash
temper betray him into prematurely "skinning" a sergeant?

"I guess I was the blighter myself to-day--or as much of a 'blight' as
that poor 'doughboy' with the matches--for letting temper, headlong
anger, _gas_ me. That little flame of a sister of mine, Sara, and I, we
have the same sort of 'pull-the-pin-and-see-me-explode' temper," he
murmured heavily later, this thought rankling, in the ear of the oldest
girl, who had looked into dreamland through the rounded eye of a
periscope, when her companions had withdrawn to another corner of the
lofty balcony for a better view of the sunset.

"Oh! don't talk of 'blights!'" she gasped laughingly. "I'm afraid that
'bothering bugs' and plant mildew won't be in it with me for--for a
'hoodoo' when it comes to our working steadily three hours a day,
weather permitting, in that green oasis of a war-garden amid the sandy
desert of the white dunes, when we're camping out, the coming summer!
And yet I--I was the first to volunteer when the president of the
Clevedon County Farm Bureau addressed all the Camp Fires of our city a
week ago, and called for recruits for just that very thing. If I don't
stick to my pledge the other girls won't. And we know America has got to
be the 'world's pantry.' But, O dear! give me knitting, sewing, painting
war-posters, posing, _anything_ else, from morning till night, except
weeding an' hoeing when the sun's hot and--and one's back feels as
crooked as--as one of those old French streets that the boys write home
about!"

Blue Heron straightened her long, girlish spine with humorous
apprehension. She was a tall girl, the white parting on the right side
of her dark little head being on a level with the soldier's cheek-bone,
if they were both standing.

"Oh! you'll carry on." He smiled at her. "It's a good line; hold it!"

"As you will when you repel an attack, or--or go over the top!... When
d'you suppose you'll be--starting--across?"

"No knowing! At any minute, perhaps! But--but, if you should be around
here a week from to-day, you _may_ see me, still on this side,
undergoing gas initiation--getting my medicine down in the trenches at
the hands of the Gas Defense Division, Chemical Warfare Service.
Certainly those young chemists have a witch's imagination in the horrors
they put over on us!" The soldier laughed.

"And they hold their classes every Thursday. I expect to be in the
neighborhood, anyway, because father will. And Sara, you know, is
staying with me. The other girls go back to the city to-morrow, to be in
time for a ceremonial meeting of our Camp Fire Group, at which we're
going to have a novel initiation of our own--initiate, as a novice, that
is, a foreign-born Camp Fire Sister, whom we've adopted for nine months,
little Flamina Miola, born in Italy! I'm teaching her one or two
patriotic poems--along with our special ritual--and you should hear her
begin on:

                    "'Merica's de lan' we lova.
                    Oh, granda lan' so free,
                    An' school-a-mate, wherto I go,
                    Dis is de Flag fora me!"

"Good!"

"I chose her name for her, too: Nébis, A Green Leaf. Isn't that pretty?
She's going to camp out with us this summer."

"Green Leaf for Little Italy! It is poetic. I hope you'll make it a
laurel leaf. Well! I guess that sometimes, over there, when a fellow
misses some of the things that--that make life hum, you know; when I'm
'gooing' up my gas-mask or, maybe, drawing pictures with my 'toothpick'
(bayonet) in the mud, I'll think of you Camp Fire Girls. You certainly
have a corner on the poetic--fringes, beads, ceremonies--and it only
seems to hearten you to meet what's rough--ugly."

"That's our outdoor life," half whispered Olive. "We get so many new
sensations, come so near to--to the heart of things that we----Why!
sometimes I,"--she caught her breath in a little low gush of
confidence--"I feel as if it were only the fag-end of me that was shut
up in--in the five feet eight or nine of flesh and blood--bloomers and
blouse--called Olive." The low girlish voice soared softly upon the last
word as to a height from which the girlish soul looked out upon a great
Adventure.

"You mean that you get a real glimpse into unseen things--spiritual
things!" The soldier's voice was low too--low and thrilled. "Well, since
we are wading into the deep things, I may say to as much of Olive as is
left in the fetching jersey suit beside me now, that ours is a rough
game, but somehow, as it were, I have come nearer--nearer to God since I
volunteered.... I wish it could help me to get the better of
a--whiz-bang temper."

The Torch Bearer's eyes were wet. So were the soldier's. The last word
had been said. All she could do was to put out a tremulous little hand
and touch his understandingly. He wanted very much to stoop and kiss it.
But he didn't. For he remembered that, though he wore his Plattsburg
shoulder-bars, yet they were hardly more than Boy and Girl. And up to
the threshold of this unifying war-time their lives had not run in
parallel channels, as did that of the Junior Aide, who was an admiral's
son, for instance.

So he only covered the girlish hand warmly with his own--held it nested
for a moment as that of a comrade with whom one has shared the secret
trail, the rainbow trail, that leads into the unseen.

And he hid another, and very special, picture away in his soldier's
heart to brighten those moments when, riding endless miles on a troop
train, "hitting the hay" at midnight or vegetating in mud until he felt
himself sprouting, he might miss those things which make life hum.



                               CHAPTER IV

                        A WANDERING POWDER-PUFF


"That's Iver! Oh! no distance, nor trench, could prevent my recognizing
him."

The cry of rapt identification came from Iver Davenport's
seventeen-year-old sister, Sara.

"Yes, one can single out his shoulders at a glance--an inch higher than
those of any other man in his company--Lieutenant O. Pips!"

It was Colonel Deering who amusedly spoke, president of the Board of
Directors of the Craig Steel Works, retired colonel of a national guard
regiment, and father of two very attractive daughters, Olive and Sybil,
Camp Fire Girls, of whom only one was present here, on the sear skirts
of Gas Valley, the outskirts of the great military training-camp, where
the army chemists of the Gas Defense Division were again holding their
so-called "classes" initiating soldiers into an experience with poison
gas.

"Oh! I'm so glad that we'll have a chance to see him again--Iver--before
he goes over. I didn't let him know that we were coming to-day; 'twill
be quite a surprise when he stalks up out of the trenches--and unmasks."
Again the eager exclamation burst from Sara, a kindling flame of
excitement, as standing on the edge of the camp trenches, behind the
skirting sand-bags, she craned her young neck over, to gaze along a
narrow earth-cut, six feet deep, to a curving trench-bay in which her
brother was stationed with a few other officers--all still without their
masks--to undergo an initiation on his own account.

"He said, last week, that if we happened to be visiting camp to-day, we
might see him getting his medicine at the hands of the young chemists of
the Gas Defense Division, who have a witch's imagination when it comes
to horrors." Olive smiled. "I don't suppose that this is his first
initiation, though, by any manner of means."

"No, they keep 'putting them through gas'--or some substitute for poison
gas--right along here, so that they may be able to get their masks
adjusted inside of six seconds," remarked her father. "I believe it
isn't really going to be gas and sulphur smoke to-day--simply
powder-puffs."

"Powder-puffs! Pelt--pelt them with powder-puffs!" Sesooā nipped off a
comic little shriek.

"Oh! not of the vanity-box order." Colonel Deering's smooth-shaven lip
twitched. "These puffs are just tiny brown-paper sacks, containing,
each, a tablespoonful of black powder with three or four inches of
red-capped fuse sticking up out of it. They explode when they strike in
the trenches, near a man's feet, throwing up, each, its own little
spitting, venomous spurt of flame, so that if he should be slow about
getting into his mask his eyesight might suffer."

"O dear! To-day I hope it won't be a case of:

          "'The gas came down and caught the blighter slow!'"

murmured Olive, shuddering with a recollection of last week's smoky
Inferno, with its shaking roar of dynamite, its bright flash of bursting
"tear-shells," its popping of monster fire-crackers in the yellow
cloud--and of what that cloud gave forth.

"Oh, no, it won't! This seems quite tame compared with the real
'Fritzie's show' last week!" Sara's voice was an echo of her
soldier-brother's. "But who wants to see another smoky spectacle? Not
me! To-day, by craning our necks over and looking along the traverse, we
can _see things_--see the boys scrambling into their masks in a blessed
hurry! Oh! here come the chemists now, with their bundles of
powder-puffs. Funny-looking things those puffs are--like pert snails
with their long red necks thrust up, peering around them."

She laughed, that little Camp Fire Flame, of the shading hair and
eyelashes, as the members of the Gas Defense Division, four young
privates and a corporal, took up their stations at intervals along the
edge of the trenches, near.

Suddenly a gong gave out its loud-tongued signal.

"There! that gives the warning this time," proclaimed the colonel,
almost as eager in his interest as the two girls. "Six seconds and over
go the puffs! See the officers and men are all at Gas Alert! See their
hands go diving into their breast-satchels, snatching out their
masks--adjusting them!"

"Iver had his on the soonest of any," gloated Iver's sister. "He--he's
just as quick's a flash about everything--from temper to task!" the last
words half under her breath, in a low chuckle of intense excitement, as
she leaned forth over the pale, lumpy sand-bags, on which soldiers
rested their weapons in rifle-practice, gazing along the narrow brown
traverse beneath.

Over floated breezily the red-necked puffs--a few into one rounded
trench-bay, a few into another.

Pop, pop, pop! went their snappy explosions, within a foot or two of
an officer's feet--the men not being stationed very close
together--throwing up the prettiest little spitting foam of rose-red
flame, lively to look upon against the brown earth of the trench-bay.

But what! All in one petrified instant the pale sand-bag became an
ice-bag under the girls' feet--to which their trembling, curdling soles
froze!

Two low, pinched cries of startled fright rang out over that brown
trench traverse.

Even Colonel Deering gave way to a hectic exclamation and hung,
horrified, over the trench-brim! For--was it only a wild freak of the
April gust, intent on the sham-battle, too, or a young chemist's
blundering aim?--one of those pelting powder-puffs drifted astray.

Wildly--wildly astray!

It lit _not_ on the ground at an officer's feet, but close and warm
against his khaki breast--as if it would fire his heart--between his
braided blouse and the respirator-satchel upon that heaving breast.

With his bare left hand he grasped it--nestling like a red-necked
snail--to toss it to earth. But in the very act it exploded and wrapped
those bare wrists of his in golden bracelets of flame;--a fierce,
fledgling flamelet, just hatched out, which, winging upward, pecked
greedily at the mask over his face, trying to peck through to his eyes!
A stinging, searing flame that twined itself brilliantly about his
stretched neck, his ears, the sides of his face, the roots of his
hair--wherever it could find a sentient inch that the mask did not
cover--with the pitting, piercing burn that only black powder can
inflict.

"Oh-h--_Iver!_" Sara Davenport felt as if the earth were seamed with one
great brown trench, all flame-lined, swallowing her.

But before her piteous exclamation died away, her brother--that young
lieutenant--had plucked the fiery scorpion from his breast, shaken
himself free of the hissing, spitting powder, was stamping fiercely up
the beaten sod-steps of the trench, removing his mask with fingers that
shook--some of them--like charred twigs, in a withering tempest of pain.

"Thank God! I was into my mask pretty quickly. Otherwise--otherwise I'd
have been blinded for life!"

He shuddered, that Boy-Officer, who had prematurely "bawled out" a
sergeant, as the words broke from him, seeming to make their way out
through a great smoking hole upon his breast, where the tight khaki
blouse was burned away.

"Iver! Oh--_Iver!_" From a distance his young sister started towards
him.

Blistered within by pain and rising anger--as without by powder--he did
not see her. Nor yet the other visitors back of her--one of them the
girl with whom he had exchanged twilight confidences a week before!

His eye, a lurid lightning-flash above the bitten, twisted lips, had
instantly singled out the face of a young chemist--a penitent
private--nearer, as the latter, in an agony of apology, started towards
him.

"I--I didn't mean it, sir," stammered the youth, feeble in his
confusion. "It--'twas an accident----"

For just one-half minute Lieutenant Davenport's tall figure loomed,
rigid, in the sunlight, that powder-hole smoking upon his breast.

His breath smoked, too--the smoke of his agonizing burns.

The lightning of his eye withered the blunderer before him.

Then, suddenly, with masterful grip, the soldier seized the red-eyed
powder-puff of temper exploding within him, tossed it deep into the
trenches of his soul, and set his foot upon it.

"_What!_ Are you the young rascal who potted me?"

Above his bitten, pain-wrung lips, above the storm of blue powder
blisters puffing out around his wrists, his neck, the edges of his face,
the explosive lightnings of the eye melted--wavered--towards the mellow
sunlight of a smile--a humorous smile.

"Well! take a better aim next time. Pshaw! it might not have been your
fault at all--boy.... A puff--a puff may have caught the _puff_--and
landed it on me!"

Moved by a sudden impulse, the lieutenant held out the fingers of his
less injured right hand to the blanching private--who touched but did
not grasp them!

Silence almost confounded reigned among the three guests, now drawn
near!

A voice--a voice broke it, that of Colonel Deering:

                     "Onward, Christian Soldiers!"

he chanted in a low, exultant sing-song. "That Boy--that officer--will
go over the top smiling, master of himself, gassed by no blinding
smoke-cloud of anger or hate! And his father was always telling me that
he had a brute of a temper."

"So he has! Had! Mine's like it--somewhat! Oh-h, quite often my flame's
a powder-puff!" Sara Davenport was quivering from neck to heel now, with
the purest, proudest flame that can crown a young heart, that of a
seventeen-year-old girl's pride in her hero-brother.

"But, oh! there'll be no excuse for its--ever--being a spitfire
in future; if Iver could--master.... _Hif-f!_ He must be
suffering--ter-ri-bly!"

The other, older, dark-eyed girl was silent. But perhaps, at that
moment, as she drew her breath sharply through closed teeth, even the
romance of looking through a periscope's eye, with a Junior Aide, having
a fascinating gold epaulet cord drooping from his left shoulder, paled
beside the romance of that victor's eye, humorously smiling, triumphant
alike over pain and passion.



                               CHAPTER V

                               CAMOUFLAGE


"A camouflaged dory! Well, if that isn't a joke! If that isn't
original!"

The cry came, in laughing accents, from three or four Camp Fire Girls
lounging upon a milk-white beach, absorbed in the occupation of another
of their number, whose wet paint-brush dripped sky-beams upon the
sands--blue sky-beams that winked dazzlingly in the August sun, as if
filched from heaven's own arch above.

"_Original!_ About as original as Sara herself! Nobody else would think
of it! A humble little dory that doesn't go more than a mile from shore,
and couldn't come in on a sea-chase of any kind!

"How--how do you know what she'll come in on?" The artist swung her
azure-dripping brush, contemplating her dory's dazzling side, as she
lazily replied to her companions' further comments. "How do I know what
I'll come in on myself? Queer times these--war-times! I shouldn't be
surprised, some fine morning, to find myself scouring cloud-land as a
sky-skimmer, or--or----Now! where _did_ I see that face before?

"Not on this beach, anyway. He's the first man I've noticed around here.
Goody! I welcome the sight of him."

It was Arline Champion, Sara Davenport's oldest friend, and closest
chum, who spoke, digging in the sands with the toe of her tan boot, as
she darted a demure glance along a rainbow bridge of sunbeams in pursuit
of a prepossessing pedestrian who had passed at the moment upon the
extreme edge of the beach where the white sands gleamed through sunlit
tide-ripples, like milk in a golden vase.

"Well! wherever I've seen him, I've seen him. And, what's more, he has
run across me before, too! I felt the thrill (now, which of the colors
shall I daub her with next, sky-blue, white, or dark slate?) the thrill
that shot from one to the other of us when he passed. 'Twas _more_ than
the mere shock of surprise--admiration--of me and my three paint-pots."

The impressionist artist, Sara, laughed--she who was reproducing, or
trying to, with many a glance at the horizon, the dazzling light and
shade of this August day in great bold smears upon her small boat's
side--the magical, baffling tints of sky-blue sea, dark, shadowy
wave-hollows, white noonday light--to reproduce them as she saw them.

"Why, he was almost on the point of twirling his little mustache, when
he first shot a sidelong glance at me--and such a start as he
gave!"--the paintress went on. "He caught himself up just in time. If
one's to judge by his dress--sportsman's suit--he's not of the class to
be rude, exactly."

"Pshaw! What man living mightn't be betrayed into twirling his mustache
over a camouflaged dory: a little boat all smeared--like a Merry
Andrew--with sky-blue, white, and splashing dark spots? Perfect clown!
He couldn't be mortal and not be amused. I wonder he didn't smile
outright as he passed."

It was an older girl who spoke, a girl whose clear white skin was now
slightly tanned, whose dark eyes held a golden spark in their depths,
lit by the thrill of her response to the blue-and-white beauty of the
August day about her--a response even more elastic than that of her
companions.

"Smile! Pshaw! I'd have liked it better if he had smiled. I'd have liked
it better if he had--even--spoken! Now--now you needn't get off 'tut,
tut!' Olive, in your character of Assistant Guardian; I'll say it for
you." Sara's dancing flame was saucy as she rinsed her camouflaging
brush in the tide, then dipped it into a dazzling pot of white paint
standing beside the blue. "What I mean is that if he had spoken, or--or
merely smiled a little, I might"--musingly smearing on the paint--"might
have remembered, all of a sudden, where I've seen him before....
_Now_--'twill haunt----"

"Whe-ew! Fancy Sally Davenport, shadow-haunted, ghost-haunted!" Olive
burst into a low laugh.

"Oh-h! We know that no ghost fazes you, not even the ghost of chlorine
gas. You don't knuckle under to it!"

The kneeling artist slapped her brush suddenly against her dory's side,
drew it vehemently across the bow in a great white, dazzling smear, then
turned impulsively and gazed along the still more dazzling beach upon
which the stranger had passed, her gold-tipped eyelashes twinkling, her
brown eyebrows drawn together hard, as if thought were dipping a
paint-brush into some camouflaging pot of memory and trying to produce a
picture--trying with all its might.

But the only result was a vague smear. Sesooā, to give her her Camp Fire
name, turned again to her boat-painting, with a baffled sigh--and to her
occasional studious glances at the horizon.

"I think I'll take the camp skiff and row over to the Bar," she remarked
presently. "I might get a few new impressions of how sea and sky and
wavy horizon look from there--a broader view of the ocean."

"You'll have a hollow impression if you go before dinner," Olive Deering
laughed. "What on earth put this whim into your brain, Sara, of painting
your little dory up as a harlequin--a freak?"

"Freak! Harlequin! Well, maybe so. But I'm only putting her into the
motley uniform of the high seas, at present, because--because Iver gave
her to me. I wouldn't let anybody else--another soul--touch a
paint-brush to her, though."

There was a low, jealous catch in the girlish voice--almost a sob--which
swept the light puzzle of the passing stranger entirely out of mind. For
it was August now, not April--early April--and Lieutenant Iver Davenport
had had his real baptism of fire, over the top in the bleak No Man's
Land of France--liquid fire and bursting shrapnel, to which a wandering
powder-puff was but a waspish prelude.

He had had his "bleeding stand-to--stifling stand-to"--facing the worst
horrors in the shape of poison gas that the enemy could put over, had
been wounded and citied for gallantry; and his blue-pointed service-star
was enshrined forever against the red background of his sister's heart.
She would have given a good deal to know whether another girl did homage
in her heart of hearts to that star, too--the tall girl, Olive Deering,
Torch-Bearer, whose dark eyes could kindle with the golden spark of a
Joan of Arc fire.

Sesooā shot a little measuring flame of inquiry, in the shape of a
glance, up at her now and again, as she went on with her blue-and-white
daubing, dressing her little boat in the party-colored uniform of the
seas, with many a wavy figure and crude hieroglyphic thrown in, to make
the disguising dazzle more complete.

"Ah! Madonna! Scusa me! But--but w'at for you painta her like dat--de
leetla boat--eh?"

It was a new voice, suddenly drawn near, a voice with a sunny sparkle--a
liquid softness--in it which hinted at its having first flowered into
speech under skies as radiantly azure, as fleecily flecked, as the
dory's side.

"Why, hullo, Flamina!... Hullo! Little _Nébis_, our Green Leaf, is that
you?" Sara, lowering her paint-brush, which dripped silver tribute now
upon the sands, looked up into the new eyes, brown as the velvety
barnacles clinging to some sea-rocks near, shyly daring, merrily
challenging, through their black upcurling lashes.

Flamina, little foreign-born Camp Fire Sister, only two years in
America--adopted some months before by the Morning-Glory Group, who,
working for patriotic honors along lines of Americanization, were
teaching her the Camp Fire ritual, with the meaning of her Indian name
and symbol--Flamina dimpled shyly, like the ebbing tide.

"Ah, bella! _Bella!_ But w'y you make her looka like dat--so fine--so
fine?" she cried again, lost in primitive admiration of the boat's
elemental dazzle.

"So fine! Glad I've found one appreciative spirit, anyway! I'm painting
her in big blue smears and wavy lines as they paint the great
ships--American ships--going from here across the ocean now, little
Green Leaf Sister, so that they may melt into the colors of the sea and
sky and no horrid submarine--you know what a submarine is--coming to the
surface may fire a tin fish at them--sink them. See?"

[Illustration: W'at for you painta her like dat--de leetla boat--eh?]

"Ha! Tin--feesh?" Flamina, wrinkling her childish brows--she was barely
fourteen--looked out at the broad bay, as if she expected to see the
brilliant gleam of a metallic fin swimming around there.

"Pshaw! That's a nickname the sailors have for a torpedo, childie; you
know what that is--a big dark bomb that's fired from a submarine, which
skims along just under the surface of the water like a fish, leaving a
white streak behind it--swish-h, like that!" Sara drew her level white
brush through a sea of sunbeams, to illustrate. "When it strikes a fine
ship, then it bursts--blows the ship up. D'you understand?"

"_Si_--yes! Catcha wise!... I catcha wise!" murmured Flamina, entranced,
her curly lashes twinkling above the night-like flash beneath them.
"But, bah! your greata Uncle Sam, he not goin' to let badda submarine
stay in sea much longa--eugh?"

"No! No, you bet he isn't!" The artist slapped the slang with her
brush-tip vehemently against the boat's side. "But he's your 'greata
Uncle Sam,' too, now, little Green Leaf. You run over and see the
dress--the pretty ceremonial dress with leather fringes--that those two
girls are finishing off for you to wear at our next Council Fire meeting
here on the white sands. They're embroidering it with a green leaf,
too--your symbol."

Excitedly Flamina ran off, singing with airy gaiety, a merry dialect
song of her childhood, of girlish love for the green country:

                     "Pascarella vieni in campagna,
                      Al sole chè monterà,
                      Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah-h!
                      Quando il sole chè monterà.

                     "Marianna vieni in campagna,
                      Quando chè il sole monterà,
                      Ah! Ah! Ah! ... Ah!
                      Quando il sole monterà."

"Did you ever hear such gladness as there is in that soaring 'Ah'? She's
just as full of song as a skylark, isn't she?" commented Olive, who
still lingered near the boat-painter. "In ceremonial dress she'll be a
fairy! I can hardly get over the fact that it's Sybil--Sybil who's
embroidering it for her with a green leaf, who has shown her how to
weave her headband, too; Sybil who, a little while ago, hated to be tied
down even to fancy-work for half an hour!"

"Um-m!" Sara cast a musing, half-whimsical glance over her shoulder at a
point, about a dozen yards distant, where two girls sat, engaged in fine
needlework, upon the sands, with a loose garment of golden-brown khaki
between them.

One, the elder, was garnishing it artistically with soft leathern
fringes, weaving into them the smiling rainbows of her own thought--she
being Arline, the Camp Fire Rainbow--which craved a very happy future
for this little foreign-born Camp Fire Sister, adopted temporarily by
the Morning-Glory Group.

The other, whose needle was threaded with sunbeams and the green of
spring, bent her golden head over her embroidery with equal assiduity
and sisterhood of interest; a sight which sent Sesooā's thoughts leaping
back to a city playground, crowded with foreign-born children, the
cradle of her contact with these two girls from the wealthier avenues of
life--Olive and Sybil--whom she, with the racy flame in her for the
moment a spitting powder-puff, had scathingly pronounced "all fluff and
stuff!"

Well! the early loss of a mother, the spoiling of a bereaved father had,
perhaps, rendered their youthful ideals rather fluffy in a downy nest of
self.

Three years of Camp Fire life at the most impressionable period, of
feelings quickened by a romantic ritual, of heart knit to other
girl-heart by the entwining flame of the outdoor Council Fire--of
coming, as Olive had said, very near to the Father Heart in which lay
their unity--this, and more, had brought one to kneeling, undaunted, by
a gassed soldier, the other to embroidering an elm leaf--symbolic
American elm--upon the dress of a little immigrant of not two years'
standing.

"Your brother Iver said that it ought to be a _laurel_ leaf for Little
Italy," remarked Olive now, with just the slightest reminiscent quiver
of the lip and deepening of color, as she seated herself upon the sands
at a safe distance from the camouflaging artist, with her three flashing
paint-pots, and drew forth a half-knit stocking from a home-woven bag
that was like Joseph's coat of many colors.

"Laurel leaf! It ought to be that for all our allies!" panted Sesooā,
halting in her choice between blue and dark slate-color for her next
broad harlequin smear.

"Of course!... The brave Belgians! The women of England! The French--oh!
aren't they wonderful! I had a letter from my cousin, Clayton Forrest,
this morning. I wanted to tell you about it. He says the little French
women are such--such out-an'-out bricks! He never saw anything like
their spirit!" Olive's dark eyes glowed as she turned the "silver" heel
of her stocking for the Red Cross.

"Humph!" grunted Sesooā and daubed passionately, in a blue mood, the
discounting energy of her exclamation not being at all leveled at the
heroines of sunny France, but at Olive's male cousins, about whom she
quite agreed with her brother Iver, that they were altogether too many
and too spectacular for such an attractive girl.

She even pooh-poohed the patriotism of the eighteen-year-old lad, worth
a million or two in his own right, who was swinging a mallet now in the
country shipbuilding yards not far from here.

