The Campfire Girls at Camp Keewaydin by Hildegard G. Frey
Chapter VIII. The Shoe Begins to Pinch
"Tramp, tramp, tramp, the bugs are marching, Up and down the tents they go, Some are brown and some are black, But of each there is no lack, And the Daddy-long-legs they go marching too!"
So sang Sahwah as she tidied up her tent after Morning Sing. It was war on bugs and spiders this morning; war to the knife, or rather, to the broom. Usually there was no time between Morning Sing and tent inspection to do more than give the place a swift tidying up; to sweep the floor and straighten up the beds and set the table in order. Bugs and spiders did not count against one in tent inspection, being looked upon as circumstances over which one had no control; hence no one ever bothered about them. But that morning Sahwah, lying awake waiting for the rising bugle to blow, saw a round-bellied, jolly-looking little bug crawling leisurely along the floor, dragging a tiny seed of grain with him, and looking for all the world like the father of a family bringing a loaf of bread home for breakfast. As she watched it traveling along a crack in the board floor, a very large, fierce-looking bug appeared on the scene, fell upon the smaller one, killed and half devoured it, and then made off triumphantly with the seed the other had been carrying.
"No you don't!" shouted Sahwah aloud, waking Agony out of a sound sleep.
"What's the matter?" yawned Agony.
Sahwah laughed a little foolishly. "It was nothing; only a bug," she explained. "I'm sorry I wakened you, Agony. You see, I was watching a cute little bug carrying a seed across the floor, and a bigger bug came along and took it away from him. I won't stand for anything like that here in Gitchee-Gummee. We all play fair here, and nobody takes any plums that belong to someone else."
She rose in her wrath, reached for her shoe, and made short work of the unethical despoiler.
Agony made no comment. The words, we all play fair here, and nobody takes any plums that belong to someone else, pierced her bosom like barbed arrows. She lay so still that Sahwah thought she had dropped off to sleep again, and crept quietly back to bed so as not to disturb her a second time. Like the tiger, however, who, once having tasted blood, is consumed with the lust of killing, Sahwah, having squashed one bug, itched to do the same with all the others in the tent, and when tidying-up time came there began a ruthless campaign of extermination.
Agony, having made her bed and swept out underneath it, departed abruptly from the scene. Somehow the sight of bugs being killed was upsetting to her just now. She wandered down toward the river, listening pensively to the sweet piping notes of Noel Sanderson's whistle, coming from somewhere along the shore; then she turned and walked toward Mateka, planning to put in some time working on the design for her paddle before Craft Hour began and the place became filled to overflowing with other designers, all wanting the design books and the rulers and compasses at once.
As she passed under the balcony which was Miss Amesbury's sanctum, a cordial hail floated down from above. "Good morning, Agony, whither bound so early, and what means that portentous frown?"
Agony looked up to see Miss Amesbury, wreathed in smiles, peering down over the rustic railing at her. Agony flushed with pleasure at the cordiality of the tone, and the use of her nickname. It was only the girls for which she had a special liking that Miss Amesbury ever addressed by a nickname, no matter how universally in use that nickname might be with the rest of the camp. Agony's blood tingled with a sense of triumph; her eyes sparkled and her face took on that look of being lighted up from within that characterized her in moments of great animation.
"I was coming down to Mateka to put in some extra work on the design for my paddle," she replied, in her rich, vibrating voice, "and I was frowning because I was a little puzzled how I was going to work it out."
"Industrious child!" replied Miss Amesbury. "Come up and visit me and I'll show you some good designs for paddles."
The next half hour was so filled with delight for Agony that she did not know whether she was sleeping or waking. Sitting opposite her adored Miss Amesbury on a rustic bench covered with a bright Indian blanket and listening to the fascinating conversation of this much traveled, older woman, the voice of conscience grew fainter and nearly ceased tormenting Agony altogether, and she gave herself up wholly to the enjoyment of the moment. In answer to Miss Amesbury's questioning, she told of her home and school life; her great admiration for Edwin Langham; and about the Winnebagos and their good times; and Miss Amesbury laughed heartily at her tales and in turn related her own school-girl pranks and enthusiasm in a flattering confidential way.
Agony rushed up to the Winnebagos after Craft Hour, radiant with pride and happiness. "Miss Amesbury invited me up to her balcony," she announced, trying hard to speak casually, "and she lent me one of her own books to read, and she helped me work out the design for my paddle. She's the most wonderful woman I've ever met. She wants me to come again often, she says, and she invited me to go walking with her in the woods this afternoon to get some balsam."
