The Camp Fire Girls at School by Hildegard G. Frey
Chapter I. Chronicles in Color.
"Speaking of diaries," said Gladys Evans, "what do you think of this for one?" She spread out a bead band, about an inch and a half wide and a yard or more long, in which she had worked out in colors the main events of her summer's camping trip with the Winnebago Camp Fire Girls. The girls dropped their hand work and crowded around Gladys to get a better look at the band, which told so cleverly the story of their wonderful summer.
"Oh, look," cried "Sahwah" Brewster, excitedly pointing out the figures, "there's Shadow River and the canoe floating upside down, and Ed Roberts serenading Gladys--only it turned out to be Sherry serenading Nyoda--and the Hike, and the Fourth of July pageant, and everything!" The Winnebagos were loud in their expressions of admiration, and the "Don't you remembers" fell thick and fast as they recalled the events depicted in the bead band.
It was a crisp evening in October and the Winnebagos were having their Work Meeting at the Bradford house, as the guests of Dorothy Bradford, or "Hinpoha," as she was known in the Winnebago circle. Here were all the girls we left standing on the boat dock at Loon Lake, looking just the same as when we saw them last, a trifle less sunburned perhaps, but just as full of life and spirit. Scissors, needles and crochet hooks flew fast as the seven girls and their Guardian sat around the cheerful wood fire in the library. Sahwah was tatting, Gladys and Migwan were embroidering, and Miss Kent, familiarly known as "Nyoda," the Guardian of the Winnebago group, was "mending her hole-proof hose," as she laughingly expressed it. The three more quiet girls in the circle, Nakwisi the Star Maiden, Chapa the Chipmunk, and Medmangi the Medicine Man Girl, were working out their various symbols in crochet patterns. Hinpoha was down on the floor popping corn over the glowing logs and turning over a row of apples which had been set before the fireplace to warm. The firelight streaming over her red curls made them shine like burning embers, until it seemed as if some of the fire had escaped from the grate and was playing around her face. Every few minutes she reached out her hand and dealt a gentle slap on the nose of "Mr. Bob," a young cocker spaniel attached to the house of Bradford, who persistently tried to take the apples in his mouth. Nyoda finally came to the rescue and diverted his attention by giving him her darning egg to chew. The room was filled with the light-hearted chatter of the girls. Sahwah was relating with many giggles, how she had gotten into a scrape at school.
"And old Professor Fuzzytop made me bring all my books and sit up at that little table beside his desk for a week. Of course I didn't mind that a bit, because then I could see what everybody in the room was doing instead of just the few around me. The only thing I prayed for was that Miss Muggins wouldn't come in and see me, because she has taken a sort of fancy to me and makes it easy for me in Latin, but if I ever fall from grace she won't pass me. But of all the luck, right in the middle of the Fourth Hour when everybody was in the room studying, in she walked. I saw her as she opened the door and quick as a wink I opened up the big dictionary on the table and buried my nose in it, so she'd think I had gone up there of my own accord. She stopped and looked at me, then patted me encouragingly on the shoulder and remarked what a studious girl I was. I thought everybody in the room would die trying not to laugh, but nobody gave me away. She came in during the Fourth Hour for several days after that, and every time I flew to the sheltering arms of the dictionary, and she always made some approving remark out loud. Now she thinks I'm a shark and I have a better stand-in than ever with her. She told her Senior session room that there was a girl in the Junior room who was so keen after knowledge that no matter when she came into the room she always found her consulting the dictionary!"
Sahwah's imitation of the elderly and precise Miss Muggins was so close that the girls shrieked with laughter. Even Nyoda, who was a "faculty," and should have been the ally of the deluded instructor, was too much amused to say a word. "By the way, Sahwah," she said when the laughter had died down, "how are you coming on in Latin? The last time I saw you your Cicero had a strangle hold on you." Sahwah made a fearful grimace, and recited sarcastically:
"Not showers to larks more pleasing, Not sunshine to the bee, Not sleep to toil more easing, Than Latin prose to me! "The flocks shall leave the mountains, The dew shall flee the rose, The nymphs forsake the fountains, Ere I forsake my prose!"
