The Girl Scouts Series
THE GIRL SCOUTS IN BEECHWOOD FOREST
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BOOKS BY MARGARET VANDERCOOK
THE RANCH GIRLS SERIES The Ranch Girls at Rainbow Lodge The Ranch Girls' Pot of Gold The Ranch Girls at Boarding School The Ranch Girls in Europe The Ranch Girls at Home Again The Ranch Girls and their Great Adventure The Ranch Girls and their Heart's Desire The Ranch Girls and the Silver Arrow
THE RED CROSS SERIES The Red Cross Girls in the British Trenches The Red Cross Girls on the French Firing Line The Red Cross Girls in Belgium The Red Cross Girls with the Russian Army The Red Cross Girls with the Italian Army The Red Cross Girls under the Stars and Stripes The Red Cross Girls Afloat with the Flag The Red Cross Girls with Pershing to Victory The Red Cross Girls with the U. S. Marines The Red Cross Girls in the National Capital
STORIES ABOUT CAMP FIRE GIRLS The Camp Fire Girls at Sunrise Hill The Camp Fire Girls Amid the Snows The Camp Fire Girls in the Outside World The Camp Fire Girls across the Sea The Camp Fire Girls' Careers The Camp Fire Girls in After Years The Camp Fire Girls on the Edge of the Desert The Camp Fire Girls at the End of the Trail The Camp Fire Girls Behind the Lines The Camp Fire Girls on the Field of Honor The Camp Fire Girls in Glorious France The Camp Fire Girls in Merrie England The Camp Fire Girls at Half Moon Lake
THE GIRL SCOUTS SERIES The Girl Scouts of the Eagle's Wing The Girl Scouts in Beechwood Forest The Girl Scouts of the Round Table
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The Girl Scouts Series
THE GIRL SCOUTS IN BEECHWOOD FOREST
Author of "The Ranch Girls Series," "The Red Cross Girls Series," "Stories About Camp Fire Girls," etc.
The John C. Winston Company Publishers Philadelphia
Copyright, 1921, by The John C. Winston Company Made in U. S. A.
CHAPTER PAGE I. Flame 7 II. Looking Backward 19 III. Their Camp 29 IV. Right About, Face 37 V. A Discussion 47 VI. "The Choros" 62 VII. Other Girls 72 VIII. Light and Shade 85 IX. The Odyssey 97 X. Consultations and Decisions 108 XI. Out of the Past 125 XII. Retrospection 135 XIII. A Portrait 142 XIV. Disagreements 149 XV. The Choice 159 XVI. The Greek Spirit 169 XVII. A Classic Revival 176 XVIII. The Passing 191 XIX. Letters 204 XX. Looking Forward 211 XXI. Kara's Departure 215
The flame ascended, ending in a little spiral of smoke curling upward in the night air.
Overhead the stars shone, the pine trees formed dark shadows.
Within the radius of the firelight a girl leaned forward, her eyes fastened upon a drawing she held in her lap. One could see only vague outlines. The light danced over the figure of the girl, her bright, reddish-gold hair, cut short and held in place with an amber comb, her slender shoulders, the unconsciously graceful poise of her body.
She turned to glance anxiously at another figure lying outstretched upon the ground only a few feet away.
This girl appeared to be sleeping. Her eyes were closed and she was breathing fitfully.
Suddenly she opened her eyes and smiled.
"Tory Drew, aren't you ever going to sleep?" she demanded. "Is it your intention to sit up all night and keep guard over me? I told you that I was not suffering in the least. My fall seems not to have injured me, only for some strange reason has made it difficult for me to walk. We have been longing to spend a night out of doors alone ever since we arrived at our camp in Beechwood Forest. This is an unexpected opportunity, yet you do not look grateful. Small wonder if you are never going to sleep! What time do you think it is?"
Victoria Drew leaned closer toward the fire and looked at her wrist watch.
"It is half-past twelve o'clock, Kara. The witching hour over and I have seen no woodland spirits come to haunt us, and no human beings. I am afraid my signals have failed to attract attention. The other girls at camp must have decided to give us up for lost and await our return in the morning; I am sorry for your sake. Are you sure you are not uncomfortable?"
Tory arose and bent over her companion, not so convinced that the entire absence from pain, which Kara insisted upon, was absolute proof that she was not seriously hurt.
In the firelight the other girl's face appeared white and unreal. To any one so impressionable as Tory the past few hours bore a semblance of unreality.
Early in the morning of the previous day she and Katherine Moore had set out from their camp in Beechwood Forest to spend the day alone among the hills. For some time they had been planning this excursion when the duties and amusements of camp life made a break possible. How differently from their plan and expectation this day had gone!
As Kara was beginning to fall asleep again Tory need no longer conceal her anxiety.
By the fire, now freshly piled with pine cones and branches, she sat down and propping her chin in her hands, gazed deep into the burning embers.
The night was very still, save for a light wind in the tree tops.
On the ground beside her, with a stone keeping them from blowing away, lay the result of her day's work. She had sketched all morning while Kara wandered about or else rested and read.
Before daylight they had wakened in their Girl Scout Camp in Beechwood Forest. By dawn, with their luncheon packed and her sketching outfit, they had set out to explore the heart of the hills, a purple rim bordering the far side of their own camping site.
During the previous winter in the small Connecticut village Tory faithfully had fulfilled her promise to her artist father. She had made no attempt to go on with her drawing and painting, devoting all her time and energy to her school, her new home and her Girl Scout Troop.
With summer had come the release from her promise.
These days of camping in the woods with the other Girl Scouts recalled the enchanting months outdoors she had spent with her father. Every green tree outlined against the summer sky, their canoes on the lake before the camping grounds, the Girl Scouts at work or at play, all were pictures Tory longed to transfer to line and color.
Until to-day the business of getting settled at their summer camp had left scant opportunity for artistic effort outside the camping arrangements.
Tory picked up the pile of sketches on the ground beside her. She studied each one carefully and then tossed it into the fire.
Her present work was valueless; she had become so hopelessly out of practice.
Finally her eyes rested on a single sheet of drawing paper. On the instant her expression altered. This sketch was not without worth. She had drawn it with pastels and in the light from the camp fire. The lines were crude and the colors too vivid, but it showed the figure of a girl lying on the ground, her eyelids closed, her figure expressing a curious quiet.
The lower part of the body was covered.
At present Tory Drew was without the khaki coat which she had worn earlier in the day. Beside the figure the smoke and flame of the camp fire formed light and shadow.
"At least this will serve for our camp log! The other girls can see how Kara looked during this interminable night. She will be able to write the account of her fall. I remember that I was diligently at work upon an impossible drawing of a line of hills when I heard the noise of a landslide. There was a sound of earth and rocks being torn from their foundation and tumbling and sliding down an embankment. I scarcely looked up. Kara had disappeared for a walk, so there was no one to whom I might mention the fact. Certainly I had no thought of associating the noise with her."
Again Tory arose. This time she moved farther from the fire, walking restlessly up and down toward the clearing which opened into a dark forest of evergreens.
The night was a mild summer night. There was in the atmosphere the coolness of the wooded places surrounding them.
Her fire signals had not been observed on either side of the hill. Tory's impression was that their camp of "The Eagle's Wing" lay to the west of the hill, although by no means immediately below it. On the eastern slope and nearer by was the Boy Scout camp. This camp the girls of her own Troop had been deliberately ignoring.
At present Tory realized that she would gladly accept aid from either or any direction.
Had Kara been well and awake, or if they had been able to dream beside one another, the long night would have proved a delightful experience.
From the depth of the woods an owl was crying. Tory repressed a slight shudder, controlling her nerves by an effort. The sound recalled the vague moaning that first aroused her to any knowledge of Kara's accident. Once more she could see Kara lying at the bottom of a tiny precipice. Her face was covered with rocks and earth, but there was no sign that she had fallen any distance or been seriously hurt.
Now in retrospection Tory could see Kara smiling up at her in the old humorous fashion. She could hear her voice with the gentle drawl that had attracted her so strongly at their original meeting.
"Most extraordinary thing, Tory darling. I slid off that small embankment a short time ago, bringing most of it along with me. I was considerably bumped and I presume bruised, but not hurt. However, I decided to lie still here for a while until I recovered my nerves and disposition. Then I tried to climb back to you for consolation and found that my legs would crumple under me in the most absurd fashion. So I fell to making disagreeable noises so you would come and find me. What are we going to do, Tory? I can't walk and I weigh too much for you to carry."
Yet she must have carried her, or else Kara must have been able to walk a little! Somehow they had managed to reach this clearing nearer the summit of the hill. Here a fire signal could be more plainly observed.
Six hours had passed. Not for five minutes had Tory allowed the fire signal to die down. No one had replied either by another signal or by coming to their rescue.
Fortunately Kara slept the greater part of the time. Now that the night was fully advanced she would be more comfortable where she was than carried down the mountainside, where there was no well defined path. One had to seek the easiest way between the trees.
