Chapter IX. An Exploring Trip
 

"Miss Amesbury wants us to go off on a canoe trip with her," announced Agony, rushing up to the Winnebagos after Craft Hour the next morning.

"Wants who to go on a canoe trip with her?" demanded Sahwah in excitement.

"Why, us, the Winnebagos," replied Agony. "Just us, and Jo Severance. She wants to take a canoe trip up the river, but she doesn't want to go with the whole camp when they go because there will be too much noise and excitement. She wants a quieter trip, but she doesn't want to go all alone, so she has asked Dr. Grayson if she may take us girls. He said she might. We're to start this afternoon, right after dinner, and be gone over night; maybe two nights."

"O Agony!" breathed Migwan in ecstacy, falling upon Agony's neck and hugging her rapturously. "It's all due to you. If you hadn't done that splendid thing we wouldn't be half as popular as we are. We're sharing your glory with you." She smiled fondly into Agony's eyes and squeezed her hand heartily. "Good old Agony," she murmured.

Agony smiled back mechanically and returned the squeeze with only a slight pressure. "Nonsense," she replied with emphasis. "It isn't on account of what--I--did at all that she has asked you. It's because you serenaded her the other evening. That was your doing, Migwan."

"But we wouldn't have ventured to serenade her if she hadn't been so friendly with you," replied Migwan, "so it amounts to the same thing in the end. That's the way it has always been with us Winnebagos, hasn't it? What one does always helps the rest of us. Sahwah's swimming has made us all famous; and so has Gladys's dancing and Katherine's speechifying."

"And your writing," put in Hinpoha. "Don't forget that Indian legend of yours that brought the spotlight down upon us in our freshman year. That was really the making of us. No matter what one of us does, the others all share in the glory."

A tiny shiver went down Agony's back. "And I suppose," she added casually, "if one of us were to disgrace herself the others would share the disgrace."

"We certainly would," said Sahwah with conviction.

Agony turned away with a dry feeling in her throat and walked soberly to her tent to prepare for the canoe trip.

"Have you noticed that there is something queer about Agony lately?" Migwan remarked to Gladys as she laid out her poncho on the tent floor preparatory to rolling it.

"I haven't noticed it," replied Gladys, getting out needle and thread to sew up a small rent in her bloomers. "What do you mean?"

"Why, I can't explain it exactly," continued Migwan, pausing in the act of doubling back her blanket to fit the shape of the poncho, "but she's different, somehow. She sits and stares out over the river sometimes for half an hour at a stretch, and sometimes when you speak to her she gives you an answer that shows she hasn't heard what you said."

"I have noticed it, now that you speak of it," replied Gladys, straightening up from her mending job to give Migwan a hand with the poncho rolling. Then she added, "Maybe she's in love. Those are supposed to be the symptoms, aren't they?"

"Gracious!" exclaimed Migwan in a startled tone. "Do you suppose that can be what's the matter with her. I hadn't thought of that."

"It must be," said Gladys with a quaint air of wordly wisdom, and then the two girls proceeded to forget Agony in the labor of rolling the poncho up neatly and making it fast with a piece of rope tied in a square knot.

When Agony reached Gitchee-Gummee on her errand of packing, there was Jo Severance waiting for her with a letter.

"Letter from Mary Sylvester," she called gaily, waving it over her head. "It just came in the morning's mail and I haven't opened it yet. Thought I'd bring it down and let you read it with me."

An icy hand seemed to clutch at Agony's heart, and she gazed at the little white linen paper envelope as though it might contain a bomb. Here was a danger she had not foreseen. Mary Sylvester, even though she had left camp, corresponded with her bosom friend, Jo Severance, and very naturally she might make some reference to the robin incident. Agony gazed in fascinated silence as Jo opened the envelope with a nail file in lieu of a paper cutter and spread out the pages. Little black specks began to float before her eyes and she leaned against the bed to steady herself for the blow which she felt in her prophetic soul was coming. Jo, in her eagerness to read the letter, noticed nothing out of the way in Agony's expression. Dropping down on the bed beside her she began to read aloud:

    "Dearest Jo:

    "When I think of you and all the other dear people I
    left behind me in camp it seems that I must fly right
    back to Keewaydin. It still seems a dream, my coming
    away so soon after arriving. I have done nothing but
    rush around since, getting my things together. We are in
    San Francisco now, and sail tonight." ...

