Chapter II. Getting Settled
 

Along the bluff overlooking the river, and half buried in the pine trees, stretched a long, low, rustic building, the pillars of whose wide piazza were made of tree trunks with the bark left on. A huge chimney built of cobblestones almost covered the one end. The great pines hovered over it protectingly; their branches caressing its roof as they waved gently to and fro in the light breeze. On the peak of one of its gables a little song sparrow, head tilted back and body a-tremble, trilled forth an ecstasy of song.

"Isn't it be-yoo-tiful?" sighed Hinpoha, her artistic soul delighting in the lovely scene before her. "I wonder what that house is for?"

"I don't know," replied Sahwah, equally enchanted. "There's another house behind it, farther up on the hill."

This second house was much larger than the bungalow overhanging the water's edge; it, too, was built in rustic fashion, with tree-trunks for porch posts; it was long and rambling, and had an additional story at the back, where the hill sloped away.

It was into this latter house that the crowd of girls was pouring, and the Winnebagos, following the others, found themselves in a large dining room, open on three sides to the veranda, and screened all around the open space. On the fourth side was an enormous fireplace built of stones like those they had seen in the chimney of the other house. Over its wide stone shelf were the words CAMP KEEWAYDIN traced in small, glistening blue pebbles in a cement panel. Although the day was hot, a small fire of paper and pine knots blazed on the hearth, crackling a cheery welcome to the newcomers as they entered. In the center of the room two long tables and a smaller one were set for dinner, and from the regions below came the appetizing odor of meat cooking, accompanied by the portentous clatter of an egg beater.

There was apparently an attic loft above the dining-room, for next to the chimney a square opening showed in the raftered ceiling, with a ladder leading up through it, fastened against the wall below. Up this ladder a dozen or more of the younger girls scrambled as soon as they entered the room; laughing, shrieking, tumbling over each other in their haste; and after a moment of thumping and bouncing about, down they all came dancing, clad in middies and bloomers, and raced, whooping like Indians, down the path which led to the tents.

"Are we supposed to get into our bloomers right away?" Oh-Pshaw whispered to Agony. "Ours are in the trunk, and it hasn't been brought up yet."

"I don't believe we are," Agony returned, watching Mary Sylvester, who stood talking to Pom-pom in the doorway of the Camp Director's office. "None of the older girls are doing it; just the youngsters."

Just then Mrs. Grayson, the Camp Director's wife, came out of the office and announced that dinner would be served immediately, after which the tent assignments would be made. The Winnebagos found themselves seated in a row down the side of one of the long tables, being served by a jolly-looking, muscular-armed councilor, who turned out to be the Camp Director's daughter, and who had her section of the table feeling at home in no time.

"Seven of you from one city!" she remarked to the Winnebagos, when she had called the roll of "native heaths," as she put it. "That's one of the largest delegations we have here. You all look like star campers, too," she added, sizing them up shrewdly. "Seven stars!" she repeated, evidently pleased with her simile. "We'll have to call you the Pleiades. We already have the Nine Muses from New York, the Twelve Apostles from Boston, the Heavenly Twins from Chicago and the Three Graces from Minneapolis, beside the Lone Wolf from Labrador, the Kangaroo from Australia, and the Elephant's Child from India."

"Oh, how delicious!" cried Sahwah delightedly. "Do you really mean that there are girls here from Australia and India?" Sahwah set down her water glass and gazed incredulously at Miss Judith. Miss Judith nodded over the pudding she was dishing up.

"The Kangaroo and the Lone Wolf are councilors," she replied, "but the Elephant's Child is a girl, the daughter of a missionary to India. She goes to boarding school here in America in the winter time, and always spends her summers at our camp. That is she, sitting at the end of the other table, next to mother."

The Winnebagos glanced with quick interest to see what the girl from India might be like, and somewhat to their surprise saw that she was no different from the others. They recognized her as one of the younger girls who had been hanging over Pom-pom on the boat.

"Oh--she!" breathed Agony.

"What is her name?" asked Hinpoha, feeling immensely drawn to the girl, not because she came from India, but because she was even stouter than herself.

"Her name is Bengal Virden," replied Miss Judith.

