Chapter XV. The Buffalo Robe
 
  "Sunset and evening star,
  And one clear call for me!"

The familiar lines slipped softly from Miss Amesbury's lips as she leaned luxuriously against the canoe cushions, watching the vivid glows of the sunset. It was the hour after supper, when the Camp girls were free to do as they pleased, and Agony and Miss Amesbury had come out for a quiet paddle on the river. The excitement of Regatta Day had subsided, and Camp was jogging peacefully toward its close. Only a few more days and then the Carribou would come and take away the merry, frolicking campers, and the Alley and the Avenue alike would know desolation.

All over there were signs that told summer was drawing to a close. The fields were gay with goldenrod and wild asters, the swamp maples had begun to flame in the woods, and there was a crisp tang in the air that sent the blood racing in the veins like a draught of strong, new wine. All these things, as well as the westward shifting of the summer constellations, which a month before had reigned supreme on the meridian, told that the summer was drawing to an end.

Never had the friends at Camp seemed so jolly and dear as in this last week when the days together were numbered, and every sunrise brought them one degree nearer the parting. Everyone was filled with the desire to make the most of these last few days; there was a frantic scramble to do the things that had been talked of all summer, but which had been crowded out by other things, and especially there was a busy taking of pictures of favorite councilors and best friends. Pom-pom, Miss Judy, Tiny Armstrong and the Lone Wolf could be seen at almost any hour of the day "looking pleasant" while some girl snapped their pictures.

"If anyone else asks me to pose for a picture today I shall explode!" declared Tiny Armstrong at last. "I've stood in the sun until I'm burned to a cinder, and I've 'looked pleasant' until my face aches. I'm going on a strike!"

Agony found herself possessed in these last days of an ever increasing desire to be with Miss Amesbury, to hear her talk and watch the expressions play over her beautiful, mobile face. For this brilliant and accomplished woman Agony had conceived an admiration which stirred the very depths of her intense, passionate nature. To be famous and fascinating like Miss Amesbury, this was the secret ambition that filled her restless soul. To be near her now, to have her all to herself in a canoe in this most beautiful hour of the day, thrilled Agony to the verge of intoxication. Her voice trembled when she spoke, her hand shook as she dipped the paddle.

The wide flaming fire of the sunset toned down to a tawny orange; then faded into a pale primrose; the big, bright evening star appeared in the west. From all the woods around came the goodnight twitter of the birds.

"Sunset and evening star--" repeated Agony softly, echoing the words Miss Amesbury had spoken a few moments before. "Oh," she declared, "sunset is the most perfect time of the day for me. I feel just bewitched. I could do anything just at sunset; all my dreams seem about to come true."

And drifting there in the rosy afterglow they talked of dreams and hopes, and ambitions, and Agony laid her soul bare to the older woman. She spoke of the things she planned to do, the career of social service she had laid out for herself, and of the influence for good she would be in the world--all of this to take place in the golden sometime when she would be grown up and out of school.

Miss Amesbury heard her through with a quiet smile. Agony looked up, encountered her gaze and stopped speaking. "Don't you think I can?" she asked quickly.

"It is possible," replied Miss Amesbury tranquilly. "Everything is possible. 'We are all architects of fate;' you must have heard that line quoted before. Everyone carries his future in his own hands; fate has really nothing to do with it. Whatever kind of bud we are, such a flower we will be. We cannot make ourselves; all we can do is blossom. This Other Person that you see in your golden dreams is after all only you, changed from the You that you are now into the You that you hope to be. If we are little, stunted buds we cannot be big, glorious blossoms. The Future is only a great many Nows added up. It is the things you are doing now that will make your future glorious or abject. To be a noble woman you must have been a noble girl. You are setting your face now in the direction in which you are going to travel. Every worthy action you perform now will open the way for more worthy actions in the future, and the same is true of unworthy ones."

Agony sat very still.

"It is the thing we stand for ourselves that makes us an influence for evil or good," continued Miss Amesbury, "not the thing that we preach. That is why so much of the so-called 'uplift work' in the world has no effect upon the persons we are trying to uplift--we try to give them something which we do not possess ourselves. We cannot give something which we don't possess, don't ever forget that, dear child. Be sure that your own torch is burning brightly before you attempt to light someone else's with it.

"You know, Agony, that after Jesus went away out of the Temple at the age of twelve years we do not hear of him again until he was a grown man of thirty. What took place in those years we will never know exactly; but in those Silent Years He prepared Himself for His glorious destiny. He must have conquered Self, day by day, until He was master over all his moods and desires, to be able to influence others so profoundly. He must have developed a sympathetic understanding of His friends and playfellows, to know so intimately the troubles of all the multitudes which he afterwards met. These are your Silent Years, Agony. What you make of them will determine your future."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Why, where is everybody?" Agony asked wonderingly as they drew their canoe up on the dock and went up the hill path. Nobody was in sight, but a subdued sound of cheering and laughter came from the direction of Mateka.

"Oh, I forgot," cried Agony. "There is something tonight in Mateka, a meeting. Dr. Grayson announced it this noon at dinner, but I forgot all about it and hurried through supper tonight so I could come out on the river with you. I wonder what it was about. Come on, let's go up, maybe we can get there before it's over."

They were just going up the steps of Mateka when half a dozen girls rushed out of the door and fell upon Agony.

"Where on earth have you been? We've been hunting all over camp for you. You're elected most popular camper! You've won the Buffalo Robe! Oh, Agony, you've won the Buffalo Robe!"

It was Oh-Pshaw who was speaking, and she cast herself on her twin's neck and kissed her rapturously.

Agony stood very still on the steps, looking in a dazed sort of way from one to the other of the faces around her.

"Oh, Agony, don't you understand? You've won the Buffalo Robe!" Oh-Pshaw repeated laughingly. "We had the election tonight. You won by a big majority. It's all on account of the robin. Nobody else had done anything nearly so splendid. Oh, but I'm proud to be your twin sister!"

Then all the rest came out of Mateka and surrounded Agony, telling her how glad they were she had won the Buffalo Robe, and they ended up by taking her on their shoulders into Mateka and setting her down before the Robe where it hung on the wall. It would be formally presented to her at the farewell banquet two nights later.

"We're going to paint a robin on it as a record of your brave deed," said Migwan. "Hinpoha is working on the design right now."

Agony's emotions were tumultous as she stood there in Mateka before the Buffalo Robe with the girls singing cheer after cheer to her. First triumph flooded her whole being, and delight and satisfaction that she had won the biggest honor in Camp took complete possession of her. The most popular girl in camp! The desire of her heart, born on that first, far off day at camp, had been realized. The precious trophy was hers to take home, to exhibit to Nyoda. She was the center of all eyes; her name was on every lip.

Then, in the midst of her triumph the leaden weight began to press down on her spirits, pulling her back to realization. Her smile faded, her lips trembled, her voice was so husky that she could hardly speak.

"It's--so--hot--in--here," she panted. "Let me go out where it's cool."

And all unsuspecting they led her out and bore her to her tent in triumph.