Jane McCarthy stepped up to Mrs. Livingston, looking the latter squarely in the eyes.
"Mrs. Livingston, I do not think I am entitled to either of those rewards," she said.
"No? And why not?"
"I never made any candy in my life before. I didn't even know whether you used baking-soda or flour in it. Harriet helped with the recipe and told me all she could about how to go to work. Oh, I want to be perfectly honest about it all. Harriet suggested the ghost party too, though the big banshee and the idea of the story were mine. I don't want the beads, Mrs. Livingston. I want Harriet Burrell to have them. She earned them, I didn't."
"Fine! Splendid! You are a Camp Girl in reality now. The spirit of Wau-Wau has taken possession of you. My dear I congratulate you. The beads are yours. Your truthfulness and unselfishness would win them for you even though nothing else could. The fire-makers will subdue the flames after the others have reached their tents."
Three happy girls went arm in arm to the camp street. They were Crazy Jane, Harriet Burrell and Tommy Thompson, the latter more proud than she had ever been in her life, because she had done what not one of some forty others had dared to do—she had laid the ghost. Tommy expressed her admiration for herself that night when snuggling down under the blankets she murmured:
"Well, I gueth I'm thome folkth."
THE SOUP THAT FAILED
Almost the sole topic of discussion at Camp Wau-Wau on the following day was the train of exciting events of the previous evening. There were, too, murmurs of disapproval at the trick that Harriet Burrell and Jane McCarthy had played on the girls. Some of the Camp Girls were ashamed that they had shown such cowardice, others were angry at the Meadow-Brook Girls for making them appear at a disadvantage. Among the latter were Patricia and Cora. These two were talking it over when Harriet in passing, bade them a pleasant good morning.
"Now look at her superior smile, will you?" jeered Patricia. "I just would like to take her down a notch or two, and I will before I leave this camp."
"How?" asked Cora reflectively.
"I don't know. I'll catch her somehow and make a laughing stock of her before the rest of the girls."
"Patricia, have you forgotten the bath towel—have you forgotten what she knows about us?"
"No, I haven't," answered Patricia Scott, with a toss of her head.
"And she hasn't said a word to any one about it."
"You don't know that. Have you noticed that that Miss Elting looks at us very queerly when she passes us? She is very cold and distant, too, just as though she knew something about us. You mark my words, that Meadow-Brook Girl has told her all about finding the towel, but if it gets to the Chief Guardian I know how I can turn the tables on that impudent Harriet Burrell."
"In the easiest way you can imagine. I'll say that Harriet never has liked me and that she had taken my towel and hidden it purposely, just to produce it at the right time and accuse me of having been implicated in the hazing."
"But it wasn't your towel," protested Cora. "It was mine."
"That's all right. That will make it all the better. She will say it was your towel and I will say it was mine. Don't you see how that will mix the affair up? You must stand by me if it comes to that."
"Of course," answered Cora Kidder, but in rather a weak voice. She was not a bad girl at heart, but she was easily influenced; it was not difficult to persuade her to look at any matter with other eyes than her own. It was the bad influence of Patricia Scott that already had led Cora so far into mischief, and that gave promise of leading her still farther. Patricia, on the other hand, possessed a jealous and revengeful disposition. It had caused her trouble in her own home and lost her many friends in her home town. She had been sent to the camp in the hope that the wholesome life in the woods might give her a new point of view, and that the association with the Camp Girls might make a better girl of her. Thus far the desired result had not been attained, though she had managed to hide her shortcomings from Mrs. Livingston and the guardians. At times Mrs. Livingston, close observer that she was, had wondered as to the girl's real character, but Patricia's sweet smile, easily assumed to fit the occasion, had on each occasion disarmed the Chief Guardian.
"You must pretend to be very indignant if ever you are called to account, and I will pretend to be indignant, too. I almost hope she does complain of us, and she will, too. She is a sneak."
"I don't hope she'll complain of us," cried Cora in alarm. "I know I should die of mortification."
"You haven't any courage, Cora Kidder," declared Patricia scornfully. "I see I shall have to look out for both of us, and——"
"No, no," protested Cora. "Tell me what you want me to do. I will do it. I don't want to be found out for what I already have done and be sent home. What would I do? Oh, what would I do?"
Patricia gave her a withering glance.
"What you need is backbone. You haven't any more courage than a two-year old child. What ails you?"
"You say I haven't any courage," answered Cora hotly. "I'll show you whether I have or not. What do you want me to do?" she demanded, straightening up to her full height and looking Patricia squarely in the eyes.
"That's the way to talk, dear," nodded Patricia. "Let's take a walk. Forget the mean things I just said to you, but I had to do it to put some spunk into you."
"There comes that Margery girl," exclaimed Cora.
"Don't mind her. She wouldn't see the side of a house if it were set up right in front of her. I can't say as much for that perfectly impossible Grace Thompson. She is as sharp as she can be, and she isn't afraid to speak right out before everybody. Didn't you see how she held her ground last night when most of the others ran away."
"Oh, she was in the secret. She knew all about it," answered Cora Kidder.
"That's where you make a mistake. She didn't. Didn't you see how frightened she was at first?"
Cora shook her head.
"You must keep your eyes open," advised Patricia. "You've gone too far to take any chances; that is, any more than you have to take. She was going to run, then she held herself steady by sheer grit. I don't like her, I don't like any of them, but I know real courage when I see it and she showed it last night."
"Harriet knew, though?"
"Oh, yes; she was in the game. Of course she was. It was a shame. She ought to be put out of the camp. She will be. There isn't room here for her and me."
Patricia linked an arm in that of Cora's, walking away to a spot where they might be more by themselves. There were too many girls passing back and forth now to make prudent a discussion such as was theirs.
A good part of the afternoon found Harriet Burrell in the kitchen of the cook tent. Harriet was trying to win an "honor" by making soup. By making five standard soups consecutively she would win another bead, provided the soups were favorably received by the Camp Wau-Wau Girls.
Harriet's first day in the kitchen resulted in more confusion than the kitchen had known that season. It seemed that everything was misplaced. The dinner was late that night, but the soup was excellent. The other girls in the kitchen made no complaint about the confusion, which they believed to be due to carelessness on Harriet's part, because the misplaced articles and various ingredients scattered about were those which she had used in her work.
The next day conditions were no different. Patricia, who was preparing salads for an "honor" finally threw up her hands in disgust. She declared she could stand it no longer and if some of the girls didn't remove Harriet from the kitchen, she, Patricia would have to get out herself. Somehow this word reached Mrs. Livingston, with the result that Patricia herself was asked to drop her "honor" work in the kitchen for the present.
It was a blow to Patricia Scott. She had not looked for this result, and though she had not made the complaint in person, her criticism of Harriet had been a boomerang that had returned and hit Patricia. This made the girl even more bitter against Harriet than before.
The following two days brought with them less friction in the kitchen. Harriet Burrell's soups delighted the girls and the guardians; many were the compliments bestowed upon the blushing Harriet.
It was now the fifth day of Harriet's soup-making; the last in the test for the "honor." It seemed a foregone conclusion that the young woman had won her bead for this achievement in cookery. Harriet naturally felt gratified. It meant something to win even one bead in the Camp Girls' Association as every member of the organization had soon come to know. No girl ever had won all of the "honors" these "honors" covering so many fields of achievement as to make this well-nigh impossible.
"Well, Miss Burrell," smiled the Chief Guardian that evening after they had sat down to the tables and grace had been said. "I suppose you will be entitled to wear a new bead to-morrow."
"I hope so, Mrs. Livingston," answered Harriet with a blush.
"Wait till you try the thoup," suggested Tommy.
"I agree with you," said Hazel.
"Your friends do not seem to have the same confidence in your soup making that the rest of us feel," smiled Miss Partridge.
"Perhaps that is because they know my shortcomings better than you do, Miss Partridge," replied Harriet.
A close observer might have seen Patricia and Cora exchange meaning glances.
There was a lively chattering along the tables while the girls were waiting for the serving of the first course, the soup. This was brought to the table in great tureens, one for each table, the guardian who sat at the head of the table serving the soup which was passed along to the other end by the girls themselves. In this case it was Miss Elting who was doing the serving at the table at which the Meadow-Brook Girls were seated.
"This consomme certainly looks delicious," she said with a smile.
"From the smell I should say it must be," declared Jane McCarthy. "I know I could die eating that soup."
"Be careful," warned a voice. "You may."
"I say girls, let's wait till Harriet samples it," suggested Hazel. "It is her last chance at the soup. There's no telling what she might do to us."
"Yeth, that ith right," nodded Grace. "No poithon cup for uth."
"Taste it, darlin'," urged Jane.
Harriet with a good natured smile dipped her spoon in daintily, carrying some of the steaming soup to her lips. She tasted the consomme gingerly, then took another spoonful, and hurriedly put the spoon back in the dish. A horrified expression appeared on the face of the Meadow-Brook girl.
"There! What did I tell you?" cried Margery.
"What is the trouble?" asked Miss Partridge.
"Oh-h-h!" gasped Harriet, making a desperate effort to control herself.
A girl on the other side of the table from Miss Burrell, sampled the soup, then hastily dropped her spoon. Margery followed suit a moment later.
"How is it?" questioned Hazel.
"Please don't ask me," declared Margery gloomily.
Miss Elting made a wry face when she tasted the consomme, but said nothing. Some went on eating, others laid down their spoons and leaned back in their chairs. Tommy was the first to break the silence that had settled over the table.
"There ith thomething the matter with thith thoup," she declared in a loud voice.
"That's what I say," answered a voice.
"And I, and I, and I," cried other voices.
"Yes, I agree with you," answered Miss Partridge gravely. "Harriet what did you put in the soup?"
"The usual ingredients."
Mrs. Livingston at this juncture sampled the soup. Her face darkened. She swallowed a spoonful, then quickly laid the spoon on the soup plate.
Harriet had shrunk back into her chair. A deep flush rose to her face. To cover her confusion she essayed to take some more soup, but the effort was a failure. She simply could not eat the consomme.
