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The Meadow-Brook Girls Under Canvas
by Janet Aldridge
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"The honors," continued Mrs. Livingston, "are less easily earned. For instance, any one of the following accomplishments will count as one point in the favor of the girl who earns them: Be free from colds for two successive months in the winter; be able to bring up some certain object from the bottom in ten feet of water; to know and describe three kinds of baby cries and what they mean; to commit to memory the preambles to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence; also Lincoln's Gettysburg address. There are many more requirements that you young women who have just become members of our camp, will learn from your associates. I shall hope to see you not only reaching the next higher grade at an early day, but winning honors as well," concluded Mrs. Livingston.

"Good grathiouth!" exclaimed Tommy in the brief period of silence following the Chief Guardian's talk. She said it in a voice that was heard by every one of the girls in camp.

A suppressed titter rippled around the tables. Mrs. Livingston looked inquiringly at Tommy.

"Well, Miss Thompson, what is it?" questioned the guardian.

"I gueth I'll be an angel before I know all of thith."

The titter became a shout of merriment in which all the guardians joined. Miss Elting knowing Tommy as she did, merely smiled, but Margery blushed painfully. She felt humiliated for her friend. Tommy, however, had fully established her reputation in that camp. In future nothing that she might say or do would be taken seriously by her companions. Mrs. Livingston made no effort to correct the girl. Instead she left that to the girls believing that Tommy would leave the camp fairly well made over. She understood that Tommy was merely a spoiled child, under whose apparently thoughtless, almost impertinent manner lay the making of a charming, lovable young woman.

While they were still at luncheon Jasper came into camp with the trunks that he had brought in another wagon. He had found his horse, but the animal had cut both legs severely and could not be driven for some time. From the log road Jasper had dragged the trunks to the camp on a two-wheeled cart. Tommy spied him plodding down the path pushing the cart. She eyed him inquiringly. The girls set up a shout when they caught sight of Jasper. He was popular in that he brought mail to them and sometimes goodies from home.

"That ith Jath," nodded Tommy.

"You mean Mr. Jasper," corrected Miss Partridge.

"Yeth."

"Harriet pulled hith whithkerth latht night. Do you know what he thaid?"

"I can imagine that he was quite angry," answered Miss Partridge.

"Yeth I gueth he wath. He thaid, 'leggo my whithkerth, contharn ye!' Yeth he did, didn't he, Harriet! Wathn't that awful?"

"Oh, Tommy!" begged Harriet.

It was a full minute before order was restored in the dining tent. At the conclusion of the outbreak Mrs. Livingston gave the signal to rise and the girls crowded out with flushed faces and laughing eyes, a group of them surrounding Tommy, asking her questions in the hope that she might amuse them with other funny remarks. This gathering was interrupted by the voice of Mrs. Livingston.

"The Meadow-Brook Girls may go to their tents to arrange their outfits," she announced. "The trunks are in place. I suppose you will want to change to your camp uniforms."

The girls assented eagerly. Tommy fairly flew over the uneven ground. She caught her toe on the root of a tree, measuring her length on the ground. She was up and off again unheeding the shouts of laughter from her companions.

Each of the Meadow-Brook Girls was eager to get into her uniform. Tommy was so excited that Harriet had to assist her in dressing. Then when this had been accomplished Tommy swept up and down the tent, surveying herself in the mirror from various different attitudes.

"How do you like me?" she demanded, squinting up at Harriet.

"You will do very well if you fix your hair. It looks frightful, Tommy. You must spend more time with it. The way you wear your hair reminds me of Crazy Jane."

"Oh, dear. I can't thpend the time to bother with it. I'm too buthy. You do it for me."

"I will help you, of course, if you wish, but a Camp Girl should be able to do such things for herself. Now you watch me do mine. While you are watching, give your own hair a good brushing."

Harriet parted her hair in the middle in a very straight line, divided it into four strands, which she wound into as many soft coils, two at the nape of the neck and one on each side half concealing her ears. She pinned it securely, then with artistic precision fluffed a few locks of hair about her temples.

"There!" she said, turning a smiling face to her little companion who had been observing her admiringly.

"I couldn't do that with my hair."

"I know that, dear. Your hair is not as thick as mine. Now let me see what you can do with yours. It looks better now that you have brushed it out."

Tommy arranged herself before a mirror. She braided her light hair tightly into a pig-tail, tying it about half way up with a black ribbon. Stray ends, like the unraveled strands of a rope were left stringing down over her ears, giving to her face a more impish expression than it had worn before. She turned from the mirror in which she had been admiring her handiwork, to meet the laughing eyes of her companion.

"How do you like me?"

"Oh, I don't know. At least it looks better than it did."

"Fine, ithn't it? Crathy Jane'th hair never looked tho well ath that. But thith dreth ith a little too thombre for one of my age, don't you think?" questioned Tommy wisely.

"I think they will forget all about the sombreness of the dress when they see your happy face," answered Harriet. "Besides, it is the dress that all the girls here are wearing. I call it a very pretty uniform. I hope Margery had the buttons sewed securely on hers. If not she will burst them all off the first time she stoops over."

"Yeth, Buthter ith too fat," agreed Tommy. "Thay, Harriet?"

"Yes?"

"I don't like Patrithia and Cora."

"You shouldn't say that. You hardly know them."

"I don't want to. Every time they look at me they laugh. I'll thay thomething to them firtht thing they know."

"Please, please, Grace, never do anything of the sort. You might be sent home for such a thing. You know what Mrs. Livingston said to-day about girls being thoughtful for each other and always kind and helpful."

"Well Patrithia ithn't thoughtful or kind to me, ith thhe?"

"That is no reason why you should not be. Are you ready?"

"Yeth. Let'th go out and thtrut up and down."

"I am afraid you are a vain little creature, but you are a dear, Tommy, just the same," laughed Harriet, giving one of Tommy's little pink ears a mischievous pinch after which the two girls emerged from their tent arm in arm.

The Camp Girls gathered about them. The plainness of the costume became Harriet, but Tommy did not look quite herself. Her face appeared smaller than ever, and her light hair was accentuated by the dark color of the uniform. The little girl, however, soon forgot all about her personal appearance in the enjoyment she found in talking with the other girls of the camp.

There was little to be done on Sunday afternoon. Those who preferred to do so might read. Others spent the time in lounging and visiting or strolling among the great trees either putting into practice such wood-lore as they had learned or discussing their own and camp affairs. Those girls who had been to the camp before or held high rank in the association took it upon themselves to instruct and be helpful to the younger and less experienced girls. Harriet's love of nature and her frequent communions with it, made her a popular pupil. About many things she knew as much if not more than her instructors among the girls, but she carefully avoided setting up her knowledge against that of her companions.

The day passed happily. After dinner the campers gathered about a cheerful campfire where they spent the greater part of the evening listening to Indian legends told to them by the guardians, relating interesting experiences in their own lives, or exciting adventures, as the case might be. Then came bedtime. The Meadow-Brook Girls were eager to retire. They were equally eager to greet the coming day.

During the day just ended, they had passed scarcely a word with Patricia and Cora. The former was a girl about Harriet's age, the latter a year or two older. Cora was proud and haughty. In this respect she was unlike the average Camp Girl, making the contrast, in Harriet's eyes, all the more marked.

Harriet bade both girls a courteous good night as she turned in to her cot. They were more slow to get to bed, and a guardian's voice reminding them that it was then a quarter after nine, fifteen minutes past the time when lights should be out, caused the two girls quickly to extinguish the lantern that hung on the centre pole and seek their cots. Harriet in a half doze realized that they were talking. She roused herself, not to listen, but because they had disturbed her. But Harriet would not ask them to be quiet. As for Tommy, that young woman was asleep almost the instant she touched the cot. It will be recalled that she had had little sleep during the previous night.

Then Harriet went to sleep with the whisperings of Patricia and Cora reaching her but faintly. She recalled afterwards that when she roused herself they were sitting on the edge of Patricia's cot.

As the night advanced the camp became dark and silent. Two or three figures might have been seen stealing into the tent where the two Meadow-Brook Girls lay sleeping, but their movements were so cautious and stealthy that they did not awaken the sleepers.

There was sudden rush of feet, a smothered exclamation and a half cry of alarm from Tommy's cot, then a struggle from Harriet's side of the tent A few moments of silence followed, after which two forms with their heads swathed in towels were led from the tent, one struggling with all her strength to free herself from her captors, the other walking along without a protesting word or action.

The camp slumbered on. Not a sound had reached the ears of the sleeping guardians near at hand, nor had another Camp Girl been awakened. The figures of captors and captives were swallowed up in the gloom of the forest within a few moments.



CHAPTER IX

SOUNDING THE GENERAL ALARM

The instant a hand touched her cot Harriet Burrell was awake and sitting up. But to her amazement she was thrown on her back, a towel was twisted about her head by a pair of dexterous hands and her arms were pinioned at her sides. At first she did not know what to make of this sudden attack, then a warning whisper in a girlish voice brought understanding with it. Harriet had been struggling with good prospect of getting free, but she ceased her efforts at once upon coming to the conclusion that some of the Camp Girls were playing a midnight trick on her. Harriet even assisted them by obediently rising from her cot. A pair of rubber-soled tennis shoes were quickly slipped on her feet. Her clothing, with the exception of her camp uniform, was handed her and she dressed as best she could under the circumstances. Then her bathrobe was thrown about her shoulders and again the warning voice whispered to her to be silent.

The midnight intruders found Tommy, however, a most belligerent captive. She struggled violently and made frantic efforts to scream out, until, fearful of discovery, one of the mysterious visitors hastily seized Tommy's clothing from her locker, another took charge of her bathrobe while four of them marched the indignant little girl out of the tent and away from the camp where she was forced into her clothes despite her strenuous resistance.

"They are hazing us," thought Harriet as she was led away.

That was the plan. The hazers, now divided themselves into two parties. One division took charge of Grace, while the other division proceeded in the opposite direction with Harriet and after walking a short distance came to a halt. The bath towel that was nearly suffocating Harriet was partly removed from her head. A voice, plainly disguised spoke to her.

