"We'll have all three, and serve a ten-course dinner to the boys," added Ruth.
With light banter the scouts left Mr. Gilroy where the trails diverged,—they to cross the crest and invite the boys over for supper the next day, and Mr. Gilroy to go home to find the "bait."
Dandelion Camp was abandoned for a long time that day, and it was too late in the afternoon when the scouts returned, to ask what had been done in the woods during their absence; but a great deal had taken place there, as Hiram and his master could have told had they been so inclined. Even Jake could have testified to mysterious actions, and many queer maneuvers of familiar animals from the barnyard, but the girls never asked him. Their faith in Mr. Gilroy was sublime!
While the Dandelioners sat eating their camp supper, they discussed the boys they had visited that day.
"I declare! I wonder if we ever will know as much about the woods as those Grey Fox boys do," sighed Hester, taking a bite of baked potato.
"Sure! We know almost as much as they do already," bragged Joan.
"They gave us a lovely luncheon—and all with nothing to do it with," added Judith.
"And it's up to us, girls, to give them a dinner that will make their eyes pop out to-morrow!" declared Ruth.
"Let's plan it now, and do as much towards it as possible, then we can give that much extra time to tracking," suggested Julie.
"And, scouts! I want you to display every bit of fine work you have done since we've been in camp, and all the work we did at camp last summer, as well, and brought with us this year," advised the Captain.
"Yes, we don't want those boys to think we don't know a thing! The stuff we've made is so different from what they have, too," admitted the leader.
So the evening was employed in arranging many exhibits to impress the visitors the following afternoon. Then the scouts rolled into bed.
"Verny, you'd better set the alarm clock for four in the morning," called Julie, the last thing.
"Yes, we want to be up and ready to start when Gilly comes for us," added Joan, the Corporal.
"All right. Go to sleep now, or you'll all over-sleep," laughed the Captain from her tent.
But there was no need of an alarm clock. The girls were up half an hour before it rang, and were impatiently waiting for the arrival of their instructor in tracking. Some of the scouts had gone into the bushes to begin a search, but had found nothing.
It took but a few moments after Mr. Gilroy arrived to outline his plans for the work and fun. "We will scatter in couples to hunt for any sort of track whatever. The first couple that discovers any genuine track must call out, then we all will run and study it for what it is, or where it leads to. Now, pair off, scouts, but the Captain and I will follow at a distance and hurry to the first pair who find a track."
"There are nine of us—how about the odd one?" asked Julie.
"Let the three youngest go together," returned the Captain. So Amy, Betty and Judith hunted in trio.
It was a "still hunt" for a time, since every one was too intent on finding a track to speak. Most of the scouts took to the dense bushes and woods, but the Leader sought in a clearing and was the first to summon the others.
"Oh, come, every one! We've found a great big track!" called Julie, as she and her companion knelt to inspect the prints.
Every one raced wildly to the clearing, and, sure enough, there were hoof prints distinctly marked in the soil. The trail led across the clearing into the dense forest.
"Aren't they big?" excitedly asked Joan.
"They're made by a deer!" said Julie, boastfully.
"Are they, Gilly?" asked the girls as the Judge came up.
He pretended to study them carefully, and then said: "I shall have to wait and compare them with those in the book."
"Maybe it is a reindeer?" suggested Betty, eagerly.
"Mercy no! We don't have reindeers south of the Pole!" declared her sister.
"Look here, girls! This creature only had two legs—it left only two hoofmarks, one for each side," cried Judith now.
"Then I know what it was! It was that familiar animal that carries a pitchfork, smells of sulphur and is known to have hoofs," retorted Julie, making them all laugh merrily.
"I'm sure I have no desire to trail him!" said the Captain, holding up both hands as if to ward off such a danger. "Let him go to his lair in peace!"
"All joking aside, girls, this is a queer track—only two feet instead of four. Let's follow and see where it goes," suggested Mr. Gilroy.
So they trailed the plainly visible tracks, and after a distance, Julie said: "Whatever it is, it couldn't have traveled so far as this if it was a cripple. It just couldn't walk on two hind legs all this way."
Mr. Gilroy had to laugh loudly at this, but he said, "No, but don't give up hope! You may stumble right over the prostrate buck."
But the trail now crossed itself several times, and the scouts wondered which way the two-legged creature finally went, for all tracks were obliterated after that criss-cross place in a tiny clearing.
The Corporal was determined to pick it up again somewhere, so she finally came out to the trail that ran from the camp to the bungalow. Here she wandered up and down for a short distance, and then spied the tracks again.
"Oh, I've got him again. He goes right up this trail," so she followed.
The others followed at a distance, and then she shouted, "He prowled around Gilly's house, too, last night, for I see the hoofmarks here."
Julie would have gone after the tracks to the right "lair," but Hiram came forward from the barnyard to meet her. He had heard her call to the others, and offered a solution to the problem.
"I seen them tracks this mornin', too, Miss Julie, and I'm sure that animal come to the barnyard las' night to feed offen the hay and corn he could find around there."
"Oh, really! Would one do that?" asked Julie, amazed.
"Sure he would, if he was a deer. An' them tracks ain't no grizzly, er fox, er other critter, you know."
"No; of course, it is a deer, as one can see by the tracks. But I'm sorry we have to end in such an ordinary place as the barnyard," sighed Julie.
"I see'd some queer tracks down by that log where Jake caught the skunk," now hinted Hiram.
That was enough! In another moment every scout was bounding down the trail in order to reach the spot first and win honor by knowing the track correctly.
Hester found these tracks first, and shouted to her friends, "This has small cloven feet, but there are only two legs, also! Now and then you can see where one track looks as if a hind foot had broken in on another one!"
"Oh, girls! That explains that other two-footed animal!" now exclaimed Julie, quickly.
"What, what?" demanded every one eagerly.
"Most likely the deer stepped daintily with its hind feet directly in the same track made by its forefeet. It said something about that in the book, you know."
"Do you think that is it, Gilly?" now asked several anxious voices.
"Exactly! I was hoping you'd find that out," agreed he.
"Well, does this creature show any unusual tendencies, girls, by which you can recognize it?" laughed Mrs. Vernon.
"Not a thing! It starts from the trail and goes right through the brush where we broke a way that day the skunk was killed, and it stopped to question nothing. It must have been in a hurry to get a drink," explained Joan.
The trail plainly led to the brook, and ended there. No sign of anything going back again could be found, although the girls looked carefully over the entire place. Then Julie thought she saw something in the soft soil upon the opposite bank. To make sure, she waded through the shallow but swiftly running water, and there, on the steep bank, she saw the tracks again.
"Ha! I found 'em! plain as day. Come and follow!" called she. And off she started.
Not more than a dozen yards along the top of the bank she found the tracks go down again; and through the brook she went, up the other side, and back to the brush-clearing on a new trail, following the cloven-footed tracks. Out on the hard trail they were lost.
"Now, that makes two I've trailed and lost. It's a shame!" cried Julie, stamping her foot.
"'Better to have trailed and lost than never to have found at all,'" misquoted Mrs. Vernon, laughingly.
"If the first one was a deer, this second one must have been a little fawn," said Judith.
"Is there any other animal that wears hoofs?" asked Ruth, of no one in particular.
Now, Mr. Gilroy must have dreaded the reply, for he quickly changed the subject. "How many of you brought the plaster and bottle of water?" Every one had.
"Well, why not make a little cast of both the tracks you do not recognize and then compare them with those in the book when we go back to camp?"
This sounded fine, so the scouts were soon busy making casts of the tracks. When hard, they were handed to the Captain and Mr. Gilroy to carry carefully until they all reached camp.
Quite near the camp ground Hester made a discovery. "Oh, come and see! Here is something with toes. As big as a wildcat, or maybe a little bear!"
Yes, there were toes in this animal's tracks—as plain as could be. So the scouts guessed every animal known, excepting the coyote and water-loving creatures. After many futile suggestions, they made a plaster cast of these tracks also.
"I'm going to carry this load back to camp, girls, and be ready for the next one you give me," announced Mr. Gilroy, starting to go down the trail.
The next two tracks, one that of a large-toed animal and the other of one whose tracks showed how the hair grew down low on the hind legs,—for the hair showed in several of the imprints made of plaster,—strangely ended near the bungalow, and on the other side of the hard trail again, they ran as far as the barnyard.
"I never saw the beat of it! Any one would think Gilly hung the bait on the barn door to entice the animals here," said Julie, who was angry at winding up at such a place three times running. Mr. Gilroy had to laugh in spite of himself.
"Say, where did you put that bait, anyway, Gilly?" demanded the scout leader, watching the man skeptically.
"Where we knew it would attract the best results."
"Gilly, I verily believe you are hoaxing us!" cried Julie. Mrs. Vernon smiled at her bright scout, but Mr. Gilroy shook his head protestingly.
"Why should I hoax any one? I was laughing at the way you brave scouts dodged when Joan said the animal they lost might be crouching on a bough of the trees."
"No, that wasn't what made you laugh." Then Julie went over and held a secret conference with her corporal and Ruth, and they, grinning, urged her to do as she suggested.
So Julie took a sample of the different casts made in the tracks, and left the others engaged in finding new and intricate tracks. Mr. Gilroy and the Captain were not taken into the three scouts' confidence, but they must have suspected where Julie proposed going, for soon after she had gone Mrs. Vernon said:
"Girls, if we expect to entertain the Grey Fox boys at dinner this afternoon, we'd better go back now and begin work."
"Without a clue to any wild animal we tracked?" sighed Judith.
"Oh, yes, Judy—we've got some fine clues, and by the time we're at camp and have our books out, Julie will be back with proofs! Come on," was Joan's assurance to the girls.
On the way, the scouts discussed the last track they had discovered. "I was sure it was a crow's," asserted Amy.
"No, it was more like a chicken-hawk's," Hester added.