So the letter ran for several pages--descriptions of things she had seen on the trip west, and loving messages for her friends at Camp, and closing with a hasty "Goodbye, Jo dear." Not a word about the robin. The choking sensation in Agony's throat left her. Weak-kneed, she sank down on the bed and lay back on the pillow, closing her eyes wearily. Unnoticing, Jo departed to show the letter to the girls to whom Mary had sent messages.

Agony lay very still, thinking. Even if Mary had not mentioned the robin incident in this letter, she might in a later one; the danger was never really over. And on the other hand, Jo Severance, dear Jo, who had become so fond of Agony in the last few weeks, would certainly tell Mary about the robin when she answered her letter. Jo had already written it to her mother and to several friends, she had told her. Jo never grew tired of talking about it, and displayed a touching pride in having Agony for an intimate friend. Yes, without doubt Jo would write it to Mary, and then Mary would write back and tell the truth. Agony grew hot and cold by turns as she lay there thinking of the certainty of exposure. What a blind fool she had been. If only she had told the story the minute she got home that day, instead of keeping it to herself, then the moment of temptation would never have come to her. If only Mary hadn't been called away just then!

Could she still take the story back, she wondered, and tell it as it really had been? Her heart sank at the thought and her pride cried out against it. No, she could never stand the disgrace. But what if the truth were to leak out through Mary--that would be infinitely worse. Her thoughts went around in a torturing circle and brought her to no decision. Should she make a clean breast of it now and have nothing more to fear, or should she take a chance on Jo's never mentioning it to Mary?

While she was debating the question back and forth in her mind Bengal Virden came running into the tent. Bengal was beginning to tag after Agony as she had formerly tagged after Mary Sylvester. Agony often caught the younger girl's eyes fastened upon her with an expression of worship that fairly embarrassed her. It was the first real crush that a younger girl had ever had on Agony, and although Agony laughed about it to her friends, she still derived no small amount of satisfaction from it, and had resolved to be a real influence for good to stout, fly-away Bengal.

The girl came running in now with a leaf cup full of red, ripe raspberries in her hand, and laid it in Agony's lap. "I picked them all for you," she remarked, looking at Agony with an adoring gaze.

"Oh, thank you," said Agony, sitting up and fingering the tempting gift. She selected a large ripe berry and put it into her mouth, giving an involuntary exclamation of pleasure at the fine, rich flavor of the fruit. This, she reflected, was the reward of popularity--the cream of all good things from the hands of her admirers. Could she give it up--could she bear to see their admiration turn to scorn?

"And Agony," begged Bengal, "may I have a lock of your hair to keep?" The depths of adoration expressed in that request sent an odd thrill through Agony. She knew then that she could not bear it to have Bengal be disappointed in her; could not let her know that she was only posing as a heroine. The die was cast. She would take her chance on no one's ever finding it out.

Right after dinner the little voyaging party pushed out from the dock and headed upstream; three canoes side by side with ponchos and provisions stowed away under the seats, and the Winnebago banner trailing from the stern of the "flagship," the one in which Miss Amesbury rode, with Sahwah and Migwan as paddlers. Migwan and Hinpoha had constructed the banner in record time that morning, giving up their swimming hour to finish it. No Winnebago expedition should ever start out without a banner flying; they would just as soon have gone without their shoes. Oh-Pshaw waved them a brave farewell from the dock, philosophically accepting the fact that she could not go in a canoe and making no fuss about it.

Jo Severance, who had paddled up the river before, and knew its course thoroughly, acted as guide and pilot. For the first night's camping ground they were going to a place where Jo had camped on a former trip, a place which she enthusiastically described as "just made for four beds to be spread in." It had all the conveniences of home, she assured them; a nearby spring for drinking water and a good place to swim, and what more could anyone want!

