The Camp Fire Girls at School by Hildegard G. Frey
Chapter VII. Hard Times for Poets.
True to her word, Nyoda brought it about that Migwan might use the typewriter which belonged to her landlady, and every evening after her lessons were learned she worked diligently to master the keys. In a week or so she managed to copy her story and sent it out again. It came back as promptly as before, with the same kind of rejection slip. She sent it to another magazine and began writing a new one. She worked feverishly, and far beyond her strength. The room where the typewriter was was directly below Nyoda's sitting room, and hearing the machine still rattling after ten o'clock one night she calmly walked in and pulled Migwan away from the keys. Migwan protested. "It's past closing time," said Nyoda firmly.
"But I must finish this page," said Migwan.
"You must nothing of the kind," said Nyoda, forcing Migwan into her coat. "'Hold on to Health' does not mean work yourself to death. Hereafter you stop writing at nine o'clock or I will take the typewriter away from you."
"Oh, mayn't I stay until half past nine?" asked Migwan coaxingly.
"No, ma'm," said Nyoda emphatically. "Nine o'clock is the time. That's a bargain. As long as you keep your part of it you may use the typewriter, but as soon as you step over the line I go back on my part. Now remember, 'No checkee, no shirtee.'" And Migwan perforce had to submit.
The stories came back as fast as they were sent out, and Migwan began to have new sidelights on the charmed life supposedly led by authors and authoresses. The struggle to get along without getting into debt was becoming an acute one with the Gardiner family. Tom delivered papers during the week and helped out in a grocery store on Saturday, and his earnings helped slightly, but not much. Midwinter taxes on two houses ate up more than two weeks' income. With almost superhuman ingenuity Migwan apportioned their expenses so the money covered them. This she had to do practically alone, for her mother was as helpless before a column of figures as she would have been in a flood. Meat practically disappeared from the table. The big bag of nuts which Tom had gathered in the fall and which they had thought of only as a treat to pass around in the evening now became a prominent part of the menu. Dried peas and beans, boiled and made into soup, made their appearance on the table several times a week. Cornbread was another standby. Long years afterward Migwan would shudder at the sight of either bean soup or cornbread. She nearly wore out the cook book looking for new ways in which to serve potatoes, squash, turnips, onions and parsnips.
She soon discovered that most provisions could be bought a few cents cheaper in the market than in the stores, so every Saturday afternoon she made a trip downtown with a big market basket and bought the week's supply of butter, eggs and vegetables. At first the necessity for spending carfare cut into her profits, but she got around this in an adroit way that promised well for her future ability to handle her affairs to the best advantage. She tried a little publicity work to swing things around to suit her purpose. She simply exalted the joys of marketing until the other Winnebagos were crazy to do the family marketing, too. As soon as Gladys caught the fever her object was accomplished, for Gladys took all the girls to market in her father's big car and brought all their purchases home. So Migwan accomplished her own ends and gave the Winnebagos a new opportunity to pursue knowledge at the same time.
At Christmas time she had also fallen back on her ingenuity to produce the gifts she wished to give. There was no money at all to be spent for this purpose. Migwan took a careful stock of the resources of the house. The only promising thing she found was a leather skin which Hinpoha had given her the summer before for helping her write up the weekly Count in Hiawatha meter, which was outside of Hinpoha's range of talents. She considered the possibilities of that skin carefully. It must yield seven articles--a present for each of the Winnebagos. She decided on book covers. She wrote up seven different incidents of the summer camping trip in verse and copied them with the typewriter on rough yellow drawing paper, thinking to decorate each sheet. But Migwan had little artistic ability and soon saw that her decorations were not beautiful enough to adorn Christmas gifts. After spoiling several pages she gave up in disgust and threw the spoiled pages into the grate. The next morning she was cleaning out the grate and found the pieces of paper, only partially burned around the edges. She suddenly had an idea. The fire had burned a neat and artistic brown border around the writing. Why not burn all her sheets around the edges? Accordingly she set to work with a candle, and in a short time had her pages decorated in an odd and original way which could not fail to appeal to a Camp Fire Girl. Then she pasted the irregular pieces of yellow paper on straight pages of heavy brown paper, which brought out the burned edges beautifully. On the cover of each book she painted the symbol of the girl for whom it was intended, and on the inside of the back cover she painted her own. The Winnebagos were delighted with the books and took greater pride in showing them to their friends than they did their more expensive presents.