For her own part Tory concluded that she might as well attempt to sleep for as long as her fire could be trusted to continue burning.
The pine wood was filled with brush and the night so bright she could find without difficulty what she was seeking.
Returning, Tory smothered over the fire so that it might burn for some time without replenishing. She then lay down beside Kara.
Toward morning she must have dreamed. She woke with the impression that a number of years had passed, or what seemed a long passage of time, and in the interval she and Kara had been searching the world over for each other and unable to meet.
Glad she was to reach over and touch her companion, who scarcely had stirred.
Already the sky was streaked with light, palest rose and blue.
Strengthened and refreshed, Tory set to work again. The summer morning was exquisite, the odor of the pine trees never so fragrant, nor the air so delicious.
Failing in her signals for help the evening before, she now determined to make a more strenuous effort. Intending to return to camp before dusk, she and Kara had neglected to bring a flashlight or a lantern which might have proved more effective.
With the coming of darkness she had not relied on solid columns of black smoke being seen at any distance. Now on a farther ridge of the hill she arranged two such smoke columns, remembering that two steady smokes side by side mean "I am lost, come and help me."
If she failed a second time, she determined to go down the hill until she was able to secure aid. But this meant leaving Kara alone, which even for a short time she did not wish to do.
The waiting was the difficult task. To her own embarrassment Tory realized that she was thinking more of her own hunger than of Kara's need as the minutes wore on and no one arrived. Fortunately she had saved a small quantity of coffee in their thermos bottle the day before. This must be for Kara when she finally awakened.
There was nothing to occupy one save to rise now and then and stir the hot ashes to a fresh blaze, covering them afterwards with the green wood of the small beeches that straggled up the hill away from the shadow of the pines.
The noise of footsteps up the mountainside actually failed to arouse Tory until they were not far away.
She first heard an exclamation from Kara. She had not been so sound asleep for the past hour as she had preferred to pretend.
Kara sat up, her arms outstretched as if she were a child begging to be lifted up.
Tory started toward her. She then turned and ran forward with a cry of relief. Had Fate allowed her to choose her own and Kara's rescuers she would have selected the two figures now appearing at the brow of the east side of the hill. They wore the uniforms of Boy Scouts and were the brothers of one of the girls in her own Patrol. They were also her own intimate friends.
"Don, Lance!" Tory exclaimed, a little breathless and incoherent. "How in the world did you find this impossible place? Kara and I have been fearing we might have to stay here always!"
Don held out his hand and caught Tory's, giving it a reassuring pressure. He was a big, blue-eyed fellow with fair hair and a splendid physique.
In contrast Victoria Drew appeared small and fragile and incapable.
Lance McClain was entirely unlike his brother in appearance. He was dark and small. He went directly to the girl who seemed most to require his help.
As she struggled to rise at his approach and was not able, Lance knelt down on the grass beside her, while Kara explained what had occurred.
Never, Tory Drew decided, would she forget the aspect of their own camp in Beechwood Forest, when an hour or more later she, in the lead, caught the first glimpse of it. It was as if one had struggled through one of the circles of Purgatory to reach Paradise at last.
Actually a few lines from Dante that her father had recited many times returned to Tory's memory:
"My senses down, when the true path I left; But when a mountain foot I reached, where closed The valley that had pierced my heart with dread, I looked aloft and saw his shoulders broad Already vested with that planet's beam, Who leads all wanderers safe through every way."
The way had been difficult with Kara helpless.
With their arms forming a kind of basket chair and Kara's arms about their necks, Donald and Lance had moved slowly down the hillside.
Once Tory became aware that Lance looked almost as ill and exhausted as Kara herself.
Don's color continued as ruddy, his eyes as blue and serene and his expression as steadfast as the moment when they had set out on the descent of the hill. To call attention to the fact that Lance was less able to endure the fatigue, Tory knew from past experience would anger him.
Curious that no one in their own camp appeared to have been alarmed by their night's absence!
The morning bugle must have sounded more than an hour before. The early drill was over.
By the open fire Tory now beheld Dorothy McClain and Louise Miller preparing breakfast.
Placing her hands to her lips she uttered their Scout signal call.
A few minutes later Donald and Lance McClain were standing in the open space before the Girl Scout camp. They were facing a number of the girls and their Scout Captain, Sheila Mason, as well.
Slightly in the background and yet within hearing, Victoria Drew waited.
Kara was lying on the cot inside her own tent. Tory's friends had suggested that she follow Kara's example and allow breakfast to be brought to her. Surely she looked weary enough after a night of such anxiety!
Tory had her own reasons for declining. Now as she overheard the beginning of the conversation she was glad of her own decision.
"We are sorry to have intruded upon you even for a short time, Miss Mason," Donald McClain protested. "We know that you have asked that no member of our Scout camp come within your boundaries this summer. Of course you appreciate that the present circumstances left Lance and me no choice. Last night Lance insisted that he saw the light from a fire on one of the hills which he believed was a signal for help. The rest of us talked him out of the idea. The fire was plain enough, but we were under the impression that some one was spending the night on the hill-top and had kindled the fire either for cooking or companionship. Lance is an obstinate chap and was not altogether convinced. He arose at dawn and discovered the two smoke columns. He wakened no one but me. We set out and were lucky enough to find Tory and Kara without much trouble. We must say good-by to you at once. The other fellows will not know what has become of us, as we can't reach our own camp for another two hours."
Impulsively Tory Drew made a little forward movement. She then observed Lance's eyes fastened upon her with the half-humorous, half-quizzical expression she frequently found annoying. What was there in the present moment to amuse him, save her own intention to come immediately to Donald's defense? He so rarely made a speech to any stranger so long as this one to the Girl Scout Troop Captain. When the four of them were together, she and Dorothy McClain, Lance and Don, Lance often accused her of talking for Don.
At this instant, however, Sheila Mason extended her hand toward Donald with a friendly gesture.
"We have been anxious for the opportunity to explain to you and Lance that in asking the Boy Scouts not to pay visits to our camp this summer, we did not intend to include you. We have talked of this to your sister, but Dorothy has had no opportunity, she tells me, to speak of it to you. We realize you could not have taken part in the rude behavior of the other boys the night following our making camp here at the border of the forest."
Sheila Mason, the Troop Captain of the Girl Scouts of the Eagle's Wing, was only about ten years older than the youngest member of her Troop.
In the early morning sunlight she looked charming in her brown khaki skirt and white blouse. Her long, light hair was braided close about her small head, her fair skin tanned by the outdoor life of the past few weeks, and color brighter than at any time in her life.
It was now midsummer, with days of unusual heat and nights of enchanting coolness.
There was no trace of severity in the Troop Captain's manner or appearance, but Donald McClain flushed uncomfortably and closed his lips into the obstinate lines Tory so well recognized.
She wished Dorothy for a moment would be less faithful to her task of preparing breakfast. Mingling with the other outdoor fragrances, the odor of the coffee gave Tory a sensation of momentary faintness from sheer hunger.
Don had squared his shoulders. Not sixteen, he was nearly six feet in height and splendidly built.
"You are mistaken, Miss Mason. I was with the other Boy Scouts the night we came over to your camp. We meant to frighten you a little and to find out a few of the mistakes you were pretty sure to make on your first camping venture, nothing worse! We had no idea you'd take a little teasing so seriously. Some of us may not have behaved as well as we should, but nothing for the girls to have made a tragedy over."
Donald was not intending to offend the Girl Scout Captain more deeply, but tact was not his strong point.
Why did Lance fail to come to his brother's rescue? Tory flashed an indignant glance at him. He possessed, when he wished, the gift of expression his brother lacked. Lance's occasional moods of silence were due either to disappointment or anger.
Arriving a stranger in Westhaven the winter before, among Victoria Drew's first acquaintances were Dorothy McClain and her six brothers. Their father was the leading physician in Westhaven and an old friend of her aunt and uncle. They were neighbors as well.
In the beginning Tory had believed she preferred Lance to any of the other boys. He was Dorothy's favorite among her brothers, a delicate, musical chap, partly admired and partly scorned by the five who were stronger and more matter of fact.
Lance's passion for music, of which he knew but little, his desire to be left alone, his failure in most athletic sports, the rest of his family found annoying and amusing.
Lance McClain alone was like his mother who had died some years before, the others like Dr. McClain.
"Lance, why in the world don't you help Don out? You know he will only make things worse if left to himself." Tory whispered at this moment.
"Want to save Don at my expense? All right, Tory," he answered quizzically in the voice and manner Tory never really understood.
Lance moved forward and now stood close beside Miss Mason.
His golden-brown eyes and his sensitive mouth relieved his face from plainness, although he was considered the least good looking member of his family.
At present he was smiling in a charming fashion.
"See here, Miss Mason," he began speaking slowly, "I don't suppose you can imagine what a difficult thing it is to have a brother who is always putting you in the wrong? Oh, not intentionally, but by everlastingly doing the right thing and then trying to take the blame for your mistakes!