"Art thou prepared for initiation into the mysteries of the tribe of Wau-Wau, my sister?" asked the voice.

"That depends upon what the initiation into those mysteries is. I don't know whether I am prepared or not," answered the girl lightly.

"My sisters, is the fire extinguished and the hearth left in order?" asked the first speaker.

"Even so."

"Then having been tried by fire, by the flame that thou wilt one day wear upon thine arm it is meet that thou shouldst learn the touch of the enemy of those flames. My sisters what is the enemy that defeats the flame?"

"Water," answered a muffled chorus of voices.

"Then, my sister, thou, having been tried by the fire, the fire that burned at our feet this evening it is meet that thou shouldst now submit to the final test. Below thee is a pool, a pool deep and dark wherein lurk the water sprite and the wood nymph, waiting there to welcome thee."

Harriet now heard the ripple of water somewhere near at hand. She smiled. Water, no matter how deep, held no terrors for her. She was an expert swimmer. However, the night was cool and she knew that the water of a forest stream would be a great deal colder.

"Hast thou yet earned the swimming honor?" asked the voice at her side.

"I can swim, if that is what you mean."

"It is well. The water sprites and the wood nymphs will lend wings to thee in thy efforts to please them. But beware. The way is far and dark. A bottomless pool lies far below thee. Art thou prepared?"

"Oh, yes, I think so. At least I shall be no better prepared in——"

Harriet Burrell did not complete the sentence. Her bathrobe was suddenly snatched from her shoulders. Some one gave her a violent push from behind. She leaped to save herself from falling, just what they had looked for her to do. It seemed to Harriet that she must have fallen many, many feet before she reached the water, which in reality was not more than three feet below the spot from which she leaped. She struck the water with a little gasp, then stood still for a second in bewilderment, as the water rippled over her feet and ankles. The bottomless pool was not more than a foot deep.

"Is that all?" she asked in a calm voice after she had recovered from her first astonishment. "I hope you do not wish me to swim this stream. The water is rather too shallow, even for me."

"Come, sister. Thou hast been tried in the waters of Wau-Wau and found not wanting. A helping hand will meet thee where water meets earth and earth meets water. Come."

Harriet did not seek the assistance of any one in getting out of the stream, but a hand grasped one of hers and assisted her to the bank. The girl felt herself enveloped once more in her bathrobe, and her captives led her in what she shrewdly guessed to be the direction of the camp.

While all this was going on, the other party of hazers was holding Grace Thompson captive not far from the stream to where Harriet had been conducted. Wrapped in the folds of her bathrobe, the towel still bound about her head and over her eyes, Tommy stood practically helpless in the midst of her captors.

"My sisters," said one of the hazers, acting as the spokesman for that branch of the initiation party. "What is the name of the Indian maiden whose spirit guides this little sister?"

"Tommy, the Squirrel," was the prompt reply.

"Ah! Then being guided by the spirit of a squirrel, O little maiden, thou shouldst prove thy prowess by climbing a tree. Ah! The tree is close at hand. Climb, sister."

"I gueth not!" returned Tommy, in a threatening voice. "I'll thcream for help."

"Shouting will avail thee nothing. No ears will hear. Climb and all shall be well."

Tommy had her doubts about this latter statement. She knew how loudly she could scream. She knew also that they were not very far from the camp because she could now and then catch a flicker of the campfire through the trees.

An idea occurred to the little girl and could her captors have looked into her eyes they would have read there an expression of cunning that boded ill for them.

"Will the Squirrel climb?" demanded the voice.

"Yeth, the Thquirrel will climb," she acquiesced, with surprising docility. "Where ith the tree?"

"Just behind you."

Grace was turned about, her hands were placed against the trunk of the tree, and the towel was suddenly removed from about her head.

The tree was a small one with limbs hanging low, almost within reach of Grace Thompson's hands. Some one gave her a boost. Tommy took advantage of it and with the help of the hazers clambered to the lower limb. In the intense darkness she was unable to see clearly anything about her. Feeling her way, cautiously, she climbed to the next limb. Her bathrobe, however, sadly impeded her progress, but by determined efforts she managed at last to reach the top of the tree.

"Come on up, girlth. It ith fine up here."

Tommy's courage was rapidly returning to her. Then again she could afford to speak pleasantly to her captors for she was about to turn the tables on them in a most unexpected manner.

"You're all 'fraid catth, 'fraid catth and I'm going to thhow you that you are. In a minute I'm going to thcare you half to death. Now watch me."

Tommy did all she had promised to do, and just as Harriet and her captors were moving toward the camp, Tommy uttered a wild, piercing cry. Then she uttered another and still another. About that time half a dozen girls might have been observed fleeing toward the camp. They were running as perhaps they had never run before. Harriet was left standing alone on the bank of the stream. She was too startled at first to realize what the cries meant. All at once she discovered that the voice was Tommy's. But Harriet was considerably puzzled, for there was not the least note of alarm in the cries. They were intended solely to arouse the camp and cause the downfall of the girls who were running for their tents. So far as arousing the camp was concerned, Tommy's plan worked to perfection for girls in every tent were tumbling out in alarm.

Then Tommy discovered that she was alone, and becoming alarmed at being left out in the woods without company, she began to scream in earnest. At the same time she endeavored to scramble down from her lofty position scratching her hands on the projections of the tree in her hasty descent. Suddenly she missed her footing. Her hands slipped from the limb to which she had been clinging, and she felt herself falling. She did not reach the ground, however, for the heavy cord confining her bathrobe at the waist caught on a projecting limb of the tree, and Tommy dangled helplessly in the air.

This time her screams were full of terror. Never before had such screams been heard at Camp Wau-Wau. Off in the camp a bell was being frantically rung. A general alarm was being sounded. Guardians clad in kimonos and bathrobes were running toward Tommy and the tree that was holding her prisoner. Camp Girls eager to distinguish themselves and earn a bead for their bravery were not far behind the guardians, with promise of outdistancing the latter if the race lasted long enough.

Guardians carried lanterns and here and there a girl was carrying a torch that she had thoughtfully snatched from the fire as she ran along. Among the torch bearers were Patricia Scott and Cora Kidder. They were among the foremost of the girls to rush to the relief of the unfortunate Tommy.

No sooner had Harriet recognized the note of terror in Tommy's voice than she sprang forward to go to her companion's assistance. She believed something serious had happened to Grace.

"Where are you! Grace, oh, Grace!" cried Harriet.

Tommy, instead of answering, screamed the louder. Harriet, guided by the sound of her friend's voice, groped her way to the tree from which Grace was suspended, and after stumbling blindly about she finally succeeded in reaching the base of the tree.

"Oh, Tommy, what is the matter?"

"I'm—I'm up a tree," wailed Grace.

"Why don't you come down?"

"I can't. I'm fatht."

"Be quiet. I'll climb up and release you," soothed Harriet, starting to climb up the small tree trunk. "Some one is coming from the camp. I see the lights. This is too bad. I was in hopes they might not know about it. Now we shall never hear the last of it."

"I don't care if we don't. I want to get down," wailed Grace.

Harriet succeeded in, climbing the tree to a point where she could reach out and touch her companion. Perhaps suspecting something of the truth, Harriet moved very cautiously. She discovered what the trouble was almost at once.

"Tommy I'm afraid when I loosen this cord that holds you you will fall," said Harriet.

"How far will I fall?" quavered Tommy.

"Only a few feet," replied Harriet. "You aren't more than six or seven feet from the ground. The ground is soft. It's all moss and mold under this tree."

"I don't want to fall," wailed the little girl "I want to thtay here. Don't you dare touch me, Harriet Burrell."

"Then wait until the others get here. They are almost here now."

"There it is," cried a voice. Harriet thought the voice belonged to Miss Elting. It proved to belong to Cora Kidder. "My gracious, girls what is it?"

"It ith I," answered a plaintive voice from above their heads.

"Oh, oh, oh!" cried the girls as they gazed up at the limb of the tree from where Tommy was suspended.

"Young woman what are you doing up there?" demanded Mrs. Livingston. "Are you Miss Thompson?"

"I wath. I don't know who I am now, Mithith Livingthton. Pleathe help me down."

"If you will stand below to catch her I think I shall be able to release her," called Harriet from her perch in the tree.

Harriet had not been seen before in the darkness, screened by the foliage as she was, Mrs. Livingston called to know who she was. Harriet gave her name. Then the Chief Guardian directed that Harriet should release the prisoner from her difficulty while several of the guardians stood in a circle under the tree with arms outstretched ready to stop the fall of the little figure hanging over their heads.

"Are you going to drop me?" questioned Tommy in great alarm.

"Yes, but it won't hurt you," answered Harriet.

"I don't want to. I——"

Tommy did not complete the sentence. Instead she finished with a scream as Harriet unfastened the cord from the stub that had held it and with one hand lowered Tommy into the arms of her friends. This Harriet did with one hand, clinging with the other to one of the lower limbs of the tree. As several of the girls held up their lanterns to aid the others in catching Grace, there were exclamations of admiration at Harriet's exhibition of strength.

"Who would think her so strong?" exclaimed a guardian.

"Harriet is as plucky as she is strong," answered Miss Elting.

So Tommy did not fall after all. Harriet had not been certain that the cord would hold, hence she had requested the guardians to stand ready to break the smaller girl's fall. After Tommy had been lowered, Harriet swung herself down and joined the excited group below.

"Miss Burrell, kindly explain what you were doing in the tree?" demanded the Chief Guardian.

"I went up to assist my companion."

"What was she doing there—how did she chance to be in the tree?"

"I do not know, Mrs. Livingston. Tommy will know. I was not there when she climbed the tree. I heard her call and went to her assistance."

Mrs. Livingston did not say that Harriet's being near enough to hear the call before any of the others had heard it, needed explanation. Instead she turned to Tommy.

"Miss Thompson, what were you doing in the tree?"

"I wath hanging down."

"How did you get up there? Did some one lift you there?"

"I climbed. Then when I got up far enough tho they couldn't get me, I yelled."

"So who could not get you?" questioned the Chief Guardian sharply.

"Oh, thome folkth that I wath taking a walk with through the woodth," answered Tommy lamely.

