Part 4 out of 4
"Here comes another car," said Hinpoha; "they're running a
double-header. Nyoda and Gladys must be on this one." The second car
whizzed by with a deafening clatter and a cloud of dust.
"Maybe they're not coming," said one of the girls, and disappointment
was visible on every face. This jolly party would not be complete
without their beloved Guardian and Gladys. Mrs. Bates telephoned to the
Evans's house in town, but there was nobody home. She tried the house
where Nyoda lived, but got no satisfaction, for the landlady merely said
that Miss Kent had not been home since leaving for school in the
morning. The evening passed off as merrily as possible and the girls
rose the next morning feeling sure that Nyoda and Gladys would be out on
the first car. But the day passed with no sign of them. They telephoned
to the Evans's again and this time they got Mrs. Evans.
"Gladys hasn't arrived there?" she asked in a frightened voice. "She
wasn't at home last night. Where can she be?" Wonder gave way to anxiety
on all sides and there was no more thought of fun.
"They must be out at Mr. Thurston's, of course," suggested Antoinette
Rogers. Renewed efforts were made to get into communication with Mr.
Thurston, but in vain. No answer came from the number which was opposite
his name in the telephone book. Genevieve and Antoinette were highly
embarrassed at being obliged to stay with strangers, and were not a
little mystified over the non-appearance of their guardian.
The days passed in frightful suspense for the parents and friends of the
missing girls. The aid of the police was called in, but they could find
no clue. Early on the morning of the fourth day Mrs. Evans was called to
the phone and was overjoyed to hear Gladys's voice on the wire. She and
Nyoda were at a house on the lake shore and would be home soon. There
was a happy home-coming that morning. Nyoda and Gladys told the almost
unbelievable tale of their imprisonment and escape from the tower. After
lying exhausted on the beach for a time, they had walked until they came
to a house where they were warmed and lent dry clothes, for they had
lost their bundles in the waves.
"And that's what would have become of us," said Antoinette Rogers with a
shudder, when Nyoda and Gladys had finished their story, "if we had not
made a mistake and gotten into the wrong automobile."
The police were informed of the matter and as soon as Mr. Thurston
returned to his place of business he was arrested and charged with the
conspiracy to abduct and forcibly detain his two wards. At first he
denied any knowledge of the affair, but the proof was overwhelming.
Nyoda accompanied a delegation of police and witnesses in a motor boat
to the foot of the tower and showed them the bent-out bars and the very
place where they had jumped into the water, and later they raided the
house from the land side. The deaf mute was nowhere to be found. She had
fled when she discovered that her charges had escaped and was never
heard of again. They ascended in the elevator but were unable to find
the contrivance which opened the door into the room, so cunningly was it
devised, and had to be content with looking through the grill-work into
the lavender room.
The Rogers girls, who were taken away from the guardianship of Mr.
Thurston, went to stay with friends in Cincinnati. Mr. Thurston was left
to pay the penalty of his villainy alone, for Mr. Scovill had made good
his escape before the plot was disclosed.
Thus Nyoda and Gladys all unknowingly were the cause of a great crime
being averted, and were regarded as heroines forevermore by the
Winnebagos and their friends.
JOY BEFORE US.
Aunt Phoebe and Hinpoha, armed with sharp meat knives, were cutting up
suet in the kitchen. Hinpoha, as usual, under her aunt's eye, did
nothing but make mistakes. "How awkward you are," said Aunt Phoebe
impatiently. "You don't know how to do a thing properly. I wish that
Camp Fire business of yours would teach you something worth while. Here,
let me show you how to cut that suet." She took the knife from Hinpoha's
hand and proceeded to demonstrate. The suet was hard, which was the
reason Hinpoha had had no success in cutting it, and the knife in Aunt
Phoebe's hand slipped and plunged into her wrist. The blood spurted high
in the air. Aunt Phoebe screamed, "I'm bleeding to death!"
Hinpoha did not scream. She took a handkerchief and calmly made a
tourniquet above the gash, twisting it tight with a lead pencil. Then
she telephoned for Dr. Josephy, Aunt Phoebe's physician. He was out.
