The Campfire Girls Go Motoring by Hildegard G. Frey
It is at Nyoda's bidding that I am writing the story of our automobile trip last September. She declared it was really too good to keep to ourselves, and as I was official reporter of the Winnebagos anyway, it was no more nor less than my solemn duty. Sahwah says that the only thing which was lacking about our adventures was that we didn't have a ride in a patrol wagon, but then Sahwah always did incline to the spectacular. And the whole train of events hinged on a commonplace circumstance which is in itself hardly worth recording; namely, that tan khaki was all the rage for outing suits last summer. But then, many an empire has fallen for a still slighter cause.
The night after we came home from Onoway House and shortly before we started on that never-to-be-forgotten trip, I was sitting at the window watching the evening stars come out one after another. That line of Longfellow's came into my mind:
"Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven, Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels."
That quotation set me to thinking about Evangeline and the tragedy of her never finding her lover. Could it be possible, I thought, that two people could come so near to finding each other and yet be just too late? Not in these days of long distance telephones, I said to myself. As I looked out dreamily into the mild September twilight, I idly watched two little girls chasing each other around the voting booth that stood on the corner. They kept dodging around the four sides, playing cat and mouse, and trying to catch each other by means of every trick they could think of. One would go a little way and then stop and listen for the footsteps of the other; then she would double back and go the other way, and thus they kept it up, never coming face to face. I stopped dreaming and gave them my entire attention; I was beginning to feel a thrill of suspense as to which one would finally outwit the other and overtake her. The darkness deepened; more stars came out; the moon rose; still the exciting game did not come to a finish. Finally, a woman came out on the porch of the house on the corner and called, "Emma! Mary! Come in now." They never caught each other.
When I was elected reporter on the trip to keep a record of the interesting things we saw, so we wouldn't forget them when we came to write the Count, Nyoda said jokingly, "You'd better take an extra note- book along, Migwan, for we might possibly have some adventures on the road."
I answered, "We've had all the adventures this last summer that can possibly fall to the lot of one set of human beings, and I suppose all the rest of our lives will seem dull and uninteresting by comparison."
I presume Fate heard that remark of mine just as she did that other one last summer when I observed to Hinpoha that we were going to have such a quiet time at Onoway House, and sat up and chuckled on the knees of the gods. In the light of future events it seems to me that it couldn't have done less than kick its heels against that Knee and have hysterics.
As I was in the Glow-worm all the time, of course, I was an eye witness to the things which happened to our party only; but the other girls have told their tale so many times that it seems as if I had actually experienced their adventures myself, and so will write everything down as if I had seen it, without stopping to say Gladys said this or Hinpoha told me that. It makes a better story so, Nyoda says.
After Gladys's father had told us we might take the two automobiles and go on a trip by ourselves, he gave us a road map and told us to go anywhere we liked within a radius of five hundred miles and he would pay all the bills, provided, we planned and carried out the whole trip by ourselves, and did not keep telegraphing home for advice unless we got into serious trouble. All such little troubles as breakdowns, hotels and traffic rules we were to manage by ourselves. He has a theory that Gladys should learn to be self-reliant and means to give her every opportunity to develop resourcefulness. He thinks she has improved wonderfully since joining the Winnebagos and considered this motor trip a good way of testing how much she can do for herself. Gladys scoffed at the idea of wiring home for help when Nyoda was along, for Nyoda has toured a great deal and once drove her uncle's car home from Los Angeles when he broke his arm. Gladys's father knew full well that Nyoda was perfectly capable of engineering the trip or he never would have proposed it in the first place, but he never can resist the temptation to tease Gladys, and kept on inquiring anxiously if she knew which side of the road to stop on and where to go to buy gas. Gladys, who had driven her own car for three years! Finally, he offered to bet that we would be wiring home for advice before the end of the trip and Gladys took him up on it. The outcome was that if we returned safe and sound without calling for help Mr. Evans would build us a permanent Lodge in which to hold our Winnebago meetings. Gladys danced a whole figure dance for joy, for in her mind the Lodge was as good as built.
