The Camp Fire Girls Do Their Bit by Hildegard G. Frey
"In consequence of distinguished service rendered your country, I hearby grant you a full and unconditional pardon!" Nyoda, as leader of the Court Martial, addressed these thrilling words to Kaiser Bill, who stood in the center of a solemn conclave, gathered on the lawn of Carver House to reverse the death sentence passed upon him two weeks before. Once more the Winnebagos had a heart for nonsense, for Veronica stood in their midst again, cleared from every breath of suspicion. She and Sahwah stood with their arms around each other, laughingly looking on at the process of unsentencing Kaiser Bill to death. Slim and the Captain were there, too, come to say good-bye to the girls before leaving their tent in the woods. They had finished their surveying job and were moving on that day. They arrived on the scene just as the Court Martial sat to act upon the Kaiser's pardon. Kaiser Bill received the news of his pardon without emotion, hardly looking at his pardoners, and evincing a great show of interest in the process of paving the street in front of Carver House, which was going on at the time.
"He's got his eye on those bricks out there, and the first thing you know he'll be out there trying to eat them," said Nyoda with a comical sigh, realizing how impossible it was to interest the Kaiser in anything, even a thing so momentous as his own pardon, when there was anything in sight that looked as if it might be good to eat.
Nyoda laughed and went on with the ceremony as mapped out beforehand. "And in further consideration of the great service you have rendered your country, this court has decided to change your name from Kaiser Bill to Sherlock Holmes, as more fitting your great detective skill. Never again will you hear the hateful name of 'Kaiser Bill' applied to yourself. Sherlock Holmes, we salute you!" The Winnebagos raised their right hands in formal salute.
"Furthermore," continued Nyoda, "we have decided----"
"There he goes!" shrieked Sahwah, as the newly christened Sherlock Holmes broke away from their flattering midst, cleared the fence at a bound and made straight for the pile of bricks that had started his mouth to watering.
"He'll get run over if he doesn't look out!" shouted the Captain as a truck loaded with sand rapidly approached the brick pile. "Hi, there, look out!" he called warningly.
But the warning came too late, for Sherlock Holmes was already under the wheels, with the whole weight of the truck on top of him, and by the time it had come to a stop he was a limp, lifeless wreck of a goat.
The Winnebagos flocked out into the street and looked at his remains, and almost wept as poor old Hercules heartbrokenly lifted up the body of his slain darling. The Italian laborers threw down their tools and gathered around them and a crowd collected from all sides.
"Why didn't you turn aside?" exclaimed the Captain to the driver of the truck, who seemed to be the only one not sorry about the accident, and muttered angrily in answer to the Captain's question. He looked defiantly at the Winnebagos and at Hercules fondling the dead goat, and then he actually laughed at them. "Serves the beast right," he muttered, and Sahwah, looking indignantly at him, saw that his left hand reached up for his ear, pulled down the lobe and released it with a jerk. A little electric thrill went through Sahwah at the sight of that gesture. There was only one person she had ever seen do that. That person was the artist, Eugene Prince. In spite of the black matted hair that covered the man's forehead, in spite of the black beard that covered the lower half of his face, the tattered cap, the blue shirt and shabby working clothes covered with red brick dust, something seemed to tell her that this was the man the federal officers were now searching for high and low.
"That's the spy!" she shouted at the top of her voice, to the utter amazement of the others, but the driver started as if he had been shot.
Immediately Slim and the Captain jumped on him and he fought like a tiger to get free. Others in the crowd came to the rescue and before long Waldemar von Oldenbach was safely locked up, minus his black wig and false beard, awaiting the arrival of Agent Sanders. With his native cunning he had decided that the safest place for him was to stay right in Oakwood after the discovery of the contents of his sketching portfolio, because everyone would think he would try to escape. So he had disguised himself as a foreign laborer and joined a gang that was paving the street, the last place where anyone would look for him, and he would probably never have been discovered if he had not run down the goat that had discovered his secret in the first place. Even then, no one would ever have looked for Waldemar von Oldenbach in the person of that swarthy, unkempt laborer, if it had not been for the sharp eyes of Sahwah the Sunfish, who noticed everything, and never forgot anything she saw. Her remembering the peculiar gesture of the artist had been his undoing.
Sahwah was once more the heroine of the Winnebagos. "How did you ever do it?" said Hinpoha enviously.
"Oh, I just noticed it," replied Sahwah without laying any claim whatever to detective ability. Sahwah's ability to talk about her achievements was as short as her power to think and act was long.
When Agent Sanders came to Oakwood to take the artist away with him he asked to see the Winnebagos and complimented them all highly upon the help they had given in catching the wily lieutenant, von Oldenbach. "I wish to express the thanks of the government," he said formally, "in consequence of the distinguished service rendered your country----"
Sahwah giggled out loud, and Agent Sanders paused and looked at her with an inquiring expression.
"That's just what Nyoda said to Kaiser Bill!" said Sahwah, with another giggle. Then they all laughed, and the Winnebagos discovered that Agent Sanders' eyes were as kindly as they were sharp.
