The Girl Scout Pioneers
Winning the First B. C.
By Lillian C. Garis
Author of "The Girl Scouts at Bellair," "The Girl Scouts at Sea Crest," etc.
CHAPTER I. GIRLS AND GIRLS
II. WOODLAND THRILLS
III. A NOBLE DEED UNDONE
IV. PATHS DIVIDING
V. A FRIENDLY ENEMY
VI. A NOVEL JAIL
VII. TENDERFOOT ADVENTURES
VIII. CLUE TO THE MISSING
IX. TRIBUTE OF ROSES
X. TELLING SECRETS
XI. THE TANGLED WEB
XIII. BROKEN FAITH
XIV. WOODLAND MAGIC
XV. VENTURE TROOP
XVI. MORE MYSTERIES
XVIII. DAISIES AND DANGERS
XIX. THE FLYING SQUADRON
XX. CLEO'S EXPERIMENT
XXI. FORGING AHEAD
XXII. THE WHIRLING MAY-POLE
XXIII. RAINBOW'S END
GIRLS AND GIRLS
It was much like a scene in a movie play. The shabby dark room lighted by a single oil lamp if any light could make its way through the badly smoked glass that served as a chimney, the broken chair, and the table piled high with what appeared to be rags, but which might have been intended for wearing apparel, the torn window curtain hanging so disconsolately from the broken cord it had one time proudly swung from, and the indescribable bed!
Like some sentinel watching the calamitous surroundings, a girl stood in the midst of this squalor, her bright golden hair and her pretty fair face, with its azure blue eyes, marking a pathetic contrast to all the sordid, dark detail of the ill-kept room. She took from the side pocket of her plaid skirt a bit of crumpled paper, and placing it directly under the lamp, followed its written lines. Having finished the reading, she carefully folded the worn slip again, and returned it to her pocket. Then she threw back her pretty head, and any frequenter of the screen world would have known instantly that the girl had decided—and further, that her decision required courage, and perhaps defiance.
With determination marking every move, she crossed to the tumbled bed, and stooping, dragged from beneath it a bag, the sort called "telescope," and used rarely now, even by the traveling salesman, who at one time found the sliding trunk so useful. It would "telescope," and being thus adjustable, lent its proportions to any sized burden imposed upon it. Into this the girl tossed a few articles selected from the rummage on the table, a pair of shoes gathered from more debris in a corner, and on top a sweater and skirt, taken from a peg on the door. All together this composed rather a pretentious assortment for the telescope.
But the girl did not jam down the cover in that "movie" way common to runaways, rather she paused, glanced furtively about the gloomy place, and finally taking a candle from a very high shelf, lighted the taper, evidently for some delicate task in the way of gathering up her very personal belongings.
In a remote corner of the room an upturned orange box served as sort of stand. The front was covered and festooned with a curtain, dexterously made of a bright skirt, hung over the sides, and draped from a knot at the top. The knot was drawn from the waist band of the skirt, and tied with the original string into a grotesque rosette. All over the box top were such articles as a girl might deem necessary in making a civilized toilette, except at the knot—where the table cover irradiated its fullness into really graceful folds, falling over the orange box-here, on account of the knob, no article was placed, and the rosette stood defiant over the whole surrounding.
The girl placed the candle on a spot made clear for that small round, tin stand, and then glancing anxiously at the door, stole over to make sure that the bolt was shot, hurried back and proceeded to untie the knot of string responsible for the drapery over the orange box. By the glare of the candle's flame her fingers could be seen stained with oil, and grim, as they expertly worked at the tied-up skirt, and finally succeeded in pulling apart the ragged folds. Quickly she slipped one small hand beneath the calico, and, obtaining her quest, drew back to examine it.
One, two, three green bills. Her savings and her fortune. Lights and shadows crossing the youthful face betrayed the hopes, and fears mingling with, such emotions as the girl lived through in this crowded hour, but no sooner had she slipped the small roll of bills into the flaring neck of her thin blouse, than a shaking at the door caused her to kick the telescope bag under the bed, hastily readjust the cover of the orange box, blow out the capering candle flame, and then open the door. A woman young in face but old in posture scuffled in. She wore a shawl on her head, although the season was warm April, and the plentiful quantities of material swathed in her attire proclaimed her foreign.
"Oh, Dagmar. I am tired," she sighed. "I thought you would come down to fix supper for papa. You do not change your skirt? No?"
"I was going to, so I locked the door," replied the girl Dagmar. "But I, too, was tired."
"Yes, it is so. Well, the mill is not so bad. It has a new window near my bench, and I breathe better. But, daughter, we must go down. Keep the door locked as you dress. Those new peoples may not tell which is the right room." With a glance at the fair daughter, so unlike herself in coloring, the working mother dragged herself out again, and soon could be heard cliptrapping down the dark stairs that led to the kitchens on the first floor of the mill workers, community lodgings.
Dagmar breathed deeply and clasped her hands tightly as her mother's tired foottread fell to an echo. Love filled the blue eyes and an affectionate smile wreathed the red lips.
"Poor mother!" she sighed aloud. "I hate to—"
Then again came that look of determination, and when Dagmar slipped down the stairs she carried the telescope and her crochetted hand bag. Her velvet tarn sat jauntily on those wonderful yellow curls, and her modern cape flew gracefully out, just showing the least fold of her best chiffon blouse. Dagmar wore strickly American clothes, selected in rather good taste, and they attracted much attention in the streets of Flosston.
Once clear of the long brown building, through which spots of light now struck the night, out of those desperate rows and rows of machine-made windows, Dagmar made her way straight to the corner, then turned straight again to another long narrow street, her very steps corresponding to that painful directness of line and plan, common to towns made by mill-owners for their employees. Even the stars, now pricking their way through the blue, seemed to throw down straight lines of light on Flosston; nothing varied the mechanical exactness, and monotonous squares and angles of streets, buildings, and high board fences.
One more sharp turn brought the girl within sight of a square, squatty railroad station, and as she sped toward it she caught sight of the figure of another girl, outlined in the shadows. This figure was taller and larger in form than herself, and as Dagmar whistled softly, the girl ahead stopped.
"Oh, you got my note," said the other. "I am so glad. I was afraid you would not come."
"I'm here," replied Dagmar, "bag and baggage, mostly bag," kicking the accommodating and inoffensive telescope. "I hate to carry this thing."
"Oh, that's all right," replied the taller girl, who, under a street lamp, showed a face older than Dagmar's and perhaps a little hard and rough. Just that bold defiant look, so often affected by girls accustomed to fighting their way through the everyday hardships of walled-in surroundings.
"Tessie, I am afraid," confessed the younger girl. "I almost cried when Mama asked me to fix supper."
"Oh, baby! You are too pretty, that's all's the matter with you. But just wait. Hush! There's that crowd of nifty-nice, preachy, snippy scout girls. Duck, or they'll be on our trail," and she dragged her companion around the corner of the high fence, where, in the shadow of its bill-posted height they crouched, until the laughing, happy girls of True Tred Troop, just out from their early evening meeting at Sunset Hall, over the post-office, had passed down into Elm Street.
"I think they saw us," whispered Dagmar, "I heard one girl say some one was hiding by the signboard."
"We should worry," flippantly replied Tessie. "I guess they are too busy thinking about their old wigwagging to notice mill girls."
"Oh, you're mean, Tessie. I think they are real nice. They always say hello to me."
"That's because you are pretty," snubbed the older girl, with something like common spite in her voice.
"Here they come back! Guess they lost something."
"We'd better be moving the other way, then. Pshaw! We will sure be late if they keep up their trailing around. Come along. Just be so busy talking to me they won't get a chance to give you their lovely hello. It would be all up with us if they spied us." With a persuasion not entirely welcome to Dagmar, Tessie again dragged her along, this time turning away from the dim lights that showed through the window of Flosston station.
Presently the group of scout girls could be heard exchanging opinions on the possibility of finding something lost. One thought it might have dropped in the deep gutter, another declared she would have heard it fall if it hit the many stones along the sidewalk, and still another expressed the view that it would be impossible to find it until daylight, no matter where it had fallen.
"But I just got it, and wanted to wear it so much," wailed the girl most concerned. "I think it is too mean—"
"Now, we will be sure to find it in daylight," assured the tall girl, evidently the captain. "I will be around here before even the mill hands pass. Don't worry, Margaret. If we don't find it, I shall send to headquarters for another."
"But I shall never love it as I did that one," and tears were in the voice. "Besides, think of all the lovely time we had at the presentation!"
"Now come," softly ordered the tall girl. "No use prowling around here, we can't see anything with matches. I promise you, Margaret, you shall have another badge in time for the rally if we do not find this," and reluctantly the party of searchers turned again in the direction of the village.
Watching their opportunity, the two mill girls came out from the shadows of the high fence they had been trusting to shield them from the view of the scouts. With quickened step they now turned again towards the station.
"Dear me!" exclaimed Tessie. "Haven't we had awful luck for a start? Hope it won't follow us along."
"Well, the more we delay the more I want to go back home," Dagmar replied rather timidly. "Tessie, I am afraid I will not be able to look at things your way. I seem to have different ideas."
"Now, Daggie. Don't go getting scary. I don't care whether you think my way or not. I won't fight about it. Let's hurry," and with renewed protestations of real companionship, the older girl grasped the arm of the younger, as if fearful of losing her hold on the other's confidence.
"Oh, please don't call me Daggie," objected Dagmar, freeing herself from the rather too securely pressed arm grasp. "You know how I hate that. Always makes me feel like a daggar. Call me Marrie. That's American, and I am an American, you know."
"All right, little Liberty. I'll call you Georgianna Washington if you say so, Marrie. That's like putting on airs for Marie. But just as you say," evidently willing to make any concession to have the younger girl accept her own terms.
"Wait! My foot struck something," exclaimed Dagmar, just reaching the spot where burnt matches left the trail of the girl scout searchers. "There, I found the badge."
"Oh, let's look! Is it gold?" They stopped under the street lamp to examine the trinket.
"No, it isn't gold, I think, but isn't it pretty?"
"Kinda," urging Dagmar along. "Say, kid, what is this anyway? A stopover we've Struck? Are we going tonight or some other night?"
"I'll have to give this badge back."
"Why will you? Didn't you find it? Isn't it yours?"