"Well! Well, Clay was marching through a deserted French village with
his company--they were just straggling along in loose order--when he saw
something coming towards him that looked like a great round wicker
basket--with the bright handle of a copper saucepan and a turkey-red
pillow sticking out over the brim--plodding along of itself on two
little clattering wooden shoes.

"As it came nearer, he made out a little gray head in a blue foulard--or
handkerchief--nodding above it.... O dear! there I've dropped two
stitches in my heel."

Olive drew breath, to pick them up.

"It--it was a refugee, not an animated basket; a little old Frenchwoman
returning to her home--or what had been her home," she went on, winking
bright drops from her eyes. "And Clay--Clay, who before the War was
never a 'grind,' must have asked permission to carry the basket for her,
and got it, although one could only read between the lines in his
letter, for he spoke of finding the ruin which had been her home, and of
setting down all her household belongings with a jerk that made the
bright saucepans rattle like chattering teeth when--when he saw that
there were only four blackened walls standing, over which the Germans
had set up a tin roof, with a horrid, winking old tin door.

"They had stabled horses there.

"Clay says he was just afraid to look at the thin, withered little face
under the blue foulard.... But he heard a cluck and a stamp. There she
was, the little old peasant-woman, tearing down the ugly sign which the
enemy had set up, stamping on it with her wooden shoes, and muttering
away to herself, so--so pluckily: 'Tchu! Tchu! Tchu! C'a ne fait rien!
_C'est la guerre!_' And then she began singing aloud in a voice like a
Victory siren:

                   "'Mais ils ne l'aurout plus,
                       _Jamais! Jamais!_'

                   "'But they'll never have it again!
                       Never! Never!'"

Sara, pealing the translated echo, that seemed to come ringing across
the ocean, sniffed now to her dory's side, instinctively exchanging her
blue-dripping brush, and its corresponding mood, for a dazzling white
one, with which she painted in broad smears radiant dreams of
Peace--restoration--reconstruction!

"And our boys have gone over to fight, so that 'they may never have it
again!'" murmured Olive in a voice that must have been like the old
Frenchwoman's, between a sob and a song. "They'll pay our debt to
France, and carry on! Carry on, until the cry of some poor, pale little
children, who crept up out of cellars in another village they entered,
comes true."

"What--was their--cry?" Sara sniffed as wetly as the outgoing tide; she
had forgotten that Corporal Clayton Forrest was one of the superfluous
cousins, whose feet, turning aside from paths of luxury, had enlisted in
the plodding infantry with fifty companions from his father's big
loom-works.

She had seen him leading a cotillion or escorting fair maidens--debonair
cavalier-in-chief of his little New England town.

She pictured him laden with the pots and kettles, the turkey-red
pillows, all the household belongings of a little old peasant woman,
compressed into a great wicker basket--with the handle of a copper
saucepan sticking out over the rim, like the tail of a sitting bird; and
she sniffed again because knighthood had not ceased to flower.

"Oh! what was their cry? The children's cry!" Olive moistly caught her
breath. "Ah!... Why! they simply burst open, like poor little pinched
buds that had been kept in a cellar--the enemy had held that village
four years--when they saw the American soldiers! Clay says they caught
at their hands and kissed them--danced wildly round them, crying: 'Fini,
la Guerre! C'fini--c'fini--la--_Guerre_!'"

"But it isn't--isn't 'Fini, la Guerre!' yet. And we've got to carry on,
too; not--not at camouflaging nonsense like this,"--Sara painted a
dazzling hieroglyphic, a riddle of the future, upon her boat's
side--"but at real, steady war work, that's no joke, in that big garden
of ours, a young farm, I call it, over there on the hill--Squawk
Hill--was there ever such a name!--called after a relative of yours,
Olive, the noisy night-heron.... And just between you an' me"--painting
furiously--"I'm getting awf'ly--awf'ly tired of weeding, spraying,
hoeing, raking right along, day in and day out, for an hour an' a half
in the morning--hour an' a half at night!"

"Evening, you mean! Three whole hours--nothing to speak of! But they do
string out, when you're 'carrying on'!" Blue Heron--Olive--straightened
her long, graceful young back; this morning's stunt of carrying on upon
the hill of discordant name had made it feel almost as crooked as an
ancient village street, tiled and twisted, in the France which they had
been discussing.

"Ah, well, if we show any signs of weakening--we older girls--it's all
up with our pledges as a Group to help feed our boys and the hungry
women and children on the other side of the water, for the younger girls
don't take much interest in war-gardening; they'd rather spend all their
time, especially at low tide, over there on the long sand-bar,
pow-wowing with the seals and birds. And I don't blame them!" Sara waved
a pensive brush towards a distant snow-white, humpy line, just rising
like wavy limbs of sea-nymphs from green breakers, the merriest mob of
breakers that combed and foamed and shrank as the tide ebbed.
"Everything--everything is so wild an' happy-go-lucky all around
us--that----"

"That it makes one feel irresponsible," sighed Olive; "puts the war a
long way off, except--except when one turns the silver heel of a
stocking--bah! another stitch down--or gets a letter from over there."

"Oh! I know how _you_ hate grubbing in the muck, raising vegetables. You
were never cut out for a farmerette; that's your Southern ancestry, on
your mother's side, I suppose--proud planters who left all that sort of
thing to slaves!" Sara's eyebrows went up. "And I must confess"--with a
comical shrug--"that there are times when I see very little fun in
planting potatoes--and all sorts of other things--with--with about
forty-eleven million horrid little bugs just sitting on the fence, as
old farmers say, and watching you do it, waiting to pounce on the young
shoots directly they come above ground--and not one of them will light
on a thistle!... But, bah! _C'est la Guerre._ And conservation would be
nowhere--a lame duck--without cultivation! Besides the hours
aren't--very--long."

"Yes! if it wasn't day in and day out, for months at a stretch,"
murmured the older girl, arching delicate, dark eyebrows somewhat
ruefully over her stocking. "Well, our beets and carrots--all the other
vegetable things, too--are coming along. We'll have quite a cargo soon
for Captain Andy to take over in his boat to some of the summer colonies
and dispose of. Think of giving a big bunch of profits to the Red
Cross!"

"And of having all the little infant carrots that are thinned out--to
give others a chance to grow--for our own eating, meantime!" Sara
laughed. "Terra-cotta babies, so tender an' pink! Makes one feel like an
ogre to devour them before they ever get a chance to mature."

"Survival of the fittest, Sally!" Olive sprang lightly to her feet. "I
don't feel as if I could survive another minute without something to
eat! Thank goodness! There goes the dear bugle, sounding
mess-call--dinner--as if we were military maids. Nothing militant about
us, is there, except--except our skirmishes with the big seals, to drive
them off the bar. 'Twill be low tide in another hour or so. How about
rowing over there?"

"Good!" Sesooā looked out towards that long milk-white, level line, a
mile in length, the Ipswich Bar, rising steadily inch by inch from the
billowy green of the receding tide. Colonies of birds were settling upon
it and brown amphibious forms wallowing up out of the water. "Humph!"
she gasped suddenly. "Maybe that sportsman--that man who passed a while
ago, whose face I have seen somewhere before, is a seal-hunter, down
here shooting seals, those spotted hair-seals. He had a gun over his
shoulder. Bah! it just makes me cross to see a pair of eyes that I
recognize as I recognized his at once, and not--not be able to place
them in any head that I remember."

"Put them out of your own head, honey, and think of the baby carrots,"
counseled Olive, slipping an arm through her companion's. "Lilia and
Betty Ayres have a trick of creaming them to perfection; they're cooks
for to-day."

"Ah, well, perhaps if we should--_should_--run across him again----" was
the low, still haunted rejoinder, absently completed by a backward
glance at a camouflaged dory.



                               CHAPTER VI

                           PLAYING SUBMARINE


                         "Ils ne l'aurout plus,
                             _Jamais! Jamais!_"

Sesooā drove her boat's nose on to the bar to the tune of the old
Frenchwoman's triumphant chant of defiance to the invaders, who had
wrecked her dwelling, but would never have it again! Never, never!

The Camp Fire Girl was flinging it now as a merry challenge to the
seals, the big, spotted harbor-seals, treating them as invaders--where
they were more at home than she was--and disputing with them the right
of possession of the milky sand-bar at low tide.

It was a teeming settlement, at low water, that Ipswich Bar--a long,
white street fringed by wavy greenery of billows, which had risen
miraculously out of the bay, thronged by a motley multitude of gulls,
herons, wee sandpipers, petrels, strutting to and fro, exchanging now
and again a squawky greeting, hobnobbing with brother or cousin, or
coolly ignoring one of another tribe, occasionally parting with a fish
to a young one--a dazzling, bewildering Great White Way of birds.

And the flippered, bulky harbor-seals--the marbled seals--in their
spotted hair-coats, lay around upon the sands, a whole herd of them,
like lazy merchants who, tired of displaying their wares, had reclined,
to bask in the sun.

Ploughing the waves to this White Way came another settler, which a
certain old sea-dog, Captain Andy Davis, friend of the Morning-Glory
Group of Camp Fire Girls, called alternately, with briny disrespect, "a
loose old wagon" or an "old red settler,"--in plain English, a broad,
flat-bottomed, ruddy-painted camp-boat, impossible to capsize.

This "settler," bobbing over the green tide, gave the strange effect,
somewhat, of a portly, waddling, ruddy old duck which had ambitiously
adopted a cygnet. For towed in her wake came a silvery something,
graceful as a young swan--a light birch-bark shell, a fifteen-foot canoe
whose bark skin shone like satin--with a delicate decoration of ferns,
where the outer layer of bark had been scraped away into a pattern, at
each tapering end.

The red mother-settler had aboard a cargo--a precious cargo of
girlhood--of which one shifting item done up in a bathing-suit, crowned
by a red silk handkerchief wound around a curly head, leaned over the
stern of the mother-skiff, in rapt admiration of that feather-weight
canoe.

"I believe--really believe--that I could have paddled over here to the
bar from our beach in her!" burst sanguinely from the lips of that
flesh-and-blood item, Lilia Kemp, otherwise Ko-ko-ko, Little Owl. "Even
if a green comber had capsized her, I could have righted her again and
scrambled in. I could do it, fully dressed, let alone to say in a
bathing-suit."

"Which means you could undress in the water, right her, and get aboard!"
corrected an older girl, of shading, twinkling eyelashes between which
hovered a firefly glance like a glow-worm playing through an amber
fringe of grasses. "Well!--well, I shouldn't mind a premature ducking
myself," she ran on, her lithe body rhythmically swaying to one of the
red oars which she was wielding. "Perhaps--who knows--we may get it,
too, if the seals regard us as invaders! Ginger! will you look at
them--a whole herd, thirty at least, out of water, sunning themselves on
the sands!"

"Oh! we see them, Sara." It was a general responsive chorus in half a
dozen gay young voices. "Goody! I never, never, came so near to a
seal--a mustached man-fish--before! We're going to have the frolic of
our lives!" from one in piping solo. "And the birds--birds--birds! Ever
see anything like them? Fishing, strutting, squabbling, holding a Peace
Conference!"

"No! I never saw anything like them before. Nor you, either! There's
nothing to equal the wild life on the Ipswich Bar, at low tide, nearer
than the bird reservation on Three Arch Rocks, off the Oregon Coast;
that's what I heard a great naturalist say!... And, oh! see--see! there
are some of my cousins, the great herons, just gobbling up everything in
sight," trilled Olive Deering--Blue Heron--in a shrill treble of
excitement which, winging right out of her, fluttered on to the bar, to
greet those feathered fisher-folk, her cousins.

"Of course, the Arch Rocks, _being_ a reservation, go a long way beyond
anything we could see here, for the teeming multitudes of their
bird-life--the grandeur of their nested arches," she added softly, her
dark eyes alight, her breast rising and falling, light as a cork, upon a
pure, primitive flame of being, typified by the red tongue of flame of
the Torch Bearer's emblem, with crossed logs and pearly smoke,
embroidered upon the bosom of her glossy bathing-suit.

It was one of those outdoor moments when, as she had told Lieutenant
Davenport, there seemed to be but an illumined fag-end of her real self
left in the five feet nine of red-crowned girlish form perched airily,
now, upon the side of the red-skinned settler.

The rest, the main part, had become one with the joyful feather-folk,
the spotted mammals sunning themselves, with the blue of the sky above,
the dazzling flower of foam on the bonnet of the green old whistling
tide, off on a holiday from the shore--and with a Father Presence in
all, scarce veiled, so radiantly apprehended at the moment that faith
was almost sight.

She came to herself with a backward glance at a twilight balcony, at a
young soldier who had, in feeling, come nearer to God since he
volunteered--came to her transfigured self in time to hear that
officer's little flame of a sister gaily protesting: "Bah! Three Arch
Rocks! Who craves for Oregon? This is good enough for us. Now--now--now
comes the shock, as the soldiers say; now, for finding out how near
those seals will let us get to them, before they take to the water!
Hitherto they've had the bar all to themselves, except for the birds.
But:

                        "'Ils ne l'aurout plus,
                            Jamais! Jamais!'

"_We're_ out for possession, too, this summer!... Oh, mercy! Here they
come, stampeding--flopping. Oh, sit tight, girls; if they strike the
boat, they may----"

"They can't capsize us!" burst explosively from sister lips. "The old
settler----"

She was a settler, a sturdy one, that camp skiff. She rocked and
wallowed, but settled down, as in a nest, in the green hubbub of tide
and foam stirred up by the wildly startled plunging-off of thirty
sportive young seals, which, striking the water with the heavy splashes
of men bathers, swam deliriously around in all directions, whipping the
eddies with their active flippers, amid a low tornado of broken
exclamations from the girls.

"Oh, mercy! Look! Aren't their dark heads just like those of a lot of
boys, swimming round? And did you--did you see them when they made a
dash for the water?"

"They were so quick that you couldn't see them!"

"Yes, _I_ did! They--they floundered off the bar with the funniest
kangaroo roll, half-upright, their little fore-flippers in the air--like
puppies' paws--swinging the hind parts of their bodies first to one
side, then--then to the other--the queerest teeter! Oh! I'll never
forget it!... Never!"

Olive's own voice "teetered" upon the protests that softly lashed the
sunshine around the boat, breaking in upon the general medley of her
companions' excitement.

As she perched upon the ruddy rim of the old red settler, her arm was
about the shoulders of the adopted Camp Fire Sister, little Flamina,
whose Green Leaf was a perfect quiver leaf now, the night-black pupils
of her eyes--big dilated--shining through their jetty lashes, like
radium in the dark.

"Ah, Madonna! How I am excita'! _Vitello marina!_ De bigga seal! I no
see such bigga sealla on shore of Napoli--me!" she cried, her childish
mind traveling back by aërial route--the sisterly arm about her made it
a rainbowed route--from the lonely wildness of the Ipswich Sand-bar to
the sunny beauty of her native shores on the blue bay of Naples as she
had occasionally beheld them.

"Ha! Justa looka!" panted Flamina again, liquidly musical as a little
spring brook, hugging her excitement passionately, within locked arms,
to the breast of her small pea-green sweater. "De bigges' seal ees no
mova--heem stay on sand--rolla ova! Ah! Brava! Brava!"

"Brava, indeed! Did you ever see such bravado?" It was Sesooā's low,
laughing outburst. "Three of them--four--aren't stirring--not making a
break for the water at all! Ginger! we must be within thirty yards of
them now. The Big Four lying up there, high an' dry, on the ridge of the
sloping bar! And--and one of them a monster! Perfect 'whale,' as the
boys would say! Oh-h! will you look at his fangs--long yellow fangs--and
his mustache twinkling with brine!

"And the round, brown spots all over him! See him roll over on his side
and grin, as if he dared--dared us to come nearer! Mercy! Hasn't he a
half-human kind of face! I'm afraid; he looks like a man-fish,
a--monster!"

Little Owl--Lilla--was crouching, hands clasped, in the red stern of the
old settler, as the words tumbled forth through her parted lips. Behind
her, rocking upon the eddies, was the fern-decked, birch canoe.

"Sara! Sara Davenport! you're too daring! He--they--might attack us.
Let's row off and land at a little distance, upon another part of the
bar! Upon my word! he does look ugly--wicked. I--I'm 'creepy' all
over--positively. He seems bent on holding the fort--the sand-bar!"
Arline's voice shook upon a moist rainbow of excitement.

"Yes, they've had it all to themselves too long, but:

                     "'_Ils ne l'aurout plus...!_'"

Was it that a New England seal disliked to hear himself challenged in
the defiant chant which an old Frenchwoman had flung after retreating
Germans--to have his reign upon the milk-white bar--the heaven of the
low-water sands--disputed? Or was it that, after all, his grinning pep
was only surface spice--that whatever savage courage still remained in
him for battles with his own tribe, had been reduced by persecution to
arrant cowardice in man's direction, was not proof against the slow,
complacent advance, inch by inch, onto the bar, of an old red, wooden
settler, vibrant from stem to stern with the quivers and gasps of a
dozen wildly excited girls?

Whatever the reason--perhaps the sands on which his blubbery brain had
rested alone knew--whatever the reason, swiftly, suddenly, he threw the
switch, as it were, the lightning-switch, when the nosing old camp-boat
was only twenty yards from him, signaling to the three other big seals,
the ladies of his family, his marbled wives.

Lightning-like, they responded, making a kangaroo dash for the
water--led by their grinning lord--so quick that in the sunlight their
briny, oily hair-coats seemed phosphorescent.

But it was a day when strange, covert methods of warfare were in vogue.

Perhaps, even lying out at low tide upon the dry sands of the Ipswich
Bar, the big, brooding old dog-seal had seen strange fish-like
structures--gray and black--rising afar off from ocean's depths, and
from them had taken a hint.

At all events, no U-boat, yet, ever equalled the surprising swiftness
with which he played submarine--took it upon himself to play submarine.

Whether it was blind fear or baffled fury, creaming to blunder, in that
old blubber-head of his, he dove right under the boat, instead of
dodging by it!

Giving way before the red settler, he bumped against her flat bottom,
and hoisted her right out of the water--her delicate cygnet chick, the
birch canoe, too!

An easy matter for him, for he weighed a full three hundred pounds or
so, and made nothing of the leviathan feat of hoisting a cargo of girls
tumultuously out of one element into another--the spray-shot,
spray-curdled air!

The old wooden settler clucked and rocked dizzily, fiery red in the face
and mad as an old wet hen. But she could not hold on to her chicks--or
at least she could hold to but very few of them!

Out of her they shot on all sides! The green tide around her suddenly
bloomed with flower-like girlish heads done up in red silk
handkerchiefs.

The air was streaked with a curdled foam of sputtering cries: "The seal!
That big seal! Where--is--he? Dove r-right _un-der_--us! Played
submarine, he did!... Tchu! tchu! tchu! _C'est la Guerre! Guerre_, with
a vengeance--yes!... Oh! Where do we go from here, girls--where do we
go-o from here?"

"You _deserve_ to go to 'Davy Jones' from here, for letting a big seal
bounce you out! Great Neptune! haven't you a grain more sense than that,
after all the forty-one tricks I've taught you? Eh-h?"

It was a loud voice, whooping like a klaxon, that came suddenly ringing
over the swirling tide, seconded by a sound of oars. "D'you ask where
the seal is? Well! there he goes, swimming off--beating it to win'ard,
vowing by his ancestors, back to the tadpoles, that he'll never have
anything to do with girls again--after landing you all in the surf off
the old bar. An' each an' every one o' you as wet as a sea-mouse--a
feathered sea-mouse! Dear, dear! 'Bout time you had a convoy, I reckon!"

"'Convoy'! _Captain Andy!_ Captain Andy Davis! Well! it's no wonder a
big seal b-bounced us all out--got the better of us; you've been
neglecting us s-shamefully." It was Blue Heron's voice babbling through
brine as Olive's geranium-like head rose from the greenery of a
water-hill.

"Panky doodle! Have I, indeed? Want me to tow your old red settler of a
boat on to the sands? She's drifting off. The rest of you can swim, I
reckon. Good! In the water, anyhow, you behave as well as you look--an'
that's saying a lot!"

"Hurrah! Is it now? So--so you're thinking better of sending us to--Davy
Jones--right off, eh?" Sesooā's little flame of laughter shot back over
her shoulder, as, striking out boldly, she swam for the dry sands of the
long bar--the dazzling Great White Way of birds--her companions
following, Olive towing the foreign-born little sister, who was hampered
by having drawn the rough pea-green sweater, for warmth, over her
bathing-suit.

A dozen laughing nymphs they were, landing in madcap mood at the heart
of the frolic of the wild life on the bar.

Behind them, in charge of their ruddy old skiff and the tossed canoe,
came their friend and body-guard of former camping seasons, Captain
Andrew Davis, master mariner of Gloucester, whose massive figure was
still a tower of strength, and the light of his eye undimmed, at
seventy-two!



                              CHAPTER VII

                               MENOKIJÁBO


"Oh! you needn't 'throw the Babel switch,' meaning you needn't all talk
together. Now! what I'd like to know is _what_ I've been doing while
you've been growing away up there?"

Thus he faced the brine-dripping, eager girls, ruddy from immersion, who
clustered round him upon the white oasis of the sand-bar.

"What you've been doing! Sleeping--probably!"

"Sleeping! Well! Well! If that isn't enough to make a flat fish sit up
and take notice! No, I've been doing my wartime bit, 'skippering' a
coaster carrying lumber to the shipyards, dodging submarines that have
been sinking so many good little vessels of the Gloucester fishing
fleet. After the rheumatism hung on to this lame leg o' mine, like a
puppy-dog to a root, why, I had to stay ashore. Since then, at times,
I've been helping out at the Coast Guard Station, over there on Prawn
Island; I still can mend a breeches buoy or pull an oar, and some of
their men have been drafted into other war-time service. Have you
visited the station yet?"

Captain Andy pointed to a white building standing sentry over the
extreme point of the island into which the long sand-bar merged.

"Yes, we have! We've seen all the wonderful life-saving apparatus: the
light steel life-boat, the big self-bailing Coast Guard boat, too, with
a water-tight tank under her planking, and six little holes--wells--down
through her, with valves that act like the damper in a stove, through
which the water empties itself out, if she ships any. The men said she'd
live in any kind of weather." It was a simultaneous answer from two or
three of the excited girls--wet as feathered sea-mice, dripping brine
and information together.

"So she will; she'd ride a deluge! A regular Noah's Ark she is--that old
self-bailer! But she ain't a hummer for speed; they can't get more than
eight or nine miles an hour out of her, even at a pinch."

"Ha! She wouldn't be much good for chasing spy-boats then, if there are
any around here, giving out information to enemy 'subs.'" Sesooā's
eyelashes, brilliantly brine-gemmed, like the dog-seal's mustache, shot
a sidelong, scintillating glance at the massive old master mariner whose
six feet two of broad stature leaned awry, like a crooked pillar, he
having been lamed for life in a battle with the seas when the main-boom
of his vessel fell on him and crushed his right leg.

"Well, now, I don't suppose she would! No doubt there are busy spies
among us. Bonfires have been seen blazing on some lonely spot of this
very shore before transports passed, far out to sea! But it doesn't seem
as if they could do much signaling from boats and get away with it. The
Coast Guard patrols keep a pretty sharp lookout."

"Yes, we've seen them, starting out at sunset from the watch-tower--that
old crow's-nest over there on the rock." Olive nodded her small,
flower-like head, around which the red silk handkerchief was wound like
an Arab's turban, towards a human aërie perched upon a cliff of the
neighboring island. "They patrol the shore in different directions till
midnight, when other 'surf-men' go 'on beat.' They showed us their long,
portable electric torches with which they signal the tower--and the
tower signals the station--if they sight anything unusual."

"Unusual! Good life! There ain't anything atop o' the ocean now, seems
to me, that isn't as unusual as wings on a whale or--or an iceberg at
the equator!" Captain Andy's big laugh exploded like a fog-gun. "Fancy
seeing a gray-and-black submarine roll itself out o' the water an' go
for you like a fork-tailed fish with a pulpit on its back, as I did last
March, when I was taking that old coaster, the _Susie Jane_, back to
Kennebunkport. Luckily, she was goin' home light--meanin' empty--an' she
could run like a ghost, that old girl, so she showed the sub her heels.
We mightn't have got off, though, for all that, only that a big
destroyer, camouflaged till you couldn't tell her from a flock of
mermaids taking a sunbath on the surface, hove in sight, an' the U-boat
dove--crash dive, I reckon, if ever there was one!

"Gee! I couldn't help speculatin' as to what the finny creatures thought
of her--she had some shiny fins, too, herself--as she lay on the bottom;
whether it was a case of:

              "'The fishes all came around she,
              And seemed to think as they scanned her log,
              That she made uncom-mon-ly free!'"

The girls' laughter echoed the old sea-dog's briny chuckle.

In Sara's there was an abstracted tinkle.

"The patrol men use the blinker system to signal the tower or Coast
Guard Station--International Code--I don't know but that I could do
a little signaling with that myself, _at a pinch_," she remarked,
her eyebrows lifting tentatively. "Iver taught me; he's my
brother--lieutenant-brother--at the front," sinking to a sitting
posture on the sands and looking up explanatorily at Captain Andy.

"Proud of him, ain't you?"

"Well, maybe so!" The gold-tipped eyelashes twinkled over a tear that
was diamond pride of the first water. "I like to practice anything I
learned from him; and it has won me a new honor-bead, a local honor for
signaling--the color chosen by our Guardian herself.... Iver thought
Camp Fire was just 'great'!" went on the seventeen-year-old sister,
"that it taught us to love and _live_ the outdoors life, to be hardy,
plucky, resourceful, and yet--yet remain girly!... Not too girly,
though! Another couple of years and I want to go out into the world--be
free--make my mark!"