"Young women we will return to the camp," announced Mrs. Livingston. It was a silent procession, except in the case of Grace, who kept up a continual chatter without saying much of anything.

Most of the girls were aware that a serious offense had been committed and that the morrow would be a day of reckoning. More than one girl in that party was shivering as though from the chill night air. All crawled into bed silently that night with expectations of trouble when morning came.



CHAPTER X

AROUND THE COUNCIL FIRE

Tommy's sprightly remarks failed to draw forth the customary laughter that usually greeted them at breakfast that morning. The faces of most of the girls wore serious expressions. Mrs. Livingston and the guardians were grave, speaking in low tones when they spoke at all, as if to impress upon all the Camp Girls the gravity of the previous night's occurrences. The suspicion of a laugh was raised, however, by Tommy's remark toward the close of the meal.

"I with thomebody would laugh," she complained with a queer little grimace.

"You may laugh if you wish," answered the Chief Guardian pleasantly. But somehow Tommy couldn't quite bring herself to do so.

Breakfast being finished the daily routine of the camp went on with its accustomed regularity. Not a word had been spoken about the hazing of the two new girls. The guardians were following some carefully laid plan, but Harriet wondered that no inquiry was made. She had fully looked for a searching investigation to take place immediately after breakfast. None came.

The first work that the new girls were called upon to do was to gather sticks from the forest for a campfire.

"A Camp Girl," Miss Partridge had told them, "should first of all know how to build a fire, the campfire being the family fireside when one is in the forest. It is the basis of the camp life. Being of the rank of Wood Gatherers it is your duty to gather the fagots for your own fire."

The girls were instructed in the relative values of different woods as fuel. They learned too that, as birch bark burned very freely, it should be used in starting the campfire whenever available.

Having gathered the wood the girls were further instructed in piling it to the best advantage, leaving an open space at the bottom of the pile so that a draft might be created. Each girl was called upon to lay the wood for the fire, then taught to light the fire either in windy or calm weather. One of the leaders among the more experienced Camp Girls started a second fire for them by rubbing two sticks together. She explained that it required dry tinder for this purpose, something seldom found in the woods.

By the time the lesson had come to an end the luncheon hour had arrived. There was more conversation at this meal, though it was carried on in low tones. The same depressing cloud that had been in evidence at the morning meal, was still present. Harriet noticed, too, that Miss Elting had barely spoken to Grace and her that morning. This hurt Harriet. She felt it keenly, though Miss Elting's avoidance of the two girls was because she did not wish either one to talk with her about the hazing. All inquiry as to that offense must be left to the Chief Guardian. As yet the Chief Guardian had made no move looking toward an inquiry into the doings of the previous night so far as any of the girls knew.

About the middle of the afternoon, however, Harriet saw a large group of girls gathered about a tree near the camp. The girls appeared to be laboring under considerable excitement. She hastened over and after a short time managed to elbow her way close enough to see what it was that had so excited them.

Nailed to the tree was a piece of white bark. On it was written the following order:

"A Council Fire will be held this evening at eight o'clock. All Camp Girls will report promptly, in full ceremonial garb.

"By order of the Chief Guardian."

That was all, but it was sufficient to set the tongues of the Camp Girls wagging. Those who had been there for some time knew exactly what this order meant. Harriet did not.

"Oh, there'll be a merry time in Camp Wau-Wau this evening," cried Cora Kidder.

"Somebody will catch it," nodded Patricia. "Well, we don't have to cry. We were in our little cots sound asleep, as we can easily prove. Do you know," she confided in a lower tone to several of her companions, "I shouldn't be at all surprised if there were more to this than you girls dream."

"What do you mean?" asked one of the girls.

"I mean that there is something peculiar about the whole affair," continued Patricia. "What was there to hinder those two girls from going out there in the woods and raising a commotion just to attract attention to themselves? They have been posing ever since they arrived at Camp Wau-Wau. Some folks like to be martyrs."

"Oh, I don't think that is possible," objected a girl. "They appear to be such nice girls."

"Mind you, I am not saying that they did purposely raise a commotion," hastily explained Patricia. "I am simply saying that they might have done so. However, we shall see this evening. I hope they will confess their part in the affair and save us all from suspicion."

Harriet's face burned. She had overheard the entire conversation, though she felt quite certain that it had not been intended for her ears. She walked away with head erect, a look in her eyes that might have caused certain of the young women in camp to feel apprehensive, had they observed that expression.

Tommy hurried to the tree on which the notice had been posted a few moments later. She turned up her nose after having read the order to be present at the Council Fire and wanted to know if the Camp Girls were too poor to buy paper. She said she had plenty of writing paper and declared that she would offer it to Mrs. Livingston so the Chief Guardian would not have to write her orders on bark in the future.

This brought a smile to the faces of those who heard it, and caused them to exchange significant nods. Later in the afternoon, one by one, several girls might have been seen entering the tent of the Chief Guardian, their actions indicating that they sought to escape observation. They were not wholly unobserved, however, for there were many pairs of bright, keen eyes in Camp Wau-Wau, but those girls who did observe their companions enter Mrs. Livingston's tent were discreet enough not to mention what they had seen.

Dinner that evening brought with it an atmosphere of expectancy. It was the still atmosphere before the storm when the fall of a knife or a fork caused nearly every girl at the tables to start nervously. Just before darkness descended four Fire Makers had piled wood on the Council Fire until it blazed brightly throwing out considerable heat and a light that reached far in among the trees.

One by one the girls began to appear from their tents, clad in their ceremonial costumes. These were of khaki colored galatea cloth. They were trimmed with fringes of genuine leather, shells and beads. About her neck each girl wore a string of gayly colored beads. Some of the strings contained more beads than others, for each bead represented an "honor" fairly earned by the girl who wore it. On the sleeve of each Camp Girl's costume was worked an emblem. On those of the Wood Gatherers were the crossed logs; on the arms of the Fire Makers might be seen the orange and gold colors representing fire. On the sleeves of the Torch Bearers, the third grade, a dash of white was added, representing smoke from the flames.

The Meadow-Brook Girls, however, could not appear in ceremonial costume, at the Council Fire. Hazel, Margery and Tommy had been measured for their costumes and were now awaiting them. Harriet had ordered the goods for hers at a cost of a dollar. Upon the arrival of the goods she intended to make her own costume. Harriet was an accomplished little needle woman. Not having their ceremonial dresses ready for the occasion was a keen disappointment to the Meadow-Brook Girls.

As the other Camp Girls emerged from their tents they stood about in groups awaiting the arrival of the Chief Torch Bearer.

"There she comes!" cried a voice.

Glancing down the camp street Harriet saw a young woman slowly advancing toward her. As she passed the tents the girls in the ceremonial dress fell in behind. The leader held above her head a blazing torch and as she moved slowly forward she chanted:

"Blazing torch on high now lifted Flame with magic power now gifted Flicker, flicker, flicker, flame; Burn, fire burn!"

It was a weird, but interesting scene. Harriet was so engrossed in watching it that she forgot to fall in with the procession when it came her turn to do so. Some one tugged at her skirt, bringing her to an understanding of what she should do.



The Torch Bearer led the way to the end of the camp street, then turning marched slowly to the campfire where she laid the torch upon the ground then made the hand sign of the early Indians, the fingers of the right hand laid across the fingers of the left with the first finger of the right hand slightly raised. The crossed fingers were to indicate crossed logs and the slightly raised forefinger of the right hand represented the curving flame rising from the burning logs. This sign was returned by the Chief Guardian. Then the two turned, facing the girls of the camp who were standing in a semi-circle about the fire. To them, the Chief Guardian and the Torch Bearer made the hand sign which was answered in the same way by all of the Camp Girls.

"Thith giveth me the thiverth," whispered Tommy, groping for Harriet's hand.

Harriet warned her to be quiet. Then at a gesture from the Chief Guardian the girls sat down cross-legged on the ground. It had been not only an unusual ceremony to the Meadow-Brook Girls, but an impressive one. The real interest, however, was in what lay before them. Harriet had no idea what was to be done, though she had learned from the stray words that had been dropped in her presence, that the purpose of the Council Fire was to make an inquiry into the events of the previous evening, perhaps ending in the dismissal of one or more girls from the camp. This thought made Harriet Burrell serious and thoughtful. She was trying to decide upon the course that she ought to follow. But she had little time to consider this. She heard her name called.

"Miss Harriet Burrell will please step forward to the Council Fire," was the order from the Chief Guardian.

Harriet did so. She took her position at one side of the fire so that the light from it shone full upon her features causing them to stand out in bold relief against the dark background of the night. It was a trying position, but Harriet carried herself with dignity and great self-possession.



CHAPTER XI

TRIED BY THE FLAMES

"Miss Burrell", began the Chief Guardian in a slow, impressive voice, "we have gathered to-night at this Council Fire to inquire into certain recent occurrences in which you played an important part. One of the most stringent regulations of Camp Wau-Wau has been violated. The entire camp is involved, in that suspicion may rest upon any one of you. It is well to say here, that six girls came to me this afternoon, confessing their part in the unfortunate hazing of last evening. These girls are new to our order. I am satisfied that the gravity of what they were doing did not appeal to them at the time and that they acted upon impulse, though by their own confessions they had plenty of time to consider the matter before becoming involved in it. You may sit, Miss Burrell."

Harriet dropped down, sitting cross-legged like the others, with the light from the fire playing over her face and glinting in her hair.

"The unfortunate part of this confession is that the instigators of the plot are still unknown. And when I explain matters you will be quick to catch the dishonor of their actions. The six girls who have confessed, it appears, received notes just before retiring, these notes having been tucked in under the walls of their tents accompanied by a scratching on the canvas to attract their attention. These notes called upon them to report at the tent occupied by Miss Burrell, Miss Thompson, Miss Kidder and Miss Scott for the purpose of initiating the new girls. The girls who received these notes did not recognize the writing. One of these notes was preserved. I have it in my possession, but am frank to say that I am unable to identify the paper or the handwriting. Rather than attempt to do either, I should prefer to have the instigator or instigators confess their part in the affair. Will the young woman who wrote these notes, stand up and declare herself?"