"O Agony, how splendid!" cried Migwan, with a hint of wistfulness in her voice. Migwan did not envy Agony her sudden popularity with the campers one bit; that was her just due after the splendid deed she had performed; but where Miss Amesbury was concerned Migwan could not help feeling a few pangs of jealousy. She admired Miss Amesbury with all the passion that was in her, looking up to her as one of the nameless, insignificant stars of heaven might look up to the Evening Star; she prayed that Miss Amesbury might single her out for intimate friendship such as was enjoyed by Mary Sylvester and some of the other older girls. Migwan never breathed this desire to anyone, but if Miss Amesbury had only known it, a certain pair of soft brown eyes rested eagerly upon her all through Morning Sing, as she sat at the piano playing hymns and choruses, even as they were fixed upon her during meals and other assemblies. And now the thing that Migwan coveted so much had come to Agony, and Agony basked in the light of Miss Amesbury's twinkling smile and enjoyed all the privileges of friendship which Migwan would have given her right hand to possess. But, being Migwan, she bravely brushed aside her momentary feeling of envy, told herself sternly that if she was worth it Miss Amesbury would notice her sooner or later, and cheerfully lent Agony her best pencil to transfer the new paddle design with.
"Supper on the water tonight!" announced Miss Judy, going the rounds late in the afternoon. "Everybody go down on the dock when the supper bugle blows, instead of coming into the dining room."
There was a mad rush for canoe partners, and a hasty gathering together of guitars and mandolins, which would certainly be in demand for the evening sing-out which would follow supper. Agony, being in an exalted mood, had an inspiration, which she confided to Gladys in a whisper, and Gladys, nodding, moved off in the direction of the Bungalow and paid a visit to her trunk up in the loft, after which she and Agony disappeared into the woods.
The river was bathed in living fire from the rays of the setting sun when the little fleet of boats pushed out from the shore and began circling around the floating dock where Miss Judy and Tiny Armstrong, with the help of three or four other councilors, were passing out plates of salad, sandwiches and cups of milk. Having received their supplies, the canoes backed away and went moving up or down the river as the paddlers desired, sometimes two or three canoes close together, sometimes one alone, but all, whether alone or in groups, filling the occupants of the launch with desperate envy. A dozen or more girls these were, still in the Minnow class, still denied the privilege of going out in a canoe because they had not yet passed the swimming test.
Oh-Pshaw, alas, was still one of them. She looked wistfully at Agony, a Shark, in charge of a canoe with Hinpoha and Gladys and Jo Severance as companions, gliding alongside of Sahwah and Undine Cirelle on the one side and Katherine and Jean Lawrence on the other. She heard their voices floating across the water as they laughingly called to each other and sang snatches of songs aimed at Miss Judy and Tiny Armstrong on the floating dock; heard Tiny Armstrong remark to Miss Judy, "There's the best group of canoeists we've ever had in camp. Won't they make a showing on Regatta Day, though!"
Oh-Pshaw longed with all her heart on floating supper nights to belong to that illustrious company and go gliding up and down the river like a swan instead of chugging around in the launch, sitting cramped up to make room for the supper supplies that covered the floor on the trip out, and baskets of used forks and spoons and cups on the trip back. It was not a brilliant company that went in the launch. Jacob, Dr. Grayson's helper about camp, ran the engine. Being desperately shy, he attended strictly to business, and never so much as glanced at the girls packed in behind him. Half a dozen of the younger camp girls, who never did anything but whisper together, carve stones for their favorite councilors, and giggle continually; three or four of the older girls who sat silent as clams for the most part, and never betrayed any particular enthusiasm, no matter what went on; Carmen Chadwick, who clung to Oh-Pshaw and squeaked with alarm every time the launch changed her course; and Miss Peckham, who from her seat in the stern kept shouting nervous admonitions at the unheeding Jacob; these constituted the company who were doomed to travel together on all excursions.
Oh-Pshaw labored heroically to infuse a spark of life into the company; she wrote a really clever little song about "the Exclusive Crew of the Irish Stew," but she could not induce the exclusive crew to sing it, so her first poetic effort was love's labor lost. So she looked enviously upon the canoes and resolved more firmly than ever to overcome her fear of the water and learn to swim, and thus have done with the launch and its uninspiring company for all time.
Migwan's eyes, as usual, went roving in search of Miss Amesbury, but tonight, to her sorrow, they did not find her anywhere in the canoes.