"Of course not. It belongs to the girl who lost it."
"Oh, I see. That's why I should call you Georgianna Washington," with a note of scorn in her voice. "Well, if you want to go back, and get some one to go out ringing the town bell with you, you may find the nice little girl scout who lost her baby badge. As for me—I'm going."
Sheer contempt now sounded unmistakably in the voice of the girl called Tessie. She shook herself free from Dagmar, and darted ahead with determination long delayed, and consequently more forceful.
For a moment the young girl hesitated. She sort of fondled the little scout badge in her hands, and might have been heard to sigh, if a girl of her severely disciplined temperament ever indulged in anything so weakly human as a sigh.
But as the fleeing girl more surely made her tracks to the station, thus leaving the other alone in the night, Dagmar, too, quickened her steps.
"Tessie," she called finally. "Tessie, wait. I can't go back now."
That was all Tessie wanted. She waited, and when again they took up tangled threads of their adventure it was scarcely possible either would allow any further interruptions to delay them.
And Dagmar clutched in her tightly clasped hand the lost scout badge.
It was Margaret Slowden who lost the Badge of Merit. The pretty gilt wreath, with its clover leaf center on a dainty white ribbon hanger, had been presented to Margaret on such an auspicious occasion, that the emblem meant much more to the girl scout than its official value of rank indicated.
The True Tred Troop of Flosston had been organized one month when Margaret won the medal. Shortly after the holidays, an event of unusual importance occurred in the mill town, when its small company of service boys returned from "Over There." They were royally welcomed by the entire town folks, together with the many officials of the silk industries, from whose ranks the boys had marched away.
With the lads returned was Margaret's brother Tom. He was handsome and a Marine, and well might Mrs. Slowden and Margaret take pride in the honor their soldier brought them. On the night of the Great Welcome Home, the scout girls, then newly organized, assisted with ushering and attending to the platform needs of the speakers and honored heroes, each of the latter receiving a special small, gold military cross, the gift of the silk mill magnates. This insignia was presented by the most famous authorities of army and navy available, and Tom Slowden was given the special honor of a real military presentation of the D. S. C., he being the only member of Flosston recruits to receive such a notable tribute.
As might have been expected this gave real distinction to the Welcome Home, and Margaret was suffused with pardonable pride. But when she took her place in the check room, to attend to the coats and other belongings of the distinguished visitors—she was forgotten by her troop, and she remained there all during Tom's presentation. She never heard a word of major's wonderful speech, when the people fairly roared for Tom's glory. There she was, downstairs in the dark, lonely cloak room.
"Oh, my dear!" deplored Captain Clark. "I never meant that you should stay down here at this time."
"But it was my task," returned the melancholy Margaret.
"I would not have had you miss your brother's presentation for the world! Such a thing can never come again. Why did you not call some of the girls to relieve you?"
"If Tom did anything like that he could never have received the D. S. C., and I am a Scout and pledged to honor commands," returned Margaret nobly.
For that sacrifice she received from the same platform, one week later, her own badge of merit, and the occasion was a real rally, with officials from headquarters, and all the neighboring troops participating.
Was it strange then that Margaret should lament her loss?
No other badge could actually take the place of that one, and while Captain Clark would immediately advise headquarters of the loss, and order a new one, the brave little scout girl would still feel she had lost that one vested with the special presentation honors.
On the morning following the loss, the girls of True Tred were seen out on the road so early, the station master, old Pete, hurried to his window, and got ready for business, surmising an excursion or at least a local convention imminent.
But no such occurrence was probable, it was only the troop out looking for the badge, and inevitably they did not find it. Signs made by Captain Clark were posted in the station, the post-office, and at prominent corners, but Margaret was disconsolate. She had called her badge the "D. S. C." because of its connection with Tom's insignia, and though the big brother had promised the scout sister all sorts of valuable substitutes, offering her the little hand carved box he had brought for "another girl," and which Margaret had openly coveted, even this did not seem adequate compensation.
All day at school the girls of True Tred planned and contrived little favors for their unhappy sister, and it was noticeable those of the classes who usually scoffed at the scouts and their activities, could not well conceal their admiration for the spirit of kindliness displayed.
The True Treds had members in the seventh and eighth grammar grades, and the girls' ages ranged from thirteen to fifteen years. Margaret Slowden was fifteen, Cleo Harris fourteen and Grace Philow and Madaline Mower were thirteen. This group was most active in the scout girls' movement, and although the organization was only three months old in Flosston, few there were in the town who had not seen and admired the smart little troopers, in their neat uniforms, always ready to assist in the home or in public at any task consigned to them. It was to be expected they would meet opposition in the way of criticism from such girls as are always indifferent to team play, and the best interests of the largest numbers, but the scouts knew how much they enjoyed their troop, and realized how beneficial was the attractive training they were receiving from its rules and regulations.
Grace and Madaline were still in the tenderfoot class, and wore the little brooch at the neck of their blouses. Margaret and Cleo were already in the first class, and permitted to wear the left sleeve badge, while others showed their rank in the Tenderfoot, the first and third class, three patrols of eight members each making up Flosston troop.
The real work of the scouts is so interesting in character that the writer has no idea of detracting from it, by relating the detail, feeling the charm and significance is best expressed in a real story of the live girls as they live their characteristic scout life. Nevertheless, it may not be amiss to call attention here to the value of such training given almost in play, and without question in such attractive forms as to make character building through its influence an ideal pastime, a valuable investment, and a complete program, for growing girls, who may emerge from the "bundle of habits" as strong members of society, progressive business women, or nicely trained little helpers for the home, or for the more sheltering conditions in whatever path of life they may be selected to tread.
That schools or even homes cannot compete with such training is evident, when one considers that a girl is creative, and should have ample chance to develop her character without force or rigid self defacing, instead of self creating rules; also it must be apparent that guidance is only successful when imposed gently, and with that subtle persuasion, ever aiming to show the result of correct training, and thus affording the principles of freedom for selection, with a knowledge of what that selection will result in.
What sensible girl will deliberately choose to go her own careless way, when she realizes that nothing satisfactory can be expected from such a choice, and that the very freedom coveted makes her a slave to the most cruel limits of prospects or attainments?
But we will not sermonize; even at this distance we may hold out the strong arm of influence, assuring our readers that the highest aims of writers and publishers are for the advancement of the younger girls, whose minds, for the moment, are entrusted to our keeping.
Coming back to our group of Girl Scouts, now holding conclave in the school yard of Flosston grammar grades, we find Grace and Madeline forming themselves into a committee of two, with the avowed intention of getting lip a hiking party for their own special benefit. These younger girls must soon undergo the test necessary for their qualification as second class scouts, and a hike on this lovely spring afternoon would aid them greatly in acquiring the outdoor knowledge necessary.
Margaret was rather inclined to dissent when the jaunt was proposed, she did not feel quite as hiky as usual, and she promptly remembered she had promised her mother some assistance in the little kitchen garden both were developing.
"Oh, come on," pleaded Grace. "If you say you want to go, I am sure Captain Clark will agree. I know where we can get the loveliest watercress."
This lure won Margaret, who had now fully recovered her scout cheer, and was trying bravely to forget the loss of her cherished badge".
"Mother loves watercress," she conceded, "and I would go, if we are sure to be back by five. I have to go call for the mail before dark."
"Oh, goody-good!" sang out Grace. "Now I can surely get my nature work all nicely covered. I'll tell Madaline. She is over there coaxing Cleo," and with a risky flourish of her red tie, a hop, skip and a jump, the Tenderfoot pranced across the big green schoolyard, in a fashion that belied her limitations on the tenderfoot basis.
"Yes, I'll go," Cleo was agreeing, "but I am afraid we can't get Captain Clark. I know she is going out to Kingsley to form a troop. Maybe we can get Lieutenant Lindsley. She is free from Normal at four. They have a lecture after two-thirty almost every day."
"Oh, Lieutenant Lindsley would be lots of fun. She knows everything in hill and dale, and is not afraid of snakes or cows. But do you think we should notify the other girls? It is rather hard to get in touch with them in time," Grace ranted on.
By this time Margaret and Madaline had joined the group, and now all the scouts in seventh and eighth grammar grades were discussing plans for the precipitous hike. There were Mable Blake, also a tenderfoot, Adaline Allen and Mildred Clark, second grades, and the McKay twins, first class scouts. All of these willingly agreed to make the foot trip out to the Falls.
The afternoon school session received scant attention from the prospective hikers, the Tenderfoots especially being absorbed in the prospects of a spring afternoon in the woods.
So interested were Grace and Madaline they exchanged preparatory notes in the five minute rest period, although that time was set aside for real relaxation, and no one was supposed to use eyes or fingers during the short rest.
When school was finally dismissed the girls arranged to pass the homes of most of the group, as many of them lived on the same Oakley Avenue, and thus notify parents of their scout plans for the hike, and when Lieutenant Lindsley was eventually picked up from the practicing department of the Normal School, the ranks were filled, and the hike moved off towards the River Road.
It was a glorious afternoon, in late April. The peach blossoms were just breaking into pink puff balls, and the pear trees were burdened with a crop of spring "snow," fragrant in their whitest of dainty blossoms.
But the still life beauties were not more attractive than the joyous, happy, romping girls, who capered along from the more noisy town streets, into the highways and byways of the long green stretch of country leading to the river brink, and to the woods on its border.
"I'm going to do something really great," declared Grace. "I don't care just what it is, but I want to have a real record, when I am called up to take my degree test. I am not afraid of anything in daylight, so beware! I may do something very desperate and rash this afternoon."
"Spare us," pleaded Madaline. "I have seen some of our courage worked out in the woods before. Remember the time you nearly set fire to the river? Well, don't, please, go try anything like that today."
"No, it must be something for which I should receive a badge of courage, if I were in the first class. I want to blush with fitting modesty when Captain Clark invests me with the next degree, and I shall only blush when reminded of my noble deed this afternoon."
"Since you are not particular about what deed shall be the noble one, won't you just give me a hand, and help me save this heel of mine from a blistering shoe? The shoe was all right in school, but just now it has picked up a snag, somehow, and between the shoe and the snag, my life is not worth living."