Nyoda laughed and shook her head at Sahwah, and "Migwan," otherwise Elsie Gardiner, looked up at the despiser of prose composition in mild wonderment. "I don't see how you can make such a fuss about learning Latin," she said, "it's the least of my troubles."
"But I'm not such a genius as you," answered Sahwah, "and my head won't stand the strain." Her mental limitations did not seem to cause her any anxiety, however, for she hummed a merry tune as she drew her tatting shuttle in and out.
Migwan leaned back in her chair and looked around the tastefully furnished room with quiet enjoyment. This library in the Bradford house was a never-ending delight to her. It was finished in dark oak and the walls were hung with a rich brown paper. The floor was polished and covered with oriental rugs, whose patterns she loved to trace. At one end of the room was a big fireplace and on each side of it a cozy seat, piled with tapestry covered cushions. Over the fireplace hung two slender swords, the property of some departed Bradford. The handsome chairs were upholstered in brown leather to match the other furnishings, and everything in the room, from the Italian marble Psyche on its pedestal in the corner to the softly glowing lamps, gave the impression of wealth and culture. Migwan contrasted it with the shabby sitting room in her own home and sighed. She was keenly responsive to beautiful surroundings and would have been happy to stay forever in this library. But beautiful as the furnishings were, they were the least part of the attraction. The real drawing card were the books that filled the cases on three sides of the room. There were books of every kind; fiction, poetry, history, travel, science; and whole sets of books in handsome bindings that Migwan fairly revelled in whenever she came to visit. Hinpoha herself was not fond of reading anything but fiction, and although she had the freedom of all the cases she never looked at anything but "story books." Before her parents went to Europe they had tried making her keep an average of one book of fiction to one of another kind in the hope of instilling into her a love for essays and history, but in the absence of her father and mother, history and essays were having a long vacation and fiction was working overtime.
"Let's play something," said Sahwah when the apples and popcorn had disappeared; "I'm tired of sitting still."
"Can't somebody please think of a new game?" said Hinpoha. "We've played everything we know until I'm sick of it."
"I thought of one the other day," said Gladys quietly. "I named it the 'Camp Fire Game.' You play it like Stage Coach, or Fruit Basket, only instead of taking parts of a coach or names of fruits you take articles that belong to the Camp Fire, like bead band, ring, moccasin, bracelet, fire, honor beads, symbol, fringe, Wohelo, hand sign, bow and drill, Mystic Fire, etc. Then somebody tells a story about Camp Fire Girls, and every time one of those articles is mentioned every one must get up and turn around. But if the words 'Ceremonial Meeting' or 'Council Fire' are mentioned, then all must change seats and the story teller tries to get a seat in the scramble, and the one who gets left out has to go on with the story."
"Good!" cried Nyoda, "let's play it. You tell the story first."
Gladys stood up in the center of the room and began: "Once upon a time there were a group of Camp Fire Girls called the Winnebagos, and they went to school in the Professors' big tepee on the avenue, where they pursued knowledge for all they were worth. So much wisdom did they imbibe that it was necessary to wear a head band to keep their heads from splitting open. Wherever they went they were immediately recognized by their rings and bracelets, and were pointed out as 'those dreadful young savages.' The professors and teachers hoped every day that they would not come to school, but they never stayed away because they received honor beads from their Guardian Mother for not being absent. Sometimes it seemed as if the tricks they did in class room could only have been accomplished by their having consulted one another, and yet it was impossible to catch them whispering in class because they always conversed by hand signs. However, this also led to disaster one day when one of our well-beloved sisters of the bow and drill tried to make the hand sign for 'girl,' and raised her hand above her head. The Big Chief, who was conducting the lesson, thought she wanted something, and said benevolently: 'What is your desire?' Absent-mindedly she replied, 'It is my desire to become a Camp Fire Girl and obey the Law of the Camp Fire, which is to seek beauty, give service, pursue knowledge, be trustworthy, hold on to health, glorify work, and be happy,' 'Begone,' said the Big Chief, 'what do you think this is, a Ceremonial Meeting?'"