"Where is Miss Amesbury?" she asked of Miss Judy, as her canoe came up alongside of the "lunch counter."
"She didn't come out with us tonight," replied Miss Judy, tipping the milk can far over to pour out the last drop. "She wanted to do some writing, she said."
Migwan sighed quietly and gave herself over to being agreeable to her canoe mates, but the occasion had lost its savor for her.
Supper finished, the canoes began to drift westward toward the setting sun, following the broad streak of light that lay like a magic highway upon the water, while guitars and mandolins began to tinkle, and from all around clear girlish voices, blended together in exquisite harmony, took up song after song.
"Oh, I could float along like this and sing forever!" breathed Hinpoha, picking out soft chords on her guitar, and looking dreamily at the evening star glowing like a jewelled lamp in the western sky.
"So could I," replied Migwan, leaning back in the canoe with her hands clasped behind her head, and letting the light breeze ruffle the soft tendrils of hair around her temples. "It is going to be full moon tonight," she added. "See, there it is, rising above the treetops. How big and bright it is! Can it be possible that it is only a mass of dead chalk and not a ball of burnished silver? Gladys will enjoy that moon, she always loves it so when it is so big and round and bright. By the way, where is Gladys? I saw her in a canoe not long ago, but I don't see her anywhere now."
"I don't know where she is," replied Hinpoha, glancing idly around at the various craft and then letting her eyes rest upon the moon again.
The little fleet had rounded an island and turned back upstream, now traveling in the silver moon-path, now gliding through velvety black shadows, and was approaching a long, low ledge of rock that jutted out into the water just beyond the big bend in the river. A sudden exclamation of "Ah-h!" drew everybody's attention to the rock, and there a wondrous spectacle presented itself--a white robed figure dancing in the moonlight as lighty as a bit of seafoam, her filmy draperies fluttering in the wind, her long yellow hair twined with lillies.
"Who is it?" several voices cried in wonder, and the paddlers stopped spellbound with their paddles poised in air.
"Gladys!" exclaimed Migwan. "I thought she was planning a surprise, she and Agony were whispering together this afternoon. Isn't she wonderful, though!" Migwan's voice rang with pride in her beloved friend's accomplishment. "Too bad Miss Amesbury isn't here to see it."
The dancer on the rock dipped and swayed and whirled in a mad measure, finally disappearing into the shadow of a towering cliff, from whence she emerged a few moments later, once more in the canoe with Agony, and changed back from a water nymph into a Camp Keewaydin girl in middy and bloomers.
"It was Agony's idea," she explained simply, in response to the storm of applause that greeted her reappearance among the girls. "She thought of it this afternoon when the word went around that we were going to have supper on the water."
Then Agony came in for her share of the applause also, until the woods echoed to the sound of cheering.
"Too bad Miss Amesbury had to miss it." Thus Agony echoed Migwan's earlier expression of regret as she walked down the Alley arm in arm with Migwan and Hinpoha after the first bugle. "She's been working up there on her balcony all evening, and didn't hear a bit of the singing. We were too far up the river."
"Couldn't we sing a bit for her?" suggested Migwan. "Serenade her, I mean; just a few of us who are used to singing together?"
"Good idea," replied Agony enthusiastically. "Get all the Winnebagos together and let's sing her some of our own songs, the ones we've practicsed so much together at home. You bring your mandolin, Migs, and tell Hinpoha to bring her guitar. Hurry, we'll have to do it fast to get back for lights out."
Miss Amesbury, wearily finishing her evening's work, was suddenly greeted by a burst of song from beneath her balcony; a surpassing deep, rich alto, beautifully blended with a number of clear, pure sopranos, accompanied by mandolin and guitar. It was a song she had not heard in years, one which held a beautiful, tender association for her:
"I would that my love could silently Flow in a single word--"
A mist came over her eyes as she listened, and the gates of memory swung back on their golden hinges, revealing another scene, when she had listened to that song sung by a voice now long since hushed. She put her hand over her eyes as if in pain, then dropped it slowly into her lap and sat leaning back in her chair listening with hungry ears to the familiar strains. When the last note had echoed itself quite away she leaned over the balcony and called down softly, "Thanks, many thanks, girls. You do not know what a treat you have given me. Who are you? I know one of you must be Agony, I recognize her alto, but who are the rest of you? The Winnebagos? I might have guessed it. You are dear girls to think of me up here by myself and to put yourselves out to give me pleasure. Come and visit me in the daytime, every one of you. There goes the last bugle. Goodnight, girls. Thank you a thousand times!"