"It tathteth to me like thoap," declared Tommy.
"I believe it is soap," spoke up Patricia Scott. "How perfectly frightful!"
"I am afraid, Miss Burrell," said Mrs. Livingston, "that you have lost the 'honor' for this season. This consomme seems to be a dismal failure. This of course does not preclude you from taking up some other branch of cookery and winning an 'honor'."
Harriet was on the verge of tears, but she held herself under good control. Her humiliation was apparent only in her flaming cheeks and almost imperceptible beads of perspiration that stood out on her forehead.
"This is a matter that must be looked into, Harriet," said the Chief Guardian. "Young ladies, eat no more of the soup. There is something seriously wrong with it. It tastes like soap to me, too; I am free to admit that. I hope no one has been playing pranks," fixing a keen glance on Harriet's face.
"Oh, Mrs. Livingston," cried Harriet, shocked almost beyond words.
"I am not accusing you of any such thing, my dear," explained the Chief Guardian. "You would be unlikely to play pranks and lose your 'honor' mark. The guardians will please accompany me to the kitchen. Young ladies, you will proceed with your dinner. Upon second thought, Miss Partridge and Miss Elting will accompany me. The other guardians may remain here."
Mrs. Livingston rose, as did the two teachers whom she had named. A heavy silence settled over the cook tent after the three women had disappeared into the kitchen, a small tent at the rear of the cook tent. They were gone for some time. Finally, Mrs. Livingston and Miss Partridge returned. Miss Elting was not with them. The Chief Guardian's face wore an expression of sternness such as none of the girls ever had observed there before.
Harriet appeared wholly to have lost her appetite. She was making a brave effort to eat, but the food choked her. The meal was finished in silence. At the conclusion of the meal, Mrs. Livingston rose and requested the girls to come to order.
"Young ladies," she began, "a most serious thing has occurred. I make no accusations. Miss Burrell, where is the key to your supply box?"
"I hung it on a nail on the outside of the tent pole just behind my work table, Mrs. Livingston."
The Chief Guardian turned to Miss Partridge.
"Do you mind bringing Miss Burrell's key and box, Miss Partridge?" she asked. The young guardian rose promptly and left the tent. A few moments later, she returned bearing a galvanized box, slightly larger than a baking powder case. This she placed on the table before the Chief Guardian, laying a key beside it. Harriet saw that the box was hers, but she did not know why it had been brought to the tent.
Mrs. Livingston unlocked the supply box, then tilting it so that the light from the hanging lamp nearby shone into the box, she peered in. Harriet saw her grope in the box, saw her withdraw some small object and examine it in the palm of her hand amid a breathless silence. Then the Chief Guardian raised her eyes, fixing them on Harriet Burrell with an inquiring, sorrowful gaze.
AN "HONOR" FAIRLY LOST
"Miss Burrell," began the Chief Guardian in an impressive voice, "I find that a serious offense has been committed, an offense that cannot be overlooked. A prank is allowable within reasonable limits, but any such trick as this borders on the disgraceful."
"Wha-at do you mean, Mrs. Livingston?" questioned Harriet.
"We have examined the pot in which the soup was made. We have, after careful examination, decided what it is that gives the consomme the peculiar flavor that you all have noticed."
Harriet listened with an expression of grave concern. She forgot in the interest she felt in what the Chief Guardian was about to say, her own humiliation at having lost the "honor" she had so nearly earned.
"We came to the conclusion that nothing but soap could give the soup the peculiar flavor that makes it so unpalatable. Then again we observed little beads floating on the surface," continued Mrs. Livingston. "While attractive to look at these were very disagreeable to the taste for they were soap bubbles. However, an entirely different complexion has been placed on the matter since my examination of your box before me on the table. Miss Burrell, I find in this box a small piece of castile soap from which some shavings have been left in the box and on the paring knife with which the soap was shaved off."
"Soap in my kit?" cried Harriet, rising slowly to her feet.
"But—why—what is it doing there?" gasped the astonished girl.
"That is what we should like to know. No one had access to your kit except yourself. The box was locked and the key hung where you placed it when you last had occasion to close the box."
"Yes, yes, but——"
"We also found flakes of soap scattered about on the floor in the kitchen. I slipped on a shaving of it and nearly fell just now when I visited the kitchen. Did you have any soap in your kit?"
"Certainly not, Mrs. Livingston."
"Then how did it come to be there just now when I opened the box?"
"Oh, I don't know," answered Harriet despairingly. "But surely, Mrs. Livingston, you do not accuse me of anything so dreadful as mixing soap with the consomme? Oh, you don't mean that; you can't mean it?"
"While I am not by any means accusing you, the facts on the face of the affair speak for themselves, and——"
The Chief Guardian was interrupted by the sudden springing to her feet of Crazy Jane. Her face was flushed; her hair was disarranged her arms were raised above her head.
"Oh, shame on all of you!" cried the girl. "My darlin' Harriet wouldn't do such a thing. Never! Show me the one who did it, knowing that the darlin' girl would be accused. I'll scratch her eyes out, I will!"
Jane was in a towering rage. The calm voice of Mrs. Livingston interrupted the tirade.
"Miss McCarthy, be good enough to resume your seat," she said.
Jane hesitated. For a few perilous seconds she struggled with herself. The girls expected an outbreak more vehement than her first. Instead, Jane sat down with an emphasis that jarred the dishes on the table.
"We will now continue with this matter. Can any person here explain, first how the consomme happens to be soaped, and secondly why soap is found in Miss Burrell's kit?" questioned Mrs. Livingston.
A painful silence reigned in the cook tent. There seemed to be no explanation of the mystery.
"There was nothing of the sort in the box when last I used it," reiterated Harriet, "I am positive of that, Mrs. Livingston. Nor could it have been at the bottom of the box under the other things. Knowing that I had finished my work in the soup test, I examined the contents of the box to put everything in order."
"You locked the box afterwards?"
"Immediately. I hung the key in its accustomed place, too."
"You have no idea when the soap was dropped into the soup kettle?"
"No. But wait! Just before I came into the cook tent to sit down I tasted the soup, as I had done a dozen times before while in the kitchen to make sure that it was exactly as it should be."
"Did you taste it just before you came in to dinner? Did you detect anything wrong with it, Miss Burrell?"
"There was nothing wrong with it then. I mean—you know what I mean. There was none of this soapy taste in it at all. To me it tasted delicious. The first I realized that something had happened to the consomme, was when I took a spoonful of it at the table here. Then I knew something was wrong with it. That is all I can tell you. But you must know that I would not do a thing like that, Mrs. Livingston. Please don't say that you think I might be guilty of any such thing. Do you think I would spoil my chance of winning an 'honor' for the sake of playing a contemptible trick?"
"No, Harriet, I do not think you would," decided Mrs. Livingston after gazing steadily into the troubled eyes of Harriet Burrell for a moment.
Harriet caught her breath sharply.
"It ith a mean thhame," declared Tommy in a voice that reached every person in the tent. "I gueth the banshee mutht have done it."
A chorus of giggles greeted this sally. The laughter was suppressed by the Chief Guardian.
"We will leave the mystery of the doctored soup as it stands until after breakfast to-morrow morning," announced Mrs. Livingston. "After that, if the guilty girl makes no confession in the meantime, we shall begin an investigation of our own."
The Chief Guardian rose, the girls doing likewise, after which they filed out of the tent. Once outside they began to talk excitedly. Most of them took sides with Harriet Burrell. They did not believe she could have been guilty of such a trick. Besides, she would be defeating her own ambitions if she did do so. She was certain to lose the coveted "honor." Despite this, however, there were those who did believe that Harriet had put soap in the consomme.
It had been an evening full of excitement and unexpected happenings. And now Harriet Burrell would not have another opportunity to win her "honor" in this line until three months had passed.
Harriet's face was stony as she fled to her tent. Jane McCarthy reached the tent a few minutes behind her friend. Jane threw her arms about Harriet, expressing her opinion of the whole affair in her own hot-headed way. Harriet's eyes were dry but her cheeks were hot. She was holding herself well in hand, yet when she spoke there was a slight quaver in her voice. She was not a girl given to tears.
"I don't care for the 'honor' so much," Harriet said, "but I just can't stand it to have the girls believing deep down in their hearts that I could have done that awful thing. They will say it; at least some of them will."
"I dare them to!" flamed Jane. "Just let me hear them. Oh, just let me hear one girl saying a word about Harriet Burrell. Oh!"
"I don't want you to mix in this trouble at all, Jane," objected Harriet. "It is bad enough as it is. If I could find out who the guilty one is——"
"What would you do if you did find out?" demanded Jane.
"I don't know. Nothing I suppose," returned Harriet with a wan smile.
"That's just it. You've got to fight if you don't want to get walked on in this world. My dad says so. He's a fighter, he is, little one, and he has a daughter who can take her own part and half a dozen other people's besides. My sleeves will be rolled up all the time after this. You watch me get into action when I discover the girl, and——"
"I think you had better leave all that to me, Miss McCarthy," advised a voice at the door of the tent.
At the first sound of the voice Harriet thought either Patricia or Cora had come in. Then she saw that it was Mrs. Livingston.
"Please don't involve yourself in difficulties, my dear. Now, will you leave us, please! I wish to speak alone with Miss Burrell."
Jane went outside the tent where she paced up and down waiting until the Chief Guardian should come out, when Jane intended to return to the tent and talk further with her friend. She intercepted the other Meadow-Brook Girls who had come over to sympathize with Harriet. All save Tommy returned to their own tents.
"Now, my dear," said Mrs. Livingston, seating herself beside Harriet on the edge of the latter's cot, "please do not take this quite so hard. You will have plenty of opportunity to win other 'honors' before leaving Camp Wau-Wau."
"It is not the loss of the 'honor' that is disturbing me, Mrs. Livingston. It is the thought that you suspected me of being the author of that trick," answered Harriet quite frankly. "You will understand that I am not saying this in an impertinent sense."