Frantically she tried doctor after doctor, but not a single one was to
be had at once. Dr. Hoffman she knew was at the hospital. One of the
doctors she had telephoned was said to be making a call on the street
where she lived, and she ran down there but he had already left. Running
back toward the house, she collided sharply with a man on the street. It
was Dr. Hoffman, who was obligingly coming up to deliver a message from
Sahwah. "Come quickly," she cried, catching hold of his hand and
starting to run, "Aunt Phoebe will bleed to death!"
Dr. Hoffman hurried to the spot and tied up the severed artery. "Who put
on de tourniquet?" he asked.
"I did," replied Hinpoha.
"Good vork, good vork," said Dr. Hoffman approvingly, "if it had not ben
for dat it vould haf been too late ven I came."
"Where did you learn to do that?" asked Aunt Phoebe.
"Camp Fire First Aid class," replied Hinpoha.
"Humph!" said Aunt Phoebe.
But she did some thinking nevertheless, and was fully aware that it was
Hinpoha's prompt action which had saved her from bleeding to death. Her
arm was tied up for some days afterward and she was unable to use it.
Hinpoha waited on her with angelic patience. "I've changed my mind about
this Camp Fire business," said Aunt Phoebe abruptly one day. "There's
more sense to it than I thought. If you want to have meetings here I
have no objection."
Hinpoha nearly swooned, but managed to say gratefully, "Thank you, Aunt
Hinpoha began to wonder, as she was thus thrown into closer contact with
her aunt, whether Aunt Phoebe's austere tastes came from her having such
a narrow nature, or because she had never known anything different. She
could not help noticing that there were woefully few friends who came to
see her during her indisposition. The daily visit of the doctor was
about the only break in the monotony. From a fierce dislike Hinpoha's
feelings changed to pity. "I wonder if Aunt Phoebe isn't ever lonesome,"
she thought. "I don't see how she can help being." A line of her fire
song was ringing in her ears:
"Whose hand above this blaze is lifted
Shall be with magic touch engifted
To warm the hearts of lonely mortals----"
"I wonder if I couldn't bring something else into her life," thought
Hinpoha. "At least, I'm going to try. Aunt Phoebe's never read anything
but religious books all her life. I'd like to read her a corking good
story once." Timidly she essayed it. "Wouldn't you like to have me read
you something else before we begin the next volume?" she asked, when the
third volume conveniently came to an end.
"Do as you like," said Aunt Phoebe, who was profoundly bored. Hinpoha
accordingly brought out "The Count of Monte Cristo" which she had been
reading when the ban went on fiction, and it was not long before Aunt
Phoebe was as excited over the mystery as she was. Romance, long dead in
her heart, began to show signs of coming to life.
Hinpoha, looking for a certain little shawl to put around Aunt Phoebe's
shoulders one afternoon, opened up the big cedar chest that stood in her
room. She had never seen inside of it before. The shawl was not there,
but there were quantities of table and bed linens, all elaborately
embroidered, and whole sets of undergarments, trimmed with the
wonderfully fine crochet work at which Aunt Phoebe was a master hand.
"What can all these things be?" wondered Hinpoha. "Aunt Phoebe certainly
never uses them." A little further down she came upon a filmy white
dress and a veil fastened onto a wreath. Then she knew. This was her
aunt's wedding outfit--the garments she had fashioned in her girlhood in
preparation for the marriage which was destined never to take place. A
week before the wedding the bridegroom-to-be had run away with another
girl. The pathos of Aunt Phoebe's blighted romance struck Hinpoha
"amidships" as Sahwah would have expressed it, and she wept over the
linens in the cedar chest. Poor Aunt Phoebe! No wonder she was sour and
crabbed. Hinpoha forgave her all her crossness and tartness of manner,
and thought of her only with pity. Her romantic nature thrilled at the
thought of the blighted love affair and her aunt became a sort of
heroine in her eyes. She yearned to comfort her and make her happy.