"As you're doing now, leaving footprints on the sands of time," chaffed
Olive, as the Flame who had just spoken fitted a black-stockinged foot
into the moist edge of the sand-bar. "Well! to steal a metaphor, it's in
moccasins that we Camp Fire Girls will make footprints on the sands of
time, linking the past with the present, eh?"

Blue Heron, also, sank dreamily to a sitting posture, her arms
encircling her knees, which did homage to the flame of the Torch
Bearer's emblem upon the breast of her bathing-suit; her wide, dark
eyes gazing mistily across the ocean, perhaps toward a front-line
trench in France, at a young officer whose homing thoughts would turn
to the poetry of the Council Fire, to all that it typified of
America--progress, beauty, sisterhood--when he missed the things that
make life hum.

"Humph! Talking o' footprints, I suppose, that, from now on, it's bound
to be 'Skirts go ahead!' along some trails, anyway," murmured Captain
Andy. "Well! I'm not kicking, so long's they remain skirts."

"With bloomers upon occasion, and overalls when we're working in that
green oasis of a war-garden over there on Squawk Hill, where nothing but
wild vetch and barb-weed grew until last summer, when some farmer found
out that there was enough clay mingled with the sand for it to be
cultivated, so he started in to--to make the squawky desert bloom. We've
rented it from him now, and quite often it blooms with backaches." Sara
kicked at the turning tide.

"He's my nephew--that desert-coaxing fellow." The mariner, on whom,
three years before, this same group of girls had bestowed the Indian
name of Menokijábo, or "Tall Standing Man," straightened his great back.
"I made my headquarters with that 'ere nephew an' his family part o' the
time last winter," he went on, "in that bleak little settlement over
yonder, on the island."

"What! Do people live there all the year round?" It was Little
Owl--Lilia--who put the staggered question, turning from the spot where
she, with other of the younger girls--Sybil Deering, Betty Ayres,
Victoria Glenn, called by the Council Fire Sul-sul-sul-i, or Little
Fire--had been frolicking with the Indian canoe and its short paddle.
"How can they?" Lilia blinked at the lonely sea-girt colony whose
suburban boulevard, at low water, was the teeming sand-bar.
"How--ever--can they make a living?"

"Hum-m! This time o' year we live off the 'summer boarders;' in winter
we live off each other!"

"Mercy! I hope nobody is going to live off me--on me!" Sybil bounded
into the fern-decked canoe--all agog for comic flight.

"Ye gods an' little fishes! You'd be a delicate morsel--a choice
goldfish--wouldn't you?" Captain Andy beamed down on her yellow head,
his massive brows working up and down like a cloud-bank above the
blazing sun-dog--mock-sun--in his eyes. "Well! I'd advise you not to get
so near to that big old submarine seal again; he mightn't be able to
resist a nibble."

"Oh! seals won't attack you, nowadays, will they, no matter how large
they are?" It was Arline who thus thrust her symbolic rainbow into the
conversation; she had been paddling in the surf with Flamina--little
Green Leaf--whose foreign glances in the direction of the Tall Standing
Man were flutteringly shy as spring leaves.

"No, I guess not! They have some awful battles between themselves, but
they've been persecuted enough to let human beings alone. I saw a
seal-hunter--strange to these parts--hanging round this bar day before
yesterday. He had come down the Exmouth River--tidal river--in a launch,
with a guide, from that little shipbuilding town up at the head of the
river to which I was freighting lumber last spring. It's just humming
now, building wooden vessels, all sizes!"

"Oh--that hive! That's where my Cousin Atwood is working, since he was
drafted for labor, putting in his six hours--and more--a day, so his
mother wrote me. I believe she's actually worrying about him.... Between
you an' me, Atty's an only son--rather a spoiled boy! Never did a
blessed thing in his life that he didn't want to before; that's my
private opinion! Oh! we'll just have to get you to take us up the river
in a launch, some day soon, to visit him, won't you, Captain Andy?"

Olive, starting up from the sloping sand-ridge, laid a pleading hand
upon the massive old "king-pin's" arm.

"Oh--go to it!" He sighed like a hurricane under the blue mock-sun in
his eyes. "I suppose, from now on, I may's well make up my mind to be
shoved about, like a vessel in a rip, for the rest of the summer, while
you girls are camping here.... What's your cousin's full name?"

"Atwood Atwell."

"Hum-m. A. A., if not A 1, ain't he? And he's one o' those rich
boys--'candy kids'--who are helping to man the short-handed country
shipyards now? Well, I declare! What's he look like? 'Bout five feet
seven or eight in height, heavy build, light-haired, pink-skinned?"

"That sounds as if it might be a description," Olive laughed. "What was
he doing when you saw him?"

"Leading a big blind horse, hitched to a heavy ship's timber, across the
yard, under a blazing sun."

"Did he look as if he enjoyed it--took hold well?"

"Wal, now, I'm frank to say that his smile wasn't ex-act-ly that of a
man with a likely bale of goods to sell--or who wouldn't swap his job
for a kingdom." The sun-dog in the eye sported a tail of sarcasm now.
"'Twas when I sheered off from him an' his blind draft-horse, was
prowling round the shipyard that I first saw the seal-hunter I spoke of,
who was hanging round the bar here day before yesterday watching for a
shot. He was just starting down the river then, with his guide, an old
river-man, 'Merica Burnham, whose launch he hires."

"Oh-h! did he have on a Norfolk suit--belted tweeds and knickerbockers?
Gracious! Olive, I wonder if it _could_ be the same man who passed while
I was painting my dory--camouflaging her?"

Sara's paddling toes suddenly tickled the tide into questioning spray
that camouflaged her cry.

"Now--now, by the ginger joker! Was it _you_ who turned a sensible dory
into a smeared freak? Oh! I saw her as I rowed by your camp. Land! the
sight of her would make a dogfish drop his herring."

Thus the old mariner laughingly diverted that speculative spray.

"Bah! Captain Andy, you're horrid. I think it was quite a cunning idea
to camouflage her, put her into the disguise of the high-seas
uniform--so to speak--as Iver gave her to me.... But if anybody else
made a joke of her!"

"You'd be ready to tar 'em, eh? And so that sportsman
chap--seal-hunter--passed while you were fathoms deep in camouflage! Bet
my life he was amused! I guess it was the same man, girlie, for the
fellow I saw did have on a top-shelfer's rig such as you mention; he was
a walking arsenal, too, rifle an' shotgun both; perhaps he hopes to make
some profit out o' the seal-skins, if he gets any; most everything is
profitable these times! But he missed the one shot I saw him try;
probably at the big old bull-seal that played submarine with you."

"Humph! Glad he did!" came from Sara, mouthpiece for the unavenging
girls. "He must be a tenderfoot sportsman, though."

"Not necessarily. A blubbery seal is about the quickest thing on earth;
it can dive between the flash of the gun and the time the shot strikes
the water--where it has been. Well:

                     "'What is missed is mysteries,
                     What is hits is histories!'"

The old sea-dog chuckled again.

"It certainly is a mystery to me _where_ I've seen him before--before
to-day!" Sara's brows were puckered. "His face, as a whole, isn't
exactly, so to speak, familiar. But the eyes are! He blinked as he
passed--a cool sort o' blink--and one of them closed just a shade faster
than the other. Oh, bother! 'twill haunt me now."

It did haunt her, that uneven blink--dogged her back to camp from the
sand-bar.

She was still puzzling over it when, late that evening, after darkness
fell, she stole down from the big brooding bungalow to the tide's edge,
to say good-night to her harlequin dory, hauled up into the black pocket
of a little sandy cove.

Sands and superstition go together. Suddenly Sara found herself shaking
from head to foot in the dim, weird light of a clouded moon, with the
full tide wailing like a bad ghost below her.

Somebody--somebody besides herself--had been at work upon her dory, that
precious legacy!

Was it man or mocking sprite?

The dim little boat, its smears hidden, shone sprite-like now, as if a
water-fairy had taken possession of it and infused into the wooden shell
an elfin soul which defied the petrified girl-owner through two tiny
luminous eyes, the whiteness of whose enchanted glare, at close
quarters, made up for the pin-head nature of their size.

Lo and behold! The dory's blunt, unromantic nose was bewitched into
radiating light in the darkness, too. Down it shone a narrow streak,
bright as a Milky Way!

"What is it? Who--who could have done it? Could--could it be the
phosphorescent trail of some creature thrown up by the tide?"

But the high tide sobbed, "Not guilty!" as the girl--her flesh beginning
to creep upon her bones--turned towards it with the question on her
lips.

"No! It doesn't look like any ordinary phosphorescent trail of a slimy
thing!" So her chilling lips answered half aloud the question put by her
quailing heart.

She retreated a long step--two--three! The luminous eyes, so whitely
shining, faded out--were hidden--lost in a veil of darkness.

"Bah! What a goose--an utter goose--I am to feel creepy, even for an
instant! If a spirit has got into my dory, it's a mighty short-sighted
one.... 'Twould be easy to dodge it!"

She broke into a low chuckle, sharpened by rising anger.

"It--it's the work of somebody! That--that seal-hunter! Could he be
the--Blighter?"

Strange how, out of the stirred waves of her subconscious self, the
epithet used by her soldier-brother, when the gas, catching a
disobedient "doughboy," had temporarily withered a fiery officer's
holiday, sprang--a kindred flame now--to her parted, stiffening lips, as
she turned to the night-breeze for an answer!

But the sea-wind replied, "Not guilty!" pleading an alibi for the
seal-hunter of the uneven blink, one of whose eyes was just an iota
quicker on the cool wink than the other--who had missed his shot at the
big dog-seal, although he had made a traveling arsenal of himself to
invade the bar.

For, as the temperate gust argued, what possible object could a grown-up
man have in giving a harmless little merry-andrew of a dory a luminous
figurehead, visible, with the naked eye, only for a few yards--even if
his present place of sojourn had not, according to Captain Andy, been
miles away, at a little town far up a tidal river, which rang with the
noise of shipbuilders' mallets--or launching axes--where Olive Deering's
rich boy-cousin was working as a draftee of labor, to replace the gaps
made in shipping by raiding submarines, and apparently not in love with
his chosen job.

"No! That hunter's face haunts me, not--not with a 'comfy' sort of
feeling either, though, for the life of me, I can't tell why. But I
don't think he's the blighter--in this case. And it was a good joke my
camouflaging that little dory, if somebody hadn't gone an' spoiled
it--turned her into--into a toothless bead-eye,"--with a raving
chuckle--"into a miserable little guy of a dragon-dory!"

A gurgle faintly tickled the air, like water bubbling out of an
over-full bottle.

Sara Davenport wheeled about, her flame suspended.

Forth from between two low sand-mounds near by shot an arm, a bare,
round arm, scintillating with six tiny twinkling white stars--a mundane
Milky Way!

The dory's owner caught her breath. For a brief second the "creeps"--the
goose-flesh--almost came back. Then she leaped and grasped it.

The air gurgled like a cataract--a foamy cataract--suddenly shot by a
wail!

"Oh, _don't_--don't! You're h-hurting me!" screamed Sybil Deering. "O
dear! how mad you are! Ha! ha! ha! R-rough you are--uh-huh-huh!...
Don't! You're--hurting!"

"Hurting! I mean to hurt you! What right--what business--had you to go
meddling with my dory, at all? Just because you're a rich girl you think
you're privileged! The little boat Iver gave me--t-turning her into a
guy!"

"You made a freak of her yourself!"

"She was mine. _I_ could do what I liked with her. You know how I hate
people to--to fool with anything belonging to me!... And this----"

The jealous speech snapped explosively.

"There--there's somebody in that sand-pocket with you! Who is it?"

"Only--me!" clucked Little Owl very deprecatingly, thrusting a touzled
head over the mound. "We--we didn't think that you'd get mad, like this,
fly up in the air--clap your wings an' crow--hiss--positively hiss!" in
a half-cowed whimper.

"Yes, and _peck_, too!" savagely. "I'll get even with you both! I'll
punish--find some way of punishing you! I'll leave camp to-morrow--if
you don't!"

The anger in the injured one's breast--fed by the raveled fluff of
weariness strewing the day's end--now leaped to wild exaggeration, like
the little boat's disguise, which had passed from camouflage to
caricature.

"If I could have my way----" Sara fairly ground her teeth, confronting
the wooden bead-eye. "If I could only have my way, I'd----"

But what figure was rising from the dim, dark sands beyond the dory?
What figure bestrode it, like Hercules mastering the many-headed
water-monster?

Ah! that of a young officer coolly smiling from out a puffy storm of
blue powder-blisters which rimmed his face, and covered his neck and
wrists--with a powder-hole smoking upon his breast--holding out a right
hand, humorously, to a paling private.

"Oh! if Iver--if Iver could squelch his powder-puff--the one exploding
_in_ him, I can.... There! There! Girls! I didn't mean to take a joke so
badly. I am a jealous cross-cat, especially where----"

The faltering tongue refused to speak the brother's name.

"And we didn't _mean_ to hurt you! We were--thoughtless." Sybil's
penitent speech, still shooting a cataract of frothy gurgles, tumbled
towards sobs. "But we--we found some of the luminous powder that Olive
has in a tiny bottle--very little, it's so fearfully expensive--powder
that shines in the dark, which she mixes with a few drops of oil to make
radio-paint. Of course it isn't ra-radium--really, but----"

Shooting rapids of laughter, between boulders of sobs, the explanations
of Olive's sister wavered towards collapse.

"You know, or I guess you don't know, for she has kept it secret--a
secret that shines in the dark--that Olive is determined, when we get
back to the city, to go to work at something--anything--to release a
man--a man for the front! Any kind of work for Olive, so long's it isn't
farming or gardening! So she has been learning how to paint dials for
aëroplanes and submarines--radio-dials on which the arrows and figures
shine like cat's eyes at night; the darker it is, the more they shine!
She means to practise the work down here, but hasn't begun yet. She's
kept the paint and the secret hidden away. But I knew, and I----"

"You thought of painting a luminous figurehead on my dory! The powder is
composed of radio-active substances, I suppose." Sara was laughing
herself, now. "Well! it certainly does shine. No submarine officer could
fail to see his depth-gauge, if he was diving by it, with lights out; or
aviator----"

"Shine! Glory hallelujah! It costs enough to outshine
diamonds--everything else on earth, except radium itself!" wailed
Sybil--called, by the Council Fire, Light of the Home--glancing down at
the pin-head galaxy upon her arm. "I suppose if--when--Olive discovers
that I stole some, I'll have to pay for it,"--rocking with stifled
laughter as she looked at the bead-eyed dory--"with--with a month's
allowance of pocket-money!"

"Serve you right, too! I'm glad of it! Wasting anything so precious in
war-time! But what a brick Olive is--bent on going to work to release a
man! I wonder she didn't tell me, at any rate! I suppose she thought I'd
write of it to Iver--over there--and she'd hate to be advertised as a
heroine--in a mild sort of way!" This last a softened little
windy-weep-sighing as Sara, without another glance at the dragonized
dory, started back towards camp.

"So--so it's anything but gardening--or farm-work--for her! I wonder how
she'll keep up at fighting barb-weed and witch-grass to-morrow. I'll be
a barbed weed again myself if I don't turn in now. Well! come along,
Galaxy! I forgive you! You certainly are a radiant--blighter!"

She, the oldest girl, seized Sybil's twinkling arm and the trio started
at a race for tent and bungalow, leaving that toothless bead-eye, the
luminous dory, staring unwinkingly at the tide.



                              CHAPTER VIII

                               THE LEADER


                  "Let your spirit guide us through,
                  Joan of Arc, they are calling you!"

Over the white sands of the Ipswich Beach, looking towards the long
sand-bar, with about three-quarters of a mile of sapphire water
sparkling between, the sportive cry rang, with a gay note of challenge
under its playfulness:

                 "Come with the flame in your glance!"

And she came with the flame in her glance--no spirit Maid of Orleans
returning to lead the gallant sons of the fleur-de-lys on bleeding
fields--as who knows but she may have come to her France in its hardest
hour! Not her, but a modern maid with the fire of the morning in her
dark eye, a spiritual sense of the wild beauty around her in the quiver
of her sensitive lips, with a brine-wet braid of black hair hanging down
her back--needing, indeed, only armor and helmet, instead of blue
overalls, to make her, as she had been once before in tableaux for the
Red Cross, a very fair representation of that Maid of France who, of
old, left her sunny orchards to drive the invader from her soil!

                 "Come with the flame in your glance,
                 With a garden-rake for a holy lance!"

chanted Sara again, feeling that camouflage was not her only
inspiration.

                  "Can't you hear the bugle sounding?
                  Can't you feel our pulses bounding?
                  Lead your comrades to the field!"

she caroled further, falling into step with the maid of the rake, and
looking challengingly up into the dark eyes with the golden spark of
fire--of fervor--in them.

"I confess I wish 'twas any other kind of field, for once; that we had
any other hill to take this morning but that same old heart-breaker of a
converted sand-peak--from which the enemies, the weeds--witch-grass,
rank beach-grass, wild pea, wild vetch--have to be driven back again and
again, with barb-weed, instead of barbed wire, for the worst of all!"
craved she, her chant sinking to a dirge-like sing-song, to which she
matched her march to the war-garden on Squawk Hill, that discordant
paradise of night-herons, so lately reclaimed from the barren dunes.

"What!... What! _Sara_, you're not weakening?" The Maid brandished her
rake. "I wish I had a little more 'pep' in me, myself, this morning,"
she acknowledged, a moment later, sinking her voice to a silky whisper,
with a backward glance over her blue-overalled shoulder at the younger
girls, fifteen of them--a bright-eyed, laughing brigade--who were
following her to take the hill for the fiftieth time from an invading
horde of weeds, ranker, stronger at the seashore than anywhere
else--with a giant's grip upon the sandy soil, from control of which
they had been so lately ousted.

"Well! you didn't expect to be captain of the forces again this morning,
did you, as you have been for three days past?" Sara looked up at her
friend, the oldest girl of the Morning-Glory Group, now encamped upon
the white beach behind them, who had kept incognito a secret that shone
in the dark; who was determined, upon her return to the city, to go to
work, at anything, to release a man--a man for the front. "You thought
our Guardian--Gheezies--would be able to lead us out to capture the
hill, herself, to-day."

"I hoped she would," said Olive Deering. "But I could see that she still
isn't feeling very well after that little sick attack of the past week.
So I persuaded her to save her strength for the Council Fire
to-night--the ceremonial meeting on the sands--at which our little Green
Leaf, Flamina, is really to be initiated as a Wood-Gatherer, and receive
her fagot-ring; hitherto she has been only a novice."

"Won't her voice enrich our Wohelo chant?" murmured Sara. "Sometimes
when she's by herself, skipping along by the sea, it seems to me as if I
never, really, heard a girl sing before; it just fondles the
air--sweetens everything about her. Listen to her now; that's what she
calls a 'funny one!'"

The Green Leaf was dancing forward to the field now, her hands on her
hips, setting the other younger girls saucily swaying with her, to a
dialect lilt of:

                        "In capo del monte,
                        In capo del monte,
                        Si fà l'amore
                        Fiorentina! Fiorentina!
                        E cip i tè ciop!
                        E cip i tè ciop!"

"E chippety chop! Chippety chop!" Olive laughingly echoed the last two
lines as the little singer pronounced them. "I know what that song
means," she cried; "it's about a lover going up a mountain to see his
lady-love whose name is 'Fiorentina'--Florence--and the 'Chippety chop!'
is their airy chatter. Oh! I'm so glad"--she waved her garden
rake--"that the suggestion came from Headquarters that each Camp Fire
Group should adopt a foreign-born sister. Listening to Flamina, nobody
can think that the benefit will be all on her side; we're getting some
magic from her that breathes in that wonderful voice of hers, which, as
you say, would soften a----"

"A corky carrot, eh?" sniffed Sesooā, her spirits dropping with a squawk
from airy realms of love and song, to the skirts of the war-garden on
Night-Heron Hill. "Well! Here's such a _passé_ vegetable row, a
left-over from the crop which the farmer--Captain Andy's enterprising
nephew--planted himself early in the spring. Our late carrot-crop that
we put in towards the end of June doesn't need any sorcery of
Flamina's--or anybody else's"--laughingly; "it's a winner," looking
along green, feathery rows stirred by the sea-breeze, with here and
there a terra-cotta rim just peeping above ground.

"And nobody appreciates its _being_ a 'corker'--not corky--any more than
I do, except when one has to go to work to thin it out, as some of us
will have to do this morning.... And to tell the truth," Sara's
gold-tipped eyelashes twinkled, "I never felt less like work than I do
to-day."

"I don't feel very much in the mood for it myself!" Olive, captain of
the farming-forces, bit her lip, surveying the hill which she had to
take, routing out invading weeds and the supernumeraries in the young
ranks of the vegetables.

"My legs are trying to persuade me that it's time for that evening
ceremonial meeting now--wanting to wheel me back in the direction of
camp," whispered Sara whimsically, as the firefly glance of her brown
eyes flitted over the too prolific rows, not of feathery carrots alone,
but of flouncing beets, tomatoes, beans, triumphant but tardy here at
the seashore, likewise calling to be thinned out. "There's no need for
you to say how your cold feet are behaving, Olive; they'd be warm enough
if you were off there, pow-wowing with the birds on the bar, or lying
out on the home-sands, polishing off--poetically--the words of the
candle-lighting ceremony which you have prepared for the Council Fire
to-night. You know that you're no enthusiastic farmerette; you'd a
thousand times rather paint radio-dials for aëroplanes; 'fess up now!"

"Well! when I came here I hardly knew a potato-stalk from a flouncing
beet, but--but I'm pushing my green head above the soil," confessed the
Maid of the rake--the modern Joan--upon this humble field, the reclaimed
desert looking down upon the fawning ocean, which had to be won from the
enemy over and over again.

"The time's past, however, honey"--Olive drew in her beautifully
chiseled lower lip, which had rather a deep indentation under it, a
rose-leaf nest resting upon the rounded ledge of the chin, which the
girls called her shelf--the ivory shelf where she kept her
inspirations--"the time's past when any girl who _is_ a girl wants to do
only the things which she likes, in the way of war-work, leaving those
that pinch slightly for others!... And now for the pinch! It's time to
begin. We're out to make a showing for the U. S. A.--as our soldiers
say--to stand back of them and help win the war. Let's 'tie to that'
with--with a hundred per cent of the best that's in us, eh?"

But, ah! there are times for all when a hundred per cent on the best of
our soul-stock seems exorbitant interest to pay for success in a
struggle.

At the end of an hour's work weeding and thinning out, fighting the
enemy, grappling with prickly barb-weed, that nettled the ungloved
fingers which boldly grasped it, routing out stubborn beach-grass, wild
vetch, wild pea, on this sea-girt hill which seemed to have unregenerate
leanings towards being a squawky desert still, even the Maid
herself--Olive--began to feel resolution wavering.

"O dear! There never _was_ an ancient village-street in France--or
anywhere else--as crooked as my back feels at the present moment," she
murmured twistedly to herself. "There--there seems to be a 'squawk' in
my courage, too! I want to knock off! I feel irresponsible--idle.
Perhaps it was that mad frolic yesterday on the bar--getting to the
heart of the wild life--the upset--ducking--when the big seal played
submarine! It did something to me. Oh-h! to be, really, a heron, gull,
flippered seal, anything--anything that knows nothing about
horrible--'civilized'--war;... about carrying on in the teeth of
not--wanting--to!"

She straightened her long, graceful back, the Maid, and stood for a
minute gazing off across a mile or more of sparkling bay, to that green
bar on which the high tide now held glassy revel, beckoning to jollity
with long, white fingers of foam, after a manner to make her feel more
irresponsible still.

At the end of that minute she became aware that, mystically, her mood
had spread, or perhaps, in that harum-scarum frolic off the dazzling
bar, the great marbled dog-seal had done more than heave the old settler
into the air; he had capsized the morale of this little army of girls.

"Oh-h, goody! My grit's gone glimmering!" deplored Sara suddenly. "I
hate this witch-grass; there's a 'squawky' old witch in every tuft of
it, I'm sure; it's so rank an' stubborn--so hard to rout out."

"Gone glimmering! I haven't _even_ a glimmer left," sighed fair-haired
Sybil, the Maid's sister, gazing down at her round arm, bare from the
elbow, which had twinkled as a galaxy--radio-painted--the night before.
"Too much fun yesterday; it's taken the 'pep' out of me--burnt it all
away. I--I'd rather do anything than thin out these saucy beets, anyway;
they're so red-faced and flouncing, they--they just seem to giggle at
you in the sun, when you're tired and your back aches, and you don't
want to keep on."

"Yes, like horrid--bold--florid-faced girls; to-day I just want to smack
every one that I pull up!" finished Lilia crossly. "_I_ don't mind
grubbing in this sandy war-garden, when it's an hour and a half in the
morning and an hour and a half in the afternoon, but to put in the whole
time, or most of it--_two_ hours and a half, anyway--at a stretch,
because we want to take it easy, later, and make ready for the Council
Fire--why, that's too much. I don't care what anybody says; I'm going to
rest a while!"

It was the same all over the broad semi-cultivated acres of lonely
hillside. Everywhere courage had gone glimmering, or flickered out
altogether.

Of the seventeen girls at work--two of the campers having been left at
home to prepare dinner: Arline, whose symbolic rainbow was never more
needed, and Betty, the evergreen Holly--not one was now carrying on, or,
if at all, very lamely.

A distant trio who had been raking over the earth around the vegetables,
in order to renew the mulch--surface muck--and draw the moisture to that
sandy surface--had, together with other unpaid volunteers whose tedious
task was to fight insect pests with noxious tobacco-water, thrown down
their arms ignominiously, and sat down under a crooked tree, to chat.

"An infant carrot is, sure, a funny-looking thing; this one has a tail
like a wood-mouse, only pink," lazily moralized Sul-sul-sul-i, meaning
Redstart--Little Fire--here, in this work-a-day field, Victoria Glenn.
"I wonder how such a terra-cotta baby tastes--raw? Bah! Horrid!"