"There wouldn't be any chicken-hawk around here in these woods," said Joan.
"Maybe it was the American Eagle," laughed Mr. Gilroy.
"Yes, it got tired of sitting on the flagpole where the colors have hung for four days without being taken in at night, as they should be," remarked the Captain.
"Dear me, Verny, there is so much to remember in camp. We always remember the flag after we are in bed at night," complained Ruth.
"The Orderly will have to appoint a flagman for each day after this," said Mrs. Vernon.
They finally reached camp, and had a light luncheon ready before Julie returned. She came down the trail sprightly, with one hand holding something behind her, and singing as she came.
"Where have you been, Julie?" asked several of the scouts.
"Did you find out what you went for?" asked others.
"Yep! I learned that we have among us the queerest sort of creature, girls. It really walks on two legs, holds its head upright, and belongs to the fox class. I tracked it right to our midst," laughed Julie.
The scouts seemed perplexed, and Julie, too full of her discoveries to tease very long, said, "His name is 'Foxy Grandpa,' and you all know him well!"
Every eye glanced at Mr. Gilroy, and he laughingly replied, "Why do you all seem to think I am that animal?"
"Because you are, Gilly!" retorted Julie. "And I'll prove it now, to every one's satisfaction."
"First, then: Did Hiram miss any calves or pigs or other domestic animals from his barnyard yesterday?"
Mr. Gilroy threw up both hands in submission when he saw the knowing look in the leader's eyes.
"Because here are the molds we made of the tracks found in the forest, girls. And here are molds I made of the heifer, a pig, the Great Dane, and a chicken, at the bungalow. Can you find any difference?"
Both the Captain and Mr. Gilroy laughed, but the scouts gasped in unbelief, "Would Gilly do such a thing?"
Not one bit of difference was found when comparing the molds of each animal, and then Mr. Gilroy had to tell how he did it. Of course, the scouts laughed mirthlessly, for they were thinking of how those Grey Fox boys would jeer at their woodcraft. But Julie now brought out in front, the hand which had held something behind her.
"Here is the hawk—or American Eaglet. I brought it with me for dinner to-night. To Gilly it will be crow-pie, but to us it will be spring chicken." And the Leader tossed a dead chicken upon the grass. Then she added:
"That's what happens to all 'critters' that trespass on our land. Hiram tells me that when a farmer catches an animal on his land, he generally holds it for ransom, or for food for himself, so we have not fared so badly, scouts, in this day's work!
"Behold the other trophies coming! I took them because they broke the law and trespassed on our estates last night." Julie waved a hand dramatically towards the trail, and every one turned to look.
Hiram was slowly advancing toward camp, leading with one hand a fractious pig, and with the other hand dragging an unwilling half-grown heifer on a chain. Jake was jumping about and barking excitedly as they came over and stood like prisoners at the bar.
"Mr. Foxy Grandpa," began Julie, as severely as she could, "because of your crime of misleading trusting scouts into a snare, I pronounce this judgment upon you, and therefore levy upon your property to satisfy the judgment.
"This wild deer and its little fawn shall henceforth be the property of the injured ones—insulted past all forgiveness by your fraud. And the innocent victims used to perpetrate your schemes, being as free from guile as the scouts themselves, shall dwell henceforth together in peace and tranquillity!"
Every one laughed heartily at the denouement for it was so like Julie; but Mrs. Vernon added, "Julie you speak exactly like the millennial times, when the lion and the lamb shall dwell in love and peace together."
"The lion will dwell with the lamb, all right, but the lamb will be the piece inside the lion," added Mr. Gilroy; "just as this pig will live in camp! Such a life as it will lead you!"
"No good talking 'sour grapes', now, Gilly," advised Julie, wisely. "The calf and the pig remain, no matter what sort of life they lead us."
"What can you expect to do with two such pets?" asked Mr. Gilroy, who was honestly amazed at the scouts' unexpected appropriation.
"First, build a pen for them, and second, have veal and pork before we leave for home!" retorted Julie. She then ordered all the scouts to fall to work and construct a temporary shelter for the two creatures.
Mr. Gilroy seemed too surprised to comment, and when Hiram finally delivered the calf and pig into Julie's custody, Mr. Gilroy turned to her and said, "Do you really mean to keep the beasts, here in camp?"
"Why, of course! Why should we go to all this fuss for nothing?"
"Well, I can't see, yet, why you should?"
When the calf and pig were temporarily tied to a tree, where they seemed as much at home as back in the barnyard, Julie said, "By the way, Gilly, what did you call the pets when they were yours?"
"They have never been christened, because I waited for an opportune time. It is here now!" returned Mr. Gilroy, picking up one of the bottles of water that had done duty to make plaster casts that morning.
He held it over the calf's head and poured half of its contents out while he said solemnly:
"Dear little deer, henceforth you shall be known as Julia, in honor of the intrepid scout that captured you, single-handed.
"Likewise, this sweet little fawn, known by its tracks through the wilderness, shall be named Ant-and-ett because of its peculiar habits,—busy as an ant and eats all that comes its way!" Then the rest of the water was emptied over the pig's head.
"Antoinette it shall be, now and forever," declared Julie, while the other scouts laughed uproariously. But the two names stuck, and thereafter the calf was "Julia" and the pig was generally called by the name of "Anty."
After the christening Mr. Gilroy beckoned for the Captain to join him where the girls could not over-hear his conversation. "You don't suppose the girls are in earnest about keeping the pig and calf at camp, do you?" asked he, anxiously.
"Yes, certainly," laughed Mrs. Vernon. "You don't know girls of this age, or you'd understand that they enjoy all these silly pranks thoroughly, and really, they act as safety-valves."
THE GIRL SCOUTS ENTERTAIN
"Now, Gilly, you've got to help us build the sheds for Julia and Anty, or go home until its time for the party," exclaimed the Leader, calling to the still-wondering man.
"If we're to have any dinner ready for the Grey Foxes; I think Hiram and Gilly ought to do the building of the sheds, and let us get busy with the cooking," added the Corporal.
"Yes, that's a better plan," admitted Julie. "Come on, now, Gilly, don't shirk your duty!"
So Mr. Gilroy and his man were set to do construction work, while the scouts ran to and fro, fetching and carrying, arranging exhibits, baking, cooking, and what-not, that Dandelion Troop need not take a "back seat" in comparison with the Grey Foxes.
"Verny," whispered Julie, soon after the two men were sawing and nailing at the sheds, "it's as plain as the nose on my face, that Gilly thinks those boys are far cleverer than we girls."
"What makes you think so, Julie?" asked Joan, who was passing at the time.
"Never mind, now, Jo, but we've just got to show him, as well as his boys, that girl scouts know a heap more than they talk about. That's why I'm anxious to make a 'ten-strike' with dinner!"
"It is too bad we were tricked with false tracks," said Mrs. Vernon.
"I don't believe those boys would have known any better, under the circumstances, but of course, they won't admit it."
"Forget it!" said Julie, shortly. "And listen to me. Take all the contents of our boxes out upon the cots, and call upon all the girls you need to help in the work. Turn the packing cases upside down and cover them with some of our embroidered covers; then arrange to the best advantage, everything we can show for our past year in scoutdom.
"Try to group our exhibits according to their relationship with each other, but leave all the Indian pots and dishes scattered about carelessly as if we were accustomed to using them daily. The birchbark baskets and articles can be hung about on tents or trees where they will show off best,—but don't let it look as if the stunt was done on purpose for this occasion—see?"
Joan smiled. "Yes, I see! Leave it to the Girl Scouts!"
So, although there was plenty of activity before, now there was no end of rushing and laughing and planning between the scouts. The pots and dishes Julie spoke of were left to Mrs. Vernon to place, and she accomplished the task of studying carefully the apparent carelessness of leaving the vessels about.
These Indian pots and dishes were the most interesting things the scouts had made. It was simple work, and took but little time and no cost to produce the results. And most effective they were.
They took a lump of clay and worked out all the hard bits, and sticks or stones, then shaped it for the bottom of a bowl or pot. In its first step it looked like a flat saucer, then it was left an hour or two, according to the thickness of the clay, to dry well. After that the sides were built up on this saucerlike bottom.
It was shaped the desired form, and patted into the thickness required, then smoothed out nicely, both inside and out, and again dried as before. Now it was baked in a hot fire for several hours, so that when it was cool it was a fireproof bowl.
The only trouble the girls had had with this interesting art was the carelessness of a few of them in cooling the dishes too quickly. They found the clay invariably cracked when the pots were too quickly cooled after taking them from the fire. But by slow degrees of cooling, which took about three hours, they came out perfect.
The scouts had decorated their pots as they felt inclined, so that they presented a varied and pleasing array as they stood about camp, in places where the eye would see them to their best advantage. Some were painted with wood-dyes, and others were etched in relief patterns.
When the Captain had finished her task, she silently drew the attention of the scouts to the groups, and they all stood and smiled proudly at their handiwork.
"We didn't see anything like that at Grey Fox Camp," bragged Judith to Joan.
"No sir! Nor did they have a cookstove like ours! Alec may have made a roasting-fan such as we never heard of before, but we can show him a thing or two when he comes over!" exclaimed Joan.
At this moment Julie was heard calling the Orderly.
"How about that chicken? Some one's got to draw it so it can be cooked. It ought to go on the fire in another half hour."
At this Mr. Gilroy called out, "You're not going to eat my chicken, are you?"
"Sure! That's why I had Hiram wring its neck. I knew the poor thing wouldn't object to being cooked if once its breath was gone," laughed Julie.
"Dear me! It's my turn to draw the fowl and I hate it!" complained Ruth.
"S-sh!" warned Julie, waving a frying-pan at Ruth, "it is for the Cause of Woman this time, so don't cry, Ruthy!"
"I'll help do it, Ruth," Betty now offered kindly. "I know how you dislike the work, but 'Liza showed me how to do it so that it really isn't half bad."