By common consent they paddled slowly at the outset, wisely refraining from exhausting their strength in the first mile or so, as is so apt to be the case with inexperienced paddlers. The Winnebagos had paddled together so often that it was unnecessary for them to count aloud to keep together; the six paddles flashed and dipped as one in time to some mysterious inner rhythm, sending the three canoes forward with a smooth, even motion, and keeping their noses almost in a straight line across the river.

"How beautifully you pull together!" exclaimed Miss Amesbury in admiration, leaning back and watching the six brown arms rising and falling in unison.

"We're used to pulling together," said Sahwah simply.

The boys from Camp Altamont were at their swimming hour when they passed, and hailed them with great shouting, which they returned with a camp cheer and a salute with the paddles. The red canoes were drawn up in a line on the dock and Agony wondered which one it was that had made the stealthy voyage to Camp Keewaydin the night before. This brought back to her mind the subject of Jane Pratt, and she wondered if Jane had really taken her seriously when she had demanded that she confess her breaking of the camp rule; if Jane would really tell Mrs. Grayson herself, or force her to inform upon her. It came over her rather forcefully that she was not exactly in a position to be telling tales about other deceivers--that she was in their class herself.

"Why so pensive?" inquired Miss Amesbury brightly, as Agony paddled along in silence, looking straight ahead of her and paying no attention to the gay conversation going on all about her.

Agony collected herself and smiled brightly at Miss Amesbury. "I was just thinking," she replied composedly. "Did I look glum? I was wondering if I had put my toothbrush in my poncho, I forgot it on our last trip."

Miss Amesbury laughed and said, "You funny child," and thought her more entertaining than ever.

Up beyond Camp Altamont lay a number of small islands and beyond these the river began to bend and twist in numerous eccentric curves; the woods that bordered it grew denser, the banks swampy. Signs of human occupation disappeared; there were no more camps; no more cottages. Great willow trees grew close to the water's edge, five and six trunks coming out of a single root, the drooping branches sweeping the surface of the river. In places rotting logs lay half submerged in the water, looking oddly like alligators in the distance. Usually there would be a turtle sunning himself on the dry end of the log, who craned his neck inquisitively at them as they swept by, as if wondering what strange variety of fish they were. Hinpoha tried to catch one for a mascot, "because he would look so epic tied to the back of our canoe, swimming along behind us," but finally gave it up as a bad job, for none of the turtles seemed to share her enthusiasm over the idea, sinking out of sight at the first preliminaries of adoption. In places the banks, where they were not low and swampy, were perforated like honeycombs with holes some three inches in diameter.

"Oh, what are they?" asked Agony in surprise. "All snake holes?"

"Bank swallows," replied Sahwah. "They make their nests in the mud along river banks that way, until the banks are perfect honeycombs. I don't see how each one knows his own nest; they all look alike to me."

"Maybe they're all numbered in bird language," remarked Miss Amesbury, in her delightfully humorous way.

The scenery grew wilder and wilder as they glided forward and the talk gradually became hushed into a half awed contemplation of the wilderness which closed about them.

"I feel as if I were on some great exploring expedition," exclaimed Sahwah. "Everything looks so new and undiscovered. I wish there was something left to discover," she continued plaintively. "It's so discouraging to think that there's nothing more for explorers to do in this country. What fun it must have been for La Salle and Pere Marquette and Lewis and Clark to find those big rivers that no white man had ever seen before, and go poking about in the wilderness. That was the great and only sport; everything else is tame and flat beside it. I'll never get done envying those early explorers; how I wish I could have been with them!"

"But Sahwah, girls didn't go on long exploring journeys," Gladys interrupted quietly. "They couldn't have borne the hardships."

"Couldn't they?" Sahwah flashed out quickly. "How about Sacajawea, I'd like to know?"

"Goodness, who was she?" asked Gladys.

