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The Camp Fire Girls in the Mountains - or Bessie King's Strange Adventure
by Jane L. Stewart
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"I know it's a compliment, Nell, so you needn't talk about gratitude. I'm the one to be grateful, I'm sure. The more experience I get before I'm a regular Guardian myself, the better chance I'll have to make good when the time comes."

"I'm ever so glad you feel that way about it, Anna. You know, there are ever and ever so many girls who could do the work, and won't try. I'm not sure that it's so much 'won't' as—oh, I don't know! I think they're afraid—they haven't any confidence in themselves. They think it would be absurd for them to try to direct others. I felt that way myself."

"Nearly everyone who is at all likely to make good does, Anna. That's the strangest part of it. When I hear a girl talking about how easy it is to be a good Guardian, 'and how sure she is that she'll make good, I'm always afraid she's going to fail. If you make the girls understand they've got to help you, and that you know that if they don't you won't be able to succeed, you get them ever so much more interested."

"That's easy to understand. It makes them feel that they really do have a part in the work. I noticed that about your girls, particularly, Nell. They seemed to feel that they were all a part of the Camp Fire."

"Well, that's the spirit I've always tried to put into them. I'm very glad if I've really succeeded in doing it. It was a good deal of a trust for me, as well as for them—leaving them to you. It shows, I think, that the Camp Fire is in good shape and able to get along, not exactly by itself, but under different conditions. I might easily have to leave them, you know, and if they couldn't go right ahead under another Guardian, I'd feel that my work had been, in a way, at least, a failure."

"All ready, Miss Drew!" called old Andrew, and then the girls gathered on the beach and sung the Wo-he-lo song as the boat glided off.

Eleanor welcomed the quiet days that followed, during which she completed the plans for the field day in which the Boy Scouts were also to take part, and for the long tramp she planned as the chief event of the summer for her girls.

"It seems sort of slow, now that those gypsies have gone, and there's no one to make trouble for us," Dolly complained. But Bessie and Zara, who heard her, only laughed at her.

"You'd better be careful," said Zara. "First thing you know you'll be starting some new trouble."

"She's right," said Bessie. "You said when we got away from that gypsy that you'd had enough excitement for awhile, Dolly."

"Oh, well," Dolly pouted, "it is slow up here—no place to buy soda, no moving picture shows—nothing!"

"I call the swimming and the walks pretty exciting," said Zara. "I'm really learning. I went about twenty yards this afternoon."

"But I know how to swim, and one walk is just like another," said Dolly.

"Well, we'll have the field day pretty soon, and then, after that, we'll start on our long walk. There'll be plenty of excitement then, and one walk won't be just like another. I bet you'll be wishing for a train before we're down in the valley again."



CHAPTER VIII

A NOVEL RACE

The morning of the long-awaited field day dawned clear and bright. The camp was stirring with the first rays of the rising sun, that gilded the tree tops to the east, and painted the surface of the lake, smooth as a mirror, with a hundred hues. The day promised to be hot in the open, but there was no danger of great heat on the march, which was entirely through the woods.

"We won't worry about how hot it's going to be under the sun," said Eleanor Mercer as the girls sat at their early breakfast.

"No. Our work is under the trees, until we get to the camping spot," said Margery Burton.

"Now here's the plan of campaign," said Eleanor. "I am going to send two girls ahead to build the fire. That's the most important thing, really—to get the fire started."

"We can't use matches, can we?" asked Zara.

"No, the fire must be made Indian fashion, with two sticks. But we all know how to do that, I think. The idea of sending two girls ahead is to have that part of the work done when the main body reaches our camping ground."

"Where is that? We can know now, can't we, Wanaka?" asked Margery.

"Yes, it's all right to tell you now. You know those twin peaks beyond Little Bear Lake—North Peak and South Peak?"

"Yes," came the answer, in chorus.

"Well, our place is on North Peak, and Mr. Hastings will take his Scouts to South Peak. The trails are different, but they're the same length."

"Why was that kept such a secret?" asked Bessie.

"Because Mr. Hastings and I decided that it would be fairer if there was no chance at all to go over the trail first and learn all about it. Then there was the chance that if either party thought of it they could locate kindling wood and fallen wood that could be used for the fire-making. On a regular hike, you see, you would go to a place that was entirely strange, and it seemed better to keep things just as near to regular hiking conditions as we could."

"Oh, I see! And that's a good idea, too. It's just as fair for one as for the other, then."

"Who are going to be the two girls to go ahead? And why can't we all get there at the same time?" asked Dolly.

"One question at a time," said Eleanor, with a laugh. "I'll answer the second one first. We've got to carry all the things we need for making camp and getting a meal cooked. So if we send out two girls ahead, with nothing to carry, they can make much better time than those who have the heavy loads."

"Will they do the same thing?" asked Zara. "The Boy Scouts, I mean?"

Eleanor smiled.

"Ah, I don't know," she said. "They will if Mr. Hastings thinks of it, I'm sure, because it would be a good move in a race."

"Is it quite fair in case they don't happen to think of it?" asked Margery, doubtfully.

"Why not? This isn't just like a foot-race. It isn't altogether a matter of speed and strength, or even of endurance—"

"I should hope not!" declared Dolly. "If it was, what chance would we have against those boys?"

"Suppose we found some new way of rubbing sticks that would make fire quicker than the regular way, it would be fair to use that, wouldn't it, Margery?" asked Bessie.

"That's the idea. Bessie's right, Margery," said Eleanor. "We have a perfect right, and so have they, to employ any time-saving idea we happen to get hold of. And I'm quite sure this is a good one, and that Mr. Hastings will think of it, too."

"Well, I hope he doesn't do anything of the sort!" said Margery, wholly converted and now enthusiastic for the plan.

"You haven't told us yet who is to go ahead," said Dolly. "I'm just crazy to be one of the two—"

"We all are! Who wouldn't like to get out of carrying a load?" cried two or three girls in chorus.

Eleanor laughed at the eagerness they displayed.

"It won't be all fun for the pathfinders, as we'll call them," she said. "They've got a lot of responsibility, you see."

"What sort of responsibility?" asked Margery. "All they've got to do is to go just as fast as they can and make a fire when they get to the peak."

"That isn't all they've got to do, though. They've got to make a smoke signal, for one thing, by stopping the smoke with a blanket, and then letting it rise, straight up, three times. And they've got to go to work and get enough wood to keep the fire going, as soon as they've lighted it."

"But they'll be able to go along ever so easily on the trail!"

"It isn't a very well marked trail. Neither of the trails to the peak is, for that matter. And the pathfinders, if they find they're in any danger of making a wrong turn, must make a sign for us who follow. That might easily save us a good many minutes in getting there. So you see it isn't quite as easy as you thought. Now, I'll call for volunteers. Who wants to join the pathfinders?"

Every girl there put up her hand at once, amid a chorus of laughs and jesting remarks.

"Heavens! Well, you can't all be pathfinders, or there'd be no one to carry the dinner! We'll have to figure out some way of picking out two, because that's all there can be."

"We might draw lots," said Margery.

"I don't like that idea much," said Eleanor. "If you're all so anxious to go, we ought to make it a reward of some sort—a prize. It's too bad I didn't think of it earlier, because then we could have had a really good competition."

She frowned thoughtfully for a moment.

"I know what we'll do," she said. "There are just eight of you, and we'll divide all the dishes from breakfast into eight even piles. We can do that easily. Then you shall all start together—"

"Oh, that's good!" said Dolly. "And the ones who finish first will be pathfinders?"

"Yes, those who finish first, and put their dishes away properly, Dolly—not just finish washing and drying. I'll be the judge. Come on, Margery, we'll arrange the piles."

So the arrangements were made, and then, with each girl standing over her own pile of dishes, they waited eagerly for the word.

"I'll start you," laughed Eleanor. "Now, are you ready? Take dishes—wash!"

And at once there was a great splashing and commotion. But Eleanor broke in with a laugh.

"Time!" she called. "Stop washing'"

Everyone stopped, and looked at her curiously.

"Here's a rule," she said. "I only just thought of it. Anyone who breaks a dish is out of the race, even if she finishes five minutes ahead of the next girl. Understand?"

"Yes," they cried.

"All right. Dolly, you kept on washing for nearly half a minute after the others had stopped. When I give them the word to start again, don't you do it. I'll give you a starting signal of your own. You, too, Mary King! I'll call your names when you two are to start."

Then they bent to their piles again, and waited for Eleanor's "Ready? Wash!"

Dolly and Mary King, forced to restore the time they had unwittingly stolen from the others, waited as patiently as they could until they heard "Now, Dolly!" and after a moment more, "All right, Mary!"

"Oh, this is fine sport!" cried Dolly, washing with an energy she had never displayed before. "I think we ought to have races like this ever so often. They're much better fun than most of the games we play!"