"Bengal?" repeated Sahwah. "What an odd name. I suppose she was born in Bengal?"

"Yes, she was born there," replied Miss Judith. "She is a rather odd child," she continued, "but an all round good sport. Her mother died when she was small and she was brought up by her father until she was old enough to be sent to America, and since then she has divided her time between boarding schools and summer camps. She has a very affectionate nature, and gets tremendous crushes on the people she likes. Last summer it was Pom-pom, and she nearly wore her out with her adoration, although Pom-pom likes that sort of thing."

"Who is Pom-pom?" asked Agony curiously. "I have heard her name mentioned so many times."

"Pom-pom is our dancing teacher," replied Miss Judith. "She is the pretty councilor over there at the lower end of mother's table. All the girls get violent crushes on her," she continued, looking the Winnebagos over with a quizzical eye, as if to say that it would only be a short time before they, too, would be lying at Pom-pom's feet, another band of adoring slaves. Without knowing why, Agony suddenly felt unaccountably foolish under Miss Judith's keen glance, and taking her eyes from Pom-pom, she let them rove leisurely over the long line of girls at her own table.

"Who is the girl sitting third from the end on this side?" she asked, indicating the heavy-jawed individual who had made the impolite remark on the boat about Hinpoha, and who had just now pushed back her pudding dish with an emphatic movement after tasting one spoonful, and had turned to her neighbor with a remark which made the one addressed glance uncomfortably toward the councilor who was serving that section.

Miss Judith followed Agony's glance. "That," she replied in a non-committal tone, "is Jane Pratt. Will anyone have any more pudding?"

The pudding was delicious--chocolate with custard sauce--and Miss Judith was immediately busy refilling a half dozen dishes all proffered her at once. Agony made a mental note that Miss Judith had made no comment whatever upon Jane Pratt, although she had evidently been in camp the year before, and she drew her own conclusions about Jane's popularity.

"Who is Mary Sylvester?" Agony asked presently.

"Mary Sylvester," repeated Miss Judith in a tone which caught the attention of all the Winnebagos, it was so full of affection. "Mary Sylvester is the salt of the earth," Miss Judith continued warmly. "She's the brightest, loveliest, most kind-hearted girl I've ever met, and I've met a good many. She can't help being popular; she's as jolly as she is pretty, and as unassuming as she is talented. For an all around good camper 'we will never see her equal, though we search the whole world through,' as the camp song runs."

Agony looked over to where Mary Sylvester sat, the center of an animated group, and yearned with all her heart to be so prominent and so much noticed.

"I heard someone on the boat say that she would probably get the Buffalo Robe this year; that she had almost gotten it last year," continued Agony. "What is the Buffalo Robe, please?"

"The Buffalo Robe," replied Miss Judith, "is a large leather skin upon which the chief events of each camping season are painted in colors, and at the end of the summer it goes to the girl who is voted the most popular. She keeps it through the winter and returns it to us when camp opens the next year."

"Oh-h," breathed Agony, mightily interested. "And who got it last year?"

"Peggy Atterbury," said Miss Judith. "You'll hear all about her before very long. All the old girls are going to tie black ribbons on their tent poles tomorrow morning because she isn't coming back this year. She was another rare spirit like Mary Sylvester, only a bit more prominent, because she saved a girl from drowning one day."

Agony's heart swelled with ambition and desire as she listened to Miss Judith telling about the Buffalo Robe. A single consuming desire burned in her soul--to win that Buffalo Robe. Nothing else mattered now; no other laurel she might possibly win held out any attraction; she must carry off the great honor. She would show Nyoda what a great quality of leadership she possessed; there would be no question of Nyoda's making her a Torch Bearer when she came home with the Buffalo Robe. Thus her imagination soared until she pictured herself laying the significant trophy at Nyoda's feet and heard Nyoda's words of congratulation. A sudden doubt assailed her in the midst of her dream.

"Do new girls ever win the Buffalo Robe?" she asked in a voice which she tried hard to make sound disinterested.

"Yes, certainly," replied Miss Judith. "Peggy Atterbury was a new girl last year, and the girl who won it the year before last was a new girl also."

Her doubt thus removed, Agony returned to her pleasant day dream with greater longing than ever. The conversation at their table was interrupted by shouts from the next group.