"Poor Madie," soothed her chum. "Let us sit right down here and diagnose the case. I'm first rate at diagnosing anything but why my bureau can't stay fixed. It has chronic upsettedness, and all my operations are of no avail. There go the girls down into the hazel nut gully. Let's sit on this lovely mossy couch, and look after the heel. Doesn't moss grow beautifully smooth under the cedars? I wonder how it ever gets so velvety?"
At the twined and natural woven seat, wrought from the uncovered roots of a great hemlock, the girls caressed and patted the velvet moss that formed a veritable carpet—no—it was softer than carpet, a silken velvet throw, over a natural cedar divan. Even the suffering heel was forgotten, in the joy of nature study, in green, with the darker green canopy of cedars, and the music of a running river at the foot of the sloping hill. Here the scent of watercress vied with the hemlock and cedar, for its place as nature's perfume, and only such mingling of wild ferns, trailing arbutus, budding bush, and leafing vine, could produce the aroma of incense that just then permeated the woody glen.
"Don't let the girls get too far away from us," cautioned Madeline. "I wouldn't like to get really lost, even for the joke of having you find me, Gracie."
"But you would do a little thing like that to help me out on my personal bravery stunt?" teased her companion. "I wonder why only the first class girls are permitted to do all those wonderful things and get all the really high honors?"
"Because they have gone through all the necessary trials and examinations," replied Madaline sagely. "You and I can get credit for our deeds, but we must show our full records to get the highest B. C. That's fair. You can't make a major out of a private. He has got to go up by degrees."
"Well, maybe it is fair, but I just love the glory of presentations. I am so sorry for Margaret. I would have dug up the town today to find that Merit Badge she lost last night."
"I like the way she braved it out, though," added Madaline. "She felt badly enough, and it did mean so much to her," finished the sympathetic scout.
"Oh, yes, I suppose so," rather reluctantly agreed the ambitious Grace. "But I shouldn't relish the feeling that some grimy mill girl was wearing the badge in a smoky factory."
"Oh, Grace, shame! That's not scouty. You must not speak so of the mill girls. We hope to take some of them in our troop before long. We would have no right to public support if we did not do something definite for others, and the mill girls have so few chances. So don't, Gracie dear, ever speak like that again."
"I won't if you say so, also if it isn't scouty. I am out to win the goal, and I don't mind what I may have to do to get my scout good conduct ball into the official basket. Now, how's the heel? Did the little pad of soft leaves help to keep the pressure off?"
"Yes, that was a fine idea, and I shall see to it that some day, when original work is called for, you get credit for the nature- aid heel pad. Rather a clumsy title, but when we explain how easy it is to get soft leaves to make pads for suffering feet, I am sure it will be welcome news to many an ambitious hiker."
"Oh, Madie dear," suddenly exclaimed Grace. "Where are the girls gone? They are not in the hazel nut clump, and I can't hear a sound!"
"Oh, my! Suppose they have gone looking for us the other way?"
Both girls in alarm, now scurried through the woods, calling and giving the "Coo-ee" call, but not a sound answered them. Birds were flitting about from limb to branch, and the strange stillness of the woods frightened the little Tenderfoots.
"You go along the bank, and I'll scour the elderberry patch. This wood is so dense in spots, and so clear under the hemlocks, it is easy to lose and hard to find anyone in it," declared Grace. "I'm glad I brought my big rope. I intended to tie every knot in the course, and cut them all out to fetch back finished, and I haven't even unwound the rope."
"If there is anything easier than getting lost in the woods it must be getting caught at whispering in the eighth grade," grumbled Madaline. "I wish my old heel had behaved itself."
"And all the plans for my brave stunt gone to naught," put in the now breathless Grace. "I would never have made up the hike if I had not determined to get a glory mark out of it. Now see where we are! Miles from home, and darkness coming on at each end. Where could those girls have gone to?"
"Sure as shooting they have gone on searching for us. There's the reservoir road, going in the opposite direction, and also Chestnut Hill. To go either of those roads meant getting entirely away from the foolish little scouts who stopped to chatter and chin. Just shows what we can do when we don't know we shouldn't."
For some moments they brushed their way through the thicket, beating down briars with their stout sticks, then coming to a broad clearance they found themselves in a great grove of pines, clean as a floor, except for the layer of savory pine needles, and almost dark as night from the density of the pine canopies.
"My, how lovely!" exclaimed Grace.
"Yes, if we could only enjoy it," demurred Madaline.
"Grace! What's that? Over under that thick tree!"
"A man! Let's run!"
"And there is a big bag beside him," whispered Grace. "See the things sticking out of it!"
"No, I don't want to see anything. Run, I tell you!"
"Wait! Maybe I could make this my bravery act. Suppose I tie him with my strong rope?"
"Grace Philow! Are you crazy?" and the more frightened girl attempted to drag the other away. "Please—don't speak loud. If he wakes I shall die."
"No, don't you dare! Just keep still. I am going to see if I can tie up one town tramp. There are plenty loose, and this is my golden opportunity!"
A NOBLE DEED UNDONE
"Now Grace! If you attempt to go near that dreadful man I shall scream and wake him up," threatened Madaline, in real alarm.
"No, you won't either. You would be afraid to. Hush, keep still. I want to see if I can lasso his old bag. Wouldn't it be fine if I could rescue Mrs. Johnston's washing? You know it was stolen off her line two nights ago." With this the daring girl stole up more closely to the sleeping figure.
The quiet lull of the flowing river, as it fell over a little cascade, was acting as a potential lullaby to the wayfarer at the foot of the tree. His figure was grotesque, but at the distance the girls were viewing him from it was not possible to discern more than a figure—it might be that of almost any sort of a man, for all they could tell.
Grace untied her nice clean coil of rope, while Madaline besought her in every kind of cabalistic sign she could summon to her aid, to desist in her reckless intention of tieing the man to the tree. But the temptation was evidently too much for the frolicsome Grace, for as Madaline cast a wild eye over her shoulder in her flight from the spot, she could just see Grace, tip-toeing up to that figure.
A few seconds later came a stifled cry!
"Wait, oh, Madie, wait!" called Grace, and, stopping in the briar path, Madaline glimpsed the imperturbable Grace, making her way through the thicket and dragging something heavy behind her!
"Mercy me!"' exclaimed Madaline. "What can she be tugging along!"
"Wait, help me!" now called Grace in a bolder voice.
"No, I will not! Grace Philow, are you crazy?" gasped Madaline.
"Crazy, not at all," sang out Grace in a laughing voice. "I've got it!"
"Got what?" Madaline cried anxiously.
"Mrs. Johnston's wash!"
"Oh, Grace, you will get us both arrested."
"For recovering stolen property! You have a fine sense of scout laws," Grace retorted. "If you don't help me get out of the briars I shall report you to the captain—if we ever find her," and another laugh grated on the frightened ears of Madaline.
"I can't help you, Grace," Madaline replied in a more conciliatory tone. "The briars are so thick here, they almost tore off my shoe— it is not laced tight, you know."
"Well, they are tearing up Mrs. Johnston's wash," admitted Grace, still tagging at the trailing bag, that could not be seen in the thicket and brambles she dragged it over.
"Oh, Grace! There he comes!" screamed Madaline, as a moving figure could be outlined in the shadows of the low brush, and tall swamp berry trees, that just towered high enough to hide the form that bent and broke the impeding young birches. It was the swish and motion of the brush that indicated his advance and location.
"Mercy!" yelled Grace, alarmed now in spite of her boasted courage. "Let's run. But I won't drop this wash. I don't care if he follows me into the post-office for it," and at that, she gave the rope one more terrific jerk, the force of which brought the trailing obstacle out into the path where it had a clear track to follow the girl, who held madly to the other end of the rope.
No words were wasted as the girls scampered and scurried through that wood. Grace held firmly to the rope, and could feel that it still dragged her quarry, while Madaline never turned her head to see whether or not the pursuing man was at their heels. That they had not been struck down was enough, to be thankful for, thought Madaline.
And in all of this, no trace of the other members of the hiking party was discovered. More than once the girls heard something they decided ought to be their "Coo-ee" call, but each time it turned out to be nothing more friendly than the astonished birds, either laughing at the scouts, or rooting for their successful escape from the pursuer.
Beaching the big rock that covered the path, and always had to be climbed over "by hand," the girls scrambled up, then down, and when Grace gave a necessarily vigorous tug at her rope it sprang up to her face in a real caress! In fact it actually coiled around her like a friendly thing.
Mrs. Johnston's wash was gone!
"Oh, he grabbed it!" wailed Grace. "He got hold of my rope when we had to stop to make the rock and now—he has got it again!"
"Don't you dare stop one minute!" panted Madaline. "You have almost murdered us as it is," she proclaimed in her excitement, which always banished her ordinarily sparse supply of reasonable language.
"Nice way you help a sister," mocked Grace. "I thought you were going to help me win honors," and she gathered up her delinquent rope with a much disturbed expression on her pretty face.
"I think I have helped you save your life, if you only knew it," Madaline managed to articulate. "The idea—"
"All the same I did tie him up," admitted Grace, bolder now that she could see the end of the woods. "I don't see how he got loose. I used the running bow-line, and a couple of clove hitches. Our old knots came in useful, but they didn't hold evidently. Hark! Wasn't that a whistle! Sounded like Margaret's trill."
"Yes, and it's away over on the Avenue. Whatever will Captain Clark say?"
"Now, Madie, you just promise you will say nothing about my man and Mrs. Johnston's wash. I tried to do something noble and it didn't pan out, so if you are a good little pal, and a first rate sport, you will keep mam as a clam, won't you, please, Madie?"
"Well, since it did not end in a tragedy I suppose I may keep quiet without breaking honor, but you know, Gracie, I am six months older than you, and I would be held accountable at a trial."
"Don't you fret," and Grace was now shaking her curly head and throwing her blazing cheeks up to the clearance light, with, renewed defiance. "I certainly had a lovely time while it lasted."
"There are the girls!" exclaimed Madaline joyously. "It would have been dreadful if they were obliged to go all the way into Flosston without us. They would have come back with the mill bell man looking for us."
"Whoo-hoo!! Coo-ee, Coo-ee!!" trilled Grace, and back came the welcome answer.
"Coo-ee! Coo-ee! Whoo-hoo!"