A breathless period of waiting followed. There was no sound from the circle of anxious-faced girls, scarcely the movement of an eyelid. Tommy Thompson nearly broke the spell by heaving a deep, long-drawn sigh.

"Then there remains no other course for me than to proceed with the inquiry," continued the Chief Guardian. "Miss Burrell will please rise."

Harriet did so. Her face was pale, but she did not appear to be nervous.

"Miss Burrell, you will please relate what took place last evening."

"I can tell you only what occurred after I was aroused from sleep," answered Harriet in a low, but perfectly audible voice.

"Do so," was the response.

"I was aroused by some one bumping against my cot. I sat up, but was forced back into bed and a towel or something of the sort was quickly bound about my head. I was dragged from the cot. At first I struggled, then I began to understand that some girls were playing tricks on me. I decided to let them have their way. I felt sure it was nothing serious. In fact, I enjoyed it quite as much as they did and perhaps more."

"Please continue," urged the Chief Guardian gently.

"They led me out into the forest where some sort of a ceremony followed, after which I was told to jump into a deep pool. I jumped." Harriet smiled faintly at the memory of that jump in the dark. "The water was not deep and I was in no danger of drowning. I can truly say, Mrs. Livingston, that the girls who hazed me were very considerate. They did nothing that could possibly be considered dangerous."

"Did you see any of the girls who took you from your tent, or any of the others who were with them!"

"I saw them, yes, but I did not see their faces, Mrs. Livingston."

"Did you recognize any of them?"

"No. You see their faces were covered."

"But surely you must have recognized the voices of some of them."

"I think they must have disguised their voices," Harriet replied. "Pardon me, but do not the young women whom you say have confessed to hazing me, know who their companions were?" asked Harriet, gazing steadily into the face of the Chief Guardian.

"Those who have confessed to the hazing know each other. In fact some of them talked the matter over among themselves before joining in the escapade. Like yourself they were unable to identify the ringleaders of the party. Then again they were excited, probably more so than were you yourself," answered the examiner with a faint smile. "How many would you say were involved in the hazing?"

"I cannot say definitely, but my recollection is that there were eight girls."

"This narrows it down to two girls. These no doubt were the instigators. How did you come to be in the tree with Miss Thompson when we reached the scene?"

"I had gone there to help her. She seemed to be in trouble," smiled Harriet.

"Now, Miss Burrell, you say you do not know who these girls were; you could not identify them. Is that what I am to understand?"

"No, I do not know them," replied Harriet, gazing straight into the face of the Guardian.

The young girl felt that every eye in the camp was fixed upon her.

"I will ask you one other question," continued Mrs. Livingston. "Have you any suspicion as to who they are? Think well before you answer."

Harriet hesitated a moment, studying the Council Fire gravely. Then she raised her clear eyes to the face of Mrs. Livingston.

"I have no suspicion that I should care to voice," she answered.

"That will be all. You may resume your place with your companions. Will Miss Thompson please step forward?"

Tommy tripped over to the fire. There was a frightened look on her face.

"Tell us what happened to you, my dear," urged Mrs. Livingston encouragingly.

Tommy stammered and lisped and twisted and turned, then she burst forth into speech.

"They—they took me from my cot, Mithith Livingthton. But I fought them. They carried me out in the woodth. Then—then they—they told me I wath a thquirrel and——"

"A what?"

"A squirrel," interpreted Harriet.

"And then they made me climb a tree."

"You did not have to climb, did you!" smiled the Chief Guardian.

"I gueth not. I wanted to. You thee, I thought after I had climbed the tree I could make a big noithe and frighten them away," chuckled Tommy, squinting shrewdly at her questioner.

"Oh, a bit of diplomacy on your part?" nodded Mrs. Livingston.

"Yeth, I gueth that wath it." Tommy had no idea what diplomacy was, but concluded that it must be something to her credit, so she decided that she had exercised it.

"You screamed; then what?"

"They ran away ath fatht ath they could. I withh you could have theen them run, Mithith Livingthton. It wath awfully funny."

"I wish I might have," answered the examiner dryly. "What then?"

"I tried to get down and I got fatht. I got hung up by the cord to my bathrobe. I couldn't get down and I couldn't get up. I wath jutht like a bird only I didn't thing. But if I couldn't thing, I could yell. Then Harriet came, then the otherth came, then they got me down and I wath happy ever afterwardth. That ith all."

A faint giggle greeted the conclusion of the evidence of little Tommy, but it was quickly suppressed by a stern glance from the Chief Guardian.

"Did you recognize any of your captors so that you could identify or name them?"

"Oh, my no. I gueth I didn't know my own name. You thee I wath exthited, Mithith Livingthton."

"It was not surprising under the circumstances," admitted the Chief Guardian with a smile that she could not suppress, and that was reflected on the faces of nearly all the girls seated before her. But all during the evidence the Guardian had been intently regarding not only the witness, but the other girls as well. She was seeking for that tell-tale look that would identify the guilty girl or girls.

Tommy was told that she might take her place again. Mrs. Livingston consulted with some of the guardians, then called Patricia Scott to the fire. There was a movement among the other girls at this, a craning of necks and some smothered exclamations. Mrs. Livingston was very businesslike and courteous. Patricia's dark face wore a slight pallor as she walked forward and faced the Guardian.

"Miss Scott, you and Miss Kidder occupy the same tent with the two girls who have just given their evidence. Did you hear any unusual noises in the tent last evening?"

"Yes, I did, Mrs. Livingston."

"Explain what you heard?"

"I don't know that I can explain it clearly. At first I thought I heard the shuffle of feet on the floor. I was very tired and sleepy. I recall that I partly roused myself. I thought I heard some one speak in a low tone, but supposing it was in the next tent I dropped back to sleep again. I did not hear another sound until the general alarm was sounded on the bell."

"You hurried out without knowing that your two tentmates were missing?"

"No, I did not know about it then. I did not know until I saw them out there in the woods."

"Thank you. That will be all."

Cora Kidder was next called upon to testify. She was very pale and plainly nervous. She realized that having slept in the same tent with two of the Meadow-Brook Girls, a certain amount of suspicion would be attached to her not knowing anything about the exciting occurrence of the previous night in her tent. In answer to the first question which was the same as had been put to Patricia, Miss Kidder said:

"I did not wake up, Mrs. Livingston. I—I may have heard something, but if so I—I don't remember anything about it now."

"You must be a sound sleeper," observed the Chief Guardian.

"I have been since coming to Camp Wau-Wau. I'm just 'dead,' the moment I get into bed. I was hardly awake when I stumbled out of the tent in response to the general alarm last night calling us all out. I fell over a tent rope and that woke me up a little."

Tommy laughed, but fortunately the examiner did not hear her. Harriet nudged Grace to warn her to be quiet.

"You have no idea that would give you any clue to the perpetrators of this affair?"

"No, Mrs. Livingston."

"Is there any other person among the girls who has anything to say or who can give us any information?"

The silence was tense. The Chief Guardian's eyes traveled slowly over the group before her. No one answered.

"That will be sufficient, Miss Kidder. The guardians will please join me for consultation."

The Wau-Wau Girls spent an anxious few moments while the conference was going on. Finally, the guardians resumed their places. Mrs. Livingston stood facing them again.

"In view of all the facts which we have in our possession, the guardians have been able to arrive at a conclusion regarding the six girls who have confessed. Naturally we can take no action in the case of the others, not knowing who they are. We believe that while the six girls are deserving of dismissal, they were influenced by a spirit of fun, rather than of malice, therefore the question as to whether they shall be dismissed or not shall be put to a vote of the Wau-Wau Girls themselves. All in favor of adopting some other method of punishment please rise."

Every girl in the gathering rose to her feet with the exception of Harriet Burrell. Tommy observing that her companion had not risen, sat down hurriedly.

"All in favor of letting the guilty ones go without punishment will rise, now."

Harriet was on her feet in an instant, with Tommy a slow second.

"I am afraid you are very much in the minority, my dear," said Mrs. Livingston, smiling on Harriet. "Your forgiving spirit, however, is to be commended. It is the true spirit that should actuate a Wau-Wau Girl. In view of the previous vote, I shall have to impose a penalty that already had been agreed upon by the guardians in case the members of the camp decided upon some form of temporary punishment Therefore I sentence the six young women"—here Mrs. Livingston read their names out, names of girls that Harriet did not know—"to solitary confinement in their tents for the period of twenty-four hours. They will take their meals in their quarters. The young women will now rise, pass in single file before the fire and proceed to their tents."

Six young women with lowered heads and cheeks aflame, slowly, hesitatingly rose to their feet, hurriedly filed past the fire, then turned their footsteps toward their quarters.

"Oh that'th too bad," piped Tommy as the last of the six passed into the shadows.



CHAPTER XII

HARRIET TURNS THE TABLES

Despite the solemnity of the occasion smothered giggles were heard following Tommy Thompson's remark that had reached the ear of every person at the Council Fire.

The Chief Guardian frowned, then her face relaxed in a smile.

"Did you speak, Miss Thompson?" she asked.

"Ye—yeth," stammered Tommy.

"My dear, I feel very much as you do," smiled the Chief Guardian. "But discipline must be maintained. Those young women never will forget the humiliation of this moment. In the future they will think twice before engaging in any enterprise that will cause others mental or physical suffering. There are at least two other girls and perhaps more, within this circle to-night whose conscience will trouble them, whose sleep will be fitful because they have not only done a very great wrong, but have been dishonest enough to cover that wrongdoing by keeping silent and permitting the stigma to rest on all of their companions. Miss Burrell!"

Harriet rose and faced the Chief Guardian.

"By your actions on two occasions, you have earned two honors, first by the bravery you displayed when the accident to the buck-board wagon occurred, second by your act of gentle forgiveness this evening. For each of these you are entitled to an honor bead."

Mrs. Livingston stepped forward placing about the blushing Harriet's neck a leather thong to which were attached two large wooden beads. As the necklace dropped over her head, the Camp Girls rose and bringing their hands together sharply made the Indian hand sign.

"I hope you may earn many more honors, my dear. I am sure that you will," said Mrs. Livingston, kindly, as Harriet tried to voice her appreciation.