"Anything that makes you act as if you liked work is a fine little idea, Dolly," said Margery. "But I haven't got time to talk—I've got to wash. I never thought anyone could wash dishes as fast as you're doing it!"

"I'm in practice," laughed Dolly. "I hate them so, that I'm always trying to get them done just as quickly as I can."

And a moment later Dolly, to the general surprise, had put away her last dish, an easy winner.

It was plain to her in a moment that the struggle, now that she was out of it, would be between Margery and Bessie. They had finished washing almost at the same moment, with Margery perhaps a couple of spoons ahead.

"Hurry, Bessie, do hurry!" pleaded Dolly. "We've done so much together up here, we ought to be pathfinders together, too. Can't I help her, Miss Eleanor?"

"No, that wouldn't be fair, Dolly," laughed Eleanor. "Each one has got to win or lose on her own merits in this race."

Bessie smiled as she heard Dolly's impulsive appeal. She wanted to win, too, because it was impossible for her to engage in any contest without wanting to come out ahead, or as far ahead as she could. This time, of course, second place was all she could hope for, but she was not one of those people who, if the chief prize is beyond their reach, relax their efforts to do as well as they can.

As she finished wiping each dish dry she arranged it, stacking her dishes in order of their size, so that they could all be carried easily to the tent where they were to be laid away.

Margery, on the other hand, grew nervous as she neared the end. Once a plate slipped through her hand, but, fortunately, her cry of dismay as it fell was premature, for it did not break. But she was putting her dishes down anywhere, without regard for their size or for convenience in carrying them, and as a result, though she had finished the actual drying nearly a minute before Bessie, she was still frantically gathering her piled dishes together in her arms when Bessie wiped the last spoon.

Then, without haste, Bessie picked up her whole pile, and, starting before Margery, walked carefully over to the tent. She put away her last dish before Margery was half done, and the contest was over.

"Go on, girls!" cried Eleanor, as she saw that interest was slackening with the choice of the second pathfinder. "You don't want to be last, do you? I should think you'd all want to avoid that!"

The reminder was enough, and the others were soon busily finishing their tasks. Zara was fourth, right after Margery, and then there was a wild scramble among the last four. They finished almost together, and Eleanor, with a laugh, had to declare that there was a tie for sixth, seventh and eighth places.

"So no one was really last!" she declared, merrily. "My, but that was good fun! It certainly was, if you enjoyed racing half as much as I did watching you! It's a pity we never thought of that before."

"I'll beat you next time, you two!" vowed the panting Margery, shaking her first in mock anger at Bessie and Dolly. "More haste, less speed! That's what beat me! But I'll know better next time."

"We'll have a team race some time," said Eleanor. "Two teams of four—that ought to be good fun. Oh, there are lots of ways of having a good time if you only think of them!"

Then she clapped her hands as a sign for attention.

"Now we've got to take our fun for the rest of the day more seriously," she said. "You girls will have to take your fire-making sticks, and an old blanket. You understand how to make smoke signals, don't you?"

"Yes, indeed!" cried Dolly and Bessie, in one breath.

"All right, then. How will you make signs to show us which way to go?"

"With a hatchet. We'll blaze the trees," suggested Bessie. "Then you'll be sure to see it. There's no way that a sign like that can be blown away, or get moved by accident. With the thin end of the blaze in the direction you are to take, if there's a choice."

"All right. Hatchet, old blanket, fire-making sticks. You'd better carry water bottles, for you'll be thirsty on the way."

"Why, we'll find plenty of water. There must be springs!" Dolly protested.

"Undoubtedly; but you don't know just where they are, and you'd waste time looking for them. If you have your water bottles, with a little bit of lemon juice in the water, you can have a drink wherever you like."

"I like the taste of lemon juice, too."

"It isn't only because you like it that it's a good thing to have it, but it will quench your thirst better than plain water, and it will make your water last better, too, because you don't need to drink so much of it."

"It's fine if you're hot, too," said Margery, approvingly. "A little lemon water will cool you off better than half a dozen of those ice-cream sodas you're so fond of, Dolly."

Dolly made a face at her.

"I think it's mean of you to tease me about soda when you know I can't have it, no matter how much I want it," she said. "But I don't care, really. I wouldn't have an ice-cream soda now, if I had a pocket full of money and I could get one by going across the street!"

Eleanor smiled at her.

"What a reckless promise! Only you know you are perfectly safe," she said, half mockingly.

"I really mean it," protested Dolly. "I'm going to swear off—for a long time, anyhow. Bessie and Zara and I are going to try to get enough honor beads to be Fire-Makers as soon as we get back to the city, and that's one of the ways I'm going to try."

"Then you've started already?" said Eleanor.

"No, not yet," said Dolly. "I'm going to wait—"

A shout of laughter interrupted her.

"Oh, yes, we know! Until you have just one or two last ones—"

Dolly flushed dangerously for a moment. But her new control over herself, that she was fighting so hard to maintain, saved her from the sharp reply that was on her tongue.

"You might let me finish," she said. "If I swore off now I suppose the time while we're here would count toward an honor bead, but what's the use of swearing off something I can't get, anyhow? I'm going to swear off the first time I see a soda fountain!"

"Good for you, Dolly!" exclaimed Eleanor, heartily. "That's the right spirit."



CHAPTER IX

THE PATHFINDERS

It did not take the two pathfinders long to get so far ahead of the main party that they were out of sight and almost out of hearing. The girls who carried the necessary provisions and utensils, however, made their way light by singing Camp Fire songs as they walked, and their voices echoed through the woods.

"This is great! Oh, I love it!" said Dolly, happily. "I'm so glad you beat Margery, Bessie!"

"I thought you liked Margery, Dolly?"

"I do, but you're my very dearest chum, Bessie! I think Margery's great, but she is just a little bit superior, sometimes. I expect I deserve it when she gives me a lecture, but I like you because you don't preach, though you're just as good as she is any day in the week!"

"I'll probably lecture you some time, Dolly, if I think you need it."

"Go ahead! I don't mind when you do it, or if you do it. I don't know why, but it's the same way with Miss Eleanor. She's scolded me sometimes, but she isn't a bit like my Aunt Mabel, or the teachers at school."

"How do you mean? They're kind to you, I suppose? It isn't that that makes the difference?"

"No. I don't just know what it is, except that she makes me feel as if I had made her unhappy, and they always talk just as if they thought it was their duty."

"It probably is, Dolly. You ought to have had the sort of scoldings I used to get from Maw Hoover! Then you'd know what a real scolding is like."

"Oh, I just hate that woman, Bessie, for the way she treated you. Don't you hate her, too?"

"I don't know. I used to, but I'm sort of sorry for her, Dolly."

"I don't see why!"

"Well, since I've been away from the farm, I've seen that she didn't have a very much better time than I did. She had to work all day long, and she never got much pleasure."

"That wasn't any excuse for her treating you so badly."

"I think maybe it was, Dolly. I suppose she was nervous, like a whole lot of other women, and she had to have something to wear herself out on. She took things out on me. I'm beginning to think that maybe she wasn't really mad at me when she acted like that. I believe she used to get so upset about things that she had to sort of kick out at whatever was nearest—and it happened to be me."

"Well, I hate her, just the same! You can forgive her if you like, but I'm not going to!"

"It's a good thing she never did anything to you, Dolly. If you hate her like that when you've never even seen her, what would you do if you had some real reason for it?"

Dolly laughed.

"I suppose I am silly," she said, "but I can't help it. I just feel that way, that's all. Do you know what I wish, Bessie?"

"Nothing dreadful, I hope, Dolly."

"She'd think it was, I'm sure—spiteful old cat! I wish you'd find out all about your father and mother, and that they'd not be lost any more."

"Oh, Dolly, so do I! But that wouldn't seem dreadful to Mrs. Hoover, I'm sure. I think she'd be glad enough."

"Let me finish. I wish you'd find them or that they'd find you, and turn out to be ever so rich. They might, you know. It might all be a mistake, or an accident, or something."

"I wouldn't care if they weren't rich, Dolly, if only I knew what had become of them, and why they had to leave me there all that time with the Hoovers."

"I just know there's some good reason, Bessie. You're so nice that you're bound to be happy some time. Of course you'd like to have your father and mother, whether they were rich or not. But wouldn't it be great if they really were rich?"

"I don't know. I don't know what it's like to be rich, Dolly."

"Oh, you could do all sorts of things! You could make them take you back to Hedgeville in an automobile, just for one thing."

"There are lots and lots of places I'd rather go to, Dolly."

"Oh, yes, of course! But think of how everyone would stare at you, and how envious they would be! I bet they'd be sorry then that they weren't nice to you."

Bessie smiled wistfully at the fantastic idea Dolly's lively brain had conjured up.

"It would be fun," she sighed. "They did tease me dreadfully, some of the girls. You see, the Hoovers didn't have so very much money, and my clothes were mostly old things that Maw made over to fit me when she was through with them."