"Don did not want us to come to your camp and make a scene. He is our Patrol leader and we should have done what he advised. Only we wouldn't and didn't! He came along at last more to keep the rest of us out of mischief than because he wanted to be in it."
Lance drew his brows together so they became a fine line.
"Wonder if I've got to make a clean breast of the whole business? Don is everlastingly forcing me to play up to him when I would not otherwise. The suggestion that we hike over to the girls' camp and see what was going on originated with me. Don and I had been telling Dorothy you would never get things in shape over here without help from us, or men in the village. Your Girl Scout Troop has been claiming that you could accomplish all the things we do and a few other things beside. We did not believe you and wished to see for ourselves. I was sorry and mad as Don when some of the fellows went too far. We had a call-down from our Captain and have been looking for a chance to apologize. Do try and forget it, won't you? If your Girl Scouts will swoop down on us unexpectedly and be double the nuisance that we were, we are willing to call it square."
Sheila Mason laughed. Margaret Hale, the Patrol leader and one of Victoria Drew's intimate friends, who had joined the group during Lance's speech, shook her head. She was a tall, serious looking girl with clear-cut features and a graceful manner.
"Lance, I don't believe a Boy Scout Troop is supposed to employ a lawyer. You strike me as a special pleader. You had better go in for the law instead of music. We are not so cranky that we would have objected to an ordinary descent upon us, even with the idea of showing us what inferior creatures we are. But when it comes to trying to frighten us, and some of the more timid girls were frightened, you behaved as if you were wild Indians."
Lance held up a white handkerchief.
"This is a token of complete surrender. We ask the courtesy due the defeated, Miss Mason. Please don't allow Margaret to rake up the past. Don and I must be off now to camp. Sorry you won't give us a message of forgiveness to carry back. May we speak to Dorothy? Evidently she is more interested in her breakfast than in her brothers."
"Nonsense, Lance, you and Don must have breakfast with us before you leave," Miss Mason answered. "I cannot bury the hatchet, Indian fashion, because the Girl Scouts must decide themselves whether or not you are forgiven."
Approaching in their direction at this moment, her face flushed and holding a long toasting fork in one hand, was Dorothy McClain.
She was only a year and a few months younger than her two brothers and looked very like Don, save that her hair was chestnut and her eyes a darker blue.
"Don, Lance, how glad I am you had the good luck to come to Tory's and Kara's aid! I have made a double amount of toast and there are six more eggs added to our usual supply for breakfast. I thought you would appreciate this sisterly attention more than rushing to greet you at once. I saw you were not lonely."
"Good to see you, Dot. You are looking in great shape, only we must be off at once," Donald answered, still appearing uncomfortable and obstinate.
Between Dorothy and Tory Drew a signal was flashed of which no one of the small group save Lance McClain was aware.
"Please stay, Don," Tory begged, moving forward and standing beside him. She scarcely came up to his shoulder. "Edith Linder has gone to Miss Frean's cottage to ask her to come to Kara at once. She is to try to telephone for your father. If not, one of us must ride in to town for him. But perhaps he might want you to be here when he arrives in case there is anything to be done, if Kara has to be lifted. Oh, I don't know anything, except that I am dreadfully worried over her."
"Oh, of course if there is any chance Lance or I can be of further use we'll be glad to stay. You ought to go to bed, Tory, and not wait for father."
Tory shook her head. Her face was whiter than usual from anxiety and fatigue, yet Donald McClain liked her appearance.
His brothers and other people might insist there were several girls in the Girl Scout Troop of the Eagle's Wing far prettier than Victoria Drew—Teresa Peterson, with her half Italian beauty, his own sister, Dorothy, Joan Peters, with her regular features and patrician air. Don knew that Tory possessed a charm and vividness, a quickness of thought and a grace of movement more attractive to him than ordinary beauty.
Forgetting their companions, they walked off together, leaving the others to follow.
"If you only knew how I have been longing to show you our camp in Beechwood Forest, Don! Please say you think it is wonderful," Tory pleaded.
They were seated along the edge of the lake, six girls and their two visitors. The water was a still, dim blue reflection of the sky with one deep shadow from the hill of pines. Away from the hill and the lake stood the forest of beechwood trees.
In an open space on a little rise of ground half within, half without the forest, lay the summer camp of the Girl Scouts of the Eagle's Wing.
A little brown house built of logs was almost entirely covered with vines, a tangle of woodbine and honeysuckle and wistaria. Only from the windows and the door had the vines been cut away. The house looked extremely ancient, older than the slender beeches that formed a semicircle to the rear and left. Beyond the door, thick with deep green shade on this midsummer morning, towered a single giant beech which appeared to have moved out a few yards from its forest shelter to act as a sentinel for the log cabin.
The cabin had been erected so many years before that no one in the vicinity remembered its origin. Finding the location an ideal one for their camp, the little house had been restored, the chimney to the single fireplace made over, the glass added to the window frames, open spaces between the logs replastered.
The log house formed the center of the camp.
On each side at irregular distances were three tents, one row advancing from the forest, the other receding into it.
To-day there was an unusual stillness about the camp itself at an hour of the morning ordinarily a busy and active one.
Now and then some one appeared, hastily accomplished whatever the task and vanished.
Even the little group on the shore of the lake continued unusually quiet. When any one did speak it was with a lowered voice.
Five of the six girls were occupied. Only Tory Drew's hands were idle. They moved frequently with unconscious gestures characteristic of her temperament and the fact that she had lived a number of years in the Latin countries where the hands are used to communicate one's meaning as well as speech.
She made a sweeping movement of her hand at this instant, appearing to include the lake, forest, hillside and the small group of tents about the evergreen cabin.
"You have not yet said, Don, that you consider our camp superior to yours, when I am perfectly convinced that it is, without having laid eyes on yours. Lance has given me the impression that he agrees with me. He has not exactly said so in any words I can recall, but he can be tactful when he likes. You are always so tiresomely silent, Don, whether you think a thing true or not true. I always know when you are most silent your opinion is the strongest one way or the other."
Don was silent. Yet he knew the group of girls were awaiting his reply with almost as great interest as Tory.
Finally he smiled in a handsome, good-humored fashion.
"Don't see why you should object to my not talking a great deal, Tory, when it gives you and Dorothy and Lance more opportunity."
He turned around, however, studying the little camp in the shadow of the old forest with careful scrutiny. Donald McClain did not think quickly nor could he express his point of view until he had given a subject serious consideration.
"I don't see any comparison between your Girl Scout camp and our own, Tory," he returned at length. "The two camps are not in the least alike. In the first place, you tell me that you have only fourteen Girl Scouts and we have nearly forty boys. Of course things look neater and more picturesque here, with girls one expects this. Our problem is different. I have an idea we have more discipline and do more hard work."
Tory Drew looked annoyed.
Dorothy McClain took up the defense.
"I am not so sure of the work and the discipline, Don. We do everything at our camp, the cooking, washing and cleaning. We have been pretending that we were members of Penelope's household. If you have never read the 'Odyssey' you won't know what I am talking about. Joan Peters we sometimes call Penelope. She is everlastingly at her weaving, but does not unravel her web at night that she has woven in the daytime. She is not troubled by Penelope's importunate suitors. Tory at present is the Princess Nausicaa, the daughter of the King Alcinous, who conducts the family washing as a part of her work. I won't bore you with all our distinguished titles.
"As for discipline! I don't mean to be rude and I am glad you did not wish your Troop of Scouts to descend upon us like a band of Indians on a group of pioneer women. Still, I would scarcely be proud of such discipline."
"See here, Dorothy, what is the use? You know you are reflecting upon me, not upon old Don. But with my well-known amiability I forgive you. Whose idea was it that you pretend to be Greek heroines as well as American Girl Scouts?" Lance inquired in the tone that nearly always brought peace.
"Oh, we have not gone into the idea seriously," Joan Peters returned. Her head was bent over the square frame she held in her lap, her fingers busy with the strands of flax. "Miss Frean comes to camp every few evenings and reads aloud to us. She insists that we are too frivolous in our own summer reading and wishes to read us something we ought to remember."
Joan Peters liked Lance McClain. She was a great reader and perhaps because of his more delicate health Lance did not feel the same scorn of books that Donald affected.
With a swift movement Tory arose suddenly. Apparently she forgot the group of friends close about her. She clasped her hands tightly together, her eyes suddenly looked larger and darker, her lips twitched.
The Girl Scouts of the Eagle's Wing had chosen silver and gold as their camp colors.
Near the spot where Tory was standing lay two canoes. One was golden in color with an eagle's wing in silver on the bow, the other the opposite color scheme. Tory's own khaki costume looked golden in the sunlight. The water was now silver.
Don had a fleeting impression that Tory intended to jump into one of the canoes and disappear from sight.