This ended the session of the Council Fire for that night. It was now past nine o'clock, so the girls strolled toward their tents in twos and threes, discussing the evening's inquiry in low tones as they walked.

Harriet Burrell felt particularly sad. She did not like to think of those six unhappy girls who had just been sentenced by the Chief Guardian. Her sympathy too, went out to the others who had taken part in the hazing and would not confess their guilt. It required no little force of character for these girls to come forward and admit that they had instigated the plot, knowing full well that dismissal from Camp Wau-Wau would have been the penalty. Still, Harriet knew that under similar circumstances, that would be what she should do.

Patricia and Cora already had reached the tent by the time Harriet entered. She nodded to them smilingly. The faces of the two girls wore haggard expressions which she was quick to catch.

Harriet had just pulled out her cot to tuck the blankets down when something dropped to the floor. She suddenly recalled that when she had come in after the hazing on the previous night, she had dropped the towel that had been bound about her head, over behind her cot, intending to look at it next morning. She had forgotten all about it. She now picked up the towel, ran the edges through her hands, then bringing one end of it closer to her eyes, she examined it keenly. The two other girls failed to notice what she was doing.

Harriet tucked the towel under her blankets, turning to listen to what Tommy was saying. This is what she heard from Tommy who was sitting on the edge of her cot, removing her shoes.

"You girlths mutht be good thleeperth," remarked the little girl, reflectively.

Patricia turned on her sneeringly.

"Speak when you are spoken to," she snapped.

"Yeth, I alwayth do. I thaid you mutht be good thleepers."

"Why!" interjected Cora.

"Becauthe you didn't wake up latht night when I wath being carried out into the woodth," said Tommy, surveying Patricia and Cora with half closed eyes. "It ith a wonder you woke up when they rang the bell. I can thleep too, but you are champion thleeperth, ath my father would thay."

"Did I ask you for your opinion!" demanded Patricia, her eyes snapping, a flush appearing high up on either cheek.

"No, but I jutht thought I would tell you becauthe you might not know it unleth thome one told you, you thee."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome. How many beadth have you won?"

"I haven't won any beads," answered Patricia, crossly. "How many have you won?"

"That dependth. I gueth I've won a whole thtring of them. I did thomething that no other girl in the camp can do."

"You did!" exclaimed Cora. "I should like to know what!"

"You ought to know. I flew. Didn't you thee me hanging in the air from the tree latht night! No, of courthe you didn't. I had flown down before you got there and I couldn't fly up again."

"Tommy, it's bedtime," reminded Harriet.

"Yeth. I've got to thay what ith in my mind firtht. How long have you been here!"

"Since the first of June," answered Cora impatiently. "Don't ask so many questions."

"How am I going to know thingth if I don't athk?" demanded Grace.

"What you don't know won't hurt you," interjected Patricia.

"Oh, yeth it will. You don't know how it will pain me. I jutht have to know thingth. I have to know thomething about everything."

"And nothing about something," suggested Cora sarcastically.

"Now, Tommy, don't you see that the girls do not wish to talk to you? Don't intrude," remonstrated Harriet.

"Thank you," mocked Cora. "I am glad you have found your tongue at last. I had begun to think that you said all you had to say at the Council Fire this evening."

"No, not all," answered Harriet significantly. The two girls gave her a quick, sharp look.

"What do you mean?" questioned Patricia, taking a step nearer.

"I had not intended to say anything about it this evening. However, as long as you have started the conversation in that direction, I will, but I will say what I have to say to Miss Kidder," replied Harriet steadily.

Harriet turned to her cot. From beneath, the blankets she drew out the towel and stepping over handed it to Cora.

"What is this?"

"Your towel, I believe."

"My towel? What are you doing with it?" demanded the girl, fixing an angry look upon the calm face of Harriet Burrell.

"It is the towel you bound about my head last night when you helped to kidnap me and take me to the pool where I took my midnight initiation," answered Harriet, looking the girl straight in the eyes.

She had taken considerable chance in accusing Cora Kidder of complicity in the hazing of the previous night, but the sudden pallor on the face of the girl told Harriet that her shot had gone home.



CHAPTER XIII

THE CAMP GETS A SURPRISE

"Let me thee that towel," demanded Tommy, rising and stepping over to Cora's side of the tent.

Miss Kidder quickly thrust the towel in her laundry bag and turned an angry face to Grace.

"Will you please let me alone?" she said trembling with anger.

"Yeth, I think I will," nodded Tommy, after gazing briefly into the storm-swept face of Cora Kidder. Harriet motioned to Tommy to go to bed. Tommy decided that she had gone far enough with her quizzing and that she would do as Harriet suggested.

That night after the lights had been extinguished, Harriet lay for a long, long time, thinking over the events of the evening, beginning with the Council Fire and ending with the little scene that had taken place in their tent. What should she do? What was the honest course to pursue? The girl was unable to decide. She did make up her mind, however, to consult with Miss Elting on the following morning.

After breakfast at the first opportunity she went in search of Miss Elting, but learned that the guardian in company with another of the camp officials had started out with Jasper to go to "The Pines," a summer watering place in the woods, some ten miles from Camp Wau-Wau. This summer resort was reached by a state road entering the woods from another direction, but the two young women had taken the log road as being the most direct.

Another incident that interested the camp greatly that day was the visit of a friend of Cora Kidder. He was a young man named Charlie Collier who was stopping at "The Pines" and who had driven over to the camp in his automobile to call on Cora. With him was his sister, a rather pretty girl whose elaborate coiffure and extreme style of dressing made her look out of place among the sensibly attired Camp Girls.

Cora was considerably elated that day at receiving a call from visitors who drove their own motor car and who were possibly more fashionable friends than many of the other girls could boast. Cora introduced her friends to several of the girls and to many of the guardians, but to none of the Meadow-Brook Girls. Tommy was interested, however. She managed to get close enough to the car to examine the gown of Miss Collier with critical eyes, and Tommy was something of a judge of clothes, for her parents entertained smartly-dressed friends from the city quite frequently. The little girl looked disdainfully at the newcomers, but made no comment.

Miss Elting and the guardian who accompanied her to "The Pines" returned about four o'clock that afternoon, having passed the automobile on the way. Harriet obtained an interview with the teacher shortly afterwards during the period of relaxation and rest before the dinner hour. The two women wandered off a short distance into the forest, Harriet having suggested a walk, and Miss Elting shrewdly suspecting that her little friend had something on her mind of which she wished to unburden herself.

"Now we will sit down here and be nice and comfy, and you will entertain me," smiled Miss Elting. "How are you enjoying yourself?"

"Oh, so much!" exclaimed Harriet. Then her face clouded a little.

"But——" laughed Miss Elting.

"Yes, I suppose that does express it. However, I don't want you to think I am not happy on my own account. It is on some one else's account."

"Tell me all about it, Harriet, dear."

"I am afraid that I cannot do that," replied the girl after a brief reflection.

"Then tell me as much as you wish me to know," urged Miss Elting.

"In the first place," began Harriet, "I wish to ask your advice on a matter that is troubling me."

Miss Elting smiled encouragingly.

"I am listening."

"It is about that hazing affair. Suppose a girl had been asked if she knew anything about it and she had declared that she did not. What then?"

"You mean that she did know something about it but pretended that she did not?"

Harriet nodded.

"Then she would be an unfit associate for this body of fine girls. Harriet, what do you mean? You don't, you can't mean——"

"Oh, no, no!" protested Harriet, flushing to the roots of her hair.

"Of course not. Forgive me for even suggesting it, my dear. Please go on."

"But suppose that another girl did not know who were the guilty ones at the time she was questioned, and that afterwards she had a strong suspicion as to their identity? What then?"

"You have given me a difficult question to answer, Harriet, I should not like to answer it without knowing more about the circumstances relating to it. Tell me who the girl is that is suspected?"

"But you are a guardian," rejoined Harriet. "Were I to tell you it would be your duty to inform the Chief Guardian of what you had heard. Would it not?"

"My dear, I fear it would," was the reply.

"Then I shall not answer your question. I want to talk with you as I would to a friend, not as a guardian in Camp Wau-Wau. Suppose some girl had made this discovery after she had denied knowing anything about the affair, would it then be her duty to inform the Chief Guardian?"

"Perhaps it would."

"She would be a talebearer. I should not like to have any friend of mine carry tales, would you, Miss Elting?"

"No, Harriet, I would not. Much would depend upon circumstances though. I fear such a case as you suggest must be one for the girl to decide for herself."

"Would she be acting dishonorably if she did not tell what she had learned?"

"Most decidedly not."

"And if she were asked about it by a guardian later on and refused to answer, she still would not be acting unfairly to herself or her superior?"

"Wait, wait. You hurl your questions at me so rapidly that you do not give me time to think. As I have said before, you must be your own judge in your own case."

"I did not say that it was my case."

"No, that is true. However, I do not believe that Harriet Burrell could do a dishonorable act if she tried ever so hard," smiled Miss Elting. "Put your head down here on my lap, Harriet, and be comfortable. Does any one else know?"

Harriet shook her head that lay in Miss Elting's lap.

"Then let matters rest as they are for the present," replied the teacher. "Let us hope that the girl's conscience may trouble her so much that she will confess her part in the affair to Mrs. Livingston. That will relieve you of all responsibility."

"She never will," muttered Harriet.

The guardian and Harriet strolled slowly back toward the camp. On the way there just at the edge of the camp they passed Patricia Scott. The latter gave Harriet a contemptuous glance, then coolly ignored her nod which was more friendly than Patricia could have hoped for. Miss Elting saw the hostile glance and the ignoring of Harriet's nod.

"If that young woman were in my division I certainly should call her to account for that. Doesn't she like you?" questioned Miss Elting bending a keen look on her companion.

"She doesn't seem to like me very well," answered Harriet, then changing the subject she began discussing a tall tree that stood just in front of the tent occupied by the Chief Guardian. It was one of those spindling pines that seem to pierce the sky. Harriet asked the guardian if there were not great danger of its being struck by lightning.

Before Miss Elting could answer, the honk honk, honk of a motor car was heard nearing the camp.