"Oh, Miss Judy, please, please, can't we live in the Alley?"

Another group farther down the table took up the cry, and the room echoed with clamorous requests to live either "in the Alley" or "on the Avenue." The Elephant's Child came in at the end with a fervent plea: "Please, can't I be in Pom-pom's tent this year?"

"Tent lists are all made out," replied Miss Judith blandly. "You'll all find out in a few moments where you're to be." She sat calmly amid the buzz of excited speculation.

"What do they mean by living 'in the Alley'?" asked Sahwah curiously.

"There are two rows of tents," replied Miss Judith. "The first one is called the Avenue and the second one the Alley. This end of camp, where the bungalows are, is known as the Heights, and the other end the Flats. There is always a great rivalry in camp between the dwellers in the Alley and the dwellers on the Avenue, and the two compete for the championship in sports."

"Oh, how jolly!" cried Sahwah eagerly. "Where are we to be?" she continued, filled with a sudden burning desire to live in the Alley.

"You'll know soon," said Miss Judith, with another one of her quizzical smiles, and with that the Winnebagos had to be content.

In a few moments dinner was finished and Mrs. Grayson rose and read the tent assignments. The tents all had names, it appeared; there was Bedlam and Avernus, Jabberwocky, Hornets, Nevermore, Gibraltar, Tamaracks, Fairview, Woodpeckers, Ravens, All Saints, Aloha, and a number of others which the Winnebagos could not remember at one hearing. Three girls and one councilor were assigned to each tent. Sahwah and Agony and Hinpoha heard themselves called to go to Gitchee-Gummee; Gladys and Migwan were put with Bengal Virden, the Elephant's Child from India, into a tent called Ponemah; while Katherine and Oh-Pshaw were assigned, without any tentmate, to "Bedlam." The Winnebagos smiled involuntarily when this last assignment was read, knowing how well Katherine's erratic nature befitted the name of the place. Gitchee-Gummee, Sahwah found to her delight, was the tent nearest the woods; next to it, but on the other side of a small gully, spanned by a rustic bridge, came Aloha, Pom-pom's tent; on the other side of Aloha stood Ponemah, in the shadow of twin pines of immense height; while Bedlam was farther along in the same row, just beyond Avernus. Avernus, the Winnebagos noticed to their amusement, was a tent pitched in a deep hollow, the approach to which was a rocky passage down a steep hillside, strikingly suggestive of the classical entrance way to the nether regions. Only the ridgepole of Avernus was visible from the level upon which Bedlam stood, all the rest of it being hidden by the high rocks which surround it. Bedlam, on the other hand, was built on a height, and commanded a view of nearly all the other tents, being itself a conspicuous object in the landscape.

To their secret joy, the Winnebagos saw that their tents were all in the back row, in the Alley. Agony, especially, was exultant, since she saw that Mary Sylvester was also in the Alley. Mary was in Aloha, Pom-pom's tent, right next door, and Agony had a feeling that wherever Mary Sylvester was, there would be the center of things, and being right next door might have its advantages.

"We're going to have Miss Judith for a councilor," remarked Sahwah joyfully, as she dumped her armful of blankets down on one of the beds--the one on the side toward the woods.

"I wonder which bed she would like," said Hinpoha, standing irresolutely in the center of the floor with her armful of bedding.

"Here she comes now," announced Agony. "Let's wait and ask her."

"Well, she wouldn't want this one anyway," remarked Sahwah, as she straightened the mattress on her bed preparatory to spreading the sheets, "it sags in the middle like everything. I didn't take the best one if I did take first choice"--a fact which was apparent to all.

Bedlam's councilor, who had been announced as Miss Armstrong, from Australia, had already staked her claim when Katherine and Oh-Pshaw arrived, although she herself was nowhere in sight. One of the beds was made up and covered with a blanket of such dazzling gorgeousness that the two girls were almost blinded, and after one look turned their eyes outdoors for relief. All colors of the rainbow ran riot in that blanket, each one trying to outdo the others in brilliancy and intensity, until the effect was a veritable Vesuvius eruption of infernal splendors.

"Think of having to live with that!" exclaimed Oh-Pshaw tragically. "My eyesight will be ruined in one day. Imagine the effect after I get out my pink and gray one."