Now and then she affected him curiously. He never knew what she intended to do or say. She thought so quickly, moved so swiftly, and he was stupid and slow.
At the present moment he was puzzled and troubled by her sudden look of intense unhappiness. The instant before she had been arguing the respective merits of the two camps and had appeared cheerful as usual.
"What is the matter, Tory? You are the most startling person! You upset one," Teresa Peterson protested.
She glanced toward Donald and then toward Lance McClain for their attention or approval.
Teresa was unlike the other Girl Scouts. She was extremely pretty with dusky hair that curled about a low forehead and soft rose colored cheeks. She gave one an impression of sweetness and yet one could not be sure of her actual character. She seemed always anxious for attention and the approval of other people. Several of the girls in her Patrol felt that Teresa was unnecessarily self-conscious before a masculine audience.
At this instant Tory Drew returned her glance. Her face showed bewilderment.
"Why, Teresa, how can you ask what is troubling me? Is one of us thinking any other thought? Of course we have had to talk of other things, but nothing matters except what Dr. McClain may at this moment be deciding about Kara. You know we all care for her more than any other girl at camp. She has had so much more to contend with than the rest of us even before this.
"She thought first of our camp in Beechwood Forest and we used to talk of it when it did not seem a possibility. The day of her accident Kara told me the past few weeks had been the happiest of her life."
Tory walked away from the others.
"I have been trying to keep my word and stay here with you until after Dr. McClain had seen Kara. Now I cannot wait any longer. I am sure something more dreadful than any of us realize has happened."
Margaret Hale rose and slipped her arm inside the other girl's.
"We will go back together. You are more nervous over Kara than need be because of the strain of last night."
They moved on a few yards.
Coming out of the cabin they could see Dr. McClain, Miss Frean and Sheila Mason. Dr. McClain, assisted by the two women, was bearing Kara in his arms.
Before Margaret and Tory reached them, he had placed Kara in his motor car and they were driving away.
RIGHT ABOUT, FACE
Tory toiled up the long, hot street, her arms filled with packages, her face flushed.
How different the atmosphere from the cool green shade of Beechwood Forest!
At the end of the street upon a rise of ground stood the Old Gray House. This had been Katherine Moore's name for the house, accepted and used by the town of Westhaven. To-day it appeared what it actually was: the village orphan asylum.
No longer could Kara's optimism conceal reality from Victoria Drew.
The house showed blistered and bare of paint. The open space of yard, green and fresh in the springtime, when she and Kara oftentimes sat outdoors to dream and plan, was now baked brown and sere.
The children playing in the yard behind the tall iron fence looked tired and cross, a little like prisoners to Tory's present state of mind.
She had come in from camp early in the day and had spent several hours at home with her uncle, Mr. Richard Fenton. Their own house was empty save for his presence. Miss Victoria had gone for a month's holiday to the sea.
After a talk with her uncle and an hour's shopping, she was now on her way to call upon Kara.
She saw a mental picture of Kara's small room on the top floor of the Gray House. How proud Kara had been because she need share her room with no one!
And what a place to be shut up in when one was ill!
For Kara's sake Tory had endeavored to view this room with Kara's eyes. Kara loved it and the old Gray House that had sheltered her since babyhood, her refuge when apparently deserted by the parents she had never known.
Victoria Drew was an artist. This did not mean that necessarily she was possessed of an artist's talent, but of the artist's temperament. Besides, had she not lived with her artist father wandering about the most beautiful countries in Europe[A] until her arrival in Westhaven the winter before?
If this temperament oftentimes allowed Tory to color humdrumness with rose, it also gave her a sensitive distaste to what other people might not feel so intensely.
With half a dozen of the children in the yard of the Gray House, Tory now stopped to talk a few moments. Never before could she recall wanting to see Kara so much and so little at the same time.
Of the two children who had been Kara's special charges and her own favorites, only the boy remained.
His eyes bluer and more wistful than formerly, Billy Duncan came forward to speak to Tory.
He seemed older and thinner and less the cherub she remembered.
The children who were his playmates could have told her that Billy had altered since the departure of his adored companion, Lucy Martin, the little girl who had been adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Jeremy Hammond a few months before.
Lucy Martin had been an odd little girl, full of fire and passion and wilfulness. Blindly and adoringly Billy had followed her until her departure from the Gray House.
Afterwards he never spoke of her or asked for her, although at first she often demanded his presence and came to the Gray House to see him. Of late, however, Lucy had ceased to appear.
"Do you miss Lucy?" Tory inquired at this instant and was sorry for her own stupidity.
Billy merely shook his head. He always had been a dull little boy. One had been fond of him because of his sweetness and placidity, not for any brilliance.
Slipping a gift inside Billy's pockets, Tory ran on up to the Gray House, comforting herself with the idea that the little boy was incapable of feeling anything deeply.
The fact that Lucy had lost her affection for Kara, who had been like a devoted older sister, was more serious.
The door stood open so that Tory entered the wide hall of the old house without ringing the bell. She had come often enough during the past winter and spring to be a privileged character.
At the bottom of the long flight of stairs she paused a moment. Warm and out of breath, she did not wish Kara to guess at her rebellious mood when she arrived at the little room up under the eaves.
"You won't find Kara upstairs in her old room. Let me show you where she is," a voice called, as Tory placed her foot on the first stair.
The big room had been a back parlor in the days when the Gray House had been the residence of a prosperous farmer. This was before the village of Westhaven had drawn so close to it.
By the window in a wheeled chair sat a small figure crouched so low that had she not known it could be no one else, Tory would scarcely have recognized her.
Since her night and Kara's together on the hillside only a week had gone by. Could one week have altered Kara's appearance and her nature?
Her impulse to go toward the figure and gather her in her arms, Tory carefully repressed.
Kara's expression, as she raised her eyes at her approach, was almost forbidding.
Tory also repressed the exclamation that rose to her lips.
How white and thin the other girl's face appeared! The humorous, gayly challenging look with which she had met former trials and difficulties had vanished. The lines of Kara's mouth were tired and old, the gray eyes with the long dark lashes, her one claim to beauty, were dark and rebellious.
"You have taken your own time to come to see me, Tory. I have been here at the orphan asylum nearly a week and this is the first time you or any member of my Girl Scout Patrol has honored me with a call. I can't say I altogether blame you. It certainly is pleasanter at our camp in Beechwood Forest than in this place!"
Tory's arms went around Kara's shoulders, her bright red lips touched the other girl's brown hair.
"You know I have wanted to come to you every minute in the twenty-four hours, dear, and every member of your Patrol has wanted to come as well, besides Miss Mason and Miss Frean and all the rest. To-day I am regarded as the most privileged person in the camp because I am first to see you. Dr. McClain only consented last night to allow me to come. I am to bring you everybody's love and to demand that you stay away from camp only the shortest time. Otherwise we intend to call on Dr. McClain in a body and assert our authority as Girl Scouts to bring you home to Beechwood Forest. Anyone save a doctor would know you would sooner grow strong again there than here."
As she talked, partly as a relief from nervousness and to hide her consternation over Kara's changed appearance, Tory was moving about the room arranging her gifts.
In a vase filled with water from a pitcher standing on a table she placed a bouquet of faded wild flowers.
The room became fragrant with the scent of wild hyacinths, ragged robins, cornflowers and daisies. By a low bowl piled with peaches and grapes, she put two magazines and a new book.
"Uncle Richard sent you the things to read, Kara. I should like to have brought more, but could not manage to carry them."
Still Kara made no reply. She scarcely had glanced at the offerings.
"Sorry the flowers are so faded. I think they will look better after a time. I had not the cruelty to decline to bring them, as Edith Linder and Teresa Peterson rose up this morning and gathered them in the dew to send you. I have brought our camp log for the past week."
Conscious of the wall between herself and her companion, Tory was aware that she was talking of trivialities until the moment when Kara would admit her inside her closed citadel.
How long before she would speak a second time?
Walking over toward Kara, Tory took a low seat beside the wheeled chair.
With a swift gesture of affection she placed a square book on Kara's lap. The book was of heavy paper, golden in color back and front and with silver-gray leaves inside. On the outside cover was a painting of an eagle's wing.
"This is the first time we have ever had a written history of our week at camp, Kara dear. But we decided the other night at our Troop meeting to arrange this to bring to you. So whatever we dropped into the big box in front of Miss Mason's tent we put inside this book. I have made some sketches and Joan Peters has written a poem dedicated to you. Please look for yourself, won't you?"
Kara turned away her eyes.
Still Tory had no sensation of anger, only a kind of nervous fear. More than any one who ever knew her could have imagined here was a different Kara!
She now pushed aside the little magazine with a gesture of annoyance.
"I don't want to know what you have been doing at camp, Tory. I never want to hear any mention of our Girl Scouts again. You must erase my name from our Patrol list and find some one else to fill my place."
A valiant effort, Tory's to smile, when in the other girl's voice and manner there was so much to make smiling difficult.