Downstairs Aunt Phoebe sat with a letter in her hand. It was from Aunt
Grace, Hinpoha's mother's sister, out in California. Aunt Grace had no
children and was lonely, and was asking if Hinpoha could come and live
with her. Aunt Phoebe pondered. Of late there had been growing on her a
conviction that she was not a suitable person to bring up a young girl.
She certainly had not succeeded in making her grandniece love her. Aunt
Phoebe really was lonely and she did care for Hinpoha, but she did not
know how to make her care for her. Her experiment had been a failure.
Well, she would send Hinpoha out to California with her Aunt Grace, whom
Hinpoha adored, and she would live on by herself. The prospect suddenly
seemed rather dismal and she confessed that Hinpoha had been a great
deal of company for her, but she would not stand in the way of her
happiness. Her mind was made up. She pictured the joy with which Hinpoha
would receive the news and it brought her another pang.
At the supper table she told Hinpoha that after school was out she was
to go West and live with Aunt Grace, and then sat cynically watching the
unbelieving delight which flashed into her face at this announcement.
But after the first flush of rapture Hinpoha reconsidered. In her mind's
eye she saw Aunt Phoebe living on alone, unloving and unloved, to a
lonesome old age. Again she saw the cedar chest with its pathetic
wedding garments. Again the words of the fire song came into her mind.
"Do I have to go to Aunt Grace's?" she asked.
"Not unless you want to," said her aunt, wondering.
"Then I think I'd rather stay with you," said Hinpoha.
"Do you really mean it?" asked Aunt Phoebe incredulously. The ice was
melting in her heart and something was beginning to sing. Hinpoha
slipped out of her chair, and, going around behind Aunt Phoebe, put her
arms around her neck. The gate of Aunt Phoebe's heart swung wide open.
Reaching out her arms, she drew Hinpoha down into her lap. "My dear
little girl," she said, "my dear little girl!"
And the _Desert of Waiting_ suddenly blossomed with a thousand roses,
and Hinpoha saw lying fair before her in the sunlight the _City of her
Migwan was once more "in the dumps." The heavy strain under which she
had been working all winter, coupled with the constant worry and
disappointment, produced the inevitable result, and she broke down. She
was chosen a Commencement speaker, and the added work of writing a
graduating essay was the last straw. She might be able to attend the
graduating exercises of her class, said the doctor, but she was not to
go to school any more, and of course there was to be no speech prepared.
He would not hear of her working in an office during the summer, so her
last hope of going to college in the fall went glimmering. But really
this last disappointment did not affect her as strongly as the others
had done. She was getting used to having everything she touched crumble
to dust, and besides, she felt too tired to care which way things went
Thus the month of May brought widely different experiences to the
various girls, and went on its way, giving them into the keeping of the
Rose Moon. On one of the rarest of rare days that ever a poet dreamed of
as belonging to June, the Winnebagos found themselves skimming over the
country roads on a Saturday afternoon's frolic. There were three
automobile loads altogether, for all the mothers were along, besides
Aunt Phoebe and Dr. Hoffman. It was a double occasion for celebration,
for besides being the Rose Moon Ceremonial Meeting, it was the day when
Sahwah was to lay aside her crutches permanently. The cast had been
removed several weeks before and the splintered joint was found to be as
good as ever. And Migwan, although she did not know it yet, had more
cause to celebrate than all the rest put together. Taken all in all, it
would have been hard to find a merrier crowd than that which sped over
the smooth yellow road on this perfect summer day, and many a bird,
balancing himself on a blossoming twig, ceased his ecstatic outpouring
of melody to listen to the blithe chorus of these earth birds, as they
sang, "Hey Ho for Merry June," and "Let the Hills and Dales Resound,"
each machineful trying its best to outdo the others.
And when they came to a sunny hill thickly starred with snowy,
golden-hearted daisies they stopped the automobiles and picked great
armfuls of the blossoms, and Aunt Phoebe and Dr. Hoffman wandered off by
themselves to the other side of the hill in search of larger and finer
Migwan's mother, sitting on the hillside with the warm sweet breeze
blowing in her face, felt the joy of health and strength returning with
a rush. "Oh," she sighed blissfully to Mrs. Evans, who sat beside her,
"I haven't had such a good time since we all went coasting that night. I
declare I'm impatient for winter to return, so we can do it again."