Realizing the lost was found, Lieutenant Lindsley stood on top of the little hill, just over the turn of the macadam road, that outlined Oakley Avenue, the one street of distinction that ran through the country and gave tone to little Flosston on its way. She was an attractive figure standing there in her plain serge suit, and soft tam-o'-shanter on her finely poised head, and even at a distance one would be correct in describing Romaine Lindsley as an attractive, fine-looking young girl.
Around her were the other members of the hiking party, all of whom had come to an abrupt halt, at the call of Grace and Madaline from the woodlands.
"Don't run to meet them," cautioned the lieutenant, "that might mean another mixup," and she gave a double quick trill to notify the delinquents they were expected to report promptly. "After all there appears to be no harm done, other than the loss of an afternoon's sport."
"But I did not get my watercress," wailed Winnie, the blonde of the McKay twins.
"And I lost a perfectly good side comb mother just received from Philadelphia," complained Cleo. "I wanted this kind and could not get them around here. Now one is lost and the other useless."
"But we must not complain, Cleo," admonished the lieutenant pleasantly. "It isn't good scouting, you know."
By this time the runaways, or lost sheep, had caught up with the awaiting contingent. That they would be deluged with questions, and all but stampeded for answers, was to be expected.
"It was an accident," Grace managed to inject finally. "Madie's foot went blistered—and I hunted around for some—some medicated leaves," this was said in an apologetic tone, "and when the heel was all fixed we were thoroughly lost."
Madaline sighed and smiled alternately, and agreed without venturing to say so.
"Well, we are glad you met with no mishap," declared the lieutenant, to whom girls lost in the woods was not a new adventure. "We were going back for you just now. The trouble was we took the left road to look for you, when, of course, you were hugging due right. Didn't you see our trail?"
"Yes, after we struck it," responded spokes-man Grace. "We were so deep in the cedar grove we had no chance to strike trails. Oh, girls, you should see the wonderful picnic grounds we discovered!" she enthused, with the very evident intention of getting Madaline's mind off the man and the bag of wash. "It is a perfect little park, all carpeted with pine needles, and canopied with the loveliest trees—"
"All right, Grace," cut in the lieutenant. "But come along. We must be making tracks. No time just now for a panoramic view. We will certainly have to take this hike all over again to compensate the girls for their disappointment. However, no doubt we have learned something."
"You bet," Grace whispered to Madaline, as she fell into step for the homeward march. "I learned that the bow-line will slip."
"Hush," begged Madaline. "I am not sure yet but that—you know— may be after us."
"Wish it—you know, was," defied the other.
"What ever were you two up to?" asked Margaret, falling back to take step with the refugees. "I am sure you were never fixing a single foot all that time."
"We each had feet, you know," Grace quickly made answer. "And really there are the most interesting things in that wood. I am going back first chance—"
"You do!" threatened Madaline, with a glance Grace rightfully interpreted. "I will never, as long as I live, go into the Cedar grove again. It's too scary for words."
"I loved it," drawled Grace. "I am going again. See if I don't. Want to come, Maggie?"
"Maybe, but just now I want an alibi for mother's promised watercress. Grace, you are a great scout! You lure us all out here, with the most tempting offer of prize watercress, and here we go home with a bunch of last year's cattails. What shall we say to all our loved mothers, who allowed us to cut house work for this wonderful afternoon?" asked Margaret.
"Say that I, Grace Gollivar Philow, will go back first chance I get, and fetch watercress for the whole community. Only next time I go, I am going to fetch a gun—"
Margaret laughed, but Madaline shivered. Scout girls were supposed to know how to use a gun, but fortunately Grace was still in the Tenderfoot class. Perhaps before she could possibly get permission to try gunning, she would have outgrown her tendency to capture tramps with ostensibly stolen washes. Madaline sincerely hoped so.
When almost in town Grace gained an opportunity to whisper to Madaline:
"Now remember, Madie. Never a word. I am not sure my man got away, you know. He may be tied up there yet. And also, I may get someone to go with me and reclaim Mrs. Johnston's wash. I know about where it broke loose."
But the happenings in the woods were quickly forgotten, at least so far as the scout girls were concerned, by the unexpected development in the case of the two girls, Dagmar and Tessie, who had stolen out of Flosston.
In that section of the town where the girls lived, the Americanized foreigners had little in common with such families as those of the girls of True Tred Troop. In fact, few happenings in the mill community ever reached the ears of the so-called "swells," that inappropriate term being applied to those whose fathers held some executive position in the great silk industries of Flosston.
Thus it was easy to understand why the scouts had heard nothing next day of the mysterious disappearance of Dagmar and Tessie.
A contrary situation existed in Millville, however. Here the families of both girls were causing a search to be made in that peculiar fashion of confusion and excitement, usually ending in making the condition more complicated, and giving rise to absolutely no clues worthy of attention.
Mrs. Brodix, Dagmar's mother, good, kind mother that she was, spent her time wringing her hands and rolling her big black eyes, otherwise in extolling the hitherto undiscovered virtues of the lost daughter.
In her distress she forsook the English tongue, and lapsed into a conglomeration of Polish and Yiddish made intelligible only through the plentiful interpretation of dramatic gesticulation.
"Oh, my beautiful Dagmar!" she wailed. "It is that vile street runner Theresa, who has carried her away!" was the burden of her lamentations.
"The smartest girl in all Millville was my Tessie," insisted Mrs. Wartliz. "It was that baby-faced kitten, Dagmar Brodix, who coaxed her off. She would earn as much money as me" (good enough English for Mrs. Wartliz), "and she had money in the bank, too."
It was probably this last fact that really led the girls to seek what they considered was a broader field for their talent. If Tessie's money in the bank had been a joint account with her mother's name, she would not have been able to draw out the funds for her escapade, but what did Mrs. Wartliz know about such supervision for a daughter, who was absorbing America at one end— the attractions—and ignoring America at the other—honorable conduct?
What actually happened was this. When Dagmar ran after Tessie, who was threatening to leave her to her own resources, that dark night when both had planned to shake the dust of Millville from their well worn shoes, the older girl finally agreed to take Dagmar along if "she would quit her babying, and act decent."
"Now the train is gone," scolded Tessie, "and we have to take that horrid old jitney out to the junction. Like as not we will meet some one who will squeal on us."
"Tessie," pleaded Dagmar, afraid to speak, and fearful of the consequences if she did not make her appeal. "Why can't we go to Franklin? There is a fine mill there and it is nearer home—"
"Say kid" exclaimed the rougher girl, "if you want to go home you have a swell chance right now, but if you want to come with me quit simping and come," and she picked up her own bag in bad temper, gave her brilliant scarf a twist and started off for the jitney, leaving Dagmar to take the unattractive choice she had just mentioned.
Dagmar was too frightened to notice the grimy mill hands who were crowded into the old bus, making their way to another settlement in search of an evening's recreation, but Tessie slunk deep down in her corner, burying her face in her scarf and hiding her eyes with her tam. She knew better than to run the risk of having her cross father discover her in flight. After she had succeeded in getting away Lonzo Wartliz would not spend time to go after her, but while she was "on the wing," so to speak, he would have no trouble in bringing her back. A day's time from the mill would be too costly a sacrifice to make, while a police call to "fetch back my girl" would cost him nothing. Also there was the thought that Tessie might fix it at home by sending a letter filled with glowing promises of good money—but she would require at least one day to mail her promise to Flosston.
So Dagmar sat with a melancholy expression on her face while Tessie hid her silent chuckles in her wearing apparel.
"Here we are," whispered the latter, as the jitney jolted to a standstill. "Don't forget your Saratoga."
Dagmar dragged the hated "telescope" after her, as she dropped down from the rickety high steps of the old motor wagon. It was very dark now, and she was more frightened than she had any idea of betraying to her companion. "Come on, kid," called the other. "We have got to hunt up something. We may not get out of this great white way to-night."
"Oh, Tessie! How could we stay in a place like this?"
"Just like the other folks. Do you think they are goin' to spread out a wedding canopy for you? Oh, be a sport, Daggie. Tomorrow is yet to come."
The training this young girl had received in the local movies was now developing in a rather dangerous way. She was breathing heavily in her new found adventure, she was out alone, or as good as alone, in a strange place on a dark night, and perhaps she would be kidnapped? In spite of the danger Tessie fairly thrilled with the possibility, and it was with a very pronounced degree of scorn that she regarded her weaker companion.
Not that the "movies" were exerting any better influence on Dagmar. In fact it had been their uncertain propaganda that first created in her breast the feeling of unrest, that first told her Millville was mean, shabby, and an unfit place for an ambitious girl to try to exist in. Her very love for her mother and father, to say nothing of her affection for the other members of her family, seemed a spur to her ambition "to get away and be somebody."
But the getting away was by no means the pleasant dream she had pictured it. Here they were, two young, inexperienced girls in a strange town, without the slightest knowledge of how they might find a safe place in which to stay for a single night, and even they, with their minds open for adventure, realized how promptly trouble comes to those who openly seek it.
"Let's go down this street and see what it runs into," suggested Tessie. "Hope it doesn't flop off into a ditch."
"I think we ought to ask someone," put in Dagmar.
"Ask them what?" rudely demanded Tessie.
"Where we can go for the night? Are you sure we can't get a train? We could sleep in the cars."
"Oh, say, you want a Pullman, you do, the kind we see go by the factory with the coons all dolled up in dish towels," she sneered, now seemingly set upon making things as unpleasant as possible for poor, little, frightened Dagmar. But the latter was not altogether a coward, and the blustering tone of Tessie was not too deep to penetrate. Dagmar pulled herself together and dropped the "telescope."
"You may do as you please, Miss Wartliz," she exclaimed. "But I am not going to tramp these streets all night. I don't want to end up in a nice little rat-ridden police cell. We don't have rats over our way."
"And I suppose we do. Well, Miss Smarty, what do you propose to do? Maybe you wouldn't mind letting your friend in on the game!"
"You know, Tessie, I don't mind slang, and I am not a goody-good, but I am nervous, and I think we would get along better if we both dropped that street stuff. It gets on my nerves."
"Oh, my sakes alive! Gettin' nerves!" and she dropped her voice into the deepest tones of contempt. "I might-a known it. You would be apt to have them with that face. Well, kid, what do you want to do? I don't see no hospital for nerves out this way."
"Tessie! See that man!"
"Sure I do. He's a cop, too. Stop your whimpering and trot along. We're goin' to grandma's," and Tessie grabbed the arm of the trembling Dagmar as she started off with a determined step, indicating a particular objective being sought for.