Betty poured scalding water over the chicken, and the feathers came off easily. Then she slit the throat and breast and removed the entrails without causing any repulsion in Ruth. When it was ready, Ruth admitted that she knew she could do the work the next time without a qualm.
The cookstove the scouts were so proud of was a remarkable affair—even Mr. Gilroy admitted that. Mrs. Vernon had discovered a heap of fine flat stones, such as a surveyor uses for his "corners," and these were used. The largest stones were placed against a tree that would act as draught to the fire, and the mound was built up until it was a convenient height to use without bending uncomfortably low, as is necessary with campfires.
Through the center of this mound was a well, and on four sides of the rounded mound were windowlike openings backed with tin; in these niches various pots or pans could be kept hot while other viands were cooking on top of the stove.
The top was made of a sheet of thin stove-iron which the Captain had brought from home, and near the bottom of the mound was a tipping-stone upon which the fire was laid. When the fire was out, its ashes could be removed by tipping the flat stone over and letting the cinders fall to the bottom, where they could be raked away quite easily.
This opening provided draught for the fire, and at the back, from the fire-stone, an opening had been left, and here to several feet above the top of the stove, a length of stove-pipe carried all smoke out and above the heads of the scouts.
The girls had also built a fireless cooker in the ground just beside their stove, where fish, or any article needing steady heat, could be placed. This cooking-pit was constructed after the plan adopted by most scouts, and described fully in the manual.
While Ruth and Betty were busy preparing the chicken, Mrs. Vernon built a good fire in the stove, and had several of the girls heat the stones in the fireless cooker, to be ready for use.
Mr. Gilroy had donated several fine lake trout that day, so these were cleaned and washed and placed in the cooker-pit, where they would need no watching but be done to a turn when wanted.
The chicken was cut up for a fricasee, and diced onions and potatoes were prepared to add to the boiling liquid about an hour before serving. This would provide not only soup for the first course, but chicken with dumplings for a third course. They proposed having the fish with butter sauce for the second course.
Just as Julie added the diced potatoes, Hester exclaimed, "Oh, Jule! what did you do that for? Those duck-potatoes were meant to make the boys' eyes bulge!"
"What duck-potatoes? I never touched them!" declared Julie, defensively.
"Didn't you cut them up and use them just now?"
"I should say not! After all the work we had in finding and digging them! Why, they ought to be preserved—not eaten," laughed the Leader.
"Thank goodness!" sighed Hester, in such evident relief that every one laughed sympathetically.
"Who's doing the Indian cucumbers?" called the Corporal.
"I am!" answered Judith. "They're all peeled and sliced ready to serve. And Amy gathered the dandelion greens to go with them."
"Fine! Verny is making a mayonnaise to use with the salad. My! Won't those boys have the wind taken out of their sails when they see the duck potatoes and Indian cucumbers!" giggled Joan.
Mr. Gilroy had not missed much of all this whispering and joyous confusion, and he chuckled to himself as he and Hiram finished nailing the last boards on the sheds and turned Julia into her new home. The small pigsty was soon completed, and then a fence was built about it, but it was not calculated to keep a full-grown pig in bounds; it was strong enough for Antoinette, however, at that time.
Before the pig-pen was quite finished, the scouts heard the whistles and calls from the Grey Fox boys, as they hiked over the crest trail. So they fluttered about anxiously to see that not an item on the programme was forgotten.
Hiram was on his way to the bungalow, and Mr. Gilroy had hurried down to the lake to wash up and make his dinner toilet, when the boys came gaily into camp. After greeting their hostesses, the Grey Fox scouts looked around.
"Well, guess you girls are planning to spread yourselves for dinner, eh?" asked Alec, jocularly.
"Oh, nothing more than usual; we live high every day," returned Julie, tossing her head.
Nothing more was said about dinner just then, but a loud call from "Julia" drew all attention to her shed. The boys stared in surprise at the two buildings they had never noticed before.
"Isn't that a pig—in that pen?" asked Ned, amazedly.
"No, it's Antoinette—our latest girl scout!" giggled Amy.
The boys laughed, for the name struck them as awfully funny for a pig. Then they walked from Anty's pen to the shed, which had a door swung on leather hinges, but it was closed.
"And what sort of scout do you lock up in here?" asked Bob, condescendingly.
"Bob Veal!" retorted Julie, causing every one to roar at the questioner.
Bob flushed, but walked over to the stove where the Captain stood stirring the dumplings in the chicken soup. "That's a fine stove, Captain," ventured he.
"Yes, it is something like the one we built last year in camp. That was so convenient we decided to have another this summer. Wouldn't you boys like to examine it closely?"
Thereupon the Grey Foxes did examine it closely, much to their advantage on useful ideas of kitchen equipment. Then they saw the fireless cooker that was in use for the time being; so they passed on to inspect the various birchbark hanging-baskets filled with flowers; the rustic fern-boxes, and all the useful articles the scouts had manufactured of birchbark and acorns.
"It takes a girl to do fancywork, all right. Now, we boys are not gifted that way, you see, but we can make other things, instead," remarked Alec, bestowing a male's compliments on feminine accomplishments.
"Just what can you make, or have done, that we girls are not able to do?" demanded Julie.
"Oh, I wasn't personal in any way,—I just meant that it is quite natural for women to do the light things while men have to look after the business of life!"
"Well, the quicker you open your eyes to facts, and see that we women of the present age are fast outstripping the men in every calling, the better it will be for your own good!" said Julie.
"Just glance around, boys, and tell us if you can make a better showing for your four years," added Joan, waving her hand at the various exhibits.
It happened that the girls had each been given a cue by Julie, so that when the Grey Fox boys came into camp, Judith was found sweeping carefully with a camp-made broom, Amy and Betty were placing a tabletop upon its legs and then starting to set the table, and the other scouts were busy with other unusual things. Now Dick walked over to Judith.
"How did you know you could make a broom like this?" said he.
"Why, this is an old one made the first day we came to camp. You ought to see our new ones. They are fine!"
Dick examined the broom, and called Alec over. "They can make brooms, all right, Alec!" said he, showing the article in question. It was made of long hickory shavings, well bound about a good handle, and promised to outlast any dozen store brooms.
"But why sweep this grass,—that's foolish," said Alec.
"No, because this is where we will sit about the table. We always sweep away the crumbs or trash that fall during mealtime, so the ants and other insects won't annoy us. This morning, however, we were in such a hurry to get out with Gilly, that we forgot the usual routine work in camp," explained Judith.
The two boys exchanged glances, but Judith saw them. Alec then said, smilingly, "Oh, yes! How did that track-hunt come off? I suppose you scouts knew every animal, eh?"
Judith now realized that Mr. Gilroy had had the whole joke planned out with the Grey Fox boys, and that the boys were only waiting to have a good old laugh on the girls. So she deliberately told a lie,—fervently praying that it be forgiven for the "Cause of Women."
She glanced roguishly up at Alec, and winked one eye. "Wasn't it too funny for anything,—the way we led Gilly about by the nose?"
The boys stared in surprise for a moment, then Dick said, "What do you mean? Didn't you scouts go out at dawn with Gilly to study tracks?"
"Sure! But didn't you boys know about the joke we made up on him about those tracks? That's why he is so late to dinner."
"Tell us about it?" eagerly begged both boys.
"Oh! I can't. I thought you knew something about it or you wouldn't have grinned the way you did. I'm so sorry I let the cat out of the bag, for likely, our Leader wants to tell you the story while we all are at dinner," cried Judith, the picture of regret.
"Oh, come on and tell! Now that you've said so much!" coaxed Dick.
"Well, you boys walk around and look over our work and I'll run and ask Julie if I may tell you the story," whispered Judith, giggling, and running over to the Leader's side.
When Julie heard the truth from Judith, she was furious, but she soon saw that she must thrust anger behind her, and plan some clever way to reverse the joke and make it fall upon the originator. In fact, at that moment, the scouts wished all kinds of dreadful things upon their benefactor, Mr. Gilroy.
He, however, unaware of their ire, was walking up the trail from the lake to the camp-site. And the boys, who were told to amuse themselves for a time, were certainly finding more good ideas put into useful form at that camp than they ever dreamed of.
The large square table was constructed of the boards removed from a piano-case which Gilly had at the barn. These were all nailed to a frame and furnished a strong, heavy top that could be placed, at will, on the four sturdy posts that were driven into the ground. These table-legs were only fifteen inches above the ground, so one could sit on the grass and conveniently use the top.
The four boys met at a large rustic shelf-cupboard, constructed of short-length boards taken from a cereal box, and placed so as to make four shelves. Two sides were made of boards that came from one of the packing-cases from the city. This cupboard stood against a great pine tree that furnished the backing, and on the shelves were the array of lanterns and candlesticks made and used in camp.
"Gee! They've got the bottle-neck holder, the tin-can lantern, and all the rest. It seems they know the scout stunts, all right," whispered Ned.
"Yes, and look at these candles! Do you suppose they made them in camp? They look like hand-dipped products," added Alec, examining the tallow candles.
"We won't let on that we're curious, but we'll find out from Gilly just how they made these candles," suggested Bob.
From the shelves that held candles and some clay ornaments the boys wandered over to the sun-dial.
"It's better than the one we made," admitted Ned.
"Humph! So it is," said Alec, reluctantly, but willing to be just.
"Whoever did that burnt-wood etching around the edge sure made a fine job of it. And the numerals are very good," added Bob.
"Gilly said Ruth is the artist of the Troop," said Dick.
But the Grey Foxes never found out that the Indian Clock had been made during the previous winter when there was ample time to spend over such a work. The large wooden slab was sent to camp with many other highly decorative things made the same winter.
Mr. Gilroy now joined the boys and offered to act as official guide in viewing everything. So interested were the boys in all they saw that they temporarily forgot about the joke of the tracking.