"You could go back in better dresses than any of those Hedgeville girls ever even saw, Bessie. And just think of how that horrid Jake Hoover would feel then."

"Oh, well, there's no use thinking about it, Dolly. It won't ever happen. So I shan't be disappointed, anyhow."

"Well, it might happen and I think it's simply great to dream about things that might happen to you. It doesn't do any harm, and it's awfully good fun."

"You do the dreaming, Dolly, and tell me about your dreams. You can do it better than I could. I'm no good at dreaming that way at all."

"All right, that's a bargain. And right now I guess we'd better stop thinking about dreams and attend to pathfinding. Here's a turn. Which way ought we to go?"

"Straight ahead, I'm sure," said Bessie. "See how the trail narrows in the other direction, and it doesn't look as if it had ever been made like the main trail. It's more as if people had just broken through one after another, until a sort of trail was made."

"Yes, and it isn't straight ahead, either. When there's a big tree in the way, the trail goes around it, and on the regular trail the guides went along a straight line and chopped down trees when they had to."

"All right. Give me the hatchet, and I'll mark the proper way to go."

Deftly Bessie, who had had long practice in the use of a hatchet when she lived with the Hoovers, cut off a strip of bark on a tree at the meeting point of the two trails, so that it formed a plain and unmistakable guide to anyone who knew anything at all of woodcraft.

Then they pressed on. They walked fast, and, with nothing to delay them, they made good time, pausing only once in a while to take a sip from their water bottles.

"I can't hear the girls singing any more, can you?" asked Dolly, presently.

"No," said Bessie, pausing to listen. "I guess we must be quite a little way ahead of them now. We ought to be, of course."

"How much sooner than they ought we to reach the peak?"

"That's pretty hard to tell. I don't know how far it is. But I should think we ought to walk about four miles to their three. So if it's ten miles, we ought to be about two miles and a half ahead of them when we get there—and they ought to walk that in about half an hour—say a little more, forty minutes."

"That would give us plenty of time to get things ready."

"I should hope so! We really haven't so very much to do when we get there. It's quite an honor for us to be allowed to make the fire, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is. But we won the right to do it, Bessie. You must remember that. And, of course, it isn't like a ceremonial fire."

"No, but it's a real fire, and an important one. Look! We're beginning to go down hill now. We'll be climbing again before we get there, though."

"Let's hurry! I'm just crazy to get the fire started. Who is going to make the light?"

"Why, you are, Dolly! You won the dish-washing race, so you've certainly got the right to do that."

"I'll let you do it if you want to, Bessie. I don't care about the old race."

"No. You earned the right. And I believe you can do it better than I can, anyhow."

"It's just a trick, when you once know how. I used to think it was a wonderful thing to do, but it's just as easy as threading a needle."

"That's another thing that isn't easy until you know just how to do it, though."

"I guess that's so. I've seen boys try to do it, ever and ever so many times, and they usually threw the needle and thread away two or three times before they managed it."

"Are we to cook lunch as soon as we all get to the camping spot?"

"I don't think so. It would be too early, you see."

"I guess the fire will be made, though. Do you know what we are going to have?"

"Potatoes. I saw those. And I believe we're going to have a ham, too. And coffee, of course, and a lot of fruit for dessert."

"Well, the ham would take quite a long time to cook. I guess maybe we'd have to start in cooking right away to get finished in time."

"The boys ought to be having just the same sort of meal that we do. Or else it wouldn't be fair, because some things take longer to cook than others, and you can't hurry them, either."

"Oh, I remember now that Miss Eleanor spoke about that. That's one of the rules."

"I believe we're getting near, for the trail is rising pretty sharply now," said Dolly.

"That's so. See how hilly it is getting to be. It's quite clear on top of the peaks, I believe. I wonder if we'll be able to see them on the other peak and if they'll be able to see us?"

"We'll see the smoke, anyhow. There's nearly half a mile between the two peaks, Miss Eleanor said."

"Come on, let's hurry. I'll be dreadfully disappointed if they get their fire started first."

"So will I."

Then the ascent grew so sharp that for a time they needed all their breath for the climb before them. But the prospect of reaching their destination prevented them from being weary; they were too excited by this strange sort of race in which the contestants could not see one another at all.

"I think this is splendid!" panted Bessie. "This being on our honor. Either side could cheat, and the other wouldn't know it—but neither side will."

"Oh, there's no fun in cheating," said Dolly, scornfully. "If I win anything, I want to know I've really won it, not that I got it because I was smarter than someone else that way."

"That's right. Of course it's no fun to cheat! I always wonder why people who cheat play games at all. I don't believe they really know themselves, or they wouldn't do it."

Then came the last part of the ascent, and they went at it with a will, though they were ready for a rest. But when they reached the summit, and were able to stand still at last in an open space almost altogether clear of trees they were amply rewarded for all their exertions.

First of all they looked eagerly to the south, toward the peak that was the twin of their own. A happy exclamation burst from them simultaneously.

"No smoke there yet!" cried Bessie.

"We're here in time!" echoed Dolly.

"We mustn't waste any time, though," cried Bessie. "Get your sticks started while I lay a fire, Dolly."

Swiftly Dolly sank to her knees and arranged her fire-making apparatus, the bow, the socket and the drill. Then, while she drew the bow steadily and slowly, making the drill revolve in the socket which was full of punk, Bessie brought small, dry sticks and a few leaves, so that when the spark came in the punk, it would have fuel upon which to feed.

"There it is—the fire!" cried Dolly. "See how it runs along in the leaves, Bessie."

First a little glowing ember; then tiny flames, that crackled and sputtered. And then arose a wisp of smoke. Carefully Bessie piled on stick after stick, carefully chosen and well dried by sun and wind, so that they would burn quickly.

"Oh, the beautiful fire!" cried Dolly. "I do love it, Bessie. See, how it runs along. Really, it's a splendid fire!"

Merrily it blazed up, bright and clear.

"Now we want some green wood that will make a smoke," said Dolly. "Here's some. I think it's burning well enough now, don't you?"

"Yes. Let's make the smoke now."

On went the green, damp wood, resinous and full of oil. And in a moment a thick smoke hid the bright, leaping flames.

"Here's the blanket!" cried Dolly. "Catch the other side—now!"

Standing on either side of the fire, the blanket held over it, they dipped it down now, so that the smoke was caught and held under the obstruction. Then they lifted it clear of the fire altogether, and the smoke, released, rose straight up in a long, tall column, that was visible for miles where the trees did not obscure the view. Once and again they repeated this, making three separate columns of smoke before they left the fire to itself.

And still there was no answering smoke from the other peak. The girls had won their race.

"Did the Indians really use those signals?" asked Dolly.

"They certainly did. Out on the plains, you see, smoke like that could be seen for miles and miles. And so, if there were Indians a few miles apart, signals could go very, very quickly for great distances, and they could send messages for hundreds of miles almost as quickly as we can send them now by telegraph."

Then they piled on more dry wood, and built the fire up so that it was a great, roaring blaze.

"Now we will just find the water. They'll need that for cooking."

In less than five minutes after they separated to look for the spring they knew was near, Dolly cried out that she had found it. And in the same moment the first smoke rose from South Peak.



CHAPTER X

THE SIGNAL SMOKES

"There's smoke, Dolly!" cried Bessie, triumphantly. "Oh, but we've beaten them on this! Ours must have gone up twenty minutes before theirs, and they must have been able to see it when they were building their fire, too."

"Good! Oh, we'll take them down a peg or two before we're done today, Bessie!"

"Don't be too confident yet, Dolly. Remember this is only the start. There's ever so much more to be done before we've won."

"I don't care! You and I have done our share, anyhow."

"You certainly have," said Eleanor Mercer's laughing voice. "But Bessie's right; it isn't time to celebrate yet. Come on, now, we're all going to be busy cooking and getting ready to cook."

Dolly and Bessie looked at the girls emerging from the trail in surprised delight.

"Well, you've done your share, and more, too," said Bessie. "We thought we came pretty fast, and we didn't expect you for another fifteen minutes, anyway."

"Well, we didn't exactly loiter on the way. I expect we'd all be glad of a chance to rest a little, but that will have to come later. We'll be able to take things easy while we're eating. We're each to allow a full hour for that, you see, no matter when we get ready."

"But if we're ready to start eating first we can start clearing up first, too, can't we?" asked Dolly.

"Certainly! That's the object of hurrying now. When we're ready to sit down we're to make two smokes, and they are to do the same, and again when we've finished, or when our hour is up, at least. We'll keep tabs on one another that way, you see, and each side will know just how much the other has done. There's got to be some such arrangement as that to make it interesting."

"Yes," said Margery Burton. "It wouldn't really seem like a race unless we knew a little something about what the other side was doing, I think."