[Illustration: "I don't care what anybody says; I'm going to rest a
while."]

She bit into the vegetable baby and threw it from her, repeating the
experiment, in "loafing" fashion, with another, and yet another.

"Why! you mustn't waste them. We can cook those for our own use--save
the winners to sell for the Red Cross--and to feed others. Oh! Oh!
you're not giving out, too, are you--Victory?"

The Maid's voice broke upon the appealing cry. This change rung upon
Victoria had served as a rally-word before, but evidently there was
"little fire" left in the Victory girl now.

And, worst of all, Olive, the captaining Maid, the Torch-Bearer, felt as
if, at the moment, she could give forth no fuel from her own spirit to
feed the waning spark.

"If--if I don't 'pucker' up--if I'm not true to my service-pin--the day
is lost." She glanced down at the red, white, and blue button upon her
overalls. "Mercy! it is hot--getting hotter. We're none of us in the
mood for work; our legs are telling us that it's time to fall in for a
march back to camp, when it isn't. If I can't rally 'the light that's in
me,' pass it on to others, what good am I as a leader?... Hitherto I
have not been a slacker!"

The feathery luxuriance of the carrot-plants, bending like green foam
before the sea-wind, the far-off rows of sweet-corn, tall beans, taller
than herself--Kentucky wonders--potatoes, and even the "giggling" beets,
did a rural dance around her, to support that claim of the young soul.

And, yet--and yet--Olive knew that the "Joan" fire, with which she
started out, had gone from her eyes, the Joan fervor from her heart.

For, after all, she was no hero-souled peasant Maid of middle ages, but
a fun-loving, by nature ease-loving, girl, reared, as Sara had once
said, "in cotton-wool,"--in padded luxury--who, occasionally,
rebelliously felt, as now, that the shadow cast by the Great War and its
burden of responsibility had fallen unnaturally upon her youth, as upon
the otherwise care-free girlhood around her, making her old before her
time.

While her feet trod the struggling soil of the war-garden she was aware
of a secret garden within her, beckoning them; a garden of indolence--of
ephemeral do-as-you-please delights--in which, indeed, she had rarely
lingered since she became a Camp Fire Girl.

How was she to avoid its tempting gate now--how carry on at the task
that "pinched"?

And the answer was, as it was to the Maid, Joan, of old, in her sunny
orchard, the whispering voices, bidding her look beyond herself--above!

"Our Father!" breathed Olive Deering softly, with a rush of tears to
her wide dark eyes, which gazed away from her followers, out over land
and sea. "Great Spirit in Whom I live and move and have my
being--invisible--Whom, yet, as it were, I have seen--strengthen me
now; don't let me shamefully weaken; help me to--carry--on!

"Girls!" She turned again to the field, the humble, oft-won field.
"Girls--Minute-Girls--Victory Girls--what on earth are we about,
weakening, thinking of knocking off before the time for which we pledged
ourselves is over, simply because we're not in the humor for work? Bah!
Nice volunteers we are! What would our Soldier Boys think of us? Oh!
I've got a letter here that would shame us--right here in the
breast-pocket of my overalls"--plucking it forth, waving thin checked
sheets, pennon-like. "It--it's to my father from the captain of that
infantry company in which my Cousin Clay is--Clay, who carried the big
basket of household goods for the little old Frenchwoman--helped her to
get settled again----"

"Humph!" interjected Sara; she still disliked to listen to any eloquence
bearing upon the war score of Olive's cousins--even on the ordinary
"innings" of that rich boy who, seen leading a blind horse under a
blazing sun through a country shipyard, not a dozen miles away, was
apparently not reveling in his task any more than they had been in
theirs--the only score on which she would have liked to hear her friend
dilate was Iver's.

"The captain's letter tells of an experience which the Boys had, away
back in January, before they had been on the front lines at all--while
they were still in training--in barracks, somewhere in France." Thus
Olive took up the story. "It was their first day in the
practice-trenches, (nine long miles from those barracks--about the worst
day, for weather, the captain says, that he ever remembers) the men said
'Sonny France' had gone up front and got killed--sleet, snow, rain,
mud--just a too-horrid sample of everything, girls!

"And after their nine-mile march to the trenches, the company put in
long hours of hard work, training--practicing how to repel an attack,
how to go over the top, ploughing round, knee-deep, in mud, with their
gas-masks on--which the captain says is about as comfortable as walking
about town on a day hot as this, with your head in a canvas bag."

"Oh! we--we know a little about those chlorine-foolers--some of
us--about the popping gas-cloud, too!" wetly exploded Sara.

"And then--then came the dreary march back to barracks in that freezing
January weather, with the men tired almost to death.... But were _they_
weakening, our gallant Boys of the Yankee Division?... our deary, cheery
American Boys? No! No! They were singing. And one--one--the captain
says, a mere lad, sang loudest of all--then dropped in his tracks as he
reached the barracks! And shall we----"

"No-o, we--_shan't_! We're not 'squawking'--crying quit! Not giving up!
We're out to make a showing, and we're going to do it--no matter how hot
the sun is, or how 'witchety' the weeds! Carry on's the word; carry on!"

The failing squawk had, indeed, become a shout; it was a general cry,
from one and all of the war-workers, for all had drawn near to listen--a
sprayed cry, too, as if the gust sweeping up from the sea, over which
that letter had traveled, brought a little brine on its wings.

"Just one thing morel" cried Olive, again the Torch-Bearer--the Maid.
"I've read somewhere, though not in this letter, that when soldiers are
marching a long distance, shoulder to shoulder, they can stand it much
better than if one is hiking alone. There's our lesson in team-work,
girls; let's take hold together--pull together, as we never did
before--on the weeds, the superfluous vegetable chicks, the muck, or
whatever it is! And--sing!"

         "We don't know how we'll do it, but we're on the way,"

started a voice, moved--half-laughing.

           "We're out to make a showing for the U. S. A.
           There's going to be a hot time before us this day,
           But still we'll make our showing ..."

The protest was triumphantly completed by the fresh breeze booming up
the vegetables.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Two hours later a tired girl, with slight lines of weariness under her
dark eyes, stole into the tent upon the white beach, flanking the
mother-bungalow, which was, at present, hers and Sara's.

She did not turn to her own corner, but to her friend's, where was
pinned to the translucent canvas a framed photograph, with a Service
Star above it.

"Iver!" whispered Olive Deering, tremulously--and again the Maid's look
was on her face--"I'm trying to be worthy of you--of all our Boys--of
our talk on that twilight balcony! I'm 'holding the line!' I'm carrying
on!"



                               CHAPTER IX

                              THE CREATURE


"I light the red candle of Health: strength that I draw from the ocean,
buoyancy from the breeze, elasticity from the air, the sands, and 'dash'
from the wild life about me--dashing health that makes it irksome for me
to walk if I can run or dance, that sets my heart soaring along sky-ways
of thankfulness, makes me strong for all work which my country asks of
me: I light the red candle of Health."

                  *       *       *       *       *

"I light the white candle of Peace: as, in the Christmas story,
_Atawessu_, the Star, the Creature Far Above, guided wise men to the
manger where the Prince of Peace was born, so may the star of loving
kindness guide all men soon to that 'fair city of peace' where
children's cry--like the song of angels, of old--shall come true and it
may be '_Fini_,' forever, _la Guerre_: good will on earth! I light the
white candle of Peace."

                  *       *       *       *       *

"I light the blue candle of Loyalty--Truth: as the tides of the ocean
are stable, returning rhythmically to the shore, governed by some force
which men call Solar Attraction, so may I be drawn to the Sun of Ideals,
'true to the truth that is in me,' loyal to each pledge I make: I light
the blue candle of Truth!"

                    "Peerless red, white, and blue,
                    Vitality, love, and truth,
                    Bright be my hold on you,
                    In these halcyon days of youth!

                    "Staunch as the ocean's tide,
                    Nor man, nor might may turn,
                    Steady as beacon-light,
                    In its patient, steadfast burn!

                    "True as the fixed star's beam.
                    The Creature Far Above,
                    Unerring as wild bird's dive
                    For hidden treasure trove!

                    "True as the ..."

But the chanting voices--enriched by Flamina's caressing note--faltered.
What "Creature Far Above" was gliding forth from a bank of blood-red
cloud, its radiant wings aflame, as if dipped in the fires of another
world?

"It's an aëroplane! A big--aëroplane! A biplane!"

"Nev-er!"

"Yes, it is! I--I thought at first it was a sea-gull; I've been watching
it--saw it before it entered that red cloud-gate!" Sara Davenport's
leather-fringed sleeves fell back from her bare fore-arms, leaving them
free to describe a broken arc of excitement--like chain-lightning
ripping the dusk--under the spell of the tricolored candles.

"Mercy! Whoopee-doo!... Zoom, zoom, zoom!... May--may I be feathers, as
Captain Andy would say, if 'tisn't an aëroplane! A big army air-plane!
Oh, girls alive, d'you suppose--suppose it's going to land--come to
earth--drop down right here by our Council Fire?"

"Oh! it never will. Where is it? I can't see it! The dusk's so thick,
anyway!" It was a half-cheated wail from two-thirds of the girls,
turning to Sara's flame, now a perfect pillar of fire, for
guidance--direction.

"There! There! See! Just over that tallest sand-peak now--high
sand-hill!... And, oh! for goodness sake! there's the moon coming over
the top--coming over the top to stare at it."

Yes! round-orbed, magnificent, shadow-mapped, the silvery Green Corn
Moon was sailing up over the dunes of antique silver--over the
dark-tressed crown of a lesser hill, to gaze at the winged wonder--one
moment burning up in the last dying flame of day, the next a mammoth
gray moth circling and circling in the vast crimson-hung halls of
twilight, as if drawn to the home-fires of earth.

To the far-beckoning blaze of the Council Fire upon the pale beach,
within thirty yards of the tide's rippling edge--the fairy, rainbowed
blaze, fed by bone-dry driftwood, copper-marked wreck-wood, flinging
aloft every hue in the spectrum--before which nineteen Camp Fire Girls
and their Guardian had entered upon the candle-lighting ceremony
arranged by Olive Deering, Torch-Bearer, the Maid who had "carried on"
that morning upon the humble field of that depressing hill.

Now the candles, red, white, and blue, symbolic torches, embedded in
their silver candlesticks of sand, flickered, guttered, unheeded--went
out, two of them--negligible as glow-worms beside some transcendent
display of Northern Lights, streaming merry dancers, radiating from the
excitement in the girls' own breasts, which seemed to surround that
aërial visitor from the North, flying lower--lower--directly over the
high-floating, pink-shot smoke-reek of the Council Fire.

But....

Was it going to be a _visitor_?

Forgotten was the charming purpose of the evening, the main feature of
the ceremonial meeting, the initiation of Nébis, little Flamina, now
fondling the air with vocal thrills that sobbed joyously, like the
softer strings of a violin--as that transporting question sailed,
moon-faced, over the top!

"But--but where did you see it first, Sara? Oh! how _could_ you see it,
far off--when everything's getting so dark? I never knew you
had--cat's--eyes!"

Little Owl was blinking like a snake-charmed owlet which could not move
its head upon the neck usually so flexible--that slender girlish neck
rising from the round setting of the ceremonial dress being bent fixedly
backward--the face, white as a moon-flower, shining upward in ultimate
expectancy, such as never had been before, never could, felt she, be
again, though she live till crack of doom!

"See it! Oh, I don't know! While--while we were singing--chanting--about
the Creature Far Above (oh! wasn't that funny?) I happened to look off,
and saw a speck--dark--against the red! I thought, at first, it was a
bird! Then--then it entered that red ripple-cloud ... then.... Oh-h! I
believe it _is_ going to land--land on our _map_--right here on the
sands.

"Yes; I can hear the engine buzz--now! Gracious! it looks like a big,
dark fish--swimming round in a fog, with a whirligig in its mouth--the
revolving propeller, I suppose."

Olive was stuttering with excitement, too--her hands clasped--staccato
excitement that ticked each word off like a dot against the bare, steely
possibility that the big biplane, now within a couple of hundred yards
of the home-fires, might pass over and on, without descending.

"It _may_ be a naval aëroplane patrolling for submarines, in which case
it will probably fly on over the water--on top of the water, maybe!"

Even Gheezies, the Guardian, as she put forth the unwelcome suggestion,
was oppressed by a tickling in her throat, a cooing almost babyish, of
held-up excitement that did not yet dare to be exultation over the
landing of an army battle-plane by their Council Fire--so that maturity
dropped from her like a nun's cloak and her forty years became as the
fourteen of the youngest tiptoeing maidens present.

"My! But, mercy! suppose it should be--should be an enemy air-plane?
Hostile! _Goodness!_"

Sybil, pirouetting on her toes upon the sands, subsided to the soles of
her moccasins, in momentary apprehension--flat fright--her lips falling
apart, a cleft flower, as her gaze fluttered downward, like a shot bird,
to the dim dunes, searching them for two other lonely camps about an
eighth of a mile distant, one just vacated, the other occupied by the
Guardian's artist-brother, who, at the moment, was far out on the bay,
deep-sea fishing.

Other youthful glances strayed this way and that way, too. All tales of
coast invasion which the girls had heard, of air-raid and
wreck--invasion which, owing to the fleet of their British cousins and
to the immortal valor of their own noble army, fighting for them, they
were to be spared in the Great War--loomed up in a dark fog-ring
encircling them.

"Bah! Enemy! Hostile!... Gammon and spinach!" cried Sara, flapping,
fluttering like a brown leaf in a fish-tail breeze. "No such thing! It's
too far off for us to see the insignia--rings on the under side of the
wings, but.... Oh, say! it _is_ going to land; it's doing a nose-dive
now--heading straight down. Glory, d'you hear it whistle?"

"Whee-ee-oo-oo!" Blithely, indeed, whistled the splendid air-ship,
nosing towards earth, as if it knew the feminine welcome awaiting it,
settling into a natural glide, while the fine wires of the "struts"
connecting the two planes cut the air with that homing sound.

"Hostile!... Piffle! Why! Why! the rudder is striped--can just make it
out--red, white, and blue, the same--the same as our service-buttons."

Ah! dear insignia. Perhaps, at that culminating moment, as the
recognition bubbled forth, under all the merry dance of excitement in
girlish breasts, there was a stable under-current of complaisance
sweeping them upward bodily, as it were, to meet the aërial visitor;
satisfaction that, nine hours before, on the hill of discordant name,
they had not weakened--been untrue to the claim of those ringed colors
linking them now in service to the Adventurers of the skies.

"Yes, here they come! Glory hallelujah! Three cheers for the Red, White,
and Blue! Oh-h!"

A moment of tense silence, of flyaway breath fluttering, winged, through
parted lips--of girlish faces transfigured, luminous in the dusk as the
head-bands about girlish brows--flashing recognition signals into the
gloom! And down it came, that army bi-plane--bump, bump, bump--in the
briefest of jolting canters along the dim, dim beach!

"Well!... Well, we didn't make a pancake landing, anyhow! No!"

Forth leaped, on the word, from his tiny cock-pit, his deep pilot's
seat, a young, boyish aviator, helmeted, gauntleted, leather-jacketed!

Forth he leaped, and pushed his goggles back--then stood for a moment,
a-blink, a knight of the skies, fresh from his parade ground, the
clouds, landing among fairy princesses, filleted and headed, upon a
fairy shore, with a rainbowed Council Fire in the background and three
tall candles, of the charmed colors which ringed his wings--one still
alight, flickering a welcome--in their antique silver candlesticks of
sand!

Could romance go further? The Guardian Fairy felt that it could not. She
stepped forward and held out her hand.

"It was a very pretty landing, indeed," she said.

The knight unbuttoned his leather helmet and pulled it off; his long
back gauntlet, reaching to the elbow, too!

"Well! she did drag her tail a little," he answered, glancing
deprecatingly at his "ship" with its red, white, and blue rudder; the
great crimson fish--fabled fish--with wings in its head and a propeller
in its gaping mouth, which the high tide seemed to have thrown up upon
the sands.

"My name is Fenn," he volunteered, bowing over the Guardian's hand.

"Lieutenant Fenn, I suppose?"

The aëronaut bowed again, unbuttoning his leather coat, so that there
was a gleam of silver bars--those army bars which Iver wore, thought
Sara quickly--upon the broad shoulders beneath; of silver wings, too,
wrought on black velvet upon the tired breast, heaving boyishly.

"And--and this is my observer, Lieutenant Hayward," he introduced
further, turning to the second air-man, who, also, had vacated the airy
nest of his little cock-pit and stood upon the darkening tide-shore.

"Well! Mother Earth is always ready to welcome aviators--or her children
are!" The Guardian shook hands with both.

"That is, when they land of their own free will," put in the boyish
pilot, his strong, white teeth flashing from a pale face as he looked
breezily beyond her at nineteen maidens whose hovering brown draperies,
fluttering fringes, embroideries and long braids "Mammy Moon" now
touched with primitive charm, as if they were her favored offspring.

"I admit the correction," the Guardian Fairy smiled. "At all events,
_we_ are glad--su-premely glad"--her voice shook a little with the
thrill of the thing--"to welcome you to our Council Fire. We--we have
never before entertained Angels unawares--Aviators unexpectedly!" She
laughed. "We are the Morning-Glory Group of Camp Fire Girls, encamped in
that bungalow by the seashore. I am the Guardian, Darina Dewey,
spinster," still laughingly. "It would take a long time to introduce you
all round, and it's getting too dark to see. At least, let me present
you to the elder girls--to our Assistant Guardian, Miss Deering....
Olive--Lieutenant Fenn."

Sara Davenport, introduced next, was not too thrilled to note the young
air-pilot's start of admiration over the first presentation--note it
jealously, for Iver's sake.

"Bah! I don't wonder he wilts!" she murmured to herself, half-savagely.
"Olive is a dream in ceremonial dress, with those long braids, her dark
eyes, and her skin like a moonlit cosmos flower. If--if I were an
aviator, I'd want to fly away with her--ten thousand feet high!
Then--then, what would Iver do? Oh, yes! Have you made a long flight?"
she added aloud.

"Not very, but I had hard work flying my course." The knight of the
clouds, really not much "wilted," was giving full twilight attention to
her now, as to the other older girls to whom he was introduced. "I was
heading into the wind, you see, and the very little there is, up there,
was against us. We were flying low, 'winging the midway air,'"
smilingly, "when we sighted the smoke from your big fire there, and my
Observer ordered me to fly over."

"Oh, did you think--imagine--it was a spy bonfire, signaling out to sea?
I don't believe we have a single spy round here, with--with the possible
exception of the long-legged sand-snipe always spying upon the
fish--greedy things!" Sara excitedly caught her breath.

"Well! I wouldn't be too sure--of anything." The young air-scout plucked
his goggles from his forehead.

"And do you mean to say you were flying over the coast--over the
shore--looking out for--for suspicious things--huts in the woods, lonely
signal-stations, wireless ... oh-h?" Arline and Betty drew breath
simultaneously, tumultuously, speaking together.

"Well, we saw nothing suspicious here," was the evasive answer, "only
suggestive...."

"Suggestive--of what?"

"Oh, that:

                "'Ground-school dinners bring the tears,
                We haven't had a feed--in--years!'"

came the answer with a long--beclouded--sigh.



                               CHAPTER X

                           AVIATORS UNAWARES


"Ground-school dinners! What! That means you're hungry!... Dreadfully
hungry?"

"Oh, not so bad as all that; only rather tired of feasting on
air-puffs," came the laughing answer. "Joy-sticks and air-puffs! My
companion had some of the former in his pocket--meaning chocolate bars!"

"Joy--fiddlesticks! We'll get you something more substantial right away.
Supper--supper will be ready in a winged hurry!"

Wing-footed, indeed, one-half the army of girls started for a united
drive upon the bungalow and its seashore resources.

"Oh, not so many! 'Too many cooks,' you know!" The Guardian's voice
arrested them. "Four will be plenty--those who are housekeepers for
to-day, with Olive and Sara. Well! you're on your mettle, girls; it's
something to entertain aviators unawares."

"Lucky loopers of the clouds, who certainly _have_ tumbled into a bed of
roses!" chuckled the youthful pilot, throwing off his leather "togs,"
examining his aërial ship all over by the light of an electric torch,
whose luminous ring belted his own adventurous figure in its
greenish-brown trick-suit fashioned like the farming overalls which his
girl-hostesses had worn that day in their battle with weeds and pests
upon Squawk Hill.

"Well! aren't you glad now, 'Goggle Eyes,' now that we've landed in
clover--hit it lucky--that I decided to nose her down and make a landing
here--bunk out on our wings to-night?"

Thus he challenged the observer, with his dangling binoculars.

"Well! I do admit it's 'low tide' inside me, Ned; every little creek
bare as a sand-pocket; I shan't object to being filled up," acknowledged
the older air-man. "Only I feel rather"--he smiled through the
flash-light's luminous ring upon the picturesque maidens in ceremonial
dress--"rather as if we had been sailing by the star-chart and landed
upon some more romantic planet than old Mother Earth, which hits some of
us such hard knocks at times. I--I'll have to rub my eyes to make sure
I'm awake--not having an air-dream," blinkingly.

"_Oh-h_, what a pretty compliment to the Council Fire!" Sybil purred
happily. "Now! won't you--can't you--tell us something about the
aëroplane--the big, strong battle-plane--about its different parts, and
what it is made of?"

"Humph! Let the pilot explain his own ship. Go ahead, 'Tailspin Ned'!"
laughed the observer, challenging the younger aviator, Lieutenant Edwin
Mortimer Fenn, R. M. A.

"Well! Well, as you see, ours is the tractor type of aëroplane, having
the propeller in front, drawing it through the air," explained the
latter, flashing his electric light upon that mahogany propeller which
shone like a silver paddle--if not a silver piece--in a gasping fish's
mouth.

"These are the aërofoils--wings--which support it in flight, having a
spread of thirty-six feet from tip to tip, on each plane. And----"

"You have--oh! excuse my interrupting!--you have some wings on your
breast, too." Little Owl pointed shyly to those four-inch mirror-wings,
the army insignia, reflecting the young air-man's flying achievements,
gleaming against their velvet setting upon his rough gabardine overalls.

"Yes! I wouldn't swap them for a General's stars." His white teeth
flashed boyishly. "They represent my commission as an R. M. A.--Reserve
Military Aviator. When I was a humble cadet my breast-wings were
stiffer," laughingly.

"How--how do you mean?" came from a dozen enthralled girls.

"Why! they were of metal--silver--three inches across; not limply
wrought upon black velvet; that was when I was in training on the
flying-fields, where I went, from Aviation Ground School, where--where
the dinners--were--so good," naïvely.

"Mercy! I'm just dying to fly," came breathlessly from one fluttering
feminine throat--Little Owl's. "According to my symbolic name, I'm a
bird, anyway!"

"Well, don't die--flying. Probably after the war is over--no doubt
before very many years have flown ahead of you--your Camp Fire Group
will have a Bird Corps of its own," encouragingly.

"And win honor-beads for parading in the air--sky-blue and cloud-barred,
I suppose!" burst ecstatically from one or two of the other girls whose
symbolic names were also derived from the feathered tribe, with which,
in a dazzling skyscape vision, they saw themselves competing.

"Now, perhaps, you'd like to know a little more about the wings that
will support you." The R. M. A., otherwise Tailspin Ned--a nickname he
had acquired upon the training-fields--flashed his torch again over the
aëroplane--the mammoth gaping red fish. "Well, the wing-ribs--spars--are
of light wood, covered with fine linen, doped with a preparation to make
it durable; so is the fuselage, body of the machine. The props
connecting the two planes are the struts whose flying wires sang their
jolly little earth-song--whistled, you know--as we came down. When we
land for the night on a lonely spot, we have to guard the aëroplane, so
we bunk out on our wings; if it rains, we bunk under them."

"Tuck your little head under your wing, like a real bird-man," laughed
Sybil.

"While the Witch watches over your slumbers," supplemented
Sul-sul-sul-i--Victoria Glenn, the Victory girl. "Mercy! What a
bloodthirsty red-eyed old witch!... Girls, do look! She's stenciled on
cloth, broomstick and all, just as we have our Camp Fire emblem
stenciled upon our dresses." Victoria, a Fire Maker, glanced down at the
dusky crossed logs and tongue of flame upon the skirt of her own
ceremonial gown.

"She's the emblem of our flying squadron; we chose her as soldiers
choose a mascot," answered the R. M. A. "The cloth on which she rides
rampant is glued to the side of the fuselage, just beneath my cock-pit.
This is the stabilizer which preserves our equilibrium in the air; all
this rear part is the tail mechanism."

"What--what are the dials--radio-dials? Oh, see how they light up when
the flash-light moves off!" cried one or two voices.

"Those that face me in my little cock-pit! Why, clock, compass,
altimeter, inclinator--and a few more to guide us on the sky-trail."

"If--if you just stroll down to the water's edge, you'll see a _radio
freak_!" laughed Sybil. "A shining figurehead on a dory! She's
camouflaged too, that wooden bead-eye! I had the prettiest little Milky
Way on my own arm last night,"--holding up that round member--"six tiny
stars; I washed them off this morning."

"So you're no longer a Camp Fire galaxy!" Now, it was the aviator's turn
to chuckle, as compliantly he strode towards the murmuring tide,
extinguishing his torch.

"But--but why the camouflage?" he demanded. "Rather a rub-in joke, eh,
on a humble little rowboat that's as innocent as a lamb; she'll never
chase anything--dodge anything...."

"Hold on--hold on there, you Cavalry Man of the Skies, as my
soldier-brother would say! How do you know?" suddenly challenged the
piquant voice of the dory's owner, bristling with "pep" behind him.

"When--when aviators drop from a height of ten thousand feet.... Oh!
don't say you weren't as high as that----" Sara bit her lip comically.