"When that day arrives, Kara, I presume I also shall wish to resign from the Girl Scouts. It is hard to imagine when we both care so deeply. Has anyone or anything offended you? Do you feel I am responsible for your accident? If you realized how many times during the past week I have wondered if this were true. I did ask Miss Mason for permission to allow us to go for the day alone. I told her that I could sketch so much better without any companion save you. She reproaches herself now as much as I do and says as our Troop Captain the mistake was hers. But we promised not to go far from camp and were accustomed to the neighborhood."
"Don't be stupid, Tory. I have not forgotten that I first suggested the plan to you. We wanted a day to ourselves."
Kara had spoken. At least this much had been accomplished, although her tone remained hard and uninterested.
Suddenly her head went down until her face was hidden.
"Don't you know, Tory, darling? Has no one told you or the other Girl Scouts of our Troop? Dr. McClain promised me that he would tell you. I can't come back to our camp in Beechwood Forest, I cannot be a Girl Scout. I may never be able to walk again. No, I do not suffer, I never have suffered, that is the dreadful part of it."
Kara's hands now clutched the other girl's shoulders.
"Tory, don't look at me like that. It may not be true always."
[A] See "Girl Scouts of the Eagle's Wing."
"The land that is always afternoon," Joan Peters quoted dreamily.
Twelve girls were seated in a circle in a clearing in Beechwood Forest. Save for the fact that fallen logs formed their resting place here was a modern American "Agora of Mycanae," the well polished circle of stones, where the earliest of civilized peoples sat for council and judgment.
The afternoon sunlight slanted through the deep polished green of the trees.
A few moments before, the other girls had been earnestly talking, then had ensued a thoughtful silence and Jean's irrelevant speech.
"I never have understood exactly what that expression means, but it always has had a fascination for me," she continued. "Please don't think I am forgetting what we have been discussing this last hour. To my mind there can be no two ways of looking at it. The only problem we have is Kara. And, thank goodness, we do not have to decide what is wisest and best for her."
Seated beside Joan, Tory Drew remained oddly still. Quiet either of body or mind was an unusual phase with her. Life and movement were her natural characteristics, more marked than with most girls.
"I wish I could think as Joan does, that the decision does not rest with us and we must be content," she added finally. "I feel as if I knew it was the only thing for Kara to come back to us and as if no one and nothing could induce me to think otherwise."
"Not a very sensible point of view, Victoria," a voice answered.
In the tone there was a different enunciation. In the voice there was a different emphasis from the other Girl Scouts. Besides, no one of them ever spoke to Tory without using her abbreviated title.
The girl who had made the remark was different in manner, appearance and costume from the rest of the group, although not conspicuously so. Martha Greaves was an English girl who had crossed the ocean early in the summer with Tory Drew's father and step-mother to spend the summer in Westhaven. She was singularly tall with light brown hair and gray-blue eyes.
After she had spoken she appeared a little embarrassed as if she regretted having called the attention of the other girls to her presence.
At the beginning of their acquaintance Martha and Tory had felt drawn toward each other. The differences in their temperaments appeared not as a barrier, but an interest.
But with the opening of the camp in Beechwood Forest, Tory had neglected her responsibilities. Her affection for Katherine Moore had made her less mindful than she should have been of a stranger in a new environment.
Fortunately Martha Greaves was an English Girl Guide. She was wearing the uniform of the Guides at this moment. Shy she might appear upon suddenly expressing her opinion, yet assuredly she had made a number of friends among the Girl Scouts. Moreover, she was too vitally interested in the differences between the two organizations, the Girl Guides of England and the Girl Scouts of the United States, to be especially self conscious.
She understood and liked Tory's impulsive nature with its capacity for romantic affection, so unlike her own. She considered herself to be a matter-of-fact person with only a few enthusiasms.
At Martha's sensible statement Tory had the sensation of being suddenly plunged into cold water.
A moment she was nonplussed and slightly angry. Then she had the good sense to realize that Martha had not intended to be unkind. What she had said was undoubtedly true.
If she were rarely sensible at any time, Tory appreciated that she had become less so since her last talk with Kara.
Not an hour since had the problem of Kara been out of her mind.
Indeed, since the news of the result of what had first seemed a simple accident had reached the camp of the Girl Scouts in Beechwood Forest, the entire summer to which they had looked forward so joyously seemed to offer only disappointment.
They were only fourteen in number and Kara was individually dear to each one of them. Seven of the group were in Kara's own Patrol, the others, members of her Troop of the Eagle's Wing.
If they suffered some disadvantages over the larger summer camps for girls they had the advantage of a peculiar and intimate feeling for one another. The fact that Martha Greaves was the one outsider added a special interest. Rarely a half day passed that one of the Girl Scouts did not make some inquiry of Martha concerning their respective organizations.
She was glad enough to answer and they were learning from each other.
The Girl Scouts of the Eagle's Wing had worked at their scouting during the past winter with pleasure and faith, but occasional meetings could not bring the results these past few magical weeks at camp had accomplished.
All day long they were outdoors, at night the tent flaps were oftentimes left open for a better view of the sky and the feel of the wind.
All their own work had they undertaken and life had never appeared more practical, simple and delightful.
Then like a cloud darkening the serenity of their summer had come the news of Katherine Moore's accident with its unexpected, tragic result.
Tory Drew sighed.
"You are probably right, Martha. I have been told often enough by Aunt Victoria and sometimes by Kara herself that I have too great an opinion of my own judgment, when in reality my judgment isn't very good.
"Yet this time I simply can't feel that I am mistaken. Kara will be happier here at camp with us than at the Gray House or in a sanitarium. We all understand her and will do anything in the world to make her happier. Dr. McClain says that Kara's state of mind worries him a great deal. Yet how can it be different? Surely we can make her physically comfortable in the evergreen house and all of us will wish to wait on her. I—"
Tory hesitated and could not go on.
"I agree with you entirely, Tory," Margaret Hale answered sympathetically. Tory's Patrol leader, a dignified girl of gentle breeding, she was not the most gifted member of the Patrol, yet possessed the greatest personal influence. One could always trust to Margaret's sense of justice. She was never prejudiced and never unfair.
"I feel as Tory does. If there is nothing the doctors can do for Kara at present, save to watch her carefully, she had far better be here with us. I know they will do everything that is possible at the Gray House; I know too that Mr. Fenton has offered to pay Kara's expenses should the doctors decide she had best go to a sanitarium. Yet will either of these places alter Kara's state of mind?
"Since Tory told us of her talk with Kara I have scarcely been able to think of anything else. Kara, with her optimism and humor vanished; Kara, hard and bitter and wretched! It seems so incredible! Why, she has always faced her difficult existence with such courage. When one thinks of Kara it is to recall the humorous expression of her eyes, the laughter that always was waiting its chance. No one ever had so gay a laugh as Kara!"
Unconscious of what she was doing, at this instant Tory jumped up. Leaving her seat she stood alone in the center of the circle looking toward the other girls.
The first rays of the sunset slanted through the trees, turning the green to gold. One ray fell directly upon Tory Drew, her bright, red-gold hair, her thin, eager face and graceful figure.
About her the other girls were more in darkness.
There was almost a mystic quality in the late afternoon atmosphere, here in the heart of an ancient woods, with no one near save the circle of Girl Scouts.
"Margaret has suggested just what I want to make clear to all of you. The old Kara for the time being seems to have disappeared. And perhaps for the reasons Margaret has mentioned.
"Kara has had too much to bear. She has always made the best of the fact that she had no parents, no family! Cleverer and sweeter than anyone, she was found in a deserted house with no explanation as to why she had been left there.
"Kara found happiness in the life at the Gray House because everybody cared for her at the asylum and in the village. But she was always thinking that the day was coming when she would be able to earn her own living at some congenial work.
"Now, Kara told me the other day that this hope has been taken from her and she sees nothing left. I am frightened about her. The doctors tell her she may walk again some day, but not for a long time. She insists this is only to encourage her. If we, her own Troop of Girl Scouts, can do nothing for her, I don't see who can."
Louise Miller, seated beside her most intimate friend, Dorothy McClain, uttered an unexpected exclamation.
Under ordinary circumstances she talked less than any one of her companions. Usually it was conceded that Louise alone among all of them thought of what she was going to say before making a remark.
She was not good looking. Her features were heavy and she had grown too rapidly. She had peculiar light gray eyes under thick dark brows which held a kind of fascination. Yet Louise's only real claim to beauty was a mass of coppery, red-brown hair.
She was not happy or congenial with her own family. They were poor and her mother, a pretty woman, resented Louise's lack of beauty as well as their poverty. On Louise's part there was no effort to conceal the fact that she had been happier these past weeks at their Girl Scout camp in Beechwood Forest than at any time since she could remember.
