The Camp Fire Girls At Camp Keewaydin
Or, Down Paddles
By Hildegard G. Frey
ON THE WAY
"All aboard!" The hoarse voice of Captain MacLaren boomed out like a fog horn, waking a clatter of echoes among the tall cliffs on the opposite shore of the river, and sending the seventy-five girls on the dock all skurrying for the Carribou's gangplank at once.
"Hurry up, Hinpoha! We're getting left behind." Agony strained forward on the suitcase she was helping Hinpoha to carry down the hill and endeavored to catch up with the crowd, a proceeding which she soon acknowledged to be impossible, for Hinpoha, rendered breathless by the hasty scramble from the train, lagged farther behind with every step.
"I—can't—go—any—faster!" she panted, and abruptly let go of her end of the suitcase to fan herself with her hand. "What's the use of rushing so, anyway?" she demanded plaintively. "They won't go off without us; they can see us coming down the hill. It wasn't my fault that my camera got wedged under the seat and made us be the last ones off the train," she continued, "and I'm not going to run down this hill and go sprawling, like I did in the elevator yesterday. Are the other girls on already?" she asked, searching the crowd below with her eyes for a sight of the other Winnebagos.
"Sahwah and Oh-Pshaw are on the boat already," replied Agony, "and Gladys and Migwan are just getting on. I don't see Katherine anywhere, however. Oh, yes," she exclaimed, "there she is down there in the crowd. What are they all laughing at, I wonder? Oh, look, Katherine's suitcase has come open, and all her things are spilled out on the dock. I thought it would be strange if she made the trip without some kind of a mishap. Oh, dear, did you ever see anyone so funny as Katherine?"
"Well," observed Hinpoha in a tone of relief, "we don't have to hurry now. It'll take them at least ten minutes to get that suitcase shut again. I know, because I helped Katherine pack. I had to sit on it with all my might to close it."
"All Aboard!" came the second warning roar from Captain MacLaren, accompanied by a deafening blast of the Carribou's whistle. Agony picked up Hinpoha's suitcase in one hand and her own in the other, and with an urgent "Come on!" made a dash down the remainder of the hill and landed breathless at the gangplank of the waiting steamer just as the engine began to quiver into motion. Hinpoha was just behind her, and Katherine trod closely upon Hinpoha's heels, carrying her still unclosed suitcase out before her like a tray, to keep its contents from spilling out.
Migwan was waiting for them at the head of the gangplank. "We've saved a place for you up in the bow," she said. "Hurry up, we're having such a time holding it for you. The boat is simply packed."
The four girls picked their way through a litter of suitcases, paddles, cameras, tennis rackets and musical instruments that covered every inch of deck space between the chairs, and joined the other Winnebagos in their place in the bow. Hinpoha sank down gratefully upon a deck chair that Oh-Pshaw had obligingly been holding for her and Agony disposed herself upon a pile of suitcases, from which vantage point she could get a good look at the crowd.
The Carribou had turned her nose about and was gliding smoothly upstream, following the random curvings of the lazy Onawanda as it wound through the low-lying, wooded hills of the Shenandawah country, singing a carefree wanderer's song as it flowed. It was a glorious, balmy day in late June, dazzlingly blue and white, sparklingly golden. It was the Carribou's big day of the year, that last day of June. On all other days she made her run demurely from Lower Falls Station to Upper Falls, carrying freight and a handful of passengers on each trip; but every year on that last day of June freight and ordinary passengers stood aside, for the Carribou was chartered to carry the girls of Camp Keewaydin to their summer hunting grounds.
The Winnebagos looked around with interest at the girls who were to be their companions for the summer, all as yet total strangers to them. Girls of every shape and size, of every shade of complexion, of every age between sixteen and twenty. A number were apparently "old girls," who had been at Camp Keewaydin in former years; they flocked together in the bow right behind the Winnebagos, chattering animatedly, singing snatches of camp songs, and uttering conjectures in regard to such things as whether they would be in the Alley or the Avenue; and who was going to be councilor in All Saints this year.
A number of these old girls were grouped in an adoring attitude around a pretty young woman who talked constantly in an animated tone, and at intervals strummed on a ukulele. Continual cries of "Pom-pom!" rose on the air from the circle surrounding her. It was "Dear Pom-pom," "Pom-pom, you angel," "O darling Pom-pom! Can't you fix it so that I can be in your tent this year?" and much more in the same strain.
"Pom-pom is holding her court again this year, I see," said a biting voice just behind Agony.
Agony maneuvered herself around on her perch and glanced down at the speaker. She was a decidedly plain girl with a thick nose and a wide mouth set in a grim line above an extraordinarily heavy chin. Her face was turned partly away as she spoke to the girl next to her, but Agony caught a glimpse of the sarcastic expression which informed her features, and a little chill of dislike went through her. Agony was extremely susceptible to first impressions of people.
The girl addressed made an inaudible reply and the first girl continued in low but emphatic tones, "Well, you won't catch me fetching and carrying for her and playing the part of the adoring slave, I can tell you. I think it's perfectly silly, the way the girls all get a crush on her."
There was a pause, and then the other girl asked, somewhat hastily, "Who do you suppose will get the Buffalo Robe this year?"
"Oh, Mary Sylvester will, of course," came the reply. "She nearly got it last year. Now that Peggy Atterbury isn't coming back Mary'll be the most popular girl in camp without a doubt. Look at her over there, trying to be sweet to Pom-pom."
"Isn't she stunning in that coral silk sweater?" murmured the other girl.
"She has too much color to wear that shade of pink," returned the sarcastic one.
Agony's eyes traveled over to the group surrounding Pom-pom and rested upon the girl who, next to Pom-pom herself, was the center of the group. She was very much like Agony herself, with intensely black hair, snow white forehead and richly red lips, though a little slighter in build and somewhat taller. A frank friendliness beamed from her clear dark eyes and her smile was warm and sincere. Agony felt drawn to her and jealous of her at the same time. The most popular girl in camp. That was the title Agony coveted with all her soul. To be prominent; to be popular, was Agony's chief aim in life; and to be pointed out in a crowd as the most popular girl seemed the one thing in the world most desirable to her. She, too, would be prominent and popular, she resolved; she, too, would be pointed out in the crowd.
The sarcastic voice again broke in upon her reverie. "Have you seen the hippopotamus over there in the bow? I should think a girl would be ashamed to get that stout."
Agony glanced apprehensively at Hinpoha, who was staring straight out over the water, but whose crimson face betrayed only too plainly that she had heard the remark. The rest of the Winnebagos had undoubtedly heard it also, as well as a number of others rubbing elbows with them, for a sudden embarrassed silence fell over that corner of the boat and a dozen pairs of eyes glanced from Hinpoha to the speaker, who, not one whit abashed, continued to stare scornfully at the object of her ridicule.
"Of all the bad manners!" said Agony to Sahwah in an indignant undertone, which, with the characteristic penetrating quality of Agony's voice, carried perfectly to the ears of the girl behind her. A light, satirical laugh was the reply. Agony turned to bestow a withering glance upon this rude creature, and met a pair of greenish tan eyes bent upon her with an expression of cool mockery. In the instant that their eyes met there sprang up between them one of those sudden antagonisms that are characteristic of very positive natures; the two hated each other cordially at first sight, before they had ever spoken a word to each other. Like fencers' swords their glances crossed and fell apart, and each girl turned her back pointedly upon the other. Broken threads of conversation were picked up by the group around them, shouts of laughter came from the group surrounding Pom-pom, who was reciting a funny poem, and the tense moment passed.
The other Winnebagos forgot the incident and gave themselves over to enjoyment of the beautiful scene which was unrolling before their eyes as the Carribou bore them further and further into the wilds; great dark stretches of woodland brooding in silence on the hillsides; an occasional glimpse of a far distant mountain peak wreathed in mist, and near by many a merry little stream romping down a hillside into the mother arms of the Onawanda. Gradually the shores had drawn close together until the travelers could look into the cool depths of the forests past which they were gliding, and could hear the calling of the wild birds in their leafy sanctuary.
Just past a long stretch of woods which Hinpoha thought might be enchanted, because the trees stood so stiffly straight, the Carribou rounded a bend, and there flashed into sight an irregular row of white tents scattered among the pines on a rise of ground some hundred or more feet back from the river.
"There's camp," Sahwah tried to say to Hinpoha, but her voice was drowned in the shriek of ecstasy which rose from the old campers. Handkerchiefs waved wildly; paddles smote the deck with deafening thumps; cheer after cheer rolled up, accompanied by the loud tooting of the Carribou's whistle. Captain MacLaren always joined in the racket of arrival as heartily as the girls themselves, taking delight in seeing how much noise he could coax from the throat of his steam siren.
Amid the racket the little vessel nosed her way up alongside a wooden dock, and before she was fairly fast the younger members of last year's delegation had leapt over the rail and were scurrying up the path. The older ones followed more sedately, having stopped to pick up their luggage, and to greet the camp directors who stood on the dock with welcoming hands outstretched. Last of all came the new girls, looking about them inquiringly, and already beginning to fall in love with the place.
Along the bluff overlooking the river, and half buried in the pine trees, stretched a long, low, rustic building, the pillars of whose wide piazza were made of tree trunks with the bark left on. A huge chimney built of cobblestones almost covered the one end. The great pines hovered over it protectingly; their branches caressing its roof as they waved gently to and fro in the light breeze. On the peak of one of its gables a little song sparrow, head tilted back and body a-tremble, trilled forth an ecstasy of song.
"Isn't it be-yoo-tiful?" sighed Hinpoha, her artistic soul delighting in the lovely scene before her. "I wonder what that house is for?"
"I don't know," replied Sahwah, equally enchanted. "There's another house behind it, farther up on the hill."
This second house was much larger than the bungalow overhanging the water's edge; it, too, was built in rustic fashion, with tree-trunks for porch posts; it was long and rambling, and had an additional story at the back, where the hill sloped away.
It was into this latter house that the crowd of girls was pouring, and the Winnebagos, following the others, found themselves in a large dining room, open on three sides to the veranda, and screened all around the open space. On the fourth side was an enormous fireplace built of stones like those they had seen in the chimney of the other house. Over its wide stone shelf were the words CAMP KEEWAYDIN traced in small, glistening blue pebbles in a cement panel. Although the day was hot, a small fire of paper and pine knots blazed on the hearth, crackling a cheery welcome to the newcomers as they entered. In the center of the room two long tables and a smaller one were set for dinner, and from the regions below came the appetizing odor of meat cooking, accompanied by the portentous clatter of an egg beater.