"And my lavender one!" added Katherine.

"We won't ever dare roll up the sides of our tent," continued Oh-Pshaw. "We'll look like a beacon fire, up here on this hill. Our tent is visible from the whole camp."

"Cheer up," said Katherine philosophically, "maybe there are others just as bad. Anyway, let's not act as if we minded; it might make Miss Armstrong feel badly. She probably thinks it's handsome, or she wouldn't have it. Coming from Australia that way, she may have quite savage tastes."

"I wonder what she'll be like," ruminated Oh-Pshaw, standing on one foot to tie the sneaker she had just substituted for her high traveling shoe.

As if in answer to her wondering, a clear, far-carrying call came to the ears of both girls at that moment. "Coo-ee! Coo-ee! Coo-ee!"

"What is that?" asked Oh-Pshaw, pausing in her shoe lacing with one foot poised airily in space.

The call was repeated just outside their tent door, and then trailed off into silence.

"Is that someone calling to us?" asked Katherine, hurriedly pulling her middy on over her head and throwing back the tent flap. No one was in sight outside.

"Must have been for someone else," she reported, looking right and left along the pathway. "There's nobody out here."

She came back into the tent and began arranging her small possessions on the shelf which swung overhead.

"How I'm ever going to keep all my things on one-third of this shelf is more--" she began, but her speech ended in a startled gasp, for the floor of the tent suddenly heaved up in the center, sending bottles, brushes and boxes tumbling in all directions. The board which had thus heaved up so miraculously continued to rise at one end, and underneath it a pair of long, lean, powerful-looking arms came into view, followed by a head and a pair of shoulders. Katherine and Oh-Pshaw sat petrified at the apparition.

"Did I scare you, girls?" asked a deep, strong voice, and the apparition looked gravely from one to the other. It was a dark-skinned face, bronzed by wind and weather to a coppery, Indian-like tinge, and the hair which framed it was coarse and black. Only the head and shoulders of the apparition were visible beside the arms, the rest being concealed in the depths underneath the tent, but the breadth of those shoulders indicated clearly what might be expected in the way of a body. After a moment of roving back and forth between the two girls, the dark eyes under the heavy eyebrows fastened themselves upon Katherine with a mournful intensity of gaze that held her spellbound, speechless. After a full moment's scrutiny the dark eyes dropped, and the apparition, using her arms as levers, raised herself to the level of the floor and stood up. She was taller even than they had expected from the breadth of her shoulders; in fact, she seemed taller than the tent itself. Katherine, who up until that moment had considered herself tall, felt like a pigmy beside her, or, as she expressed it, "like Carver Hill suddenly set down beside one of the Alps." Never had she seen such a monumental young woman; such suggestion of strength and vigor contained in a feminine frame.

Oh-Pshaw looked timidly at the human Colossus standing in the middle of the tent, and inquired meekly, "Are you Miss Armstrong? Are you our Councilor?"

"I am," replied the newcomer gravely, replacing the board in the floor with a nonchalance which conveyed the impression that coming up through floors was her usual manner of entering places.

"Why did you come in that way?" burst out Katherine, unable to contain her curiosity any longer.

"Oh, I just happened to be under the tent," replied Miss Armstrong, speaking in a drawling voice with a marked English accent, "looking for the broom, when I spied that loose board and thought I'd come in that way. It was less trouble than coming out and going around to the steps."

"Less trouble," echoed Katherine. "I should think it would have been more trouble raising that heavy board with my suitcase standing on it."

"Was your suitcase on it?" inquired Miss Armstrong casually. "I didn't notice."

"Didn't notice!" repeated Katherine in astonishment. "It weighs thirty pounds."

"I weigh two hundred and thirty," returned Miss Armstrong conversationally.

"You do!" exclaimed Katherine in amazement. "You certainly don't look it." Indeed, it seemed incredible that Miss Armstrong, tall as she was, could possibly weigh so much, for she looked lean and gaunt as a wolf hound.

"You must be awfully strong, to have raised that board," Katherine continued, squinting at the muscular brown arms, which seemed solid as iron.