"There is something to be considered in this situation beside Kara," she began, with a kind of awkward earnestness. The statement had not a happy sound, but the other girls waited, knowing that Louise had an odd fashion of expressing herself. One could not at first be altogether sure of her meaning.
"We must remember that it is not for Kara's sake only that we are to keep her here, if Dr. McClain agrees it will be wise, but for our own sakes as well. While Tory has been talking I have been wondering if we were equal, as Girl Scouts, to the test.
"You look surprised, Tory, as if there could be no question save the joy of having Kara to take care of and her pleasure in being with us. There will be other sides to it. Some one of us will always have to stay with Kara day and night. She must never be left alone for any length of time, when we may be wanting to go off together on a hike or a swimming party. It may be hard now and then to be left out. We must not expect Kara always to be cheerful and patient."
Louise had been looking toward Tory Drew. She now turned her head and her glance traveled from one face to the other.
The group of girls, except for a few additional ones, was the same that had gathered in the old Fenton home in Westhaven on a momentous evening the winter before.
On that evening they had formed the first Patrol of the Girl Scouts of the Eagle's Wing Troop. Margaret Hale remained the Patrol Leader and Dorothy McClain her Corporal. The other girls were Victoria Drew, Joan Peters, Louise Miller, Teresa Peterson and Katherine Moore. Edith Linder had been asked later to become the eighth member and so complete the favored number.
To-day, amid the outdoor council in the woods, there were four girls from a second Patrol in the same Girl Scout Troop.
"Honor, loyalty, duty, a sister to every other Girl Scout, courtesy, cheerfulness. These are some of our Scout principles. I wonder if bringing Katherine Moore here as an invalid to be cared for by us would not put our Scout principles into a crucible?" one of the four remarked unexpectedly.
Tory Drew frowned upon her, and then realizing the truth of what she had said, her expression changed and she nodded agreement.
Why should she expect that all the other girls must appreciate as she did the degree of Kara's misfortune and the necessity to do something to make her lot easier without delay.
The girl she was looking down upon always had amused Kara and herself. She was so unlike any of them. Her light hair was almost as short as a boy's and was boyish in appearance, save that it curled in an almost babyish fashion. Her eyes were wide open and a light china blue. Here her doll-like attributes ended. She had a short, determined nose, a square chin, and a large mouth filled with small, even teeth.
She had an odd, boyish name as well, Evan Phillips. No one knew a great deal about her. She had come with her mother to live in Westhaven the winter before in order to go to school. She had spoken of living in California before that time. A member of a Girl Scout Patrol in the west, she had asked to be admitted into the Eagle's Wing Troop in Westhaven.
The three other members of the second Patrol were Julia and Frances Murray and Ann Fletcher.
"What is a crucible, Evan?" Tory inquired. "I don't care in the least how many of our Scout principles are cast into it, if only Kara is here at camp with us. I know what Louise means, but no one need be troubled. If Kara will permit it, I shall wish to be with her always."
"You will not be allowed, Tory. Remember, Kara is our friend as well as yours, and we have known her longer," Dorothy McClain and the other girls protested, almost in the same words and at the same instant.
"Suppose you do not argue any more for the present," a quiet voice interrupted, the same voice that so often gave Tory the sensation that she had been quietly and politely restrained from too great intensity.
"I am sure I hear some one coming, three people in fact."
It was slightly annoying to the American Girl Scouts that in many ways their English guest had a better outdoor training than any one of them. However, this was not her first camping experience.
A moment or so later Dr. McClain appeared at an opening between two of the trees in the encircling grove. He was accompanied by Sheila Mason and Miss Frean. The two women remained outside. Alone Dr. McClain entered the charmed circle. At once a dozen girls were crowding about him.
A quarter of an hour after Tory Drew and Dorothy McClain were walking with him toward the road that led back into Westhaven.
"We will have the little evergreen house made comfortable for Kara. Miss Mason and all of us have decided she will be safer and easier to care for there than in one of the tents. You are sure it will be best for her? She must become stronger and in better spirits being with us," Dorothy McClain insisted, clinging to her father's arm as if she were unwilling to let him go. "I declare it is wonderful to have a Girl Scout doctor—father!"
Dr. McClain made a sound half pleasure, half displeasure.
"So this is what I have come to after more than a quarter of a century of hard work, a Girl Scout Doctor! Hope you girls may have no further need for me. Hard luck about little Kara. Things may turn out better for her later on. By the way, you and Tory do not know, and perhaps had best not mention it, but the very log cabin where you are planning to install Kara is the house where the child was found deserted years ago."
"But gracious, Dr. McClain!" Tory argued, "I have always been told that Kara was found in a deserted farmhouse. Our evergreen cabin was never a farmhouse. Mr. Hammond once spoke of finding Kara when I was with them, and he was not aware that Kara was the child he had discovered.
"Then Jeremy Hammond does not know a farmhouse when he sees one. The house was a deserted hut in those days where no one had lived for a great many years. That is why the mystery was the greater. A bridle path then led past the door and joined a road that was a short cut into Westhaven. The path is now overgrown with grass.
"I remember very well, because I came out myself next day to see if Hammond, who was a young fellow, may have overlooked any method by which we might trace Kara's history. Save for the piece of paper pinned to the child's dress and bearing her name no other information was ever forthcoming. Good-by, here is my car waiting. I'll bring Kara out myself in a few days. Remember, this is only to be an experiment. If she is not happier and does not improve we must try something else. Much depends upon you. 'Be Prepared'."
In the open space a solitary figure was dancing.
The enclosure was not the circular place where the Girl Scouts held their councils, but deeper in the woods, although not a great distance away.
The space was larger. Instead of being surrounded by giant beech trees, a new grove of young beeches was here growing up to take the places of older trees that had died or been cut down. Their slender trunks were high and arched, their branches curved downward. They seemed to stoop, as young things that have grown too tall for their own strength. The green of their leaves was paler and more transparent. Underneath the trees the ground was covered with a finer, softer grass.
The girl was dancing barefoot. She wore a thin white dress. On the ground not far away was the khaki costume which she must have discarded for the time being.
Her hair was short and fair, and she had a square, determined, lightly freckled face. She was short and her figure not particularly graceful in repose. Watching her dancing one thought of neither of these things. The square head with the light fringe of curling hair was perfectly poised, the body showed strength and lightness.
At this moment the girl was moving in a wide circle inside the fringe of young beeches. Her arms were extended above her head; at regular intervals she poised and stood upon her toes, then danced more rapidly. At length, with a little fluttering movement like a swallow about to alight, she dropped on the grass, her arms covering her head.
From a short distance away came exclamations of pleasure.
Stiffening with surprise, anger, and what might have been alarm, the small figure arose.
Tory Drew, pushing a wheeled chair with a good deal of difficulty, slowly advanced. Seated in the chair was Katherine Moore.
"Evan, I am sorry we have intruded upon you and stopped your dance. It did not occur to me until this moment that you did not hear us approaching. Kara was bored and I thought if I could manage we would come down here to our 'Choros.' Isn't it learned to have called our dancing ground by the name of the first dancing grounds ever discovered and built by Daedalus, the famous artificer of Crete? However, we are obliged to give Miss Frean the credit for most of our erudition.
"We will go on again to the lake as soon as I have rested a little. May I say that it was wonderful to see you? I did not dream that any one of our Girl Scout Troop could dance as you do. I am sure Kara must have enjoyed watching you. So you will forgive my not having told you we were near."
The girl in the wheeled chair lifted her head.
"I wonder, Tory, why you think I enjoy seeing another person dance? Isn't it hard enough to sit everlastingly watching you walking, swimming, doing whatever you wish, while I am more helpless than a baby? Naturally it affords me especial joy to behold another girl who can do all these other things and dance like a wood nymph besides!"
In the young voice there was a note that made her companions stare helplessly toward her and then drop their eyes as if they were responsible and ashamed.
"Kara, dear, it is my fault. Things always seem to be my fault, I am so stupid these days! I never realized that you would mind the dancing. I had forgotten how much you used to care for dancing. Besides, I did not suppose we would find any one here, and thought we could enjoy the cool and the quiet.
"Good-by, Evan. You are a wood nymph. Kara was right."
Tory had placed her hands on the back of the wheeled chair and was about to move on, when again a querulous voice interrupted:
"Oh, no, let us not go at once. You are always tiring yourself to death for me these days. Don't think I never overhear Miss Mason and the other girls speaking of it, Tory. One learns to hear more than one should in my position. I was not always an eavesdropper. Neither did I suppose you would have to be a martyr for my sake, Tory. I wish you would try not to be; a martyr is a noble character, but one does not wish one for a constant companion."
Tory Drew made no reply. Instead she shoved the heavy chair into a cool, green shelter and dropped down on the ground beside it.
The other girl followed, anxious to be useful and not knowing what she should do.
A week had passed since Kara's return to her friends in their Girl Scout camp in Beechwood Forest. The Kara who had gone away after her accident and the Kara who had come back seemed two utterly different human beings.