There was apparently an attic loft above the dining-room, for next to the chimney a square opening showed in the raftered ceiling, with a ladder leading up through it, fastened against the wall below. Up this ladder a dozen or more of the younger girls scrambled as soon as they entered the room; laughing, shrieking, tumbling over each other in their haste; and after a moment of thumping and bouncing about, down they all came dancing, clad in middies and bloomers, and raced, whooping like Indians, down the path which led to the tents.
"Are we supposed to get into our bloomers right away?" Oh-Pshaw whispered to Agony. "Ours are in the trunk, and it hasn't been brought up yet."
"I don't believe we are," Agony returned, watching Mary Sylvester, who stood talking to Pom-pom in the doorway of the Camp Director's office. "None of the older girls are doing it; just the youngsters."
Just then Mrs. Grayson, the Camp Director's wife, came out of the office and announced that dinner would be served immediately, after which the tent assignments would be made. The Winnebagos found themselves seated in a row down the side of one of the long tables, being served by a jolly-looking, muscular-armed councilor, who turned out to be the Camp Director's daughter, and who had her section of the table feeling at home in no time.
"Seven of you from one city!" she remarked to the Winnebagos, when she had called the roll of "native heaths," as she put it. "That's one of the largest delegations we have here. You all look like star campers, too," she added, sizing them up shrewdly. "Seven stars!" she repeated, evidently pleased with her simile. "We'll have to call you the Pleiades. We already have the Nine Muses from New York, the Twelve Apostles from Boston, the Heavenly Twins from Chicago and the Three Graces from Minneapolis, beside the Lone Wolf from Labrador, the Kangaroo from Australia, and the Elephant's Child from India."
"Oh, how delicious!" cried Sahwah delightedly. "Do you really mean that there are girls here from Australia and India?" Sahwah set down her water glass and gazed incredulously at Miss Judith. Miss Judith nodded over the pudding she was dishing up.
"The Kangaroo and the Lone Wolf are councilors," she replied, "but the Elephant's Child is a girl, the daughter of a missionary to India. She goes to boarding school here in America in the winter time, and always spends her summers at our camp. That is she, sitting at the end of the other table, next to mother."
The Winnebagos glanced with quick interest to see what the girl from India might be like, and somewhat to their surprise saw that she was no different from the others. They recognized her as one of the younger girls who had been hanging over Pom-pom on the boat.
"Oh—she!" breathed Agony.
"What is her name?" asked Hinpoha, feeling immensely drawn to the girl, not because she came from India, but because she was even stouter than herself.
"Her name is Bengal Virden," replied Miss Judith.
"Bengal?" repeated Sahwah. "What an odd name. I suppose she was born in Bengal?"
"Yes, she was born there," replied Miss Judith. "She is a rather odd child," she continued, "but an all round good sport. Her mother died when she was small and she was brought up by her father until she was old enough to be sent to America, and since then she has divided her time between boarding schools and summer camps. She has a very affectionate nature, and gets tremendous crushes on the people she likes. Last summer it was Pom-pom, and she nearly wore her out with her adoration, although Pom-pom likes that sort of thing."
"Who is Pom-pom?" asked Agony curiously. "I have heard her name mentioned so many times."
"Pom-pom is our dancing teacher," replied Miss Judith. "She is the pretty councilor over there at the lower end of mother's table. All the girls get violent crushes on her," she continued, looking the Winnebagos over with a quizzical eye, as if to say that it would only be a short time before they, too, would be lying at Pom-pom's feet, another band of adoring slaves. Without knowing why, Agony suddenly felt unaccountably foolish under Miss Judith's keen glance, and taking her eyes from Pom-pom, she let them rove leisurely over the long line of girls at her own table.
"Who is the girl sitting third from the end on this side?" she asked, indicating the heavy-jawed individual who had made the impolite remark on the boat about Hinpoha, and who had just now pushed back her pudding dish with an emphatic movement after tasting one spoonful, and had turned to her neighbor with a remark which made the one addressed glance uncomfortably toward the councilor who was serving that section.
Miss Judith followed Agony's glance. "That," she replied in a non-committal tone, "is Jane Pratt. Will anyone have any more pudding?"
The pudding was delicious—chocolate with custard sauce—and Miss Judith was immediately busy refilling a half dozen dishes all proffered her at once. Agony made a mental note that Miss Judith had made no comment whatever upon Jane Pratt, although she had evidently been in camp the year before, and she drew her own conclusions about Jane's popularity.
"Who is Mary Sylvester?" Agony asked presently.
"Mary Sylvester," repeated Miss Judith in a tone which caught the attention of all the Winnebagos, it was so full of affection. "Mary Sylvester is the salt of the earth," Miss Judith continued warmly. "She's the brightest, loveliest, most kind-hearted girl I've ever met, and I've met a good many. She can't help being popular; she's as jolly as she is pretty, and as unassuming as she is talented. For an all around good camper 'we will never see her equal, though we search the whole world through,' as the camp song runs."
Agony looked over to where Mary Sylvester sat, the center of an animated group, and yearned with all her heart to be so prominent and so much noticed.
"I heard someone on the boat say that she would probably get the Buffalo Robe this year; that she had almost gotten it last year," continued Agony. "What is the Buffalo Robe, please?"
"The Buffalo Robe," replied Miss Judith, "is a large leather skin upon which the chief events of each camping season are painted in colors, and at the end of the summer it goes to the girl who is voted the most popular. She keeps it through the winter and returns it to us when camp opens the next year."
"Oh-h," breathed Agony, mightily interested. "And who got it last year?"
"Peggy Atterbury," said Miss Judith. "You'll hear all about her before very long. All the old girls are going to tie black ribbons on their tent poles tomorrow morning because she isn't coming back this year. She was another rare spirit like Mary Sylvester, only a bit more prominent, because she saved a girl from drowning one day."
Agony's heart swelled with ambition and desire as she listened to Miss Judith telling about the Buffalo Robe. A single consuming desire burned in her soul—to win that Buffalo Robe. Nothing else mattered now; no other laurel she might possibly win held out any attraction; she must carry off the great honor. She would show Nyoda what a great quality of leadership she possessed; there would be no question of Nyoda's making her a Torch Bearer when she came home with the Buffalo Robe. Thus her imagination soared until she pictured herself laying the significant trophy at Nyoda's feet and heard Nyoda's words of congratulation. A sudden doubt assailed her in the midst of her dream.
"Do new girls ever win the Buffalo Robe?" she asked in a voice which she tried hard to make sound disinterested.
"Yes, certainly," replied Miss Judith. "Peggy Atterbury was a new girl last year, and the girl who won it the year before last was a new girl also."
Her doubt thus removed, Agony returned to her pleasant day dream with greater longing than ever. The conversation at their table was interrupted by shouts from the next group.
"Oh, Miss Judy, please, please, can't we live in the Alley?"
Another group farther down the table took up the cry, and the room echoed with clamorous requests to live either "in the Alley" or "on the Avenue." The Elephant's Child came in at the end with a fervent plea: "Please, can't I be in Pom-pom's tent this year?"
"Tent lists are all made out," replied Miss Judith blandly. "You'll all find out in a few moments where you're to be." She sat calmly amid the buzz of excited speculation.
"What do they mean by living 'in the Alley'?" asked Sahwah curiously.
"There are two rows of tents," replied Miss Judith. "The first one is called the Avenue and the second one the Alley. This end of camp, where the bungalows are, is known as the Heights, and the other end the Flats. There is always a great rivalry in camp between the dwellers in the Alley and the dwellers on the Avenue, and the two compete for the championship in sports."
"Oh, how jolly!" cried Sahwah eagerly. "Where are we to be?" she continued, filled with a sudden burning desire to live in the Alley.
"You'll know soon," said Miss Judith, with another one of her quizzical smiles, and with that the Winnebagos had to be content.
In a few moments dinner was finished and Mrs. Grayson rose and read the tent assignments. The tents all had names, it appeared; there was Bedlam and Avernus, Jabberwocky, Hornets, Nevermore, Gibraltar, Tamaracks, Fairview, Woodpeckers, Ravens, All Saints, Aloha, and a number of others which the Winnebagos could not remember at one hearing. Three girls and one councilor were assigned to each tent. Sahwah and Agony and Hinpoha heard themselves called to go to Gitchee-Gummee; Gladys and Migwan were put with Bengal Virden, the Elephant's Child from India, into a tent called Ponemah; while Katherine and Oh-Pshaw were assigned, without any tentmate, to "Bedlam." The Winnebagos smiled involuntarily when this last assignment was read, knowing how well Katherine's erratic nature befitted the name of the place. Gitchee-Gummee, Sahwah found to her delight, was the tent nearest the woods; next to it, but on the other side of a small gully, spanned by a rustic bridge, came Aloha, Pom-pom's tent; on the other side of Aloha stood Ponemah, in the shadow of twin pines of immense height; while Bedlam was farther along in the same row, just beyond Avernus. Avernus, the Winnebagos noticed to their amusement, was a tent pitched in a deep hollow, the approach to which was a rocky passage down a steep hillside, strikingly suggestive of the classical entrance way to the nether regions. Only the ridgepole of Avernus was visible from the level upon which Bedlam stood, all the rest of it being hidden by the high rocks which surround it. Bedlam, on the other hand, was built on a height, and commanded a view of nearly all the other tents, being itself a conspicuous object in the landscape.
To their secret joy, the Winnebagos saw that their tents were all in the back row, in the Alley. Agony, especially, was exultant, since she saw that Mary Sylvester was also in the Alley. Mary was in Aloha, Pom-pom's tent, right next door, and Agony had a feeling that wherever Mary Sylvester was, there would be the center of things, and being right next door might have its advantages.
"We're going to have Miss Judith for a councilor," remarked Sahwah joyfully, as she dumped her armful of blankets down on one of the beds—the one on the side toward the woods.
"I wonder which bed she would like," said Hinpoha, standing irresolutely in the center of the floor with her armful of bedding.
"Here she comes now," announced Agony. "Let's wait and ask her."
"Well, she wouldn't want this one anyway," remarked Sahwah, as she straightened the mattress on her bed preparatory to spreading the sheets, "it sags in the middle like everything. I didn't take the best one if I did take first choice"—a fact which was apparent to all.