"Higher, part of the time," was the amused reply. "I saw a double sunset
this evening. Just after witnessing the first we 'zoomed' up, soared for
the fun of the thing, outside the earth's shadow, saw Old Sol rise
again, blood-red, in the West--like a tricked rooster with a flaming
comb--and set for the second time. Jove! Some sight that!"

"There! I told you anything--anything is possible these times. Well!
What I'd like to know is, where the cavalry of the sky would like to
sup--indoors or out?" questioned Sara, waving her fringed arms towards
that violet night-sky, no longer locked to man.

"Outdoors, by all means, I should say, by that corking bonfire!" The
aviator glanced backward over his shoulder at the blazing pile of
driftwood whose shading smoke-reek, floating high over the dunes, had
guided him to earth.

"And what would the air-scouts choose to drink?"

"Oh-h, I know!" flashed forth Sybil. "They're just crazy about
milk--mild milk. Don't they--don't they always drop down on a farmer if
they get a chance? My cousin, Atwood, who's working in the shipbuilding
yards, not a dozen miles from here--leading a blind horse hitched to a
great yellow ship's timber and not enjoying it--he told me that when he
visited a friend in training at the flying-fields, the chum said that
after a long fly he was just like a baby, crying for milk."

"Zooms! We've got gallons of that--nearly _one_ gallon, anyway. We
brought it home from the nearest farmhouse this evening--a mile away,
across the dunes."

Sara, much concerned over this novel entertainment of angels--winged
beings--unprepared, swung round on her moccasined sole for an inspired
rush back to camp.

"Hurrah for the home fires!" The aviator gleefully shrugged his
shoulders. "Oh! I felt it in my bones, all afternoon, that before night
we'd land--_somewhere_--in clover:

               "'Oh, a wonderful thing is a flying cadet,
               He lives on a promise--and--hope!'"

he chanted boyishly.

Then, from the darkling tide's edge, his "zooming" glance soared upward
to his parade-ground, the night sky; to Atawessu, the evening star, the
Creature Far Above, as softly--half-wistfully--he finished the
quotation, reminiscent of his training days above the flying-fields:

         "But--but the twinkling stars are as far as his bars,
         And he never--_quite_--figures the dope!"



                               CHAPTER XI

                          KNIGHTS OF THE WING


"Well! we _have_ tumbled into a camp of milk and honey."

Lieutenant Hayward, the observer, with the binoculars, from whom the
young air-scout had taken orders as he flew over the shore, was almost
guilty of smacking his lips in relish of the fare set before him in the
light of the rainbowing Council Fire and of two camp-lanterns which
turned the antique silver of the sands to gold.

                     "Keep the home-fires burning!"

he chanted. "Ye zephyrs! I don't think I ever appreciated them so much
before. Certainly that's a corking Council Fire; all those wonderful
colors; fairy lilac shading into blue flame, rose, green, and yellow,
which the copper-corroded wreck-wood throws off!"

"Corroded! The green is just about the hue of the soldiers' buttons
up--up at Camp Evens, after the chlorine-gas changed them, eh, Olive?"
murmured Sara reminiscently under her breath--forbearing to vent upon
the banquetting sky-lords the story of a gruesome episode on the day
when four of the girls present visited her brother in camp. "Oh! _won't_
you tell us why you flew over--flew low over our fire, this evening?"
she burst forth suddenly, eagerly. "Did you really take it for a
spy-bonfire, on this lonely beach, signaling out to sea? Are you--are
you air-scouts, patrolling, on the lookout for--for huts in the
woods--secret wireless----"

But the observer held up a pleading hand.

"How _can_ you ask me, fair Earth Daughter, to discuss anything at
present but--but these wings and camouflage? Aviators' slang!" he
murmured divertingly, beaming upon his forthcoming mouthful of creamed
chicken, greenly disguised with the juiciest of young peas.

"Canned as well as camouflaged--the wings!" Arline's shoulders were
hunched in a deprecatory rainbow. "The peas are home-grown, though, from
our own war-garden on that prickly wretch of a hill off there." She
laughed. "There--there was a great _shelling_ off this coast this
morning," glancing towards the night-sea whence a hostile attack might
come.

"Ha! And were the shells 'incomers' or 'outgoers,' as the soldiers say?
Apparently none of them lodged in the camouflage--or in these dandy
hot-air rolls." The aërial observer laughed, falling in with the girlish
jest.

"Warmed over air!" The Rainbow touched a tepid finger-roll. "We got the
receipt from our Wohelo magazine."

"'Zooms' for Wohelo!"

                       "Fish-tails for breakfast,
                       Cloud-puffs for tea,
                       But Camp Fire rolls
                       Are the feast for me!"

chanted "Goggle Eyes," loftily improvising with an inspired glance at
the violet night-sky.

"We can picture the air-puffs, but whence--whence the fish-tail ménu?
Flying fish?" queried Olive, breaking into the airy chit-chat.

"No, fish-tail breezes--flapping gusts--that blow you about up there--a
lively relish for your rations!"

Here the older aviator glanced sidewise at Sara, as one who has neatly
weathered a downthrow current of curiosity.

"Humph! _Silent_ as a fish! Questions taboo! They'll tell you nothing,
these air-scouts--nothing that you'd really like to find out about,"
murmured the inquisitive one, teasing the fire-logs with a birch-stick
until they matched her own tantalized flame.

"Well!... Well! I'm glad you're not missing Ground-School dinners now,"
she vouchsafed aloud. "When you've finished rhyming over the rolls, oh!
won't you--please--tell us something about flying, about your
parade-ground, up there?"

"You--you tell 'em, Big Boy!" The observer nudged the younger aviator.

"Well! what shall it be? We sky-skimmers can do about everything with
our wings that the birds do with theirs, you know, except flap them.
Along some lines we could teach our feathered friends a few tricks!" The
younger man laughed over his loyalty cake, less most of the usual
ingredients, plus spices and skill. "How about emulating the somersault
of a tumble-pigeon--looping the loop--or racing an express train across
endless prairies, and, when you caught up with it, flying low, bumping
your wheels on the cab of the locomotive, to let the engineer know he
wasn't 'in it,' eh?"

"Bravo! What fun! And the engineer, how would he take it?"

"Why, he'd come out and wave his arms, to 'shoo' us off, while the
passengers flourished hats and handkerchiefs from the train-windows. Ye
bats and flying cats! but this honey is good. Did you hive it yourselves
as well as grow the peas?"

"No, one of the girls had it sent to her by an uncle who has a bee-farm
in Vermont. Well!... Well! We're waiting to hear more from the _latest_
flying cat--flying man, rather."

"Great cats! you are, eh?" Tailspin Ned laughed through the firelight.
"Ha! What about the thrills we gave civilians--those 'gawkers of the
clouds'--on one public holiday, when our field was thrown open to the
public? Thrill after thrill, joke after joke, put over on them!... But,
oh, I say, this is awfully one-sided. Those quite too fetching
'togs,'--pardon me, those very picturesque dresses, head-bands,
moccasins, and so forth--they signify something--some ceremony. Now!
won't you let us come in on it?"

"What! On our monthly council meeting!" The Guardian smiled, as smiled
her symbol, the yellow sunburst embroidered upon her breast. "As for
this rainbowed Council Fire, whose smoke guided you to earth, we were
only using it as a background this evening--an accessory. Being such a
still night, the program--its opening part--centred around a candle
lighting ceremony arranged by one of our number."

Along a red lane of firelight she glanced at Olive, beautiful in the
ruby glow which brought out the wings of a heron woven into her
shimmering head-band and the Torch Bearer's emblem, stenciled on
cloth--as the clawing Witch was stenciled upon the fuselage of the
aëroplane--crossed logs, flame-tongue, pearl-white smoke, upon the front
of her khaki dress, which, with its manifold, meaningful embroideries,
was fast becoming a rare, fair tapestry of achievement.

"We--we were just considering Atawessu--the Star--as a symbol, when down
_you_ dropped from airdom!" Gheezies--Guardian--smiled again.

"With fresh rumors from the sky, eh? Well! to show that you don't resent
the intrusion--now it's our turn to plead--won't you please go on with
the ceremony, and let us light the clouds with a memory of your
candles?"

"Hardly--that! We're too interested in--in the thrills you gave the
'gawkers.'" Even a Guardian may stumble into slang under the spell of
aërial enthusiasm. "Our awarding of honors"--she touched the triple
necklace of many-colored beads falling to her knees--"and of rank," with
a glance at little star-eyed Flamina, "may well be postponed. But,
perhaps, we will let you 'come in on our ceremony' to--to the extent of
singing you a song or two in return for your soaring thrills."

And presently, with all the soft magic of welcoming motion of which a
score of Earth Daughters were capable, there floated forth upon the
fire-warmed dusk, beside the prismatic Council Fire:

                "Whose hand above this flame is lifted,
                Shall be with magic touch engifted,
                To warm the hearts of lonely mortals,
                Who stand within its open portals.

                Whose house is dark and bare and cold,
                Whose house is cold,
                This is his own!"

"Ha! Our castles in the clouds are always bare--and often cold. We're so
glad you've made us free of yours!"

The younger aviator--Big Boy--drew a long breath; perhaps sometimes, in
the vast empty spaces of those air-castles, occasionally dreary--he
might, like Lieutenant Iver over-seas--recall the warm imagery of the
Council Fire, its magic of sisterhood, when he missed the things that
make life hum.

"_Now!_ it's your turn. You sing us a song!" pleaded Lilla, a fluttering
Owlet, as the brown-clad maidens, light as wafted leaves, settled again
into a sitting circle upon the sands.

"Well, I like that! I'll tell the world!" laughingly. "To ask me to
croak, like a flying frog, after such a smooth performance--as--that!...
However, how does this go?

            "'Oh, Major! Oh, Major! Oh, _Major_!' he said,
            'What shall we do with this flying cadet?
            His ambitions are many,
            His achievements are small,
            He came through the Game with no wings at all!'"

"Good! Good! Bravo!" An enthusiastic clapping of maidens' hands around
the Council Fire. "But how did he get through without any wings?"
hazarded one small voice.

"Because he failed to win them, his breast-wings, his insignia." The R.
M. A., Lieutenant Ned, touched the winged emblem upon his own breast.
"Or perhaps he was grounded--dropped--while learning to fly, for some
act of stupidity or dare-deviltry, say, making a pancake landing, as I
might have done on the sands here, coming down flat, kerplunk, without
easing her off at all--wrecking his machine."

"Humph! I'm glad that _we_ didn't make a pancake landing over on Squawk
Hill this morning--fall down flat upon our war-work. Then we'd have come
through the Game with no wings at all, eh?" Sara bent whimsically
towards the shading flames of wreck-wood. "And now--now for the
thrills!" she demanded hungrily.

"Such as we gave the long-suffering public on that memorable field-day?
What do you say to an aërial bomb going off, to fifty-four air-ships
parading in the sky, doing loops, spins, spirals, Immelmann turns, when
you change your direction quickly, and so forth; to two aviators--one in
reality--making pretense of changing places while looping, and--and the
feminine shrieks when a life-size dummy, in leather togs, fell headlong
out?"

"I'll wager that, among the spectators, the men were as nervous as the
women--so there, you Cavalryman of the Clouds!" pouted Sara, almost
leaning her cheek against the silver and rose of a flaming dead arm of
juniper, found on the beach.

"I _wonder_ that you weren't afraid to burlesque tragedy?" The Guardian
caught her breath.

"Well, we came near getting the real thing: one lieutenant fell in a
tailspin, in mid-air. We were pretty sure he was done for," gravely.
"Eventually, he recovered. The same accident once happened to me, but so
high up that I managed to right the machine--get control of it--before I
reached the ground; hence my nickname."

The younger aviator, the intrepid pilot, leaned also, half-wistfully,
towards the Council Fire:

           "Oh!... Oh! a won-der-ful thing is a flying cadet,
           He lives on a promise and hope,"

he chanted softly once more, ere pursuing the backward thrills of
field-day.

"Well! I suppose it's high time that we were tucking our heads under our
wings--or bunking out on those wings, on the beach," he remarked half an
hour later, after excited hostesses, by this eventful Council Fire, had
listened, with cheeks aflame, to more aërial jokes "put over" upon
civilians; to tales of clown flying and aërial battles; to the crowning
narrative of an "enemy" air-ship--of counterfeit hostility, like the
gas-attack at Camp Evens--appearing to bomb the field; of an oil-puddle
afire, to represent a burning city; of sirens sounding, bombs exploding,
cloud-high, and a U. S. aëroplane "jumping on his tail" to bring him
down.

"Gracious! I'll hear those whistles--that aërial bombardment--in my
sleep," murmured Arline, the Rainbow. "If you're very tired after flying
your long course to-day, you can both turn in to sleep in one of the
tents, and we'll guard the big war-plane in a body--we girls--during
part of the night, anyway," proffered she, the most timid of the group.

The Guardian laughed; so did the aëronauts.

"Sing us a lullaby, instead--another smooth song," pleaded Big Boy.

And drowsily the strains of "Mammy Moon" stole from tired voices upon
the dark, while the full-faced Green-Corn Moon looked down, perhaps
pondering upon how many generations of moons had come and gone without
seeing such a miracle as the great winged fish upon the dusky beach--the
competing voyager of the clouds.

"I suppose you won't be abroad at dawn to see us take off from the
sands--see us 'zoom'!" remarked the younger aviator as he bade his
beaded hostesses good-night.

"Don't be too sure of that!" came the answer of drowsy challenge,
melting into the magic--deep soul-magic--of

                 "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!"

"Aye! that's the Fire to warm our bare castles in the air--with it the
endless spaces cannot be dreary," commented the observer to the tide as
he stretched himself out to bunk in vigil, upon one of the aëroplane's
linen wings, while the tired young pilot, for the earlier part of the
night, enjoyed the luxury of a tent.

Yes, the same fire it was which burned in the breast of Iver Davenport,
now, perhaps, lying out in a shell-hole in No Man's Land--he who "had
come nearer to God" since he volunteered; the same which had inspired
Olive, child of luxury, the modern Maid, upon a humble field, to "carry
on" in the teeth of distaste and weariness; the same, in degree, which
upheld her boy cousin, leading a blind horse hitched to a heavy timber
through a shipyard, and not reveling in his novel "job"!

                  "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."

It was in the earliest flames of sunrise that a dozen, at least, of
wakeful girls thronged the white beach--where cranberry vines trailed
exquisitely over the sands, laying young cheeks of faintly flushed
berries upon snowy pillows--to watch the great battle-plane take
off--take the air, in its upward flight.

"Now, I'll 'give her the gun'--open the throttle! And see me '_zoom_'!"
laughed the pilot--Big Boy--waving renewed farewells from his tiny
cock-pit.

"Yes! Watch him 'zoom'!... Fly upward into the clouds! Oh, _see_ the
_Bird_!" was the responsive challenge of one girl to another.

"We'll tell the story of this visit by the Council Fire, as long as ever
we're a Group," said Olive, an envious Blue Heron, her wide, dark eyes
catching a pink spark from dawn, as they followed the big war-plane on
its zooming--cloud-climbing--flight, straight upward.

"We'll stencil it on a sheepskin and pass it down to--to our
children's children," chuckled Sara, "as an incident of the 'off '
side of the Great War, when flying was in its youth! But"--she caught
her breath, while a speculative dawn flame, a red flush, crept up her
neck--"but I don't believe there was anything 'off'--vague, I
mean--about the purpose of those two aviators; they were air-scouts on
patrol-duty--spy-hunters--mark my words--flying low, most of the time,
over the shore, while the observer, Goggle Eyes, with his binoculars,
leaning out, I suppose--oh! I wonder how he could do it?--searched the
woods and all lonely places, like ours, for suspicious huts--secret
wireless-stations----"

She broke off, dreamily following the mounting cavalry of the sky.

"Well! As yet, we've only seen one strange man around here--that
seal-hunter," began Arline.

"Whose face I _have_ seen somewhere before!... Goody! See them 'zoom'!
Higher--higher!"

Sara's own face was a puckered flame, lit by a brand from day's first
burning, but by no coveted memory-flash, as she watched the aëroplane,
now a rosy speck--a radiant, exploring dragon-fly--upon the far-away
edge of dawn.

"Bah! The _seal-hunter_! Nothing wrong 'bout him!" Lilla blinked
drowsily upward, the sleepiest Little Owl ever caught abroad in
daylight. "He has a contract, Captain Andy says, to deliver a lot of
those spotted skins of hair-seals to some firm, for making babies'
shoes--awf'ly soft an' nice for that! I wonder if he'll get that big
'buster' which played submarine with us? And whenever he comes down the
river, from that little shipbuilding town which he makes his
headquarters, or near there, his guide, old America Burnham, who's as
loyal as his name, comes with him--that's what they told us at the
farmhouse where we went for milk."

"He was--alone--when he passed us on the beach, while I was painting the
dory.... Ugh! I'm cold; d'you know it?" shivered Sara, her flame dying
down, like an early morning fire lit too soon, before there is fuel to
feed it, refusing even to kindle the spark of memory which she craved,
for her comfort.

"Well, if there was a busy spy up in the neighborhood of those
shipyards, he _might_--think of it!--might manage to give out
information about the launching of some of the medium-sized vessels
which the men are building just's fast as ever they can, working
overtime at it--I wonder if my cousin who leads the blind horse gets as
far as that?--to fill the gaps made by horrid submarines in the spunky
Gloucester fishing-fleet."

Sybil's eyes of monkey-flower blue were now throwing aërial
forget-me-nots--pensive glances--after the vanishing cavalry of the air,
even as she thus spoke, with one-half of her thoughts on those less
spectacular heroes of the deep, the toiling fishermen, whose schooners
and savings were being, daily, sunk before their eyes.

"Humph! Captain Andy says he wonders why the subs have not ventured in
near shore already, and made an attempt to sink some of those vessels
just after they were launched--when they first smelled water, meaning
when they were being towed round to the seaport--Gloucester--to have
their masts and rigging set up.... O dear! may it not be long before he
takes us up the river to see a launching, and visit my Cousin Atwood at
his work. I just want to see for myself what sort of a bold front that
boy is putting up now!"

Olive, laughing and yearning together, waved a farewell to the
aëroplane, now a vanishing speck.

           "'Oh, Major! Oh, Major! Oh, _Major!_' he said ..."

Sara's shoulders were comically shrugged.

            "His ambitions are many,
            His achievements are small,
            He came through the Game with no wings at all!"

"How do _you_ know? He may be growing some--that spoiled cousin of
mine--faster than you are. All war service wings are not of the same
feather exactly!"

And now the morning-song of Olive's laughter held a challenging note of
rebuke.



                              CHAPTER XII

                              A GOOD LINE


Many a true word is spoken in jest--or figure! All war service wings are
not the same.

Atlas was upholding shipping. Atlas was bearing up the country. Atlas
was upholding the world and its blue arch of freedom, just as the fabled
Atlas of old--stalwart sea-god--was supposed to bear heaven and earth
upon his broad shoulders.

That is how the modern Atlas--eighteen-year-old shipyard worker--felt.

It had not been an easy day for Atlas, otherwise, young Atwood Atwell,
Olive's cousin, heir to millions, future prop of a wealthy
banking-house, at present steadying--holding up, rather in imagination
than reality--a raw and ponderous yellow ship's rib, and, according to
his excited feeling, the whole free world with it.

It had been a harder, and in some ways more stirring, day than if he had
been aërially breakfasting on "fish-tails," supping on cloud-puffs,
doing Immelmann turns in the sky, "zooming" upward, or nosing down, to
scan the home-shores through powerful binoculars for tell-tale signs of
spy-work which might frustrate the labors of Atlas and his
fellow-toilers by sooner or later bringing about the sinking of the
vessels they built.

Atlas had seen the scouting air-plane pass over the shipyards, five days
previous, just before sunset, but he had not paid much attention to it.
He was just starting off in his neat little racing-car for a welcome
rush back to the open arms of luxury in and about the paternal summer
residence at Manchester-by-the-Sea.

"By George! I'm beginning to feel sick of the sight of these
dead-an'-alive shipyards," he muttered to himself, throwing a backward
glance, as he drove off, at the yards full of skeleton shapes, like a
scarecrow Armada. "Working on moulding timbers--laying the thin moulds
on the timbers out there in the field beyond the yard, marking those
timbers down to the proper size and beveled shape, using my mathematics
until my head aches--nice pastime when the sun's hot! And, for variety,
steering Blind Tim, that old draft-horse--hitched to one o' those
half-ton timbers when at last it's polished down to a rib--from end to
end o' the yard, between green stock and seasoned stock, an' every other
kind of lumber!" He tooted his horn fiercely, to warn some homing
workman, swerved to avoid another automobile, and so snapped the thread
of meditation.

As he did so, he caught the critical glance of a trio of blue-shirted
ship-carpenters hailing from his own sphere of labor, wending their way
homeward, too; and _almost_ he caught the carping comment of one of
them, Libby Taber--professional shipyard pessimist.

"There! Aw, _there_ goes the 'Candy Kid'!" grunted Libby, and his voice
was flatter than a marsh-fog. "Well, he ain't putting up much of a
front, is he? He's 'soured' on shipyard work already. He'll be knocking
off, some fine day, pretty soon, an' tucking himself away, as a Mamma's
boy, in some soft little 'bunk-fatigue' job--lazy man's job for
war-time.... See if he don't!"

"Well, now, I'm not so sure about that," tempered the foreman. "He
side-tracked the 'bunk-fatigue' jobs when he was drafted for work. An'
if he ain't stuck on the shipyard stunt, he's sticking to it, with
muscle an' nerve--and risks don't faze him; he's as ready to take a
chance as another!"

But despite these sterling qualifications, before the boy reached home
that evening, Libby's marsh-fog mood had, somehow, mysteriously
communicated itself to the young draftee of labor, the wealthy banker's
son, who, until the war summons sounded, had never before done anything
he wasn't particularly interested in doing.

"Oh, confound it all! I do want to knock off. May as well own up to it,"
he acknowledged to himself then, and during the days immediately
following. "How about jumping my job at the end of next week, after I've
given the foreman--he's a fine old fellow--due warning, and--and
slipping into some niche in the bank, or in Uncle Peter's patent
attorney's office, as the Mater wanted me to do? Maybe, after all, I
strained a point, leaving the softer snaps for older men, and starting
in to help build ships, as I'm too young to go across--too young to
enter the Army or Navy, or Aviation either; at least, the family is
against it--Uncle Sam, too, it seems--until I've had another year or two
of college. Well! there's not much sugar in the deal I've chosen....
Pretty raw _deal_ all round! Bah!"

He forged this latter comment, in a moody play upon words, five days
after the scouting war-plane had flown over the shipyards and landed by
a Council Fire, as he pursued the monotonous task of leading the big
blind horse hauling a half-ton of that raw "deal"--unpainted
timber--through the shipyard, amid yellow reefs of the same "ships'
stuff" all about him.

Then, suddenly, under the forenoon sun, Atlas--he had not _yet_ become
Atlas, though, upholding shipping and the world--jumped, caught his
breath, and yanked at Tim's rein--sightless Tim!

A limousine had stopped by the country shipyard--the open, unguarded
shipyard--where vessels were built by the roadside.

A lady stepped out, his mother.

"Don't hurt my boy!" she said to the yard foreman. "Don't work him too
hard. He's beginning to look tired of an evening."

"Well! I guess that won't hurt him any," returned the foreman, smiling,
not unfeelingly. "He's doing his bit, and who--who knows when it may
become the _main bitt_?" perpetrating a whimsical joke as he looked
towards a finished vessel, wedged up on the launching-ways of an
adjoining shipyard, all ready to be launched to-day. "See--see that
sawed-off, drab post rising from her deck, ma'am?" he challenged, being
a man of words, with a voice that habitually hovered about the sky-line,
if Libby's clung to the marshes. "That's one o' the two
bitt-heads--weather main bitt, we call it--to which by'n-by the
main-sheet controlling the mains'l will be belayed--made fast--safety
an' progress both, y' understand!"

The mother stared at him smilingly--began to set him down as a
"character."

"I'd let the boy alone if I were you, lady," went on the yard-boss
earnestly. "If his present 'tough' bit never shows up on deck as the
main bitt on which everything hangs, yet it's that for him now, if the
best in him is anchored to it. Get--me?"

The mother did. She refrained from condoling with her son upon the
sameness of the work in which Blind Tim and he were a team, patted the
sightless horse, which had "pulled himself blind" in the service of a
city fire department, upon the nose, and drove off.

But the boy felt that he had been made an object of solicitude; he
"gloomed" outright and made up his mind, once for all, to "jump his job"
before another ten days were over, in favor of one softer, or swifter,
as the case might be.

"Bah! I could stick it out better in the trenches," he said to himself.

But----

"It's a good line. Hold it--Mike!" challenged the foreman, reading,
perhaps, what was passing in his mind.

Young Crœsus started. It was novel to hear himself addressed as "Mike."
A red glow rose to his neck. He did not resent it. Instead it warmed him
a very little, as if he had stretched just one toe towards a fire--but
not enough to redden the blues.

"'A good line,'" he repeated to himself. "Pshaw! I wonder if that flock
of girls will think so--those who are coming up the river this
afternoon, from that distant beach, to see the launching? At least,
Olive said so in her note. Will leading a blind horse which 'tugged
himself blind' carrying the hook and ladder to city fires--straining
harder than he was driven, as if he knew there were lives in
danger--will that seem a good line to them? Oh, they'll gush over _him_,
of course!... Ha! Here comes another visitor! 'Never rains but it
pours!'" truculently.

Carefully--indeed, tenderly--guiding Tim, duty's blind hero, he had
reached that part of the lumber-littered shipyard where the ponderous
beveled "frame," or yellow ship's rib which the horse was hauling, would
be set up, hoisted by a rude derrick worked by man-power, until it was
in line with sixty-odd of those square frames already branching outward
and upward from the keel of a skeleton vessel propped high upon the
building-stocks.