Among the tall spruce trees they made out an automobile, that had left the log road and was being recklessly driven through the forest toward the camp. It did not seem possible that the driver of the car could pursue such a perilous course without wrecking the automobile which was going far more rapidly than safety warranted. There would be a brief hesitation as the front tires came in contact with a log, then the car would go over it with a bump and a bounce, and a triumphant honk, honk!

"Who can it be, Harriet?" cried Margery, who with Hazel had strolled out to meet Harriet and her guardian friend.

Just then the car lurched into the camp. The driver put on more speed, the car circled about the camp a couple of times, then came to a halt in front of the row of tents. There were a man and a young woman in the car. The young woman jumped out and seeing Grace Thompson stared at her for a moment then throwing up her hands, uttered an Indian war whoop that brought out from their tents all those who had not been aroused by the honk of the motor car.

"It's Crazy Jane," cried Harriet. "Look! She has found Tommy."

Jane had lifted little Tommy off her feet and was kissing her delightedly while Tommy lisped "Thave me, oh, thave me!" causing the other girls near at hand to laugh amusedly at the funny scene.

At that moment Crazy Jane catching sight of Harriet and her companions, bounded toward them. Jane was bare-headed. Her blonde hair was flying about her face and neck; her dress unprotected by a dust coat was covered with the gray dust of the highways, over which she had driven, and her whole appearance was disheveled and travel-stained.

Jane fairly flung herself into the arms of Harriet Burrell, giving her a hearty hug, then treating Margery, Hazel and Miss Elting to the same sort of greeting.

"Dad's over there. Come on and shake hands with him. He's going back shortly. You can help me unload the car. Oh, we're going to have a great time, aren't we darlin's!"

"You don't mean that you have come to join the camp, do you!" questioned Miss Elting.

"Of course, I have," retorted Crazy Jane. "What did you think I had come for? Meadow-Brook is like a graveyard since you girls went away. Oh this is great, isn't it? We'll rattle the bones of this old camp, won't we?"

Harriet laughed merrily. Miss Elting looked grave.

"Does Mrs. Livingston know—did she know you were coming?"

"Of course, she did. Dad looked after that. Where is she. She'll be delighted to see me, I'll wager."

"Yeth," nodded Tommy who had joined them. "The'll be tho glad that thhe'll cry her eyeth out. How long are you going to thtay?"

"As long as you do. Now let's get that car unloaded and start something. This place is so quiet it gives me the blues."

Margery threw up her hands in despair, Harriet smiled amusedly, Miss Elting shook her head hopelessly. Jane darted off with long strides. She had grabbed a hand of the protesting Tommy and was fairly dragging the little girl along with her. It was a strange figure that Mrs. Livingston, who stood talking with Jane's father, saw approaching her, and during the weeks that followed she was to understand quite fully why Jane McCarthy's friends had named her "Crazy Jane."



CHAPTER XIV

CRAZY JANE IS INTRODUCED

"Oh, how do you do?" greeted Jane when her father had introduced her to Mrs. Livingston.

Mrs. Livingston extended her hand to Jane.

"I hope you may be happy with us," said the Chief Guardian. "We shall do our best to make you so. What do you think of our forest home?"

"Stupid place, but I think I'll will be able to start something to stir up these sleepy old woods."

A shade of annoyance passed over the face of the Chief Guardian, then gave place to a tolerant smile. She read Jane McCarthy at a glance and in her saw much that was worthy of development.

"Come here, girls, and help me unload this stuff," called Jane, turning her back on the Chief Guardian. "Dad must get out of the woods with the car before dark or he'll break his precious old neck. Dad wouldn't be worth a cent with a broken neck, so help me to get him started on his way home."

Harriet and Miss Elting were the only ones who accepted the invitation. First, Mrs. Livingston pointed out the tent where Jane was to live, then Jane backed her car down to it see-sawing to avoid obstructions, until finally sending the car back a few inches too far, she crashed through the tent entrance, smashing the end pole, bringing the front of the tent down over her head.

"Good gracious! That's too bad. I never did such a clumsy thing in my life," declared Jane. "Here, Dad! Settle the damages with Mrs. Livingston. Anything broken in there?"

"Nothing particular. The tent is wrecked. That's all," sarcastically answered Patricia Scott, who was standing near to Jane. "However, don't let a little thing like that trouble you."

"I won't," answered Jane coolly, turning her back on Patricia and beginning to unload the car, aided by Harriet and Miss Elting.

By this time the entire camp was excited. The advent of this apparently lawless new girl had set every tongue wagging.

"Who is she?" asked girl after girl.

"She is a very dear friend of Miss Burrell, I believe," Cora Kidder informed them. "Some strange people come out of Meadow-Brook, don't they, girls?"

"Yes," agreed Patricia, "One hesitates to even remain in the same camp with them. I am sure my parents wouldn't allow me to stay here if they knew that such crazy girls were admitted."

Several girls turned their backs on Cora and Patricia and walked away, for Harriet and her chums were becoming popular with the Camp Girls, whereas there was a feeling of resentment developing against Patricia especially, on account of her bad disposition and her readiness to condemn others—a trait not to be tolerated for long in Camp Wau-Wau.

Another end pole had been brought and the collapsed tent put back in place. All this was quickly done by the Camp Girls. Jane had watched the operation with keen interest.

"Say, you girls are all right, aren't you? Did you see that, Dad?"

Mr. McCarthy nodded.

"You'll have to teach me how to put up a tent, I can run an automobile and I can ride a horse, but that's about all Crazy Jane McCarthy knows how to do except to make her father tear his hair with worry for fear she will break her neck driving her car recklessly. Never mind, Dad, I shan't have the car for a couple of weeks, but trust me to stir up something else just as exciting."

Mr. McCarthy would not venture to drive the car back to the log road, after it had been finally unloaded of trunks and bags and a great assortment of odds and ends. Jane could not have required more luggage had she been going to a fashionable summer resort for her vacation. She called to the girls to get in and ride out to the log road with them. Harriet and Tommy accepted the invitation with Mrs. Livingston's permission. The Chief Guardian thought that Harriet's influence might have a wholesome effect on this wild, motherless girl. Harriet was glad when the drive came to an end. Time and time again it seemed as though the machine would be wrecked, but Jane jockeyed her car over the dangerous places, missing trunks of trees and rocks by the narrowest possible margin.

"There!" she said driving the car triumphantly out onto the log road. "If you can't get home alone now, Daddy dear, you don't deserve to. Come back to see me next Sunday. Maybe they won't want me after that. Maybe they won't be able to stand me that long."

Jane leaped back into the car, from which she had descended, giving her father an affectionate hug and a kiss. Then she suddenly threw in the clutch and sprang out. The car shot ahead, lurching from side to side of the narrow logging road, greeted with shouts of delight from Jane, her father making frantic efforts to regain control of it, which he finally did after threatening to wreck it. He shook a fist over his shoulder at Jane, then disappeared around a bend in the road.

"Isn't he the prize old dad?" laughed Jane, a suspicious moisture appearing on her eye-lashes.

"He ith too eathy with you, that ith what ith the matter with him," declared Tommy abruptly.

"Of course he is," admitted Jane. "He is afraid to be otherwise. Let's go back and see what's going on. It looks like a regular circus. What time do they feed the animals?"

"Dinner is at half past six, if that is what you mean," replied Harriet rather severely. "May I make a suggestion or two, Jane?"

"Sure you may. Is it a lecture?"

"A sort of lecture."

"Advance your spark. I'm in on the back seat."

"You should try to control yourself here. The girls will think you unfit to associate with them if you are so boisterous. Besides, Mrs. Livingston will not tolerate it."

"What, be a goody-goody girl?" demanded Jane, opening her eyes in amazement.

"No. But try to curb your spirits a little."

"Darlin', I can't do it. I've got to be my own natural self. If they don't like me they can tell me to go home. I don't care so long as you and Tommy dear, and Hazel, and cross, cranky Margery like me a little bit."

"We do like you," answered Harriet impulsively. "We will see that the other girls do not misunderstand you altogether, if we can make them see you as you really are."

"There goes a bell. What is it, fire?" demanded Jane, looking up expectantly.

"Goodness no!" answered Harriet laughing. "That is the 'get-ready' bell. We must hurry and prepare for dinner. You will want to change your gown, will you not?"

"Change! Well, you watch Jane McCarthy. Where do they feed the animals?"

"In the tent with the blue flag. Be sure to be on time. Half past six, remember," cautioned Harriet as the girls separated at Jane's tent. Jane promised to be on time, then she disappeared into her tent.

Harriet and Tommy went directly to their own quarters where they washed their hands and faces and rearranged their hair before going to dinner. There was no necessity to dress as on week days all the girls were required to wear their uniforms.

"I think there ith going to be thome fun in thith camp," observed Grace from behind the towel with which she was rubbing her face.

"You mean with Jane?"

"Yeth, Crathy Jane."

"She is a good soul, but won't she shock some of these really nice girls with her abrupt ways until they get to know her for the fine, big-hearted girl that she is!"

Mrs. Livingston and the guardians appeared soon thereafter, then after pleasant greetings the Camp Girls moved into the cook tent, taking their places behind their chairs, where they awaited the command of "seats." Mrs. Livingston gazed up and down the rows of tanned faces, at the many pairs of bright, sparkling eyes.

"Where is Miss McCarthy? Is she aware that dinner is about to be served?" asked the Chief Guardian.

"Yes, Mrs. Livingston," replied Harriet. "She went to her tent to make herself presentable. I think she will be here in a moment. It has been at least half an hour since I left her."

"We will be seated. Under the circumstances no discredits for tardiness will be imposed. Seats!"

Instead of proceeding at once with the serving of the meal a few moments were occupied in chatting, in which guardians and Chief Guardian took an animated part. Finally, it was decided to go on with the meal. Before doing so, Mrs. Livingston requested a girl to go to Jane's tent to bring her. Then Mrs. Livingston bowed her head to say grace.

Her words were interrupted by a lively chatter outside the tent and a loud laugh. She continued to say grace, but just as she was pronouncing the concluding words, Crazy Jane tripped into the tent. The girl paused at the entrance and surveyed her companions quizzically.