The Winnebagos scurried off toward the Alley, in high spirits at the success of their little plan. Migwan actually trembled with joy. At last she had been invited up on Miss Amesbury's fascinating little balcony. True, the invitation had been a general one to all the Winnebagos, but nevertheless, it was a beginning.
"Miss Amesbury must have been very tired tonight," she confided to Hinpoha. "Her voice actually shook when she thanked us for singing."
"I noticed it, too," replied Hinpoha, beginning to pull her middy off over her head as she walked along.
When Agony reached the door of Gitchee-Gummee she remembered that she had left her camp hat lying in the path below Mateka, where they had stood to serenade Miss Amesbury, and fearing that the wind, which was increasing in velocity, might blow it into the river before morning, she hastened back to rescue it. She moved quietly, for it was after lights out and she did not wish to disturb the camp. Miss Amesbury's lamp was extinguished and her balcony was shrouded in darkness by the shadow of the tall pine which grew against it.
"She must be very tired," thought Agony, remembering Migwan's words, "and is already in bed."
Agony felt carefully over the shadowy ground for her hat, found it and started back up the path. But the beauty of the moonlight on the river tempted her to loiter and dream along the bluff before returning to her tent. Enchanted by the magic scene beneath her, she stood still and gazed for many minutes at the gleaming river of water which seemed to her like pure molten silver.
As she stood gazing, half lost in dreams, she saw a canoe shoot out from the opposite shore some distance up the river and come toward Keewaydin, keeping in the shadows along the shore. Just before it reached camp it drew in and discharged a passenger, which Agony could see was a girl. Then the canoe put off again, and as it crossed a moonlit place Agony saw that it was painted bright red, the color of the canoes belonging to the Boy's Camp located about a half mile down the river. Agony realized what the presence of that canoe meant. One of the girls of Keewaydin had been out canoeing on the sly with some boy from Camp Alamont--a thing forbidden in the Keewaydin code--and was being brought back in this surreptitious manner. Who could the girl be? Agony grimaced with disgust. She waited quietly there in the path where the girl, whoever she was, must pass in order to go up to her tent. In a few moments the girl came along and nearly stumbled over her in the darkness, crying out in alarm at the unexpected encounter. Agony's swiftly adjusted flashlight fell upon the heavy features and unpleasant eyes of Jane Pratt.
"O Jane," cried Agony, "you haven't been over at that boys' camp, have you? You surely know it's forbidden--Dr. Grayson said so distinctly when he read the camp rules."
"Well, what if I have?" Jane demanded in a tone of asperity. "Dr. Grayson makes a lot of rules that are too silly for words. I have a friend over at Camp Altamont that I've known for years and if I choose to go canoeing with him on such a gorgeous night instead of going to bed at nine o'clock like a baby it's nobody's business. By the way, what are you doing here?" she demanded suspiciously. "Why aren't you in bed with the rest of the infants?"
"I came out to get my hat," replied Agony simply.
"Strange thing that your hat should get lost just in the spot where I happen to come ashore," remarked Jane sarcastically. "How long have you been spying upon my movements, Miss Virtue?"
"I haven't been spying on you," declared Agony hotly. "I hadn't any idea you were out. To tell the truth, I never missed you this evening when we were on the river."
"Well, I suppose you'll pull Mrs. Grayson out of her bed now to tell her the scandal about Jane Pratt," continued Jane bitingly, "and tomorrow morning at five o'clock there'll be another departure from camp."
"O Jane!" cried Agony, in distress. "Will she really send you home?"
"She really will," mocked Jane. "She sent a girl home last year who did the same thing."
"O Jane, how dreadful that would be," said Agony.
"And how sorry you would be to have me go--not," returned Jane derisively.
"Jane," said Agony seriously, "if I promise not to tell Mrs. Grayson this time will you promise never to do this sort of thing again? It would be awful to be sent home from camp in disgrace. If you think it over you'll surely see what a much better time you'll have if you don't break rules--if you work and play honorably. Won't you please try?"
The derisive tone deepened in Jane's voice as she answered, "No I will not. I'll make no such babyish promise--to you of all people--because I wouldn't keep it if I did make it."
"Then," said Agony firmly, "I'll do just as we do in school with the honor system. I'll give you three days to tell Mrs. Grayson yourself, and if you haven't done it by the end of that time I'll tell her myself. What you are doing is a bad example for the younger girls, and Mrs. Grayson ought to know about it."
Jane's only reply was a mocking laugh as she brushed past Agony and went in the direction of her tent.