Bedlam's councilor, who had been announced as Miss Armstrong, from Australia, had already staked her claim when Katherine and Oh-Pshaw arrived, although she herself was nowhere in sight. One of the beds was made up and covered with a blanket of such dazzling gorgeousness that the two girls were almost blinded, and after one look turned their eyes outdoors for relief. All colors of the rainbow ran riot in that blanket, each one trying to outdo the others in brilliancy and intensity, until the effect was a veritable Vesuvius eruption of infernal splendors.
"Think of having to live with that!" exclaimed Oh-Pshaw tragically. "My eyesight will be ruined in one day. Imagine the effect after I get out my pink and gray one."
"And my lavender one!" added Katherine.
"We won't ever dare roll up the sides of our tent," continued Oh-Pshaw. "We'll look like a beacon fire, up here on this hill. Our tent is visible from the whole camp."
"Cheer up," said Katherine philosophically, "maybe there are others just as bad. Anyway, let's not act as if we minded; it might make Miss Armstrong feel badly. She probably thinks it's handsome, or she wouldn't have it. Coming from Australia that way, she may have quite savage tastes."
"I wonder what she'll be like," ruminated Oh-Pshaw, standing on one foot to tie the sneaker she had just substituted for her high traveling shoe.
As if in answer to her wondering, a clear, far-carrying call came to the ears of both girls at that moment. "Coo-ee! Coo-ee! Coo-ee!"
"What is that?" asked Oh-Pshaw, pausing in her shoe lacing with one foot poised airily in space.
The call was repeated just outside their tent door, and then trailed off into silence.
"Is that someone calling to us?" asked Katherine, hurriedly pulling her middy on over her head and throwing back the tent flap. No one was in sight outside.
"Must have been for someone else," she reported, looking right and left along the pathway. "There's nobody out here."
She came back into the tent and began arranging her small possessions on the shelf which swung overhead.
"How I'm ever going to keep all my things on one-third of this shelf is more—" she began, but her speech ended in a startled gasp, for the floor of the tent suddenly heaved up in the center, sending bottles, brushes and boxes tumbling in all directions. The board which had thus heaved up so miraculously continued to rise at one end, and underneath it a pair of long, lean, powerful-looking arms came into view, followed by a head and a pair of shoulders. Katherine and Oh-Pshaw sat petrified at the apparition.
"Did I scare you, girls?" asked a deep, strong voice, and the apparition looked gravely from one to the other. It was a dark-skinned face, bronzed by wind and weather to a coppery, Indian-like tinge, and the hair which framed it was coarse and black. Only the head and shoulders of the apparition were visible beside the arms, the rest being concealed in the depths underneath the tent, but the breadth of those shoulders indicated clearly what might be expected in the way of a body. After a moment of roving back and forth between the two girls, the dark eyes under the heavy eyebrows fastened themselves upon Katherine with a mournful intensity of gaze that held her spellbound, speechless. After a full moment's scrutiny the dark eyes dropped, and the apparition, using her arms as levers, raised herself to the level of the floor and stood up. She was taller even than they had expected from the breadth of her shoulders; in fact, she seemed taller than the tent itself. Katherine, who up until that moment had considered herself tall, felt like a pigmy beside her, or, as she expressed it, "like Carver Hill suddenly set down beside one of the Alps." Never had she seen such a monumental young woman; such suggestion of strength and vigor contained in a feminine frame.
Oh-Pshaw looked timidly at the human Colossus standing in the middle of the tent, and inquired meekly, "Are you Miss Armstrong? Are you our Councilor?"
"I am," replied the newcomer gravely, replacing the board in the floor with a nonchalance which conveyed the impression that coming up through floors was her usual manner of entering places.
"Why did you come in that way?" burst out Katherine, unable to contain her curiosity any longer.
"Oh, I just happened to be under the tent," replied Miss Armstrong, speaking in a drawling voice with a marked English accent, "looking for the broom, when I spied that loose board and thought I'd come in that way. It was less trouble than coming out and going around to the steps."
"Less trouble," echoed Katherine. "I should think it would have been more trouble raising that heavy board with my suitcase standing on it."
"Was your suitcase on it?" inquired Miss Armstrong casually. "I didn't notice."
"Didn't notice!" repeated Katherine in astonishment. "It weighs thirty pounds."
"I weigh two hundred and thirty," returned Miss Armstrong conversationally.
"You do!" exclaimed Katherine in amazement. "You certainly don't look it." Indeed, it seemed incredible that Miss Armstrong, tall as she was, could possibly weigh so much, for she looked lean and gaunt as a wolf hound.
"You must be awfully strong, to have raised that board," Katherine continued, squinting at the muscular brown arms, which seemed solid as iron.
For answer Miss Armstrong took a step forward, picked Katherine up as if she had been a feather, threw her over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes, held her there for a moment head downward, and then swung her up and set her lightly on the hanging shelf, while Oh-Pshaw looked on round-eyed and open-mouthed with astonishment.
Just then a shadow appeared in the doorway, and Katherine looked down to see a shrinking little figure with pipestem legs standing on the top step.
"Hello!" Katherine called gaily, from her airy perch. "Are you our neighbor from Avernus? Do you want anything?" she added, for the girl was swallowing nervously, and seemed to be on the verge of making a request.
"Will somebody please show me how to make a bed?" faltered the visitor in a thin, piping voice. "It isn't made, and I don't know how to do it."
"Daggers and dirks!" exploded Katherine, nearly falling off the shelf under the stress of her emotion.
"What's the matter with the rest of the folks in Avernus—can't they make beds either?" asked Miss Armstrong, surveying the wisp of a girl in the doorway with an intent, solemn gaze that sent her into a tremble of embarrassment.
"My 'tenty' hasn't come yet," she faltered in reply.
"Who's your councilor?"
"I don't know; she isn't there." The voice broke on the last words, and the blue eyes overflowed with tears.
Katherine leaped from the shelf to the bed and down to the floor. "I'll come over and help you make your bed," she said kindly.
"All right," said Miss Armstrong, nodding gravely. "You go over with her and I'll find out who's councilor in Avernus and send her around."
To herself she added, when the other two were out of earshot, "Baby's away from it's mother for the first time, and it's homesick."
"Poor thing," said Oh-Pshaw, who had overheard Miss Armstrong's remark.
"She'll get over it," replied Miss Armstrong prophetically.
If Miss Armstrong was a novelty to the tenants of Bedlam, the councilor in Ponemah also seemed an odd character to the three girls she was to chaperon—only she was a much less agreeable surprise. She was a stout, fussy woman of about forty with thick eye-glasses which pinched the corners of her eyes into a strained expression. She greeted the girls briefly when they presented themselves to her, and in the next breath began giving orders about the arrangement of the tent. The beds must stand thus and so; the washstand must be on the other side from where it was; the mirror must stay on this side. And she must have half of the swinging shelf for her own; she could not possibly do with less; the others could get along as best they might with what was left.
"We're supposed to divide the shelf up equally," announced Bengal Virden, who had begun to look upon Miss Peckham—that was her name—with extreme disapproval from the moment of their introduction. Bengal was a girl whose every feeling was written plainly upon her face; she could not mask her emotions under an inscrutable countenance. Her dislike of Miss Peckham was so evident that Migwan and Gladys had expected an outbreak before this; but Bengal had merely stood scowling while the beds were being moved about. With the episode of the swinging shelf, however, she flared into open defiance.
"We're all to have an equal share of the shelf," she repeated.
"Nonsense," replied Miss Peckham in an emphatic tone. "I'm a councilor and I need more space."
Bengal promptly burst into tears. "I want to be in Pom-pom's tent!" she wailed, and fled from the scene, to throw herself upon Pom-pom in the next tent and pour out her tale of woe.
Migwan and Gladys looked at each other rather soberly as they went out to fill their water pitcher.
"What a strange person to have as councilor," ventured Gladys. "I thought councilors at camps were always as sweet as they could be. Miss Peckham looks as though she could be horrid without half trying."
"Maybe it's just her way, though," replied Migwan good temperedly. "She may be very nice inside after we get to know her. She's probably never been a councilor before, and thinks she must show her authority."
"Authority!" cried Gladys. "But we're not babies; we're grown up. I'm afraid she's not going to be a very agreeable proctor."
"Oh, well," replied Migwan gently, "let's make the best of her and have a good time anyway. We mustn't let her spoil our fun for us. We'll probably find something to like in her before long."
"I wish I had your angelic disposition," sighed Gladys, "but I just can't like people when they rub me the wrong way, and Miss Peckham does that to me."
"There's going to be trouble with the Elephant's Child," remarked Migwan soberly. "She has already taken a strong dislike to Miss Peckham, and she is still childish enough to show it."
"Yes, I'm afraid there will be trouble between Bengal and Miss Peckham," echoed Gladys, "and we'll be constantly called upon to make peace. It's a role I'm not anxious for."
"Let's not worry about it beforehand," said Migwan, charmed into a blissful attitude of mind toward the whole world by the sheer beauty of the scene that unrolled before her. The river, tinged by the long rays of the late afternoon sun, gleamed like a river of living gold, blinding her eyes and setting her to dreaming of magic seas and far countries. She stood very still for many minutes, lost in golden fancies, until Gladys took her gently by the arm.
"Come, Migwan, are you going to day-dream here forever? There is the spring we are looking for, just at the end of that little path."
Migwan came slowly out of her reverie and followed Gladys down the hill to the spring.
"It's all so beautiful," she sighed in ecstasy, turning to look back once more at the shimmering water, "it just makes me ache. It makes everything unworthy in me want to crawl away and lose itself, while everything good in me wants to sing. Don't you feel that way about it, too?"
"Something like that," replied Gladys softly. "When Nature is so lovely, it makes me want to be lovely, too, to match. I don't see how anyone could ever be angry here, or selfish, or mean. It's just like being made over, with all the bad left out."
"It does seem that way," replied Migwan.
"Here is the spring!" cried both girls in unison, as they reached the end of the path and came upon a deep, rocky basin, filled with crystal clear water that gushed out from the rock above their heads, trickling down through ferns to be caught and held in the pool below, so still and shining that it reflected the faces of the two girls like a mirror.
"Oh-h!" breathed Migwan in rapture, sinking down among the ferns and lilies that bordered the spring and dabbling her fingers in the limpid water, "I feel just like a wood-nymph, or a naiad, or whatever those folks were that lived by the springs and fountains in the Greek mythology."
