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The Camp Fire Girls at Long Lake by Jane L. Stewart

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"Will she forgive me?" she inquired. "I tricked her--made a fool of
her--but she made a fool of me afterward. I lied to her; will she
forgive me, too, like you?"

"Did you hear that, Bessie?" asked Eleanor, by way of answer to the
gypsy girl's question.

"Yes," said Bessie. "I'm sorry you did it, Lolla, because I only wanted
to help your man, and if you hadn't done what you said you were going to
do, and helped me to get Dolly away from him, he wouldn't be in all this
trouble now.

"But you didn't understand about that, and you helped your own people
instead of a stranger. I don't think that's such a dreadful thing to do.
It's something like a soldier in a war. He may think his country is
wrong, but if there's a battle he has to fight for it, just the same."

"But remember that the best way to help John now is to make him see that
he has been wrong, and to try to make him understand that he can make up
for his wickedness by helping us to punish the bad man who got him to do
this," said Eleanor. "That man, you see, was too much of a coward to do
his work himself, so he got your man to do it, knowing that if anyone
was to be punished he would escape, and John would get into trouble.

"John doesn't owe anything to a man like that; he needn't think he's got
to keep him out of trouble. The man wouldn't do it for him. He won't
help him now. He'll pretend he doesn't know anything about this at all."

"I will try," promised Lolla. "But I think John is angry with me, and
will not listen. But I will do my best."

And, after a little while, which the guides used to cook a meal, and to
rest after their strenuous tramping in the effort to find the missing
girls, Andrew told off half a dozen of them to make their way to the
county seat, a dozen miles away, with the three gypsies.

"Just get them there and turn them over to the sheriff, boys," said the
old guide. "He'll hold them safe until they've been tried, and we won't
have any call to worry about them no more. But be careful while you're
on your way down. They're slippery customers, and as like as not to try
to run away from you and get to their own people."

"You leave that to me," said the guide who was to be in charge of the
party. "If they get away from us, Andrew, they'll be slicker than anyone
I ever heard tell of, anywhere. We won't hurt them none, but they'll
walk a chalk line, right in front of us, or I'll know the reason why."

"All right," said Andrew. "Better be getting started, then. Don't want
to make it too late when you get into town with them. Let the girl rest
once in a while; she looks purty tired to me."

Bessie and Dolly and the other girls watched the little procession start
off on the trail, and Bessie, for one, felt sorry for Lolla, who looked
utterly disconsolate and hopeless.

"We couldn't let them go free, I suppose," said Eleanor, regretfully.
"But I do feel sorry for that poor girl. I don't think she liked the
idea from the very first, but she couldn't help herself. She had to do
what the men told her. Women don't rank very high among the gypsies;
they have to do what the men tell them, and they're expected to do all
the work and take all the hard knocks beside."

"You're right; there's nothing else to do, ma'am," said old Andrew.
"Well, guess the rest of us guides had better be gettin' back to work.
Ain't nothin' else we can do fer you, is there, ma'am?"

"I don't think so. I don't suppose we need be afraid of the other
gypsies, Andrew? Are they likely to try to get revenge for what has
happened to their companions?"

"Pshaw! They'll be as quiet as lambs for a long time now. They was a
breakin' up camp over there by Loon Pond when the boys come away last
time. Truth is, I reckon they're madder at John and his pals for gettin'
the whole camp into trouble than they are at us.

"You see, they know they needn't show their noses around here fer a
long time now; not until this here shindy's had a chance to blow over
an' be forgotten. And there ain't many places where they've been as
welcome as over to the pond."

"I shouldn't think they'd be very popular here in the woods."

"They ain't, ma'am; they ain't, fer a fact. More'n once we've tried to
make the hotel folks chase them away, but they sort of tickled the
summer boarders over there, and so the hotel folks made out as they
weren't as bad as they were painted, and was entitled to a chance to
make camp around there as long as they behaved themselves."

"I suppose they never stole any stuff from the hotel?"

"That's jest it. They knew enough to keep on the right side of them
people, you see, an' they did their poachin' in our woods. Any time
they've been around it's always meant more work for us, and hard work,

"Well, I should think that after this experience the people at the
hotel would see that the gypsies aren't very good neighbors, after all."

"That's what we're counting on, ma'am. Seems to me, from what I just
happened to pick up, that there was some special reason, like, for this
varmint to have acted that way today, or last night, maybe it was. Some
feller in the city as was back of him."