"Hello, girls!" she cried. "You're all as solemn as a pack of aged owls at midday. May I come in?"

There was a titter at her words, then a horrified gasp as the eyes of the Camp Girls were raised to the face of the new girl.

Jane had appeared in full evening dress. Her gown of old rose messaline was cut very low in the neck, with mere abbreviations in the way of sleeves. The skirt was cut "en train," and the frock was far too elaborate for a girl of her age, even though it had been suitable for the occasion.

A little wave of suppressed giggles rippled over the assemblage as Jane walked toward the Chief Guardian with easy assurance.

Mrs. Livingston rose and advanced to meet the new girl. There was a humorous twinkle in the eyes of the Chief Guardian, but her face was almost stern.

"Isn't she a fright?" muttered Cora.

"The worst I ever saw," agreed Patricia under her breath. "I should like to see myself making friends with her."

"Young ladies," said Mrs. Livingston, facing the tables. "Permit me to introduce to you Miss Jane McCarthy of Meadow-Brook. Miss McCarthy has not been with us long enough to become familiar with our regulations regarding dress. You will therefore, with me, excuse her somewhat elaborate costume for this once."

"What's the matter with my gown? Don't you like it?" demanded Jane, twisting her head sideways for a better view of the general effect of her costume.

"Thave me! Oh, thave me!" wailed Tommy, dropping her head on the shoulder of Harriet Burrell.



CHAPTER XV

THE GHOST OF WAU-WAU

A silence so deep that the light breathing of the Camp Girls was plainly heard, had settled over the interior of the tent. The faces of some of the girls wore a horrified expression; on the faces of others there were lurking smiles. Harriet suppressed her laughter with difficulty. But Mrs. Livingston understood how to deal with Crazy Jane.

"It might be an appropriate costume for some occasions, Miss McCarthy," she said quietly. "If you will glance about you will see that the Camp Girls dress alike, and in the most simple costume. Have you a uniform with you?"

"Uniform? Gracious no. I'm not a soldier."

Mrs. Livingston explained that the dresses worn by the Wau-Wau Girls were called uniforms. Jane McCarthy had known nothing about this before coming to the camp. Her wardrobe was an elaborate one. The Chief Guardian said she thought she might have a uniform that with slight alterations would fit Jane, but that she had better sit down now and eat her dinner. Jane promptly accepted the suggestion. Her chagrin at the Guardian's criticism of her costume quickly passed and within a few moments Jane was monopolizing the greater part of the conversation to the delight of some of the girls and the disapproval of others.

Harriet was amused to see the shocked expressions on the faces of several of the Wau-Wau Girls. The dinner ended, Harriet, regardless of the glances of disapproval on the faces of some of her companions, linked her arm within that of Jane and walked with the latter to her own quarters. Hazel, Margery and Tommy followed. For the rest of the evening the Meadow-Brook Girls chatted with Jane who showed them her frocks, told the girls how much the frocks cost, then all at once, as Mrs Livingston in company with one of the girl leaders came in, Jane spied three strands of brightly colored beads on the neck of the latter.

"Oh, how pretty," she cried.

The leader smiled, permitting Jane to finger the beads.

"I must have some of those," she decided with enthusiastic emphasis.

"You may, but you know you will have to earn them," Mrs. Livingston informed her.

"Earn them? Why should I have to earn them? I've got plenty of money. I'll buy them. Earn them? I guess not. Harriet, I'll buy you some more. Why, you've got only two beads on your string. That's a shame."

"You do not understand, my dear," explained the Chief Guardian. "A girl wins her beads as she would win honors in any other position in life—by accomplishment. You would not value your beads so highly if you were to purchase them, as you would were you to earn them by doing something worth while."

"Tell me what I can do to earn them," urged Jane after brief reflection.

"For instance, you drive an automobile?"

"Yes; what of that?" asked Jane brightening.

"In that line a girl may win an honor if she is able to drive an automobile for five hundred miles in one season without help or advice——"

"Five hundred miles, why Mrs. Livingston I've driven that old rattle-trap of mine more than two thousand miles already this season and done all the repairing myself."

"That entitles you to a bead, a red one."

"Only one!" pouted Jane.

"Only one," smiled the Guardian.

"How may I earn another?"

"By some other achievement such as——"

"I can climb a tree."

"Tho can I," piped Tommy. "But I can't get down again."

"You ride horseback, your father tells me. You may win a bead by riding forty miles in any five days."

"I've done better than that, too, this season."

"That is two beads. You see you were earning them all the time and did not know it."

Jane was becoming enthusiastic. Mrs. Livingston was instilling the Camp Girl spirit into her almost without Jane's realizing it.

"What else can I do to earn a bead? I nearly ran down a man coming out here to-day. Do I get a bead for that?" asked the girl, causing her companions to indulge in a merry laugh.

"Mithith Livingthton, pleathe give her a bead becauthe thhe didn't kill me one time when thhe nearly ran over me," urged Tommy.

"I will tell you how you may win two more beads."

"Yes, yes."

"You are a resourceful girl, I know. Now suppose you get up some sort of entertainment and carry it through; some entertainment for the girls of the Camp, something unusual."

"A candy pull!"

"Well, perhaps. We do not eat much candy here. However, I think a candy pull might prove entertaining even though it is not an unusual thing to do."

"I'll make it unusual," promised Jane.

"I'll tell you what to do. Make it a candy pull and ghost party," suggested Harriet.

"What do you mean, Miss Burrell?" questioned the Guardian.

"Pull candy and have certain girls tell ghost stories."

"Yes, that will be entertaining. Miss Thompson, do you think you would have the nightmare after an evening such as that?" asked Mrs. Livingston with a twinkle in her eyes.

"I hope not," answered Tommy with promptness. "Not if I didn't thee the ghotht."

"Then you may see what you can do, Miss McCarthy. I have all the supplies necessary to make the candy. I shall look for you to distinguish yourself. Good night, young ladies. I called to see if you were well taken care of, Miss McCarthy."

"Fine. This is a jolly old shack. Good night, Mrs. Livingston," added the girl with more gentleness than she had yet shown. "Good old party, isn't she?"

"Oh, Jane don't speak like that. Mrs. Livingston is a very superior woman. She is more than that here; she is the mother of us all and she is so good."

"Then I'll call her mamma. But Harriet?"

"Yes?" smiled Harriet.

"You'll have to mix the stuff for the candy."

"Why?"

"I never made any in my life."

"That is too bad. I can't make it for you. That would not be honest, but I will write down the recipe and tell you how to make it. You must do the actual work yourself. There is another thing I think perhaps I should mention to-night. The girls hazed myself and Tommy the other night. They may try to haze you, though I hardly think they will dare so soon after the other affair. There was considerable trouble raised over that."

"Haze me?" Jane laughed merrily. "Feel that," she commanded, extending a bare arm that to Harriet's touch seemed as hard as iron, "Do you think they will haze Crazy Jane, eh?"

"I hardly think they will," answered Harriet, smiling and nodding. "I should feel sorry for them if they tried."

"They'd feel more sorry for themselves."

"It is nearly nine o'clock, dear. You had better get ready for bed," advised Harriet. "All lights must be out at nine o'clock except on special occasions like to-morrow night when we shall undoubtedly get permission to sit up later."

The next day was an active one in camp. There was a baseball game in the morning, a basketball game in the afternoon with tether ball and quoits on the side. Jane was admitted to all these. She was strong and active, but she lacked the skill of her friend Harriet. The latter's playing in basketball and tennis was a revelation to the guardians who had never known a high school girl who could play such an even and skilful game. It was a foregone conclusion that Harriet was in a fair way to earn more beads by her accomplishments in the games of the camp.

Tommy with her usual bad luck came to grief in pitching and catching the medicine ball, a large ball stuffed with yarn. The ball weighed ten pounds, and after catching it successfully once or twice Tommy failed to stop it with her hands. It struck her with considerable force and losing her balance she fell backward down a little hill and rolled into the brook which ran at the foot of the incline. There she splashed about frantically and implored her companions to "thave" her until helped to terra firma by Harriet.

The day was a busy one for Harriet and Jane. The latter was making many mysterious preparations for the evening. She had studied Harriet's directions for making molasses candy as faithfully as she could study anything, consulting learnedly with Mrs. Livingston about the quantity that should be made, but making no reference to the other part of the entertainment.

When evening came and the candy was brought out in great yellow heaps to be pulled there was excitement in plenty. Tommy followed the girls who carried the candy licking her fingers daintily.

"Have you been eating molasses candy already?" demanded Margery.

"Yeth. Tho have you. I thee thome on your fathe. Ithn't it delithiouth?"

"I should say so!" exclaimed Margery. "Jane McCarthy, you certainly know how to make molasses candy."

"Thank you." Jane's cheeks were flushed, her eyes sparkled with excitement. She never was so happy as when leading, no matter whether it were in making candy or racing with a motor car.

The candy pull was a great success, the ropes of sweet stuff being thrown over low-hanging limbs where the candy was pulled and pulled amid much laughter and many shouts. Several trees were used for the purpose. The candy pull being finished all the girls gathered about the fire, sitting down Turk fashion.

"The little ghost will now appear among you and relate some live stories from ghostland," announced Crazy Jane.

A slender white figure stepped from behind a tree so quickly as to bring little screams of alarm from several girls. The figure was dressed in white with a white mask covering her face. Some of the girls recognized Harriet Burrell, but the majority did not. They did, however, shout with laughter when a second ghost, the assistant to the first tripped out from behind another tree with a little chirp that was distinctly unghostly.

"Hello, girlth," she piped.

The second ghost's usefulness was thereupon ended for the evening. The girls grabbed and unmasked her. Harriet raised a wand, in this case a burning fagot.

"Maidens fair," she began in a deep impressive voice. "Do you know what a banshee is?"

"I know," cried Hazel. "A banshee is a ghost, that the peasants in Ireland believe in. It stands outside their windows at night and wails dismally. Its appearance is supposed to foretell the death of a member of the family."