"Well," said Eleanor, "I see you've got a splendid fire. I'll appoint you chief cook, Margery. You are to be here at the fire, and Zara shall help you."

Zara sprang to attention at once, and she and Margery unwrapped the ham, and got out the big boiler in which it was to be cooked.

"You go and get water, Dolly and Bessie," said Eleanor, then. "There are the buckets. Hurry, now, so that the water can be boiling while the others are fixing the ham."

And so dividing up the tasks that were to be done, she assigned one to each girl. They were all as busy as bees in a moment, and the work flew beneath their accustomed fingers. Miss Eleanor knew the girls thoroughly, and while, as a rule, she saw to it that each girl had to do a certain number of things that did not particularly appeal to her since that made for good discipline, she managed matters differently today.

It was a time to give each girl the sort of work she most enjoyed, and which, therefore, she was likely to do better and more quickly than any of the other girls.

Although a stranger, hearing the singing, and seeing the bustling group of girls without understanding just what they were doing, might have thought he was looking on at a scene of great confusion, order really ruled. Each girl knew exactly what she was to do, and there was no overlapping. Things were done once, and once only, whereas, at the ordinary picnic there are half a dozen willing hands for one task, and none at all for another.

"Too many cooks spoil the broth," says the proverb, and the same rule applies doubly to such meals as the one the girls were so busily preparing. But there was no spoiling here, and in a surprisingly short time most of the girls were able to rest. Places were laid for the meal; plenty of water had been provided for the cooks, and there was an ample heap of firewood beside the fire.

"I'll be ready for dinner when it's time, all right," said Dolly, sniffing the delicious odor of the cooking ham as it rose from the fire. "My, but that smells good!"

"I've heard some people who had to cook meals say that it spoiled their appetites, and that they didn't enjoy meals they had to cook themselves," said Eleanor. "But I don't believe that applies to us a bit. You'll be able to eat with the rest of us, won't you, Margery—you and Zara?"

"I can't speak for Zara," said Margery, laughing. "But I certainly can for myself. Just you watch me when dinner's ready! Let's start the coffee, Zara."

A great coffee pot had been brought, and a muslin sack full of coffee. This sack was now put in the coffee pot, which was filled with water, and the pot was set on the fire. There is no better way of making coffee. The finest French drip coffee pot in the world can't equal the brew that this simple and old-fashioned method produces. And anyone who has ever tasted really good coffee made in such a fashion will agree that this is so.

"Can those boys really cook, Miss Eleanor?" asked Dolly, looking toward the other peak, whence smoke was rising steadily.

"Can't they, just!" said Eleanor, heartily. "What makes you ask that, Dolly?"

"I don't know. It seems sort of funny for them to be able to do it, that's all. You expect boys to do lots of other things, but cooking seems to be a girl's business."

"Oh, there are lots of times when it's a good thing for a man to be able to cook himself a meal, especially when he's camping out. And they certainly can do it—those Boy Scouts."

"Have you ever tasted any of their cooking?"

"I certainly have. One day I was out for a long tramp near the city, and I managed to lose way in some fashion. You know some of the roads are pretty lonely, and I managed to go a long way without coming to any sort of a house where I wanted to stop and ask them to let me have something to eat, and I was nearly starved."

"What did you do? Wasn't there even a store where you could have bought something?"

"I didn't find it, if there was. Well, finally I decided to try a short cut through some woods, and I hadn't gone very far when I ran plump into this same troop of Boy Scouts that is on the other peak now!"

"I bet you were glad to see them!"

"Indeed I was. I knew Mr. Hastings, you see, and when I told him I was lost and hungry, he made me sit down right away, and he explained that they were just going to have an early supper."

"That must have been good news!"

"If you knew how hungry I was, you'd believe it. Well, I never have had a meal that tasted half so good. They had crisp bacon, and the most delicious coffee, and real biscuit!"

"Biscuit! And had they cooked them themselves?"

"They certainly had—and they were so good and flaky they fairly melted in my mouth. If you'd tasted that supper you'd never ask again if boys could cook. Those boys over there today will fare just as well as we do ourselves, and they'll have just as good a time getting the meal ready, too."

"I guess they're better able to look after themselves than most of the boys we know at home."

"Dinner!" cried Margery, then. "Everything else ready? We'll be all ready for you in a jiffy now. The ham's cooked, and so are the potatoes and the corn is all roasted!"

"We're ready whenever you are," said Eleanor, with a glance at the "table." "Dolly, you and Bessie can send up your two smoke signals now. I do believe we're ready to eat before they are!"

"Oh, we're going to beat them all the way!" said Dolly, happily.

Bessie and Dolly, holding the blanket together, wasted no time in making the signal that let those on the other peak know that the Camp Fire was ahead in another stage of the race, and, just as the second smoke was made, a faint cheer was carried across the space between the two peaks by the wind, which had shifted.

But it was fully twenty minutes after the girls had begun their meal before two pillars of smoke rose from South Peak as a sign that over there, too, the meal was ready.

"What a shame that we've got to waste a whole hour eating!" said Dolly.

"I don't call it waste. I'm dog-tired," said Margery. "I'm mighty glad to sit down and rest, and I'm mighty hungry, too."

"So'm I," said Bessie. And there were plenty to echo that.

"Well, if no one else will say it, I will," said Margery, presently. "This is a good dinner, if I did help cook it."

"No one ever praises your cooking any more; they're too busy eating," said Eleanor. "You established your reputation long ago."

"Well, this was the sort of dinner you couldn't spoil," admitted Margery, frankly. "And when people are frightfully hungry, you only waste your time if you do any really fine cooking for them. All they want is food, and they don't care much what it is, or how it's cooked."

"You don't go on that principle, though, Margery. I notice you take just as much trouble with your cooking whether it's likely to be appreciated or not."

"I do that for my own sake because I really enjoy cooking. I know what I'm going to do next year if I can. Teach cooking in the high school. And I think I can get the work, too."

"That's fine, Margery. I know you'll enjoy it."

"I think it will be pretty good fun. You know, it isn't only just the girls in school. A whole lot of older girls come down—brides, and girls who are going to be married. And they are the silliest things, sometimes!"

"Time's nearly up," said Eleanor, looking at her watch. "Bessie, signal four times with the smoke. I want to see if my watch is right by Mr. Hastings'."

Four times the smoke rose, and from the other peak rose two short answering smokes.

"We arranged that signal, you see," said Eleanor. "Now, watch! He'll show the time by his watch. Count the smokes carefully."

First of all came two smokes.

"That's the hour; two o'clock," said Eleanor. "Now count the next lot carefully; that'll be the first digit of the minutes."

Four smoke pillars rose, at regular intervals. And then, after a well-marked pause, six more went up.

"All right," said Eleanor. "Answer with four smokes. That means it was forty-six minutes past two, fourteen minutes to three, when they started signalling. And my watch and his agree exactly, so that's all right."

"We'll have a good lead when we are able to start cleaning up," she continued. "But we can't waste any time. We start at two minutes to three, and you want to remember that they know just how far behind they are, and we won't be able to gain any more time from now on."

"Why not, Miss Eleanor," asked Margery, "if we've done it so far?"

"It's going to be very different now, Margery. I don't say that they exactly despised us before, but I certainly do believe they underestimated us. They thought they were going to have an easy time, and they probably loafed a little this morning. But now, you see, they know that they're in for a licking if they don't do mighty well, and they'll strain every nerve to beat us."

"Oh, I suppose so, but we've really got a splendid lead."

"Yes. And do you know what will happen if we don't look out? We'll be over-confident, just the way they were this morning, and it will have just the same result. In a race, you know, a good runner will very often let a slower one stay ahead until they are near the finish. They call it making the pace. And then, when he gets ready, he goes right by, and wins as he likes."

But the warning, although Eleanor was sure that it had been needed, seemed to spur the girls on. They were waiting eagerly when she gave the word to start cleaning up, and each girl, her task assigned to her in advance, was at work as soon as the command to go was given.

In no time at all, as it seemed, the dishes ware washed. Then Bessie and Dolly, as tenders of the fire, brought buckets of water and poured them over the glowing embers, for the rule of the Camp Fire never to leave a spark of flame behind them in the woods was strictly enforced.

They put the fire out while the others finished packing the things that had to be taken back. All the rubbish had been burned before water was poured on the fire, and when everything was finished and the girls were ready to start the march back to Long Lake there was no sign of their visit except the blackened ring where the fire had burned.

"Zara, I'm going to leave you here as a sentry when we start," said Eleanor. "I'll carry your pack until you join us."

"How long am I to stay?" asked Zara.

"Until you see that their fire is put out. That will mean that they will be ready to start within two minutes, and I want to know just how much of a start we have on the hike home."

"I see. As soon as they put it out I'm to start after you and report?"

"Yes. Here's my watch. Remember the exact time. If they catch up with us, it will be on this hike."