How we did pore over that road map, trying to make up our minds where to go! Nyoda wanted to go to Cincinnati and Gladys wanted to go to Chicago, and the arguments each one put up for her cause were side- splitting. Finally, they decided to settle it by a set of tennis. They played all afternoon and couldn't get a set. We finally intervened and dragged them from the court in the name of humanity, for the sun was scorching and we were afraid they would be doing the Sun Dance as Ophelia did if we didn't rescue them. The score was then 44-44 in games. So now that neither side had the advantage of the other we did as we did the time we named the raft at Onoway House--joined forces. We decided to go both to Cincinnati and Chicago.
As we finally made it out, the route was like this: Cleveland to Chicago by way of Toledo and Ft. Wayne; Chicago to Indianapolis; Indianapolis to Louisville. Here Hinpoha got a look at the map and wanted to know if we couldn't take in Vincennes, because she had been crazy to see the place since reading Alice of Old Vincennes. So to humor her we included Vincennes on the road to Louisville, although it was quite a bit out of the way. Then from Louisville we planned to go up to Cincinnati and see the Rookwood Pottery that Nyoda is so crazy about and come back home through Dayton, Springfield and Columbus. We were all very well pleased with ourselves when we had the route mapped out at last, and none of us were sorry that Nyoda and Gladys couldn't agree on Cincinnati or Chicago and had to compromise and take in both.
Then, when it was decided where we were going, came the no less important question of what we were to wear on the road. We decided on our khaki-colored hiking-suits as the shade that would show the dust the least, and our soft tan regulation Camp Fire hats, with green motor veils. Besides being eminently sensible the combination was wonderfully pretty, as even critical Hinpoha, who, at first wanted us to wear smart white and blue suits, had to admit. It seemed to me the most fitting thing in the world for a group of Camp Fire Girls to sally forth dressed in wood brown and green, the colors of nature which in my mind should be the chosen colors of the whole organization.
We had a discussion about goggles and Gladys and Hinpoha declared flatly that they wouldn't disfigure their faces with them, but Nyoda made us all get them whether we wanted to wear them all the time or not. Nyoda is an advocate of Preparedness. It was this spirit that prompted her to make me take an extra note-book along, not the premonition that there was going to be something to put into it. Nyoda doesn't believe in premonitions since she didn't have any the time she and Gladys got into the blue automobile with the cane streamer that awful day in May.
Then there came the weighty matter of the names of the two cars. I will skip the discussion and merely announce the result. The big, brown car which Gladys was to drive was christened the Striped Beetle, on account of the black and gold stripes, and the black car was called the Glow- worm, because that's what it reminds you of when it comes down the road at night with the lamps lighted and the body invisible in the darkness. Nyoda was to be at the helm, or rather at the wheel, of the Glow-worm.
In order that no feelings might be involved in any way over which car we other girls traveled in, Nyoda, Solomon-like, proposed that she and Gladys play "John Kempo" for us. (That isn't spelled right, but no matter.) Gladys won Hinpoha, Chapa and Medmangi, and Nyoda won Sahwah, Nakwisi and myself. Thus the die was cast and my fortunes linked with those of the Glow-worm.
I don't remember ever being so supremely happy as I was the night before we were to start. All my troubles seemed over for good. The summer venture had been a success and the doors of college stood wide open to receive me when the time came. The awful weight of poverty which had sat on my shoulders last year, and had made my school days more of a nightmare than anything else was lifted, and here was I, "Migwan, the Penpusher", actually about to start out on an automobile trip such as I had often heard described by more fortunate friends, but had never hoped to experience myself. We were all over at Hinpoha's house that night, because Aunt Phoebe had just come back with the Doctor and they wanted to see us.
"And you be careful of your bones, Missis Sahvah!" said the Doctor, playfully shaking his finger at her.
"Are you going if it rains?" asked Aunt Phoebe.
The possibility of rain had never occurred to us, as the only picture we had seen in our mind's eye had been country roads gleaming in the sunshine, but Gladys said scornfully that she would like to be shown the group of Camp Fire Girls who would let themselves be put off by rain.