"My dear girl, I know of course that you are not. Let me tell you something. It may serve to make you feel this less keenly. I sought for the moment to be a little harsh with you thinking that possibly the girl who had done this might rise and confess at once rather than see you bear the burden of the accusation?"
"There is little danger of her doing that."
"So I infer. But you have a suspicion as to who she may be?" added the Chief Guardian quickly.
"I may have, but I should not wish to name any one. You see my suspicion may be entirely wrong. In fact I am convinced that it is."
"My child, if you have a well-founded suspicion of any girl here you should make it known to me. It is your duty to do that."
"That is just the trouble," answered Harriet with a faint smile. "My suspicion is not a well founded one. Even if it were I should not be sure that I ought to tell you."
"I will not press you to tell me, my dear. I will leave it all to your good judgment. At breakfast to-morrow morning I shall announce that you are in no way held to blame for this unpleasant incident."
With a kind "good night, Miss Burrell," the Chief Guardian left Harriet.
Patricia and Cora were about to enter the tent when they espied Jane walking up and down.
"On guard, eh?" sneered Patricia.
Jane strolled over, peered down impudently into the face of Patricia Scott, gazing at the girl for all of half a minute.
"Yes," answered Jane shortly, then turned her back on the two girls.
WHEN THE STORM BROKE
Instead of entering the tent after Crazy Jane's snub, Patricia and Cora Kidder gazed at the girl pacing back and forth before it, then laughing sarcastically turned and walked away. Mrs. Livingston saw them in the distance when she came out, but her attention was immediately centred on Jane.
"Miss McCarthy," she said. "I wouldn't keep Harriet up long, were I in your place. The poor girl has had a trying time of it this evening. Were the two girls who just walked away from here, Miss Scott and Miss Kidder?"
"Yes, ma'am. And I gave them a good stiff punch—I mean I told them—I let them know how much I loved them."
"Try to love every one, Miss McCarthy. It doesn't pay for one to go about with any other feeling in the heart."
"I guess I must have been born with the other feeling," returned Crazy Jane. "But at any rate, I know I have the other feeling now."
"Try to be like Miss Burrell, sweet and forgiving. Good night."
"Good night, Mrs. Livingston. I'll just say 'good night' to Harriet. I won't stay a minute."
Jane was true to her word. She ran into the tent and gathering Harriet in her arms, kissed her on the forehead, very gently, too, for Jane; after which the impulsive girl ran out without giving Harriet a chance to say a word.
The hour for "lights out" not having arrived, most of the girls were out by the campfire chatting. Harriet preferred to be alone on this occasion. She did not feel equal to talking with any one. She felt that the day had been a miserable failure. There had been two days of it. First, everything in the kitchen had gone wrong. This condition had somewhat improved after Patricia had left the kitchen, only to become many times worse after three days had elapsed.
Harriet tried to reason out the mystery. Her first thought was that Patricia might have had something to do with the spoiling of the soup. But she had not the slightest proof that Patricia was the culprit.
Harriet was at a loss to know what to do. The problem was too much for her. Her head whirled with her effort to solve it Before retiring for the night, however, she moved her cot to the extreme rear of the tent so that the light would not be so strong in her eyes when Patricia and Cora came in to retire. After a time Harriet dropped off to sleep. She was awakened by voices outside at the rear of the tent.
The light was out and the tent was in darkness. Harriet did not know what time it was, but hearing regular breathing she decided that of course the two girls must have come in and retired without having awakened her. But as Harriet listened she recognized the voices. They were outside the tent within a yard of her head at the moment.
"To 'The Pines'?" came the question in Patricia's voice.
"Yes," replied Cora. "Charlie Collier wants me to go with him. He says he will come for me in his car. They are going to have a perfectly lovely dance at 'The Pines.'"
"Have you spoken to Mrs. Livingston?"
"She wouldn't let me go. Of what use would it be to speak to her? I'm so angry I could howl."
"What a simpleton you are, Cora Kidder," chided Patricia. "If I had an invitation to that dance and wanted to go—really were crazy to go—I'd go!"
"Cut for it."
"You mean go without permission?"
"Of course. I'd do it just to defy her."
A brief period of silence followed. Then Cora spoke.
"If I thought I could do it and get back without discovery, I would," she said slowly.
"Of course you can get back. Tell Charlie Collier at what hour you must return and see that he starts back to camp in good season with you. Is he coming alone?"
"Oh, mercy no. His sister will come with him and return with us."
"When is the party!"
"The day after to-morrow night."
"How are you to let him know that you will go?"
"He is going to call here with his sister to-morrow."
"Good! Now don't be afraid. Tell him you'll go."
"I believe I will," replied Cora. By the way, Patricia, the soap trick worked all right, didn't it!"
"It certainly did," was the answer, and Patricia broke into a merry laugh, in which Cora did not appear to join so heartily.
Harriet heard no more. The two girls had gotten up and moved out of her hearing. But she was shocked beyond expression. The soap in the consomme was no longer a mystery. She had never believed that Patricia was quite so unscrupulous. Now she knew the worst. Harriet did not know what course to pursue, but after thinking it over she concluded that there was nothing for her to do. As to the proposed trip to "The Pines," surely were she to go to Cora and tell her what a wrong thing she was planning, Harriet would merely be snubbed. Besides, it was not at all certain that Cora Kidder would go.
She heard the two girls slip into the tent and knew from their light footfalls that they were wearing their slippers. Harriet knew, too, that they had been sitting outside clad in their wrappers, for they got into bed immediately. There were a few whispered words, which she failed to catch, then silence settled over the tent, broken occasionally by Tommy's unintelligible mutterings. Tommy was dreaming again—giving promise of having a mild form of nightmare later on.
A gust of wind set the tree-tops to rustling. All Nature stirred restlessly. The listening girl heard the disturbed chirpings of the birds in the trees. Following this came the patter of raindrops on the roof of the tent. A brilliant flash of lightning made the tent as light as day for the fraction of a second. Harriet could plainly see the faces of the three girls in their cots. They were asleep, or at least appeared to be sleeping, for their eyes were closed. Then came the distant rumble of thunder.
Though unafraid, Harriet shivered a little and snuggled down under the blankets. The rain now began to fall, at first mildly then increasing to a roar as heavy drops began beating on the canvas roof. The sound lulled her to sleep. She simply could not fight off the drowsiness that had taken possession of her, and unmindful of the storm outside, Harriet soon passed into peaceful slumber.
The storm grew heavier. The tents were illuminated almost incessantly by flashes of lightning. It was quite evident, however, that the camp was not in the heart of the electrical disturbance, although a veritable deluge of water was now falling upon it.
Nearly every girl in the camp lay wide awake with head buried in her pillow, shivering, momentarily expecting to be struck by lightning. Harriet was suddenly startled by a scream following a particularly vivid flash of lightning.
"Did some one call?" she asked.
"Oh, yeth, yeth," moaned Tommy. "It wath awful."
"There is nothing to fear," returned Harriet. "Lie down and cover your head if the lightning disturbs you. Are the other girls asleep?"
A flash answered the question for her. Patricia and Cora were sitting up in their beds, with blankets wrapped about them. Their faces were pale with fright.
"Don't be frightened, girls," Harriet called soothingly. "You can tell by listening that the worst of the storm has passed. It has gone to the north of us. The wind is blowing strongly from the south."
Cora gave her an appealing look that made Harriet feel sorry for the girl. Patricia never looked at her at all.
"It may rain all the rest of the night, but the dangerous part of the storm has passed," continued Harriet. "I'm glad of it myself. One doesn't feel any too secure in these flimsy tents in a heavy gale. But don't worry."
"Oh, thave me!" wailed Tommy, quickly pulling the blankets over her head as the tent was illuminated by a particularly brilliant flash of lightning.
The downpour became heavier. Next the tent began to leak. Harriet felt several large drops of rain strike in her face.
"I think I had better move," she said laughingly. "How is it with you, girls?"
"I'm soaked," answered Cora.
"Drag your cots into the middle of the tent. I think we shall find it drier there."
This suited Grace. She felt the need of closer companionship. Then followed the sound of cots being scraped along the floor. Harriet had reasoned correctly. The middle of the tent thus far had not begun to leak.
They crawled in under the blankets once more, but three of the Camp Girls were trembling and shivering with fear at the fury of the storm. Ten minutes later the tent sprang a leak directly over their heads. Very shortly after that the four cots and the bedding were thoroughly soaked by the merciless downpour.
Patricia, Cora and Tommy hurriedly crawled out of their water-soaked beds. Harriet decided that she would be as well off in her cot, so she lay still. She did suggest that one of the girls might try to light the lantern. Patricia fumbled about in the darkness for the matches, and finally found them, only to discover that they were so wet that they would not light.
Suddenly a new and terrifying sound was borne to the ears of the four girls.
Tommy screamed with fright. Cora uttered a terrified wail. Harriet and Patricia, however, were silent. At the first suggestion of the threatening sound Harriet had leaped from her cot. She stood with one hand slightly raised, her head bent forward ever so little, her eyes tightly closed, every nerve in her body centred on listening to the disturbing sound, seeking to discover its meaning. Then all at once it occurred to her what it was.
Harriet acted instantly.
"Down!" she cried sharply. "Under the cots! Quick! Do as I tell you! Tommy! Are you under?"
"Yeth. Oh, thave me!" came a muffled voice that seemed to be under the floor of the tent.
Patricia and Cora, recognizing that Harriet had some well defined plan in mind, obeyed her without the slightest hesitation. They threw themselves on the floor hastily crawling under the cots. Then Harriet Burrell made a sudden dive. She was standing several feet from her own bed. The dive sent her sliding underneath the nearest cot. Her progress was stopped by the body of one of her companions.
She had sought cover none too soon. The most terrific crashing that any of those girls ever had listened to, filled the air. Above the uproar was heard faintly the scream of a girl somewhere outside the tent. Then the blow fell, a mighty, crushing blow that seemed to set the universe all a tremble.