But the officer of the law could distinguish runaway girls without a full confession from their painted lips. And he promptly started after them.
"He's followin' us," whispered Dagmar.
"As if I thought he was playin' hop-scotch," scoffed the tantalizing one. "Keep movin', we will give his legs a treat, even if he intends to beat us out."
And they did walk very briskly indeed—all the more reason why the officer should follow them!
"Makes me think of tryin' to get away from a strange dog," Tessie had the temerity to interject. "The faster we ran the surer he is to keep snappin'."
"He is sure to catch us," Dagmar said. "Why don't you stop and ask him where we can go?"
"You poor simp. Want him to tell you?" and she almost laughed outright.
"Wait—a minute—wait—a minute!" came the summons. "What's your big hurry?"
They both stopped. Each knew enough for that. The man of the law, shaking that treacherous stick on its red cord, was now beside them. He pushed his cap back to make sure nothing interfered with his gaze. This he fixed scrutinizingly on the two girls. Dagmar flinched, but Tessie smiled in a foolish attempt to gain his good will.
"Where are you two trottin' off to all alone?" he asked finally.
"We're goin' to grandma's," said Tessie, so ridiculously that she almost burst out laughing. She had no idea the answer would sound so silly.
"Oh! you be," he returned, his voice thick with irony. "Is the old lady expectin' you?"
"Well, we didn't say we would be there tonight," Tessie had the audacity to reply.
"No, I thought not," and he twirled that formidable stick almost into Dagmar's scared face. "Well, shall we send her word?"
"Oh, we can find our way," put in Tessie again, attempting to start off.
"Maybe so. But here in Franklin we have a curfew law, and we don't allow little girls out alone so late."
"No?" sneered Tessie. "Lovely town. We expect to take the rest cure here."
"Now, my young lady," in severe tones, "I'll show you where we give that self same cure. Come—along—with—me!"
Quick as a wink Tessie grabbed her bag, and started to run. The officer was so surprised he required a moment to realize she was running away. When he did he sounded his whistle.
And there stood Dagmar, alone, and as the "movies" say, "Forsaken!"
"Oh, Tessie," she called weakly. "Come back. You have my pocketbook!"
But the fleeing girl did not stop to listen to Dagmar's cry or to the shrill whistle the officer again sent out into the night. She was making tracks so successfully, the minion of the law knew very well his whistle would never summon help—the only other officer in town being "out of town" to his personal knowledge. So Tessie went, and with her Dagmar's pocketbook and the Girl Scout Badge!
A FRIENDLY ENEMY
"Now, don't you worry, little girl. You are not like that one running away. I can see that by your manner," said the officer kindly, as Dagmar pressed her handkerchief to her wet eyes. "I don't have to take you to the calaboose, unless I set fit, and I don't."
He touched her arm kindly. Jim Cosgrove hated to see anyone cry, and his kind heart never seemed to interfere with the fulfillment of his duty. When he was kind he had reason to be, and never yet had the higher officials questioned his wisdom.
"Oh, thank you," said Dagmar, when she could find the words. "We haven't done anything wrong."
"Well, it isn't exactly right for young girls to run away from home, and I don't have to wait for all the particulars to decide that is what you are both aiming to do. However, let us go along. My wife doesn't mind takin' a girl in now and then, to save her name from the records."
Dagmar breathed easier. She might even find a place to sleep! Why hadn't Tessie waited?
In spite of the rather unpleasant situation, there was comfort in the thought she would not have to go to some dreadful hotel, or boarding house, and perhaps undergo all the hardships dealt out to runaways in the "pictures." So Dagmar walked along with the officer, unmindful of the sharp looks of the few passersby who happened to be out in that section of the rather quiet town.
"Of course you will go straight back home in the morning?" asked and answered the officer.
"Oh, I did so want to try something else," almost pleaded the girl. "You see, mister, it is awful in the mill end of Flosston."
"Not very good, I'll admit," replied he, "but it will be my duty to send you back."
They walked along in silence after that brief conversation. Dagmar was thinking how difficult it would be to go back home on the morrow, and in the company of an officer! As if the man divined her thoughts, he said presently:
"We will see how we make out when we get to my house. My old woman is as good a help to me as the other man on the post, and better. She helps me a lot with the girls, and I often say she should have had a uniform. Maybe we can fix it so she will take you back home."
"Oh, that would be better," replied Dagmar. "I would hate to go with a man."
"Course you would and I don't blame you. But I must hurry and put you up with Mary. If I don't find your pal I will have to give the word to the next town. Can't have a girl like that running around loose all night."
"I wish she had stayed. Tessie is—not really wild, but she has so much freedom at home. All her folks seem to care for about her is her money."
"Lots of folks are foolish as that, then they have to spend a good lot to make up for getting a little. And the funny part of it is, the girls, who seem so wise, are the easiest fooled. Now, she acted like a real grown-up, but I'll bet my badge she would go along with the first person who offered her a hot pancake for breakfast. They have so much nerve it dries up all their common sense."
"I do wish she had not run away. She is always making fun of me and calling me a baby. But I think, as you say, mister, it is better not to have too much nerve."
"You're right, girl. But here we are. Don't you be the least bit afraid of my wife. She is big and blustery, but has a heart of gold."
The rugged outside of this man evidently hid a heart of his own not far from pure gold, and Dagmar could not help thinking he was the nicest policeman she had ever heard of, and that she had encountered him seemed nothing short of wonderfully good luck.
Turning in at the gate, which even in the night could be seen to form a little arch in vines and bushes, Officer Cosgrove tapped lightly on the door, which was opened before the echo of his last tap had died away.
"Here we are, Mary," he announced to the woman standing in the portal. "I just brought you a little girl—who—is lost. Take care of her while I go after the—other. She didn't take so kindly to Jim as this one did," and with a friendly little push, he ushered Dagmar into the narrow hall, and turned out into the roadway, from whence his light footfall could immediately be heard hurrying over the cinder-covered path.
"Come in, girl," ordered Mrs. Cosgrove. "What happened to you?"
Dagmar was bewildered. What had happened to her? What should she answer!
"I am—away—from home," she managed to reply. "The officer said I could go back tomorrow."
The inadequacy of her reply sounded foolish even to Dagmar, but she was constrained to feel her way. She could never blurt out the fact that she had actually run away from home!
"Oh, I see," said Mrs. Cosgrove with a tone of uncertainty. "Run away, eh?"
"Yes'm," said Dagmar defencelessly.
"Too bad. Didn't your folks treat you right?"
"Oh, yes," hurried Dagmar to correct any such impression as that question conveyed. "But I wanted to help them—all, and I thought I—could!"
Tears were running over now, and Dagmar's courage was at lowest ebb. The motherly woman took the ever-present "telescope," and setting it down in a corner of the pleasant room, directed Dagmar to a chair near the little stove, in which a small light glowed, quite suitably opposed to the chill of early spring.
"Just sit down and I'll get you a bite. Of course you are hungry."
"Not very," gulped the girl, who had not tasted food since she snapped the cover on her lunch box that eventful noon day, when the girl, having agreed with Tessie to leave Milltown, had eaten the dark bread and bologna, for what she supposed would be the last time. So Dagmar was hungry, although her emotion for the time was choking her, and hiding the pangs of actual hunger.
"All the same tea tastes good when we use up nerves," insisted the woman, leaving the room, and presently clicking dishes and utensils in the kitchen. Left alone for a moment Dagmar recovered her composure and glanced about the room. It seemed almost fragrant in its clean freshness. She had never occupied such a room, with that peculiar, bracing atmosphere. The small mantel with its prim vases looked a veritable home shrine, and the center table with the sprigs of budding lilacs, seemed to the forlorn girl something to reverence. The rag rugs under her feet were so spotless, the curtains so white—it suddenly occurred to the girl these things could not exist in the smoke and grim of a mill town. It was the mill—always the mill found to blame for her misery.
"Come on, girl—what is your name?" came a voice from the kitchen.
Dagmar responded and took her place at the table with its white oilcloth cover, and a snowy napkin neatly smoothed under the one plate set for her.
"Molly has gone to Flosston to a Girl Scout meeting," announced Mrs. Cosgrove, helping Dagmar to a dish of home-made pork and beans. "She loves the Scout affairs, and wouldn't miss a rally, even if she has to come home a little late. Martin, that's my boy, will meet her at the jitney."
"Gone to Flosston?" repeated Dagmar. "That's where I came from— that is the corner we call Milltown, it is out where the factories are."
"Oh, I know the town well. Not too nice in spots. But start right in. Drink your tea and eat up your bread and jelly. I'll finish what I was at, and be back by the time you have cleaned your plate."
Dagmar realized this action was taken out of sheer delicacy. And she was very thankful to be left alone with her food. After all it was not so bad to be arrested, if all jail sentences were served in such nice clean kitchens, thought the girl.
But the reflection of a girl scout meeting at Flosston, and the stinging memory of the honor badge, picked up that night and carried off by the reckless Tessie, would torture her in spite of the more important issues in the girl's experience.
Where would Tessie go? Where would she stay and what would become of her? No doubt, as the officer had remarked, such a girl would easily become the prey of the unscrupulous, and at this thought Dagmar shuddered. What dreadful things always happen to runaway girls in the movies? Again the standard asserted its power.
Next moment the opening door announced Mrs. Cosgrove was back, and Dagmar had "cleaned her plate."
"There now, you will feel better," and the woman quickly gathered up the tea dishes. "Come in the other room, and tell me your story before Jim comes back; sometimes a woman can help a girl more than a man can, and, as Jim says, I am sort of a wedge between the law and the victim," and she laughed lightly at the idea of interfering with her husband's business.
Dagmar told her story. She did not spare herself or attempt to cover her mistakes. She had left home because she was tired of Milltown and because she thought she would be better able to help her folks by getting out of the factory. Yes, she had listened to Tessie, and Tessie was different. Her mother allowed her out late nights, and had no objections to her going to dances in the factory hall, without brother or father. When Dagmar went her brother Frank always accompanied her.