"Let's build a Rain Jinx," said Sahwah, who always has the most whimsical inspirations.
"A what?" asked Gladys.
"A Rain Jinx," said Sahwah, warming to the idea. "A 'doings' to scare away the Rain Bird and the Thunder Bird."
As the foundation for her Rain Jinx she took Hinpoha's Latin book, which she declared was the driest thing in existence. On top of that she piled other books which were nearly as dry until she had a sort of altar. Then she proceeded to sacrifice all the rubbers, rain-coats and umbrellas she could find, as a propitiatory offering to the Rain Bird. Thoroughly in the mood for such nonsense, now she proceeded to chant weird chants around the altar to protect us from all sorts of things on the road; to soften the hearts of traffic policemen; to keep the tires from bursting, and the machinery from cutting up capers. It was the most ridiculous performance I have ever seen and Aunt Phoebe and the Doctor laughed themselves almost sick over it. I laughed so myself that I could not take notes on what she was saying and so can't let you laugh at it for yourselves. As a reporter I'm afraid I'm not an unqualified success.
In the midst of that "Vestal Virgin" business--Sahwah was flourishing a chamois vest to give us the idea of vestal--Nyoda walked in. There was only one low lamp burning in order to carry out Sahwah's idea of what a Rain Jinx ceremony should be like, and Nyoda couldn't clearly make out the objects in the room.
"Look out for the Rain Jinx!" called Sahwah, warningly. "If you touch it it will bring us bad luck instead of good."
But it was too late. Nyoda had stumbled over the pile of things on the floor, and in falling sent the elements of the Rain Jinx flying in all directions. Hinpoha flew to light the light and Sahwah picked Nyoda up out of the mess and set her in a chair, while the rest of us collected the scattered articles and tidied up the room, and Sahwah painted in lurid colors to Nyoda the dire consequences of her crime, and made her give her famous "Wimmen Sufferage" speech as an act of atonement.
The Rain Bird must have forgiven her on the strength of that speech, for there never was such a perfect blue and gold day as the morning we started out. I have already told you how we were divided up in the cars. Gladys in the Striped Beetle went first, carrying with her Hinpoha, Chapa and Medmangi, and Nyoda drove the Glow-worm right behind her with Sahwah, Nakwisi and myself. Hinpoha insisted upon bringing Mr. Bob, her black cocker spaniel, along as a mascot. Of course, everybody wanted to sit beside the driver and we had to compromise by planning to change seats every hour to give us all a chance. We all carried our cameras in our hands to be ready to snap anything worth while as it came along, and beside that Nakwisi had her spy-glass along as usual and I had my reporter's note-book. In honor of my being reporter they let me sit beside Nyoda at the start.
Nakwisi couldn't wait until we got under way and bounced up and down on the seat with impatience. "What's the matter with you?" said Sahwah, "You're a regular starting-crank!"
"That will do, Sahwah," said Nyoda, with mock severity. "I want it distinctly understood that anybody who indulges in puns on this trip is going to get out and walk."
With that threat she settled herself behind the wheel and turned on the gasoline, or whatever it is you do to start a car. Thus we started off, like modern day Innocents Abroad, with the Winnebago banner across the back of each car, and our green veils fluttering in the breeze. Mr. Evans waved the paper on which the bet was recorded significantly, and shouted "Remember!" in a sepulchral tone, and it was plain to be seen he was sure he would win the bet. He even tempted Fate so far as to throw an old rubber after us as we departed, instead of an old shoe, to bring us luck according to the Rain Jinx. It landed in the tonneau of our car and Sahwah pounced upon it as a favorable omen and kept it for a mascot.
With a great cheering and waving of handkerchiefs we were off. The Striped Beetle was just ahead of us in all the glory of its new coat of paint and its bright banner, and I couldn't help thrilling with pride to think that I, for once, belonged to such a gay company, I, who all my life had to be content with shabby things. I suppose we must have cut quite a figure with our tan suits all alike and our green veils, for people stopped to look at us as we passed through the streets. It was not long before we were outside the city limits and running along the western road toward Toledo.