The Winnebagos held a jubilee that night on the Council Rock with Nyoda. She was going back to St. Margaret's in a few days because Sherry would be in the hospital for some time yet and she wanted to be with him until he was well, so the visit of the Winnebagos to Carver House had come to a close. Lieutenant Allison had been taken back to his camp that afternoon, right after he had seen and identified Lieutenant von Oldenbach. He still wore Sahwah's picture around his neck when he left, but it was now inclosed in Sahwah's own locket, and there was a fresh entry in his address book, as there was also in Sahwah's. The smashed plane had been taken away from the Devil's Punch Bowl and there was nothing in the placidly murmuring water to hint at the tragedy that had almost taken place. High up over the water, on the Council Rock, the Winnebagos held solemn ceremonial.
"Well," said Hinpoha in a tone of deep satisfaction, "the Winnebagos have done their bit. I take it all back about things never happening out of books and girls never having a chance to do anything for their country. We've had our chance, and we've gone over the top!" she proclaimed triumphantly.
The faces of all the Winnebagos shone with satisfied ambition.
"It was all true, the fortune you told Sahwah," said Migwan in a hushed voice. "The other man came into her life, too, the man who was light first and dark afterward!"
"I told you so!" exclaimed Hinpoha triumphantly.
"Talking about 'going over the top,'" said Nyoda seriously, when the murmur of wonder over Hinpoha's marvelous powers of prophecy had died away, "I think that two of you Winnebagos have 'gone over the top' on little excursions of your own, and ought to be decorated for courageous conduct under fire. Veronica Lehar, you have shown a strength of character before which we bow in humble admiration, and from this day on you shall be called Torch Bearer." Then she added fervently, "May we all love this country of ours as much as you do!"
Veronica turned great shining eyes on Nyoda, and her swiftly rising emotions almost choked her. Her great love for her new country had never failed, even though that country had looked upon her suspiciously. "The light of liberty that had been given to me I will pass undimmed unto others!" she exclaimed fervently.
"And this girl, too, has proved her mettle," said Nyoda, drawing Oh-Pshaw to her side and smiling into her wondering eyes. Oh-Pshaw had told Nyoda how she had sung to forget about the gurgling water in the Punch Bowl and how all of a sudden she had not been afraid any more, but she herself never realized what she had accomplished that night, and did not connect it at all with what Nyoda was saying now.
Then Nyoda related to the girls how Oh-Pshaw had fought with Fear down there in the darkness all alone, fought with the fear that was in her bones and had always mastered her, and how for the sake of another she had conquered it and was now free from its strangling clutch. She told them how the fear had come into Oh-Pshaw and what a great victory it was that she had won over herself down there beside the Devil's Punch Bowl.
"And for that victory over yourself you shall also be known as Torch Bearer, for she who conquers herself for the sake of others is worthy to lead others."
Oh-Pshaw stared at her blankly, unbelievingly for a moment, and then a great joy came into her face when she realized that she had achieved her heart's desire.
"Oh, Nyoda!" was all she said, but Nyoda understood, and the other Torch Bearers, having had that same emotion themselves once upon a time, also understood.
Agony stared down steadily into her lap. She had experienced the first great jolt of her life. For the first time in her life Oh-Pshaw had gone up above her. For the first time she realized that there were qualities in others that counted more than her own brilliant gift of leading the crowd without effort. For the first time she had come up against something that she could not get by demanding it, something that had to be won by honest, painful effort. At first astonishment that she had not been named filled her to the exclusion of all other emotions, then she felt terribly humiliated, and then, as she began to think of the qualities she didn't possess she began to feel very humble. Nyoda watched her closely and knew just about what was taking place in her mind. There was wonderful stuff in Agony, she knew, and as soon as the right spirit guided her she would make a leader beyond compare. So Nyoda had given her this great jolt to-night, knowing that it was the thing she needed to set her facing around in the right direction. She walked beside Agony as they went home through the woods, talking cheerfully all the way, and made no comment on Agony's unusual silence. Agony shed some tears into her pillow that night after Oh-Pshaw was asleep in the bed beside her, smiling happily in the moonlight that streamed in through the window. Then her gameness came to the top and she made up her mind to let Oh-Pshaw make the most of her one triumph over her and not spoil it by acting jealous.
"And some day I'll do something myself that will make me worthy to be called Torch Bearer," she resolved as she reached under the pillow for a dry handkerchief.
* * * * *
Sahwah stood before the portrait of Elizabeth Carver in the long drawing room, paying her fare-well visit. The suitcases of the departing Winnebagos were piled on the porch outside, waiting for the moment of departure. The great air of respect and deference, tinged with envy, that Sahwah had heretofore worn when she addressed Elizabeth Carver had given way to an air of conscious equality.
"Elizabeth," said Sahwah solemnly, "I've had a romantic adventure, too. We're twins now, you and I. I don't believe I'd care to go back and change places with you after all; a modern girl has so much more chance for adventure! Life is very interesting, Elizabeth, and I'm so thankful to have been a part of things that were happening."
Her mind went back over all the events that had taken place since the first time she had stood in the long drawing room at Carver House and looked up at the picture of Elizabeth Carver.
"Hasn't it been a summer, though!" she said with a reminiscent sigh. "What do you suppose will happen next?"
And Elizabeth Carver, looking down from her frame, smiled knowingly.