"Hum-m! 'Some' visitor he seems to be! They're dropping auger, mallet,
and saw to shake hands with him--the ship-carpenters!"

Curiously enough, young Atwood, leaning against his equine hero--a
sturdy, boyish figure, light-haired, ruddy-skinned, as Captain Andy had
described him, in smeared khaki trousers, a white duck shirt, a duck hat
on the back of his head--wanted to do the same, while he waited for the
rib to be set up.

But the visitor did not look at him. He exchanged a few greetings,
hearty, but rather heavy-hearted. In his eye there was a brooding sense
of loss, but a very slight birth-mark beneath it burned like fire--a
flaming star that could not be extinguished.

It magnetized Atwood's gaze, that star; he kept glancing curiously up at
it--it looked so indomitable, burning upon the tall cheek-bone of a
bronzed man who must have measured six feet one even from the red
horizon-line across his tanned forehead to the highly polished toe of
his tan shoe which burrowed speculatively into the matted shavings of
the shipyard.

"I've come to see what vessels you've got on the stocks, that'll be
ready for launching pretty soon," he said, addressing the foreman,
within hearing of Atwood, Blind Tim--who pricked his ears at the lusty
voice--and an interested circle of workmen.

"_What!_ You're not thinking of going out again--so soon, Captain Bob?
Why! It's only two weeks since--since that dandy schooner we built for
you a year ago was sunk by a submarine." The master shipwright gasped.
"Named after your two little boys she was, wasn't she? Sufferin'
catfish! that did make me feel bad; I'm the boy who--built--her."

Captain Bob's tall lip-line quivered, then tightened--flamed like the
birth-star.

"Yes, they sank my savings with her," he admitted. "All I had was in
that vessel! An eight-thousand-dollar fare o' fish, too, that we had
faced dirty weather to get! 'Twill come heavier on the crew, though,
mostly married men with families who'll lose their share, four hundred
dollars each, from the trip. Gosh!"

"You had a hard time trying to make shore, too, when the 'Jerries' let
you get off with your lives--after you saw them whipsaw a bomb under
your schooner, and--and----"

The big captain put out a big hand as if warding off something.

"She crumpled up like a paper bag," he said sorrowfully, "and went
down.... Yes! we had a row of fifty-eight hours in the dories--rough
sea, too, part o' the time--before we sighted land."

"Anything to eat, had you?"

"One bag o' biscuits that the cook grabbed up when we were ordered to
leave her, a gallon of water between sixteen of us, and three parts of a
rhubarb pie that we gave to the--kid."

"Yes, I heard that you had a thirteen-year-old boy--a Boy Scout--with
you."

"So! Son of one of the fishermen--dead game, too!" Captain Bob nodded.
"He was standing at the vessel's rail. I told him to get into the first
dory. Not a bit of it! Not until he was sure his father was safe! When
at last we reached shore a woman asked him if he had 'steered' the dory
at all. He misunderstood her, being weak--having gone fifty hours on
that three-quarters of a rhubarb pie--mean sour it was, too; we hadn't
much sugar aboard! But, Statue o' Liberty! you should have seen him fire
up: 'No!' he yells at her weakly; 'I wasn't _skeered_!'

"True--he wasn't! Kept a scout's mouth on, as they call it, all the
time, corners turning up--an' whistled, curled up in the bow, as long's
a drop of the rhubarb juice held out, to--well, to wet his whistle!"

Eyes were wet now among the ship-carpenters--Atwood's, too! He tickled
Blind Tim's ear and wished that _he_ could muster up enough horse sense
to understand the story.

"Well, the game young one spoke for the rest of you; you're none of you
'skeered o' the subs if you're ready to go out again--looking for
another vessel!"

It was the moved foreman who spoke. Instantly Captain Bob came back to
business, sent his critical gaze roving over the wooden hulls most
nearly finished upon the building-stocks.

"Oh! we're all ready to go to-morrow," he remarked unconcernedly,
chewing his lip, like a cud of courage. "There's a man I know who wants
to buy a fishing-vessel--and he's after me to take her out. He sent me
up here to look 'em over. The 'Jerries' ain't going to keep me ashore."

"I reckon not! You're like the rest o' the skippers, Capt'n Bob--heart
of a bullock, with no back-down to it! The subs couldn't----"

But it was at that very moment--that full and flattering moment--that
the inevitable pessimist spoke up, breaking in upon the foreman's
tribute.

"Aw-w! What's the use?" groaned Libby Taber, in swampy tones--he who had
predicted that the rich boy among them would soon be taking ease in a
"bunk-fatigue job." "_Where's_ the use?... Gloucester's gone up. It's
good-bye--Gloucester! Day, day, Gloucester! We can't build ships faster
than the submarines can sink 'em!"

There was an explosive sound in the yard. Blind Tim--duty's hero--heard
it. The foreman heard it, too, and knew it for what it was--the sob of a
young soul coming into its own!

"'Gloucester gone up!... Good-bye, Gloucester!'" gritted a voice between
clenched teeth. "_Well_--I guess not! 'We can't build ships fast as the
subs can sink them!' ... Well! maybe we can now."

It was the voice of the "Candy Kid"; the voice of a young David crying
aloud in the shipyards against the Philistine menace of his people.

Ship-carpenters stared. Another minute and they might have scoffed at
the stripling--a discouraged stripling, at that--turning spokesman.

But the foreman didn't. He promptly gave a diverting order:

"Frame up!"

Then while workmen proceeded to loop the "falls," hempen ropes, of the
hoisting derrick about the ponderous yellow rib which Tim had hauled
from the shaping sawmill, he muttered to the visitor:

"Go round with you in a minute, Cap'n Bob! Just let's get this half of a
square frame in place first, so's they can bolt her down!
Whoops-ma-daisy! _Up_ she goes!"

Up she went, indeed, the rich boy leaving Tim nosing blindly into the
dry shavings and helping to steady her--the great rib--in the
hoisting-tackle.

"I knew the lad had it in him," was the foreman's silent comment.
"There'll be no more thought of quitting; he'll work overtime now, to
stand back of Cap'n Bob--and his kind--to the last punch in him!...
Steady her there--now!" he cried aloud, as the beveled frame hovered
over the backbone-keel to which it would be bolted, and then settled
down upon it, another rib added to the ship's skeleton. "A mite more to
the right! _Hold_ her now!"

Ship-carpenters did. Two, leaping upon the stocks--the platform of
protruding blocks, arranged cross and criss-cross, on which the skeleton
rested--steadied the rib with their horny hands.

The boy did more--the boy who had cried out against Gloucester "going
up."

Aflame from neck to heel--bareheaded now--he sprang upon the protruding
stocks, too, and, facing the yard, bent his back, his broad, muscular,
young back, under that ponderous frame, so contributing his mite towards
steadying it in place until it could be shored up--propped in its own
place.

And it was then--_then_--to his own excited feeling, not to his
conscious thought--that he became Atlas upholding Gloucester, supporting
shipping--bearing up the World!

A cramped position! Well, presently every bone in him ached, and
swelled, as it seemed, under the heavy pressure, although the half-ton
rib, balanced upon the narrow keel, was still suspended in--supported
by--the derrick's falls.

Water dripped from his disheveled hair--his face--and ran down in
rivulets over his bare, red chest, from which the open shirt-collar--the
limp, soiled shirt-collar--fell back.

But still he crouched--bearing up the World!

Ho! All of a sudden, his bent frame stiffened, reacted to a
lightning-like, cleaving thrill which made him conscious that it was
growing numb.

Two bright eyes were looking audaciously--challengingly--into his. They
were pretty eyes--brown eyes--each harboring a mocking firefly. And the
lashes, half-veiling them, were unusual--dark brown, shading into amber
at the tips, now borrowing the sunshine's gold--mocking gold!

Atlas scowled now as he bore up shipping; his subconscious feeling of
importance--his "it" feeling--was being derided, laughed at, by a girl.

Vaguely, for the blood was congesting in his head, he saw that there
were, at least, a dozen other girlish forms behind her. Girlish faces,
fresh as May-flowers, with a little tan on them, flocked before his
swimming vision.

One swam into sight which he knew. It was lit by dark eyes, with stars
in them.

But, somehow, at the moment, he did not welcome them--their starry
sympathy. He felt, too, hotly provoked with the firefly ones which
challenged him.

"Hul-hullo--Olive!... How d'you do?" he managed to get out, in response
to his cousin's quivering glance.

"Hullo! Atlas.... Atlas holding up the World!" came in laughing
admiration, with swift intuition, from Blue Heron. Her hands were
clasped--her whole slim girlish form a tribute. "My! but his wings have
grown--war-service wings!" The silent homage tickled her throat.

"When--when is the launching to be?" she asked. "When is that new vessel
to be launched over there, in that other yard?"

"About--an hour from now--I--think!" answered Atlas, with difficulty,
from under the yellow ship's rib.



                              CHAPTER XIII

                             THE MAIN BITT


"Better stand off a little! Move back! You're _too_ close. No--no one
knows what may happen. The frame isn't shored up--propped in
place--yet.... Get back--back--I say!"

Thus Atlas delivered his commands, looking up, a frowning young god, of
lowering brows, from under the weight which he was steadying--helping to
steady. And if his tones were cramped, they were the more imperious.

The May-flower flock of faces, swimming before his bent gaze,
receded--retreated to the confines of the shipyard; all--all save one!

One defied him. One still derided him with that firefly challenge which
silently said, "Dear me! how important we are!"

"Back!" waved Atlas again, flourishing a half-numbed arm. But the Flame
was still defiant. He knew it for a Flame now: a flame of mischief,
sunlit mockery, obstinacy, perhaps--temper, upon occasion--and all
manner of deeper fires.

He did not know that it was named by the Council Fire for what it
was--and what it aspired to be of kindling warmth--Sesooā, the Flame;
otherwise, Sara Davenport, embodiment of "pep" in a Camp Fire Group.

Once more he waved his right hand imperiously. Even the fingers began to
feel wooden and look yellow in the sunlight, like the great branching
timber, measuring thirty feet in its curve, weighing half a ton, which
to an onlooker he seemed to be supporting upon his back and shoulders,
although the ponderous weight was still really suspended in the hempen
falls of the derrick.

Relying upon these straining ropes, one of the two ship-carpenters who
had been steadying the ponderous rib with their hands, leaped down to
lend some aid in "shoring it," propping it in place upon the skeleton
vessel's narrow keel-timbers.

It might have been ten seconds later that Atlas felt the peculiar thrill
and quiver all through his bent back, his numbing legs--with their feet
braced upon the stocks, or building-blocks--that he felt when
trout-fishing or "drailing" in the ocean, if a big fish nibbled at his
line.

He had got a nibble now! A danger nibble! There was a tremble, a
shudder, in the great rib pressing upon him.

Er-er-err-r! It was the gurgle of an aged rope, a worn-out rope,
parting, strand by strand, in mid-air.

"My s-soul! The--the falls--derrick's falls--are--giving--way!"

The nibble had become a bite now, with the hook in his brain.

And he came of a race--a ready-witted race--which was accustomed to act
upon any strong nibble of conviction--to take lightning-hold upon a
situation.

It was a lightning vision which swam before Atlas now, against a black
background of shipyard. He saw the great rib, the ponderous timber,
released by the derrick's failing ropes, unable to maintain, even with
his aid, its balance, tottering--tumbling--sidewise, off from
him--crashing down into the yard.

He saw, too, that the near-by girl defying him with that merry, wilful
glance pointed to mockery on the golden tips of her eyelashes, was
within reach of being struck by it--by the wide curve it would describe
in falling.

His hunched back became a razor-back--chin touching his knees. And, like
a wild-cat, he leaped upon her, pushing her aside--away.

Er-er-r-r! Pop! Snap went the parting ropes--one giving way after the
other--their report as thunder in his ears, while, elastically doubling,
he sprang from under the wildly swaying timber.

But it did not spare him. Like the kick of a thunder-cloud something
grazed him, dealt him a glancing blow upon the shoulder, staggering
enough to send his feet from under him--even as he hurled the girl
aside.

He was beyond seeing that it was the massive tip of the ungrateful rib
which--in feeling--he had been supporting.

Down he went, and the earth, in the shape of another grinning yellow
timber--one of those lumber-reefs amid which he was wont to steer Blind
Tim--rose up to meet him with such a warm welcome that he saw stars--a
whole firmament of them, blood-red, and brighter than the twinkling
galaxy which had adorned Sybil's arm.

Then he lay very still and saw nothing--nothing--just outside the yellow
curve of the monster rib, which lay still and prostrate, too, while the
girl, her equilibrium likewise upset, rolled over upon the shavings,
feeling that, according to a nursery rhyme of her childhood, "heaven and
earth had fallen together" and crushed the upholding Atlas between them.

The first to reach him was a ship-carpenter. And according to the
pell-mell disorder that broods over most accidents, it happened to be
the pessimist, Libby Taber--Libby, who had seen him from the first in
the light of a quitter!

[Illustration: He sprang from under the wildly swaying timber.]

Now, there is nothing more pell-mell than the moods of a pessimist, not
being strung upon the consistent thread of hope!

Libby was no exception. He fogged the air with his stricken cry.

"Oh-h! he's done for," he wailed. "Knocked out--done for; the--the best
lad that ever set foot in the yard--an' the quickest to take hold--no
'sass' about him, at all, if he is a--rich--man's--son!"

"Shut up--before I choke you!" growled a steadier voice, the foreman's.
"Done for! Not much! His head came against that lumber-pile. He was
doing his bit and it sure was the main bitt that time"--in low, shaken
tones--"with a girl's life depending on it!"

But the girl--why! she felt herself shrinking into such a little "bit"
that it seemed as if, presently, she must fade out altogether into the
foggy consternation of the ship-yard.

Piteously she looked around for her Camp Fire Sisters. In the deepest
pit of blunder and humiliation they would stand by her--even even though
Libby was calling the heavens to witness that the fallen rib, grinning
in the sunlight, had more sense than the rib that was taken out of
Adam's side and made into a girl--"so it had, by gosh!"



                              CHAPTER XIV

                             THE LAUNCHING


"Hurrah! She kicks! She crawls!... She goes!"

It was an hour later. The girls, nineteen of them, with their Guardian,
were standing upon the skirts of the adjoining shipyard, watching, with
a thrill only a shade less keen than that which had heralded the landing
of a war-plane by their Council Fire, the shooting-off of a new vessel
on to the water--the curling, laughing high tide which rose crowing to
meet her, its bride.

Atlas was with them. Until the end of the War--or as long as he was a
shipyard worker--he would be Atlas now, for the foreman had caught the
merry deification from Olive's lips.

He was covering his halo with his hair; it was a rainbowed halo, too, a
bump the size of a hen's egg, of all colors, upon his right temple,
sending a red streak down to his cheek-bone.

In feeling, he was more Atlas than ever, for now it seemed as if he had
a lightning-shot globe upon his head, in the shape of that heroic bump,
which at times spun so hard through space that it threatened to spin him
round with it. But he managed to keep his feet, and the delirious throbs
of pain only added to his excitement--and to the thrill of the foreman's
words in his swelling ear: "It was a good line. And you held it--Mike.
You saved the life of that contrary little craft--that girl!"

And now he was witnessing the launching of another craft upon her
career, with a stifling heart-throb of anxiety which said that it
might--might be an unnaturally short one. For the beautiful ship's hull
just darting off the greased launching-ways on to the river, sleek and
glossy in her fresh garment of paint--the embryo fishing schooner--would
not alone have to face the perils which were the daily bread of Captain
Bob and his kind, when big seas would pound her like an earthquake, but
even on her maiden trip a submarine might sink her.

There was no knowing what might be in store for her even while, as now,
she was a mere sparless hull, before she matured into a maiden vessel;
whether, if word had got out as to the date of her launching, a raiding
sea-wolf might not be in waiting to seize upon her--a perfectly
helpless, wobbly lamb, under the convoy of a tugboat--and blow her up,
as she was being towed round to the seaport, to have her masts set up.

This lent a pathos to the cheers--from girls and others--which greeted
the first stir of life in her, as her rocking glide began.

"She cr-rawls! She goes! Hi! Hi! Oh-h, see her go!... Oh, isn't she a
bird!"

And, indeed, for the brief few seconds of that swallow-like dart--her
white deck flashing--she did seem radiantly winged, like the aëroplane.

"Hour-rah! Houp-ela! She go--de _petit_ ship!" Now it was the voice of a
French workman, hanging upon the tail of the launching cheers.
"Houp-ela! Ah! _Vive le vaisseau!_"

"_Vive le vaisseau!_ Here's hoping no submarine will get her!" cried
Atlas, forgetting that he bore a spinning globe upon his head, as he saw
the new hull kick up her heels in the water for the first time--brought
up short by her snubbing-line--while the crowing tide shot an aigrette
of spray aloft, to baptize the ensign--the Stars and Stripes--proudly
waving at her stern.

"_Vive le vaisseau!_ Long life to the vessel! O dear! _Why_ can't we go
round to Gloucester on her, all of us, as the tugboat is here now,
waiting to tow her down the river?" It was a joint, eager cry from a
dozen girls. "Oh-h! do say we can. Captain Andy--our Menokijábo!"

But the old sea-giant--the Tall Standing Man--was proof even against the
wheedling use of the Indian name which his Camp Fire Group had bestowed
upon him and which could generally, according to his own weakening
lament, beguile him into a compliance with being shoved around like a
schooner in a tide-rip, at the will of a score of headstrong girls.

"No! No--siree!" He shook his massive shoulders determinedly. "If I was
only sure of the _tide_--and the tug-captain who's to tow the new hull
round was sure of it--I'd haul down my colors an' ye could."

"_I_ know a girl who was launched on a new vessel like this--from this
very ship-yard, too--and she an' her father went round to Gloucester on
it--the new hull--and she said it was a sort of 'royal progress' all the
way; everybody from every house and camp along the shore tooting horns,
blowing whistles, waving the biggest flags they had, cheering the new
vessel on her course--hoping she'd escape the submarines," said
Lilia--Little Owl--looking longingly at that newly launched ship's hull
rocking gracefully upon the river, with her deck white as a hound's
tooth.

"Well! the tide answered for them to go through the canal, I reckon,"
was Captain Andy's reply, still accompanied by negative shrugs. "That's
the new canal that they built since war began, to avoid the danger of
taking freshly launched ships outside the harbor, into open sea, at all.
Happen it might answer to-day. Happen it mightn't! Ye never can tell
about the tide in this river. An' if ye had to go outside, how would you
like to see a sub pop up to leeward an' fire a tin fish at you, as I did
when I was running that slick old coaster, the _Susie Jane_, last
spring?"

"How could the said sub know that a new vessel had just been launched up
here and was being towed round?" questioned Sara Davenport. Her tones
were small; it was the first time she had spoken since her challenge to
Atlas upbearing the rib--and what came of it.

"I can't tell how. But information leaks out somehow. Spies, I guess,"
was the mariner's answer.

"Fresh rumors from the sky, as the aviators say," burst forth Olive
excitedly. "According to report those two who landed by our Council Fire
and entertained us so well, did discover a lonely hut, with a wireless
outfit attached, in some part of the woods along the shore here."

"They'll have to do some more tall scouting, I reckon--comb the shores
from end to end--before they nab every one who's playing into the hands
of the 'Jerries.'" Menokijábo shook his great head. "A spy on any side
has a quick eye an' his nerve with him. Anyhow, I'm not taking chances
on the safety of this new hull--against the odds of somebody, who has a
'nifty' scheme up his sleeve, signaling out to sea about her--by letting
you girls make the towed trip on her new deck."

"And you won't take chances on our going through the canal, either,
on--on the tide being obliging?" Sybil eyed him wistfully.

"Great Neptune! Not much! With a river-channel that's all 'studdled'
with quicksands an' changing gullies, as this one is," glancing down the
brackish river, "the old tide just naturally has to chase itself out a
little faster at one time than another. Just high tide now--four
o'clock--_five by my watch_! They didn't change the tide-table when, on
Easter morning, they shoved the clocks an hour ahead. They couldn't work
any daylight-saving racket on the hoary old tide," laughingly; "'twould
upset calculations all over the globe."

"Well, I think I'll follow the tide's example and 'beat it' for the
sea--Manchester-by-the-Sea--rather earlier than usual to-day, now that
I've seen the launching," said Atlas, in whose ear the foreman had been
whispering.

"Good! And don't ye show up to-morrow," softly enjoined the latter. "An'
you don't drive your own car this evening, either. Marty Williams will
be starting your way pretty soon; you've driven him home many an
evening; now he can drive you!"

"But you'll come down to see us at our camp just as soon as you feel
able"--began Olive, and stopped, for Atlas' bump, bared by breezes,
flamed like a thunder-bolt in her direction--"I mean--I mean _any_ day
now," she amended lamely. "If you row down the river from here, we'll
come across the sand-dunes from our side of them and meet you half-way,
so that you need not go all the way down to the mouth of the river, over
the bar and, so, around up to our white beach."

"We might bring our supper with us, light a fire and picnic out on the
middle of the dunes--that would be dandy--right near that great, huge
pile of clam-shells where the Indians once held an historic clam-bake,"
came breathlessly from Betty--fair-haired Betty Ayres--whose symbol was
the Holly, green when all other shrubs were bare.

"Thanks! Awf'ly--awf'ly good you are!" murmured Atlas. "You may look for
me on deck--meaning on the dunes by the shell-heap--some time soon. I'll
let you know first. Well, good-bye. So long!"

Yet he lingered a little, ostensibly absorbed in the river and its
bride, the new hull, really inclining his swollen right ear for some
added word of invitation from the girl with the amber-tipped eyelashes,
whose life he had saved.

But those lashes, except for the grace of one flickering farewell nod,
were persistently lowered.

"Pshaw! Pshaw! she's the very original female clam herself--not a word
out of her," thought Atlas, and departed, in high dudgeon.

"Sara Davenport! You behaved like an idiot, not moving off when he told
you, before--before that horrid old, jaundiced rib of a ship came near
falling on you--and killing you. I suppose it really might have killed
you but for him!" was the Flame's scorching thought. "But he did feel so
self-important--crouching there, under the great rib, feeling that he
was upholding shipping--I know he did! Just because he's such a rich
boy, who never did anything like that before!... And Olive's cousin! One
of the set into which her father--her family--would think she ought
to--ought to _marry_--when by and by it comes to that--never thinking of
Iver, at all!... Iver who held out his burnt hand to a private! Iver
who's been over the top--wounded three times--burned with mustard gas!
Oh-h-h!"

Mustard tears were in Sesooā's eyes now. But, for all their stinging,
she would not have parted with them for a kingdom--those diamond drops
of the first water, tribute to her pride in the soldier-brother "over
there," to a quite extravagant jealousy on his behalf, too, lest he
should fail of getting his heart's desire when he came back--as she knew
he would come!

"Oh! I suppose I shouldn't vent it on Olive's kith and kin," she told
herself, looking out through a blur at the lately launched vessel which
the tugboat was now taking in tow for her perilous trip round to the
seaport, when, if the hoary old tide was not obliging, a "tin fish"
might be fired at her, or a bomb whip-sawed up under her new keel, to
blow up some thirty thousand dollars' worth of vessel--and the labor of
months.

"What a contrary little cat--an utter simpleton--that Atlas boy must
think me! A nice impression _I've_ given him of our Camp Fire Group!
Well! I can--can--undo some of it, later on. Watch him--watch him open
his eyes when he sees me light a fire with rubbing sticks, out there on
the middle of the dunes, as the Indians did long ago, I suppose, when
they had that huge clam-bake. I wish I could show him that very last
honor-bead, too, red with a white square on it, like the Scouts'
signal-flags--a local honor for signaling, for understanding
wigwag--sending a message with Morse code or semaphore. I'll wager he
couldn't do it, for all he held up shipping! No, sir!"

The Flame's lip was hotly quivering to match the storm water in her
eyes, as she sent these thoughts after the new hull, now being towed
down the river.

One and all, the girls waved a parting salute, made the hand-sign of
fire to win her luck--that baby vessel.

The hand-sign was in Sesooā's heart. Not by any stereotyped thanks for
the vital spark still in her, paid for by the spinning globe which Atlas
was carrying home on his head--although, of course, these must be
offered, verbal or written--but by the magic of thunder-bird or
"hand-hold," bow, drill, fire-board and tinder, winning the boon of fire
from dead wood, would she retrieve the honor of her Camp Fire, uphold
the other side of her not scarred by wilfulness and petty mockery
through a fantastic jealousy on Iver's behalf.

Never--never before had Firemaking Outfit such a contract to fill--or
the dunes such a vindication to witness!



                               CHAPTER XV

                           SEEKING THE SPARK


Alas! for vindication. Alas! for the invisible practical joker which
seems sometimes to dog our steps in life and steal our trick when we
least expect it.

A maiden knelt upon the white sands out at the wild heart of the
sand-dunes, here purple with the shading blossoms of pea-vines,
lace-trimmed with everlastings, or raggedly plumed with rank beach-grass
and prickly barb-weed.

Near the great pyramid of clam-shells, where the Indians had held an
historic feast and got their fire with primitive rubbing of sticks, she
knelt upon her right knee, her left foot pressed down hard upon the flat
fire-board whose scooped pit, or hollow, had a notch resting upon a
wooden tray placed beneath it.

Her left hand--its arm escaping from the white middy-blouse, bared to
the shoulder to allow free scope--grasped the handle or socket of her
upright drill.

The right pink arm, each muscle strenuously "on the job" under the
rounded flesh, worked steadily to and fro the fire-maker's bow,
hand-painted with flame, drawn taut by its leather thong, resting upon
the socket at the top of the drill, thus grinding the lower point of
that drill into the soft, punky wood of the fire-board, which presently,
as the powdered wood-dust fell into the tray beneath, turned
black--smoked.