Withdrawing her fingers from the water and clasping her hands loosely around her knees, she began to recite idly:
"Dian white-armed has given me this cool shrine, Deep in the bosom of a wood of pine; The silver sparkling showers That hive me in, the flowers That prink my fountain's brim, are hers and mine; And when the days are mild and fair, And grass is springing, buds are blowing, Sweet it is, 'mid waters flowing, Here to sit and know no care, 'Mid the waters flowing, flowing, flowing, Combing my yellow, yellow hair."
"That poem must have been written about this very place," she added, dreamily gazing into the shadowy depths of the pool beside her.
"Who wrote it?" inquired Gladys.
"I've forgotten," replied Migwan. "I learned it once in Literature, a long time ago."
Both girls were silent, gazing meditatively into the pool, like _ gazing into a future-revealing crystal, each absorbed in her own day dreams. They were startled by the sound of a clear, musical piping, coming apparently from the tangle of bushes behind them. Now faint, now louder, it swelled and died away on the breeze, now fairly startling in its joyousness, now plaintive as the wind sighing among the reeds in some lonely spot after nightfall; alluring, thrilling, mocking by turns; elusive as the strains of fairy pipers; utterly ravishing in its sweetness.
Migwan and Gladys lifted their heads and looked at each other in wonder.
"Pipes of Pan!" exclaimed Migwan, and both girls glanced around, half expecting to see the graceful form of a faun gliding toward them among the trees. Nothing was to be seen, but the piping went on, merrily as before, rising, falling, swelling, dying away in the distance, breaking out again at near hand.
"Oh, what is it?" cried Gladys. "Is it a bird?"
"It can't be a bird," replied Migwan, "it's a tune—sort of a tune. No, I wouldn't exactly call it a tune, either, but it's different from a bird call. It sounds like pipes—fairy pipes—Pipes of Pan. Oh-h-h! Just listen! What can it be?"
The clear tones had leaped a full octave, and with a mingled sound of pipes and flutes went trilling deliriously on a high note until the listeners held their breath with delight. Then abruptly the piping stopped, ending in a queer, unfinished way that tantalized their ears for many minutes afterward, and held them motionless, spellbound, waiting for the strain to be resumed. They listened in vain; the mysterious piper called no more. Soon afterward a bugle pealed forth, sounding the mess call, and coming to earth with a start, the two girls raced back to Ponemah with their water pitcher and then hastened on into the dining room, where the campers, now all clad in regulation blue bloomers and white middies, were already assembled.
THE GREAT MYSTERY SOUND
After supper the camp was summoned to the smaller bungalow for first assembly and Sing-Out. Over the wide entrance doorway of this picturesque building among the trees was painted in large ornamental letters:
THE HOUSE OF JOYOUS LEARNING
This house, Dr. Grayson explained, was the place where all the craft work was to be done. The light from the lamps fell upon beautifully decorated board walls; wood-blocked curtains, quaint rustic benches and seats made from logs with the bark left on; flower-holders fashioned of birch bark; candlesticks of hammered brass, silver and copper; book covers of beaded leather; vases and bowls of glazed clay.
At one end of the long room stood a piano; at the other end was the huge cobblestone fireplace whose chimney the Winnebagos had noticed from the outside; in it a fire was laid ready for lighting.
The seventy-five girls filed in and seated themselves on the floor, looking expectantly at Dr. Grayson, who stood before the fireplace. He was an imposing figure as he stood there, a man over six feet tall, with a great head of white hair like a lion's mane, which, emphasizing the ruddy complexion and clear blue eyes, contrived to make him look youthful instead of old.
In a beautiful speech, full of both wisdom and humor, he explained the ideals of camp life, and heartily welcomed the group before him into the family circle of Camp Keewaydin. He spoke of the girls who in past years had stood out from the others on account of their superior camp spirit, and led up to the subject of the Buffalo Robe, which at the end of the season would be awarded to the one who should be voted by her fellow campers as the most popular girl.
A solemn hush fell over the assembly as he spoke, and all eyes were fastened upon the Buffalo Robe, hanging over the fireplace. Agony's heart gave a leap at the sight of the beautiful trophy, and then sank as she saw innumerable eyes turn to rest upon Mary Sylvester, sitting on a low stool at Dr. Grayson's feet, gazing up at him with a look of worship in her expressive eyes.
When he had finished speaking of the Buffalo Robe Dr. Grayson announced that the first fire of the season was to be lighted in the House of Joyous Learning to dedicate it to this year's group of campers, and kneeling down on the hearth, he touched off the faggots laid ready in the fireplace, and the flames, leaping and snapping, rose up the chimney, sending a brilliant glow over the room, and causing the most homesick youngster to brighten up and feel immensely cheered.
The fire lighted, and the House of Joyous Learning dedicated to its present occupants, Dr. Grayson proceeded to introduce the camp leaders and councilors. Mrs. Grayson came first, as Camp Mother and Chief Councilor. She was a large woman, and seemed capable of mothering the whole world as she sat before the hearth, beaming down upon the girls clustered around her on the floor, and there was already a note of genuine affection in the voices of the new girls as they joined in the cheer which the old girls started in honor of the Camp Mother.
The cheer was not yet finished when there was a sound of footsteps on the porch outside and a new girl stood in the doorway. She carried a blanket over one arm and held a small traveling bag in her hand. Her face was flushed with exertion and her chest heaved as she stood there looking inquiringly about the room with merry eyes that seemed to be delighted with everything they looked upon. Her face was round; her little button mouth was round; the comical stub of a nose which perched above it gave the effect of being round, too, while the deep dimple that indented her chin was very, very round. Two still deeper dimples lurked in her cheeks, each one a silent chuckle, and the freckles that clustered thickly over her features all seemed to twinkle with a separate and individual hilarity.
An involuntary smile spread over the faces inside the bungalow as they looked at the newcomer, and one of the younger girls laughed aloud. That was the signal for a general laugh, and for a moment the room rang, and the strange girl in the doorway joined in heartily, and Dr. Grayson laughed, too, and everybody felt "wound up" and hilarious. Mrs. Grayson left her chair by the hearth and made her way through the group of girls on the floor to the newcomer, holding out her hand in welcome.
"You must be Jean Lawrence," she said, drawing the girl into the room. "You were to arrive by automobile at Green's Landing this noon, were you not, and come across the river in the mail boat? I have been wondering why you did not arrive on that boat."
"Our automobile broke down on that road that runs through the long woods beyond Green's Landing," replied Jean, "and when father found it could not be fixed on the road he decided to go back to the last town we had passed through and spend the night there; so I had to walk to Green's Landing. It was nearly nine miles and it took me all afternoon to get there. The mail boat had, of course, gone long ago, but a nice old grandpa man brought me over in a row boat."
"You walked nine miles to Green's Landing!" exclaimed Mrs. Grayson in astonishment. "But, my dear, why didn't you wait and let your father drive you down in the morning?"
"Oh, I wouldn't miss a single night in camp for anything in the world!" replied Jean. "I would have walked if it had been twenty-nine miles. I nearly died of impatience before I got here, as it was!"
Mrs. Grayson beamed on the enthusiastic camper; the old girls sang a lusty cheer to the new girl who was such a good sport; and, twinkling and beaming in all directions, Jean sat down on the floor with the others to hear the camp councilors introduced.
Dr. Grayson began by quoting humorously from the Proverbs: "Where no council is, the people fall, but in a multitude of councilors there is safety."
One by one he called the councilors up and introduced them, beginning with his daughter Judith, who was to be gymnastic director at the camp. Miss Judy got up and made a bow, and then prepared to sit down again, but her father would not let her off so easily. He demanded a demonstration of her profession for the benefit of the campers. Miss Judy promptly lined all the other councilors up and put them through a series of ridiculous exercises, such as "Tongues forward thrust!" "Hand on pocket place!" "Handkerchief take!" "Noses blow!"—performance which was greeted with riotous applause by the campers.
Miss Armstrong was called up next and introduced as "our little friend from Australia, the swimming teacher, who, on account of her diminutive size goes by the nickname of Tiny." Tiny was made to give her native Australian bush call of "Coo-ee! Coo-ee!" and was then told to rescue a drowning person in pantomime, which she did so realistically that the campers sat in shivering fascination. Tiny, still grave and unsmiling, sat down amid shouts for encore, and refused to repeat her performance, pretending to be overcome with bashfulness. Dr. Grayson then rose and said that since Tiny was too modest to appear in public herself, he would bring out her most cherished possession to respond to the encore, and held up the gaudy blanket that Katherine and Oh-Pshaw had already made merry over in the tent, explaining that Tiny always chose quiet, dull colors to match her retiring nature. With a teasing twinkle in his eyes he handed Tiny her blanket and then passed on to the next victim.
This was Pom-pom, the dancing teacher, who was obliged to do a dance on the piano stool to illustrate her art. Pom-pom received a perfect ovation, especially from the younger girls, and was called out half a dozen times.
"Oh, the sweet thing! The darling!" gushed Bengal Virden, going into a perfect ecstasy on the floor beside Gladys. "Don't you just adore her?"
"She's very pretty," replied Gladys sincerely.
"Pretty!" returned Bengal scornfully. "She's the most beautiful person on earth! Oh, I love her so, I don't know what to do!"
Gladys smiled indulgently at Bengal's gush, and turned away to see Jane Pratt's dull, unpleasant eyes gazing contemptuously upon Pom-pom's performance, and heard her whisper to her neighbor, "She's too stiff-legged to be really graceful."
The Lone Wolf from Labrador, summoned to stand up and show herself next, was a long, lean, mournful-looking young woman who, when introduced, explained in a lugubrious voice that she had no talents like the rest of the councilors and didn't know enough to be a teacher of anything; but she was very good and pious, and had been brought to camp solely for her moral effect upon the other councilors.
For a moment the camp girls looked at the Lone Wolf in silence, not knowing what to make of her; then Sahwah noticed that Mrs. Grayson was biting her lips, while her eyes twinkled; Dr. Grayson was looking at the girls with a quizzical expression on his face; Miss Judy had her face buried in her handkerchief. Sahwah looked back at the Lone Wolf, standing there with her hands folded angelically and her eyes fixed solemnly upon the ceiling, and she suddenly snorted out with laughter. Then everyone caught on and laughed, too, but the Lone Wolf never smiled; she stood looking at them with an infinitely sad, pained expression that almost convinced them that she had been in earnest.