"The Indian woman who went with Lewis and Clark on their expedition to the Columbia River," replied Sahwah with that tone of animation in her voice which was always present when she spoke of someone whom she admired greatly. "Her husband was the interpreter whom Lewis and Clark took along to talk to the Indians for them, and Sacajawea went with the expedition too, to act as guide, because she knew the Shoshone country. She traveled the whole five thousand miles with them and carried her baby on her back all the while. Lewis and Clark both said afterwards that if it hadn't been for her they wouldn't have been able to make the journey. When there wasn't any meat to eat she knew enough to dig in the prairie dogs' holes for the artichokes which they'd stored up for the winter; and she knew which herbs and berries were fit for food. And on one occasion she saved the most valuable part of the supplies they were carrying, when her stupid husband had managed to upset the boat they were being carried in. While he stood wringing his hands and calling on heaven for help she set to work fishing out the papers and instruments and medicines that had gone overboard, and without which the expedition could not have proceeded. She tramped for hundreds of miles, over hills and through valleys, finding the narrow trails that only the Indians knew, undergoing all the hardships that the men did and never complaining or growing discouraged. On the contrary, she cheered up the men when they got discouraged. Now, do you say that a woman can't go exploring as well as a man?"

Sahwah's eyes were sparkling, her cheeks glowed red under their coat of tan, and she was all excitement. The blood of the explorer flowed in her veins; her inheritance from hardy ancestors who had hewn their way through trackless forests to found a new home in the wilderness; and the very mention of exploring set her pulses to leaping wildly. Far back in Sahwah's ancestry there was a strain of Indian blood, which, although it had not been apparent in many of the descendents, had seemed to come into its own in this twentieth century daughter of the Brewsters. Not in looks especially, for Sahwah's hair was brown and not black, and fine and soft as silk, and her features were delicately modeled; yet there was something about her different from the other girls of her acquaintance, something elusive and puzzling, which, for a better name her intimates had called her "Laughing Water" expression. Then, too, there was her passionate love for the woods and for all wild creatures, and the almost uncanny way in which birds and chipmunks would come to her even though they fled in terror at the approach of the other Winnebagos. Was it any wonder that Robert Allison, seeing her for the first time, should have exclaimed involuntarily, "Minnehaha, Laughing Water"?

Thus Sahwah was in her element paddling up this lonely river winding through unfamiliar forests, and in her vivid imagination she was Sacajawea, accompanying Lewis and Clark on their famous exploring expedition; and the gentle Onawanda turned into the mighty rolling Columbia, and the friendly pine woods with its border of willows became the trackless forest of the unknown northwest.

Late in the afternoon Jo Severance suddenly cried out, "Here we are!" and called out to the paddlers to head the canoes toward the shore.

Glad to stretch their limbs after the long afternoon of sitting in the canoes, the Winnebagos sprang out on to the rocks which lined the water's edge, and drew the boats up after them. The place was, as Jo had promised, seemingly made for them to camp in. High and dry above the stream, sheltered by great towering pine trees, covered with a thick carpet of pine needles, this little woodland chamber opened in the dense tangle of underbrush which everywhere else grew up between the trees in a heavy tangle. Down near the shore a clear little spring went tinkling down into the river.

"Oh, what a cozy, cozy place!" exclaimed Migwan. "I never thought of being cozy in the woods before--it's always been so wide and airy. This is like your own bedroom, screened in this way with the bushes."

"We'd better get the ponchos unrolled and the beds made up before we start supper," said Sahwah briskly, getting down to business immediately, as usual. The others agreed with alacrity, for they were ravenously hungry from the long paddle and anxious to get at supper as soon as possible.

When they came to lay the ponchos down, however, there was something in the way. The whole narrow plot of smooth ground where they had expected to lay them was covered with evening primroses in full blossom, the fragile yellow blooms standing there so trustfully that they aroused the sympathy of the Winnebagos.

"It's such a pity to crush them under the beds," said tender hearted Migwan. "I'm sure I couldn't sleep if I knew I was killing such brave little things."

The other Winnebagos stood around with their ponchos in their arms, uncertain what to do, loath to be the death of these cheery little wild things, yet unable to see how they could help it.

"Isn't there some other place where we can camp, Jo," asked Migwan, "and let these blossoms live? It seems such a pity to crush them."

Miss Amesbury turned and looked at Migwan with a keen searching glance which caused her to drop her eyes in sudden embarrassment.

