Chapter XVIII. In Camp
 

"Well, well, young ladies, I certainly am glad to see you again! Indeed I am."

  "Ladies, ladies, one and all,
   I'm very glad to have you call!"

Thus Mr. Lagg made our friends welcome as they entered his "emporium," as the sign over the door had it.

"What will it be to-day?" he went on.

  "I've prunes and peaches, pies and pills,
   To feed you well, and cure your ills."

"Thank you, but we haven't any ills!" cried "Brown Betty," as her friends were beginning to call her, for certainly she was tanned most becomingly. "However, we do want the lottest lot of things. Where is that list, Mollie?"

"You have it."

"No, I gave it to you."

"Grace had it last," volunteered Amy. "She said she did not want to forget---- "

"Oh, we know what Grace doesn't want to forget," interrupted Mollie with a laugh. "Produce that list, Grace," and it was forthcoming.

"You see we have let our supplies run low," remarked Betty as she gave her order,

"Are you going on a long cruise?" Mr. Lagg, wanted to know.

  "To sail and sail the bounding main,
   And then come back to port again?

"Of course I know that isn't very good," he apologized. "When I make 'em up on the spur of the moment that way I don't take time to polish 'em off. And of course Rainbow Lake isn't exactly the bounding main, but it will answer as well."

"Certainly," agreed Betty, with a laugh. "I think that is all," she went on, looking at her list. "Oh, I almost forgot, we want some more of your lovely olives-- those large ones."

"Yes, those are fine olives," admitted the store keeper. "I get them from New York.

  "Olives stuffed, and some with pits,
   With girls my olives sure make hits."

He chanted this with a bow and a smile.

"I am aware," he said, "I am aware that the foregoing may sound like a baseball game, but such is not my intention. I use hit in the sense of meaning that it is well-liked."

"Too well liked-- I mean the olives," spoke Mollie. "We can't keep enough on hand. I think we'll have to buy them by the case after this."

"As Grace does her chocolates," remarked Betty, with a smile that took all the sarcasm out of the words.

"Well," remarked Grace, drawlingly, "I have noticed that you girls are generally around when I open a fresh box."

"Well hit!" cried Amy. "Don't let them fuss you, Grace my dear."

"I don't intend to."

Mr. Lagg helped his red-haired boy of all work to carry the girls' purchases down to the boat.

"You must be fixing for a long voyage," he remarked.

"No, we are going to camp over on Elm Island," said Betty.

The storekeeper started.

"What! With the ghost?" He nearly dropped a package of fresh eggs.

"Really, Mr. Lagg, is there-- er-- anything really there?" asked Mollie, seriously.

"Well, now, far be it from me to cause you young ladies any alarm," said Mr. Lagg, "but I only repeat what I heard. There is something on that island that none of the men or boys who have seen and heard it cannot account for."

"Just what is it?" asked Betty,

"Do you want me to tell you?"

"Certainly-- we are not afraid. Though we mustn't let Aunt Kate know," said Betty, quickly.

"Well, it's white and it rattles," said Mr. Lagg.

"Sounds like a riddle," commented Amy. "Let's see who can guess the answer."

"White-- and rattles," murmured Betty. "I have it-- it's a pan full of white dishes. Some lone camper goes down to wash his dishes in the lake every night, and that accounts for it."

"Then we'll ask the lone camper-- to scamper!" cried Grace with a laugh. "We want peace and quietness."

"And you are really going to camp on Elm Island?" asked Mr. Lagg, as he put the purchases aboard.

"We are," said Betty, solenmly. "And if you hear us call for help in the middle of the night---- "

"Betty Nelson!" protested Amy.

  "And if for help you call on I--
    I'll come exceeding quick and spry!"

Thus spouted Mr. Lagg.

"I am painfully aware," he said, quickly, "that my poem on this occasion needs much polishing, but I sometimes make them that way, just to show what can be done-- on the spur of the moment. Howsomever, I wish you luck. And if you do need help, just holler, or light a fire on shore, or fire a gun. I can see you or hear you from the end of my dock." Indeed, Elm Island was in sight.

The girls went back with their supplies, and soon were in camp. The hard part of the work had been done for them by those of whom they had hired the tent and the outfit. All that remained to do was to light the patent oil stove, and cook. They could prepare their meals aboard the boat if they desired, and take them to the dining tent. In short they could take their choice of many methods of out-door life.

Their supplies were put away, the camp gotten in "ship-shape," cots were made up, and mosquito bars suspended to insure a night of comfort. A little tour was made of the island in the vicinity of the camp, and, as far as the girls could see, occasional picnic parties were the only visitors. There were no other campers there.

"We'll have a marshmallow roast to-night," decided Betty, as evening came on. They had gathered wood for a fire on the shore of the lake, and the candy had been provided by Grace, as might have been guessed.

"I hope the ghost doesn't come and want some," murmured Mollie.

"Hush!" exclaimed Betty. A noise in the woods made them all jump. Then they laughed, as a bird flew out.

"Our nerves are not what they should be," said Betty. "We must calm down. I wonder did we get any pickles?"

"I saw him put some in," spoke Grace.

"Then let's have supper, and we'll go out for a ride on the lake afterward," suggested Betty.

"Maybe the ghost will carry off our camp," remarked Amy.

"Don't you dare let Aunt Kate hear you say that or she'll run away!" cried Betty. "Come on, everyone help get supper, and we'll be through early," and, gaily humming she began to set the table that stood under a canvas shelter in front of the big tent.