Then they started, singing happily as they went down the hill. The homeward path was easy. Burdens were lighter than they had been on the trip from Long Lake, and the path was mostly down hill. And, moreover, the Camp Fire Girls had the consciousness that, in order to win, they needed only to hold the advantage they had gained.

"Here's Zara!" cried Bessie, who had been looking behind her.

"Good! What time did they put out their fire?" asked Eleanor.

"Just ten minutes after you started," said Zara. "I came as quickly as I could, but you must have been walking fast."

"I told you they'd begin gaining on us," said Eleanor. "See, they picked up ten minutes in clearing up. Come on, now, we must hurry!"

Hurry they did, and when they reached Long Lake there was a brief period of bustle. A new fire had to be made, and they worked with feverish haste. But they were in time. Bessie and Dolly sent up the first smoke signal before any pillar appeared at the other end of the lake. But the margin was small, for the first Boy Scout pillar rose just as they sent up their third!



CHAPTER XI

OFF TO THE MOUNTAINS

Two days after the triumph over the Boy Scouts in the test of the trip to Twin Peaks and back, and bidding good-bye regretfully to Long Lake, the girls started on the long tramp that was to take them through the mountains and to the valley below them on the other side.

"I've decided not to try to do any camping on the trip," said Eleanor, "We could have more fun that way, perhaps, but it would mean carrying a lot more, and I think the loads we've got are plenty big enough. I know my own pack is going to feel heavy enough when we strike some of the real climbing later on."

"I should think we could do much better, too, in the way of interesting others in the Camp Fire," said Margery, "if we stay at farm houses or wherever they will take us in. We'll seem to be more among them, and of them. Don't you think so?"

Eleanor smiled at Margery, pleased that she should have guessed one of her reasons for adopting the course she had chosen. She was already thinking seriously of the time when Margery should be able to take her place as a Guardian.

"We won't start tramping right away, you know," said Eleanor, as they disembarked from the boats at the end of Long Lake, and started over the trail for the railroad. "We could tramp through these woods, but it's very slow going, and I feel that we'd do better if we took the train to Crawford, or Lake Dean, where we strike the road through the notch. That will give us a good start, and give us very beautiful and interesting country for our first day's walk."

"Shall we go on the same railroad we came up on, Miss Eleanor?" asked Bessie.

"For a little way. We change a few stations further on, though, and get on the line that climbs right up into the mountains. There's no real road that we could follow. We'd have to take wood trails. So we'll save a lot of time here, and have it for the part of the trip where we can have some really good walking."

The trip to Moose Junction did not take long. The place seemed hardly worthy of its name. There was no imposing station, but only a little wooden shack with a long platform for freight. But at one side of the shack was a train that provoked exclamations of delighted laughter.

"Why, that train hasn't grown up yet!" exclaimed Dolly, immensely amused when she saw it.

"It's a narrow gauge railroad, you see, Dolly," said Eleanor. "This road is really only used in the summer time. In the winter no one is up here except a few guides who haven't any use for trains, anyhow, and the tracks are covered with snow."

"I suppose it was cheaper to build than a regular railroad would be?"

"Yes, a good deal cheaper. The cars are smaller, you see, and then, when they built it, they had a chance to get their cars and engines very cheap. In the old days, a great many railroads were built like this, even the regular roads that were used all the year round. But gradually they were all changed, and the rails were made the same on railroads all over the country, and then these people were able to get their cars and the other things they needed second hand. And it's plenty good enough, of course, for all the use anyone wants to make of this."

Two puffing little engines were at the head of the two-car train that was waiting at the junction, and, in a little while, after the passengers for Crawford, the terminal station of the road, were all aboard, they pulled out with a great snorting and roaring that amused the girls immensely. But, ridiculous as they looked, the little engines were up to their work, and they took the sharp, steady climb well enough.

"I like this," said Dolly. "It's awfully slow, but you can see the country. On some of those big trains you go so fast you can't see a thing, and this is really worth seeing."

"It certainly is!" exclaimed Bessie, who was gazing raptly out of the window. "Look back there where we came from! Who would ever have thought that there were so many lakes and ponds?"

"We're getting so high above them now that we can see them, Bessie. Look, there's Long Lake, and I do believe I can see Loon Pond, too!"

"I'm sure of it, Dolly. Oh, this is splendid! But we can't see much up ahead, can we?"

"Nothing but trees. It's like the old story of the man who wanted to see a famous forest, and when he was in the very middle of it he said he couldn't see the forest because there were so many trees."

"I've seen mountains before," said Zara. "But they weren't like this. Where I used to live there would be one or two big mountains, but they stood out, and you could see all the way up no matter how close you were."

"Were they all covered with trees, like this?"

"No, not at all. There were lots of little farms, and olive trees, and gardens. And sometimes there would be smoke coming from the top of the mountains."

"You mean the volcanoes, don't you?" said Dolly. "I'd like to see an eruption some time. Like the ones at Vesuvius."

"I never saw one," said Zara, with a shudder. "But I've seen the paths where the lava came down, and the places where people were killed, and where whole villages were wiped out. I'm glad there aren't any around here."

"So is Dolly, Zara," said Bessie, dryly. "She's always wishing for things she doesn't really want at all, because she thinks they would be exciting."

That would have started an argument without fail, if Dolly had not just then had to devote her attention to something that she noticed before anyone else. She sniffed the air that came in through the car windows once or twice.

"I smell smoke," she said.. "And look at the sun! It's so funny and red. See, you can look at it without it hurting your eyes at all. And it's a good deal darker, the way it gets before a thunder shower, sometimes."

"She's right," said Bessie. "I believe the woods must be on fire somewhere near here."

"I'm afraid they are," said Eleanor Mercer, who had stopped in the aisle beside them and had overheard Bessie's remark. "But not very near. You know the smoke from a really big forest fire is often carried for miles and miles, if the wind holds steady."

"Well, it can't be so very far—not more than twenty or thirty miles, can it, Miss Eleanor?"

"It's impossible to say, but I have known the smoke from a fire two hundred miles away to make people uncomfortable. They can't smell it, but it darkens the air a little."

"Why, I had no idea of that!"

"Well, here's something stranger yet. I heard you all talking about volcanoes. A good many years ago there was a frightful eruption in Japan, or near Japan, rather, when a mountain called Krakatoa broke out. That was the greatest eruption we know anything about. And a long time afterward people began to notice that the sunsets were very beautiful half the way around the world from it, and no one knew why, until the scientists explained that it was the dust from the volcano!"

"Well, I hope this fire isn't where we are going!" said Dolly.

"So do I," said Eleanor. "That's the very first thing I thought of, though. It wouldn't do to go into a country while the fire was on, because it might be dangerous and we'd certainly be in the way of the people who were fighting it, and that wouldn't be right."

"Whatever should we do, Miss Eleanor? Go home?"

"Oh, I hardly think it's likely to be as bad as that. We might have to stay at Crawford for a day or two, but I was planning to spend tonight there, anyhow. Some friends of ours have a big camp on the lake, and they said we could stay, if we wanted to."

"Is it as pretty a place as Long Lake?"

"I think so. But it's quite different. Lake Dean is a great big place, you know. It's more than thirty miles long, and you could put Long Lake into it and never know where it was. But it's very beautiful. And it's the highest big lake anywhere in this part of the world. It's right in the mountains."

"I suppose there will be lots of people there?" asked Dolly.

"Plenty," said Eleanor, smiling back at her. "But we won't have much to do with them, we'll be there such a short time."

"Oh, well, I don't care!" said Dolly, defiantly, as she heard the laugh that greeted Eleanor's answer. "I probably wouldn't like them, anyhow!"

"I really do think it's getting darker. We must be getting nearer to the fire," said Bessie, who had been looking out of the window. "Do you suppose it was some careless campers who started it, Miss Eleanor?"

"That's pretty hard to say. But a whole lot of fires do get started by just such people in the woods. It shows you why we are so careful when we build a fire and have to leave the place."

In the next hour, as the train still crawled upward, the smoke grew thicker and thicker, until presently it was really like dusk outside the car, and, though it was hot, the windows had to be closed, since the smoke was getting into the eyes of all the passengers and making them smart.

"I used to think a forest fire would be good fun," said Dolly, choking and gasping for breath, "but there isn't any fun about this. And if it's as bad as this here, think of what it must be like for the people who are really close to it."

"It's about the most serious thing there is," said Eleanor, gravely. "There's no fun about a forest fire."

At Crawford they saw the big lake, but much of its beauty was hidden since it lay under a pall of heavy smoke. Even then they could see nothing of the fire, but the smoke rose thickly from the woods to the west of the lake, and they soon heard, from those about the station, that a great section of the forest in that direction was ablaze.

"Good thing the lake's in the way," said one of the station porters. "That's the only thing that makes us safe. It can't jump water. If it wasn't for that it'd be on us by morning."