THE FALL OF A FOREST KING
"Thave me!" moaned the unhappy Tommy, but her voice was lost in the volume of sound that fairly overwhelmed the occupants of the tent.
Almost at the instant that the first alarm had reached her ears, Harriet Burrell recognized the nature of the sound. She had heard it before though in a lesser degree. A tree was falling. She remembered a tall aged pine that stood a short distance to the south of the tent. Between the tree and the tent was a fairly open space, that was filled principally with saplings and scrub undergrowth. Harriet in that moment understood, she thought, that the heavy downpour of rain had weakened the hold of the aged roots of the tree in the ground. The heavy wind blowing against the old pine had been too much for the weakened roots. The tree was falling with mighty crashings and reports that sounded like the explosions of firearms.
To run, Harriet believed might be attended with serious consequences to them, for the long limbs of the tree were penetrating the tent roof before she had fairly gotten her companions underneath the cots. The tent was swept down as Harriet was diving under the bed. She realized that if the full force of the trunk fell on the cots nothing could save the girls beneath them. Still, Harriet did not believe the tree could fall so flat as that. Its limbs, she thought, would support its trunk, keeping the latter from falling flat on the ground.
Her three companions screamed with terror. Harriet was silent. She was listening to the terrifying sounds, straining every nerve to the task, fully expecting to be blotted out of existence at any second. She felt the first result of the falling tent when a flood of water that had rained down on the tent floor splashed into her face and over her body. Everything seemed to cave in. Some of the larger limbs of the tree struck the floor of the tent so close to the cots that the girls under them were paralyzed with fear for a few awful seconds.
It seemed to them that the crashings and crunchings never would cease. But they finally did. The girls then realized that the air was close and that it was insufferably hot where they were.
"Is—is it all over?" gasped Cora.
"Yes, I hope so," answered Harriet in a matter of fact voice.
"Wha-at was it?" questioned Patricia in a smothered tone.
"The old pine tree fell. It was fortunate for us that we were in the centre of the tent, for the trunk of the tree is kept from us by the branches that are resting in the tent and on the ground at each side. But girls, we must get out of here. Is any one of you hurt?"
The girls replied in the negative. How to get free of the tent was a problem. The canvas roof was drawn taut over their haven of safety. The air in their strange prison was getting very close.
"Oh, let's get out of this awful place," moaned Cora.
"We must wait a little," answered Harriet. "You lie perfectly still. I will try to get some fresh air in here. Oh, I wish I had a knife," she added as her groping hands came in contact with the canvas over which she was searching for some little opening into which she could insert a finger and tear the canvas. A moment later Harriet uttered a glad little exclamation. She had found the opening that she was searching for. She ripped the canvas after great effort, for the cloth was tough. Then to her dismay she found a great fold of the canvas on the other side of the opening thus made. All her labor had been fruitless.
Harriet raised her voice in a shout for assistance. The cry was muffled and could not possibly have reached far. Their positions were growing more and more desperate. Harriet Burrell's three companions were so firmly held by the weight of the cots over them, that they were barely able to move. Harriet being near the edge of the heap had a little more freedom. Of this she was taking full advantage, wriggling desperately to enlarge the space about her, seeking here and there for an opening through which she might crawl in order to make a way for her companions, who were now crying hysterically. Patricia, however, was more calm than any of the others save Harriet herself.
All at once, the girl became conscious of a confused murmur of voices that seemed to come from some distance away. She shouted again and again. At last her calls were answered.
"Help is coming, girls," she cried in an encouraging voice. "Keep up your courage."
"H-a-r-r-i-e-t?" wailed a voice. "Are you there?"
Then she heard the voices of Hazel and Margery. The latter two were half crazed with fear for Harriet. The next time Jane cried out she was nearer to the imprisoned girls.
"Call to me, darlin', so that I may know where you are," she shouted.
"We are right in the middle of the heap under the tent," answered Harriet. "None of us is hurt. Is any one else hurt?"
"One girl was badly bruised. But oh, this is too bad. I'm coming. No, I can't get any closer. What shall I do?" wailed Jane.
"Get something to cut away this canvas as soon as you can get to it. We are smothering," returned Harriet.
"Jasper is going to cut the limbs of the tree away," answered Jane.
"No, no, no!" shouted Harriet. "He must not do that He will have the trunk down on us and then we shall all be crushed. Have him try to reach us by cutting away only the smaller branches of the tree, but don't let him cut off any of the larger limbs. Tell him to hurry for we shall soon smother in here. Watch him, Jane, to see that he doesn't do anything to increase our danger."
"I'll watch him, my darling" returned Jane. "Oh, what a mess! What a mess!"
Mrs. Livingston had caused the general alarm to be sounded, guardians being ordered to have every available lamp in the camp lighted and brought to the scene. Jane's, however, was the commanding force. Carrying a lantern she took the directing of the rescue into her own hands, ordering Jasper and the girls much as her father in other days had bossed gangs of men.
First of all the canvas of the tent was cut near to where the four girls lay. Then at Jane's suggestion the smaller branches of the tree were carefully cut away about them to give room for the work of assisting the four girls from their perilous position. By this time Jane and Harriet were exchanging humorous little remarks, keeping up a running fire of comment and trying to make light of their dangerous predicament. Cora and Tommy were trembling so that when they did speak, their words were scarcely intelligible to the girl who was coming to their rescue. Patricia, however, was silent.
"That's enough, Jasper," commanded Jane at last. "Now hold the lantern."
All at once there was an ominous creaking and snapping directly above where they lay.
"I'm being crushed!" screamed Cora.
Harriet had heard the sound. She knew the meaning of it, too. Some part of the tree was settling over the cots as the result of Jasper's efforts to reach the imprisoned girls. Harriet Burrell's mind worked rapidly. She turned as quickly as she was able until she lay at right angles to the cots and wholly beneath them with her head inward, her feet toward the spot where Jasper and Jane were working feverishly to reach the girls.
"I don't know that I can do it, but I can try," muttered Harriet. She was barely able to breathe. "Hurry!" she called. "We can't stand it much longer." The girl braced herself, arched her back and stiffened her muscles. To her joy, she found herself able to raise the cots a trifle. The weight that had last crushed them down, was not so great but that she could raise it, though when she desisted from her efforts the weight above, held her down firmly across the bodies of two of her companions.
"Here we are darlin's," came the welcome voice of Crazy Jane close at hand. "Hurry, now. This old house may tumble in again."
"Tell me when you are ready. Help Patricia out first. I'll lift the cots while you pull her out. All ready?"
Harriet threw all her strength into the task of raising the cots, underneath which she had burrowed. Patricia was quickly dragged out. The cots sagged under the weight that bore them down and Harriet Burrell sagged under the weight of both.
"Cora! Be quick!" she gasped.
"I—I can't move."
Harriet put forth a greater effort of strength. Cora Kidder was dragged out from under the cots gasping. Then came Tommy more dead than alive, uttering frightened little moans. Harriet suddenly collapsed under the weight she had been holding up, her three companions in the meantime being on their way to safety.
Jane heard the crackling of the limbs of the tree and the snap of a brace on a cot. Her frantic calls to Harriet were unanswered. Crazy Jane knew that Harriet Burrell was in mortal danger.
Jasper was still holding the lantern, just outside the danger line, so that Jane was now working in the dark. Making her way to the pile of cots she groped helplessly about, her hands at length coming in contact with Harriet's feet. Five seconds later Jane was bending all her energies to the work of raising the cot from the body of her friend. It was useless—Harriet was pinned down under the weight of the tree pressing upon the cot.
"Jasper, where are you?" cried Jane.
"I'm holding the lantern out here."
"Bring it nearer, you wooden Indian!" cried the girl indignantly.
Jasper obeyed with alacrity, holding the lantern as close to where Jane worked as was possible.
Jane made one more frantic effort to raise the cot, then finding it useless she clambered back to where Jasper stood peering anxiously at the fallen tent. Glancing hastily about, she instantly formed her plan for rescuing Harriet.
Seizing one of the side poles of the tent she ran one end of it under the cot; then bracing her shoulder against it, used it as a lever in the endeavor to pry the weight off her friend. The pole broke in the middle.
Nothing daunted, she placed the two broken ends of it together under the cot, and thus doubling their strength, she shouted excitedly to Jasper:
"Take hold, you owl-faced sleepy-head!"
Jasper did so, and with difficulty elevated the cot a few inches above the body of Harriet.
But that was enough! Like a flash Jane bent down and dragged Harriet from her perilous position and out into the open air.
Harriet lay on the wet ground gasping for breath. She was completely exhausted. Her hair was a tangled mass, her face was scratched and bloody, her wrapper was badly torn.
"Get away from here!" commanded Crazy Jane, turning on Jasper almost savagely, and Jasper lost no time in obeying her. "Are you much hurt, darlin'?" she begged grasping one of Harriet's hands in both her own.
"Oh! Wa—ait till I ge—t my breath," gasped Harriet.
"Take your time. Oh, I'm so glad. I thought I'd never get you out."
Harriet roused herself.
"Is Harriet all right?" cried the anxious voice of Hazel Holland.
"Yes, she is, but don't you bother her," warned Jane. "She's all in."
"I—I'll be all ri—ight Don't worry," gasped Harriet.
She struggled to a sitting posture. Then her head drooped forward. Her arms fell limply at her sides, and with a little moan Harriet toppled over, unconscious.
A DAY OF EXCITEMENT
"Get back!" commanded Crazy Jane, pushing a crowd of girls away. "Do you want to smother the poor child?"
"We must get her into one of the tents," declared Mrs. Livingston.
"Wait till she comes to," answered Jane, turning Harriet over on her back so that the rain, which was falling in a fine drizzle now, might beat on the face of the unconscious girl.
Now Harriet began to move her head from side to side to avoid the drizzle that was beating into her face. Soon her eyelids began to quiver. Her breathing became stronger. Mrs. Livingston was kneeling beside her, chafing the girl's hands and smoothing back the tangled hair from her white forehead.