"Well, that's encouraging," spoke Mrs. Cosgrove when Dagmar paused. "When folks have that much sense you can always talk to them. Now, when Molly comes we will talk it over with her. I wouldn't mind leaving off my work to-morrow, although I did plan to clean the cellar, and I could go out and see your mother—that is, if Molly thought there would be a chance for work for you here, and perhaps we could fix it so you could stay for a while anyway. I don't believe it would do you good to go right back in that crowd again. What you need is new chums."
"Oh, I couldn't give you all that trouble," objected Dagmar. "I am willing to go right back in the morning."
"It's right you should say so," continued the wise woman, "but you see, my girl, when you go back, you get right in the same rut again, and all those mill girls would just make life miserable for you. I am not encouraging you to stay away from home, but as Molly says, she is a leader in the scout girls you know—she always says when a thing goes wrong in one place it is best to try it in another. That is if the thing must be done, and, of course, you must work. However, wait until Molly comes in. She has learned so much since she has tried to teach others that I do believe she knows more than I do."
"You say she is a scout lieutenant?"
"Yes, they only take girls eighteen or over for that office and my Molly was eighteen two days before she was elected," and at the thought Mrs. Cosgrove indulged in a satisfactory chuckle.
It was all very bewildering to Dagmar, but just how it happened that she did not return to Flosston immediately was due to a very interesting plan made by Molly and co-operated in by her official father, and finally worked out by the near-official mother.
A NOVEL JAIL
Thus it was that the girl scouts of Flosston and Lieutenant Molly Cosgrove of Franklin stumbled over the same case of a sister in need.
Returning from the big rally at the County Headquarters on that eventful evening, Molly Cosgrove found more than her usual hot cup of tea awaiting her. There was the strange young girl with the wonderful blue eyes, around which a telltale pink rim outlined the long silky lashes.
Molly thought she had never seen a prettier girl, while in turn Dagmar decided Molly Cosgrove was the very biggest, dearest, noblest girl she had ever seen. Formalities over, talk of the rally quickly put the stranger at ease.
"We had a wonderful rally," Molly enthused, "and at a business meeting held before the open session, it was decided to start obtaining recruits from the mills."
"Oh, that will be splendid!" exclaimed Dagmar, who now felt quite at home with the Cosgroves. "We have always wanted to know about those girl scouts."
"Well, you will soon have an opportunity," continued the girl, whose cheeks still glowed with rally excitement, "and I am a member of the committee appointed to visit the mills."
"That is just the thing," declared Mrs. Cosgrove, "for your boss always lets you follow the Troop orders, and by going into Flosston you may fix it for this scared little girl to stay here for a while."
"There, Mother, I always said you should be on the pay-roll. Isn't she the loveliest cop?" Molly asked Dagmar. "No wonder the Town Council thanked Mrs. Jim Cosgrove for her work among the women and girls! Why, Mom, you are a born welfare worker, and could easily have my position in the Mill. You see, I am what they call a welfare worker," again Molly addressed Dagmar directly.
"Oh, yes, I know. We have one in the Fluffdown Mill. Her name is Miss Mathews but she hardly ever comes in our room," offered Dagmar.
"Well, now Molly," said Mrs. Cosgrove very decidedly, "I just mentioned we might see that the girl got work in new surroundings, with you and me to keep an eye on her, so she could cut away from that crowd. What I have been able to find out is not much to its credit and there's reasons (with a look that pointed at Dagmar's beauty) why a girl like this should not run wild. It seems to me," smoothing out her big apron, by way of punctuation, "that it has all happened for the best. We can fix it so Pop won't make it an arrest after all, then you can get leave to go to Flosston first thing in the morning, can't you?"
"Oh, yes, the welfare work of all the big mills is co-related," replied the daughter, while the mother put her feet on the little velvet hassock, and seemed glad of the chance to draw her breath after the long speech.
Dagmar was sitting in one of the narrow arm chairs of the old- fashioned parlor suite. Her long, rather shapely hands traced the lines and cross-bars in her plaid skirt, and the sudden shifting of her gaze, from one speaker to the other, betrayed the nervousness she was laboring under.
"All right then, that's one more thing settled. And do you think the girl—say, girl, I don't like that name you have, what else can we call you?" she broke off suddenly with this question to Dagmar.
"My name is Dagmar Bosika, and I like Bosika best," replied the little stranger.
"All right, that's number three settled. You will be Bose. I can say that, but I never could think of the other queer foreign name."
"And we will have to change your last name, too, I guess," put in Molly, "as some one from Flosston might recognize it. We can just leave off the first syllable and have it Rose Dix or Dixon. I think Dixon would sound best."
"We are settling quite a few points," laughed Mrs. Cosgrove, "if some one doesn't upset them. I have no fears from Pop—"
"Oh, Pop is putty in our hands," went on the resourceful Molly, "no danger from his end. But how about your folks, Rose?"
Dagmar smiled before she replied. The new name struck on her ear a little oddly, but it pleased her, she had never liked Dagmar, and utterly despised the mill girls' nickname "Daggie."
"Mother and father have always said they would let me do what I thought would be best for me," she said at length. "I never did anything they told me I should not, and we often talked of my getting in a store or something like that. Mother works in the mill in another room, and she was always worried about me being away from her."
"A store would be no good for you," objected Mrs. Cosgrove, again including the girl's beauty in her scrutiny. "You would be best off within the reach of a welfare worker like Molly. But look at the time! Martin will be in from the club, and even Dad will be comin' around for his midnight coffee, before we call this meetin' to a halt. I say, Molly, we are runnin' an opposition scout meetin' it seems to me," and she got up with that finality, which plainly puts the period to all conversation.
A few moments later Rose had washed face and hands, brushed her hair, as Molly kindly hinted she should, and taking her shabby, washed, but unironed, night dress from the famous "telescope," she said her prayers and was ready for bed. How comfortable the room seemed! How strange she should be in it? And where was the unfortunate, headstrong Tessie?
A prayer for the safety of the wandering one sprung from the heart of this other girl, now away from home the very first night in her young life. That her mother would believe her at a girl's home, according to the little note left stuck in her looking glass, Rose was quite certain, so there was no need to worry concerning distress from the home circle, at least not yet, and tomorrow morning young Miss Cosgrove would go to the mill and very quietly arrange everything with her mother.
"The girl scouts are better than the police," she decided, not quite understanding how both could work so intimately, along different lines, yet each reaching the same result to assist wayward girls.
This was, surely, a queer sort of arrest, a lovely kind of cell, and a most friendly pair of jailers, the little runaway had fallen among, and that she dreamed wonderful dreams, glowing with roses and fragrant with perfume, was not to be wondered at, for Mrs. Cosgrove's linen was sweet enough to induce even more delicious fancies.
But what of poor, lost, erring, headstrong Tessie Warlitz? Rose imagined her in all sorts of wild predicaments, but with that kindness so marked in girls who have themselves suffered cruel misunderstandings, Rose determined not to betray her chum, but rather to do her utmost to find her, and win her back to good standing among girls—somehow. Thus really began in so subtle a manner her own interest in the principles of the Girl Scouts.
"To help an erring sister" is a fundamental of the cause, but Rose little knew what that silent consecration would cost her. When all was quiet, late that night, young Martin Cosgrove sauntered along home and giving the familiar "three dots and a dash" whistle notified his mother of his approach. The light in the sitting-room window had in its turn told Martin his mother awaited him.
"S-s-sh!" whispered the mother, opening the door very softly. "Don't make any noise."
"What's up or who's sick?" asked the good-looking young man, pinching his mother's plump arm.
"There's a little girl asleep in the spare room. Don't wake her," cautioned the mother, who, to prevent even a hat falling, had secured Martin's things and was putting them on the rack.
"Friend of Molly's? Some new girl scout?" he asked, when they reached the seclusion of the kitchen.
"Well, no, not just that, but a poor child Dad found lost," she compromised.
"Lost, eh! And Chief of Police Mrs. Cosgrove rescued the lost chee-il-dd—as usual! Mom, you're a great cop, and I hear Molly is following in your fair footsteps!"
"Stop your nonsense, Marty, and be off to bed. It's awful late! There's your fresh shirt for the morning. Take it along with you."
"Thanks, Mom, and you have the Chink beat in his line, too," giving the freshly ironed cambric shirt an approving pat. "Tell Molly to go easy out at Flosston. Those True Tred Girl Scouts are a pretty lively little bunch from what I hear."
"What do you mean?" asked the mother. "What did you hear about Flosston?"
"Oh, just heard the boys talking. Nothing very much, but some girls ran away, not scouts, mill girls, mill detectives on their trail, and the Girl Scouts went on a hike and lassoed some poor guy by mistake. Oh, you know a lot of stuff like that, everybody hears and no one knows the real sense of. Only I thought Molly, just taking up with the Flosston work, ought to keep both eyes open, and wear good sensible shoes. Night, Mom!" and he kissed her very fondly. Mrs. Cosgrove indulged in two special brands of real pride—her boy and her girl!
The ends of this story are winding out like the strings of a Maypole, and just like those pretty dancing streamers, do the story lines all swing from the pole of the Girl Scout activities.
The Flosston rally was held for the purpose of planning a broader program, and as told by Lieutenant Cosgrove, the arrangements there were made to afford the mill girls a chance to enjoy the meetings, and to participate generally in the regular membership. These plans had already thrown their influence over an entire chain of the big factories of Eastern Pennsylvania.
Most of the plants employed one or two women welfare workers in their ranks, following the campaign waged by progressive women in the interests of better conditions among women wage-earners. This qualification pertained to girls as well as adults.
So it was that young Molly Cosgrove, an assistant welfare worker, would be allowed to go from one mill to another in carrying out the new movement of Girl Scouts for mill workers between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two years. No girl under sixteen was supposed to be at work in mills, and if any such was found she must have been listed at the required minimum, sixteen.
The sensational news of two girls having run away from the Fluffdown mills was now quickly making its way through Flosston and near-by communities. The Wartliz family had done its part in spreading the scandal, while the Brodix people said little, wagged their heads and grieved sincerely, for their Dagmar was a cherished daughter, and her loss had sadly strained the humble home circle.
The fact that Miss Cosgrove had arrived at Fluffdown and talked with Mrs. Brodix was known only to those workers directly at that particular bench, and they quickly surmised the welfare worker was making inquiries about Dagmar.