The Lone Wolf, it appeared, was to be Tent Inspector, and when that announcement was made, the laughter of the old girls turned to groans of pretended aversion, which increased to a mighty chorus when Dr. Grayson added that her eye had never been known to miss a single detail of disorder in a tent.
Thus councilor after councilor was introduced in a humorous speech by Dr. Grayson, and made to do her particular stunt, or was rallied about her pet hobby. The two Arts and Crafts teachers were given lumps of clay and a can of house paint and ordered to produce a statue and a landscape respectively; the Sing Leader had to play "Darling, I Am Growing Old" on a pitch pipe, and all the plain "tent councilors" were called upon for a "few remarks."
All were cheered lustily, and all gave strong evidence of future popularity except Miss Peckham, who drew only a very scattered and perfunctory applause. Gladys and Migwan, who glanced at each other as Miss Peckham stepped forward, were surprised to hear that she was Dr. Grayson's cousin.
"That accounts for her being here," Gladys whispered, and Migwan whispered in return, "We'll just have to make the best of her."
Bengal glowered at Miss Peckham and made no pretense of applauding her, and Migwan saw her whispering to the group around her, and saw Bengal's expression of dislike swiftly reflected on the faces of her listeners. Thus, before Miss Peckham was fairly introduced, her unpopularity was already sealed. It takes very little to make a reputation at camp. Estimates are formed very swiftly, and great attachments and antipathies are formed at first sight. Young girls seem to scent, by some mysterious intuition, who is really in sympathy with them, and who is only pretending to be, and bestow or withhold their affections accordingly. In the code of the camp girl classifications are very simple; a camper is either a "peach" or a "prune." All the other councilors were "peaches"; that was the instantaneous verdict of the Keewaydin Campers during the introductions; Miss Peckham, regardless of the fact that she was Dr. Grayson's cousin, was a "prune."
The last councilor to be introduced was a handsome, white-haired woman named Miss Amesbury, who was introduced as the patron saint of the camp, the designer of the beautiful Mateka, the House of Joyous Learning. Miss Amesbury was neither an instructor nor a tent councilor; she had just come to be a friend and helper to the whole camp, and lived on the second story balcony of Mateka. Word had traveled around among the girls that she was a famous author, and a ripple of expectation agitated the ranks of the campers as she rose in answer to Dr. Grayson's summons. Migwan gazed upon her in mingled awe and veneration. A famous author—one who had realized the ambition that was also her cherished own! She almost stopped breathing in her emotion.
"Isn't she lovely?" breathed Hinpoha to Agony, her eye taking in the details of Miss Amesbury's camping suit, which, instead of being made of serge or khaki, like those of the other councilors, was of heavy Japanese silk, with a soft, flowered tie.
Smiling a smile which included every girl in the room, she cordially invited them all to come and visit her balcony and share the beautiful view which she had of the river and the gorge. Then she added a few humorous comments upon camp life, and sat down amid tumultuous applause.
Then Dr. Grayson asked her if she would play for the singing, and she rose graciously and took her place at the piano. The Sing leader stood up on a bench and directed with a wooden spoon from the craft table, and the first Sing-Out began. For half an hour the mingled voices were lifted in glee and round, in part song and ballad, until the roof rang. The new girls, spelling out the words in the song books by the rather pale lamplight, came out strongly in some parts and wobbly in others, producing some tone effects which caused the old girls to double up with merriment, but the new girls showed their good sportsmanship by singing on lustily no matter how many mistakes they made, a fact which caused Dr. Grayson to beam approvingly upon them. In the midst of a particularly hilarious song the bugle suddenly blew for going to bed, and the old girls, still singing, began to drift out of the house and make for the tents in groups of twos and threes, with their arms thrown around each other's shoulders. The new girls followed, some feeling shy and a bit homesick this first night away from home; others already perfectly at home, their arms around a new friend made in the short time since their arrival. One such was Jean Lawrence, who, upon being informed that she was to be "tenty" to Katherine and Oh-Pshaw in Bedlam, expressed herself as being unutterably delighted with her tent mates and walked off with them chattering as easily as though she had known them all her life.
There was more or less confusion this first night before everyone got settled, for many of the girls had never camped before and were unskilled in the art of undressing rapidly in the close quarters of a tent, and "Taps" sounded before a number were even undressed. The Lone Wolf was lenient this first night, however, and did not insist upon prompt lights out, an act of grace which added greatly to her popularity.
Sahwah's bed sagged somewhat in the middle and she was not able to adjust herself to its curves very well; consequently she did not fall asleep soon. Camp quieted down; the last rustle and whisper died away; silence enfolded the tents around. Sahwah, lying wide awake in the darkness, her senses alert, heard the sound of footsteps running at full speed along the top of the bluff and across the bare rocks at the edge. Here the footsteps seemed to come to a pause, and an instant later there came a sound like a loud splash in the water below. Filled both with curiosity and apprehension, Sahwah leaped from bed and raced for the edge of the bluff, where she stood peering down at the river. No unusual ripple appeared on the placid surface of the river; as far as she could see it lay calm and peaceful in the moonlight.
A footstep behind her startled her, and she turned to see Miss Judy coming toward her from the tent.
"What's the matter?" called Miss Judy, when she was within a few yards of Sahwah.
"It sounded as though someone jumped off the cliff," replied Sahwah. "I heard footsteps along the edge of the bluff, and then a splash, and I ran out to see what was going on, but I can't see anything."
To Sahwah's surprise, Miss Judith laughed aloud. "Oh," she said, "did you hear it?"
"What was it?" asked Sahwah, curiously.
"That," replied Miss Judy, "is what we call the Great Mystery Sound. We hear it off and on, but no one has ever been able to explain what causes it. Our 'diving ghost,' we call it. Father wore himself to a frazzle the first year we were here, trying to find out what it was. He used to sit up nights and watch, but although he often heard it he never could see anything that could produce the sound. Some people about here have told us that that sound has been heard for years and they say that there is an old legend connected with it to the effect that many years ago an Indian girl, pursued by an unwelcome suitor, jumped off this bluff and drowned herself to escape him, and that ever since that occurrence this strange sound has been noticeable. Of course, the people who tell the legend say that the ghost of the persecuted maiden haunts the scene of the tragedy at intervals and repeats the performance. Whatever it is, we have never been able to account for the sound naturally, and always refer to it as the Great Mystery Sound."
"What a strange thing!" exclaimed Sahwah in wonder. "Those footsteps certainly sounded real; and as for that splash! It actually made my flesh creep. I had a panicky feeling that one of the new girls had wandered too near the edge of the bluff and had fallen into the water."
"It used to have that effect upon us at first, too," replied Miss Judy. "We would all come racing down here with our hearts in our mouths, expecting we knew not what. It took a long time before we could believe it was a delusion.
"And now, come back to bed, or you'll be taking cold, standing out here in your nightgown."
Still looking back at the river and half expecting to see some agitation in its surface, Sahwah followed Miss Judy back to Gitchee-Gummee and returned to bed.
THE ALLEY INITIATION
Folk-dancing hour had just drawn to a close, and the long bugle for swimming sounded through camp. The sets of eight which had been drawn up on the tennis court in the formation of "If All the World Were Paper," broke and scattered as before a whirlwind as the girls raced for their tents to get into bathing suits. Sahwah, as might be expected, was first down on the dock, but close at her heels was another girl whom she recognized as living in one of the Avenue tents. This girl, while broader and heavier than Sahwah, moved with the same easy grace that characterized Sahwah's movements, and like Sahwah, she seemed consumed with impatience to get into the water.
"Oh, I wish Miss Armstrong would hurry, hurry, hurry!" she exclaimed, jigging up and down on the dock. "I just can't wait until I get in."
"Neither can I," replied Sahwah, scanning the path down the hillside for a sight of the swimming director.
"Do you live in the Avenue or the Alley?" asked the girl beside her.
"In the Alley," replied Sahwah.
"Gitchee-Gummee. Which one are you in?"
"That's way up near the bungalow, isn't it?"
"Yes, where are you?"
"The very last tent in the Alley, that one there, buried in the trees."
"Oh, how lovely! You're right near the path to the river, aren't you? I wish I were a little nearer this end. It would save time getting to the water."
"But you're so near the bungalow that you only have to go a step when the breakfast bugle blows. You have the advantage there," replied Sahwah. "We down in Gitchee-Gummee have to run for all we're worth to get there before you're all assembled. We have hard work getting dressed in time. We put on our ties while we're running down the path, as it is."
The other girl laughed, showing a row of very white, even teeth. "Did you see that girl who came running into the dining-room this morning with her middy halfway over her head?"
Sahwah laughed, too, at the recollection. "That was Bengal Virden, the one they call the Elephant's Child," she replied. "She lives in Ponemah, with some friends of mine. She had loitered with her dressing and didn't have her middy on when the breakfast bugle blew, so she decided to put it on en route. But while she was pulling it on over her head she got stuck fast in it with her arms straight up in the air and had to come in that way and get somebody to pull her through. I never saw anything so funny," she finished.
"Neither did I," replied the other.
They looked at each other and laughed heartily at the remembrance of the ludicrous episode.
All this while Sahwah was trying to recollect her companion's name, but was unable to do so. It was impossible to remember which girls had answered to which names at the general roll call on that first night in Mateka.
Just then the other said, "I don't believe I recall your name—I'm very stupid about remembering things."
"That's just what I was going to say to you!" exclaimed Sahwah, with a merry laugh. "It's impossible to remember so many new names at once. I think we all ought to be labeled for the first week or so. I'm Sarah Ann Brewster, only they call me Sahwah."
"What a queer nickname! It's very interesting. Is it a contraction of Sarah Ann?"
"No, it's my Camp Fire name."
"Oh, are you a Camp Fire girl?"
"How splendid! I've always wished I could be one. What does the name mean?"
"Sunfish!" replied Sahwah. "The sun part means that I like sunshine and the fish part means that I like the water."
"Oh-h!" replied the other with an interested face. Then she began to introduce herself. "I haven't any nice symbolic name like yours," she said, "but mine is sort of queer, too."
"What is it?" asked Sahwah.
"Undine!" repeated Sahwah. "How lovely! I've always been perfectly crazy about Undine since I got the book on my tenth birthday. Undine was fond of water, like I was. What's the rest of your name?"
"Girelle," replied Undine.