For answer Miss Armstrong took a step forward, picked Katherine up as if she had been a feather, threw her over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes, held her there for a moment head downward, and then swung her up and set her lightly on the hanging shelf, while Oh-Pshaw looked on round-eyed and open-mouthed with astonishment.

Just then a shadow appeared in the doorway, and Katherine looked down to see a shrinking little figure with pipestem legs standing on the top step.

"Hello!" Katherine called gaily, from her airy perch. "Are you our neighbor from Avernus? Do you want anything?" she added, for the girl was swallowing nervously, and seemed to be on the verge of making a request.

"Will somebody please show me how to make a bed?" faltered the visitor in a thin, piping voice. "It isn't made, and I don't know how to do it."

"Daggers and dirks!" exploded Katherine, nearly falling off the shelf under the stress of her emotion.

"What's the matter with the rest of the folks in Avernus--can't they make beds either?" asked Miss Armstrong, surveying the wisp of a girl in the doorway with an intent, solemn gaze that sent her into a tremble of embarrassment.

"My 'tenty' hasn't come yet," she faltered in reply.

"Who's your councilor?"

"I don't know; she isn't there." The voice broke on the last words, and the blue eyes overflowed with tears.

Katherine leaped from the shelf to the bed and down to the floor. "I'll come over and help you make your bed," she said kindly.

"All right," said Miss Armstrong, nodding gravely. "You go over with her and I'll find out who's councilor in Avernus and send her around."

To herself she added, when the other two were out of earshot, "Baby's away from it's mother for the first time, and it's homesick."

"Poor thing," said Oh-Pshaw, who had overheard Miss Armstrong's remark.

"She'll get over it," replied Miss Armstrong prophetically.

If Miss Armstrong was a novelty to the tenants of Bedlam, the councilor in Ponemah also seemed an odd character to the three girls she was to chaperon--only she was a much less agreeable surprise. She was a stout, fussy woman of about forty with thick eye-glasses which pinched the corners of her eyes into a strained expression. She greeted the girls briefly when they presented themselves to her, and in the next breath began giving orders about the arrangement of the tent. The beds must stand thus and so; the washstand must be on the other side from where it was; the mirror must stay on this side. And she must have half of the swinging shelf for her own; she could not possibly do with less; the others could get along as best they might with what was left.

"We're supposed to divide the shelf up equally," announced Bengal Virden, who had begun to look upon Miss Peckham--that was her name--with extreme disapproval from the moment of their introduction. Bengal was a girl whose every feeling was written plainly upon her face; she could not mask her emotions under an inscrutable countenance. Her dislike of Miss Peckham was so evident that Migwan and Gladys had expected an outbreak before this; but Bengal had merely stood scowling while the beds were being moved about. With the episode of the swinging shelf, however, she flared into open defiance.

"We're all to have an equal share of the shelf," she repeated.

"Nonsense," replied Miss Peckham in an emphatic tone. "I'm a councilor and I need more space."

Bengal promptly burst into tears. "I want to be in Pom-pom's tent!" she wailed, and fled from the scene, to throw herself upon Pom-pom in the next tent and pour out her tale of woe.

Migwan and Gladys looked at each other rather soberly as they went out to fill their water pitcher.

"What a strange person to have as councilor," ventured Gladys. "I thought councilors at camps were always as sweet as they could be. Miss Peckham looks as though she could be horrid without half trying."

"Maybe it's just her way, though," replied Migwan good temperedly. "She may be very nice inside after we get to know her. She's probably never been a councilor before, and thinks she must show her authority."

"Authority!" cried Gladys. "But we're not babies; we're grown up. I'm afraid she's not going to be a very agreeable proctor."

"Oh, well," replied Migwan gently, "let's make the best of her and have a good time anyway. We mustn't let her spoil our fun for us. We'll probably find something to like in her before long."

"I wish I had your angelic disposition," sighed Gladys, "but I just can't like people when they rub me the wrong way, and Miss Peckham does that to me."

"There's going to be trouble with the Elephant's Child," remarked Migwan soberly. "She has already taken a strong dislike to Miss Peckham, and she is still childish enough to show it."

"Yes, I'm afraid there will be trouble between Bengal and Miss Peckham," echoed Gladys, "and we'll be constantly called upon to make peace. It's a role I'm not anxious for."