At the words "Ceremonial Meeting" all the girls jumped up to change places, and in the scramble a vase was knocked off the table and broken. Every one sat rooted to the spot with fright, all except Mr. Bob, who fled at the sound of the crash as if he had been the guilty one. Hinpoha calmly collected the pieces and carried them out. "My mother will be extremely grateful to you for this when she comes home," she said. "If there was one vase in the house she hated it was this one. My Aunt Phoebe brought it from the World's Fair in Chicago and thinks it's the chief ornament of our home. Won't mother be glad when she finds it broken and she can prove that none of us did it?" The tension relaxed and the girls breathed easily again.
"When are your mother and father coming home?" asked Nyoda.
"They sailed last week on the Francona," answered Hinpoha.
"Weren't you worried to death to have them in Europe so long with the war going on?" asked Migwan.
"No, not much," said Hinpoha, "because they have been in Switzerland all the while, which is safe enough, and as they are coming home on a neutral vessel they have had no trouble getting passage. They should be here in a week." And Hinpoha's eyes shone with a great, glad light, for although she had been having the jolliest time imaginable, doing as she pleased in the house, which was in the care of easy-going "Aunt Grace," who never cared a bit what Hinpoha did so long as it did not bother her, she missed her mother sorely, and could hardly wait until she returned. Nyoda saw the transfigured look that came into her eyes when she spoke of her mother's home coming, and her own eyes went dim, for her mother had died when she was just Hinpoha's age.
After the breaking of the vase the game stopped and the girls sat down again in a quiet circle. "Do you know," said Nyoda, "that bead band Gladys made has given me an idea? Why can't we keep a personal record in bead work? It would be a great deal more interesting and picturesque than keeping a diary, and there would be no danger of your little sister getting hold of it and reading your secrets out loud to her friends."
"It's a great idea," said Migwan, who had always kept a diary and had suffered much from an inquisitive brother and sister.
"Besides," said Sahwah, "think how exciting it would be at Ceremonial Meetings, to sit with your life story hanging around your neck, and know that your neighbor was just breaking her neck trying to figure out what the little pictures meant. Wouldn't old Fuzzytop love to be able to read mine, though!" And Sahwah giggled extravagantly as she saw in her mind's eye the bead record of some of her activities in the Junior session room.
"Now, about all our activities," continued Nyoda, "are covered by the seven points of the Camp Fire Law, so that everything we do either fulfills or breaks the Law. What do you say if we register our commendable doings in colors, but record the event in black every time we break the Law?"
The girls thought this would be a fascinating game, and Sahwah remarked that she must send to the Outfitting Company for a bunch of black beads directly, as she had only a very few left.
"It's a good thing we didn't keep this record last summer," said Gladys with a thoughtful look in her eyes, "or mine would have been black from one end to the other."
"It wouldn't, either," said Sahwah vehemently. "You did more for us in the end than we ever did for you. And my sins were as scarlet as yours, every bit."
Since that terrible day in camp Gladys seemed to have been made over, and never once reverted to her old selfishness and superciliousness, so that she now had the love and esteem of every one of the Winnebagos. All mention of her old short-comings was quickly silenced by Sahwah, who now adored her, heart and soul. Gladys's entrance into the public school after two years at Miss Russell's had caused quite a stir among the girls of the neighborhood, who in times past had been wont to consider her proud and haughty, but her simple, unaffected manner quickly won for her a secure place in the affections of all. Teachers and scholars alike loved her.
Sahwah was still counting up her own misdemeanors at camp when the Evans's automobile came for Gladys, and reluctantly all the girls prepared to go home. It always seemed harder to break away from Hinpoha's house than from any of the others'. In spite of the rich furnishings it had a cozy, homey atmosphere of being used from one end to the other, and no guest, however humble, ever felt awkward or out of place there. Thus it usually happens that when people are entirely at ease in their own surroundings, they soon make others feel the same way too.