Jo took up Migwan's suggestion readily, though disappointed that they were not to stay in her favorite place. "I think we can find another spot," she said, and moved toward the canoes.

Tired and hungry, but perfectly willing to give up the desired spot to save the flowers, the Winnebagos launched out once more, and after paddling for half a mile found another camping ground equally desirable, though not as cozy as the first had been. There was more room here, and the ponchos were laid down without having to sacrifice any flowers.

The sun had set prematurely behind a high bank of gray clouds during the last paddle up the river and there were no rosy sunset glows to reflect on the water and diffuse light into the woods, where a grey twilight had already fallen. There was enough driftwood along the shore to build the fires, and these were soon shining out cheerily through the gathering gloom, while an appetizing odor of coffee and frying bacon filled the air.

The girls lingered long around the fire after supper listening to Miss Amesbury telling tales of her various travels until one by one the logs fell apart and glimmered out into blackness. "And now," said Miss Amesbury, "let's sing one good night song and then roll into bed. We want to be up early in the morning and continue our voyage. There's a heap of 'exploraging' for us to do."

Some time during the night Sahwah was aroused by a gentle pattering noise on her rubber poncho. "It's raining!" she exclaimed to Hinpoha, her sleeping partner.

Hinpoha stirred and murmured drowsily and immediately lay still again.

"It's raining hard!" cried Sahwah, now wide awake.

One by one the others began to realize what was happening, and burrowed down under their ponchos, only to emerge a few moments later half smothered.

"Everybody lie still," called Sahwah, "and keep your blankets covered. Hinpoha and I will go out and bring up canoes for shelters."

As she spoke she reached for her bathing suit, which was down under the poncho, and wriggled into it. Hinpoha, still half asleep, but mechanically obeying Sahwah's energetic directions, got into her bathing suit and wriggled out of the bed, drawing the poncho up over her pillow and blankets.

The two sped down to the shore, where the canoes were drawn up on the rocks, and hastily turning one over sideways and packing all their provisions under it, they carried the other two back to the camping ground and inverted them over the head-ends of the beds, their ends propped up on stones, where, tilted back at an angle which shed the water off backward, they made an admirable shelter. Underneath these solid umbrellas the pillows of the girls were as dry as though indoors, and the ponchos protected the blankets. Let the rain come down as hard as it liked, these babes in the wood were snug and warm. As though accepting their challenge to get them wet, the drops came thicker and faster, until they pounded down in a perfect torrent, making a merry din on the canoes as they fell.

"It sounds as if they were saying, 'We'll get you yet, we'll get you yet, we'll get you yet,'" exclaimed Migwan.

Sahwah and Hinpoha, snugly rolled in once more, began to sing "How dry I am." The others took it up, and soon the woods rang with the taunting song of the Winnebagos to the Rain Bird, who replied with a heavier gush than ever. Thunder began to crash overhead, lightning flashed all about them, the great pines tossed and roared like the sea. But the Winnebagos, undismayed, made merry over the storm, and gradually dropped off to sleep again, lulled by the pattering of the raindrops.

In the morning the rain was still falling, rather to their dismay, for they had expected that the storm would soon pass over. The thunder and lightning had ceased, the wind had subsided, and the rain had turned into a steady downpour that looked as if it meant to last all day.

"We'll have to find or build a shelter," remarked Sahwah, thrusting her head, turtle like, from under the edge of the canoe and scanning the heavens with a calculating eye. "This is a regular three days' rain. Who wants to come with me and see if we can find a cave? I have an idea there must be one among the rocks on the hillside just farther on. Who wants to come with me?"

"I'll come!" cried Hinpoha and Jo and Agony and Katherine all in a breath. Cramped from lying still so long, they welcomed the prospect of exercise, even in the early morning rain.

Leaving Migwan and Gladys to keep Miss Amesbury company, the five set out into the streaming woods, and Katherine and Hinpoha and Sahwah came back half an hour later to report that they had found a cave and Jo and Agony had stayed there to build a fire.

"Fire, that sounds good to me," remarked Gladys, shivering a little as she got into her damp bathing suit and drew her heavy sweater over it.