I always did think September was the prettiest month in which to go through the country in the lake region on account of the grapes. The vineyards stretched for miles along the road and the air was sweet with the perfume of the purple fruit. There were wide corn-fields, too, that made me think of the poem:
"Up from the meadows rich with corn, Clear in the cool September morn--"
Oh, there never was such a beautiful country as America, nor such a happy girl as I! In one place someone had planted a long strip of brilliant red geraniums through the middle of a green field and the effect was too gorgeous for description. (I'm glad I noted all those things and put them down on the first part of the trip, for afterwards I scarcely thought of looking at the scenery.)
The girls in the car ahead kept shouting back at us and trying to make up a song about the Striped Beetle, and, of course, we had resurrected the one-time popular "Glow-worm" song and made the hills and dales resound with the air of the chorus:
"Shine, little Glow-worm, glimmer, Shine, little Glow-worm, glimmer, Lead us lest too far we wander, Love's sweet voice is calling yonder; Shine, little Glow-worm, glimmer, Shine, little Glow-worm, glimmer, Light the path, below, above, And lead us on to love!"
Then there would come a chorus of derision from the Striped Beetles, who politely inquired which one of us expected to be led to her Prince Charming by that mechanical Glow-worm; and flung back our chorus in a parody:
"Shine, little Glow-worm, glimmer, Till the Law makes you put on the dimmer!"
Then we christened the horn of the Striped Beetle "Love", because that was the only "sweet voice" we heard calling yonder. I don't believe I ever had such a good time as I did on the road to Toledo. We got there about noon and went to a large restaurant for dinner. Even there people looked up from their tables as we eight girls came in, dressed in our wood brown and green costumes, and we heard several low-voiced remarks, "They're probably Camp Fire Girls."
We had a great deal of fun at dinner where we all sat at one big table. Sahwah and Hinpoha sat at the two ends and got into a dispute as to which end was the head of the table. "Stop quarreling about it, you ridiculous children," said Nyoda. "'Wherever Magregor sits--' you know the rest."
While she was speaking I saw a tourist at another table, dressed in a long dust coat and wearing monstrous goggles that covered the entire upper half of his face and made him look like a frog, lean forward as if to catch every word. Nyoda is perfectly stunning in her motor suit and I couldn't blame the man for admiring her, but we did want Nyoda to ourselves on this trip, and the thought of having men mixed up in it put a damper on my spirits. I suppose Nyoda will leave us for a man sometime, but the thought always makes me ill. I came out of my little reverie to find that Gladys had appropriated my glass of water and Sahwah and Hinpoha were still disputing about being the head of the table. Finally, we jokingly advised Sahwah to ask the waiter, and she promptly took us up and did it, and found that Hinpoha was the head.
"I'm going to have the head at the next place we eat," Sahwah declared, owning her defeat with as good grace as she could. And Fate winked solemnly and began to slide off the knees of the gods.
From Toledo to Ft. Wayne, our next stop, there were two routes, the northern one through Bryan and the southern one through Napoleon and Defiance. As there didn't seem to be much difference between them we played "John Kempo" and the northern route won, two out of three. As we were threading our way through the streets of the town, an old woman tried to cross the street just in front of the Glow-worm. Nyoda sounded the horn warningly but the noise seemed to confuse her. She got across the middle of the street in safety and Nyoda quickened up a bit, when the woman lost her head and started back for the side she had come from. She darted right in front of the Glow-worm, and although Nyoda turned aside sharply, the one fender just grazed her and she fell down in the street. Of course, a crowd collected and we had to stop and get out and help her to the sidewalk where we made sure she was not hurt. Nyoda finally took her in tow and piloted her across the street to the place where she wanted to go.
When the excitement was over and the crowd had dispersed we returned to the car and Nyoda started up once more. Then for the first time we noticed that the Striped Beetle was nowhere in sight. Apparently Gladys had not noticed our stopping in the confusion of the busy street and had gone on ahead without us.