"There was, Andrew, I'm afraid; a man who ought to know better, and whom
you wouldn't suspect of allowing such a dreadful thing to be done."

Andrew shook his head wisely.

"It's hard to know what to wish," she said. "Sometimes a man is much
worse when he comes out of prison than he was when he went in. It seems
just to harden them, and make it impossible for them to get started on
the right road again."

"It's their fault for going wrong in the fust place," said the old
guide, sternly. "That's what I say. I don't take any stock in these new
fangled notions of makin' the jail pleasant for them as does wrong.
Make 'em know they're goin' to have a hard time, an' they'll be lest
willin' to take chances of goin' wrong and bein' caught with the goods,
like this feller here today. I bet you when he gets out of jail he'll be
so scared of gettin' back that he'll be pretty nearly as good as a white

"Of course, the main thing is to frighten any of the others from acting
the same way," said Eleanor. "I think the hotel will be sorry it let
those gypsies stay around there. Because it's very sure that mothers who
have children there will be nervous, and they'll go away to some place
where they can feel their children are safe.

"Well, good-bye, Andrew. I'm glad you think it's safe now. I really
would like to feel that we can get along by ourselves here, but, of
course, I wouldn't let any pride stand in the way of safety, and if you
thought it was better I'd ask you to leave one of the men here."

"No call for that, ma'am. You've shown you can get along all right. We
didn't have nothin' to do with gettin' Miss Dolly away from that scamp
today. It was her chum done that. Goodbye."



Morning found both Dolly and Bessie refreshed, and, though the other
girls asked them anxiously about themselves, neither seemed to feel any
ill effects after the excitement of the previous day, with its series of
surprising events. Dolly, at first, was a little chastened, and seemed
wholly ready to stay quietly in camp. And, indeed, all the girls decided
that it would be better, for the time at least, not to venture far into
the woods.

"I think it's as safe as ever now, along the well-known trails that are
used all the time," said Miss Eleanor, "but, after all, we don't know
much about the gypsies. Some of them may be hanging around still, even
if the main party of them has moved on, and we do know that they are a
revengeful race; that when one of them is hurt, or injured in any way,
they are very likely not to rest until the injury is avenged. They don't
care much whether they hurt the person who is guilty or not; his
relatives or his friends will satisfy them equally well"

"I'm perfectly willing to stay right here by the lake," said Margery
Burton, "for one. It's as nice here as it can possibly be anywhere else.
I'd like someone to go in swimming with me."

"If it isn't too cold I will," cried Dolly, cheerfully.

And so, after the midday meal--two hours afterward, too, for Eleanor
Mercer was too wise a Guardian to allow them to run any risk by going
into the water before their food had been thoroughly digested--bathing
suits were brought out, and Margery Burton, or Minnehaha, as the one who
had proposed the sport, was unanimously elected a committee of one to
try the water, and see if it was warm enough for swimming.

"And no tricks, Margery!" warned Dolly. "I know you, and if you found it
was cold it would be just like you to pretend it was fine so that we'd
all get in and be as cold as you were yourself!"

"I'll be good! I promise," laughed Margery, and, without any preliminary
hesitation on the water's edge, she walked to the end of the little dock
that was used for the boats and plunged boldly in. She was a splendid
swimmer, a fact that had once, when Bessie had first joined the Camp
Fire, nearly cost her her life, for, seeing her upset, no one except
Bessie had thought it necessary to jump in after her, and she had
actually been slightly stunned, so that she had been unable to swim.

But this time there was no accident. She disappeared under the water
with a beautiful forward dive, and plunged along for many feet before
she rose to the surface, laughing, and shaking the water out of her
eyes. Then, treading water, she called to the group on the dock.

"It's all right for everyone but Dolly, I think," she cried. "I'm afraid
it would be too cold for her. I like it; I think it's great!"

"You can't fool me," said Dolly, and, without any more delay, she too
plunged in. But she rose to the surface at once, gasping for breath, and
looking about for Margery.

"Why, it's as cold as ice!" she exclaimed. "Ugh! I'm nearly frozen to
death! Margery, why didn't you tell me it was so cold?"

"I did, stupid!" laughed Margery. "I said it was warm enough for me, but
that I was afraid it would be too cold for you, didn't I?"

"I--I thought you were just fooling me; you knew I'd never let the
others go in if I didn't!"

"It's not my fault if you wouldn't believe me. All I promised was to
tell you whether it was cold or not! Come on, you girls! It _is_ cold,
but you won't mind it after you've been in for a minute!"