Carrying the beds, still wrapped up in the ponchos, the little procession wound through the woods under the guidance of the returned scouts. The guides were not needed long, however, for soon a heart warming odor of frying bacon came to meet them, and with a world-old instinct each one followed her nose toward it.

"Did anything ever smell so good?" exclaimed Hinpoha, breathing in the fragrant air in long drawn sniffs.

"Those blessed angels!" was all Miss Amesbury could say.

A moment later they stepped out of the wet woods into the cheeriest scene imaginable. In the side of a steep hill which rose not far from the river there opened a good sized cave, and just inside its doorway burned a bright fire, lighting up the interior with its ruddy glow. On a smaller fire beside it a pan of bacon was sizzling merrily, and over another hung a pot of steaming coffee. To the eyes of the wet, chilly campers, it was the most beautiful scene they had ever looked upon. They sprang to the large fire and toasted themselves in its grateful warmth while they held up their clothes to dry before putting them on.

"Thoughtful people, to build us an extra fire," said Miss Amesbury, stretching out luxuriously on the blanket Migwan had spread for her.

"We knew you'd want to warm up a bit," replied Agony, removing the coffee pot from the blaze and beginning to pour the steaming liquid into the cups.

"How did you ever make a fire at all?" inquired Miss Amesbury. "Every bit of wood must be soaked through."

"We dug down into a big pine stump," replied Agony, "or rather, Sahwah did, for I didn't know enough to, and got us some dry chips to start the fire with, and then we kept drying other pieces until they could burn. Once we got that big log started we were all right. It's as hot as a furnace."

"What a difference fire does make!" said Miss Amesbury. "What dreary, dispirited people we'd be by this time if it were not for this cheering blaze. I'd be perfectly content to stay here all day if I had to."

Miss Amesbury had ample opportunity to test the depth of her content, for the rain showed no sign of abating. Hour after hour it poured down steadily as though it had forgotten how to stop. A dense mist rose on the river which gradually spread through the woods until the trees loomed up like dim spectres standing in menacing attitudes before the door of their little rocky chamber. Warm and dry inside, the Winnebagos made the best of their unexpected situation and whiled away the hours with games, stories, and "improving conversation," as Jo Severance recounted later.

"I've just invented a new game," announced Migwan, when the talk had run for some time on famous women of various times.

"What is it?" asked Hinpoha, pausing with a half washed potato in her hand. Hinpoha and Gladys were putting the potatoes into the hot ashes to bake them for dinner.

"Why, it's this," said Migwan. "Let each one of us in turn tell some incident that took place in the girlhood of a famous woman, the one we admire the most, and see if the others can guess who she is."

"All right, you begin, Migwan," said Sahwah.

"No, you begin, Sahwah. It's my game, so I'll be last."

Sahwah sat chin in hand for a moment, and then she began: "I see a long, low house built of bark and branches, thickly covered with snow. It is one of the 'long houses', or winter quarters of the Algonquins, and none other than the Chief's own house. Inside is a council chamber and in it a pow-wow of chiefs is going on. The other half of the house, which is not used as a council chamber, is used as the living room by the family, and here a number of children are playing a lively game. In the midst of the racket the door opens and in comes one of the chief's runners. As he advances toward the council chamber a young girl comes whirling down the room turning handsprings. Her feet strike him full in the chest, and send him flat on his back on the floor. A great roar of laughter goes up from the braves and squaws sitting around the room, for the girl who has knocked the runner down is none other than the chief's own daughter. But the old chief says sadly, 'Why will you be such a tomboy, my child?'"

"Tomboy, tomboy!" cry all the others, using the Algonquin word for that nickname. "Who is my girl, and what is her nickname?"

"That's easy," laughed Migwan, "Who but Pocahontas?"

"Was 'Pocahantas' just a nickname?" asked Hinpoha curiously.

"Yes," replied Migwan. "'Pocahontas', or 'pocahuntas', is the Algonquin word for 'tomboy'. The real name of Powhatan's daughter was Ma-ta-oka, but she was known ever after the incident Sahwah just related as 'Pocahontas.'"