"Do you live in the east or in the west?" asked Sahwah. "You don't speak like the Easterners, and yet you don't speak like us Westerners, either. What part of the country are you from?"
"No part at all," answered Undine. "My home is in Honolulu."
"Not really?" said Sahwah in astonishment.
"Really," replied Undine, smiling at Sahwah's look of surprise. "I was born in Hawaii, and I have lived there most of my life."
"Oh," said Sahwah, "I thought only Hawaiians lived in Hawaii—I didn't know anyone else was ever born there."
"Lots of white people are born there," replied Undine, politely checking the smile that wreathed her lips at Sahwah's ingenuous remark. "But," she added, "most of the people in the States seem to think no one lives in Hawaii but natives, and that they wear wreaths of flowers around their necks all the time and do nothing but play on ukuleles."
Sahwah laughed and made up her mind that she was going to like Undine very much. "I suppose you swim?" she asked, presently.
Undine nodded emphatically. "It's the thing I like to do best of anything in the world. Do you like it? Oh, yes, of course you do. You call yourself the Sunfish on that account."
Sahwah affirmed her love for the deep, and thrilled a little at discovering an enthusiasm to match hers in this girl from Honolulu. The rest of the Winnebagos, although good swimmers, did not possess in an equal degree Sahwah's inborn passion for the water. Sahwah and Undine both felt the call of the river as it flowed past the dock; to each of them it beckoned with an irresistible invitation, until they could hardly restrain themselves from leaping off the boards into the cool, glassy depths below.
"Here comes Miss Armstrong!" shouted somebody at the other end of the dock, as the big Australian came into view down the path, and there was a scramble for the diving tower.
The swimming place at Camp Keewaydin was divided into three parts. A shallow cove at the left of the dock, where the curve of the river formed a tiny bay, was the sporting ground of the Minnows, the girls who could not swim at all; the Perch, or those who could swim a little, but were not yet sure of themselves, were assigned to the other side of the dock, where the water was slightly deeper, but where they were protected by the dock from the full force of the current; while the Sharks, the expert swimmers, were given the freedom of the river beyond the end of the pier. The diving tower was on the end of the pier and belonged exclusively to the Sharks; it was fifteen feet high, and had seven different diving boards placed at various heights. Besides the diving tower, there was a floating dock anchored out in midstream, having a springboard at either end. There was also a low diving board at the side of the pier for the Perch to practice on.
Miss Armstrong came down on the dock in a bright red bathing suit which shone brilliantly among the darker suits of the girls. She rapidly separated the Minnows from the other fish, and set them to learning their first strokes under the direction of one of the other councilors. Then she lined the remaining girls up for the test which would determine who were Sharks and who were Perch. The test consisted of a dive from any one of the diving boards of the tower and a demonstration of four standard strokes, ending up with a swim across the river and back.
About a dozen dropped out at the mere reading of the test and accepted their rating as Perch without a trial; as many more failed either to execute their dives properly or to give satisfaction in their swimming strokes. Sahwah, burning with impatience to show her skill, climbed nimbly up to the very top of the tower and went off the highest springboard in a neat back dive that drew applause from the watchers, including Miss Armstrong. She also passed the rest of the test with a perfect rating.
"You're the biggest Shark so far," remarked Miss Armstrong, as Sahwah clambered up on the dock after her swim across the river, during which she had almost outdistanced the boat which accompanied her over and back.
Sahwah smiled modestly as one of the old campers started a cheer for her, and turned to watch Undine Girelle, who was mounting the diving tower. When Undine also went off the highest springboard backward, and in addition turned a complete somersault before she touched the water, Sahwah realized that she had met her match, if not her master. Heretofore, Sahwah's swimming prowess had been unrivalled in whatever group she found herself, and it was a matter of course with the Winnebagos that Sahwah should carry off all honors in aquatics. Now they had to admit that in Undine Girelle Sahwah had a formidable rival and would have to look sharply to her laurels.
"Isn't she wonderful?" came in exclamations from all around, as Undine sported in the water like a dolphin. "But then," someone added, "she's used to bathing in the surf in Hawaii. No wonder."
There were about fifteen put in the Shark class in the first try-out, of whom Sahwah and Undine were acknowledged to be the best. Hinpoha and Gladys and Migwan also qualified as Sharks; Katherine went voluntarily into the Perch class, and Agony failed to pass her diving test, although she accomplished her distance swim and the demonstration of the strokes.
Agony felt somewhat humiliated at having to go into the second class; she would much rather have been in the more conspicuous Shark group. Sahwah had already made a reputation for herself; Hinpoha drew admiring attention when she let her glorious red curls down her back to dry them in the sun; but she herself had so far made no special impression upon the camp. Why hadn't she distinguished herself like Sahwah, or Undine Girelle, Agony thought enviously. Others were already fast on their way to becoming prominent, but so far she was still going unnoticed. Her spirit chafed within her at her obscurity.
Oh-Pshaw, alas, was only a Minnow. The fear of water which had lurked in her ever since the accident in her early childhood had kept her from any attempt to learn to swim. It was only since she had become a Winnebago and had once conquered her fear on that memorable night beside the Devil's Punch Bowl that she began to entertain the idea that some day she, too, might be at home in the water like the others. It was still a decided ordeal for her to go in; to feel the water flowing over her feet and to hear it splash against the piles of the dock and gurgle over the stones along the shore; but she resolutely steeled her nerves against the sound and the feel of the water, forcing back the terror that gripped her like an icy hand, and courageously tried to follow the director's instructions to put her face down under the surface. It was no use; she could not quite bring herself to do it; the moment the water struck her chin wild panic seized her and she would straighten up with a choking cry. She looked with envy at the other novices around her who fearlessly threw themselves into the water face downward, learning "Dead Man's Float" inside of ten minutes. She would never be able to do that, she reflected sorrowfully, as she climbed up on the dock before the period was half over, utterly worn out and discouraged by her repeated failures to bring her head under water.
Beside her on the dock sat a thin wisp of a girl whose bathing suit was not even wet.
"Didn't you go in?" asked Oh-Pshaw.
"No," replied the girl in a high, piping voice, and Oh-Pshaw recognized her as the dweller in Avernus who had come over that first day and asked them how to make her bed. Carmen Chadwick, they had found out her name was.
"I'm afraid of the water," continued Carmen. "Mamma never let me go in at home. She doesn't think it's quite ladylike for girls to swim."
Oh-Pshaw smiled in spite of herself. "Oh, I don't think it makes girls unladylike to learn how to swim," she defended. "It's considered to be a fine exercise; about the best there is to develop all the muscles."
"Oh!" said Carmen primly. "That's what mamma doesn't like, to have my muscles all lumpy and developed. She wants to keep me soft and curved."
Oh-Pshaw stifled a shriek with difficulty, and turning aside to hide her twinkling eyes she caught sight of the Lone Wolf standing on the dock not far away, gazing mournfully into the Minnow pond.
"What do you think of her?" asked Oh-Pshaw hastily, steering the conversation away from muscles and kindred unladylike topics.
"She's my Councy," replied Carmen.
"My Councy—my Councilor. I'm frightened to death of her."
"Why, what does she do?" asked Oh-Pshaw in consternation.
"She doesn't do anything, in particular," replied Carmen. "She just stares at me solemn as an owl and every little while she puts her head down on her bed under the pillow. Do you know," she continued, sinking her voice to a whisper, "I believe there is something the matter with her mind."
"Really!" said Oh-Pshaw, her voice shaking ever so slightly.
"She doesn't seem to realize what she is saying, at all," said Carmen. "Do you remember when Dr. Grayson introduced her he said she was real good and pious, but she isn't a bit pious. She didn't bring any Bible with her and she didn't say any prayers before she went to bed."
"Maybe she said them to herself after she was in bed," remarked Oh-Pshaw, when she could control her voice again. "Lots of people do, you know."
"I don't believe she did," replied Carmen in a tone of conviction. "I watched her. She made shadow animals with her fingers on the tent wall in the moonlight the minute she got into bed, and she kept it up until she went to sleep."
Out of the corner of her eye Oh-Pshaw saw the Lone Wolf moving toward them, and hastily changed the subject. "Why did you put your bathing suit on when you didn't have any intention of going into the water?" she asked, seizing upon the first thing that came into her mind.
"It looks so well on me," replied Carmen. "Don't you think it does?"
"Y-yes, it d-does," admitted Oh-Pshaw, her teeth suddenly beginning to chatter, and she realized that she was sitting out too long in her wet bathing suit. "I g-guess I'll g-go up and get dressed," she finished, between the shivers that shook her like a reed.
The Lone Wolf came up to her and taking her own sweater off wrapped it around her and hustled her off toward her tent.
Just then the cry of "All out!" sounded on the dock and the swimmers came flocking out of the water with many an exclamation of regret that the time was up.
"Oh, please, Tiny, may I do this one dive?" coaxed Bengal from one of the boards on the tower. "I'm all in a position to do it—see?"
"Time's up," replied Tiny inexorably, and Bengal reluctantly relinquished her dive and climbed down from the tower.
"Next test for Sharks a week from today!" called Tiny in her megaphone voice to the Perches, as she mounted the diving tower in preparation for her own initial plunge. The swimming instructors had their own swimming time after the girls were out of the water.
Gladys and Migwan were dripping their way back to Ponemah, one on either side of Bengal Virden, who was entertaining them with tales of former years at camp, when they were startled to see Miss Peckham standing on top of a high rock wildly waving them back.
"Don't go near the tent!" she shrieked.
"Why not?" called Migwan in alarm, as the three girls stood still in the path, the water which was dripping out of their bathing suits collecting in a puddle around their feet.
"There's a snake underneath the tent, a great big snake," answered Miss Peckham in terrified tones.
"Well, what of it?" demanded Bengal coolly. "I've seen lots of snakes. I'm not afraid of them. Come on, let's get a forked stick, and let's kill it."
She stooped to wring out the water which had collected in the bottom of her bathing suit and then started forward toward Ponemah.
Miss Peckham, high on her rock, raised a great outcry. "Stay where you are!" she commanded. "Don't you go near that tent."
Bengal kept on going, looking about her for a forked stick.
"Bengal Virden!" screamed Miss Peckham, in such a tone of terror that Bengal involuntarily stood still in her tracks, dropping the stick she was in the act of picking up. "It's a deadly poisonous snake," gasped Miss Peckham, beginning to get breathless from fright, "a monstrous black one with red rings on it. I saw it crawling among the leaves. It reared up and menaced me with its wicked head. Don't you stir another step!" she commanded as Bengal seemed on the point of going on.