"Quite right," replied Harriet. "Now listen to my story. Once upon a time there lived a family of poor people in County Mooreland in Ireland. With them lived their beautiful child Muriel. Now the fairies and the banshees, the wood nymphs and the sprites coveted this beautiful child Muriel because they knew she would make a good fairy. But they dared not approach the hut where Muriel made her home, in the daytime. At night little Muriel was sound asleep behind closed doors. There was no way for the banshees and the wood nymphs and the sprites to get into the house and take her while she slept, for there always was a fire in the fireplace. As everybody knows a fairy cannot pass through flames without singeing her wings——"

"Why didn't thhe wear water wingth?" piped Tommy Thompson.

"Every night the fairies used to perch in the flowers and under the shamrock that grew in Muriel's door yard, waiting and hoping to catch the little one and kidnap her."

"Some one should have called the police," ventured Margery.

"If the sprites could reach Muriel," went on Harriet, ignoring Margery's flippant remark, "they could quickly transform her into something else and in that manner get her away. You see these were bad fairies and gnomes and sprites and things."

"Yeth," agreed Tommy. "I thee."

"Well, one night a very powerful banshee came along and asked them what they were doing there. They told it they were waiting for the beautiful child Muriel that they might bear her away, but that they could not get to her.

"'Oho, aha!' cried the banshee. 'I have a plan. I will call upon the friend of my people, the west wind, to blow hard. Stand close and when the door of the cottage blows open see that you enter by one door but do not go out by the other. The west wind will blow thrice, then will die away. It is for you to gather the child then. I can summon the wind but once.'"

"It thertainly had thome confidenthe in itthelf," observed Grace Thompson, nodding her head.

"The fairies and the gnomes and the sprites and the banshees gathered about the door of the shack," continued the first ghost, "Suddenly they heard a wild, weird wailing off on the moor. The ghostly little conspirators trembled with fear, for these midnight wailings, these moaning winds across the moor boded no good for all of their kind. It meant that the spirits of evil were abroad.

"Suddenly a mighty gale struck the little house, causing it to tremble from cellar to roof. Then the front door burst open with a crash. The west wind with an awful wail and roar rushed into the shack, carrying with it the fairies and the gnomes and the sprites and the banshees. No sooner were they inside the cottage than the other door burst open and all the fairies and the gnomes and the sprites were hurled out and carried away on the great gale. But one little banshee had found lodgment on a beam where it clung until the gale had passed.

"And what do you think it did?"

"Carried away the child?" suggested a voice.

"Did you ever hear of anything so perfectly ridiculous?" exclaimed Cora Kidder.

"I gueth it went to thleep and fell off into the fire," suggested Tommy.

"No. It waited until the gale had passed, then dropping down touched the sleeping child with its magic wand, whereupon Muriel became a butterfly. The banshees carried the butterfly away with them and in their home she grew to be as beautiful a banshee as she had been a child. But she grew and grew. There was no stopping her. She grew almost as rapidly as Jack's beanstalk by which he climbed to the home of the giant."

"What a fright she must have been," interrupted a voice.

"As she grew she began to hate the banshees who had taken her from her home and made her become like them. She determined to avenge herself. This she did by making war upon all the other banshees. So powerful was she and so familiar, too, with their hiding places in the flowers that she had little difficulty in clearing the country of the little pests. Those who were not killed were driven from the country, all of which accounts for there being no banshees in Ireland now. But they are to be found in some other parts of the world."

"Are—are there any over here?" questioned a timid voice from among the girls.

"I have never seen any," replied Harriet. "Still, we do not know. A banshee might fly into any one of our tents on a dark night and change us into butterflies or banshees or something of that sort, and we wouldn't know anything about it until we had been changed. When we woke up we should be in so different a form that we shouldn't know ourselves if we were to look into a mirror."

"I know who that draped figure is now," exclaimed Patricia. "It's that hateful Harriet Burrell. Isn't she silly and presuming?"

"Yes," was the reply. "I am amazed that Mrs. Livingston allows her to be so forward. She and that McCarthy girl make an excellent team. One is as tiresome as the other."

"I have heard," continued the ghost, "that this great and powerful banshee came to America to look for the descendants of the banshees who made her become one of them. It has even been hinted that she has been seen in the Pocono Woods."

"Oh, my gracious!" exclaimed Hazel, glancing about her apprehensively. "What if we should see her? I'd die of fright, I know I should."

"Fiddle! Who ith afraid of a banthhee?" jeered Grace. "Now if I thaw that banthhee I'd jutht thtep on her with my heel, tho!" She dug her little heel into the ground to show how she would crush the banshee.

Harriet might have been observed to gaze off into the forest almost apprehensively herself now and then. There was a quizzical smile on her face, but it was hidden by the white mask she wore.

Suddenly she cried out: "Oh, girls! girls!" Then pointed directly over their heads into the forest. "The banshee! The banshee! Look! Oh, look!"

Tommy sat shivering, not daring to turn her head. A few girls mustered up sufficient courage to look behind them. Then a series of wild screams rent the air. There was a mad rush for the protection of the tents, in which even the guardians—or nearly all of them—joined. What they had seen had sent a thrill of terror through every girl that had gazed upon the terrifying sight.

Tommy Thompson rose and stood trembling. "Thave me!" moaned Tommy. "I'm tho thcared!"



CHAPTER XVI

THE LAYING OF A SPOOK

"It's the banshee! It's the banshee!" screamed a score of voices.

What they had seen had been enough to startle the bravest person. A figure had suddenly appeared out of the gloom, a huge towering figure that looked to the startled girls to be almost as high as the trees themselves, though it was not more than eight feet tall. The figure was clad in long, flowing white robes that hung gracefully to its feet. Two arms almost as long as the figure was high, were waving frantically in the air. The face was small and as white as the garb of the strange weird creature. It did, indeed, look as though it might be the fabled banshee from the moors of County Mooreland.

"Woo-oo-oo," wailed the apparition.

"Come back, girls!" cried Mrs. Livingston. "Come back, I tell you!" The Chief Guardian had herself been startled at first. Standing their ground were half a dozen other girls, among them was Hazel Holland. Patricia Scott and Cora Kidder had long since retired to a safe distance from the apparition.

The words of the Guardian somehow seemed to reassure the trembling Tommy. Then, too, she saw that Harriet did not run. Harriet had thrown herself upon the ground and was sitting with her head in hands, her shoulders shaking. What Tommy did not know was that Harriet was not shaking with fear, but with laughter.

The apparition was slowly approaching the little group of girls, with arms waving and the weird "woo-oo-oo" becoming louder and louder. Two of the half dozen who had stood their ground now turned and fled precipitately.

Tommy Thompson still stood her ground, with trembling limbs. All at once her eyes narrowed. A crafty expression took the place of the look of fear on her small face. Then to the amazement of the girls who still remained, Tommy crept cautiously around until she got to the rear of the approaching figure. Now and then as she thought the giant banshee was about to turn around, Tommy would leap back as lightly as a cat.

Mrs. Livingston forgot her dignity and laughed until her eyes were dimmed with tears.

The little girl made a sudden dive and a grab. Her fingers closed over a piece of the banshee's robe. She felt something else in her grasp and gave a mighty tug.

There was a shrill scream from the banshee. Harriet sprang away believing that the apparition was about to fall on her. The girls fled. This was too much for them. They did not think far enough to realize that what they had heard was a most human scream and that it could have come only from a human throat.

Down came the giant banshee in a mighty fall.

"Save me!" wailed the gigantic falling figure.

It was now too late to do anything toward saving the luckless banshee. The drapery fell away in its struggles to right itself and the terrified apparition perched upon a pair of stilts fell sprawling close to the fire which by this time had burned very low, else the banshee's robes might have been permanently singed.

Tommy uttered a little shriek.

"It'th Crathy Jane! It'th Crathy Jane! Thomebody thave her!"

Harriet Burrell was the "somebody" who sprang to the rescue. No sooner had Jane touched the ground than Harriet was dragging her away, rolling her on the ground, patting out the little flames that sprang up here and there from her clothing. This was made the more difficult because of the long stilts upon which the daring Jane McCarthy had walked. The long arms had been sticks on which sheets had been draped. The arms had dropped when Jane took her mighty fall and now lay on the ground on the other side of the campfire.

"Are you hurt?" begged Harriet anxiously.

"Oh, my darlin'! I'm killed entirely."

"Wait till I take off your stilts. You will be all right as soon as you get to your feet."

"Tommy has laid the ghost," cried a girl who had last run away. At this the others came hesitatingly back. Mrs. Livingston half laughing, half crying was assisting Jane to her feet. Jane's face wore a sheepish grin as she shrugged her shoulders to make sure that they had not been dislocated. Harriet had thrown off her mask. Her white robe was blackened from the smoke and the fire from which she had rescued the singed banshee, and Margery upon returning to the scene was complaining that she had bursted half the buttons off her waist.

"There is your ghost, young ladies," smiled Mrs. Livingston. "Let it be a lesson to you to never forget your self-possession, never to be carried away by your impulses. Always use reason."

"Yeth. That ith what I did," declared Tommy.

"Why didn't you run?" asked Miss Partridge, who had remained near the scene, but at what she considered a safe distance from the apparition.

"I thaw a lock of Crathy Jane'th hair thlipping out from behind her mathk. The minute I thaw that hair I knew it. Then when I got behind her I thaw the thtiltth. You thee the light wath on the other thide. I could thee right through her drapery."

Now that the banshee had been "laid" the frightened girls could afford to laugh and they did.

Mrs. Livingston spoke again.

"Miss Burrell has fairly won an honor. Some of you observed her presence of mind when she rolled Miss McCarthy on the ground to put out the fire in the latter's clothing, thus possibly saving that young woman's life. For this you are awarded five red beads, Miss Burrell, for fire is red and fire is the enemy that you overcame."

"Do I get a bead for laying the ghotht?" interrupted Grace.

"Yes, you do," answered the Chief Guardian with a smile. "Miss McCarthy also shall have two beads, one for making the finest molasses candy we have ever eaten, the second for providing the most unusual amusement ever known at Camp Wau-Wau. And now we will go to our quarters. It has been a most entertaining evening, even if it did cause some of us apprehension."

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