"Come and see the Indian willow beds the scouts made the first day in camp," said Mr. Gilroy, boastfully, now that he wanted to impress the boys.
So the beds, the weaving looms, the birdhouses here and there, and other things were duly seen and admired. But the exhibit that interested the boys as much as anything that day was the neat and beautiful work done with wild flowers and a deal of patience. There were blue-prints of delicate flowers, as well as shadow-work and pressed and mounted flower-groups.
Alec recognized the three-leaved arrow-head, and showed it to the other boys who had never seen it before. This particular specimen was white and waxen in contrast to the indigo-hued paper.
The spiderwort was a rich blue with its two large petals rounded, while the third one was tiny and colorless. There was also a purple variety known as "Job's Tears."
The wild leek and garlic flowers made dainty blue-prints, scarcely recognizable as coming from such humble family trees as the despised onion. Wild spikenard, with its crown of tiny white flowers, also reproduced beautifully in the blue-print. The Seal of Solomon and purple Twisted Stalk made scraggy pictures easy to identify.
Betty had pressed a white trillium that made an imposing picture, retaining all its beauty and lines. The boys had the painted trillium in their collection but had never seen the white one.
In the flower collection made by the other scouts were many orchids,—fringed-purple, ragged-fringed, yellow-fringed, and others. Also the Indian pink, the rattlesnake plantain, the pink snake-mouth, monkshood, bloodroot, pitcher plant, and numerous others that formed a wonderful exhibit which it would take a long time to do justice to.
While the Grey Foxes were poring over the flower books, Mrs. Vernon came up beside them. "When you boys are through here, we will sit down to dinner, as everything is ready to serve."
"Oh, we'll look at the rest of these another time," said Bob, quickly.
So the Captain led them over to the table, where the appearance of the festive board caused them to smack their lips. Mr. Gilroy and the Grey Fox boys were seated according to Julie's directions, then the girls all went over to the cookstove.
At each place on the table sat a flat clay-made plate that was to do service for many needs. Beside the plate were the birchbark cup to drink water from, a birchbark napkin ring that held a paper napkin, and the usual knife, fork and spoon.
In the center of the table stood a lovely fern centerpiece, the holder woven of split willows, and the fern dug up in the woods and transplanted into a tin pail that did not show inside the basket.
The fernery was flanked by two other handwoven baskets of sweet-grass. One held the scout-biscuits just baked, while the other was piled high with light little puff-cakes. On either side of the centerpiece stood two large flat clay platters,—one held the Indian cucumber salad, and the other a dandelion salad.
"Aren't the girls going to sit down, too?" called Alec.
"Yes, but each girl has to serve a boy's soup as well as her own. Then we will sit down," answered Julie.
Meantime Joan was whispering anxiously, as each girl held out the clay bowls for soup, "Now remember! Leave the tracking tale to Julie, and agree with her everytime! Don't you dare be caught napping this time!"
And as each scout left the stove with her two bowls of soup, she whispered. "No, leave it to me! We'll get the best of Gilly for this joke."
The chicken soup was highly praised, and truly it was a good broth and deserved all praise. Then came the fish,—all done to a turn and served piping hot with butter sauce. The Indian cucumber went well with the lake trout, and here the boys had another surprise.
"Indian cucumbers! We never knew they grew around here," ventured Alec, but delighting in the salad just the same.
"Oh, didn't you? Well, you see, it takes a girl's fancy touches to secure these sort of things. You boys, of course, have to give your time to doing big things," was Julie's sarcastic reply.
The third course consisted of the chicken and dumplings, stewed bracken, and a side dish of vegetable that looked for all the world like small potatoes. The boys studied these curiously.
"It's quite digestible," laughed Mrs. Vernon.
"But be sure to appreciate them,—they are the only Wapitos we've ever found!" declared Joan, proudly.
"Wapitos! You don't mean it!" exclaimed Alec, eagerly.
"Why, where did you find them?" asked the other boys.
"One morning when we were out tracking," said Julie, with a careless manner. Then quickly added, "Oh, Captain, where are the Brussels sprouts? We almost forgot that vegetable."
The Orderly jumped up and ran to the stove where, in one of the niches, stood the bowl of charlock hearts, a wild green that tastes exactly like tender sprouts. These are easy to cultivate in a garden, too, and are not as expensive as Brussels sprouts.
"My, what a spread this is!" sighed Bob, ecstatically.
Every one laughed, for Bob and Anne were the gourmands of the two troops, and were never ashamed to admit when they enjoyed a thing.
"Yes, it's some dinner, all right. Made a lot of work, didn't it?" added Alec.
"Oh, not so much as usual," returned Julie. "We really had planned a more elaborate affair, but the joke we played on Gilly took longer than we allowed for it, and so we had to scramble the dinner."
Julie smiled benignly upon the guests, but they exchanged looks with Mr. Gilroy at the mention of a joke. So she continued:
"Because of that joke, you have ordinary chicken for a meat course, whereas I had hoped to give you a real dainty, stewed wild rabbit. But our snares were left unbaited while we planned to come in first on Gilly and his proposed prank. I don't suppose you know a thing about it, do you?"
The girls gasped at their Leader's mention of a rabbit snare,—this was the first they knew of such a thing! And since Bunty Grey had taken up his residence nearby their camp, after his recovery from the old trap down on River Bend, not one scout girl could be made to taste rabbit.
The boys were keen to hear about the joke on their friend Gilroy, but he wanted to know about rabbits. So he asked:
"Where did you set any snares? This is news to me!"
"Is it? Why we caught a rabbit in a snare set down by River Bend, but we haven't stewed it yet," returned Julie, smiling angelically at Mr. Gilroy.
"Never mind snares, but tell us about the tracking," now urged Alec.
"There isn't much to tell—excepting that we let him indulge himself in the belief that he was fooling us," began Julie. "While we were at your camp, to invite you here to-day, Gilly had all his hands turn the barnyard beasts out and led them a dance about our campgrounds, believing we would fall for his little game.
"He took so much pains and trouble over the joke, that we hadn't the heart to undeceive him, so we played the game through.
"But it was hard work to keep straight faces, wasn't it, girls?" Julie appealed to her companions.
"Yes, indeed! And when Julie left us to bring back the proof of his joking, that was best of all," added Joan.
"Yes, you see I got him to say that hunters who found a wild animal could claim it, if it was in season, so I went to the barn where I knew our 'wild animals' would be, and not only found them, but caught them, also. Being in season, we claimed them. Thus we turned Gilly's joke on himself, as he sure was amazed to find that we took him at his word, and kept the 'ferocious' beasts!" Julie laughed so heartily that every one joined in, never doubting but that the merriment was natural and genuine.
"So that is how we became owners of the calf, the pig, and the nice spring chicken you just finished," added Julie.
Mr. Gilroy now cleared his throat to say something in self-defence, but every one laughed loudly again, the boys believing Julie's tale, and the girls hoping to keep up the deception.
"Poor dear old Gilly! We renamed him this morning. He is to be Foxy Grandpa hereafter, you know; not alone because he told the Grey Foxes what he was going to do, but because he planned such a beautiful snare and ran into it himself," said Joan.
"As if you boys would believe we were 'greenies' in camplife! Why, just look around and see our work! Is there anything here to prove we are such ignoramuses as to believe a calf-track could possibly be a deer-print?" asked Julie, scornfully.
"You're right, you girls sure can do scout things," said Alec, admiringly.
"This dinner alone would prove it!" exclaimed Bob.
"Any one who can find Indian cucumbers and Wapitos, when we boys have hunted and hunted, and never succeeded, is a first-class scout, and no mistake about it!" declared Dick, enthusiastically. So Mr. Gilroy decided not to speak in self-defence any more.
The dinner wound up with wild-current tarts, puff-cakes, and coffee made from roots and roasted acorns, pulverized.
"Lady Scouts, let me toast you for this wonderful success, not only in culinary art, but also in founding a curious menagerie," said Mr. Gilroy, standing and holding up his coffee before drinking it.
"Before we adjourn from this feast, let me ask one question," said Alec, as they prepared to get up from the table.
"What was it in that salad dressing that gave such a palatable flavor? I never tasted anything like it before."
The scouts smiled with pleasure, and Mrs. Vernon said, "That taste was given by adding a few leaves of burnet to the salad. It was not the dressing; but few people know what a wonderful flavor burnet gives to salad. It would be used more often did chefs know this simple little wildwood fact."
While the girls were clearing away the dishes, Mrs. Vernon spoke very seriously to Julie about the tale she told. "You did not tell an absolute untruth, yet you did not voice the truth, because we all were taken in by those tracks!"
"But, Verny! surely you wouldn't have these mere males think we were such gullible scouts, would you? It would be a disgrace for the whole organization!" cried Julie.
"I never advocate self-righteousness in covering up an error of judgment or knowledge. The Scout Committee on Ideals would not approve of the tale you told to vindicate the 'Cause of Women,' as you claim."
"I suppose you are right in your viewpoint, Verny, but it wasn't fair of Gilly to play that prank on us, and tell those boys beforehand, too," pouted Julie.
"Well, let it pass this time, Verny, and we'll promise never to be guilty of misappropriating the truth again," said Joan.
"And don't give us away to the Grey Foxes!" added Judith.
The Captain shook her head in disapproval, but she said nothing more, so the girls ran off to whisper to Mr. Gilroy that he was the cause of a dreadful quarrel!
A CANOE TRIP
The scouts were so busy with canoeing, swimming, and hiking, during the week following the dinner-party that they saw very little of Mr. Gilroy, although they knew whenever he called at the camp, because he generally brought feed for the calf and pig. These two unusual pets were becoming quite sociable, and would follow the girls around the clearing when meals were being prepared. Jake always went wherever the scouts went, and he particularly enjoyed the long walks. But he ignored the calf and pig completely when in camp.
About a week after the Grey Fox boys had visited Dandelion Camp, Mr. Gilroy came down early in the morning.