"I think she should be carried in to one of the tents now," said the Chief Guardian.
"Sure," agreed Jane, gathering Harriet into her arms and staggering away. She shook her head vehemently as half a dozen girls sprang forward to help her with her burden.
Harriet struggled from the friendly arms of Jane.
"I—I can walk," she said weakly. Jane threw an arm about her waist and led her into the nearest tent, followed by Mrs. Livingston and more than twenty Camp Girls.
"You had better all go to your tents, dry yourselves and get into bed," advised the Chief Guardian. "We don't want any of our Camp Girls to become ill, you know. Miss Burrell will be all right now, I think."
The Camp Girls obeyed reluctantly, though Harriet's chums asked and received permission to remain with their fellow Meadow-Brook girl. Upon entering the tent Jane saw the tousled head of Patricia Scott above the blankets of another girl's col Patricia had crawled into the first cot she came to.
"Get up, young lady, and give Harriet a chance," ordered Jane.
Patricia merely stared, then her black eyes snapped. She made no move to rise. Crazy Jane did not repeat her order. Instead she strode up to the cot, grasped the edge of it and turned it over. Patricia went sprawling.
Harriet had sat down heavily on the floor of the tent as soon as her friend released her. Jane patted down the quilts and stepping over to her companion assisted her to the suddenly vacated cot.
"Get in, honey," smiled Jane.
Patricia had scrambled to her feet, her eyes snapping menacingly, her hands clenched so tightly as to show white ridges at the knuckles. Then she caught sight of the Chief Guardian about to enter the tent and brought up abruptly in her charge on Crazy Jane who had not deigned to look at Patricia after dumping her out of the cot.
"You may go to my quarters and lie down, Miss Scott," ordered Mrs. Livingston. "The rest of you may do the same when you feel equal to it."
Patricia flung herself out of the tent angrily. Cora remained a few moments, acting as though she wanted to say something. However, instead of doing so she finally followed Patricia and went through the rain to Mrs. Livingston's tent.
"Ith—ith Harriet better now?" questioned Tommy in a hesitating voice.
"Yes, dear, we hope so. She will be as well as ever by to-morrow morning. Miss McCarthy, do you know what she did to save those girls?"
"No, Mrs. Livingston, I don't know. She saved them all right. That's as much as I care to know. Has any one a wrapper? Harriet is soaking wet."
Hazel and Margery immediately began rummaging in the tent. They failed to find a kimono or dressing gown, because the girls who occupied the tent were wearing their own. Mrs. Livingston thereat, removed Harriet's torn, dressing gown, wrapping her in dry blankets, Harriet protesting all the time that she was not in need of all these attentions. One of the regular occupants of the tent was sent to another tent where she slept on the floor for the rest of the night. She had offered no objection to giving up her bed, nor would she have done so had she found Patricia there, as Patricia Scott well knew. Jane declared that she would not leave Harriet.
In the meantime, Miss Partridge, who now was Mrs. Livingston's Chief Assistant, was making hot tea for the girls who had been caught under the falling tree. Mrs. Livingston remained with Harriet for a little time, leaving soon after Miss Partridge came in with the tea. Shortly after that she might have been seen, enveloped in a hooded raincoat tramping about the camp with Jasper, examining the trees to learn if there was further danger from any of them. Having satisfied herself on this point and making a final round of the tents to see that her girls were all comfortably settled for the night, Mrs. Livingston returned to her own tent.
Morning dawned bright and beautiful after the storm. It was not until then that the Camp Girls realized what a narrow escape Harriet Burrell and the three other girls had had. There was nothing to be seen of the tent save here and there a white patch of canvas observable under the mass of limbs and foliage. Jasper was at work stoically chopping away, both for the sake of clearing up the mess and providing some excellent wood for the campfire. After dinner enough of the wreckage was cleared away so that the girls were able to catch a glimpse of the four cots drawn up close together, though they were now crushed down and lay in confusion on the floor of the tent.
Harriet had gotten up shortly after the usual hour. Her eyes were bright, but her face showed the effect of the trial through which she had passed. It still bore scratches. The girl was so lame that every step she took gave her pain and her back was so stiff that she stooped considerably when walking. Mrs. Livingston had tried to get the story of Harriet's saving of their lives from the three girls. Patricia and Cora were uncommunicative. Tommy had no very clear idea of what had occurred, except that she "wath thmothered almotht to death." But Mrs. Livingston was not to be put off so easily. She found an opportunity to speak with Harriet early in the afternoon. The first question she asked was why the cots had been placed in the middle of the tent floor.
Harriet smiled as she told the Guardian that they had been dragged there so that their occupants might escape the rain.
"What followed?" urged Mrs. Livingston.
"Everything happened. It seemed as if we were being slowly crushed to death. Then Jane and Jasper came to the rescue."
"How did you get such a lame back?" asked the Chief Guardian suddenly.
"I think it was trying to lift the cots," answered Harriet, then she blushed. "I mean when the cots——"
"I understand," smiled the Guardian. "You held up the cots so that your companions might not be crushed."
"I had to do so," admitted Harriet. "But it was no more than I should have done. You see the branches suddenly began pressing down on the cots pinning the girls underneath them. I knew they never could get out if the whole weight of the tree once settled down on them. Jane was near at hand. I knew she would reach us in a very few moments. It was nothing, Mrs. Livingston. I didn't wish to speak of it. Please don't say anything to the girls about it unless you wish to embarrass me," added Harriet, laughing. "I have been more conspicuous already than I like. You see they have not forgotten the soapy soup."
"Nor have I," answered the guardian with a quick compression of her lips. "That affair is being investigated, though I have now little hope of fixing upon the guilty person. Perhaps this interruption may bring out something however. That makes two mysteries for us to clear up. First the hazing, then the incident of the consomme. There are one or more guilty girls in this camp who must be found and dismissed. I am determined upon that. Now about your sleeping quarters."
"Oh, yes, I was going to speak with you about that."
"The only tent we have is a small A tent with room enough for two persons. Do you think you can get along with that, allowing one other girl to share the tent with you, say for instance, Miss Kidder?"
"Oh, yes. But I rather thought I should like to sleep out of doors for a few nights. May I?"
"If you think you are well enough. I would suggest that you place your bed near the tent that we shall erect this afternoon, then if you wish to go inside you will not have far to go. Why do you wish to sleep out of doors?"
"I thought I should like to try for the 'honor' for sleeping out doors for five consecutive nights."
"Oh, yes. That reminds me. You have some 'honors' coming to you as it is. At dinner this evening I shall have something to say that undoubtedly will please you. But we have a visitor. I must leave you."
The visitor was none other than Charlie Collier. He was alone and was shaking hands with Cora when Harriet first caught sight of him. Harriet Burrell's face assumed a thoughtful expression as she looked the young man over. She had no particular fault to find with his appearance, but the conversation she had overheard between Cora and Patricia outside the tent, instantly recurred to Harriet. Mr. Collier was undoubtedly there to get his answer regarding Cora's accompanying him to the dance at "The Pines."
"Oh, I hope she doesn't do anything so foolish," thought Harriet.
The guest was soon chatting with Mrs. Livingston, then after having paid his respects to her, he walked with Cora, greeting the other girls to whom he had been introduced on his previous visit. He glanced at Harriet and she was positive that he asked some question of his companion concerning her, for Cora turned quickly toward Harriet, then seeing she was observed, shifted her glance.
"I wish she would introduce me. I know I could very easily spoil her little plan," thought Harriet. However, she was not asked to meet Mr. Collier. Very shortly afterwards, he bade the girls good-bye, saying that he must be getting on as he was to have an active part in the preparations for the dance at "The Pines" that evening. More than one girl in camp wished that she might be numbered among those who were going to dance at "The Pines."
Jane came running up to Harriet saying that Mrs. Livingston had said Jasper was to fix whatever sort of a bed Harriet wished. Jane suggested that they bring a cot out from one of the tents, and build a roof over it.
"That isn't the kind of bed I am going to sleep on," answered Harriet, glancing up brightly. "Did you ever see a woodsman's bed?"
"Gracious, no!" exclaimed Crazy Jane. "What sort of a freak is it?"
"There comes Jasper. I will tell him what I want. He doesn't look particularly happy, does he!"
Harriet told Jasper to cut two six-inch tree trunks and fetch them to the site of the new tent. He brought some that had already been cut for a Council Fire. Harriet directed him to place them on a level piece of ground, parallel to each other and about four feet apart.
"Now bring me all the pine boughs you can get. I shall need a lot of them," said Harriet brightly.
Jane herself carried a great many of these boughs to the spot. Harriet broke them off to a length to suit her, after which she began sticking the boughs in the soft earth, tops uppermost. Armful after armful was disposed of in this manner until a fragrant green mound had been built up. On top of this when she could find no more room to stick the sharp ends of the boughs, the girl laid other boughs, being careful not to leave any sharp ends projecting.
"Now, Jasper, if you will bring me my mattress, we will try the bed," she said after completing and surveying her work critically.
Jasper did as she requested, for Harriet's lame back would not permit of her lifting anything of weight. The mattress was placed on top of the heap. Harriet pointed to it, nodding brightly to Crazy Jane.
"Try it, dear," she said.
By this time quite a crowd of girls had gathered about Harriet to watch the making of the bed, never having seen anything of the kind before. Jane very cautiously placed herself on the new bed. To her amazement it did not break down with her. Instead she seemed to be lying on fragrant air. Jane uttered a little cry of delight.
"How do you like it?" chuckled Harriet.
"Oh, girls this is simply great. I could just die on this bed."
"Please don't. I want to sleep on it to-night," answered Harriet laughingly. "I didn't make it for you to pass your last moments on. I made it to sleep on and I propose to have a real sleep there this very night."
However, as a matter of fact, Harriet Burrell was not destined to enjoy her night's rest on the bed of pine boughs.
On the contrary she was destined to pass a most miserable night, in this her first sleep in the open.