The courageous, gay, sweet-tempered girl was now rebellious, fretful, impatient. Indeed, she had become more difficult than any one who had known her previously could have imagined.
The little group of Girl Scouts were being tested, and more than any one of them, Tory Drew. So far not once had she faltered. Knowing Tory six months before, one could scarcely have believed this possible. Always she had been sweet and charming, but self centered and spoiled. Now, was it her affection for Katherine Moore or the months of her Scout training that had given her a new spirit?
"Suppose you tell us how you learned to dance in that beautiful fashion, Evan? Then, if Kara wishes, perhaps you will dance for us again?"
The girl with the odd, boyish name gazed at Tory Drew reflectively. Since their arrival in camp she had conceived a deep admiration for Tory. She had never spoken of it to any human being. Tory possessed this charm, of which she was unconscious, which was to gain her friends all her life.
Evan sat down on the ground nearby.
She was a year younger than the other two girls. At this moment, in her shabby, simple white dress, she appeared a good deal younger.
"Would you really like to know about my dancing? I have been wanting to tell some one. It would be absurd to pretend I had not been taught, no one with any judgment would believe me. Besides, when one is a Girl Scout I do not think one desires to keep secrets from the other girls. Perhaps you won't approve of me afterwards, but I shall run that risk."
"You are a dear! I approve of nearly every one. What could there be to object to in your wonderful dancing? Don't you know every girl who sees you must envy you."
A little fearfully Tory glanced upward toward Kara.
Had she been tactless again? Everything she said or did appeared the wrong thing these days.
At present apparently Kara was not looking or listening to either of them. Her gray eyes, which showed so wistfully in her thin face, were fixed on a far-off line of the sky between two clumps of trees.
"Well, you might as well hear the worst at the start," Evan went on, smiling and revealing her small, even teeth.
"In the first place, I received my ridiculous name because my father died a short time after I was born. It was intended I should be a boy, so I was named for him. We were poor and mother had to make her own living and mine. She did not feel troubled over this because she had studied dancing and loved it. So she gave dancing lessons in California, and before I was two years old I was a member of her class. We never would have stopped save that mother was ill and we were forced to come east to consult a doctor. We came to Westhaven to live so she could be near New York and I at school. Mother is better, and next winter intends to begin teaching again."
"So you wish to be a dancing teacher?" Katherine Moore asked. The other girls were under the impression that she had not heard what they were saying.
Evan jumped up quickly.
"Never, I should hate it! I mean to study folk dancing and some day originate new dances that shall be as American as possible. We talk of the folk dancing of the Irish and Spanish, and the Austrians and the Dutch and any number of other nations. When we speak of American folk dancing it is supposed we dance like the Indians. I don't see why we can't create a national folk dance of our own."
Evan made a cup of her hands and dropped her chin into it.
"Please don't laugh; I think an American folk dance might be like these young beech trees. I know that sounds absurd. What I mean is, the dance should show youth and freshness and grace, beautiful things like a primeval American forest. Oh, I don't suppose you understand me. I am sure I don't quite understand myself!
"Since I have been at camp Miss Mason has allowed me to come here an hour each morning to practice. May I show you the dance I have been trying to compose. I don't mind if you laugh at the dance or at me, I do it so badly. I shall learn some day. I like to call it 'The Dance of the Young Beeches'."
Without waiting for Kara's or Tory's agreement, Evan was up and away. Slowly she again circled around the beautiful dancing ground, her arms and body waving with gentle, fanciful undulations.
Now and then she seemed to be swept by light winds; again a storm pressed upon her and she bowed and swayed as if resisting with all her strength. Afterwards, wishing to suggest that the storm had passed and the sun was shining and the birds singing, she tiptoed about, her arms gently undulating, her face looking upward.
The dancing was crude and yet would have been attractive to eyes more accustomed to trained dancing than Tory's or Kara's.
Tory's first sensation was one of pure, artistic pleasure. Then glancing at Kara she felt a deeper joy. A moment Kara appeared to have forgotten her own misfortune. She looked more interested, more entertained than in many days.
"Don't you think, Evan, that if your mother is well she might be persuaded to come to your camp and teach us dancing?" Kara demanded, as if she too could be included in the lessons. "I know when we first decided to have our camp in Beechwood Forest one of the things we talked of doing was learning outdoor dancing. We hoped Miss Mason would be able to teach us. She only knows ordinary dances, and insists she does not even know the newest of these. She has not gone into society since the death of the young officer to whom she was engaged," Kara confided. "Sometimes I wonder if being Captain of our Girl Scout Troop has not helped her almost as much as the rest of us?"
She stopped abruptly.
Farther off in the woods the three girls heard a strange sound.
It was as if some one were calling. Yet the noise was not the Girl Scout signal.
Ten minutes later, on the way back to camp, unexpectedly the three girls beheld Teresa Peterson hurrying on alone. She looked surprised, even a little frightened, by their appearance.
When Tory inquired where she had been, as Teresa made no reply, the question was dropped.
No one was supposed to leave the camp without special permission from the Troop Captain. There was no reason, however, to suppose that Teresa had not received this permission.
The other girls in the camp in Beechwood Forest were not passing through so trying an ordeal as Victoria Drew and Katherine Moore, after Katherine's return to camp.
Sympathetic they were with Kara's misfortune, yet upon them it did not press so heavily.
Frankly two of the girls acknowledged that the few weeks at camp were the happiest of their entire lives. These two girls were Louise Miller and Teresa Peterson. Neither of them was particularly congenial with their home surroundings.
An odd contradiction, Louise Miller was oftentimes so quiet, so slow and awkward in her movements that many persons regarded her as stupid. This was never true among the friends who knew her intimately, if for no other reason, than because of Dorothy McClain's attitude. From the time they were children the two girls had admired and loved each other, notwithstanding the difference in their natures. Dorothy was one of the happy persons whose attraction was so apparent that few natures resisted it. She was handsome and straightforward and sweet tempered. One girl in a family of six brothers, she had learned a freemasonry of living, and had not the sensitiveness and introspection that troubles so many young girls. Her mother was dead, yet she and her father had been such intimate friends that she had not felt the keenness of her loss as she must have under different circumstances.
Indeed, Louise Miller, whose parents were living, endured a deeper loneliness.
There had never been any pretence of anything else. Her father was a business failure. This had narrowed and embittered his nature. He was devoted to his wife but to no one else.
She had cared for society and beautiful surroundings and been forced to do without them. To have Louise, her oldest child, another disappointment, was difficult to bear.
If Louise had been pretty, if she had appeared to be clever, if she had cared for her home life and been anxious to assist her mother with the younger children, Mrs. Miller would have been quick to appreciate any one of these characteristics. But Louise was not handsome, she insisted upon disliking every character of household work, and her position at school was not always above the average. In certain classes she did excel. Louise herself was the last person who could have explained why there were days when she was so absorbed that she seemed more than ordinarily dull even in the subjects that sometimes interested her.
She was never a favorite with her teachers or with strangers. But for one thing Louise was always grateful. Her own troop of Girl Scouts sincerely liked her, for her own sake as well as Dorothy's. Only Dorothy she believed really understood and cared for her deeply in spite of her faults and idiosyncrasies.
With Dorothy alone she felt able to say and behave exactly as she desired. She could drop into one of her moods of self-absorption, or speak as if she were thinking aloud. Not always were her ideas clear even to herself until she had slowly evolved them.
Now these days in the woods Louise felt freer, less awkward and self-conscious. Mysteriously, unexpectedly, she was finding herself.
With the other girls nature study was a pastime, or merely a necessity of their outdoor Scout training. With Louise it was becoming a passionate delight.
The note of the first bird singing deep among the beechwoods found her awake and guessing the name before slipping noiselessly outdoors to see if the warbler could be discovered.
The other girls were amused by the fact that Louise wandered about all day carrying a nature book in her hand. She studied the trees and flowers, even the stones, silent most of the time while her companions chattered. If one of them asked a question concerning the outdoors that she could answer, she would become eloquent enough. But to Dorothy McClain alone she confided her deeper spiritual and mental reactions.
"It is as if I had been asleep all my life before, Dorothy, dear, and was only beginning to wake up. Somehow I cannot explain it, even to myself, I feel so convinced that this summer in the woods will have a tremendous influence on my future life. I am going to find something in these woods that I have been looking for in a stupid fashion since I was a little girl."
"We are what the winds and sun and waters made us," Dorothy quoted, glad to recall at this moment the lines her father so often repeated.
Louise shook her head.
"No, I mean something different. We all are what you have just said. I feel lately that the outdoors is going to do something special for me. Actually I mean I am going to find something here the rest of you may not find."
Louise laughed. She had a large mouth with strong, white teeth. "That speech of mine would annoy my mother dreadfully. She says I am always dreaming and never interested in real things. Nothing ever seemed real to me until this summer in Beechwood Forest."