"I have to get up at dawn if I want a word with you scouts, these times," laughed he, as he caught them eating breakfast.
"Sit down and have some," Julie invited, making room for him beside her.
"Can't—haven't time. I've got an important engagement with the Grey Fox boys, but you were first on my calling list."
The girls all halted further progress on the breakfast and listened intently. "What have you plotted, now?" asked Julie.
Mr. Gilroy laughed as he remembered the tracking joke. "I'm almost afraid to tell you." But after much coaxing he spoke.
"Well, then, I am going on a little fishing trip to Racquette Lake, so I wondered if you scouts wouldn't like to canoe with the party and spend a few days that way?"
The girls gave such a chorus of approval that Mr. Gilroy pretended to stop both ears.
"Oh, do tell them all about it, Gilly, or we'll be deaf!" begged Mrs. Vernon, laughing at the commotion.
So Mr. Gilroy described the itinerary to the great delight of his hearers. "But remember, girls, no extra baggage is allowed. You wear your uniforms, take bathing suits, and sandals, a wide soft hat that will stick to your head, as few toilet requisites as possible; individual eating outfit, blanket and sleeping-bag, fishing tackle, and your powder puffs."
The last item caused a jeer, for the girls hadn't thought of beautifiers, other than those Nature presented, since they joined the scout organization. Nor did they need any,—they were all fine and rosy, with perfect complexions and good health.
"My Indian, Yhon, is going in a canoe with the cooking outfit and other necessities for so large a party. He is a splendid guide, you know, and knows the country like a book."
"What can we do about our pets?" Betty asked, concernedly.
"Oh, Jake will go with us, of course, and Julia and Anty will have to depend on Gilly's man for meals. They will learn to appreciate us if we are absent a few days," replied Julie, audaciously.
"When did you plan to start?" now asked the Captain.
"Day after to-morrow, as early in the morning as we can. That gives you all day to-morrow to get ready and come up to the bungalow for supper at night. Yhon will be ready with the canoes at dawn in the morning, and we start from our boathouse. The canoe-wagon is coming here to-day to carry your three canoes over to First Lake so as to be in good shape for the trip. Yhon will overhaul them all, and look after any caulking or repairs."
"Dear me, I can't wait for the time to come!" exclaimed several of the scouts.
"And if you become seasick on the voyage, you'll be just as anxious to get back," laughed Mr. Gilroy, causing the girls to giggle in chorus at his ridiculous speech.
So on the morning mentioned, a merry crowd of girls and boys followed the Captain and Mr. Gilroy to the boathouse on the lake. Yhon was waiting with everything ready, but it was still dim and misty over the water, as the daylight was not yet strong.
Jake instantly jumped into Yhon's canoe as if he knew it paid to be near the larder. Mr. Gilroy arranged the party so that one lightweight member was in each canoe with one of the heavier girls, and one of the boys. He took charge of another canoe with two girls in it, while the Captain managed still another one with two in it. Thus they started in a line, Yhon leading.
As they moved noiselessly out from the shadow of the overhanging rocks and foliage, the dew sparkled like silver drops on all the leaves; every now and then a hungry fish would leap up to bite the paddles, and then whisk its tail angrily as it flashed away again.
The newly awakened sun had not yet risen high enough to cast its rays upon the lake, and the mountain that threw somber shadows over the face of the lake, still hid the shining of the orb of day. The expectancy and hush that always precedes the bursting forth of shining light, enthralled all the wild creatures in the woods.
Yhon had been silently guiding his flock over the water, closely hugging the shore all the way, when the high treble call of a young fawn echoed far over the lake. It was so unexpected that the scouts were startled, but the Indian called over his shoulder, "Li'l deer lose mammy—call her back!"
Then, not twenty yards further on, Yhon stopped paddling, and pointed with a long finger towards the shore. There stood the fawn on a rock near the water's edge, its head held high as it gazed with consternation at so many queer things floating on the lake.
Mrs. Vernon took a splendid picture of the deer, before a crashing of branches and the rattle of pebbles announced that the doe was leaping to the rescue of her little one. But she could not be seen, as she was wise in woodlore and remained safely screened from men. Possibly she knew that a human carried a death-dealing weapon when he sought her in the forests.
The canoes passed through First Lake, then through Second Lake, and at last through Third Lake—all of which were really one large continuous sheet of water. Where Third Lake Creek emptied into the large body of water, Yhon led the canoes close to shore. He knew that the best lake trout were to be caught where the creek emptied, and here he proposed to fish for the dinner supply.
"But we don't want dinner, yet, Yhon," called Mrs. Vernon.
"We eat on Cedar Islan' but him got no fish dere. Get my fish here," explained Yhon, as he jumped ashore.
All were glad of an opportunity to stretch their legs, and then they tried their luck at fishing, also. After a time this became monotonous for the active young ones, and they started up the Creek to adventure. The Third Lake Creek came down over moss-covered rocks, which were held in place by gnarled roots of giant trees. These ancient foresters stood looking benignly down upon the placid waters of the lake, as if watching the play of a little child.
Where the Creek swirled out to join Third Lake, the purplish circles made there gradually lost their foaming haste and gently merged into the wavelets of clear cold water.
As the scouts climbed up the rugged bank of the Creek, the towering trees were not the only things that watched silently. Although the happy young mortals were deaf and blind to the many alert curious eyes that followed their movements, still those eyes were there, wondering at this daring trespass over their domains. Some of these wildwood inhabitants were furtively anxious, some hostile, but all were curious to follow the movements of these queer creatures.
Finally the scouts could not penetrate further, and they retraced their steps. Yhon had caught enough fish for the day's needs, and was ready to continue the trip.
From Third Lake Creek he paddled across to the opposite shore and thence through Fourth Lake. They stopped at Skensowane to purchase crackers, candy, and other sweets, while Yhon took on a supply of staples.
Cedar Island was at the extreme upper end of Fourth Lake, and long before the scouts saw the green knob standing plainly up from the water, they were hungry enough to eat the grass on the island. So every one assisted with the dinner to facilitate the eating of it.
Yhon was one of the best guides in the mountains, and his experience in cooking was unsurpassed; hence the scouts enjoyed an exceptional dinner.
When all were ready to continue the trip, Yhon led across from Cedar Island to Inlet, where there was a "carry" of a mile to reach Sixth Lake.
"Phew! Carry the canoes a mile in the hot sun!" cried Bob.
"That's part of the fun in canoeing," remarked Mr. Gilroy, as they disembarked and prepared to carry.
"I'm glad of the change," said Judith. "My knees are all out of joint from sitting with them doubled under me."
Thereupon every one declared it a relief to walk and get the kinks out of the leg-muscles. But after a mile in the heat, with canoe and outfit to carry, every one was just as glad to get back and sit down in the canoes.
The trip through Sixth and Seventh Lakes was wonderful. The grandeur of the mountains and the marvelous greens of their verdure reflected in the narrow lakes, made the water seem a dark emerald green as clear and transparent as a perfect jewel.
Occasionally, faint shadows of birds flying overhead, or deer leaping on the rocks on the banks were reflected in the water as the canoeists silently paddled along, and such entrancing pictures seen in the placid lake thrilled the scouts with delight.
Here and there, where a stream rushed down into the lake, the scouts could look up through the wide rifts cleft between the forest-trees, and the eye could follow up where falls tumbled over boulders; or to the higher view, where the blue sky showed a tiny streak between the pines.
Once a flight of wild ducks suddenly rose from the lake, quacking noisily. The boys called to Yhon to shoot, but he held up a warning hand to show that this was no season for duck-hunting.
In nearing the upper end of Seventh Lake where the inlet empties into it, Yhon called out, "Nudder carry—mile to Eight Lake."
But before they reached land, the Captain called for a halt. She wanted to take a snapshot of the picture made by the inlet, seemingly in such a hurry to reach the lake, yet making no noise nor showing any froth in its haste. The Lake seemed to draw its shores close together to hug the Inlet, just as a mother draws her babe to her bosom in love. In small coves on either side of the Inlet were patches of green marsh grass and cattails, the home of the wild ducks which rose to escape the coming of the canoeists.
As the faint odorous whiff of marshgrass reached the nostrils of the scouts, they wanted to paddle in and cut cattails, but Yhon said there was no time then. "Plenty time on home trip."
Through Eighth Lake to Brown's Inlet Carry was a distance of about two miles, and when they reached shore on Brown's Inlet, Yhon called out, "Nudder carry—mile-half dis time to Brown Tract Inlet."
The command to carry began to sound tiresome to the scouts, and they were glad to hear Mr. Gilroy say that this carry would be the last one, as Brown's Tract Inlet brought them right to Racquette Lake where they planned to camp for the night.
It was quite late when they reached the lower end of Racquette Lake, because the progress had been slow and safe. Mr. Gilroy had not telephoned for accommodations at any hotel, as they planned to camp at night.
But the wind that came with the setting of the sun also threatened a storm during the night, and Mr. Gilroy thought it best to find a place near a large hotel, in case they had to seek shelter. So they paddled to find a grove quite near one of the larger hotels. The scouts were eager to land and get their camp ready before darkness handicapped them, so when within a few yards of land, Hester turned to pull out her blankets.
The sudden motion overturned the canoe, and all three occupants went headlong into the water. The frightened screams of the three scouts caused consternation in the others, and many turned around quickly to see what had happened behind them. Thus, two more canoe-loads were unexpectedly emptied into the lake.
They were soon out on shore, but drenched and shivering from the cold water. "Now, isn't that the worst thing that could happen to us, at night!" sighed Mrs. Vernon.
"We'll have to stop at a hotel, now, and let the scouts get in bed while their clothing dries," said Mr. Gilroy.
So the wet ones were advised to dance about to keep warm, while Alec and Mr. Gilroy hurried over to the hotel to engage rooms. But they soon came back with surprised looks.