"What's the matter?" asked a voice behind them, and there was Miss Judy, just coming out of her tent with her wet bathing suit in her hand.
"There's a terrible poisonous snake under our tent," replied Miss Peckham. "I was just coming out of the door after my nap when I saw it gliding underneath. It's down there now, under the bushes."
"How queer!" replied Miss Judy, looking with concern at her wildly excited cousin. "We've never had large snakes around here. What color did you say it was?"
"It had broad, alternate rings of red and black," replied Miss Peckham, with the air of one quoting from an authority, "the distinguishing marks of the coral snake, one of the seventeen poisonous reptiles out of the one hundred and eleven species of snakes found in the United States."
"A coral snake!" gasped Miss Judy, in real alarm, while the other three, taking fright from the tone of her voice, began to back down the path.
Other dwellers in the Alley came along to see what the commotion was about and were warned back in an important tone by Miss Peckham. The timid ones took to their heels and fled to the other end of camp, while the more courageous hung about as near as they dared come and stared fascinated at the miniature jungle of ferns and bushes that grew under Ponemah to a height of two or three feet. Sahwah, whose insatiable curiosity as usual got the better of her fears, climbed a tree quite close to Ponemah and peered down through the branches, all agog with desire to see the dread serpent show itself.
"Come down from there—quick!" called someone in a nervously shaking voice. "Don't you know that snakes climb trees?"
"Nonsense," retorted Sahwah. "Whoever heard of a snake climbing a tree?"
An argument started below, several voices upholding each side, some maintaining emphatically that snakes did climb trees; others holding out quite as determinedly that they didn't.
"Anyway, this one might," concluded the one who had started the argument, in a triumphant tone.
"What are we going to do?" someone asked Miss Judy.
"I'll get father to come and shoot it," replied Miss Judy.
Just then there came an excited shriek from Sahwah. "It's coming out! I see the bushes moving."
The girls scattered in all directions; Miss Peckham, up on her rock, covered her ears with her hands, as though there was going to be an explosion.
"Here it comes!"
Sahwah, leaning low over her branch, nearly fell out of the tree in her excitement, as her eye caught the gleam of red and black among the bushes. Miss Judy scrambled up on the rock beside Miss Peckham.
There was a violent agitation of the ferns and bushes underneath Ponemah, a sort of scrambling movement, accompanied by a muffled squeaking, and then a truly remarkable creature bounced into view—a creature whose body consisted of a long stocking, red and black in alternate stripes, in the toe of which some live animal frantically squeaked and struggled, leaping almost a foot from the ground in its efforts to escape from its prison, and dragging the gaudy striped length behind it through a series of thrillingly lifelike wriggles.
"Hi!" called Sahwah with a great shout of laughter. "It's nothing but a stocking with something in it."
In reaction from her former alarm Miss Judy laughed until she fell off the rock, and sat helplessly on the ground watching the frantic struggles of the creature in the stocking to free itself. Hearing the laughter, those who had fled at the first alarm came hastening back, and all promptly went into hysterics when they saw the stocking writhing on the ground, and all were equally as helpless as Miss Judy and Sahwah.
"Only Tiny Armstrong's stocking!" gasped Miss Judy, wiping away her tears of merriment with her middy sleeve. "I told her they would cause a riot in camp!"
Only Miss Peckham did not laugh; she looked crossly around at the desperately amused girls.
"Oh, Miss Peckham," gurgled Bengal, "you said it reared up and menaced you with its great, wicked h-head! You said its hood was swelled up with ferocity and venom, and it hissed sibilantly at you."
Bengal rolled over and over on the ground, shrieking with mirth.
Miss Peckham, her face a dull red, moved off in the direction of the tent.
Others came up, excitedly demanding to know what the joke was.
"She thought it was a coral snake, and it was Tiny's stocking," giggled Bengal, going into a fresh spasm.
"Well, what if I did?" remarked Miss Peckham, turning around and looking at her frigidly. "It's a mistake anybody could easily make, I'm sure." And she went stiffly up into the tent.
Sahwah and Miss Judy had somewhat recovered their composure by this time, and having captured the wildly agitated stocking they released from it a half-grown chipmunk, who, beside himself with fright and bewilderment, dashed away into the woods like a flash.
"How frightened he was, poor little fellow!" cried Migwan compassionately. "It wasn't any joke for him. He must have been nearly frantic in there. How do you suppose he ever got in?"
"Walked in, or fell in, possibly," replied Miss Judy, "and then couldn't find his way out again. Tiny had those modest little stockings of hers hanging on the tent ropes this morning, and it was easy enough for a chipmunk to get in."
Carrying the stocking between them, and followed by all the girls who had been standing around, Sahwah and Miss Judy started for Bedlam to tell Tiny about the panic her hosiery had caused, but halfway to Bedlam the trumpet sounded for dinner and the deputation broke up in a wild rush for the bungalow. Miss Peckham carefully avoided Miss Judy's eye all through dinner.
When the Winnebagos sauntered back to their tents for rest hour they all found large, wafer-sealed envelopes lying in conspicuous places upon their respective tables. Sahwah pounced upon the one in Gitchee-Gummee and looked at it curiously. On it was written in large red letters:
TO THE DWELLERS IN GITCHEE-GUMMEE
"Whatever can this be?" she asked in mystified tones. Miss Judy was not in the tent.
"Open it," commanded Agony.
Sahwah slit the envelope with the knife that she always kept hanging at her belt, and pulled out a sheet of rough, brown paper, on which was drawn the picture of a girl bound fast to a tree by ropes that went round and round her body, while a band of Indians danced a savage war dance around her. Underneath was printed in the same large red letters as those which adorned the outside of the envelope:
BE DOWN ON THE DOCK AT SUNDOWN WITHOUT FAIL PREPARED TO UNDERGO THE ORDEAL WHICH ALL DWELLERS IN THE ALLEY MUST SUFFER BEFORE BEING WELCOMED INTO THE INNER CIRCLE OF ALLEY SPIRITS.
WARNING: MENTION NOT THIS SUMMONS TO A LIVING SOUL OR AWFUL WILL BE THE CONSEQUENCES.
SIGNED: THE TERRIBLE TWELVE. P.S. BRING YOUR BATHING SUITS.
"What on earth?" cried Hinpoha in bewilderment.
"It's the Alley Initiation!" exclaimed Sahwah. "I heard someone asking when it was going to be. Mary Sylvester and Jo Severance and several more of the old girls were talking about it while they were in the water today. It seems that the girls who have lived in the Alley before always hold an initiation for the new girls before they let them in on their larks."
"I wonder what they're going to do to us," mused Hinpoha. "That advice to bring your bathing suit sounds suspicious to me."
"Do you suppose they're going to throw us into the river?" asked Agony.
"Nonsense," replied Sahwah. "Half the new girls in the Alley can't swim. Dr. Grayson wouldn't allow it, anyway. He made a girl come out of the water during swimming hour this morning for trying to duck another girl. They'll just make us ridiculous, that's all."
"Well, whatever they ask us to do, let's not make a fuss," said Hinpoha. "Here comes Miss Judy. Put that letter out of sight and act perfectly unconcerned."
Sahwah whipped the envelope into her suitcase and flung herself down on her bed; the others followed her example; and when a moment later Miss Judy stepped into the tent and looked quizzically at the trio she found them apparently wrapped in placid slumber.
Shortly before seven that evening, when the Avenue girls were dancing in the bungalow, Sahwah and Hinpoha and Agony quietly detached themselves from the group and slipped down to the dock to find Katherine and Oh-Pshaw and Jean Lawrence already down there, swinging their feet over the end of the pier and waiting for something to happen. Down the hillside other forms were stealing; Migwan, and Gladys, and Bengal Virden, followed by Tiny Armstrong, until practically all the inhabitants of the Alley were gathered upon the dock. Miss Judy was leaning over the edge of the pier untying the launch.
The neophytes watched intently every move that the old girls made, and were somewhat reassured when they saw that they had brought their bathing suits, too.
"Are all assembled?" asked Miss Judy, straightening up and looking over her shoulder inquiringly.
"Not yet," answered Mary Sylvester, taking an inventory of girls present.
"Who isn't here yet?"
"Carmen Chadwick and the Lone Wolf. Oh, they're coming now, so is Miss Amesbury."
Migwan felt a little flustered as Miss Amesbury came smiling into their midst. She didn't in the least mind being initiated, but she did rather hate to have Miss Amesbury see her made ridiculous. She would much rather not have her looking on.
Carmen Chadwick looked quite pale and scared as she joined the group on the dock, and took hold of Katherine's arm as if to seek her protection.
"All ready now?" asked Miss Judy.
"Ay, ay, skipper," replied Tiny Armstrong.
"Man the boat!" commanded Miss Judy.
The girls got into the launch and Miss Judy started the engine. They rode a short distance up the river to the Whaleback, a small island shaped, as its name indicated, like a whale's back. It was quite flat, only slightly elevated above the surface of the water. On one side it had rather a wide beach covered with stones and littered with driftwood; behind this beach rose a dense growth of pines that extended down to the very edge of the water on the other side of the island.
The initiation party disembarked upon the beach. A huge fire was laid ready and Miss Judy lit it, then she requested the new girls to sit down in a place which she designated at one side of it, while the old girls seated themselves in a row opposite. Sahwah took note that the new girls were in the full glare of the firelight, while the old ones sat in the shadow.
Miss Judy opened the ceremonies. Stepping into the light, she addressed the neophytes. "Since the dwellers in the Alley live together in such intimate companionship it is necessary that all be properly introduced to each other, so that we shall never mistake our own. We shall now proceed with the introductions. As soon as a new girl or councilor recognizes herself in the pictures we shall proceed to draw, let her come forward and bow to the ground three times in acknowledgment, uttering the words, 'Behold, it is I! who else could it be?'"
She poked up the fire to a brighter blaze and then sat down beside Tiny Armstrong on the end of a log. As she seated herself Jo Severance rose and came forward demurely. Jo was an accomplished elocutionist, and a born mimic. Assuming a timid, shrinking demeanor, and speaking in a high, shrill voice, she piped,
"Mother, may I go out to swim?" "Yes, my darling daughter, Put on your nice new bathing suit, But don't go near the water!"