Carefully she smoothed the brown army blanket on her cot bed.
She and Dorothy McClain were straightening their tent preparatory for inspection in the hour after breakfast. Their flag raising and Scout drill were the first features of the long summer day.
The tent was scrupulously neat.
Dorothy McClain stooped to pick up a fallen book. She was paying a slightly puzzled attention to the other girl's odd conversation.
"Would it not be difficult to persuade your mother to believe, Louise, that you and I are interested in our camp housekeeping? Miss Mason said the other day you probably would earn a merit badge before the summer was past for cooking over a camp fire. Is this because you are preparing to spend your entire life out of doors?"
Dorothy appeared amused and incredulous. She was devoted to athletics and a thoroughly normal and delightful person. Nevertheless, the two people for whom she cared most, excepting her father, were her brother Lance and her friend Louise Miller, both of whom were unusual.
"You are an angel, Dorothy, to try to be sympathetic with me. You can't know what I am talking about, if I don't myself. There is only one other person in the world to whom I could speak, Miss Frean. When I know better what I am only dreaming of at present I shall confide to her and ask her advice. Isn't it fine to think of her nearby in her little House in the Woods, always ready to give us help and advice. Tory declares she would never have dared to insist we have Kara at camp with us when she is so ill and unhappy except for Miss Frean's nearness."
Her task accomplished, Louise turned aside from her cot bed and put her arm about the other girl's shoulders.
"Dorothy, I know I am selfish with you. I suppose because I am so tongue-tied with other people I pour forth everything upon you. I have not forgotten you said you wanted to speak to me about something this morning when we were alone. What is it?"
Dorothy stooped and glanced in the small square mirror which hung suspended from one of the tent poles.
Her bright chestnut hair was braided and twisted about her head. Ordinarily her father objected to this grown up fashion. At camp Dorothy insisted that two long plaits were always in one's way. Her eyes were a clear blue with a slight hint of gray, her skin healthy and freshly colored. A fine, frank line formed her lips. Altogether she was the type of American girlhood who represents many of our highest ideals.
At the present moment a frown appeared between her brows.
"I did want to ask your opinion about something, Louise. Yet nothing is more important to me than to see how happy you are this summer and how the life in the forest is changing you. What I wanted to ask is your view concerning the apology the Boy Scouts have made us for their rudeness. Shall we or shall we not bury the hatchet and agree to forgive them? The situation is particularly uncomfortable for me. I don't like to take any special position in the matter, because Lance and Don are my brothers. Lance has confessed he was principally responsible for their effort to frighten or tease us soon after our arrival at camp. So far as I have been able to find out we seem about evenly divided on the subject. Tory Drew wishes to forget all about it. She is so grateful to Don and Lance for rescuing Kara that she refuses to consider anything else. Edith Linder agrees with Tory besides Evan Phillips and several other girls.
"Strangely the persons most opposed to forgiving the boys and making friends again are Margaret Hale and Joan Peters.
"We are to vote on the question to-night.
"But here comes Teresa. Perhaps she will tell us how she feels on the subject. I wonder what is the matter? She looks worried, and she has been so happy at camp."
At the tent opening Teresa appeared.
"Do come on down to the lake and let us sit there a half hour and talk if you have finished your work?" she asked.
Teresa's olive coloring had deepened in the weeks in the sunshine and fresh air, her cheeks were more rose colored, her wide eyes with their half mature, half childish expression were slightly plaintive at this instant.
The shores of the lake, not a great distance from the camping ground, were a favorite resting place for the Girl Scout Troop.
Not only did they rest here and hold long conversations, of necessity here a good deal of the camp work took place. Clothes and dishes were washed, water was had for cleaning. Farther up on the left-hand side, where a shore of bright pebbles ran down into the lake, was the bathing beach for the campers. The water for drinking was obtained at a pure spring up the hill of the Three Pines which rose not far off from the camp.
At present, as the greater number of the girls were still busy in their tents, the vicinity of the lake was agreeably solitary.
As the three girls sat down Louise Miller said suddenly:
"There is a legend of a lake where every night at midnight a maiden arises bearing in her hands a silver bowl. One may make a wish and cast it into the silver bowl. Then the maiden disappears. On another night, one can never know exactly when, the maiden returns and on this night grants your wish."
"I wish she would appear at once," Teresa grumbled. "I have a wish she might be persuaded to grant. I want something more exciting to happen at camp. Oh, I am enjoying it of course, but of late the days have been a good deal alike."
"What is it you want, Teresa?" Louise Miller demanded a little scornfully. Two girls could not have been more unlike. Because Louise was intellectual she could not altogether refrain from regarding the other girl with a mixture of pity and amused contempt, as well as occasional envy.
Teresa was so pretty, so gentle and confiding and pleasure loving. When she failed to live up to the Scout rules, as all of the girls, being human, did now and then, no one ever blamed Teresa. Nor did Louise Miller understand that Teresa represented the type of girl who oftentimes has a stronger will than any other, hidden beneath her apparent gentleness. Teresa was not conscious of possessing a strong will. In fact, she would have denied the fact, believing she was telling the exact truth.
She only knew that in a quiet fashion she wanted what she wanted very intensely and that it was almost impossible to give up any wish. She might try her best, she might even pretend to herself that she had given up. The desire was inclined to be only asleep and to wake again. One must remember this characteristic in hearing of Teresa Peterson's after career.
Teresa shrugged her shoulders.
"I am not anxious to talk to you, Louise, only it is so impossible to see Dorothy without you."
Teresa flushed prettily.
"There, I don't mean to be rude. One is now and then without intending it. I suppose you are such a profoundly intellectual individual you cannot bear with my frivolous character.
"I only want to say to Dorothy that I am specially anxious to have our camp of Girl Scouts make friends with the Boy Scouts. I have a special reason and promised to do my best with the girls. But of course I know I have not a great deal of influence, like you have Dorothy, or Margaret Hale, or Tory Drew."
Teresa's voice and manner became vaguely plaintive.
"Then we could have occasional dances, or supper parties, something to vary the outdoor monotony. Oh, of course I love the camp better than being at home. I only thought we were going to have some other associates beside just our own Troop. Most of the boys are our old friends and Don and Lance are your brothers, Dorothy. I don't see any point in our always avoiding each other."
"I see, Teresa, feminine society is not enough for you. I wonder if it ever will be," Louise remarked with such profound disgust and annoyance that Dorothy shook her head reproachfully.
"Don't be so cross, Ouida, I am sure Teresa does not mean any great harm. I like boys, I am obliged to like them with six brothers of my own. Besides, I feel as Teresa does that it is stupid and self righteous of us to continue to refuse to have anything to do with the Boy Scouts simply because they once offended us. Certainly I miss the opportunity to see Lance and Don now and then."
Anxious to be out of the conversation, Louise Miller picked up a book of nature studies on the New England country, by John Burroughs, and began reading.
Teresa Peterson's nature was not a straightforward one. Without actual proof Louise Miller felt this instinctively. Of course there was no great harm in her. But then all the more reason why she might make mischief without intending it.
A few moments later the three girls moved back toward camp. Tent inspection was over and they were going for an all-day hike through the woods.
LIGHT AND SHADE
Victoria Drew sat on the lowest step leading into the evergreen cabin. This was the name she preferred to call it. Inside Kara lay asleep.
There was no one else at the camp in Beechwood Forest at this moment.
The other girls and the Troop Captain had departed for a day's hike, not to return until late afternoon.
Nevertheless Tory and Kara had not been alone. This never occurred; Edith Linder had remained to be useful and to relieve Tory. As a matter of fact, the Troop Captain, Miss Mason, and half a dozen girls had insisted that Tory go forth for the long hike. The day was a perfect midsummer day and each and every one of them would gladly remain with Kara.
Tory had declined. In face of the argument that it was her duty to give the other Girl Scouts the opportunity to be useful to Kara, who was their friend as well as her own, Tory insisted that to-day she was too tired for a long tramp. In any case she would stay on at camp. Some other day she would be glad to change places.
At present Edith Linder had gone the half mile or more away to the little House in the Woods on an errand. She had promised to help prepare supper before the camping party could return. Finding herself in need of supplies she had explained to Tory and slipped away. Kara would not be apt to awaken soon and there appeared no immediate need for her.
In truth Tory was glad to be alone for an hour.
In a short time the sun would set.
Weary Tory believed she wanted an hour for quiet thinking.
Earlier in the day Teresa had confessed that she was feeling a degree of disappointment in the summer camp.
Tory Drew was disappointed, but for different reasons.
The past winter had been the most difficult she could remember. After a wandering existence abroad with her artist father, it had not been simple to find her place and to make friends in Westhaven. Yet she had accomplished both. Her aunt, Miss Victoria Fenton, did not regard her with great affection, nevertheless at least she had agreed that the younger Victoria had become slightly less trying. And she and her uncle, Mr. Richard Fenton, at first not liking each other, had become devoted comrades.