"I never heard of that incident," said Hinpoha, "but I might have guessed that Sahwah would take Pocahontas for hers."

"Now you, Agony," said Migwan.

"I see a young girl," began Agony, "tending her flocks in the valley of the Meuse. She is sitting under a large beech, which the children of the village have named the 'Fairy Tree.' As she sits there her face takes on a rapt look; she sits very still, like one in a trance, for her eyes are looking upon a remarkable sight. She seems to see a shining figure standing before her; an angel with a flaming sword. She falls upon her knees and covers her face with her hands, and when she looks up again the vision is gone and only the tree is left, with the church beyond it."

"Joan of Arc!" cried three or four voices at once.

"O, how I wish I were she!" finished Agony fervently. "What a life of excitement she must have led! Think of the stirring times she must have had in the army!"

"I envy her all but the stake; I couldn't have borne that," said Sahwah. "Now you, Gladys."

"I see a young English girl, fourteen years old, dressed in the costume of Tudor England, stealing out of Westminster Palace with the boy king of England, Edward the Sixth. Free from the tiresome lords and ladies-in-waiting who were always at their heels in the palace, they have a gorgeous time wandering about the streets of London until by chance they meet one of the royal household, and are hustled back to the palace in short order."

"Poor Lady Jane Grey!" said Migwan. "I'm glad I wasn't in her shoes. I'm glad I'm not in any royalty's shoes. With all their pomp and splendor they never have half the fun we're having at this minute," she continued vehemently. "They never went off on a hike by themselves and slept on the ground with their heads under a canoe. It's lots nicer to be free, even if you are a nobody."

"I think so too," Sahwah agreed with her emphatically.

"My girl," said Jo, in her turn, "was crowned queen at the age of nine months and betrothed to the King of France when she was five years old. That's all I know about her early days, except that she had four intimate friends all named Mary."

"Mary, Queen of Scots," guessed Gladys, who was taking a history course in college. "Somehow I never could get up much sympathy for her; she seemed such a spineless sort of creature. I always preferred Queen Elizabeth, even if she did cut off Mary's head."

"Every single one of the heroines so far has died a violent death," remarked Miss Amesbury. "Is that the only kind of women you admire?"

"It seems so," replied Migwan, laughing. "We're a bloodthirsty lot. Go on, Katherine."

Katherine dropped the log she was carrying upon the fire and kept her eye upon it as she spoke. "I see a brilliant assemblage, gathered in the palace of the Empress of Austria to hear a wonderful boy musician play on the piano. As the young lad, who is none other than the great Mozart, enters the room, he first approaches the Empress to make his bow to her. The polished floor is extremely slippery, and he slips and falls flat. The courtiers, who consider him very clumsy, do nothing but laugh at him, but the young daughter of the Empress runs forward, helps him to his feet and comforts him with soothing words."

"I always did think that was the most charming anecdote ever related about Marie Antoinete," observed Migwan. "She must have been a very sweet and lovable young girl; it doesn't seem possible that she grew up to be the kind of woman she did."

"Another one who lost her head!" remarked Miss Amesbury, laughing. "Aren't there going to be any who live to grow old? Let's see who Hinpoha's favorite heroine is."

Hinpoha moved back a foot or so from the fire, which had blazed up to an uncomfortable heat at the addition of Katherine's log. "I see a Puritan maiden, seated at a spinning wheel," she commenced. "The door opens and a young man comes in. He apparently has something on his mind, and stands around first on one foot and then on the other, until the girl asks him what seems to be the trouble, whereupon he gravely informs her that a friend of his, a most worthy man indeed, who can write, and fight, and--ah, do several more things all at once, wants her for his wife. Then the girl smiles demurely at him, and says coyly--"

"Why don't you speak for yourself, John?" shouted the other six girls, with one voice.

"You don't need to ask Hinpoha who her favorite heroine is," said Migwan laughing. "Ever since I've known her she's read the story of Priscilla and John Alden at least once a week."

"Well, you must admit that she was pretty clever," said Hinpoha, blushing a little at the exposure of her fondness for love stories. "And sensible, too. She wasn't afraid of speaking up and helping her bashful lover along a little bit, instead of meekly accepting Standish's offer and then spending the rest of her life sighing because John Alden hadn't asked her."