"Let's not worry about it beforehand," said Migwan, charmed into a blissful attitude of mind toward the whole world by the sheer beauty of the scene that unrolled before her. The river, tinged by the long rays of the late afternoon sun, gleamed like a river of living gold, blinding her eyes and setting her to dreaming of magic seas and far countries. She stood very still for many minutes, lost in golden fancies, until Gladys took her gently by the arm.

"Come, Migwan, are you going to day-dream here forever? There is the spring we are looking for, just at the end of that little path."

Migwan came slowly out of her reverie and followed Gladys down the hill to the spring.

"It's all so beautiful," she sighed in ecstasy, turning to look back once more at the shimmering water, "it just makes me ache. It makes everything unworthy in me want to crawl away and lose itself, while everything good in me wants to sing. Don't you feel that way about it, too?"

"Something like that," replied Gladys softly. "When Nature is so lovely, it makes me want to be lovely, too, to match. I don't see how anyone could ever be angry here, or selfish, or mean. It's just like being made over, with all the bad left out."

"It does seem that way," replied Migwan.

"Here is the spring!" cried both girls in unison, as they reached the end of the path and came upon a deep, rocky basin, filled with crystal clear water that gushed out from the rock above their heads, trickling down through ferns to be caught and held in the pool below, so still and shining that it reflected the faces of the two girls like a mirror.

"Oh-h!" breathed Migwan in rapture, sinking down among the ferns and lilies that bordered the spring and dabbling her fingers in the limpid water, "I feel just like a wood-nymph, or a naiad, or whatever those folks were that lived by the springs and fountains in the Greek mythology."

Withdrawing her fingers from the water and clasping her hands loosely around her knees, she began to recite idly:

  "Dian white-armed has given me this cool shrine,
  Deep in the bosom of a wood of pine;
    The silver sparkling showers
    That hive me in, the flowers
  That prink my fountain's brim, are hers and mine;
  And when the days are mild and fair,
  And grass is springing, buds are blowing,
    Sweet it is, 'mid waters flowing,
    Here to sit and know no care,
  'Mid the waters flowing, flowing, flowing,
  Combing my yellow, yellow hair."

"That poem must have been written about this very place," she added, dreamily gazing into the shadowy depths of the pool beside her.

"Who wrote it?" inquired Gladys.

"I've forgotten," replied Migwan. "I learned it once in Literature, a long time ago."

Both girls were silent, gazing meditatively into the pool, like gazing into a future-revealing crystal, each absorbed in her own day dreams. They were startled by the sound of a clear, musical piping, coming apparently from the tangle of bushes behind them. Now faint, now louder, it swelled and died away on the breeze, now fairly startling in its joyousness, now plaintive as the wind sighing among the reeds in some lonely spot after nightfall; alluring, thrilling, mocking by turns; elusive as the strains of fairy pipers; utterly ravishing in its sweetness.

Migwan and Gladys lifted their heads and looked at each other in wonder.

"Pipes of Pan!" exclaimed Migwan, and both girls glanced around, half expecting to see the graceful form of a faun gliding toward them among the trees. Nothing was to be seen, but the piping went on, merrily as before, rising, falling, swelling, dying away in the distance, breaking out again at near hand.

"Oh, what is it?" cried Gladys. "Is it a bird?"

"It can't be a bird," replied Migwan, "it's a tune--sort of a tune. No, I wouldn't exactly call it a tune, either, but it's different from a bird call. It sounds like pipes--fairy pipes--Pipes of Pan. Oh-h-h! Just listen! What can it be?"

The clear tones had leaped a full octave, and with a mingled sound of pipes and flutes went trilling deliriously on a high note until the listeners held their breath with delight. Then abruptly the piping stopped, ending in a queer, unfinished way that tantalized their ears for many minutes afterward, and held them motionless, spellbound, waiting for the strain to be resumed. They listened in vain; the mysterious piper called no more. Soon afterward a bugle pealed forth, sounding the mess call, and coming to earth with a start, the two girls raced back to Ponemah with their water pitcher and then hastened on into the dining room, where the campers, now all clad in regulation blue bloomers and white middies, were already assembled.