"Who says we have to wait for winter before we can go coasting," said
Hinpoha, who had overheard the remark. "You just watch this child."
Climbing to the top of the hill she beat a path down the slope, and then
sat calmly down with her feet stretched out before her and slid down as
swiftly as if the hill had been covered with ice. She had no sooner
accomplished the feat than all the Winnebagos were at the top of the
hill, eager to try it. They came down all in a row, each with her hand
on the shoulder of the girl ahead of her, so that it looked like a real
toboggan. Then Mrs. Evans tried it, pulling with her stout Mrs.
Brewster, who puffed like an engine and got stuck half way down and had
to be pushed the rest of the way. Then Dr. Hoffman and Aunt Phoebe
returned from their ramble and the mothers hastily collected their
dignity and their hairpins, breathless but bubbling over with the fun of
it. Whoever has not slid down a grassy hillside in June has certainly
missed a joy out of his life.
They had frolicked so long in the daisy field that there was no time to
go on to the place where they had intended to cook their supper, and
they had to stay right there. Aunt Phoebe had her first taste of camp
cookery on this occasion and was delighted beyond words with the
experience, as was Doctor Hoffman. "Sometime you and I vill go camping
and you vill make someting like dis, mein Liebchen?" he said to Aunt
Phoebe, indicating the slumgullion. The group sat petrified at the term
he had used in addressing her, and Aunt Phoebe blushed fiery red. Dr.
Hoffman saw that the cat was out of the bag. Laughing sheepishly, he
spoke. "Dis lady," he said, laying his hand on Aunt Phoebe's, "has
promised to be mein vife."
Hinpoha dropped her plate in her surprise. "Aunt Phoebe!" she cried,
incredulously, throwing her arms around her. Then her face fell. "You
are going away and leave me?" she asked anxiously.
"No, dear," answered Aunt Phoebe, "the Doctor is going to make his home
here and we will keep you with us always." And Hinpoha, though still
dazed by the news she had just heard, breathed easy again.
When the last bit of slumgullion was eaten and Doctor Hoffman had
scraped out the kettle, the Winnebagos retired to the other side of the
hill to don their ceremonial costumes, and the rest of the company found
comfortable seats on the ground from which to watch the coming
performance. As Migwan was wriggling into her gown a letter fell to the
ground. The mail man had handed it to her just as she was starting off
with the crowd, and she had thrust it into her blouse to read later.
Being dressed a few minutes ahead of the rest, she tore open the
envelope while she was waiting for them. If the other girls had been
watching her as she read it they would have seen her clasp her hands
together suddenly and draw in her breath sharply. Just then Nyoda's
clear Wohelo call sounded, and she went with the rest into the circle
around the fire.
The Doctor noted with a thrill of artistic pleasure how each girl, as
she came over the crest of the hill, stood silhouetted against the red
line of the sun for an instant. A ripple of tender amusement went among
the watchers as Althea was borne in, clad in her little ceremonial dress
As this was the big Council Meeting of the year it was more elaborately
staged than the ordinary ceremonial meeting. Instead of a large fire
being kindled in the center of the circle the first thing, four fires
were laid, one in the center and three small ones around it in the form
of a triangle. The girls were divided into three groups to represent
Work, Health and Love. Each group in turn tried to light the big fire in
the center, but in vain; it went out every time. Sorrowfully the groups
returned to their own small woodpiles, which they did not think it worth
while to light. Suddenly a little, bent old woman appeared from
somewhere and stood beside the Work group, shivering with cold. "The
stranger is cold," said one of the Work Maidens, "we must light our fire
for her sake, even if it is not worth while for ourselves." The fire was
lighted and the little old woman stretched out her hands to the cheerful
blaze until she was warmed through. Then with a blessing on the Work
Maidens she went her way.