That piece of ingenuity was bread cast on the water for Migwan. Nyoda came to her one day while she was working her head off on the typewriter. "Could the authoress be persuaded to desist from her labors for a while?" she asked, tiptoeing around the room in a ridiculous effort to be quiet, which convulsed Migwan.
"Speak," said Migwan. "Your wish is already granted."
Nyoda sat down. "You remember that cunning little book you made me for Christmas?" she asked. Migwan nodded. "Well," continued Nyoda, "I was showing it to Professor Green the other night and he was quite carried away with it. He has a quantity of notes he took on a hunting trip last fall and wants to know if you will make them into a book like that for him. There will be quite a bit of work connected with it, as all the material will have to be copied on the typewriter and arranged in good order, and he is willing to pay two and a half dollars for your services. Would you be willing to do it?"
Would she be willing to do it? Would she see two and a half dollars lying in the street and not pick it up? The professor's notes were speedily secured and she set to work happily to transform them into an artistic record book. Her sister Betty grumbled a good deal these days because she was asked to do so much of the housework. Before Migwan took to typewriting at night Betty had been in the habit of staying out of the house until supper was ready, and then getting up from the table and going out again immediately, leaving Migwan to get supper and wash the dishes. It was easier to do the work herself than to argue with Betty about it, and if she appealed to her mother Mrs. Gardiner always said, "Just leave the dishes and I'll do them alone," so rather than have her mother do them Migwan generally washed and wiped them alone. But now that she was working so hard she needed the whole afternoon to get her lessons in, and insisted that Betty should help get supper and wipe dishes afterwards. For once Mrs. Gardiner took sides with Migwan and commanded Betty to do her share of the work. In consequence Betty developed a fierce resentment against Migwan's literary efforts, and taunted her continually with her failure to make anything of it. Since she had been working on Professor Green's book Migwan had done nothing at all in the house, and her usual Saturday work fell to Betty.
Mrs. Gardiner was not feeling well of late, and could do no sweeping, so Betty found herself with a good day's work ahead of her one Saturday morning. Instead of playing that the dirt was a host of evil sprits, as Migwan did, which she could vanquish with the aid of her magic broom, Betty went at it sullenly and with a firm determination to do as little as possible and get through just as quickly as she could. She made up her mind that when Migwan went to market in the afternoon she would go along with her in the automobile. So by going hastily over the surface of things she got through by three o'clock, and when Gladys called for Migwan, Betty came running out too, with her coat and hat on, dressed in her best dress.
"Where are you going?" asked Migwan.
"Along with you," answered Betty.
"I'm afraid we can't take you," said Migwan; "there isn't enough room."
"Oh, I'll squeeze in," said Betty lightly. Now seven girls with market baskets in addition to the driver are somewhat of a crowd, and there really was no room for Betty in the machine. Besides, Betty was a great tease and the girls dreaded to have her with them, so no one said a word of encouragement.
"You can't come, and that is all there is to it," said Migwan rather crossly. She was in a hurry to be off and get the marketing done. Betty stamped her foot, and snatching Migwan's market basket, she ran around the corner of the house with it. Migwan ran after her, and forcibly recovering the basket, hit Betty over the head with it several times. Then she jumped into the automobile and the driver started off, leaving Betty standing looking after the rapidly disappearing car and working herself into a terrible temper. She ran into the house and slammed the door with such a jar that the vases on the mantel rattled and threatened to fall down. She threw her hat and coat on the floor and stamped on them in a perfect fury. On the sitting room table lay the pages of the book which Migwan was making for Professor Green. The edges were already burned and they were ready to be pasted on the brown mat. Betty's eyes suddenly snapped when she saw them. Here was a fine chance to be revenged on Migwan. With an exclamation of triumph she seized the leaves, tore them in half and threw them into the grate, standing by until they were consumed to ashes, and laughing spitefully the while.