Her hand-painted bag of tinder lay on the sands beside her--that
inflammable tinder to foster the spark when it came!

Steadily she drove the bow at first! Anxiously, now, with a horrid
little fear beginning to get a hand-hold on her heart, that, after all,
the ordeal by fire might not work out as she had expected--the
vindication come off--and prove her triumphant mistress of this
situation, at least, a perfect fire-witch, even if she had behaved like
a simpleton in the shipyard!

Faster, faster--with more and more force--desperately, at last, slipped
backward and forward the bow! Harder--harder--ground the drill; the
fire-witch, her drooping face aflame, her pretty eyelashes twinkling in
a paroxysm, working for dear life now--for vindication--honor--as it
seemed to _her_ whose moods were generally highly colored, touched with
the extravagance of flame.

Smoke and more smoke in little dun-gray billows! And never a spark of
red!

"Rest a while, dear," said the Guardian. "Then try again--and perhaps
you'll get it."

She did rest, Sesooā, the fire-witch, in the shadow of the historic
shell-heap over which the last flame of sunset most tantalizingly
rioted. She curled down upon her left side on the sands, easing her
aching right arm.

Then a second fierce trial! A breathing spell! And another wild paroxysm
of effort, the decorated bow almost demented now!

_Flat failure!_

Smoke--and no fire!

She looked up--and caught a smile upon the face of Atlas!

Atlas who had rowed down the river when his day's work in the shipyard
was over, to meet his hostesses, the Camp Fire Group, midway of the
dunes for this picnic-supper--and to excitedly discuss the fact that the
new ship's hull which they had so lately seen launched, _had_ been fired
upon by a submarine on her towed trip round to Gloucester--would have
been sunk had not a Destroyer appeared!

Atlas whose halo the dune-breezes bared--the prismatic bump upon his
temple, fast diminishing! Atlas who had laid himself out to make friends
with the little fire-witch, deciding that she would make a perfect
"pal," the sort of girl he had always desired for a chum, with plenty of
pep in her--if only she wasn't such a little fire-balloon!

Atlas who had been met with flame turned to ice--or next door to
it--with as much frigidity as politeness would allow, tempered by a
perfunctory little speech of thanks, rehearsed a dozen times beforehand
and eked out by the Guardian, for his heroic presence of mind in that
swift leap which prevented the extinguishing in herself of the vital
spark by a heavy ship's rib!

And now it was Atlas' turn! His smile at her failure was fleeting,
involuntary--gone in a moment. But for that one moment it was a smile; a
perfectly uncivilized--highly barbaric--grin.

Down went Sesooā's hand-painted bow beside her tinder-bag!

Neck aflame, so that it could scarcely be distinguished from the red tie
of her Minute-Girl Costume, cheeks burning, if the wood-dust wouldn't,
eyes, eyelashes, red-gold hair, all, emitting sparks, a fire-ball
herself, she uncurled--sprang to her feet!

Her hand went to her throat. Breathlessly, desperately, she was fighting
to get the better of the stray powder-puff of anger--as Iver had
done--before it exploded openly.

One glance she flung at Atlas--and he was consumed!

"Let me--let me go!... Oh! we haven't--haven't--got wood enough for a
fi-ire. You'd better light it with matches. I'll go--let me--and get
some more--driftwood, wreck-wood--to make a rainbow fire! Back--back
near--the--bungalow...."

In explosive incoherency her eyes met the Guardian's. And Gheezies never
failed to read a girl's soul.

"All right!" she said. "If one of the other girls goes with you! It
would be nice to have such a wonderful fire, giving off every hue in the
rainbow, out here in the middle of the dunes--as we had the night we
entertained aviators--and sit around it after our cooking is through.
But it's coming on dark! Don't be long! Take--Betty!"

Betty had to take herself--little evergreen Holly! The Flame had already
flown--a tearing, scintillating flame, as it raced over sand-mound and
graying sand-hill.

"I've just _got_ to be alone! If not--I'd explode! Oh, he's
simply--simply hateful, that Atlas boy--if he did save my life!... Oh-h!
I knew how important he felt--as if the shipyard sun shone on him alone
when he was crouching with his back under that horrid ship's rib.
Ridiculous, when he wasn't really supporting it at all!... And--and to
think I should have failed--failed, before him, to get the fire, when I
have broken the record before, for a girl, and got the spark in thirty
seconds; that--that I should have--again--made a fool of myself!"

"Oh! Sally--Sara--have mercy! Don't run--quite--so hard: I can't keep up
with you!" It was Betty's panting cry, tugging at the steps of the
racing Flame.

It had never been such a reckless flyaway--that Flame--that it had not a
heart for a Camp Fire Sister.

Within a few hundred yards of the bungalow-beach, quarter of a mile from
the group, back there, upon the dunes--amid the skirts of twilight,
light and filmy yet, which the dune-breeze was shaking out--Sara
Davenport, out of breath herself, paused and caught Betty by the hand.

"If--if we can just get over that big sand-hill in front of us, and the
low mounds beyond, we'll reach the spot where we saw all that
wreck-wood, such a lot of it, when bathing to-day, Bettykins!" she
breathed. "It--'twill save my being a wreck--myself! Oh! _why_ couldn't
I get the spark to-night--of all nights? And--and to be grinned at by
that Atlas boy! If--if that wouldn't make a dogfish drop his herring, as
Captain Andy would say!... If I can only look out over the bay--over the
sea--in--in the direction of where Iver is--over there--I'll feel
better!"

"I know-ow!" soothed Betty. "It was too bad you couldn't get it!"

She drew on her last pinch of pep, of breath--the Holly--as they raced
on, over the tall, white sand-peak, shadowy in the gloaming, tripping
over wild pea-vines, empurpling, faintly now, the lower dunes.

The scampering sea-breeze racing from their own beach, where cranberries
slept with their coral cheeks on dimming pillows, clasped them like a
brother.

"We'll just have time to gather a few chunks of the coppery wreck-wood.
Then--then we'll _have_ to hurry back," said Betty. "I really didn't
think it was so far to this spot, and I guess the Guardian didn't
either! You swept her----"

"Hush! Listen! The chug, chug, of a launch--motor-boat--passing quite
close in to shore, too! Tide's high!" Sara halted on tiptoe now, a
poised, breathless figure, and held up her hand.

"_I'm_ afraid!" whispered Betty. "I wish we hadn't come!"

"Nonsense! Nobody runs close in to shore--close to our beach--except
Captain Andy--funny if 'twas him!--the artist's brother, or--or, now an'
again, that seal-hunter, who passed when I was camouflaging the
dory--toothless bead-eye"--with a recovering chuckle--"whose face, the
hunter's I mean, I can't.... Goodness! I rather hope it isn't--_him_!"

"If we crouched down behind those two low sand-mounds in front, we could
peep over--between them--and see who it was without being seen," pleaded
Betty timorously.

"Right you are--little Chicken-heart," came the older girl's response.

"I feel as if I were in the trenches now, looking over the top." Betty
gathered a handful of purple pea-blossoms from the sand-rampart before
her.

"Standing on the firing-step, peering out over the sand-bags, as the
soldiers do! But there's nothing to _fire_ at here! Pretty sure to be a
friend, whoever it is!... My s-soul! I do believe it is
the--mysterious--seal-hunter!"

"He's--alone!" whispered Betty.

"Yes--for the first time, except when he passed us on the beach!"

Chug, chug! hiss, hiss! the motor-boat, a trim little launch, was
abreast of them now, passing within twenty-five yards, so close to shore
that its occupant seemed to have made a bet with the crowing high tide
that he could thus skirt the beach without grounding.

He was standing up, amidships, his left hand on the pilot-wheel,
narrowly scrutinizing the shore.

Either he saw or did not see two pairs of eyes peering at him,
ferret-like, through clumps of beach-grass. With a complacent gesture,
satisfied on some score, the fingers of his right hand went up to the
comer of his mouth, describing a crescent, a twirling motion, as they
thoughtfully fondled the tip of a small, bristling mustache.

It was with a low moan--a strange searching moan--that Sara Davenport
fell back, and lifted a long-drawn face to the sky--all madcap flame,
petty flame, wilted in her now.

"_Bet-ty!_" She clutched the other girl's arm, and pinched it so tight
that the Holly, little thorny evergreen, quivered like her namesake of
the dunes in a wintry blizzard.

[Illustration: "I do believe it is the--mysterious--seal-hunter."]

"Bet-ty! I have seen him before--seen him _do that_--with his fingers!
But where--where? I must remember! I feel--now--that I ought to
remember! Oh! God, help me to--remember!" Sara Davenport bowed her
paling girlish face against a purple cushion of wild pea, raised it
again in half a moment, and crept cautiously around the screening
mounds.

"_He'll_ bear watching!... I'm going to watch him," she gasped. "I'm
going to see what he's up to! Oh!" winking fiery tears back, "oh! if I
could--only--get the spark now--the spark from my memory, instead of
just smoke--I wouldn't care if I never--never--got it, the fire, from
wood again, in all my born life!"



                              CHAPTER XVI

                                 WIGWAG


"He has something in his hand--something that shimmers in his hand! See!
See, Betty! It--it's like the radio-powder in that little
bottle--Olive's secret that shines in the dark--only you can see it
farther off--much farther off--where we are!"

"Like--like the radio-dials facing the aviator in his tiny cock-pit!"
corroborated Betty, in low response to the flaming whisper which
scorched her ear, as Sara's lips hissed into it amid the rustling
beach-grass.

"_Mer-cy!_ He's whirling it--doing something with it--spinning it round
in a circle. It is--it is a radio-dial! A big one! _Bet-ty_----"

"Don't pinch so har-rd!" sobbed Betty, groveling amid the purple
pea-blossoms.

"He's signaling with it! Oh! my living soul! he is--is--signaling now,
with his right arm! Wigwagging! See-ee! Putting his hand d-down, with
the dial in it, snapping it back up to his shoulder; that answers to a
dot! More slowly now--that's for a dash, by code! Standing up there in
the launch--in that little creek--showing the dial out to sea! Short!
Long! Short! Oh-h! I understand Wigwag. But I can't read that--get the
words--message!... I can just barely make out his arm going--catch the
shimmer sideways. Heaven and earth! It's cipher, I suppose.... He's
sending a message out to--sea--by cipher! Betty, he's a--spy-y!"

The murmuring beach-grass whispered about the two girls. The crushed
pea-blossoms lining their sand-nook with velvet cushions--dark
velvet--sent the ghost of a wild fragrance up into their nostrils--wild
as the situation in which they found themselves on the ragged coast-line
of their normal life--wild, abnormal, as War itself.

The launch, with the man standing in it, his left hand on the
pilot-wheel, had drawn round into a little tidal creek, a foaming inlet,
not forty yards from the girls! Crawling along in the purple hollows,
screened by luxuriant vegetation, their whispers drowned by its rank
murmurs and by the sea-breeze, sweeping the red lamps of their burning
cheeks, which, it seemed, must give them away in the darkness, they had
followed his movements, lying low, waiting through endless minutes,
until night more fully fell! Sara had! And Betty--trembling little
fair-haired Betty--whose loyalty, at least, was ever-green, had not hung
back.

"A spy--a _spy_ signaling with radio out to sea, giving out word to
submarines! Oh! it may have been he who told the date of the launching
of that new vessel we saw, so that she was fired upon--a hole torn in
the tugboat's smoke-stack--so that they were lying in wait for her....
Mercy!"

Had it been a signaling contest, a prize offered for rapidity, the fiery
wigwag of Sara's tongue and thoughts at the moment might have carried
off the palm even against that strange--strange--arm curling and
uncurling from the black, silhouetted shoulder, outlined with random
shimmer, like a phosphorescent twig against the night.

"Must--must be a strong radio-dial! With a telescope--through
periscope--it could be seen a long way off--five miles, perhaps! Not
otherwise!... Oh!--Oh-h! he's through now. Cranking the launch--starting
off again! People thought him a harmless seal-hunter!... Out into the
bay!... But _where_ did I see him before: his--his eyes that puzzled
me--arm--hand--the movement he made, twirling his mustache, as he passed
our beach a while ago? Oh! Betty, I think, maybe--maybe--I'm mad,
but--_Bet-ty_--it's coming to me."

"What's--coming?"

"The spark! Not just a smoke-cloud any longer! I'm getting
it--getting--at--it! _Oh-h!_"

It was at that moment, straining her burning eyes to follow the dark
outline of the launch, gliding away from shore, heading boldly out
across the bay, with its Innocent chug, chug, in her ears--America
Burnham's loyal launch, hired or stolen--that Sara Davenport felt as if
through the darkness within--the raging tumult--a radio-tipped arrow
cleft her from throat to toe--then pointed one way.

Pointed to a picture shimmering against blackness, like an illumined
dial, like the beady figurehead on the dragonized dory, its
meaning--strong meaning--beginning to be read: the outskirts of a
military training-camp, a gassed soldier, a pale girl ministering to him
with soaked wisps of cotton-wool, a raging young officer "bawling out" a
sergeant and a detached young woman looking on with snow-blink glance,
complacently raising thumb and forefinger, pivot and crescent, to her
smooth--smooth--lip-corner.

"Betty! Betty! I'm not mad! I've got it--got it, the spark. Remember
now----Oh! I'm sure I remember where I've seen him.... Goody! What a
chump"--Sara's hand madly twisted itself into the pea-vines--"what a
simpleton--_ninny_--I was, not to do so sooner!... Gracious! wor-worse
now,"--frenziedly--"letting him get away--off--to find another creek, to
do--do some more radio-signaling to submarines!"

"What--what can you do to stop him? The Coast Guard men--patrol
men--they ought to see him! Oh-h, let's run back--back to the
others--tell the others!"

"Yes--and let him get clear away! Patrol _couldn't_ see him; he was
hidden from them by that jutting sand-spit behind us. No search-lights
playing over the bay either to-night! But they could see me--see me--if
I signaled! I can! Iver taught me--Iver, over there!... I've got an
honor-bead!"

"Oh-h! Where are you going?" Betty clutched wildly at the other's short
blue skirt; a flame--a soul--was in its narrow hem.

"The Bungalow! I can find something--Olive's electric
flash-light--signaling flash-light--she left it behind her; other girls
took theirs, to light----"

"Door's locked!" sobbed Betty. This was War--for the first time she
realized it.

"Sure--sure to find a window--somewhere--open! If not--break a pane!
He's not going to get away--get away with it--his radio Wigwag! Was--was
it his sister, maybe, up at Camp Evens--or him--himself, in woman's
dress? Oh-h, why on earth didn't I catch on sooner?... Atlas held up
shipping!"



                              CHAPTER XVII

                             A RADIO FREAK


Dim prints fluttered out from the varnished wall--the living-room
wall--in the strong breeze blowing through an open window: Pershing,
American Commander-in-chief; Foch, Marshal of France; Haig, who held the
line; Cadorna, of Flamina's Italy; Albert of Belgium, kingly of courage!

The Camp Fire Group had held an indoor guessing contest the night
before, identifying these and lesser leaders of the Great War, without
seeing the names. The pastime over, they had pinned the leaders up on
the bare wall of that bungalow living-room.

Now the sea-breeze took its turn at identification as it crept through
the window--in the wake of an excited girl whose wildly throbbing heart,
like a lamp turned high within her, guided her straight to an adjoining
dormitory, a glass-paneled sleeping-porch, closed at present, where was
a long row of dim cots.

"I don't need to grope around for matches. Olive keeps her flash-light
by the head of her bed--since she and I haven't been sleeping in a tent
any longer.... What's this? Oh! her secret that shines in the dark--the
powder for radio-paint in that tiny bottle. Perhaps if I wetted a little
of it--smeared some more on the dory's bow--and rowed out a little way,
to signal, I'd attract attention better; 'twould act as a foot-light--if
they saw it through the glasses--between flashes! Well--here goes!"

Yet as she fluttered forth again through the wind-gap of that window,
the Flame turned briefly and waved her hand to those World Heroes upon
the wall. Not much tribute to them! At the moment one and all were
summed up in the highly colored mental print of her brother Iver,
fighting over there.

"He taught me to signal with Morse and Semaphore--to read Wigwag, too!
He was wounded in both legs, the very first time he went over the
top--crawled on, leading his men--that was at Château-Thierry. He'd
_want_ me to use the knowledge I got from him.... I'd do it even if that
spy were to see me, turn back and kill me, maybe, before the Coast
Guards get here.... Priceless stuff, Olive says, this radio-powder. Bah!
who cares, if it helps? Now--now, she's a regular lightning-bug, my
camouflaged dory!"

Lost to all sense of economic values, she was wetting a full big pinch
of the costly powder on her burning palm, with a drop or two of
sea-water, smearing it over the dory's camouflaged bow--then shoving her
off, forgetful even of Betty, a trembling Holly--though of loyalty still
evergreen--cowering upon the beach-edge.

"Now! what's the attention-signal--Morse? Let's see!" The girl's left
hand pushed her hair back from her brow, she crouching in the
lightning-bug dory, a few yards from shore. "Yes! 'A,' sent over and
over; 'dit-dar-dit-dar-dit-dar--dit,' if signaled with a buzzer; short,
long, short, long, so on, with the light!"

She was standing now--as the spy had done in the motor-boat, the launch
which had melted off into far shadows of the bay--holding her signaling
flash-light aloft, pressing her thumb lightly, with rhythmic unevenness,
upon a little lever at the side.

And, lo! the shore which she was facing--the wild island-shore merging
into the long sand-bar--awoke, opened its eyes, answered with bright
blinker flashes of understanding from lonely watch-tower and patrolling
surf-man on his tiresome beat.

"Short, short, long! That would be dit-dit-dar--meaning U. N.--they got
me! Now--now what message shall I send?... Oh, I wonder if _he'll_ get
me, the spy, turn back an' get me, before they come? Never mind;
Iver----"

One sidelong glance out into the curtaining shadows of the bay! Then,
"Catch spy in launch. Out--bay!" slowly spelled out the winking
flash-light, pressed by a girl's unfaltering little thumb.

And fast as the shore had blinked, it responded! There was something
unusual about the direct, correct message; about a strange, faint
unearthly shimmer, seen through binoculars, bathing the spot--the
boat--whence it came, when the flash-light wasn't speaking.

Tower and patrol, both, flashed their message to the white Coast Guard
Station upon the island-shore. A strong search-light scanned the bay.

In its radiance forth leaped the light steel life-boat, rowed by strong
arms; the Coast Guard power-boat, the old self-bailer, too, hustling as
she _could_ do, in an emergency.

"O dear! I hope she can show a little more speed--that self-bailing
ark--than Captain Andy gave her credit for. Otherwise, she won't
overhaul the launch! He--may--get away, after all!... Oh-h, there's
Betty calling! Poor little Betty!"

With signal-flashes in her finger-tips that seemed to light the water
round her, the sands ahead, the Flame shoved her dory's nose up on to
the beach again.

A wild-eyed Betty met her! Some one else!

"Is it true--true--that they're after a spy, the Coast Guards--that you
signaled them? You?" cried Atlas.

Sara turned a flash-light beam upon him and nodded.

"We--we've been searching for you! Just got here!... Oh! isn't there a
boat--a boat of any kind--_anywhere_--on this old graveyard of a beach?
I--I want to take after him, too!... I--must!"

The boyish tones wildly bristled as Atlas' search-light glance implored
the sands, resting for a fatuous moment upon the dim shape of a
canoe--Little Owl's birch-bark canoe.

"Pshaw! you couldn't go in her; she's light's a feather. Here, you may
take my--dory!"

"Heavens! Her! She looks as if she had escaped from some--boat--bedlam!"
Atlas drew a raving breath.

"Yes--she's camouflaged--a perfect lightning-bug, too! But you can have
her!" With an hysterical laugh the dory's owner stepped out, laid down
her hand-painted oars, deaf to the rude voice maligning her boat--the
dim, beauteous home-sands, too. "And I--I won't ask to go in her,
either!" she magnanimously added.

"Gee! but you're a brick."

"No more than you are! You held up shipping--that heavy old ship's
rib--or seemed to!"

But Atlas was deaf to the tardy tribute, as the dory, no longer even a
bead-eye, but a radio nightmare--all ghostly a-shimmer--dashed out upon
the tide.

                  *       *       *       *       *

"Well! Well! we got him--nabbed him. The Coast Guard men said they never
saw a dory stretch herself like that one; that I just drove her--sent
her for all she was worth!... They--they nearly cracked their sides
laughing at her, too, when 'twas all over--wanted to know what 'nut
palace' she'd escaped from--said the spy must have thought he had an
evil spirit on his track!"

It was an hour later. Atlas was holding forth to nineteen girls and
their breathless Guardian upon the dark sands--on the very spot where
the air-scouts, spy-hunting aviators, had made a landing.

"I--I went ashore with them at the Station--after they searched the
launch," he added.

"Oh! _what_ did they find in her? a--a woman's wig?" cried Sara, who had
been remembering, furiously remembering--minutely recalling--during the
past hour. "A--a--the most charming brown wig, with little wavy threads
of gray in the mat over the ears; that--that's what 'Old Perfect,' with
the feather turban, the muff in April, the rather high cheek-bones, the
very smooth skin, wore up at Camp ... Goody! I was envying her
the--gray--hairs." The voice of the fire-witch broke upon a mettlesome
little canter of laughter.

"Yes, they did find a dress-suit case with a false bottom; a feminine
wig--some further disguise--was stowed away in it."

"But who--captured--him?" It was a low, thrilled uproar of question.
"Not--not the camouflaged dory?"

"No, the Coast Guard captain. The launch was showing her heels to the
old self-bailer. The spy shifted his course--put about--was trying to
dodge back towards the river--tidal river--down which he came. The steel
boat headed him off, and--and the dory, too! Then he jumped overboard,
tried to swim. But the captain yelled at him to halt--surrender--or he'd
fire. Ex-ci-ting! Well! I should say so.... Good of you to let me take
your boat--if she _is_ the most 'witchetty' thing that ever floated!"

"You--you upheld shipping."

Within the radiant ring of the powerful flash-light belting the sands, a
boy and girl--Atlas and the Flame who had defied him--looked into each
other's feverish eyes with comradeship, not challenge now--comradeship
that might well grow to something more charming, as the years went
on--when the white flag of Peace should float once more over a
progressive world.

Misunderstanding was of the past--mockery, too! They had come through
the Game "with their wings,"--the patient, toiling service-game for
freedom and Country; they were one with their brothers of the
skies--with the heroes of trench and top, over there.

Or, to change the figure, all had done their bit, and, in two instances,
by might and magic of service, automatically swelling, it had become the
main bitt to which the main-sheet of safety, the mainsail of progress,
were belayed.

And yet--yet--in another minute even that failed to satisfy the girl in
the case--left her with a hollow feeling of dissatisfaction--for she was
a creature of moods shading like her eyelashes, and suffering from
reaction, too!

The flash-light winked itself out in her hand--and all her exultation
with it.

She hid her now pale face in the curve of an arm in a green-stained
middy-blouse.

"Oh! yes, it's ex-ci-ting.... Ter-ri-bly exciting!" she moaned to the
sands. "But how I wish it was over! I don't _want_ to distrust those
about me. And maybe he _thought_ he had a grain of right--though he was
a spy!" The tired concession was breathed into the curve of a trembling
elbow. "Cool--cool he was, anyhow--here and there! Oh-h! if only the cry
of the children--the little children over in France--could come true,
and it was: 'Fini la Guerre!... _Fini_--forever--_la Guerre_!' If Peace
could come again!"



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                             THE PEACE BABE


Peace had come again.

And in her shining bassinet Peace Europa breathed softly through a mouth
like a damp red rose, waved a tiny arm feebly, uncurled the new-born
hand, with its pearly nails, as if she would catch and hold to her baby
breast--forever and a day--the new-born happiness that had come to earth
with her.

Beside her in the wee hospital crib, sharing the soft blanket in which
the welcoming nurse had wrapped her, slumbered another, her Heavenly
Twin--the Babe of Peace.

So it seemed to nurses and doctors who stole near to look at her, lying
all oiled and shiny!

"If ever a baby was born at the hour of fate, she was!" breathed the
intern, the house-doctor, beaming through his glasses upon her. "And, by
George! the mite seems to know it, too. Did you ever before see such a
placid smile upon a new-born thing?"

"I never did," replied the feminine superintendent of the Hospital. "I'm
afraid I'll have to keep out of the 'baby-room,'--else I'll break every
rule--take her up now and again, to cuddle her, just for the sake of
this won-der-ful hour in which she first saw--the--light."

"Yes! and spoil her for her mother to take care of, afterwards--make her
as nervous as a witch. I guess even my young sister--fifteen-year-old
sister who's a Camp Fire Girl and has taken a course in Baby
Craft--would have more self-control than that," rebuked the intern, but
leniently, joy oozing through his glasses; for his dearest chum was at
the front, that devastated front, in far-away France--and now there was
a chance of seeing him again.

"I feel that way, too, doctor," said the superintendent, interpreting
the look, not the rebuke. "My twin brother is over there. He's been
wounded over and over again. Oh! how I dreaded his taking part in the
next big drive. No need for it now! Will you listen to the whistles and
horns--that hooting klaxon. Why! the world's gone mad. And to think that
this baby--a soldier's child, too--should be born just at the moment, or
a few minutes before it, that the word went out to cease firing!" The
superintendent wiped her eyes.

"Was ever such a heavenly herald?" breathed the doctor.

"Her mother feels so. She says the child is born for greatness. She has
named her already, Peace Europa--Peace Europa Bush."