"Not a corner to be had, and the manager called up other large places along the shore only to get the same answer—no room. He said there was a family boarding-house some distance along, where we might get in. The woman, a Mrs. Dickens, was a nice landlady and might tuck us in somewhere. Shall we try it?" said Mr. Gilroy.
"It is so dark now, and we haven't started supper or found a spot to camp, so I think we had best try Mrs. Dickens," replied the Captain.
In chilly silence the entire party got back into its canoes and skirted the shore until Mr. Gilroy called out to Yhon, "This must be the spot where I was told to land. The house is back from the lake, a bit."
The canoeists had no difficulty in locating the boarding-house, but they were too late for a hot dinner, although the cold supper served was very good, especially to hungry young people.
"I haven't any rooms left in the main house," explained Mrs. Dickens, "but I can give you several rooms in the annex. That used to be the help's cottage, but I had it done over to rent this season."
"'Any port in a storm,' madam, and our 'storm' consists of several soaking suits that have to be dried," returned Mr. Gilroy.
"The cottage has a small kitchen where you can quickly light a fire in the stove and dry everything. I think you will be very comfortable there," said Mrs. Dickens. So arrangements were made for the use of the cottage for that night.
As they planned to start early in the morning again, the entire party retired soon after supper. The wet clothing had been hung on lines about the kitchen, where a servant had built a roaring fire. Although they had to "double up" in bed, or sleep on the floor, they were too healthily sleepy to mind such little things, and before ten o'clock every one was asleep.
Mrs. Vernon was a very light sleeper, consequently she was aroused a short time after midnight by cries and calls for help. She sprang from the bed and ran to a side window that opened towards the kitchen side of the boarding-house. All she could see was a dull glare that filled the kitchen windows. But she understood.
Instantly, she ran to Mr. Gilroy's room and knocked loudly while she cried, "Get up—everybody—the boarding-house, next door, is on fire!"
In a moment Mr. Gilroy jumped up and shouted, "All right—we'll be out in a jiffy!" Then Mrs. Vernon ran back to pull the girls out of bed and have them dress as speedily as possible.
The clothing in the kitchen was dry, and soon the girls were dressing and, at the same time, talking excitedly of the fire.
"I'm sorry Mrs. Dickens has had this misfortune, but as long as it happens while we are here, we must try to earn a medal," said Mrs. Vernon, as she breathlessly pulled a middy-blouse over her head.
"What can girls do?" asked Amy, eagerly.
"I don't know yet, but every little thing helps in a time like this. Just obey orders from Mr. Gilroy or me, and follow the example Julie is sure to give you," said Mrs. Vernon, glancing at the scout she mentioned, because Julie might run unnecessary risks for herself, but if she thought she was responsible for the other girls her zeal would be tempered wisely.
"What do they give scouts a medal for, Verny?" now asked Judith, as she twisted her long hair up in a tight coil on her head.
"If occasion arises for a scout to display great heroism, or if she faces extreme danger in trying to save a life, she can have the bronze medal—the highest award given. If she does a brave deed with considerable danger to herself, she wins a silver cross. But no scout is to run needless risk just to win a medal of any kind."
While the Captain spoke, the scouts finished their hurried dressing and now followed her out to the lawn in front of the large house.
Here the scene was one of great confusion and panic. Men were hastily moving articles of furniture and boarders' personal effects out of the three-storied building. Smoke poured from all the rear windows, and the roof seemed enveloped in heavy smoke-clouds.
"Isn't there any volunteer fire department?" called Julie, to every one in general and no one in particular.
"Where is it?" asked Alec of a man standing next to him.
"We got a ring and hammer up yonder, and a hand-engine, but I hain't hear'n no one strike the signal," said he.
"Come along, show me where it is," ordered Alec, catching hold of the man's sleeve and pulling him away from the staring crowd.
Once the man had broken away from the mesmeric influence of the fire-watchers, he ran quickly with Alec to the knoll where a metal hoop and hammer were kept for the purpose of alarm in case of fire. Almost before the two reached the spot, Alec caught the hammer and was striking the metal at regular intervals. The man then offered to remain and send the volunteer firemen to the place where they were needed, so Alec ran back to help as best he could.
Meantime, the girl scouts realized there was much to do to help others, and the Captain ordered every one to use the utmost presence of mind in doing anything they were called upon to do.
Julie hastily whispered to Joan, "I'm going to run to the cottage and get that coil of rope we brought from the canoe last night, we may need it."
"I'll run with you, Julie, for we must tie wet towels over our mouths, if we have to go inside there," added Joan.
Both girls raced to their room, and when they came out they were provided with the rope, and the dripping towels were tied across their nostrils and mouths. As they stood momentarily on the little porch of the cottage to see where they might render the best service, the uproar from the upper stories in the rear was awful.
"There may be some people trapped in their rooms up there!" exclaimed Julie to her companion.
"We can climb up this rose-trellis quite easily, Jule, and get in at the windows of the second story where the piazza roof gives us a foothold," hastily returned Joan.
In another moment both girls were quickly climbing up the strong trellis, and as soon as they reached the tin roof they ran to the window. Here they found a young mother sitting on the floor, rocking a baby back and forth while she cried wildly with hysteria. The child was held so tightly that it, too, was screaming.
While Julie uncoiled the rope, Joan ran to the washstand and dipped a towel in the pitcher. But Julie called to her, "Bring the jug of water here, we've got to break this hysteric spell!"
Joan carried the towel in one hand and the pitcher in the other, so Julie caught the jug from her, and dashed the water in the woman's face. The sudden choking and shock broke the spell. Then the towel was hastily pinned over the lower part of her face and she was hurried to the door. But the smoke and heat caused the girls to slam the door to again and run to the window.
"Hey—down there!" yelled Julie, to a group of men on the flower-bed. "Hold out a blanket while we drop the baby down."
"No—no!" screamed the mother, trying to get away from the grasp of strong young Joan. "You'll kill it!"
"Give me the child, I'll carry it down the trellis," said Julie, but the mother would not relax her grip on her baby.
"Where's that rope, Jo?" now asked Julie.
"Over by the window we went in at," cried Joan, having all she could do to restrain the woman from throwing herself and babe down from the roof.
So in another moment, Julie had the rope tied to a window shutter, and with the other end in hand was over by the woman.
"Here—stand still, will you, while we fix this and let you down to the ground!" commanded she, and the woman instantly obeyed.
Then both girls lowered the two slowly over the edge of the roof, down to where willing hands were raised to catch them. There was a wild acclaim as mother and child were saved, but the two scouts were not aware of it, as they were back inside the room again, taking their precious rope with them. Before they could determine what to do next, a queer form burst into the room.
"Where's the rope you've been using, girls?" demanded the voice of Alec. But he was completely covered by his rubber sleeping-bag, in which he had slit holes for his feet and arms.
Had it been any other time than such a moment, both girls must have doubled over in merriment at his appearance.
"Here it is, Alec. Where did you come from?" cried both scouts in one voice.
"Upstairs. I got up on the roof by climbing the water-spout, and in a dormer-room up there I found an old crippled woman, crying for help, but with no one to hear her until I climbed in from the scuttle-hole. A little old-fashioned stairway runs from the third floor down into the closet in this room. But I can't get her down those narrow stairs, and the other stairway and halls are a mass of fire. I've got to lower her from the roof, but I need help."
"We'll help!" eagerly offered both the girls. So, with the coil of rope, they followed Alec through the smoke-filled room into the large dark closet, and thus, up the scuttle-hole stairs that had been abandoned for many years,—perhaps forgotten entirely, until this need.
In the front end of the third story there was not much smoke as yet, so the three could see their way plainly. And in a small gable-room having a small window high from the floor moaned an old woman of more than seventy years. The moment she saw Alec return with two girls to help, she stopped wailing and tried to be courageous.
"Now we may hurt you some when you are being moved, but you must bear it, Gran'ma," said Alec, gently. The old lady smiled reassuringly.
"Children, anything is better than being roasted up in this little room. Don't worry over hurting me but do whatever is necessary," quavered the sweet old voice.
"Now, girls, I'm going to shinny up the scuttle-hole in the roof and carry the rope with me. I'll tie it securely to the chimney on the roof and let down the other end. Fasten this about Grandma's waist and we'll try to lift her out that way. You two must help by holding her as much as possible, and by boosting from below."
While Alec climbed up the wall-ladder and got out to the roof, Julie and Joan made a roll of blankets and placed it about the old lady's form under the arms. Then they looped the rope over this and secured it also under her arms.
"All ready, Alec!" called Julie, holding her charge by one arm while Joan held her by the other.
As Alec hauled, hand over hand on the rope, the two scouts beneath lifted and then boosted the old lady until she was safely through the opening in the roof. Then Alec leaned over and called to them:
"If you can manage to run down and get through that room again, escape by way of the piazza-roof and send the firemen up from the outside with their ladders. I'll wait on the front roof with Grandma."
So Julie and Joan rushed down the little attic-stairs, back through the smoke-filled room which was now dreadfully hot from the fire, and out of the other room window to the piazza roof. Once on the ground, a curious mob tried to surround them to ask all sorts of foolish questions, but Julie was equal to two mobs. With muscular arms and fists striking right and left, she quickly forced a passage and made her way to the spot where the Fire-Chief was ordering the men about.
"Mr. Chief, run a ladder up to the roof where you see that scout standing. He's got an old crippled woman to save. Maybe the rope will reach and maybe it won't, so use your own judgment," called Julie, pointing up to where Alec could be dimly seen through the smoke.
"Hoist a ladder, boys! See that scout up on the roof with Mrs. Dickens' mother?" shouted the Chief, anxiously watching the roof.