Migwan came in briskly with her basket of provisions. Betty looked up slyly from the book she was reading, but said not a word. Migwan went into the sitting room and Betty heard her moving around. "Mother," called Migwan up the stairway, "where did you put the pages of my book? I left them on the sitting room table."
"I didn't touch them," replied her mother; "I haven't been downstairs since you went out."
"Betty," said Migwan sternly, "did you hide my work?" Betty laughed mockingly, but made no reply. "Make haste and give them back," commanded Migwan. "I have no time to waste."
Betty still maintained a provoking silence and Migwan began looking through the table drawers for the missing leaves. Betty watched her with malicious glee. "You may look a while before you find them," she said meaningly; "they're hidden in a nice, safe place."
Migwan stood and faced her, exasperated beyond endurance. "Betty Gardiner," she said angrily, "stop this nonsense at once and tell me where those pages are!"
"Well, if you're really curious to know," answered Betty, smiling wickedly, "I'll tell you. They're there" and she pointed to the grate.
"Betty," gasped Migwan, turning white, "you don't mean that you've burned them?"
"That's what I do mean," said Betty coolly. "I'll show you if you can treat me like a baby."
Migwan stood as if turned to stone. She could hardly believe that those fair pages, which represented so many hours of patient work, had been swept away in one moment of passion. Blindly she turned, and putting on her wraps, walked from the house without a word. It seemed to her that Fate had decreed that nothing which she undertook should succeed. Discouragement settled down on her like a black pall. With the ability to do things which should set her above her fellows, she was being relentlessly pursued by some strange fatality which marked every effort of hers a failure. She walked aimlessly up street after street without any idea where she was going, entirely oblivious to her surroundings. Wandering thus, she discovered that she was in the park, and had come out on the high bluff of the lake. She stood moodily looking down at the vast field of ice that such a short time before had been tossing waves. The lake, to all appearances, was frozen solid out as far as the one-mile crib. There was a curious stillness in the air, as when the clock had stopped, due to the absence of the noise made by the waves dashing on the rocks. Nothing had ever appealed so to Migwan as did the absolute silence and solitude of that frozen lake. Her bruised young spirit was weary of contact with people, and found balm in this icy desert where there was so sound of a human voice. As far as the eye could see there was not a living being in sight. A skating carnival in the other end of the park drew the attention of all who were abroad on this Saturday afternoon, and kept them away from the lake front.
A desire to be enveloped in this solitude came over Migwan; to get her feet off the earth altogether. She half slid and half climbed down the cliff and walked out on the ice. Before her the grey horizon line stretched vast and unbroken, and she walked out toward it, lost in dreaming. Sometimes the floor under her feet was smooth and polished as a pane of glass, and sometimes it was rough and covered with hummocks where the water had frozen in the wind. In Migwan's fancy this was not the lake she was walking on; it was one of the great Swiss glaciers. Those grey clouds there, standing out against the black ones, they were the mountains, and she was taking her perilous journey through the mountain pass. The ice cracked slightly under her feet, but she did not notice. She was a Swiss guide, taking a party of tourists across the glacier. Underneath this floor of ice were the bodies of those travelers who had fallen into the crevices. She was telling the tourists the stories of the famous disasters and they were shuddering at her tale. The ice cracked again under her feet, but her mind, soaring in flights of fancy, took no heed.
Her imagination took another turn. Now she was Mrs. Knollys, in the famous story, waiting for the body of her husband to be given up by the glacier. The long years of waiting passed and she stood at the foot of the glacier watching the miracle unfold before her eyes. The glacier was making queer cracking noises as it descended, and it sounded as though there was water underneath it. She could hear it lapping.
C-R-A-C-K! A sound rang out on the still air that startled Migwan like the report of a pistol, followed immediately by another. She came to her senses with a rush. With hardly a moment's warning the ice on which she was standing broke away from the main mass and began to move. Struck motionless by fright, she had not the presence of mind to jump back to the larger field. A wave washed in between, separating her by several feet from the solid ice. The cake she was on began to heave and fall sickeningly. There was another cracking sound and the edge of the solid body of ice broke up into dozens of floating cakes, that ground and pounded each other as the waves set them in motion. Every drop of blood receded from Migwan's heart as she realized what had happened. She screamed aloud, once, and then knew the futility of it. Her voice could not reach to the shore. Lake and sky and horizon line now mocked her with their silence. The cake of ice, lurching and tipping, began floating out to sea.