SLUMBERS RUDELY DISTURBED
"Miss Burrell, are you going to sleep outside to-night?" It was the first time Patricia Scott had addressed Harriet in some days.
"Yes, if the weather remains clear," returned Harriet.
"I should like to occupy the other cot in your tent. I wish to be near my friend."
It will be remembered that since the night of the storm, Harriet had been sleeping in a small A tent, in which there were but two cots—one of them occupied by Cora.
"You may occupy it as long as you wish, Miss Scott," replied Harriet cordially. "I shall be out here for five nights at least and perhaps longer unless a storm should come up. If it does storm I'll run in and bunk on the floor."
"Thank you." Patricia turned away with a gleam of satisfaction in her eyes that Harriet Burrell did not see. Harriet remained a few moments to finish making her bed so that she need not return to her bunk until the hour for "lights out" had arrived. Patricia had gone to the cook tent before Harriet started for there. Harriet thrust her head into her tent to see if Cora were there. She saw the girl lying on the cot wearing a kimono.
"Aren't you coming to dinner?" inquired Harriet.
"No, I don't feel very well, thank you," answered Cora Kidder indifferently.
"Shall I bring you something to eat!"
"No, thank you. You are very kind."
Harriet noted that the girl's cheeks were flushed and her eyes very bright and her first thought was that Cora had a fever. At the dinner table Patricia reported that Cora was not feeling well and that she would not be in to dinner. Mrs. Livingston thoughtfully inquired whether the young woman wished a tray of food carried to her tent.
"I offered to take her something, but she said she did not care for anything to eat," spoke up Harriet.
Patricia shot a peculiar look at her, but Harriet chanced to be looking toward Mrs. Livingston at the moment.
Immediately after dinner Mrs. Livingston hurried over to Cora's tent to see if the girl needed attention. Cora said she was not ill, but just a little nervous after the excitement through which she had passed.
"Then get a good rest, my dear," urged Mrs. Livingston. "You may take late sleep leave to-morrow morning if you wish. Miss Scott may bring you a tray. You need not get out of bed."
Cora, muttered some unintelligible word of thanks to the Chief Guardian who immediately left the tent to attend to other duties. Instead of making the announcement that she had promised for the dinner hour, Mrs. Livingston later in the evening visited the campfire about which the greater part of the camp had assembled and there she told the girls what she had to say. It was in reference to what had occurred on the previous evening.
"I take pleasure, young ladies," she said, "in informing you that for heroic conduct in the face of great peril, Miss Harriet Burrell has been awarded five honors. She will add five more beads to her string to-morrow."
"How much doeth thhe get for the thoup?" interjected Tommy, which sent the girls into screams of merriment.
Mrs. Livingston smiled tolerantly.
"And our new Camp Girl, Miss Jane McCarthy for distinguished services, which also undoubtedly saved four girls from serious even if not fatal results, also will increase her string of beads by five."
"What, five wooden beads all in a bunch!" demanded Jane.
"Hurrah! I'd rather have them than a rope of pearls and I'm just daffy over those things. I've got a string of them at home that would make your head whirl, Mrs. Livingston. Come over to Meadow-Brook and I'll show them to you."
"Miss McCarthy, try to choose your words more carefully. Slang also should be avoided."
"Slang? Why I cut out slang two years ago," exclaimed the girl, earnestly.
It was not long afterwards that the girls began moving toward their sleeping quarters. Jane accompanied Harriet with a hand resting gently on her shoulder, both girls pausing at the entrance to the tent, the interior of which was in darkness. Patricia already was in bed, an early hour for her to retire, Harriet thought. Cora appeared to be sleeping, too, though there was no sound of breathing from her cot.
Harriet undressed, keeping very quiet so as not to awaken the sleepers, then putting on her wrapper and her slippers ran out to her bed of pine boughs and tucked herself in.
"Oh, this is heavenly!" breathed Harriet.
The Meadow-Brook girl did not know when she went to sleep. Slumber stole over her unawares. Her sudden awakening however was both startling and abrupt.
Without moving, Harriet lay still, though a thrill had run through her. She knew the reason for that thrill. A distinct growl had brought her wide-awake.
"Mercy! What is it?" she breathed, looking from side to side without making a movement that would cause the slightest sound.
A faint scratching noise to the right of her attracted her attention in that direction. The shadows were deep on that side. Harriet at first was able to make out nothing there, but she knew something was at work close by and believed it to be some sort of an animal. Most girls would have screamed under similar conditions. Harriet Burrell did not. She lay perfectly still listening, with every faculty on the alert.
The scratching stopped instantly she had moved a little to get a better view of the spot where she had heard the noise. Now came heavy breathing.
"What can it be?" whispered the girl. "I—I wish I had my shoes on—no I don't, I shouldn't ran if I had. But I'll see if I can Blip my slippers on in case I do have to run," she decided wisely.
The first movement toward putting on the slippers, which lay on the cot within easy reach of her hand, caused a commotion in the shadows. There was a sudden movement, a half growl, then silence.
Harriet lay absolutely motionless. Her breathing was scarcely perceptible. Some animal lurched out of the shadows and for a moment stood with ears pricked up. It was almost between the girl and the campfire.
"Oh, pshaw! It's a big dog," she said aloud. She did not stop to consider that it would be rather unusual to find a dog prowling about their camp so far from all human habitation. Her words, however, appeared to have a most startling effect on the "dog." The animal suddenly gathered itself into a ball and leaped swiftly away, halting not more than twenty feet from where Harriet Burrell lay. Then she saw that which sent a fresh thrill through her.
The animal was now standing squarely between herself and the campfire, giving the girl a clear outline view of it. She saw with wide-open eyes that it was not a dog.
"A bear!" she gasped.
Harriet uttered a shrill scream that was heard all over the camp. It was not exactly a cry of fear. Rather was it intended to arouse the camp. The scream served the purpose. It aroused the camp. Likewise did it arouse Mr. Bruin. The bear started away at first at a swift amble which had increased to a gallop by the time Harriet had drawn on her slippers and leaped from the cot.
Without thought of fear the girl ran stumbling along after the galloping beast. Guardians and girls were rushing from the tents on all sides, crying out to know what had happened. They saw Harriet running, before they caught sight of the strange beast that was making such strenuous efforts to get away. When they did catch sight of Mr. Bruin as he dashed past the fire, there was a chorus of shrieks that not only awakened Jasper whose tent was some distance further to the north than the last tent of the row occupied by the girls, but brought him out without his boots on. Jasper was no coward. He was more afraid of the Camp Girls than of any animal that inhabited the Pocono Woods. Armed with an axe Jasper, his whiskers standing out almost at right angles to his body, charged on the camp. He had no idea what had occurred, but he knew it must be something very serious to cause the frightful uproar that now came from all sides.
Harriet continued right on. The bear, seeing the girls ahead of him, and being frightened by their screams, turned tail and took the back trail. By that time Harriet had reached the fire. She snatched up a burning brand. She was upon the bear before it realized its peril. Harriet seeing it so close to her thought the bear was chasing her. She struck out with the burning fagot with all the force of a muscular arm. The burning stick hit the bear on the nose.
A frightful howl of pain followed. Harriet leaped back amazed at her own courage. Perhaps some of it was impulse. She decided next day that it must have been that. Then a new sound reached her ears.
"Oh, mercy on us! Trouble, trouble!" yelled Crazy Jane. With one rung from a broken chair that Jane had picked up and tucked under her cot for emergencies, she came charging down the street just in time to see Harriet give Mr. Bruin the rap on the nose. It was then she uttered the exclamation that Harriet heard.
Jane was rushing toward the bear from the rear, while Harriet was also attacking it from the rear, while Jasper stood some distance from the nearest girl, which in this case was Crazy Jane. Guardians were crying out to Harriet and Jane to run. They did run, toward the intruder, rather than away from the beast. Bruin became confused. He was a young bear. An older or more wary animal might not have ventured into the camp where it knew there were human beings as this bear's scent surely must have told it. Perhaps it scented something good to eat. It was in a panic at the present moment and went into a worse one after a rap from the hard wood chair rung in the hands of Crazy Jane McCarthy. Jane was doing a great deal of shouting, too. The two girls continued to chase the beast around the campfire. Jasper was bearing down on them, having discovered where the trouble lay.
"Run, you kids! It's a b'ar!" he yelled. "No, hold him till I git thar."
"Yes, we'll hold him," flung back Jane.
Just at this moment Harriet struck the bear's hip with the torch. There was a sizzle of hair. Uttering a terrifying growl of fright Bruin suddenly straightened out and took the direct trail for the stream.
"Hold him! I told ye to hold him!" roared Jasper.
"Oh, listen to the man!" gasped Jane.
Jasper seeing that the beast was going to cross the stream, ran on an oblique line hoping to head the animal off. In his excitement he hurled his axe through the air, the tool falling short of its mark by several yards.
Harriet Burrell was still on the trail, her slippers left behind her, her bare feet scarcely touching the ground.
"Look out for the creek!" shouted Jasper.
Harriet in her excitement did not heed what he was saying. The bear, after a brief hesitation on the bank before jumping, landed in the creek with a splash. Then a few seconds later there came a second splash. Harriet uttered a little cry of alarm as she felt herself going into the creek and cried out again when the cold water enveloped her.
By this time the bear was scrambling up the opposite bank. A few seconds later he was leaping into the depths of the forest, his back humped, looking in the half light like a great round black ball.
Jane hearing the splashes knew instantly what had occurred to both the bear and Harriet. She also knew that she was going to land in the creek, too. With quick presence of mind Crazy Jane threw herself on her back and went slipping and sliding into the stream feet first. She landed with a splash, and sat down heavily on the bottom of the stream.
HARRIET'S GRAVE MISTAKE
"Is that you, Jane?" cried Harriet, splashing toward the spot where the third splash had been heard.
Jane gazed about her in comical dismay.
"Oh, what a mess! A frisky gasoline buggy never stirred up so much trouble for a poor girl. Where is he?" she asked.