"Look out! Give me room for a dive!" cried Eleanor Mercer, suddenly
appearing from her tent. "I know this water; I've been in it every year
since I was a lot smaller than you. I'm afraid of it every year the
first time I go in, but how I do love it afterward!"

And, running at full speed, she sped down to the edge of the dock,
leaped up and turned a somersault, making a beautiful dive that filled
the girls who were still dry with envy. And a moment later they were all
in, swimming happily and enjoying themselves immensely. All, that is,
except Zara, who could not swim.

"Oh, I wish I could dive like that, Miss Eleanor!" exclaimed Bessie, who
had been one of the first to go into the water.

"Oh, that's nothing; you can learn easily, Bessie. You swim better than
any of us. Isn't this water cold for you? I should think you wouldn't be
used to it. All the others have been in pretty cold water before now."

"Oh, so have I! You see, around Hedgeville we used to go into the
regular swimming holes, and they never get very warm. There's no beach,
you just go in off the bank, and most of the swimming holes have trees
all around them so that they're shady, and the sun doesn't strike them.
They're in the shade all the time, and that keeps the water cold. This
is warmer than that, ever so much."

"I tell you what we'll do, girls; we'll fix up a spring-board and have
some lessons in real diving. Wouldn't that be fun?"

"It certainly would! I'd love to be able to do a backward dive!"

"Well, this is a good place to learn; no one around to make you nervous,
and good deep water. It's sixteen or seventeen feet off that dock, all
the time, and that's deep enough for almost any diving; for any that
we're likely to do, certainly."

Later they talked it over again, when they had dried and resumed the
clothes they wore about the camp, and Eleanor Mercer, her enthusiasm
warming her cheeks, told them something they had not heard even a hint
of as yet.

"A friend of mine is scoutmaster of a troop of Boy Scouts," she said.
"And he has teased me, sometimes, about our work. He says we just
imitate the Boy Scouts, and that we just pretend we're camping out and
doing all the things they do. Well, I told him that some time we'd have
a contest with them, and show them; a regular field day. And, just for
fun, we made up a sort of list of events."

"Oh, what were they?"

"Well, we planned to start in, all morning, and make a regular trip,
cook meals, and come back. And on the way we to divide into parties;
there are three patrols his troop, you know, and we could divide up the
same way. The parties were to keep in touch with one another by smoke
signals--they're made with blankets--and there was to be a fire-making
contest, to see which could make fire quickest without matches. And, oh,
lots of other things."

"That would be fine."

"Then I got reckless, I think. I said my girls could beat his boys in
the water--that we could swim better--I meant more usefully, not just
faster, in a race, because I think they'd beat us easily in just a
plain race. And I'm afraid I boasted a little."

"I bet you didn't; I bet we can do just as well as any old Boy Scouts!"
exclaimed Dolly. "I wish we just had the chance, that's all."

"Well, you have," said Eleanor, with a smile. "That's what I'm trying to
tell you, girls. Mr. Hastings is over at Third Lake right now with one
patrol of his troop. He got there yesterday and the way I happened to
hear about it was that he was on his way over yesterday morning--he got
in ahead of the boys--to help us look for Dolly and Bessie, when they
were found."

"Oh, that's fine! And shall we have that field day?"

"Later on, before we go home, yes. But he began teasing me again
yesterday, and I told him we'd have a water carnival any time he wanted
to bring his boys over. And he said they'd come Saturday."

"We'll have to get ready and show them what we can do, then," said
Margery Burton, with determination in her voice. "My brother's a Boy
Scout, and I know just what they're like; they think we're just the same
as all the other girls they know. I tell you what would be fun; to get
up a baseball team."

"Maybe we'll try that later," said Eleanor. "But right now we want to be
ready for Saturday. So I'll teach you everything I can. And I'm quite
sure we can beat them in a life-saving drill; their three best against
our three. We'd have you, Margery, and Bessie, and Dolly Ransom."

So it was agreed, and they all began to practice.

"I wish I could do something," said Zara, wistfully. "But I don't
believe I could learn to swim before Saturday."

"You could learn to keep yourself afloat," said Margery. "But that
wouldn't be much good, of course. You'd rather not go in at all, I
suppose, unless you could really swim."

"I know what I could do, though," said Zara, suddenly, after she had
watched Bessie go through the life saving drill. But she would not
confide her idea to anyone but Miss Mercer, who looked more than
doubtful when she heard it.