On this wintry afternoon Sahwah left the house in a far different mood from that which had carried Migwan blindly over the ground. Her eyes were sparkling with the joy of life and her cheeks were glowing in the cold. She wore a heavy reefer sweater and a knitted cap. Under her arm was her latest plaything--a pair of skis. By her side walked Dick Albright, one of the boys in her class, whom she considered especially good fun. Dick also had a pair of skis. The two of them were bound for the park to practice "making descents" from the hillsides. Sahwah was absolutely happy, and chattered like one of the sparrows that were flocking on the lawns and streets. Her chief interest in life just now was the school basketball team, of which she was a member. Soon, very soon, would come the big game with the Carnegie Mechanics, which would decide the championship of the city. Sahwah was the star forward for the Washington High team, and it was no secret that the winning of that game depended upon her to a great extent. Sahwah was the idol of the athletically inclined portion of the school. Dick thought there never was such a player--for a girl.
Sahwah was full of basketball talk now, and made shrewd comments on the good and bad points of both teams, weighing the chances of each with great care. "Mechanicals' center is shorter than ours; we have the advantage there. One of their forwards is good and the other isn't, and one of our guards is weak. On the whole, we're about evenly matched."
"Fine chance Mechanicals'll have with you in the game," said Dick.
"The only thing I'm afraid of," said Sahwah, with a thoughtful pucker, "is Marie Lanning; you know, Joe Lanning's cousin. She's to guard me and she's a head taller."
"Don't worry, you'll manage all right," said Dick. Sahwah laughed. It was pleasant to be looked up to as the hope of the school. "If you only don't get sick," said Dick.
"Don't be afraid," answered Sahwah. "I won't get sick. But if I don't get my Physics notebook finished by the First of February I'll not be eligible for the game, and that's no joke. Fizzy said nobody would get a passing grade this month who didn't have that old notebook finished, and you know what that means."
"There really isn't any danger of your not getting it in, is there?" asked Dick breathlessly.
"Not if I keep at it," answered Sahwah, and Dick breathed easy again. To allow yourself to be declared ineligible for a game on account of studies when the school was depending on you to win that game would have been a crime too awful to contemplate.
The snow on the hills in the park had a hard crust, which made it just right for skiing. Sahwah and Dick made one descent after another, sometimes tripping over the point of a ski and landing in a sprawling heap, but more often sailing down in perfect form with a breathless rush. "That last leap of yours was a beauty," said Sahwah admiringly.
"I think I'm learning," said Dick modestly.
"I 'stump' you to go down the big hill on the lake front," said Sahwah, her eyes sparkling with mischief.
Dick knew what that particular hill was like, but, boylike, he could not refuse a dare given by a girl. "Do you want to see me do it?" he said stoutly. "All right, I will."
"Don't" said Sahwah, frightened at what she had driven him to do; "you'll break your neck. I didn't really mean to dare you to do it." But Dick had made up his mind to go down that cliff hill just to show Sahwah that he could, and nothing could turn him aside now.
"Come along," he said; "I can make it." And he started off toward the lake front at a brisk pace.
But when he had reached the top of the hill in question he stood still and stared out over the lake. "Hello," he said in surprise, "there's somebody having trouble out there on the ice." Sahwah came and stood beside him, shading her eyes with her hand to see what was happening. At that distance she did not recognize Migwan. "The ice is breaking!" cried Dick, who was far-sighted and saw the girl on the floating ice cake. Like a whirlwind he sped down the hillside, dropped over the edge of the cliff like a plummet and shot nearly a hundred feet out over the glassy surface of the lake. Without pausing an instant Sahwah was after him. She had a dizzy sensation of falling off the earth when she made the jump from the hillside, which was a greater distance than she had ever dropped before, but it was over so quickly that she had no time to lose her breath before she was on solid ground again and taking the long slide over the lake. In a short time they reached the edge of the broken ice.