Instead, she had brought to the alarmed mother the news of her daughter's safety and secretly a plan had been made, whereby this little black-eyed woman would soon come out to Franklin on an evening, to see Dagmar, now known as Rose, and so make sure that the kind offices of the new found friends would be thoroughly understood, and likewise agreed to by Mrs. Brodix.
Not even the talkative Kate Jordan, who worked next to Mrs. Brodix and kept her eyes and ears attentive during Molly Cosgrove's visit to the afflicted mill hand, guessed any of this, while the escape of Tessie Wartliz, from the very grasp of Officer Cosgrove, remained a secret with those who directly encountered the business end of that experience.
Meanwhile the girls of True Tred were radiant with the prospect of their work—that of assisting the mill girls and actually taking part in real Americanization. To the younger girls, especially Cleo, Grace and Madaline, the plan opened a field of exciting adventure, for they had never been allowed to visit the mills, and were not encouraged to make acquaintance among the workers.
"Now," said Cleo, when the three Tenderfoots got together after school was dismissed, "we will have as much real fun with live girls as we have ever seen played out in the pictures. Some mill girls do the queerest things, talk so funny, you can scarcely understand them, and they act—well, just like a play. Florence Hayden says so, she helped with their Christmas Sunday School entertainment last year."
"Oh, well," demurred Madaline more kindly, "they never went to our schools. Some of them went to the Town Hall night school, but they only met their friends there and never got a chance to learn our ways."
"You're a real good little home missionary, Madie," commented Grace, "and I'll vote for you when the mill committees are made up, only," and she puckered her pretty mouth into a rosette intended to express deep scorn, "of course we're too young, and we are only in the Tenderfoot Class."
"I suppose Margaret will be picked," said Cleo, "she is fifteen and first class and has had a merit badge."
"But she lost it," Grace reminded the trio.
"And is going to get another from headquarters, Captain Clark said so."
"Well, she deserves it, I'm sure," protested Cleo.
"Oh, of course she does, but I would, too, if my plan worked out the other day," went on Grace.
"What plan?" demanded Cleo, while Madaline pulled a long, serious face.
"Oh, I wanted to do something noble and I tried to, but it did not just work out," faltered Grace, "but—I—am going—to try it again!" and her eyes blazed defiance at Madaline.
"You just do, Grace Philow, and I'll—"
"Who cares!" interrupted the unconquerable Grace, while Cleo looked a whole volume of inquiries.
The McKay twins were romping over from a near-by playhouse, a little tepee made of cast off "shutters" the janitor had put outside after wrenching them from hinges, and the girls had promptly availed themselves of the material for a most attractive playhouse.
"Hello! hello!" called both. "Who wants a ride home? Mother is sending the big car."
"Oh, we all do, of course," spoke Cleo, the first to mingle words with her delight. "Who wouldn't love a ride in that big, spiffy limousine!"
"Well, thank you just the same, but I don't, just today," Grace surprised them with answering. "I have an appointment with Brother Benny."
"Oh!" said Winnie McKay significantly.
"I see!" drawled her sister Norma.
"Suit yourself," deprecated Cleo.
"If you can't, you can't," philosophized Madaline.
"That's exactly it," amplified Grace. "I can't, so I can't. Thank you, Winnie and Norma, for the lovely invitation, and please let me put it down to my credit account? I would like a refund," and she laughed her irresistible explosive outburst, in which the whole party joined, whether willingly or from acute inflection.
A few moments later the party, all but Grace, climbed into the lovely, softly lined car, and when Winnie told the chauffeur to drive to the post-office first, Cleo was delighted to find she had a postal card to drop in the box. That would give every one around the Green a chance to see the style of the McKay twins and their school chums.
And while the big car rolled smoothly over Oakley Avenue, Grace and Bennie were hurrying about—over a woodland road too rough and too narrow for other traffic than just nimble, willing feet.
"You're crazy!" declared Benny, halting at the prospect of the long winding path Grace led him to, and insisted was the "right way."
"That's what the girls say," answered the sister, "but really, Benny, I am not at all. Just as sane as—Libby Lintot, and you know every one says she is as crazy as a loon. But all the same if we follow this path we will come to my tree, and maybe we will find a lovely dead tramp all buried in the spring pine needles, tied up by Grace Philow Tenderfoot!"
"Grace Philow lunatic!" answered the brother. "Nice thing to make a fellow miss a whole afternoon on marbles, just to hunt a tied-up tramp!"
"Would you rather hunt tigers'?" asked Grace, running along like a wild squirrel, jumping over rocks and springing across the perpetual little streams and brooklets.
"Sure I would, wouldn't you? What's an old tramp?" sneered Bennie.
"Wait till you see him," promised Grace, "he's lovely. That is I think he is. I didn't exactly see his face, I was so busy tieing him up," explained the sister.
Benny, two years younger than Grace, went forth on the man hunt, armed with his pop gun and water pistol. It was actually two days after the eventful experience of Grace and Madaline in River Bend Wood, when the latter had made such a desperate attempt to rescue the alleged "Mrs. Johnston's wash," but though many hours had passed, Grace was still haunted with the awful possibilities of her beloved tramp dying there, all tied up with clove hitches and running bowlines, while the birds scattered spring blossoms over his handsome face. True, she had hoped today, on this second expedition, to recover the lost wash, but to get to that big tree, and relieve the gnawing anxiety, was her first determination; dead or alive she must have a look at the tramp! Nothing could be worse than this awful uncertainty!
"That's the grove over there! See the big straight tree! That's my tree!" she exclaimed, dragging along the erstwhile brave Benny, who just now showed an inclination to come to a full stop. "Come on, Benny, hold on to me. I'll peek first, from the other big tree back of the ivy stump. Then we can see without being seen."
Like a pair of chipmunks they hopped from tree to tree, being careful to keep well in the shadow of one before risking a new position behind another.
"Just like shadow tag," Benny made chance to whisper. "Gee, Sis, this is some little scouting."
"Better than your Boy Scouts' games, isn't it, Benny?" Grace apologized, for indeed it was no easy matter to inveigle the big boy into a little girl's sport. Benny felt much bigger, and decidedly more mature than Grace—that is, he felt that way.
"Oh, Ben, see!" exclaimed the sister. "There's something flying- over—maybe over a grave!"
"Swell chance he had to—make—his own grave!" in contemptuous tones from Benny.
"Well—it is a red flag, flying over something!" Grace whispered emphatically.
Benny sprang out from his tree and with one hand on the automatic- loaded water pistol, and the other on the lead-loaded pop gun, he confronted the hypothetical grave!
"Come on out, Sis," he invited the frightened Grace. "It isn't no grave. It's just a red handkerchief on a stick."
Glancing furtively in the direction of the road, which ran parallel with the river path, and near enough to it to carry a voice from the woods to the road should emergency demand outcry, Grace stepped very gingerly out from her hiding into the open space in front of the famous "inhabited" tree.
Yes, there was the red flag! "Wasn't that a signal for war? The flag was a red handkerchief, and it swayed from a stick cut from a variegated birch.
"Oh!" sighed Grace, relief and excitement finding an outlet in that short syllable.
"Look at the signal!" called Benny, now going straight up boldly to the flag of fury. "See, it's a wig-wag, pointing to that big rock. Let's look!" and be followed the pointing stick which, tied to the top of the improvised flagpole plainly meant—due west—to any one who understood the scout wig-wag code. "Here!" shouted Benny, now casting caution to the light winds of murmuring pines. "Here's more trail. See? It's our secret code of turned over sliver leaves, and it leads to—let's see." Benny was visibly excited and Grace was almost pulling him down from the rock in her eagerness to follow the signs. He turned over a rock which showed loose soil, and dried leaves clinging to its jagged sides. "Here it is, Grace! Sure enough! Here is a letter from your dead tramp. Maybe he died right after he wrote it," and even the small boy found humor in the queer uncanny situation.
"Take it out by the roadway," suggested Grace, to whom the woods were now a little treacherous. She glared at as many trees as two brown eyes could embrace. "We can read it out under the big maple. Come on, Benny," she begged, dragging him forth again away from all the woodland mysteries.
CLUE TO THE MISSING
So many and such exciting sequels are divulged through helpless little letters! How innocently the page of paper carries the silent words, yet how powerful is the influence to cheer or sadden!
Grace had read her mystic letter, but beyond confiding in Benny, whose word of honor in secrecy she had exacted, not one single syllable of that note was to be divulged to any one.
She had hopes that something really wonderful would develop from her remarkable experience, and while she would have liked to tell Madaline and Cleo, she feared antagonistic opinions, and, as it was entirely her own personal secret, and not a matter of girl scout business, or even chums' interest, it seemed decidedly better to keep her own precious counsel.
"I'll tell them all when it happens!" she assured herself, by no means being certain just what she hoped "would happen."
So the mystic letter was tucked away in the tiny, pink silk vanity bag, which Cleo had given Grace the Christmas before, and in the days following only her starry eyes threatened to betray the interesting fact, that the little Tenderfoot harbored a dark, delicious secret.
Meanwhile Rose had taken her place in the Franklin mill and was being cared for by the benevolent Mrs. Cosgrove as a member of her family.
"It was really providential," Molly told her mother one day at lunch, after having seen for the second time the parents of Dagmar Brodix, "for the family had to leave Pennsylvania, and it would have been very hard for them to take Rose along. It seems Mr. Brodix would not join the union, and both he and his wife had to be discharged to appease the labor men. Rose, too, would have been ordered out, as the whole family come under the ban imposed on the father."
"Poor folks!" deplored Mrs. Cosgrove. "Those unions won't let anybody think for themselves! Where are they going?"
"Away down east to a big silk mill," replied the daughter. "Mr. Brodix knew the superintendent in his own country, and got in the shop without a union card. But it is much better for Rose to stay with us until they get settled at least."
"I took such a fancy to that child the moment I set eyes on her!" Mrs. Cosgrove explained to Molly.
"You always do, Mumsey!" laughed the daughter, "but I entirely agree with you this time. Where is Rose now?"
"Just gone to the post-office. She came in at twelve and finished her dinner in time for a bit of fresh air before going back. How is she getting on in her work?"
"First rate, the forelady reports. Rose is naturally quiet, and as you predict, Mother, it is very important for her to be among new companions. A girl's pretty face is not always a help to her best interests."
"Exactly, Molly. Everybody seems to pick on a pretty girl, while they leave the homely ones to tend their own business. But your dad is much worried about that other damsel who got away. There is no trace of her at all."