"I don't know, Zara," she said, "I'll see. It seems a little risky. But
I'll think it over. It would be splendid, but, well, we'll see."

Speed swimming, pure racing, was barred when Saturday came. But with
Scoutmaster Hastings and Miss Mercer as referees, and three summer
visitors from the Loon Pond Hotel, who had no prejudice in favor of
either side as judges, several contests were arranged that called for
skill rather than strength.

"In this diving," Hastings explained to the judges, "what we want to
figure on is the way they do it. If a dive is graceful, and the diver
strikes the water true, going straight down, with arms and legs held
close together, you give so many points for that. I'll make each dive
first; that will serve as a model, you see."

Scoutmaster Hastings was not speaking in a boastful manner. He was a
noted diver, and had won prizes and medals in many meets for his skill.
And, when everything was arranged, he did all the standard dives from
the spring-board at the end of the dock, and three members of each
organization followed him.

Bessie had taken remarkably well to these new tricks, as she considered
them. Her powers as a swimmer no one had questioned, but it was
remarkable to see how quickly she had acquired the ability to dive well
and gracefully. And, to the surprise and chagrin of the Boy Scouts, who
had expected, as boys always do, when they are pitted against girls, to
win so easily that they could afford to be magnanimous, and to abstain
from gloating, the judges were unanimous in deciding that she had done
better than any of the six competitors in all five of the standard dives
in which Hastings showed the way.

As there were six competitors, the judges awarded six points for first
place in each dive, five for second, four for third, three for fourth,
two for fifth, and one for sixth place. And in two of the dives second
place went to Margery Burton, while one of the Boy Scouts, Jack Perry,
was second in the other four.

To the disgust of the other boys, Margery was placed third in the four
dives in which Jack Perry beat her, and Dolly, a good, but not a really
wonderful diver, was fifth in every one of the dives, beating at least
one boy in each. So sixty-six points altogether went to the Camp Fire
Girls, while the Boy Scouts, who had expected to finish one, two, three,
had to be content with forty-eight, and were soundly beaten.

"That girl that was first is a wonder," said Hastings admiringly to Miss
Mercer. "I take it all back, Eleanor. But I didn't think you'd have
anyone as good as she is. Why, she's better than you are, and I always
thought you were the nearest to a fish of any girl I ever saw in the
water. She could win the woman's championship with a little more

"Maybe you won't crow so much over us after this," said Eleanor, with a

"Not about the diving, certainly," said Hastings, generously, "But
that's tricky, after all. The life saving is going to be different There
strength figures more. I really think my boys ought to give a handicap
in that."

"Not a bit of it," said Eleanor. "Women have been taking handicaps from
men too long. They've got so that they think they can't do anything as
well as a man. This Camp Fire movement is going to show you that that's
all over and done with."

"Well, we'll go through the tests first," said Hastings. "Then your
girls will know what they've got to beat, anyhow."

The tests for life saving were to be conducted on a time basis. From a
boat a certain distance out in the lake a boy or girl was to be thrown
overboard, and, at the same moment, the competitor was to leap in after
the one who represented the victim and take him or her to shore, the
winners being those who did it in the shortest time. Again, as there
were to be six competitors, the first place was to count six points, the
second, five, and so on.

First, the boys went out and went through their exercise in fine style.
Although the boy who played the part of victim could swim, he made no
move to help himself, simply staying perfectly still and letting his
"rescuer" take him in.

Then, when the three boys had finished, with only five seconds between
the fastest and the slowest, Eleanor and Hastings rowed out with the
three who represented the Camp Fire Girls, and, as "victim," Zara!

Zara had insisted.

"I really would be drowned if they didn't save me," she said, "so it
will be a real test."

And, with that added spur, each of the three girls actually managed to
beat the fastest time of the boys. Margery was first, Bessie was second,
and Dolly third. Hastings, as soon as he discovered that Zara could not
swim, was full of admiration.

"That's the nerviest thing I ever heard of," he said. "Of course they
did better. But it's your 'victim' that deserves the credit. She's
certainly plucky."

"So I really did help, didn't I!" said Zara. "My, I was scared at first.
But then I knew the girls wouldn't let me go down, and, after the first
time, it wasn't so bad."

"Well, you gave us a surprise, and a licking," said Scoutmaster
Hastings. "But we'll be ready for you when we have that field day. How
about some day next week!"

"Splendid," said Eleanor. "And we'll give you a chance to get even."

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