"Migwan!" gasped Sahwah when she saw who the girl on the floating cake was. They could not get very near her, as the edge of the solid mass was continually breaking away, and there was a strip of moving pieces between them and her. "Fasten the skis together and make a long pole," said Sahwah, "and then she can take hold of one end of it and we can pull her toward us," said Sahwah.
"Good idea," said Dick, and proceeded to lash the long strips together with the straps, aided by sundry strings and handkerchiefs.
Then there were several moments of suspense until Migwan came within reach of the pole. She simply had to wait until she floated near enough to grasp it, which the perverse ice cake seemed to have no intention of doing. The right combination of wind and wave came at last, however, and drove her in toward the shore. She was still beyond the end of the pole. "Jump onto the next cake," called Sahwah. Migwan obeyed in fear and trembling. It took still another jump before she could reach the lifesaver. She was now separated from the broken mass at the edge of the solid ice by about six feet. With Migwan clinging fast to the pole Dick began to pull in gently, so as not to pull her off the ice, and the cake began to move across this open space until it was close beside the nearer mass of broken pieces. Then, supported by the improvised hand rail, Migwan leaped from one cake to the next, and so made her way back to the solid part. It was an exciting process, for the pieces tipped and heaved when she stepped on them, and bobbed up and down, and some turned over just as her feet left them.
"Eliza crossing the ice," said Sahwah, giggling nervously.
Migwan sank down exhausted when she felt the solid mass under her feet and knew that the danger was over. She was chilled through and through, and more than one wave had splashed over the floating ice while she was on it and soaked her shoes and stockings. Sahwah took this in at a glance. "Get up," she said sharply, "and run. Run all the way home if you don't want to get pneumonia. It's your only chance." Taking hold of her hands, Dick and Sahwah ran along beside her, making her keep up the pace when she pleaded fatigue. More dead than alive she reached home, but warm from head to foot. Sahwah rolled her in hot blankets and administered hot drinks with a practiced hand. Neither Mrs. Gardiner nor Betty were at home. Migwan soon dropped off to sleep, and woke feeling entirely well. Thanks to Sahwah's taking her in hand she emerged from the experience without even a sign of a cold.
With heroic patience and courage she began again the weary task of typing and burning all the pages of Professor Green's book and finished it this time without mishap. The money she received for it all went into the family purse. Not a cent did she spend on herself.
Not long after this Migwan had a taste of fame. She had a poem printed in the paper! It happened in this way. At the Sunbeam Nursery one morning Nyoda saw her surrounded by a group of breathlessly listening children and joined the circle to hear the story Migwan was telling. She had apparently just finished, and the childish voices were calling out from all sides, "Tell it again!" Nyoda listened with interest as Migwan, with a solemn expression and impressive voice, recited the tragic tale of the "Goop Who Wouldn't Wash":
Gunther Augustus Agricola Gunn, He was a Goop if there ever was one! Slapped his small sister whene'er he could reach her, Muddied the carpet, made mouths at the preacher, Talked back to his mother whenever she chid, Always did otherwise than he was bid; Gunther Augustus Agricola Gunn, Manners he certainly had not a one! O bad little Goops, wheresoe'er you may be, Take heed what befell young Agricola G! For Gunther Augustus (unlike you, I hope), Had an inborn aversion to water and soap; He fought when they washed him, he squirmed and he twisted, He shrieked, scratched and wriggled until they desisted; He would not be combed--it was no use to try-- O he was a Goop, they could all testify! So Gunther went dirty--unwashed and uncombed, With hands black as pitch through the garden he roamed; When suddenly a monstrous black shadow fell o'er him, And the Woman Who Scrubs Dirty Goops stood before him! Her waist was a washcloth, her skirt was a towel, She looked down at him with a horrible scowl; One hand was a brush and the other a comb, Her forehead was soap and her pompadour foam! Her foot was a shoebrush, and on it did grow A shiny steel nail file in place of a toe! Gunther Augustus Agricola Gunn, He had a fright if he ever had one! In a twinkling she seized him--Oh, how he did shriek! And threw him headforemost right into the creek! Rubbed soap in his eyes (Dirty Goops, O beware!), And in combing the snarls pulled out handfuls of hair! Scrubbed the skin off his nose, brushed his teeth till they bled, Tweaked his ears, rapped his knuckles, and gleefully said, "Gunther Augustus Agricola Gunn, There'll be a difference when I get done!" After that young Agricola strove hard to see How very, how heavenly good he could be! Wiped his feet at the door, tipped his hat to the preacher, Caressed his small sister whene'er he could reach her! Stood still while they washed him and combed out his hair, His garments he folded and laid on a chair! Gunter Augustus Agricola Gunn, He was a saint if there ever was one!