"There are cottages and camps on the other side of the lake though, aren't there?" asked Dolly.

"Yes, and they're fighting hard to save them," said the porter. "They ain't got much chance, though, unless the wind shifts and sends the fire back over the ground it's burned over already. It's got out of hand, that's what that fire's been an' gone and done."

"We'll have to stay here until it's out," said Eleanor, with decision. "Our road begins right up there"—she pointed to the northwest end of the lake—"and the chances are the fires will be burning over that way before the night's over. However, I don't believe there'll be a great amount of damage done, if they can save the buildings on the shores of the lake."

"Why not, Miss Eleanor?" asked Margery. "It looks like a pretty bad fire."

"Oh, it is, but there isn't a great deal to burn. About two or three miles back from the lake there's a wide clearing, and the fire must have started this side of that, or it wouldn't have jumped. And it can't have been burning very long, or we'd have had the smoke at Long Lake."

Then she went off to make some inquiries, and was back in a few minutes.

"Come on, girls," she said. "It's only about ten minutes' walk to Camp Sunset, where we are to stay."

And she led the way down to the lake, and along to a group of buildings made out of rough hewn logs, that stood among trees near the water.

"Oh!" gasped Dolly, when they were inside the main buildings. "They call this a camp! Electric lights, and it couldn't be better furnished if it were in the city!"

"The Worcesters like to be comfortable," said Eleanor, with a smile, "even when they pretend they're roughing it. It is a beautiful place, though I like our own rough shacks in the Long Lake country better."

"Come on! I want to explore this place, Bessie!" cried Dolly. "May we, Miss Eleanor?"

"Go ahead, but be back in half an hour. We've got to help to get dinner, even if we are in the midst of luxury!"

So off went the two girls, and Dolly, always delighted by anything new, was all over the place in a few minutes.

"Look at those summer houses—places for having tea, I bet," she said. "Hello! Why, there's another camp, just like this!"

Sure enough, through the trees they could see other buildings, all logs outside, but probably all luxury within. And, even while they were looking at them, Dolly suddenly heard her own name.

"Dolly! Dolly Ransom! Is that really you?"

Dolly and Bessie looked up, surprised, for the call came from above and a girl began to climb down from a tree above them, and they saw that she had been hidden on a platform that was covered by leaves and branches.

"Gladys Cooper!" said Dolly. "Well, whoever would have thought of seeing you here?"

"Oh, there are lots of us here!" said Gladys, rushing up to Dolly as soon as she reached the ground, and embracing her. "We're all in a regular camp here, about a dozen of us. We're supposed to do lessons, but I haven't looked at a book since I've been here, and I don't believe any of the other girls have, either!"

"Oh," said Dolly, suddenly remembering Bessie. "This is Bessie King, Gladys. And this is my friend Gladys Cooper, Bessie. We used to go to school together before her parents sent her off to boarding-school."

Suddenly Gladys broke into a roar of laughter.

"Oh, this is rich!" she exclaimed. "I forgot—why, you must be one of the Camp Fire Girls who are coming here, aren't you, Dolly?"

"I certainly am—and Bessie's another," said Dolly, a little resentfully. "Why are you laughing?"

"Oh, it seems so funny for you to belong! None of our crowd do, you know, except you. We were furious when we heard you were coming. We couldn't see why the Worcesters let you people have the camp. But you'll spend all your time with us, won't you, Dolly? And"—she seemed to remember Bessie suddenly—-"bring your friend along, sometimes."

"Indeed, and I'll stay with my own friends!" she said, flushing hotly.



CHAPTER XII

ENEMIES WITHOUT CAUSE

"Horrid little snob!" commented Dolly, as, with the surprised Bessie following her, she turned on her heel abruptly and left Gladys Cooper standing and looking after her.

"Why, Dolly! What's the matter? And why did she talk that way about the Camp Fire Girls?"

"Because she's just what I called her—a snob! She thinks that because her father has lots of money, and they can do whatever they like that she and her family are better than almost anyone else. And she and her nasty crowd think the Camp Fire Girls are common because some of us work for a living!"

Dolly's honest anger was very different from the petulance that she had sometimes displayed, as on the occasion when she had been jealous of poor Bessie. And Bessie recognized the difference. It seemed to reveal a new side of Dolly's complex character, the side that was loyal and fine. Dolly was not resenting any injury, real or fancied, to herself now; the insult was to her friends, and Bessie realized that she had never before seen Dolly really angry.

"As if I'd leave you girls and stay with them while we're here!" cried Dolly. "I can just see myself! They'd want to know if I didn't think Mary Smith's new dress was perfectly horrid, and if I said I did, they'd go and tell her, and try to make trouble. Oh, I know them—they're just a lot of cats!"

"Oh, don't you think you may be hard on her, Dolly?" asked Bessie. Secretly she didn't think so; she thought Gladys Cooper was probably just what Dolly had called her. But it seemed to her that she ought to keep Dolly from quarreling with an old friend if she could. "Maybe she just wanted to see you, and she knew you, and didn't know the rest of us."

"Oh, nonsense, Bessie! You're always trying to make people out better than they are. I don't know these girls who are up here with her, but she'd say she knew me, and that we lived in the right sort of street at home, and that her mother and my aunt called on one another, so I'm all right. I know her little ways!"

And Bessie was wise enough to see that to argue with Dolly while she was in such an angry mood would only make matters worse. Bessie loved peace, because, perhaps, she had had so little of it while she lived in Hedgeville with the Hoovers. But Dolly wasn't in a peaceful mood, and words weren't to bring her into one, so Bessie decided to change the subject.

"We'd better hurry back," she said. "I really think it must be almost time to start getting supper ready."

"Good!" said Dolly. "We haven't really come so far, but it's taken us a long time, hasn't it? That old train from Moose Junction is about the pokiest thing in the way of a train I ever saw."

So they made their way back to the big building that, as they had already learned, was called the "Living Camp." The sleeping rooms were in other and smaller buildings, that were grouped about the central one, in which were only three rooms, beside the big kitchen, a huge, square hall, with a polished floor, covered with skins instead of rugs, to bear out the idea of a rough woods dwelling, and two smaller rooms that were used as a dining-room and a library.

And, as soon as they arrived, they found that they were not the only ones who had had an encounter with their next door neighbors. Margery Burton was talking excitedly to Eleanor Mercer.

"I didn't know I was on their old land!" she was saying. "And, if I was, I wasn't doing any harm."

"Tell me just what happened, Margery," said Eleanor, quietly.

"Why, I was just walking about, looking around, the way one always does in a new place, and the first thing I knew a girl in a bathing suit came up to me!"

"'I beg your pardon,' she said, 'but do you know that you are trespassing?'

"I said I didn't, of course, and she sort of sneered.

"'Well, you know it now, don't you?' she said, as if she was trying to be just as nasty as she could. 'Why don't you go to the land you're allowed to use? I do think when people are getting charity they ought to be careful!'"

"That's another of that crowd of Gladys Cooper's," stormed Dolly. "What did you say, Margery? I hope you gave her just as good as she sent!"

"I was so astonished and so mad I couldn't say a thing," said Margery. "I was afraid to speak—I know I'd have said something that I'd have been sorry for afterward. So I just turned around and walked away from her."

"What did she do? Did she say anything more, Margery?" asked Eleanor, who, plainly, was just as angry as Dolly, though she had better control of her temper.

"No, she just stood there, and as I walked off she laughed, and you never heard such a nasty laugh in your life! I'd have liked to pick up a stone and throw it at her!"

"Good for you! I wish you had!" said Dolly. "It would have served her right—the cat! Bessie and I met one of them, too, but I happened to know her, so she asked me to come and spend all my time with them while we were here! I'm glad I sailed into her. Bessie seemed to think I was wrong, but I'm just glad I did."

Eleanor Mercer looked troubled. She understood better than the girls themselves the reason for what had happened, and it distressed and hurt her. The other girls who had heard Margery's account of her experience were murmuring indignantly among themselves, and Eleanor could see plainly that there was trouble ahead unless she could manage the situation—the hardest that she had yet had to face as a Camp Fire Guardian.

"You say it was Gladys Cooper you saw, Dolly?" she said. "The Gladys Cooper who lives in Pine Street at home?"

"Yes, that's the one, Miss Eleanor."

"I'm surprised and sorry to hear it," said Eleanor. "How does she happen to be there, Dolly? Do you know? The Coopers haven't any camp here, I know."

"Oh, it's a girls' summer camp, Miss Eleanor. You know the sort. They're run for a lot of rich girls, whose parents want to get rid of them for the summer. They're supposed to do some studying, but all they, ever really do is to have a good time. I'd have gone to one this year if I hadn't joined the Camp Fire Girls instead. Gladys laughed at me in the city when she heard I was going to join."