"Lost in the woods," answered Harriet, laughing as she swam toward her companion. "Get out of the water."
"I'm going to. Is it over my head?"
"I guess not unless you lie down flat in it. Oh, Jasper! Please lend a hand to Miss McCarthy. The bank is steep."
"Girls! are you crazy!" It was the voice of the Chief Guardian that greeted the two as they emerged from the water.
"No, Mrs. Livingston, but the bear is," chuckled Jane.
"That b'ar never'll show up around these parts again," averred Jasper.
"Come to my quarters, girls," commanded Miss Partridge, suddenly discovering that both girls were wet and shivering. After dry wrappers had been furnished them, they returned to their own tents, Harriet to resume her outdoor nap which had been interrupted by the visiting bear. Harriet first entered her tent to get another blanket. She struck a match to assist her in finding it Patricia lay in bed wide awake. She was regarding Harriet angrily.
"Hasn't Miss Kidder come in yet?" asked Harriet, observing that Cora's cot was unoccupied.
"You don't see her, do you?"
"Then she hasn't."
"Thank you," answered Harriet sweetly, blowing out the light and going out. She was smiling an amused smile at the snappiness of Patricia Scott. She puzzled a little over the fact that Cora had not yet come in. However, the camp had been so upset that many of the girls were still talking in their darkened tents, unable to go to sleep. It was possible that Cora might still be visiting somewhere on the grounds. Harriet did at that moment recall the conversation that she had recently overheard between Patricia and Cora. She was exhausted after her bear hunt and dropped off to sleep quickly after getting into bed.
In the morning Harriet ran into the tent to wash and dress. Patricia yawned, then turned over without opening her eyes. Harriet glanced quickly at Cora Kidder's cot. The clothes had been tumbled about and the pillow patted down, but Harriet saw instantly that the bed had not been slept in that night. Then all at once a thought came to Harriet. Cora had gone to the dance at "The Pines" with Mr. Collier. She had not returned, though it was now broad daylight. The thought made Harriet Burrell gasp. If the Chief Guardian were to know of this, the girl would be dismissed in disgrace for flagrant disobedience of camp regulations. A great wave of pity for the lawless girl welled up in Harriet's heart. It made her very unhappy. The young Meadow-Brook girl went about her dressing almost without realizing what she was doing. She walked to the cook tent in much the same frame of mind. Her companions noted her abstraction and commented upon it. They joked with her about her midnight chase after a bear. Harriet scarcely smiled, though she tried to hide her unhappiness that morning.
"Where is Miss Kidder?" asked Miss Partridge as they were seating themselves at the table.
"She was not feeling quite well last evening," explained the Chief Guardian. "She did not come in to dinner. I told her to take a late sleep this morning. How is Miss Kidder feeling this morning, Miss Burrell?"
"I—I don't know," stammered Harriet.
"She is not coming in to breakfast, then?"
"I—I be—lieve not."
Harriet's heart was thumping wildly. It seemed to her that a great gulf yawned before her and that she was about to plunge into it. Mrs. Livingston was speaking again. Her voice sounded far away to Harriet.
"Will you take a breakfast tray to her when you return to your tent, Miss Burrell?" asked the Chief Guardian.
"I will take it to the tent, Mrs. Livingston," faltered Harriet.
"If Miss Kidder is not feeling well this morning, kindly come and tell me. I will see her myself."
"Very well," hastily answered the girl.
Glancing up she saw Miss Partridge's gaze fixed inquiringly upon her. A sudden revulsion of feeling swept over Harriet. She realized what she had done. She wanted to scream out that she had deceived them. A look of terror leaped into her eyes. Miss Partridge saw the expression, as did Miss Elting from the other end of the table. It was quite evident that none of the guardians knew that Patricia Scott had slept in Harriet's tent that night. Harriet glancing quickly at Patricia saw that she was sitting with eyes fixed on her plate calmly eating her breakfast. There was a half smile on the lips of Patricia. For the moment Harriet was filled with anger. Anger again gave place to horror over her deception.
Miss Partridge was still looking at Harriet with a pained expression in her eyes.
"Oh, she suspects me," thought Harriet. "What shall I do?"
After breakfast the girl summoned all her will to her aid, waited calmly until the tray for Cora had been prepared, then with trembling hands carried it to her tent. Just before reaching her quarters Harriet saw a slim figure clad in a raincoat with head completely enveloped by a hood dart into the tent. And when Harriet stepped inside, there was Cora tucked under the quilts apparently asleep.
"Oh!" Harriet gave a little cry of amazement. She wondered for the moment if she had been dreaming, if Cora had not been there all the time. Harriet then recalled that a moment before she had seen some one entering her quarters from the rear of the tent. A bit of sleeve observable at the edge of the blanket told her that Cora was fully dressed, not in her uniform but in a blue evening gown that Harriet had seen among Miss Kidder's personal effects.
"Why did you wake me up?" demanded Cora petulantly, opening her eyes.
"I beg your pardon," answered Harriet coldly. "Here is a tray that Mrs. Livingston asked me to take to you."
"Put it on the chair. I wish you would go out and leave me. I don't feel like talking. If any girl comes here ask her to stay out of the tent for the next half hour. I'm going to get up and dress soon."
Harriet set the tray down and walked from the tent. Her heart was heavy on account of the deception she had practised. Her pride had been wounded, too. Did Cora Kidder think her so stupid as not to know what had been going on? Then the next thought was one of remorse that she had deceived Miss Partridge and Mrs. Livingston.
"My offense is as great as theirs," accused Harriet.
At that juncture her attention was attracted to a girl running toward her. It was Crazy Jane. Harriet walked away from the tent. Jane came up with her a few yards further on.
"Harriet, what is the matter?" she demanded, bending a keen glance into the face of Harriet Burrell.
"Oh, Jane. I'm so unhappy," replied Harriet sadly.
"Tell me all about it darling" begged Jane soothingly, linking an arm within that of her companion, leading her farther into the woods.
"Oh, yes, I will tell you. I must tell you. I am bursting, I shall go mad if I do not tell some one. But Jane, you must keep secret what I tell you. You must promise me that."
"If it's your secret, I'll promise. If it isn't, I won't promise."
Harriet regarded her companion steadily for a moment.
"I must tell you," she whispered. Then, haltingly, at first, Harriet told Jane that Cora Kidder had slipped away in the night and gone to the dance at "The Pines." There could be no doubt of it. Jane learned from Harriet of the conversation that she had overheard, was reminded of the visit of Mr. Collier the day before and was made acquainted with Cora's return to the tent while the Camp Girls were at their breakfast, a time when one might be certain of finding the camp clear of prying eyes.
Jane's face wore a serious expression.
"You say his sister went with them?"
"That was the plan. But, oh, Jane, I am suspected of treachery. I know Miss Partridge and Miss Elting suspected that I was deceiving them this morning. I didn't mean to, but I just couldn't see Cora disgraced and sent home. Don't you see what it would have meant to her?"
Jane regarded her thoughtfully.
"Cora doesn't like you, Harriet. She and Patricia are your enemies, but I don't know why. I have wondered if those two girls didn't have something to do with that soup affair. Do you know that Cora came into the cook tent from the front just as you sat down that night?"
"Yes, I know she did. She helped to haze me that night too. And—and—oh, Jane, don't betray her, but I overheard Cora and Patricia talking the other night. Words were dropped that left no doubt in my mind that Cora had done that awful thing."
"Spoiling the soup?"
"The miserable sneak!" exploded Jane. "Let me tell her!" Jane sprang up. Her face was flushed, her eyes snapping.
"Oh, no, no, no! She isn't to blame. It is Patricia, who is so vengeful, and Cora is so weak. She has been influenced by the other girl. Oh, you mustn't, you mustn't say a word to her! Promise me that you will not."
"I'd like to tell her what I think of her," breathed Jane in a low, tense voice, shaking a clenched first "Oh, wouldn't I like to."
"You must keep out of it. I must suffer for my deception. Oh, Jane, I can't stay here after this. I never shall be able to look any of them in the face after this. Go away now and let me think."
Jane left her companion abruptly. On her way back toward the campfire she saw Miss Partridge hurrying to Cora's tent. The Assistant Chief Guardian remained inside but a few moments after which she was seen returning, walking with less haste. Harriet stole into the forest that she might be alone.
Miss Partridge, satisfied that all was well with Cora was puzzling her mind as to what had so disturbed Harriet, when Jane seeing her return, acted upon a sudden impulse and hurried to Cora Kidder's tent. She paused in the doorway. Cora was in her wrapper, looking as if she had just gotten up.
"Well, what do you want?" she demanded, turning on Jane.
"I want to talk with you."
"Please go away and let me alone."
"Where were you last night?" Jane flung the question at her without warning. Cora flushed to the roots of her hair. Jane saw that her hands trembled too.
"Is there no such thing as privacy in this camp?" flared Cora.
"Yes, for those who are entitled to it."
Cora drew herself up, enraged past all endurance.
"Steady there! Steady! I know where you were last night. I know you went to 'The Pines' with that Collier chap. Oh, I know all about it, and what's more, you went with him alone."
"I didn't. His sister was with us. She came back with us, and——"
Crazy Jane threw back her head and laughed softly.
"Thanks, darlin'," she chuckled. "Confession is good for a guilty soul."
"Oh!" gasped Cora Kidder, realizing that she had confessed, that Jane had trapped her into the confession. Then she burst forth angrily.
"It's that hateful Harriet Burrell! I might have known it. She has been spying on me all the time. I hate her! I hate her! Oh, how I hate her! I could claw her eyes out, and——"
"Softly, my darlin', softly!"
"I don't care. I'm going anyway. I'll have Jasper take me to the train to-day. I don't want to stay here with such sneaks following me and spying on everything I do. You're no better than the rest. I suppose she's told Mrs. Livingston, I suppose every girl in the camp knows about it by this time. I haven't done anything of which I'm ashamed."