While every one stood and in breathless suspense watched the firemen run up a long ladder and assist Alec in saving the poor helpless woman, Mrs. Dickens came distractedly from the rear of the house and ran about seeking for her mother. When she learned that it was her mother they were trying to save, she fainted with fright. But the old lady was safely brought to the ground, and a great fuss was made over Alec. Then Mrs. Dickens was revived, and when she found her aged mother beside her on the grass, she almost fainted again from joy and gratitude.
The house was doomed even before the firemen reached the scene, for it was constructed, as so many summer boarding-houses are at seashore and mountain resorts, of thin novelty-siding outside and oil-stained ceiling boards inside; these act like kindling wood once they are ignited.
The crowd stood, now, and watched the flames lick up everything in sight, but every one was thankful that no lives were lost. The scouts, both girls and boys, had worked so faithfully that all the silver and linen were saved, and the men had removed much of the best furniture in the ground-floor rooms.
The sun, that morning, rose on a scene of confusion and pathos. Guests who had been able to save most of their effects were assisting less fortunate ones to dress in all kinds of apparel. Neighbors from nearby cottages were caring for the homeless boarders, until order could be brought out of the chaotic condition.
But the cottages were few, and the guests many, so some one must suggest a plan to meet the immediate needs. It was Mr. Gilroy who thought of a way.
"We all sympathize with Mrs. Dickens in her distress, but it might have been worse, friends,—we all realize that,—and so we feel grateful that no lives were lost. But here it is breakfast-time, and there are many hungry mouths to fill, and I would suggest that you accept a scout breakfast with us as soon as it is ready."
Every one responded to such a hearty invitation, and Mr. Gilroy added, "Then we'll show you how to prepare a good meal with no stove or kitchen, and with but few pots or pans."
The boys were sent out on the lake to get the fish; the girls were told to knead the dough for scout-twists, and place them at the fire Mr. Gilroy was building. To interest the weary boarders, Mr. Gilroy had started his campfire with rubbing-sticks and had arranged the bread-sticks upon which the dough was twined, to the best advantage for all to watch while the twists baked.
Most of the dishes had been saved from the fire, and these were now used for breakfast. Several large tablecloths had been spread out upon the smooth grass, and plates set around on the squares of linen.
The fish had been cleaned by Yhon when caught, and now the boys returned with a nice mess—enough for every one that morning. Mrs. Dickens kept all her extra stock of food in the little loft of the cottage, and as this annex was spared any damage by the fire, there was a supply of cereals, flour, bacon, and other necessities for meals. With the thrift of a good housekeeper, Mrs. Dickens had laid in a stock of purchases when the Army Supply had been sold off at auction in the city. So Mrs. Vernon found gallon cans of stewed prunes and other food-products on hand.
In spite of all trouble and perplexities that morning, breakfast was a cheerful meal. Prunes for fruit; hominy and other prepared cereals for a second course; then fresh fish, fried in corn-meal jackets and browned in bacon-fat, furnished a delicious third course with the hot scout-bread. And all this was topped off with fragrant coffee.
Naturally, the conversation was about one thing—the fire and the courage shown by the three scouts. The equally helpful work done by Mrs. Vernon and the other scouts in caring for those who were rescued, received but small notice. But they never as much as thought of it—with Julie and Joan in a fair way to win a medal that would lift the entire Troop to recognition at Headquarters in New York.
When breakfast was over, Mr. Gilroy expressed his other idea. "I have a plan that may meet with general approval, but that remains to be seen. Now listen carefully, while I speak, and then do as you like afterwards. My boys and these girls are willing to teach you how to do what I am about to propose, and help in any way we can to make every one comfortable for the time being.
"You have no house to sleep in, and Mrs. Dickens will have no boarders to help her meet her expenses and loss, unless we immediately find some way to change all this seeming trouble. So this is my suggestion:
"We scouts are accustomed to sleeping out-of-doors and thus we know how to make the finest beds out of the material Nature provides. We will show every one how to weave these balsam beds that are superior to any handmade spring and hair mattress.
"While you people are completing your beds, we will paddle up to a place Yhon told me about, where a number of Indians camp. They make and sell tents to parties coming to the Adirondacks for the summer. Then at the end of the season they will buy them back and pay prices according to the condition the tents are in. Perhaps we can rent a number of tents, as the summer is now half over.
"If enough boarders agree to this plan, and will insure the risk to Mrs. Dickens by advancing the money necessary to pay for the tents, we scouts will go after the tents for you and bring them back in our canoes.
"Mrs. Dickens says she can quickly have a pavilion built that will answer for a dining-room, but any one who does not care for 'roughing' it in tent-life must find other accommodations. All such can have meals in the pavilion, but must take second table as boarders remaining in camp will naturally have first claim on the hostess' service."
After a noisy debate, in which most of the ousted guests found these plans and future delights pleasant to discuss, the majority voted to remain and take up tent-life. Thus it happened that Mrs. Dickens was helped out of the financial ruin that had stared her in the face a few hours before, and the guests were treated to a rare experience,—living in the open in the wonderful woods.
The scouts started every one cutting the young tips of the balsams for their bedding, then paddled after Yhon in the canoes, up the Marion River to Bear Creek, where the guide knew several of his friends to have camps for the summer. They had tents to hire or for sale, and were only too glad to furnish all that were needed for the houseless boarders at Dickens' Landing.
The tent-outfits were carefully packed inside the canoes, and the scouts joyfully paddled back, realizing that "What blesses one, blesses all" in this working out of a good idea.
When the scouts landed with the tents and found that enough balsam had been stripped for the beds, they began to weave the tips as all scouts know how to do. Meantime, Mr. Gilroy, Yhon, and several of the men raised the tents and secured them in such places as Mrs. Dickens selected. The balsam beds were then made up in the tents, and before evening, every one was provided with room and beds, thanks to the scouts.
As the canoes left that shore, they were sped with many blessings, for they had done a great thing for those standing on the rocks, watching them depart.
SHOOTING THE RAPIDS—AND OTHER THINGS
"Well, 'where do we go from here, boys?'" called Mr. Gilroy, laughingly, as he looked back over his shoulder at the scouts.
"Anywhere but home!" exclaimed Julie.
"Why not there? Don't you like my camp-ground?" asked Mr. Gilroy, teasingly.
"Of course, but after such a night and day we won't want to settle down again into quiet life. We have to let ourselves down gradually," laughed Alec.
"Well, then, we'll ask Yhon where to go to-day," agreed Mr. Gilroy.
"Ride the rapids," returned Yhon, as if that was enough said.
Such a shout that greeted this suggestion proved he was right in his surmise. Finally, when Mrs. Vernon could be heard, she asked, "Where are they—far from Raquette Lake?"
"Yhon, I suppose you mean those on the route to Forked Lake, through Raquette River to Long Lake, eh?" said Mr. Gilroy.
"Um! Up Raquette Fall to Corey an' 'en to Sar'nac."
"Saranac Lake! Oh, I've always wanted to see it!" cried Julie.
"Do let's go, Gilly!" begged other voices.
"Shall we take a vote on it?" laughed Mr. Gilroy.
"Why waste time—it is unanimously decided already," retorted Alec for the boys.
"Yhon, I'm afraid you've let me in for trouble!" cried Mr. Gilroy, but he turned his canoe just the same, and led the way.
The scouts now followed Mr. Gilroy and Yhon across the mouth of the Marion River, and rounded Woods' Point. Across Boulder Bay, to Bluff Point, they paddled, and carefully rounding this point they entered Outlet Bay. Then the usual route was taken up the bay until they reached Forked Lake Carry.
They were all in high spirits and the short carry only added to their enjoyment. The canoes were launched again in Forked Lake waters and they paddled until the end of the lake was reached. Where it joins Raquette River was a carry of a mile and a half, and seeing that it was noon and time for luncheon, Mr. Gilroy said:
"Why not have something to eat first, and carry afterwards?"
"Oh, that will add to the work of carrying," retorted Julie. "Not only canoes but food!"
But the boys were for eating, so they scanned the shore carefully as they slowly moved through the water, until Yhon saw a place he considered suitable for camp. Here a fire was soon started, and the four boys were sent out to fish. The girls were left to bake the bread and prepare the rest of the meal.
In spite of their most skillful efforts, the boys did not have good luck, and returned with but a small catch of fish. Hilarity due to the way the boys told how they had to fish made up for the lack and for everything else. When everything was packed neatly again, and all were ready to start, Jake gave a wild leap and landed too near the edge of Yhon's canoe. Over it went, staples and outfits all going down into the water.
"Oh, all our sugar and salt—and everything!" cried Julie.
Yhon never changed a muscle of his face, although he must have been taken by surprise when he was precipitated into the water. The outfits, hampers, and other things were quickly salvaged and restored to the canoe, but Jake sat in disgrace on the bank, and hung his head as if he understood just what he had done.
So much time had been used in rescuing Yhon, in fishing their food-stock out of the water, and coaxing Jake back into the canoe, that it was late when the scouts reached Deerland Lodge.
"What say you, scouts,—shall we stop at the Lodge, or take a chance up Long Lake until we reach a point where we can strike off to reach Hendrick Spring, the fountainhead of the Hudson River?" asked Mr. Gilroy.
"And where shall we camp?" asked Mrs. Vernon.
"It might be nice to camp at the spring," suggested Alec.
"Oh, yes, let's do that, Gilly!" cried several voices.
So they kept right on, paddling swiftly along until they reached a place on the shore where Yhon said they must land if they proposed going to Hendrick Spring.
"Oh, I thought we could canoe there," ventured Julie.
"No, we must leave Yhon here to watch the canoes while we hike along the trail that goes there. We can carry our sleeping-bags and take enough food for supper, then come back early in the morning for a good breakfast with Yhon," explained Mr. Gilroy.
"Is there no way we might take to return to Fulton Chain Lakes other than going back the same route?" questioned Mrs. Vernon.
"No, we shall have to go the way we come, or be willing to carry overland for many miles, from one water to the other."
"Oh, no, that is out of the question," said the Captain.