"Where did you get that poem?" asked Nyoda.
"I wrote it myself," answered Migwan.
"Good work!" said Nyoda; "will you give me a copy?"
Nyoda showed the poem to Professor Green and Professor Green showed it to a friend who was column editor of one of the big dailies, and one fine morning the poem appeared in the paper, with Migwan's full name and address at the bottom, "Elsie Gardiner, Adams Ave." The Gardiners did not happen to take that particular paper and Migwan knew nothing of it until she reached school and was congratulated on all sides. Professor Green, who had taken a great interest in Migwan since she had worked up his hunting notes in such a striking style, and regarded her as his special protege, was anxious to have the whole school know what a gifted girl she was. He had a conference with the principal, and as a result Migwan was asked to read her poem at the rhetorical exercises in the auditorium that day. When she finished the applause was deafening, and with blushing cheeks and downcast eyes she ran from the stage. There were distinguished visitors at school that day, representatives of a national organization who had come to address the scholars, and they came up to Migwan after she had read her poem to be introduced and offer congratulations. Teachers stopped her in the hall to tell her how bright she was, and the other pupils regarded her with great respect. Migwan was the lion of the hour.
She hurried home on flying feet and danced into the house waving the paper. "Oh, mother," she called, as soon as she was inside the door, "guess what I've got to show you!" Her mother was not in the kitchen and she ran through the house looking for her. "Oh, mother," she called, "oh, moth--why, what's the matter?" she asked, stopping in surprise in the sitting room door. Mrs. Gardiner lay on the couch, and beside her sat the family doctor. Betty stood by looking very much frightened. Mrs. Gardiner looked up as Migwan came in. "It's nothing," she said, trying to speak lightly; "just a little spell."
"Mother has to go to the hospital," said Betty in a scared voice.
"Just a little operation," said Mrs. Gardiner hastily, as Migwan looked ready to drop. "Nothing serious--very."
Migwan's hour of triumph was completely forgotten in the anxiety of the next few days. Her mother rallied slowly from the operation, and it looked as though she would have to remain in the hospital a long time. It was impossible to meet this added expense from their little income, and Migwan, setting her teeth bravely, drew the remainder of her college money from the bank to pay the hospital and surgeon's bills. Then she set to work with redoubled zeal to write something which would sell. So far everything she had sent out had come back promptly. For a long time certain advertisements in the magazines had been holding her attention. They read something like this: "Write Moving Picture Plays. Bring $50 to $100 each. We teach you how by an infallible method. Anybody can do it. Full particulars sent for a postage stamp." Migwan had seen quite a few picture plays, many of them miserably poor, and felt that she could write better ones than some, or at least just as good. She wrote to the address given in one of the advertisements, asking for "full particulars." Back came a letter couched in the most glowing terms, which Migwan was not experienced enough to recognize as a multigraphed copy, which stated that the writer had noticed in her letter of inquiry a literary ability well worth cultivating, and he would feel himself highly honored to be allowed to teach her to write moving picture plays, a field in which she would speedily gain fame and fortune. He would throw open the gates of success for her for the nominal fee of thirty dollars, with five dollars extra for "stationery, etc." His regular fee was thirty-five dollars, but it was not often that he came across so much ability as she had, and he considered the pleasure he would derive from the correspondence course worth five dollars to him. Would she not send the first payment of five dollars by return mail so that his enjoyment might begin as soon as possible?