"Don't you think it's unladylike to have your muscles all hard and developed?"
* * * * *
Oh-Pshaw buried her face in her handkerchief with a convulsive giggle. The voice, the intonation, the expression, were Carmen Chadwick to a T. But how did the Alleys know about her attitude toward bathing? She had not told anyone. Then she recalled that the Lone Wolf had walked behind them on the pier that morning when Carmen had been talking to her. Had the Lone Wolf also heard them talking about her? Agony wondered in a sudden rush of embarrassment.
There was no mistaking the first "portrait." All eyes were focused upon Carmen, and blushing and shrinking she went forward to make the required acknowledgment.
"Beh-hold, it is I; w-who else could it be?" she faltered, and it sounded so irresistibly funny that the listeners went into spasms of mirth.
Carmen crept back to her place and hid her face in Katherine's lap while Jo Severance passed on to the next "portrait." Climbing up an enormous tree stump, she flung out her arms and began to shriek wildly, waving back an imaginary group of girls. Then she proclaimed in important tones: "It had broad, alternating rings of black and red, the distinguishing marks of the coral snake, one of the seventeen poisonous reptiles out of the one hundred and eleven species of snakes found in the United States. It reared up and menaced me with its great, wicked—"
The remainder of her speech was lost in the great roar of laughter that went up from old and new girls alike.
Miss Peckham turned fiery red, and looked angrily from Jo Severance to Miss Judy, but there was no help for it; she had to go forward and claim the portrait.
"Behold, it is I; who else could it be?" she snapped, and the mirth broke out louder than before. The "who else could it be?" was so like Miss Peckham.
One by one the other candidates were shown their portraits, that is, as many as had displayed any conspicuous peculiarities.
"O Pom-pom! O dear Pom-pom, O darling Pom-pom!" gushed Jo, rolling her eyes in ecstasy, and Bengal Virden, laughing sheepishly, went forward.
Miss Amesbury watched the performance with tears of merriment rolling down her cheeks. "I never saw anything so funny!" she exclaimed to Mary Sylvester. "That phrase, 'who else could it be' is a perfect gem."
Agony was somewhat disappointed that her portrait was not painted; it would have drawn her into more notice. So far she was only "among those present" at camp. None of the old girls had paid any attention to her.
After all the portraits had been painted the rest of the girls were called upon to do individual stunts. Some sang, some made speeches, some danced, and the worse the performance the greater the applause from the initiators. One slender, dark-eyed girl with short hair whistled, with two fingers in her mouth. At the first note Migwan and Gladys started and clasped each other's hands. The mystery of the fairy piping they had heard in the woods that first afternoon was solved. The same clear, sweet notes came thrilling out between her fingers, alluring as the pipes of Pan. The whistler was a girl named Noel Carrington; she was one of the younger girls whom nobody had noticed particularly before. Her whistling brought wild applause which was perfectly sincere; her performance delighted the audience beyond measure. She was called back again and again until at last, quite out of breath, she begged for mercy, when she was allowed to retire on the condition that she would whistle some more as soon as she got her breath back.
Noel's performance closed the stunts. When she had sat down Miss Judy rose and said that she guessed the Alley dwellers were pretty well acquainted with each other, and would now go for a swim in the moonlight. Soon all but Carmen Chadwick were splashing in the silvery water, playing hide and seek with the moonbeams on the ripples and feeling a thrill and a magic in the river which was never there in the daylight. After a glorious frolic they came out to stand around the fire and eat marshmallows until it was time to go back to camp.
"Initiation wasn't so terrible after all," Carmen confided to Katherine in the launch.
"Heaps of fun," replied Katherine, laughing reminiscently.
"Isn't Miss Peckham a prune?" whispered Sybil's voice behind Katherine. "I'm glad she's not my councilor."
"She's mine, worse luck," answered Bengal Virden's voice dolefully.
"Too bad," whispered Sybil feelingly.
The launch came up alongside the dock just as the first bugle was blowing, and the Alley, old girls arm in arm with the new, went straight up to bed.
ON THE ROAD FROM ATLANTIS
"Would you like to come along?"
Agony, sitting alone on the pier, idly watching the river as it flowed endlessly around its great curve, looked up to see Mary Sylvester standing beside her. It was just after quiet hour and the rest of the camp had gone on the regular Wednesday afternoon trip to the village to buy picture postcards and elastic and Kodak films and all the various small wares which girls in camp are in constant need of; and also to regale themselves on ice-cream cones and root beer, the latter a traditionally favorite refreshment of the Camp Keewaydin girls, being a special home product of Mrs. Bayne, who kept the "trading post."
Agony had not joined the expedition this afternoon, because she needed nothing in the way of supplies, and for once had no craving for root beer, while she did want to finish a letter to her father that she had commenced during rest hour. But the hilarity of the others as they piled into the canoes to be towed up the river by the launch lured her down to the dock to see them off—Miss Judy standing at the wheel of the launch and Tiny Armstrong in the stern of the last canoe, as the head and tail of the procession respectively. Beside Miss Judy in the launch were all the Minnows, gazing longingly back at the ones who were allowed to tow in the canoes. Only those who had taken the swimming test might go into the canoes—towing or paddling or at any other time; this rule of the camp was as inviolable as the laws of the Medes and the Persians. And of those who could swim, only the Sharks might take out a canoe without a councilor, and this privilege was also denied the Sharks if they failed to demonstrate their ability to handle a canoe skilfully.
Sahwah and Hinpoha were among the new girls who had qualified for the canoe privilege during the very first week; also Undine Girelle. The other Winnebagos had to content themselves thus far with the privilege of towing or paddling in a canoe that was in charge of a councilor or a qualified Water Witch; all except Oh-Pshaw, who had to ride in the launch.
Agony looked at Oh-Pshaw standing beside Miss Judy at the wheel, laughing with her at some joke; at Sahwah and Undine sitting together in the canoe right behind the launch, leaning luxuriously back against their paddles, which they were using as back rests; heard Jean Lawrence's infectious laugh floating back on the breeze; and she began to regret that she had stayed at home. She found she was no longer in the mood to finish her letter; she lingered on the pier after the floating caravan had disappeared from view behind the trees on Whaleback.
She looked up in surprise at the sound of Mary Sylvester's voice coming from behind her on the dock.
"I thought you had gone to the village with the others," she said. "I was almost sure I saw you in the boat with Pom-pom."
"No, I didn't go, you see," replied Mary. "I am going off on an expedition of my own this afternoon. The woman who took care of me as a child lives not far from here in a little village called Atlantis—classic name! Mother asked me to look her up, and Mrs. Grayson gave me permission to go over this afternoon. I'm going to row across the river to that landing place where we got out the other night, leave the boat in the bushes, and then follow the path through the woods. It's about six miles to Atlantis—would you care to walk that far? It would be twelve miles there and back, you know. I'm just ripe for a long hike today, it's so cool and clear, but it's not nearly so pleasant going alone as it would be to have someone along to talk to on the way. Wouldn't you like to come along and keep me company? I can easily get permission from Mrs. Grayson for you."
Agony was a trifle daunted at the thought of walking twelve miles in one afternoon, but was so overwhelmed with secret gratification that the prominent Mary Sylvester had invited her that she never once thought of refusing.
"I'd love to go," she exclaimed animatedly, jumping up with alacrity. "I was beginning to feel a wee bit bored sitting here doing nothing; I feel ripe for a long hike myself."
"I'm so glad you do!" replied Mary Sylvester, with the utmost cordiality. "Come on with me until I tell Mrs. Grayson that you are coming with me."
Mrs. Grayson readily gave her permission for Agony to go with Mary. There was very little that Mrs. Grayson would have refused Mary Sylvester, so high did this clear-eyed girl stand in the regard of all Camp directors, from the Doctor down. Mary was one of the few girls allowed to go away from camp without a councilor; in fact, she sometimes acted as councilor to the younger girls when a trip had to be made and no councilor was free. Mrs. Grayson would willingly have trusted any girl to Mary's care—or the whole camp, for that matter, should occasion arise, knowing that her good sense and judgment could be relied upon. So Agony, under Mary's wing, received the permission that otherwise would not have been given her.
"Yes, it will be all right for you to go in your bloomers," said Mrs. Grayson, in answer to Agony's question on the subject. "Our girls always wear them to the villages about here; the people are accustomed to seeing them. That green bloomer suit of yours is very pretty, Agony," she added, "even prettier than our regulation blue ones."
"I spilled syrup on my regular blue ones," replied Agony, "and had to wash them out this morning; that's why I'm wearing these green ones. Do you mind if I break up the camp color scheme for one day?"
"Not at all, under the circumstances," replied Mrs. Grayson, with a smile. "If it's going to be a choice of green bloomers or none at all—" She waved the laughing girls away and returned to the knotty problem in accounts she had been working on when interrupted.
"Isn't she lovely?" exclaimed Mary enthusiastically, as they came out of the bungalow and walked along the Alley path toward Gitchee-Gummee to get Agony's hat. "She has such a way of trusting us girls that we just couldn't disappoint her."
"She is lovely," echoed Agony, as they went up the steps of Gitchee-Gummee.
"I think I'll leave a note for the girls telling them I won't be back at supper time," said Agony, hastily pulling out her tablet. "They will be wondering what has become of me."
It gave her no small thrill of pleasure to write that note and tuck it under Hinpoha's hairbrush on the table: "Gone on a long hike with Mary Sylvester; won't be back until bed time." How delightfully important and prominent that sounded! The others admired Mary, too, but none of them had been invited to go on a long hike with her. She, Agony, was being drawn into that intimate inner circle of the Alley dwellers to which she had hitherto aspired in vain.
They were soon across the river, with the boat fastened in the bushes, and, leaving the shore, struck straight into the woods, following a path that curved and twisted, but carried them ever toward the north, in the direction where Atlantis lay. The way was cool and shady, the whiff of the pines invigorating, and the distance uncoiled rapidly beneath the feet of the two girls as they fared on with vigorous, springy footsteps along the pleasant way. Ferns and wild flowers bordered the path; there were brilliant cardinal flowers, pale forget-me-nots, slender blossomed blue vervain, cheerful red lilies. In places where the woods were so thick that the sun never penetrated, great logs lay about completely covered with moss, looking like sofas upholstered in green, while the round stones scattered about everywhere looked like hassocks and footstools which belonged to the same set as the green sofas.