"That's right," chimed in Sahwah. "I admire a girl with spirit. If Lady Jane Gray had had a little more spirit she wouldn't have lost her head. I'll warrant Priscilla Mullins would have found a way out of it if she had been in the same scrape as Lady Jane. Now, your turn, Migwan."

"I see a girl living in a bleak house on the edge of a wild, lonely moor," began Migwan. "All winter long the storms howl around the house like angry spirits of the air. To amuse themselves in these long winter evenings this girl and her sisters make up stories about the people that live on the moors and tell them to each other around the fire, or after they have crept into bed, and lie shivering under the blankets in the icy cold room. The stories that my girl made up were so fascinating that the others forgot the cold and the raw winds whistling about the house and listened spellbound until she had finished."

"I know who that is," said Gladys, when Migwan paused. "Mig is forever raving about Charlotte Bronte."

"The more I think about her the more wonderful she seems," said Migwan warmly. "How a girl brought up in such a dead, cheerless place as Haworth Churchyard, and knowing nothing at all about the world of people, could have written such a book as Jane Eyre, seems a miracle. She was a genius," she finished with an envious sigh.

Miss Amesbury looked keenly at Migwan. "I think," she observed shrewdly, "that you like to write also. Is it not so?"

Migwan blushed furiously and sat silent. To have this successful, widely known writer know her heart's ambition filled her with an agony of embarrassment.

"Migwan does write, wonderful things," said Hinpoha loyally. "She's had things printed in papers and in the college magazine." Then she told about the Indian legend that had caused such a stir in college, whereupon Miss Amesbury laughed heartily, and patted Migwan on the head, and said she would very much like to see some of the things she had written. Migwan, thrilled and happy, but still very much embarrassed, shyly promised that she would let her see some of her work, and in the middle of her speech a potato blew up with a bang, showering them all with mealy fragments and hot ashes, and sending them flying away from the fire with startled shrieks.

Since the potatoes were so very evidently done, the rest of the meal was hurriedly prepared, and eaten with keen appetites. During the clearing away process somebody discovered that the rain had stopped falling, a fact which they had all been too busy to notice before, and that the mist was being rapidly blown away by a strong northwest wind. When they woke in the morning, after sleeping in the cave around the fire, the sun was shining brightly into the entrance and the birds outside were singing joyously of a fair day to come.

Overflowing with energy the late cave dwellers raced through the sweet smelling woods, indescribably fresh and fragrant after the cleansing, purifying rain, and launched the canoes upon a river Sparkling like a sheet of diamonds in the clear morning sunlight. How wonderfully new and bright the rain-washed earth looked everywhere, and how exhilarating the fresh rushing wind was to their senses, after the smoky, misty atmosphere of the cave!

Exulting in their strength the Winnebagos bent low over their paddles, and the canoes leaped forward like hounds set free from the leash, and went racing along with the current, shooting past islands, whirling around bends, whisking through tiny rapids, wildly, deliriously, rejoicing in the thrill of the morning and the call of a world running over with joy. Soon they came to the place where they had first planned to camp, and there were the primroses, a-riot with bloom, nodding them a friendly greeting.

"Aren't you glad we didn't stay here?" said Sahwah. "We'd have been soaked if we did, because we probably wouldn't have found the cave. The primroses saved the day for us by growing where we wanted to lay our beds."

They sang a cheer to the primroses and swept on until they came to the place in the woods where the balsam grew. Dusk was falling when, with canoes piled high with the fragrant boughs, they rounded the great bend above Keewaydin and a few minutes later ran in alongside the Camp Keewaydin dock.

"I feel as though I had been gone for weeks," said Migwan, as they climbed out of the canoes.

"So do I," said Sahwah, dancing up and down on the dock to take the stiffness out of her muscles. "Doesn't it look civilized, though, after what we've just experienced? I wish," she continued longingly, "that I could live in the wilds all the time."

"I don't," replied Migwan, patting the diving tower as if it were an old friend. "Camp is plenty wild enough for me."