"Oh, yes, you have," interjected Jane quickly. "Harriet has not told the Chief. Cora Kidder, sit down there and listen to me; listen to the story of the finest bit of loyalty that any girl ever heard."
"I won't! Get out of my tent!"
"Sit down there. Harriet Burrell has not told any one."
"She told you; you know she did!"
"I had to drag it out of her. Then she tried to make me promise I wouldn't tell the Chief Guardian."
"And you will? You'll give me away?"
"You have given yourself away, Cora. Now that I've had it from your own lips I am free to tell whom I please. But I think you are going to tell Mrs. Livingston yourself."
"Never!" with a stamp of the foot.
"Listen! Harriet Burrell deceived them this morning. When they asked her about you she led them to believe that you were sleeping. She was trying to protect you. She did wrong. I shouldn't have done it if you had been as mean to me as you have to her. Oh, my stars! what a girl!"
Cora Kidder opened her eyes. She regarded Crazy Jane wonderingly.
"She knew all the time that you were planning to go to the dance, but she never said a word to any one, though it most broke her precious heart to think you would do such a thing. Last night when she came in here after we had chased the bear, she found you gone. Patricia was mean to her when she asked about you. This morning when she came in to dress, you weren't here. She saw that your bed hadn't been slept in. Then she knew. She was very unhappy. When they asked her about you this morning at breakfast Harriet avoided the questions and gave Mrs. Livingston indirect answers. She even brought a tray to you to keep up the deception. Now do you realize what that means to a girl like Harriet? The moment she gave a second thought to what she had done she was horrified. There isn't a more unhappy girl in the world than Harriet Burrell at this minute."
"Oh!" exclaimed Cora weakly.
"That isn't all. She knows more about you than this, even if this weren't enough."
"What does she know?" demanded Miss Kidder with a violent start, the color leaving her face suddenly.
"She knows you and Patricia were in that hazing affair. Then she knew something worse than that. She knows that you were the one who spoiled the consomme and lost the 'honor' bead for her."
Cora sat down heavily on the edge of the cot. Her eyes were wide with terror.
"Yes. And I shouldn't be surprised if she knew more. She isn't the girl to tell all she knows. Now, what are you going to do about it, Cora Kidder?"
"Oh, I don't know," moaned the unhappy girl, burying her face in the pillows, her shoulders rising and falling with her smothered sobs.
Jane watched her in silence. There was an expression of compassion in the eyes of Crazy Jane. Finally she rose and stepped softly to the cot. Cora was aroused by a gentle touch on her shoulder.
"Dearie!" murmured Crazy Jane soothingly.
"Oh, what shall I do! What shall I do?" moaned Cora.
"Go straight to Mrs. Livingston and tell her everything. Do not spare yourself, nor Patricia, for she is the one who is to blame. She has been using you to avenge what she thinks are her own private wrongs. Tell it all, and set right that noble girl who has protected you, and who has gotten herself into an awful mess in doing so. Cora will you do it?"
"I can't, I can't," moaned Cora.
"Then I will do it myself," warned Jane, withdrawing her hand sharply.
"No, no, no! Don't! I'll do it. I'll go. I'll tell her everything. I don't care what she does to me. I just can't stand this! Oh, I never thought there were such people in the world! I'll go to Mrs. Livingston to-night, and——"
"Not to-night. Go, now, Cora. You can't tell what might happen between this and to-night."
"Yes, I'll go," was the faint reply. A veil seemed to fall from before the eyes of Cora Kidder. She saw herself as she had never done before, saw her own unworthiness, saw how she had been led to commit acts that were foreign to her real nature. She wondered how she ever could have been so blind. Cora rose and hurriedly began doing up her hair. Jane gave the girl an encouraging pat on the shoulder and slipped from the tent without another word.
"What a mess, oh what a fine mess," muttered Crazy Jane, swinging into a long stride as she started for the other end of the camp.
"Miss Burrell, can you come to my tent?" asked Mrs. Livingston as Harriet was seen slowly returning to camp.
"Oh, yes, Mrs. Livingston, I want to come. I must speak with you." There was an agony of appeal in her voice. "I deceived you. You must know that I did," she burst out after they had reached the Chief Guardian's quarters.
"Sit down, my dear. I know something is wrong. I felt sure you would come to me and tell me all about it. Now calm yourself, and tell me why you are so unhappy."
Harriet did so, explaining as clearly as she could that she had deceived the Chief Guardian that morning in leading her to believe that Cora was in her tent when she was not there at all. Little by little Mrs. Livingston drew from the penitent Harriet her reasons for having led them to believe that Cora was in her tent taking a morning rest after the indisposition of the previous evening. But when the Guardian asked where Cora had been, Harriet begged so piteously to be excused from answering that Mrs. Livingston did not press the question further.
"I will speak with Miss Kidder," she said. "But, my dear, what do you think I should do in your case? You have done very wrong."
"Do with me, Mrs. Livingston. Why—why, there is only one thing to do—send me away! I am not worthy of your consideration. Oh, to think that I could do such a thing."
"My poor, dear girl!" said the Guardian tenderly. "You have done wrong, very wrong, but that wrong is tempered with a nobility of soul that is rare, indeed. I suspect more than you think. I have suspected from little things that have developed in my investigation that Miss Kidder and Miss Scott might explain something of the mysterious happenings here that I have no need to mention. I have believed all along that you at least suspected. Am I right, Harriet?"
"Two nights ago I learned something that set me to thinking," answered Harriet weakly. "Oh, you are so good to me! But I couldn't tell you. I just couldn't," moaned Harriet.
"I understand, my dear. I forgive you for your shortcomings. Sometimes one is ennobled by being tried by fire. I shall take this matter up immediately and act promptly."
Harriet left the Chief Guardian's headquarters with a full heart. It was all she could do to keep the tears back So engrossed was she with her own thoughts that she did not observe Cora Bidder at the entrance to the tent. Cora tried to slip in without being seen by any one, but there were too many keen eyes in Camp Wau-Wau to miss anything that promised excitement They saw Harriet too, saw that she was unhappy. Crazy Jane smiled as she noted Cora's entrance to the Chief Guardian's tent.
Cora Kidder remained closeted with Mrs. Livingston for more than an hour. She was weeping when she emerged. Instead of going to her tent she hurried out into the forest, in order to be away from the prying eyes and the questioning of her companions. They saw Patricia summoned to the Guardian's tent, then shortly afterwards they were amazed to see Jasper carrying Miss Scott's belongings up the path that led to the log road. Patricia, with lowered head and downcast eyes, was following a short distance behind him. What could it all mean? There was no answer to their eager questioning. Hazel, Margery and Tommy were searching anxiously for Harriet. They found her just as she was returning to her tent.
"Oh, what is it? What is it?" begged Margery.
"I can't tell you, dears," answered Harriet.
"I have been unhappy, but now I am so happy and so sad. Don't ask me, please don't."
They did not press her further, but they clung closely to her, walking beside her, Tommy clinging to a hand on one side, Margery and Hazel on the other as the four Meadow-Brook Girls walked slowly toward the cook tent. An oppressive silence hovered over the ordinarily merry party as they seated themselves at the tables. Cora sat pale and motionless. Patricia's place was vacant. No sooner had grace been said than Cora rose.
"May I speak, Mrs. Livingston?"
"Yes, my dear."
"Girls," began Cora. "I have a confession to make. I have been a despicable creature." Her voice faltered. For a few seconds she threatened to break down entirely, "I have proven myself unfit to associate with good girls like yourselves. I might never have known what a miserable contemptible girl I was had it not been for one girl who by her beautiful spirit of forgiveness showed me to myself in my true light. It was I who hazed Miss Burrell and Miss Thompson, or who was one of the leaders in that hazing; it was I who spoiled the soup and tucked the soap into the cooking kit of Miss Burrell. Then worse than all I deceived Mrs. Livingston by going to 'The Pines' to the dance last night with Mr. Collier and his sister One girl knew I had gone. She had every reason to hate me as I thought I hated her. But she did not speak. Instead, she protected me. She got herself into difficulties in trying to do so. I might never have known what she had done for me, for she was too noble to speak of it to me, had not Jane McCarthy come to me and told me the whole miserable truth. It was then that I saw my real self for the first time in my life. I went to Mrs. Livingston and told her all. Another girl was sent from the camp, sent home disgraced. I was told that I might stay. I don't know why, for I also deserve to be sent away. I now wish you girls to say whether or not I shall go. If, after Mrs. Livingston has told you all that I cannot tell, you think I ought to go, as I feel I should, I will do so, knowing that you are right."
Mrs. Livingston rapped sharply on the table.
"Miss Kidder wishes an expression from her companions," she said in the matter of fact tone of a presiding officer. "Any who believe that she should be dismissed, will please rise."
Not a girl moved, scarcely a breath was heard.
"All in favor of her remaining will please rise."
Every girl in the room sprang to her feet. Mrs. Livingston smiled, a smile of happy satisfaction. Cora Kidder stood pale and trembling. She stepped forward until she was facing Harriet Burrell, whose face was as pale as her own.
"Ha-arriet! Can you forgive me?"
"I—I think I forgave you long ago, Cora, for I knew that it was not yourself. I, too, was at fault. I think my fault was the greater of the two," answered Harriet steadily, sweeping the tense faces of her companions in a slow glance. "Shall we agree to let 'bygones be bygones' and be friends."
A moment later the two girls' hands met in a firm clasp.
"Come, girls!" admonished the voice of the Chief Guardian. "Our dinner is getting cold."
A new era in Camp Wau-Wau dated from that moment. The following days were the happiest that the Chief Guardian and the Camp Girls remembered to have passed in camp. The Meadow-Brook Girls were not the only ones to profit by their experiences there, and they will be heard from again in the next volume entitled: "THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS ACROSS COUNTRY; Or, The Exciting Tramp of the Young Pathfinders." It is a splendid narrative of the doings and the adventures of these wide-awake girls.
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The Motor Boat Club Series
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