"Gosh! Some name! A big contract to fasten upon six pounds and
three-quarters of soft pink flesh and gristly bone," mocked Dr. Lemuel
Kemp. "Well! I suppose the heavenly infant will hold an unconscious
reception, all day long, of those who are privileged to be admitted--in
this Hades of a room." He sniffed at the hothouse atmosphere of the
baby-room--extremely hothouse--in which humanity's latest
buds--seventeen of them, with Europa as the center--were unfolding.
"I'll have to tip that young sister of mine the word to come round and
see her. I suppose she's somewhere out at the heart of the clamor
now--in the crowded streets, with the rest of the family--the rest of
the world--gone mad over the Armistice being signed. But, oh! she'll
have a fringe of enthusiasm left for the Peace baby," smilingly. "She
has been taking care of a neighbor's child, two months old, for an hour
a day lately; she showed me a pretty flame-colored honor-bead she had
received for it."

"A neat way of gilding the pill of service!" smiled the superintendent.

"Say, rather, of transforming it into a sugar pellet," was the man's
reply, as the two left the tropical atmosphere of the hospital nursery.

Yes, War was over. Simultaneously with the birth of little Peace the
word had gone forth to a hacked and harrowed and weary world to cease
firing!

No wonder that the young Day, born with her, had gone mad--outside the
hospital--a brimming-over child that could not contain its own
happiness; that from shore to shore bells rang, sirens sang, klaxons
hooted themselves hoarse--men and women, too--while underneath the wild
riot--vociferous glee--tears baptized the dawn in many a home; radiant
joy-tears on behalf of those who would come back, through which, like a
reflection of the morning-star in ocean, shone the gold star of memory
for those who would not!

But the star of service had not set. The wings which had come through
the game, undrooping, must be spread anew for tried, if tamer, lights.

And so, as Europa still lay, oiled and shining, teasing the air with her
first pin-prick cries--ere yet she was four hours old--there arrived two
visitors to see her!

One was blinking like the sleepiest Owlet ever caught abroad at
daylight; she had been awake since three, abroad since thirty minutes
past; she was the doctor's sister, Lilla Kemp, Little Owl, of the
Morning-Glory Group of Camp Fire Girls--a Glory Unit now, as it paraded
the streets in a body, radiating ecstasy and anticipatory
reunion--longed-for reunion with the brothers over there.

The other, being by name and nature of the order of the flame, looked as
if she could never "drowse" again, as if she had caught the very heart
of the sunlight joy upon the tips of her shading eyelashes and held it
there in twinkling points of gold.

"I've made the duckiest--dearest--dandiest--little set of baby-clothes
for her--for Peace Europa--her mother told me, long ago, that if she
happened to be born on Peace Day, she would name her that," said Sesooā,
the Flame. "You should see them, Lil, the sweetest little dress--I put
every teeny, tiny, microscopic stitch in it myself,"--there was a drop
of water on the gold lashes now--"the daintiest fine linen gertrude and
tiny shirtie. You see, I knew she was a soldier's child--and due to
arrive about this time."

"And you'll exhibit them, won't you, at our next ceremonial meeting--a
Peace Ceremonial, the Guardian said it would be, if the Armistice went
through; she's planning for it already. They'll mean a new honor for
hand craft, a pretty green honor-bead--those dear little baby-clothes."

"Oh! I can hardly think about that now, or of anything, except--except
that they're a thanksgiving set--offering,"--the tears brimmed over at
this golden point, two of them dropped upon Peace Europa's blanket,
saluting the invisible peace twin, new-born Peace Angel, sleeping beside
her--"a thanksgiving offering because Iver's coming back.... Oh! I can't
be s-sure yet, of course! He's been wounded so often, burned with
mustard gas, lost--lost all his beautiful wig, as he jokingly said--his
hair, you know, burned off.

                       "But when you come back,
                       As you _will_ come back!"

The sister's tear-breathed chant--each word a whirling joy-center--was
crooned into Europa's hooding blanket. "Isn't she the darlingest baby
you ever saw--little Peace Angel?" added Sara Davenport very softly.
"I'm going to adopt her in a way; take care of her for an hour a day
later on, if her mother will allow me, as you have been doing with that
neighbor's baby--Lilla."

"Why don't we adopt her forthwith, as a Group, directly she's out of the
hospital, make her clothes for her, bring her toys, and when she's a
year old, or so, take her to camp with us in the summer? Fancy her
building sand-castles--little Peace Europa--among the cranberries on
that white beach from which you put off in your radio-smeared dory, to
signal the Coast Guards! Fancy that--our Peace Europa!"

Lilla's eyes spilled over with humid light upon the blanketed mite.

"Too lovely for anything--if her mother will allow it!"

"Bless you! She'll make no objection. They live in rather a stuffy
little street; when she was well she took a boarder or two to help out
while her husband was fighting over there--and she has three more
children, the oldest twins, a boy and girl, between four and five, and a
tot of two."

"How--how about leaving Europa to sleep with _her_ heavenly twin, the
Peace Babe, and our taking those other twins out to see the big parade
this afternoon--they're soldier's children," suggested Sesooā, with
sudden inspiration.

"Good idea! Only, of course, representatives from our group, from every
Camp Fire in the city, are supposed to march with the Red Cross for
which we have been knitting, sewing, making surgical dressings, working
in a war-canteen, and so forth, right along--to parade on this
won-der-ful Peace Day!" Little Owl's lip quivered; she, too, wore a
blue-starred service-pin for a young uncle, who had been to her
childhood a pal and a protector--prisoner now on enemy soil--would the
Armistice bring _him_ back?

"Oh! we'll let Blue Heron--Olive--hold our Morning-Glory end up in the
parade, with the Rainbow, Arline, to support her. They'll attract
attention enough. Olive is doing that now, I believe, since she made her
début in society two months ago, at her stepmother's wish, but very
quietly, the War not being over then and every one of us ready to stand
on our heads, as now, for joy.... For you _will_ come back!... Ah,
well!" the Flame's lip quivered. "Ah--well!"

The latter sigh introduced the least dark shade of panic into the day's
rainbowed panegyrics, lest he who was to return--Iver--Lieutenant O Pips
of the alert eye, the observation post astuteness--might fall short of
gaining his heart's desire when he did return, might not get all he
longed to ask from the Torch-Bearer whom he had seen in ceremonial
dress, or kneeling by a gassed soldier, many and many a time, over
there, when he missed the things that make life hum.

"Ah, well! no use in anticipating. At all events, I've got over being
raspy on the score--the war-time score--of Olive's cousins!" A little
flaming shrug of shoulders now, as the two, with a last yearning look at
Peace Europa--beneficent babe--a last almost reverent touch upon the
tiny, pearly hand which had come to earth, as it seemed, bearing the
boon mankind desired--turned to leave the tropical baby-room, the quiet
hospital.

"Well! it's to be the twins _now_, is it, Europa's brother and sister?"
said Lilla, as they emerged into the open, where, on all sides, the day,
young yet, had gone mad, was running over with tomfoolery and innocent
riot--a madcap child that could not contain its own gladness.

But the twins were no "peace handful," as the two girls found. In the
absence of their mother they were martyring a grandmother. They had
baptized the joy of the day in mud-puddles and hung it out to dry from
spikey fences--the boy of four and a half, especially--until not a
clean, whole shred of clothing remained to him.

"Never mind! I'll find something for him to wear," proclaimed the
grandmama hopefully. "Will I allow them to go an' see the big parade
with you!" eyeing the visitors with almost tearful gratitude. "Oh! you'd
better believe I will. Now! to see how I can rig him up. There are these
rompers of Elsie's, fresh from the tub--I've just ironed them!"

"But I can't wear _them_. Oh! I c-can't wear--them!" The boy eyed the
tiny gingham garment as if Peace Day had, in aviator's slang, become a
pancake wreck, its joy all flattened. "They're girl's!"

He leveled a mud-caked forefinger at an utterly ignominious half-inch of
embroidery decorating those romper-leglets of his twin sister.

"Daddy-man w-wouldn't want me to wear them! Daddy-man's a soldier--_my_
Bob-daddy is! He's over in France--now!"

Bob-sonny of four and a half looked sidelong out of a rolling eye-corner
at the two spick and span Camp Fire Girls, in costume of red, white, and
blue.

In this contest, however, those victorious colors, so triumphant over
there, were coolly neutral.

He attacked the grandmother with pleadings--the two freshly laundered
rings of embroidery weaving chains about the manikin soul within him, as
he rebelliously eyed them.

"Come! Come! No more nonsense now!" Grandmama suddenly set her foot
down. "I wonder you aren't ashamed! You'll have to wear 'em--or stay at
home!"

She departed, on an errand, to the near-by kitchen.

Once more Bobbie's insulted eye implored the Minute-Girls, still
neutral.

Then he retreated into an adjoining bedroom, whose door was wide open,
and knelt upon a low chair--desperately, as soldiers kneel in the
trenches.

"O God," he pleaded, with full bursting heart of faith. "O God, please
don't let Her make me wear dem--dis day--dey're--_girl's_!"

Neutrality was at an end.

It was America's hour and her spirit flamed in her Minute-Girl
daughters, siding, all in an illumined flash, a tearful flash, with
Bob-sonny against any camouflaging of his sex on this day when
Columbia's sons, his father among them, decorated and re-decorated, over
there, were being hailed--and kissed (oft to their disgust) with
delirious cries that "America--America had saved France!"

"You _shan't_! You shan't!" cried Sesooā, seizing upon the manikin who,
not so many months ago, had seen them march away, his baby soul on fire.
"You shan't, Bobby! I'll save you! See--see if I don't!"

She was in the strange kitchen in an instant.

"Oh! Gran'ma," she wheedled, "I'm just _so_ used to the wash-tub. I've
done the whole family washing before now and won a flame-colored
honor-bead for that little performance," laughingly--tenderly. "As we're
going to take these heavenly twins off your hands for the rest of the
day--I promise not to bring them home until they're so tired an' sleepy
that they wouldn't see a puddle if 'twas spattering them--won't
you--won't you let me have one pair of Bob-sonny's little
knickerbockers, that cunning little blouse, too. Dear me! I'll launder
them for him in no time! When he sees the big parade go by he can hold
up his head as 'all boy,'--what there is of him--a fiery little son of
big, fiery Bob-daddy, over in France, who has helped to bring the War to
an end, ... and who doesn't know yet that his little Peace Europa is
waiting--waiting--for him on this side of the water, when he gets
back--as he _will_ get back!"



                              CHAPTER XIX

                             THE GOLD STAR


But in the hearts of Camp Fire Girls, for all time, there would burn the
gold star of memory for those who would not return!

In the home of another member of the Morning-Glory Group smiles had
untowardly turned to shrieks that day.

It was the small boys' hour when they dominated, because of the embryo
manhood in them, in the name of their fathers or brothers over there.

They were not slow to avail themselves of the temporary license.
Ten-year-olds, in squads of eight, linked tandem-fashion, one behind the
other, butted those of middle-age, fat or fussy business men, without
rebuke, meeting naught but the indulgent smile of an eye that looked
humidly across the water.

And little Kendal Ayres, aged seven, climbing ambitiously to wave Old
Glory from a tin roof, fell to a graveled walk and broke his arm.

"Mother!" he said, striving heroically to endure the pain of a compound
fracture until the doctor came. "Mother! let me have 'Shepherd's'
picture by me; that will help me to--bear--it--better."

It was his sister Betty who brought it--who reverently brought it--the
picture of an Army Chaplain in uniform, with the Croix de Guerre upon
his breast.

"_I_ have a gold star for a Godfather now, haven't I?" murmured little
Kendal, through clenched teeth, as he had often whispered before since
"Shepherd" had given his life, while succoring the wounded, in France.

"You have, Kennie," said white-lipped Betty, whose loyalty was
evergreen, but her courage easily frost-nipped. "And--and you'll have to
live up to it! So will I!"

She did. Putting her delicate, half-fainting mother out of the room, she
waited upon the doctor while he was administering the ether, even lay on
the bed beside Kennie, holding his hands--getting some of the fumes
herself--until oblivion set in and Kendal lay passive beneath his gold
star--in the hallowed presence of "Shepherd."

It was the sacred memory of "Shepherd" and many others which consecrated
the Peace Ceremonial which the Group held in its own club-room, two
weeks after the Armistice was declared--a room so furnished and
decorated by the hand-craft of its occupants that, like their dresses,
stenciled and embroidered, it was a history in itself of talent,
achievement, individual and collective.

And the memory of that Ceremonial would go down in history, not alone in
the Camp Fire "count," but wondrously wrought into the tapestried
life-stories--into thought, word and deed--of the members present.

It matters not who recited, in a voice that rocked unsteadily once or
twice upon the raft of a sob, "Flanders Fields."

Her personality was lost in the:

                  "If ye break faith with us who die!"

Ah! no. There must _be_ no breaking of faith. The life of every American
boy and girl alive on that fair November, the eleventh, when the sun
shone as if knowing that it marked a New Epoch, mocking the brown leaves
upon the ground--while Peace Europa cooed in her blanket--must be nobler
for all time--a fair and loving monument to those who would not come
back.

But--but the note of pathos melted into melody when it came to
considering the new: to standing upon the threshold of that better
World, bought with a price, brushed by the feet of youth and of hopeful
young nations--weary old ones--to-day.

Not three candles alone, as on that white beach, where aviators landed
by the Council Fire, were lit to-night, but one for each country of the
Allies, to typify joy rekindled well-nigh all over the war-scarred
earth.

And when little Flamina, Nébis, the Green Leaf upon a later branch of
America's great tree--whose leaves must be truly now for the healing of
the nations--stepped forward, with flashing eye, to light the green
candle of Italy, there was a long-drawn breath between a song and a sob
in the breast of each maiden present.

               "Va fuora d'ltalia, ta fuora ch'e l'orro,
               Va fuora d'ltalia, va fuora o stranier!"

caroled Flamina--the big, dilating pupils of her eyes as black stars in
a sepia-brown sky--while she chanted Italy's hymn of liberty--the
national hymn.

"Doesn't she make just the dearest little Camp Fire Sister, with--with
the grace of her, the green leaf in her head-band and embroidered upon
the front of her ceremonial dress!" murmured one and another of the
Group who had adopted her, working for patriotic honors along lines of
Americanization--building up the new American womanhood, to the broader
ideals and understanding won by the Great War.

Flamina was a full-fledged Wood Gatherer now. The brightest silver spark
in the night of her eye, beneath those curly lashes, was a reflection of
the fagot-ring upon her finger.

The ceremony of her initiation, interrupted by the witch-stenciled
war-plane, by the knights of the sky, with their clipped anecdotes of
airdom adventures--their wingèd slang--had been gone through later upon
the white beach, while:

                 "Drowsy wavelets come and go,
                 To weave a dream-spell 'round Wohelo!"

She was getting into her heart of hearts the Wohelo magic now; the
triple ideals of Work, Health, Love--the cord that bound her to her Camp
Fire Sisters, those daughters of the Sun, who, as she increasingly
understood, wedded old and new, the poetry of the past--of races that
went before them upon American soil--with the reaching-out progress of
the present.

And "there is that giveth and yet increaseth," so the Bible says: every
hour spent in truly naturalizing the little foreign-born sister,
cultivating the freshly grafted shoot, with its transplanted green leaf,
had been one of richness for the instructors, too; from Olive, who had
improved her English, to Sara and Betty, who had helped to fashion her
ceremonial dress, and Sybil who had wrought a leaf upon its bosom.

The music of her caressing song, whether it dwelt in childish passion,
wild and tender, upon the country and sea she loved, recalling her own
blue bay of Naples, or matched the mischief of her dancing footsteps,
gay as the most elusive little leaf, in a

                             "Cip i tè ciop!
                           (Chippety chop!)"

warmed their blood to a more sparkling fire.

But, sweetest of all at this Peace Celebration--never to be
forgotten--it added a new and soaring note to the song, fairest in
Columbia's ears: "America the beautiful!"

                 "And crown they good with brotherhood,
                   From sea to shining sea."

Ah! well might the hearts of Columbia's daughters swell--those of the
Morning-Glory Group rejoice--for by the glow of the Council Fire on
lonely beaches, by the encircling ring around symbolic candles, by
welding ritual, poetry and song, in this the morning-glory hour of the
World's rebirth, after a night of pain, God _had_ crowned America's good
with sisterhood:

                       "From Sea to shining Sea."



                               CHAPTER XX

                           CHRISTMAS OF 1918


The moving note which merged into melody at the first Peace Celebration,
when War was, forever, as men hoped, a thing of the past, turned to
mirth in the second one--the Christmas Ceremonial.

It was more than mirth in one girlish heart--one, at least. It was
mounting thanksgiving which often sang itself into a sobbing prayer of
joy, like the sun-curl upon the swelling wave when tumultuously it
breaks.

For He had come back.

Lieutenant Iver Davenport--without as much hair as Peace Europa, because
of the burning effects of mustard gas--slowly recovering from
shrapnel-wounds, was back at Camp Evens, where once, in premature
passion, he had rashly "bawled out" a sergeant, now, by the fortunes of
war, a lieutenant like himself.

His mother and sister had been up to see him. They had sat by his cot in
the base hospital, and Sara, knowing the sort of news for which he was
thirsting, had told him all the story of their camping summer, making it
center chiefly around one leading figure--that of the Torch Bearer,
Olive Deering.

She described the waning fires of resolution upon the hill of the
night-heron, when grit had gone glimmering, and how Olive had gloriously
rekindled the flame from the glow in her own breast--and by the thought
of what Soldier Brothers were enduring over there.

"It was from a letter about her cousin Clay--Clayton Forrest--that she
read. He apparently did 'his all' over there, but came through, as--as
did that other cousin of Olive's, the rich banker's son, who put in his
time working in a shipyard on this side. Atlas, we nicknamed him because
when we first saw him he was apparently holding up--supporting--with his
back and shoulders a horribly heavy, raw, yellow ship's rib--and the
World with it.... That's just how he felt; I know he did.... Never mind;
I like him awfully well now--ever since I let him take my freak of a
dory! Ha! that's another story."

So Sara's tongue ran on, a moved, at times a merry, flame, into the
returned soldier's ear.

"But,"--her voice retreated into the softest twilight of conjecturing
speech--"but I don't believe Atlas--or any one of her cousins--holds up
Olive's world. Perhaps I ought not to say it...."

She broke off, mistily, as her eyes met her brother's, with the homing
hunger in them; her brother who had temporarily lost his hair--but not
his smile!

"Do you mean--mean to say"--he began, in the old headstrong way. "Ah,
well! nothing matters, girlie, except that I'm at home--at home, alive,
and can soon see--everybody--for myself. Although I don't know whether
they'll let me out of here before Christmas, or not. If they do--if I
should be discharged from the hospital, and sent to the Casualty
Detachment--why, I might get back to you sooner--sooner than I hope for,
now."

"Quite--unexpectedly--perhaps?"

The sister's heart gave a flying leap.

"Possibly. But don't look for it! As I say, what does--anything--matter,
except that I _will_ be back with you--sooner or later?"

The Flame suddenly bowed her wet cheek on the narrow cot next his; the
ring in the last words, the whole world of relief, gave her for the
first time an inkling into the soldier's lot over there; no letter of
his had done so.

"While the fight was on, all was Advance--and a heart full of cheers!"

                  *       *       *       *       *

"I--I was always Iver's best chum--he said so--but I suppose I'll have
to resign myself now to the fact that when he went over the top at
Château-Thierry and St. Mihiel--four times he led his men over the top,
once into that Belleau wheat-field, yellow in the morning, red at night,
and again into the meadow where he remembers thinking, before he was
shot down, that the clover was sweet, even if he couldn't smell it for
the gas--his _real_ thoughts, when he had any, were more of another girl
than of me. Well! I can't be jealous about that, as I was over the
things he left with me! Oh! if he only could be discharged before
Christmas--and spend it with us!"

Such was the tenor of the sisterly thoughts as the train bore her back
to the home city of Clevedon, now daily witnessing the return of
officers and men who wore upon their right sleeve the gold stripes
telling of service in France--supplemented often and nobly by the added
gold which spoke of wounds.

"Dear me! I wish they--the doctors up there at Camp Evens--_would_
pronounce him better, turn him over to the Casualty Department; then
he'd probably get his discharge right away, and arrive home
unexpectedly--perhaps! Oh-h!"

The bliss of the latter possibility was the spirit in Sara Davenport's
feet which kept them moving elastically from room to room of her
father's suburban bungalow on the day before Christmas Eve. It was a
red-hearted wreath here, a garland there, typifying the matchless
thanksgiving of this Christmas in many a heart, to be green while life
should last--and the heart have a reminiscent throb!

It was creaming, frothing, whipping, mixing, and cutting into diamond
shapes which borrowed luster from the diamond mine of contingent
expectancy within such as had never transfigured cookies before.

For if Iver should possibly arrive, not even the type of fare set before
aviators on a moonlit beach and jollified by the airy slang of space,
was meet for the returning You!

"Those air-scouts would call these coated chocolate bars creamed
joy-sticks," thought Sara, as she reverted to candy-making and Camp Fire
recipes. "Well! if Iver should be with us, again, on Christmas Day,
every mouthful I eat will be a joy-stick--tasteless except for the joy.
Oh-h! just suppose he should come to-night while I'm out--attending that
Christmas Ceremonial at the Deerings' home."

"Maybe I could send him to fetch you," returned her mother, to whom the
latter remark was made aloud. "But, to my mind, there's hardly a chance
of it!... Here's a box which has just come for you, daughter!"

"Oh, good gracious! it couldn't be--from--_him_?"

No! It was a bunch of pearl-white Christmas roses grown in the
conservatories of Manchester-by-the-Sea.

With it was no accompanying card, but a sheet of creamy, rough-edged,
masculine note-paper, on which were a series of rather clever
pen-sketches: overalled girls wielding rake, hoe, and sprayer upon a
sea-girt hill; on the next page, a youth steering a blind horse between
reefs of lumber, then with his back bent under a ponderous ship's rib--a
girl defying him--lastly, that girl upright in a dory that might have
escaped from some boat-bedlam, signaling to Coast Guards.

"Atlas knew what would appeal to a Camp Fire Girl, with a taste for
primitive picture-writing," murmured the Flame to herself, nursing the
starry roses, the stars in the eyes above them shining through those
gold-tipped lashes, like a rayed nebula. "Well, well! I suppose this is
a sort of silent tribute to the fact that we all--all--came through the
Game with our wings, as an aviator would say; that we weren't grounded
in what we set out to do!"

A thought which made the awarding of honors at that Christmas
Ceremonial, in the dying days of 1918, a rite at once more triumphant
and touching than the bestowal of any honor-beads before!

For each khaki-colored bead strung upon a leather thong testified to the
contributing of an individual bit in the hour of Freedom's main bitt,
when it was the anchoring prop to which the mainsail of progress, the
mainsheet of safety, were made fast.

Yes! and, in a way, the lives over there, too. For many a soldier owed
his rations and his recovery to the tireless zeal of voluntary workers
on this side of the water.

Who knows but Lieutenant Iver did, as, an hour later, when the spirit of
the Ceremonial meeting had turned to Christmas merrymaking, his fingers,
long and thin, wielded the colonial knocker and rang the bell of the
Deering mansion on Nobility Hill--as certain annals of the city were
proud to call it.

"Oh-h! I nev-er could come in, sis.... Such a scarecrow I am--without as
much hair as--as that Peace Babe you were telling me about!"

"She! Why! she has a perfect shock now--little Peace Europa! She--she's
growing, at all points, like her name!" It was his sister's voice,
merry, tender--tearfully moved--as she ran down-stairs to meet him.
"So--so you _were_ discharged sooner than you expected, Iver."

"Yes. Got my marching orders from the Casualty Detachment only a few
hours ago. Didn't even wait to telephone! Come to fetch you
home--sis!... Why-y! Olive."

Somehow, as she watched that meeting between the Torch Bearer and the
gaunt soldier from over-seas, Sara Davenport, regardless of an onlooking
butler, turned aside in the great lighted hall, and hid her wet eyes in
the crook of her arm from which the soft leather fringes fell back--just
as she had done by the bungalow on the wild sea-beach, after the
exciting capture of a spy, when she yearned that Peace might come again.

She was a forked Flame now, as then, cleft by dividing emotions.

For it was evident by the wonderful color on Olive's cheek, by the
joy-brand in her eyes, who--who was the prop that held up her world--her
maidenly castles in the air. And it was not Atlas, nor any one of her
cousins, fine as might be their war-score!

But not even Sister Sara, only the December breeze fluttering about the
brownstone mansion on the hill, heard what passed, yet a little while
later, between a very tall, very thin officer, assiduously cultivating a
baby crop of new hair, and a dark-eyed girl, upon a balcony of the
Deering home, whither maidens in ceremonial dress had flocked to hear
far, sweet echoes of Community singing--after the said soldier had been
beguiled up-stairs on the plea that he might keep his trench-cap on.

And the said breeze actually halted, cornered by the new mischief--the
shy, glad mischief--in Olive's tones which had hitherto been more on the
meditative order.

"I wonder"--murmured the Torch Bearer--"I wonder, now, if I'm the very
first Camp Fire Girl to--to be proposed to--that's what it means,
doesn't it--in head-band and moccasins--ceremonial dress," shyly.

"But, oh--oh, good gracious! Olive, I oughtn't; not--not until after I
had s-spoken to your father! What will he say?"

The youthful lieutenant's courage was more flustered than when he led
his men over the top into that French clover-meadow where a glance told
him that the blossoms were sweet even if he couldn't smell them through
his gas-mask--and for noxious cloud.

"My father! I don't know what he will say. But--but I rather imagine it
will be the same thing he said--when--he saw you hold out your blistered
hand--to a private--after you had been so badly burned by
that--stray--powder-puff."

"And what was that?"

                     "Onward--Christian--Soldier!"

whispered Olive very softly.


                                The End

------------------------------------------------------------------------

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How Oakley Rose Became a Naval Architect

By ISABEL HORNIBROOK

12mo Cloth    Illustrated

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For sale by all booksellers or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
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                   LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., BOSTON

------------------------------------------------------------------------

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By A. NEELY HALL

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AND DOROTHY PERKINS

Illustrated with photographs and more than 700 diagrams and working
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

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For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
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