Migwan read the letter through with a beating heart until she came to the price, when her heart sank into her shoes. To pay thirty dollars was entirely out of the question. She wrote to several more advertisements and received much the same answer from all of them. There was only one which she could consider at all. This one offered no correspondence course, but advertised a book giving all the details of scenario writing, "history of the picture play, form, where to sell your plays, etc., all in one comprehensive volume." The price of the book was three dollars. Migwan hesitated a long time over this last one, but the subtle language of the advertisement drew her back again and again like a magnet, and finally overcame her doubts. "It will pay for itself many times when I have learned to write plays," she reflected. So she took three precious dollars from the housekeeping money and sent for the book. She did not ask Nyoda's advice this time; somehow she shrank from telling her about it.
In three days the book arrived. The "comprehensive volume" was a paper-covered pamphlet containing exactly twenty-nine pages. It could not have sold for more than ten or fifteen cents in a book store. The first five pages were devoted to a description of the phenomenal sale of the first edition of the book, two more enlarged upon the "unfillable demand" of the motion picture companies for scenarios, while the remainder of the book was given over to the "technique" of scenario writing. Migwan read it through eagerly, and did gain an idea of the form in which a play should be cast, although the information was meagre enough. Three dollars was an outrageous price to pay for the book, thought Migwan, but she comforted herself with the thought that by means of it she would soon lift the family out of their difficulties. She set to work with a cheery heart. Writing picture plays was easier than writing stories on account of the skeleton form in which they were cast, which made it unnecessary to strive for excellence of literary style. She finished the first one in two nights and sent it off with high hopes. The company she sent it to was listed in the book as "greatly in need of one-reel scenarios, and taking about everything sent to them." She was filled with a secret elation and went about the house singing like a lark, until Betty, who had been moping like an owl since her mother went to the hospital, was quite cheered up. "What are you so happy about?" she asked curiously. "You act as if somebody had left you a fortune."
"Maybe they have," replied Migwan mysteriously; "wait and see!"
Her joy was short-lived, however, for the play came back even more promptly than the stories had. Undaunted, she sent it out again and again. The reasons given for rejection would have been amusing if Migwan had not felt so disappointed. One said there was insufficient plot; one said the plot was too complicated; one said it was too long for a one-reel, and the next said it was too short even for a split-reel. Two places kept the return postage she had enclosed and sent the manuscript back collect. Scenario writing became a rather expensive amusement, instead of a bringer of fortune. In spite of all this, she kept on writing scenarios, for the fascination of the game had her in its grip, and she would never be satisfied until she succeeded. Lessons were thrust into the background of her mind by the throng of "scene-plots," "leaders," "bust-scenes," "inserts," "synopses," etc., that flashed through her head continually.
To write steadily night after night, after the lessons had been gotten out of the way, was a great tax on her young strength. Nyoda was inflexible about her stopping typewriting at nine o'clock, but she went home and wrote by hand until midnight. Nyoda was over at the house one afternoon when Migwan was settling down to get her lessons, and saw her take a dose from a phial.
"What are you taking medicine for?" she asked.
"Oh, this is just something to tone me up," replied Migwan.
"What is it?" insisted Nyoda.
"It's strychnine," said Migwan.
"Strychnine!" said Nyoda in a horrified voice. "Who taught you to take strychnine as a stimulant?"
"Mabel Collins did," answered Migwan. "She said she always took it when she had a dance on for every night in the week and couldn't keep up any other way, and it made her feel fine." Mabel Collins belonged to what the class called the "fast bunch."
"I'll have a talk with Mabel Collins," said Nyoda with a resolute gleam in her eye. "And, remember, no more of this 'tonic' for you. I knew girls in college who took strychnine to keep themselves going through examinations or other occasions of great physical strain, and they have suffered for it ever since. If you are doing so much that you can't 'keep up' any other way than by taking powerful medicines, it is time you 'kept down.' Fresh air and regular sleep are all the tonic you need. You stay away from that typewriter for a whole week and go to bed at nine o'clock every night. I'm coming down to tuck you in. Now remember!" And with this solemn warning Nyoda left her.