Faint with hunger, she stopped beside the Health maidens and begged a
bite of food. "We must light our fire and cook something for this hungry
stranger," said one of the Health Maidens, "even if it is not worth
lighting for ourselves." So they lit their fire and solemnly broiled a
wiener which the little old lady devoured eagerly, and passed on,
likewise giving them her blessing.
When she came to the Love group it was quite dark, and she begged a
light from them that she might find her way up the mountain. So they lit
their fire and handed her a torch, upon which she straightened up and
threw off her poor cloak and revealed herself as a young and beautiful
maiden, the good fairy who inhabited those parts. Holding her torch
aloft, she began to dance in and out among the three fires as lightly as
a wandering night breeze. Suddenly she stooped to the Health fire and
picked up a burning brand; then darting to the Work fire, she picked up
a burning brand; then running to the great pile of firewood in the
center of the circle, she flung all three down together. The mingled
Fires of Work, Health and Love kindled the Fire of Wohelo, which each
one separately had failed to light, and as the flames mounted in the big
fire the little fires were scattered and stamped out, and the girls
sprang to their feet singing, "Burn, Fire, Burn." A round of applause
followed this masterly presentation, and Nyoda, who had worked it out,
was called on to make a speech. A fine little bit of by-play not planned
for by Nyoda was staged when Sahwah dramatically cast her crutches into
the Fire of Health.
Now this meeting was the time when the bead-band diaries were to be
finished, and the most interesting looking one was to be interpreted if
the girl was willing to do so. What tales were worked out in the bands
belonging to Migwan, Hinpoha, Sahwah, Gladys and Nyoda! Nyoda hesitated
a long time trying to decide which looked the most interesting,
Hinpoha's or Migwan's, and finally decided on Migwan's. Nothing loth,
Migwan told the story of her hard time during the winter, and the girls
in the circle and the visitors alike were stirred by the account of the
party dress and the family budget and the returned manuscripts and the
vanishing college fund.
"There is one incident not yet recorded," she said, as she came to the
end of the figures on the band, "and I really think this ought to be
told with the rest." From the beaded pocket of her ceremonial gown she
drew the letter which she had read while the girls were dressing. It was
from Mrs. Bartlett, the mother of little Raymond, and read as follows:
"To say I was touched to the heart by your story of where the college
money went, is putting it mildly. If any one ever put up a brave fight
against circumstances, you have. I showed the letter to my husband and
he was as much affected as I. And, curiously enough, a letter which we
had received earlier in the day, and which had caused us much vexation,
contained news of a certain state of affairs which is going to give us a
chance to help you out of your difficulty.
"We own a small farm just outside of Cleveland, and for years this has
been worked for us by a man and his wife. Just this week this man is
leaving our employ to take up some other line of work, leaving the farm
without a caretaker at a critical time when the spring vegetables are
all up and need attention. Now, our proposition is this: believing that
as a Camp Fire Girl you know a great deal about growing things, we are
going to ask you to take charge of the place for the summer, and will
gladly allow you whatever profit you may make from the sale of
vegetables and small fruits if you will see that the peach crop is
brought through in good shape and keep the trees from being destroyed by
bugs. We will attend to the marketing of the peaches ourselves when the
time comes. Good luck to you if you want to undertake the job.
"Your loving friend,
"MABEL E. BARTLETT."
"P.S. We have no objection if you wish to use the house for a Camp Fire
Club House during the summer."
A rousing cheer burst from the group around the fire when they heard
this solution of Migwan's problem.
By this time the full moon was climbing over the top of the hill and
waking up the sleeping daisies, and the little company rose reluctantly
and wandered back to the automobiles that stood by the roadside. Looking
back at the peaceful hillside they had just left, it seemed that the
nodding daisies and the murmuring brook and the rustling grasses all
echoed the song the girls had sung around the fire just before the
Council came to a close:
"Darkness behind us,
Peace around us,
Joy before us,
Light, O Light!"
The next volume in this series is entitled, "THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT
ONOWAY HOUSE; OR, THE MAGIC GARDEN."