"Mrs. Cooper wouldn't like it, I know that," said Eleanor, thoughtfully. "She's a charming woman. She and my mother are great friends, and I know her very well, too. There's nothing snobbish about her, though they have so much money. I remember now; they went to Europe this summer, and they didn't take Gladys with them."

"I wish they had!" said Dolly, viciously. "I wish she was anywhere but here."

"Well," said Eleanor, "I'll find out in the morning just where the line comes between the two camps, and we'll have to be careful not to cross it."

"I'm sure none of us want to go into their camp," said Margery. "But there's no fence, and there aren't any signs, so how is one to know?"

"We'll find some way to tell," said Eleanor, decisively. "And we won't give them any chance to make any more trouble. They've got a right to warn us off their property, of course, though they're just trying to be nasty when they do it. But as long as they are within their rights, we can't complain just because they're doing it to be ugly. We mustn't put ourselves in the wrong because nothing would suit them better."

"Oh, I hope we'll be able to get away to-morrow!" said Margery, angrily. "I don't want ever to see any of them again."

Eleanor's eyes flashed.

"I've made up my mind to one thing," she said. "We're going to stay here just as long as we like! I don't intend to be driven away in that fashion. And I shouldn't wonder if we could start our missionary work better with them than with anyone else!"

"That's right—about staying here, I mean!" said Dolly, enthusiastically. "Why, Margery, if we ran away now, they'd think they had scared us off. You wouldn't want that, would you?"

"No, I guess not!" said Margery. "I hadn't thought of that. But it's true. It would be giving them an awful lot of satisfaction, wouldn't it?"

"Understand, Dolly, and the rest of you," said Eleanor, firmly, "I don't mean to have any petty fighting and quarrelling going on. But I won't let them think they can make us run away, either. Pay no attention to them and keep out of their way, if you can. But we've got just as much right to be here as they have to be in their camp, because we're here as the guests of the Worcesters."

"I know Miss Worcester," said Margery, hotly. "I'll bet she'd be furious if she knew how they were acting."

"She doesn't need to know, though, Margery," said Eleanor. "This is our quarrel, not hers, and I think we can manage to settle it for ourselves. Don't begin thinking about it. Remember that we're in the right. It will help you to keep your tempers. And don't do anything at all to make it seem that we're in the wrong."

"My, but Miss Eleanor was angry!" said Dolly, when she was alone with Bessie' after supper, which, despite the unpleasantness caused by the girls next door, had been as jolly as all meals that the Camp Fire Girls ate together. "I'm glad to see that she can get angry; it makes her seem more lake a human being."

Bessie laughed.

"She can get angry, all right, Dolly," she said. "I've heard it said that it isn't the person who never gets angry that ought to be praised; it's the person with a bad temper who controls it and never loses it. Miss Eleanor was angry because she is fond of us and thought those other girls were being nasty to us. It wasn't to her that they'd been nasty."

"No, and just you watch Gladys Cooper if she gets a chance to see Miss Eleanor! The Mercers have got just as much money as the Coopers, and they are in just as good society. But you don't see Miss Eleanor putting on airs about it! Gladys would be nice enough to her, you can bet!"

"Dolly, why don't you go over and see Gladys, if you know her so well? You might be able to talk to her and make her see that they are in the wrong."

"No, thank you, Bessie! I'm no good at that sort of thing. I'd just get angry again, and make the trouble worse than ever. If she's got any sense at all, she must know I'm angry, and why, and if she wants to be decent she can come over and see me."

Nothing more happened that night. The girls, tired from their journey, were glad to tumble into bed early. They all slept in one house, which contained only sleeping rooms, and, because of the smoke, which was still being blown across the lake when they went to bed, windows had to be closed. The house was ventilated by leaving a big door open in the rear and on the side away from the wind and the smoke, and of course all the doors of the sleeping rooms were also left open.

"I'm awfully sorry that smoke is blowing this way," said Dolly. "Look here, Bessie, there's a regular porch running all the way around the house. And do you see these screens that you can let down? I bet they sleep out here."

"They do," said Eleanor. "This sleeping porch arrangement is one of the very best things about this camp, I think. But I don't see how we can use it to-night, for the smoke is much too thick."

So they regretfully closed their windows. And in the morning they found that visitors had been at the house during the night. Every window was firmly closed from the outside, wedges having been driven in in such a fashion that it was impossible to open the windows from within. The doors, too, were barred in some manner.

"That's a joke those girls from the next camp played on us!" cried Dolly, furiously. "Look there! They must have done it. No one else could have managed it."

The house resembled nothing so much as a hive of angry bees. The girls buzzed with indignation, and loud were the threats of vengeance.

"How are we going to get out?" cried Margery, indignantly. "What a wicked thing to do! Suppose the place had caught fire? We might all have been burned up just because of their joke!"

But Bessie had busied herself in seeking a means of escape instead of planning revenge, and now she called out her discovery.

"Here's a little bit of a window, but I think I can get through it," she said, emerging from a closet that no one had noticed. "If you'll boost me up I'm pretty sure I can get out."

"But you'll only be on the porch when you do get out, Bessie," said Dolly.

"I think maybe I can get those wedges out of the windows if I get out there. If I can't, I'm quite sure I can manage to get to the ground and get help. You see, everything downstairs is barred the same way. I don't see how they could have done all that without our hearing them."

"We were sleeping pretty soundly, Bessie," said Eleanor, her cheeks red with indignation at the trick that had been played upon her girls. "If the windows had been open, they couldn't have done it."

Bessie had hard work getting through the tiny closet window, which had been overlooked by the raiders, but she managed it somehow, and in a moment she was outside. She first ran to the edge of the porch to look around, and, to her anger and surprise, she saw a group of girls, all in bathing suits, watching her and the house. At her appearance a shout of laughter went up, and she recognized Dolly's friend, Gladys Cooper, who was evidently a ringleader in the mischief.

Bessie was sorely tempted to reply, but she realized that she would only be playing into their hand if she seemed to notice them at all, and, going to the other side of the house so that they could not see her, she examined the windows. But she decided very quickly that she could do nothing without tools of some sort, and she had none to work with.

Without any further hesitation, she slipped over the rail of the porch, being still out of sight of the raiders, and went down the pillar, which, being nothing more than a tree with its bark still clinging to it, gave her an easy descent. Once on the ground, her task was easy. She worked very quietly, and in a minute or two she had one of the ground floor windows open. Eleanor Mercer, who had heard her at work, was waiting for her.

"Oh, Miss Eleanor," said Bessie, tensely, "those girls are all around at the other side of the house, watching. They laughed at me like anything when they saw me, and I'm sure they think we'll have to get the guide to let us out."

"Good," said Eleanor, snappily. "Do you think we can get behind them, Bessie?"

"I'm sure we can, if we go out this way and go around through the trees."

So bidding the other girls to stay behind for the moment, Eleanor climbed out, and followed Bessie off the porch and around to the back of the house. They swung around in a wide arc, moving quietly and making as little noise as possible, until they heard laughter in front of them. And a moment later they came around, and faced the astonished raiders.



CHAPTER XIII

A PLAN OF REVENGE

Bessie had to laugh at the sight of Gladys Cooper's face when Dolly's friend saw Miss Eleanor. It fell, and Gladys turned the color of a beet. Evidently she had had no idea that Miss Mercer was with the Camp Fire Girls.

"How do you do, Gladys?" said Eleanor, pleasantly. "Do you know that you are trespassing?"

"The—the Worcesters gave us permission to come on their land whenever we liked," stammered Gladys.

"Yes, when they supposed that they and their guests were to receive the same sort of courtesy from you. But the Worcesters aren't here just now, and I must ask you girls not to come across the line at all, unless you wish to behave in a very different manner."

"I—I don't know what you mean, Miss Mercer. We haven't done anything—"

"That's silly, Gladys. I'm not going to do anything about it, but I think it would be very easy to prove that it was you and your friends who locked us in. Didn't you stop to think of what would have happened if there had been a fire?"

Gladys grew pale.

"I don't suppose you did," Eleanor went on. "I don't think you mean to be wicked, any of you. But just try to think of how you would have felt if that house had caught fire in the night, and some of us had been burned to death because we couldn't get out."

"I didn't—we never thought of that," said Gladys. "Did we, girls?"

"Well, I don't suppose you did. But that doesn't excuse the trick you played at all. I'm not going to say anything more now, but I think that if you stop to consider yourselves, you'll find out how mean you were, and what a contemptible thing you've done."

With heads hanging, and tears in the eyes of some of them, completely crushed by Miss Eleanor's quiet anger as they would not have been had she heaped reproaches upon them, the raiders started to return to their own camp. Eleanor stood aside to let them pass; then, with Bessie, she went back to the camp.

"I hardly think we'll have any more trouble with them," she said.

"I don't see why they dislike us so much," said Bessie. "We haven't done anything to them."