So each scout took a sleeping-bag and cup and plate, while the boys carried the extra cooking outfit, and Alec his rifle.
The trail led through a most wonderful primeval forest where lichened stones, moss-clothed fallen trees and luxuriant foliage of standing timber furnished homes for countless wild creatures.
They had not gone far before a ruddy-hued fox tried to back out of their way on the trail, and managed successfully to merge his color with that of the yellow-brown verdure about him. Further on, Alec suddenly lifted his rifle and aimed, but the furtive mottled animal that had been crouching along the mottled limb of a tree leaped back with the least possible noise or disturbance of the foliage, and was gone!
"That was some wildcat, but she was too slick for me!" said Alec, when questioned about missing it.
The scouts saw so many unfamiliar birds that they wished they had carried a bird book on the trip to help them identify all they now saw. Notes were taken, however, to help them look up and catalogue the varieties, later, in camp. There were many other interesting living creatures, also; some half-hid under leaves or twigs, others squatting daringly in the open, with questioning eyes fixed on these clumsy intruders.
Finally the scouts reached Hendrick Springs, but to their consternation the place was already tenanted with undesirable tramps. Mr. Gilroy politely questioned the three men who claimed to be timber-jacks, but their empty package that had contained food and the quart bottle that had once been filled with whiskey, now also empty, belied their story.
Their hardened faces, unkempt appearance, and other earmarks caused a little apprehension in the hearts of the girls and Mrs. Vernon; but soon after the new arrivals started their fire to cook supper, the three tramps got up and quietly left.
Scanty beds of balsam were soon made for the night for the girls, but the boys preferred to sleep upon the grass. After a few campfire tales, they decided who was to keep the fire burning all night to ward off any wild animals, and also to guard against the return of the evil-looking tramps.
"We girls want to take our turn in watching, as well as the boys, Gilly!" declared Joan, when she heard how the guard was to be divided up for the night.
"Oh, you girls need sleep, but we don't," said Bob.
"We are just as hale as any of you boys, and we want to do our bit!" exclaimed Julie, decidedly.
"Well, then, if you must, you will!" sighed Mr. Gilroy, comically. "Now I have to begin all over again and figure out this problem. Let's see:
"First, Alec and Bob mount guard two hours; then Dick and Ned guard for two more; then Julie and Joan; and lastly, all the other girls and myself. How is that?"
Every one laughed, for Julie and Joan were now getting all they bargained for. So Alec and Bob went on duty, while the rest stretched out and fell asleep.
At eleven o'clock the next two boys were called; but at one o'clock, when it was time to rouse Julie and Joan, Mr. Gilroy crept over and motioned the boys to let him mount duty for a time. It was nearly three when Julie woke up and rubbed her eyes. She instantly realized that no one had called her, so she nudged Joan and got her up. Then they crept over to the campfire and scolded Mr. Gilroy for breaking faith with them. He laughed and gladly went back to finish his night's repose.
Having been so sound asleep just before going on duty, and being utterly tired out with the day's experiences, the two girls sat by the fire endeavoring to keep each other fully awake. But the Sand Man was too powerful for them to resist his dreamy influence, and soon Joan dozed while Julie yawned and did her best to keep her eyelids open.
An hour passed and Joan was sweetly sleeping, while Julie was nodding, heavy with sleep. Suddenly a crackling of branches behind them caused Julie to start wide awake.
"Joan, are you awake?" whispered Julie fearfully, shaking her friend.
"Sure—why?" mumbled Joan, sitting up to rub her eyes.
"I heard some one—maybe those tramps are back to do something," whispered Julie, trying to peer through the misty night.
"Where—which way did you hear them?" questioned Joan, now fully awake, too.
"See those long shadows by the trees, over there?" returned Julie. "I'll pile a lot more wood on the fire and make it blaze so we can see them if they come nearer."
So saying, she threw so much wood on the fire that it instantly smothered the red glow and began smoking like a chimney. The smoke drove the girls from that side of the fire and caused them to cough violently, while there was a lively scrambling of feet over by the trees, and both girls began calling:
"Gilly! Gilly, wake up! The tramps are here!"
That cry brought every one to his feet, and the moment all heads got the benefit of the smoke, every one began coughing. But they managed to creep along the ground to the side of the fire, where the two girls stood gazing at the trees in question.
Just as Alec crept up beside the scouts with rifle up ready to aim at whatever he found skulking about them, there sounded a frightful screeching, and hoarse calls came from the lower branches of the tree.
"I knew it! I saw them creep over and heard them climb," cried Julie, quaking with excitement.
"They planned to drop something on our heads, I guess," added Joan, her eyes bulging as she tried to see into the foliage.
Just as Alec decided to take aim and fire haphazardly, knowing that he could not see in the dark but could frighten the tramps, Bob caught hold of his arm. He was unaware that it held a gun that was cocked ready to fire.
The rifle went off prematurely, the shot hit the mark without Alec's trying for it, and a heavy thud informed the scouts that the bullet was fatal! Instantly, however, there was such a commotion in the leaves, and such a Bedlam of screeching! Finally a great flock of crows swept out of the high tree and flew away to find a less dangerous roost.
The first streaks of dawn were penetrating the forest's darkness when the offended crows left their ancestral tree; and the scouts looked at each other in surprise. But Alec was sure it was not a crow he had downed—it was too heavy for that!
So the boys crept carefully over to the place where they thought to find the body of a tramp, while the girls followed at a respectful distance. Then the relieved cry from Alec, and the laughing calls from the other boys, hurried the girls to join their friends.
There they saw a dead wildcat of truly awesome size. In its clenched teeth it still held the young nestling—the object of its nocturnal climb into the tree. Alec's unexpected shot had hit true and had done for the crafty animal.
"Well, this is some trophy to carry back home, eh?" cried Alec delightedly, as he turned the cat over with his foot.
"I'm glad you didn't kill anything more than the wildcat," added Mrs. Vernon.
"If you boys intend carrying that back to camp, you'll have to skin it now and take only the pelt. You can't be bothered with the heavy beast itself. Leave the carcass for the wild denizens that will be glad to feed on this, their enemy," advised Mr. Gilroy.
"And do give us the crow! If it hadn't been for Joan and me you wouldn't have had the wildcat!" exclaimed Julie.
"If it hadn't been for you two imaginative scouts we all would still be snoozing peacefully beside the fire," laughed Alec.
THE GRAND SURPRISE
When the scouts returned to their camp beside Little Moose Lake, they were impressed anew with the peace and beauty of the spot. The canoe trip had been delightful and exciting, but all were glad to get back to a simple life once more.
Having seen the scout girls safely back home, and their canoes in the lake for future use, Mr. Gilroy sighed and said, "Now I shall take a long rest and recover from the past few days' work!"
A few days after their return from the "voyage," as they called it, the scout girls received a bundle of mail. In it were newspapers, many letters, and other interesting items. The papers were all "marked copies," and the mail proved to be letters filled with congratulations and words of praise for the brave girls.
"Why, they must be crazy! Every one's writing about what we did at the fire!" laughed Julie.
"Yes, just listen to this from 'Liza, every one!" called out Betty. And she read: "'So I sez to yer Pa, yu've got two fine scouts in them girls, Mister Lee, and this proves it. Any girl what will climb the side of a house to save folkses from burning, is wuth a lot of lazy, good-fer-nothin' boys, I sez.'"
Every one laughed heartily at the praise thus bestowed upon them; but Betty said regretfully, "It's too bad I didn't do as much as Julie did at that fire. Daddy won't feel very proud of me, I'm afraid!"
"Oh, but you did, Betty! You ran for the Captain and did all sorts of stunts we couldn't have done. But not every one could climb like Jo and I do!" said Julie, soothingly.
"Oh, girls!" exclaimed the Captain, who had been hurriedly glancing over one of the papers received. "Listen to this from a New York paper. Oh, I am so proud of you all!" Then she read:
"'At a recent fire that destroyed Dickens' Hotel at Raquette Lake, Adirondacks, a group of girl scouts known as the Dandelion Troop saved many lives and did heroic work in saving property. One of the hotel guests told our local reporter the story and we print his own words.'"
Then followed an account of the fire, and how it started because of a defective flue in the kitchen chimney. It told in detail all that the girls did, but the story merely mentioned Alec and his courageous act. At the last of the story, a full description was given of how the balsam beds were made, and how the boarders were now enjoying themselves in tent-life and out-of-door camp cooking. And all this was due, it said, to the Girl Scouts being able to teach the homeless boarders how to help themselves with the bountiful supply from Nature.
That morning, Mr. Gilroy came down to the camp to hear the news, for he also had received several papers with the story of the fire in them. After the excitement of reading it all over again to him, the girls quieted down to hear what he wished to say.
"I came to see about your plans for next summer's outing," said he.
The girls looked at him quizzically, for they thought he was joking. Mrs. Vernon gasped, "Next summer! We're not through with this year yet!"
"I know that, but 'In times of peace prepare for war,' you know," laughed he.
"Tell us why you asked?" demanded Julie.
"Because I am planning a trip for my next outing, and I am debating whether to invite any girl scouts to go with me."
"Where? Aren't you going to stay here next summer?" was the answer from several girls.
"No, I have had an important letter to-day. And I am going to accept the offer made me by the Government, but it will cost any girl scout more to go with me than it did to come to the Adirondacks."
"Then that settles our going! We haven't a cent left over after this outing. If it hadn't been for those escaped felons last year we wouldn't have been here, I suppose!" sighed Julie.
"If it had not been the reward for the capture of the two felons that proved to be the means to bring you to the Adirondacks, there would have been some other way of finding the supply for you. You see, girls, there is always plenty of everything for you when the Source is unlimited," said Mr. Gilroy.
"Not one of us in Dandelion Troop have such a banker," laughed Judith.
"Then, if this is so, why need we worry about expenses for next summer's outing with you?" added Joan, in response to his remark.