"Yes, she made a clear escape. I heard one of the mill detectives making some inquiries. He did not have to question Rose. I gave him our end of it. I am afraid that other girl has gotten herself into more trouble. The detective did not say so outright, but I judged so from his line of questions."
"Your father said as much, but like the detective, our own 'cop' isn't giving us all the information he holds. I'm glad the mill officials see the value of the girl scout movement. It's the only fair way to reach the girls without forcing them. Let them take a hand in their own interest—I always say."
"The mill men see the wisdom of that. I would not have been engaged as a welfare worker if I had not been a scout lieutenant. Well, I must run along. We have a meeting in Flosston tonight, and I am going to take Rose with me."
"I would. The girls of the troop have never met her to know her, and, at any rate, their training will check any possible criticism. Good-bye, girl. Better take your umbrella. We will have rain before sunset," and with this word mother and daughter separated for their respective afternoon tasks.
Meanwhile Rose had called at the post-office. Her anxiety concerning the wayward Tessie constituted the one flaw in her otherwise happy new days. That she could not at once be with her parents was clear and reasonable to the girl, reared in hardship, and accustomed to many personal sacrifices, but that an incriminating letter would surely one day come from Tessie kept her nervously anxious.
Rose had contrived to visit the post-office daily, hoping when the dreaded, yet longed-for, letter would come, she might receive it personally and thus avert possible complications with the Cosgrove family, who had official reasons for wishing to locate the runaway girl.
With that keenness peculiar to foreigners when a matter vitally concerns them, the Brodix people had readily adopted the more useful name Dixon for their daughter, and today, when Rose inquired for mail, a much-soiled letter addressed to "Rose Dixon, care of Mrs. James Cosgrove," was handed out.
Not risking the publicity of opening the envelope until she was well out of sight of observers, Rose hurried along, and turned an unnecessary corner to seclude herself in a particularly quiet street, there to open and read the letter. Somehow she felt it would contain news of Tessie, and her premonition was correct.
"From mother!" she breathed affectionately, as the much handled little sheet of note paper, with its queer foreign script, lay in her hand. Then she noticed an inclosure. Yes! There was the note from Tessie!
So anxious was Rose to know where Tessie was, she glimpsed through the little note without actually reading one word of it. She was just looking for a clue as to the girl's whereabouts, but to her disappointment none was given! Not one word showed the capital letter at its face, that would have marked the name of any place! Tessie wrote English well enough to make herself understood, and the brief note was almost explosive in its choice of strong phrases. The "quarter whistle" blew, announcing to Rose the fact that fifteen minutes of the precious noon hour still remained, and as ten would be ample time for her to reach the mill, in the five extra minutes she might read her letters.
Stopping at a little stone wall, which surrounded one of the oldest houses in Franklin, Rose read first the note from Tessie. As she expected, the "news" was more a compilation of strong slang than an attempt to impart any real information, and although but a short time removed from the acute influence of "chewing-gum English," Rose had already developed a dislike for the more vulgar of such forms of utterance. She read:
"Hello, kid! Where are you? Did you break loose from Grandpa? I had some beatin' to do, but I done it and made a get-a-way good 'nough for the movies. Don't ask me where I'm at, for it's a secret. But, say, Kid. Oh, you scout badge! It's a miracle worker— and better than real coin. I wouldn't give it up for a Liberty Bond. So long! can't tell you just now what my private post-office box is but will later. My folks are cross-eyed looking for me, but all they ever wanted was my pay-envelope, so I should worry about them. Give my love to yourself and if you're not out of jail yet for the love of molasses, don't be a simp! Get busy!" It was signed "T. W."
And that was all; so like Tessie. Rose sighed audibly, then read her mother's letter and while this was really interesting to the daughter it now seemed tame in comparison, and it really was the letter from Tessie that gave her blue eyes the preoccupied look all that afternoon.
So the lost and found scout badge was serving the runaway girl as a passport. Perhaps she was using it for unworthy purposes, and it was unlawful to wear a scout badge without authority. The offence was punishable by law. Rose thoroughly understood all this, but how could she reach Tessie to warn her! Even a dismissed scout must return her badge and buttons to the organization, and there was Tessie Wartliz forging her way on the strength of that special merit badge!
Such thoughts as these riveted the attention of Rose, when Molly Cosgrove, passing through the room, whispered she could go with the lieutenant to the Flosston meeting that night.
"All right. Thank you!" replied Rose to the invitation, but, somehow, she dreaded its acceptance.
A TRIBUTE OF ROSES
The little meeting room over the post-office in Flosston had served as headquarters for True Tred Troop—and tonight Margaret Slowden was to receive her new badge, to take the place of that much-prized little gilt wreath with its clover leaf center, her merit badge lost some weeks before.
"Hurry along!" called Grace, who was impatiently waiting for Cleo and Madaline, both of whom seemed to enjoy lagging while Grace wanted to be early rather than late. "Don't you know we have to take our tests and Captain Clark ordered us to be at headquarters at seven-fifteen sharp?"
"All right," responded Cleo, "but here come Mable Blake and Mildred Clark. We can all be together if you just wait half a second for us, Grace."
"I don't mind seconds, but I hate hours!" retorted Grace. "I don't want to be a moment late and give anyone a chance to think up hard questions for my tests."
"Oh, you needn't worry," Cleo assured her. "I know you can beat us all at knots."
That brought back to Grace her attempt to make a "clove-hitch" and a "running bowline carry out her noble deed" and she flashed a significant look at Madaline, who shared a part of her secret.
"Oh, yes, I know the knots," she replied. "But you just ought to see me try to light my fire in the open, with two matches! More like two boxes I guess."
"And my simple dish," contributed Mildred Clark, who now, with her companions, had joined the group, and all were merrily making their way to the meeting room. "I thought I would select the very simplest of the simple, and I took pork and beans."
"You did!" exclaimed a chorus.
"Yes, and it is a real wonder I am here. I thought I never would get out of that old hot kitchen. Martha told me I should have taken Irish stew but—"
"But you preferred the Boston Bake," interrupted Mable Blake.
"Of course Mildred wouldn't have anything to do with the Irish!" teased Madaline, who was well known to have "leanings" in that direction.
"Indeed, I will never scorn the Celts again!" sighed Mildred, "for I had to brown the pork and it burned. I had to soak the beans all night and they swelled up so I had to scoop them up on a dust pan next morning. I didn't use those, of course," as the girls' looks protested, "I had enough on the floor to plant a garden and I really did plant them. Then, the big pan full I baked, and it took all day. Did you ever know plain pork and beans constituted an exact science in the preparation for the table? Why didn't I try milk toast, and get finished in time for your ball game, girls? Don't you think I am a real hero of the simple dish-pork and beans?"
"We surely do, Millie, and I hope you get a perfect mark for all that work," spoke up Grace. "My real trouble came in making a bed. That sounds so easy, but our beds have lace covers, and no sooner would I get one end straight, than the other would be all draped up in little cascades. Don't you all just hate to make beds?"
"Oh, no, I love to do it," declared Mabel. "But just let me show you my flag. Doesn't it look like a crazy quilt design?" and from her scout manual she unfolded a page of paper, with the required American flag drawn and colored in crayons, and not really a poor illustration of her beloved Old Glory.
"Well, you have all had your troubles, but I think mine was by far the most complicated and exasperating," Cleo declared, coherent conversation being made quite possible by the double file in which the girls grouped themselves, as they walked along. "You should just see me take my measurements. Of course I forgot to follow instructions and 'see card at headquarters,' as the little blue book directs."
"My sakes!" exclaimed Grace. "Do we have to have our measurements tonight?"
"We must answer all test questions and that is one of them," replied Cleo. "But when I got my height by using a pencil over my head on a door-post, of course we all do that, I had a set of cords all knotted up at points to show waist, chest, arm, etc., and our pet kitten, Cadusolus, made a tackle for the whole bunch, and before I could recover them she had taken her own measures on my marked strings. I won't be sure of them now, for I had to finish them in a big hurry after that."
"I know the Mariner's Compass by heart," called in Mabel Blake from the rear line. "Brother Jack tested me, and he said I could sail an ocean liner with my knowledge," she insisted proudly.
"We have our tests first, don't we?" asked Grace.
"Yes, of course, that all happens outside in the private troop room, but I'll bet the other girls listen at the keyhole!" put in Mildred.
"And last time a lot of boys on the back fence could see in the window," Madaline reminded the anxious aspirants.
"Oh, there go all the other girls, let's hurry," urged Cleo, and when the candidates mounted the stairs over the post-office, they were but a small part of the noisy crowd that pounded its way on the narrow and rather uncertain steps.
All of the officers assisted in the examinations so that not more than a half hour was consumed in that detail, and when the girls filed into the drill room, their smiling faces announced the good news that all had passed.
Quickly at the given signal all the troops "fell in" and the regulation "horse shoe" was formed with Captain Clark and Lieutenant Lindsley in the gap, when the salute was given and the other formalities complied with and each candidate was conducted to the captain. After answering the captain's questions and saluting, each candidate received her staff, neckerchief and knot from the patrol leader, while the badge was pinned on the blouse of the solemn-faced girls by the captain herself.
All of this was conducted with a striking degree of seriousness, and as the exercises made Tenderfoots out of the newest candidates, our own little friends looked on, with united dignity, while they awaited their turn to receive degrees of the second and first class.
The tests for Tenderfoot were but simple, and consisted mainly of knots made and the knowledge of scout laws, with a few civic questions, so that the beginners shared no part of the anxiety experienced by Cleo, Grace and Madaline, and those of their higher grades. The distinction of advancement is the privilege of wearing the badge on the left sleeve, second class below the elbow and first class above on the same arm, so that ceremonial occupied but a brief space of time.
No conversation was permitted during the Investure, but the presence of Rose, who sat in a corner looking on with wondering eyes, had not been unobserved by the scouts. That she had come from Franklin with Lieutenant Cosgrove was sufficient credential for the privilege of being present during the ceremonial, but it was Grace who talked with her eyes to Cleo, directing her interpretative glances from the pretty little stranger, to the now duly installed second-class scout, her message being, "See that pretty strange girl over there?" and Cleo replying in turn with her glance, "Yes, isn't she pretty? Who is she?"