"I don't know how to explain it, Bessie. It isn't American; that's the worst thing about it. But you know that in Europe they have lords and dukes and an aristocracy, don't you? People who think that because they're born in certain families they are better than anyone else?"

"Yes."

"Well, there's a good deal of excuse for people to feel that way over there, because it's their system, and everyone keeps on admitting it, and so making the aristocrats believe it. They're the descendants of men who, hundreds of years ago, really did do great things, and earned certain honors that their children were allowed to inherit."

"But it isn't the same over here at all, Miss Eleanor."

"No, and that's just it. But these girls, you see, are all from rich homes. And in this country some people who have a lot of money are trying to make an aristocracy, and the only reason for being in it is having money. That's all wrong, because in this country the best men and women have always said and believed that the only thing that counted was what you were, not what you had."

"Well, I'm not going to feel bad about them, Miss Eleanor. I guess that if they really were such wonderful people they wouldn't think they had to talk about it all the time, they'd be sure that people would find it out for themselves."

"You're very sensible, Bessie, and I only hope the other girls will take it the same way. I really couldn't blame them if they tried to get even in some fashion, but I hope they won't, because I don't want to have any trouble. I'm afraid of Dolly, though."

"I think Dolly's perfectly fine!" said Bessie, enthusiastically. "They were willing to be nice to her, but she stuck to us, and said she wouldn't have anything to do with them."

"That's what the Camp Fire has done for her, Bessie. I'm afraid that if Dolly hadn't joined us, she'd have been as bad as they are, simply because she wouldn't have stopped to think."

Bessie considered that thoughtfully for a moment before she answered.

"Well, then, Miss Eleanor," she said, finally, "don't you suppose that if that's so, some of those girls would be just as nice as Dolly, if they belonged to the Camp Fire and really understood it?"

"I'm sure of it, Bessie—just as sure as I can be! And I do wish there was some way of making them understand us. I'd rather get girls like that, who have started wrong, than those who have always been nice."

Contrary to Bessie's expectations, when they reached the Living Camp, Eleanor made no appeal to the girls to refrain from trying to get even with the raiders. Eleanor knew that if she gave positive orders that no such attempt was to be made she would be obeyed, but she felt that this was an occasion when it would be better to let the girls have free rein. She knew enough about them to understand that a smouldering fire of dislike, were it allowed to burn, would do more harm than an outbreak, and she could only hope that they would not take the matter too seriously.

"We're all going in bathing this afternoon after lunch," said Dolly to Bessie, after breakfast. "I asked Miss Eleanor, and she said it would be all right. The water's cold here, but not too cold, and with this smoke all over everything, I think it will be better in the water than it would be anywhere else."

"The wind hasn't shifted much yet, has it?" said Zara.

"It's shifted, but not altogether the right way," said Bessie. "I think the houses along the lake are all right now, but the wind is blowing the fire in a line parallel with them, you see, and it will burn over a lot more of the woods before they can get it under control."

"Miss Eleanor says we'll have to stay here a couple of days, at least," said Margery. "Girls, what do you think about those cats in the next camp?"

Dolly's teeth snapped viciously.

"I think we ought to get even with them," she said. "Are we going to let them think they can play a trick like that on us and not hear anything at all about it?"

"Oh, what's the use?" said Margery. "I think it would be better if we didn't pay any attention to them at all—just let them think we don't care."

"You were mad enough last night and this morning, Margery," said Dolly. "You didn't act then as if you didn't care!"

"No, I suppose I didn't. I was as mad as a wet hen, and there's no mistake about that. But, after all, what's the use? I suppose we could put up some sort of game on them, but I'm pretty sure Miss Eleanor wouldn't like it."

"I think you're right," said Bessie. "If we let them alone they'll get tired of trying to do anything nasty to us. You ought to have seen the way they sneaked off when Miss Eleanor spoke to them this morning. They acted just the way I've seen a dog do after it's been whipped."

"Oh, that's all right, too, Bessie," said Dolly. "But that won't last. They probably did feel pretty cheap at first, but when they've had a chance to talk things over, they'll decide that they had the best of us. And I know how Gladys Cooper and the rest of the girls from home will talk. They'll tell about it all over town."

"Let them!" said Margery. "I'm not going to do a thing. And you can't start a war all by yourself, Dolly. If you try it you'll only get into trouble, and be sorry."

"Oh, will I?" said Dolly, defiantly. "Well, I'm not saying a word. But if I see a good chance to get even with them, I'm going to do it—and I won't ask for any help, either! Just you wait!"

"Let's quit scrapping among ourselves, Dolly. Wouldn't they just be tickled to death if they knew we were doing that! Nothing would please them any better."

But even Margery's newly regained patience was to be sorely tried that afternoon, when, after an early lunch, the Camp Fire Girls donned their bathing dresses and went in swimming off the float in front of the Worcester camp.

"Come on, Dolly," she cried. "See that rock out there? I'll race you there and back!"

They went in together, diving so that their heads struck water at just the same moment, while the rest of the girls watched them from the float. On the outward journey they were close together, but they had not more than started back when there was a sudden outburst of laughter from the float where Gladys Cooper and her friends were watching, and the next moment a white streak shot through the water, making a terrific din, and kicking up a tremendous lot of spray.

"Whatever is that?" cried Zara.

"A motor boat," said Mary King. "Look at it go! Why, what are they trying to do?"

The answer to that question was made plain in a moment. For the motor boat, into which three or four of the girls from the next camp had leaped, kept dashing back and forth between the float and the rock. It raised great waves as it passed, and made fast swimming, and for that matter, swimming of any sort, almost impossible. Moreover, it was plain from the laughter of those on board that their only purpose was to annoy the Camp Fire Girls and spoil their sport in the water.

Dolly and Margery, exhausted by their struggle with the waves from the motor boat, struggled to the float as best they could and came up, dripping and furious.

"See that!" cried Dolly. "They can't be doing that for fun. All they want to do is to bother us. You'd think we had tried to do something mean to them the way they keep on nagging us."

"They certainly seem to be looking for trouble," said Margery, "But let's try not to pay any attention to them, girls."

Margery knew that Eleanor Mercer expected her, so far as she could, to help her on the rare occasions when it was necessary to keep the girls in order, and she realized that she was facing a test of her temper and of her ability to control others: She was anxious to become a Guardian herself, and she now sternly fought down her inclination to agree with Dolly that something should be done to take down the arrogant girls from the next camp, who were so determined to drive them away.

"I shall have to speak to whoever is in charge of those girls," said Eleanor. "I'm quite sure that no teacher would permit such behavior, but I can imagine that anyone who tried to control those girls would have her hands full, too."

"You bet she would!" said Dolly. "Miss Eleanor, isn't there some way we can get even?"

Eleanor ignored the question. All her sympathies were with Dolly, but she really wanted to avoid trouble, although it was easy to see that unless the other girls changed their tactics, trouble there was bound to be. So she tried to think of what to say to Dolly.

"Try to be patient, Dolly," she said, finally. "Did you ever hear the old saying that pride goes before a fall? I've never known people to act the way those girls are doing without being punished for it in some fashion. If we give them the chance, they'll do something sooner or later that will get them into trouble. And what we want to do, if we can, is to remember that two wrongs don't make a right, and that for us to let ourselves become revengeful won't help matters at all."

But for once Dolly did not seem disposed to take Miss Eleanor's advice as she usually did. Stealing a look at her chum's face, Bessie knew that Dolly would not rest until she had worked some scheme of revenge, and she felt that she couldn't blame Dolly, either. She could never remember being as angry as these rich, snobbish girls had made her.

Time and again,—every time, in fact, that any of the Camp Fire Girls ventured into the water—the motor boat returned to the charge. Their afternoon's sport in the water, to which all the girls had looked forward so eagerly, was completely spoiled, and the tormentors did not refrain even when Miss Eleanor, who had intended to sit on the float without swimming at all, challenged two or three of the girls to a race. She did that in the hope that the other girls might respect her, but her hope was vain.

To be sure, Gladys Cooper seemed to be a little frightened at the idea of bothering Miss Eleanor.

"Let's keep off until she's through," Bessie heard Gladys saying. "That's Miss Mercer—she knows my mother. We oughtn't to bother her. She comes from one of the best families in town."

But Gladys was laughed down.

"She'll have to suffer for the company she keeps, then," said a big, ugly-looking girl. "Can't play favorites, Gladys! We want to make them see they're not wanted here. My mother only let me come here because we were told this was an exclusive place."

And Miss Eleanor, like the others, was soon forced to beat a retreat to the float. Dolly was strangely silent for the rest of the day. Bessie, watching her anxiously, could tell that Dolly had some trick in her mind, but, try as she would, she could not find out what her plan was.

"No, I won't tell you, Bessie," said Dolly, when her chum finally asked her point-blank what she meant to do. "You're not a sneak, and I'm not afraid of your telling on me, but you'll be happier if you don't know."

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