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   Chapter 16 CAMP FIRE GIRLS AND THE FLAG

The Three Midshipmen By William Henry Giles Kingston Characters: 11135

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


Miss Laura's girls had been at the camp a few days when Sadie Page one morning raced breathlessly up to a group of them, crying out, "There's a big white yacht coming-I saw it from the Lookout. Do you s'pose it's Judge Haven's?"

"Won't it be splendid if it is-if it's bringing Miss Laura and Olga!" Frances Chapin cried. "Could you see the name, Sadie?"

"No, it was too far off."

"Let's borrow Miss Anne's glass," cried two or three voices, and Frances ran off in search of Anne Wentworth. When she returned with the glass, they all rushed over to the Lookout. The yacht was just dropping anchor as they turned the glass upon it and Frances cried out,

"O, it is-it is! I can read the name easily. Here, look!" she surrendered the glass to Elsie.

"It is the Sea Gull," Elsie confirmed her, "and they are lowering a boat already."

"O, tell us if Miss Laura gets into it, and Olga," cried Lizette.

"Two men-sailors, I suppose, two girls, and two boys," Elsie announced.

"Then it's Miss Laura and Olga and Jim and Jo Barton," Frances cried joyfully.

A favorite rendezvous at the camp

"Let's hurry down to the landing to meet them," Mary Hastings proposed, and instantly the whole group turned and raced back to camp to leave the glass, with the joyous announcement, "Miss Laura's coming, and Olga. We're going to the landing to meet them." And waiting for no response they sped through the pines to the landing-steps, Elsie snatching up a flag as she passed her own tent.

"Let's all go," one of the other girls cried, but Miss Anne said,

"No, let Miss Laura's girls have the first greeting-they all love her so! But we might go to the Lookout and wave her a welcome from there."

"What shall we wave?" some one asked, and another cried, "O, towels, handkerchiefs-anything. But hurry!" and they did, reaching the Lookout breathless and laughing, to see the yacht resting like a great bird on the blue water, and the small boat already nearing the point.

"Get your breath, girls, then-the wohelo cheer," said Miss Anne.

Two score young voices followed her lead, and as they chanted, the white banners fluttered in the breeze. Instantly there came a response from the boat in fluttering handkerchiefs and waving caps, while the girls below on the landing echoed back the wohelo greeting.

But when the boat rounded the point the voices of those on the landing wavered into silence. They were too glad to sing as they saw Laura and Olga coming back to them-they could only wait in silence. Lizette's lips were quivering nervously and Elizabeth's blue eyes were full of happy tears. Even Sadie for once was silent, but she waved her handkerchief frantically to the two boys who were gaily swinging their caps. When the boat reached the landing, however, and the girls crowded about Laura and Olga, tongues were loosened, and everybody talked.

"How well Olga looks!" Mary cried.

"Doesn't she? I'm so proud of her for gaining so fast!" Laura laughed.

"I couldn't help gaining with all she has done for me," Olga said with a grateful glance.

"And you've come to stay? Do say you have, Miss Laura," the girls begged.

"Of course, we're going to stay-we've been homesick for the camp," Laura answered.

"That's splendid. We've missed you so!" they cried.

"The camp's fine. I'm having the time of my life!" Sadie declared, and added, "Elizabeth, you haven't said one word."

"She doesn't need to," Olga put in quickly, her hand on Elizabeth's shoulder.

They were climbing the steps now, and at the camp they were greeted with another song of welcome from the Guardians and the rest of the girls, and then Laura put Olga into the most comfortable hammock to rest and, leaving Elizabeth beside her, carried the others off for a talk.

That night the supper was a festival. The girls had gathered masses of purple asters with which they had filled every available dish to decorate the tables, the mantelpiece, and even the tents where the newcomers were to sleep. Miss Anne had brought to camp a big box of tiny tapers, and these stuck in yellow apples made a glow of light along the tables.

Nobody appreciated all this more than Jim. With his hands in his pockets he stood looking about admiringly, and finally expressed his opinion thus: "Gee, but it's pretty! Camp Fire Girls beat the Scouts some ways, if they ain't so patriotic."

Instantly there was an outburst of reproach and denial from Miss Laura's girls.

"O, come, Jim, that's not fair!"

"We're just as patriotic as the Scouts!"

"Boy Scouts can't hold a candle to Camp Fire Girls any way!"

"We'll put you out if you go back on Camp Fire Girls, Jim."

Jim, flushed and a little bewildered at the storm he had raised, instinctively sidled towards Laura, while Jo, close behind him, chuckled, "Started a hornets' nest that time, ol' feller."

Laura, her arm about the boy's shoulders, quickly interposed. "We'll let Jim explain another time. I know he thinks Camp Fire Girls are the nicest girls there are, don't you, Jim?"

"Sure!" Jim assented hastily, and peace was restored-for the time.

But the girls did not forget nor allow Jim to. The next night after supper they swooped down on him.

"Now tell us, Jim," Lena Barton began, "why you think Boy Scoots are more patriotic than we are."

"'Tisn't Boy Scoots-you know it isn't," Jim countered, flushing.

"O, excuse me." Lena bowed politely. "I only had one letter wrong, and, anyhow, they do scoot, don't they? Well, Boy Scouts then, if you like that better."

"They

love the flag better'n you do-lots better!" Jim declared with conviction.

"Prove it! Prove it!" cried half a dozen voices.

"Er-er--" Jim choked and stammered, searching desperately for words. "You've got an awful nice Camp Fire room at Miss Laura's, but you haven't even a little teeny flag in it, and Scouts always have a flag in their rooms-don't they, Jo?" he ended in triumph.

"You bet they do!" Jo stoutly supported his friend.

"Ho! That doesn't prove anything. Besides, we'll have a flag when we go back," Lena asserted promptly.

"Well, anyhow, girls an' women can't fight for the flag, so of course, they can't be so patriotic," Jim declared.

"Can't, eh? How about the women that go to nurse the wounded men?" said Mary.

"And the women that send their husbands and sons to fight?" added Elsie.

"And how about--" began another girl, but Laura's hand falling lightly on her lips, cut short the question, and then Laura dropped down on the grass pulling Jim down beside her. Holding his hand in both hers, and softly patting it, she said, "Sit down, girls, and we'll talk this matter over. Jim's hardly big enough or old enough to face you all at once. But, honestly, don't you think there is some truth in what he says? As Camp Fire Girls, do we think as much about patriotism as the Scouts do? Elsie, you have a Scout brother, what do you think about it?"

Elsie laughed but flushed a little too as she answered, "I hate to admit it, but I don't think we do."

"Time we did then. We can't have any Boy Scouts getting ahead of us," Lena declared emphatically.

Jim, gathering courage from Miss Laura's championship, looked up with a mischievous smile. "Bet you can't tell about the stars and stripes in the flag," he said.

"Can you? How many can?" Miss Laura looked about the group. "Elsie, Frances-and Mary-I see you can, and nobody else is sure. How does it happen?" There was a twinkle now in her eyes. "Is there any special reason for you three being better posted than the others?"

The three girls exchanged smiling glances, and Elsie admitted reluctantly, "I think there is-a Boy Scout reason-isn't there, Mary?" and as Mary Hastings nodded, Elsie went on, "You know my brother Jack is the most loyal of Scouts, and before he was old enough to be one, he had learned all the things that a boy has to know to join-and to describe the flag is one of those things. He discovered one day that I didn't know how many stars there are on it and how they are arranged, and he was so dreadfully distressed and mortified at my ignorance that I had to take a flag lesson from him on the spot-and it was a thorough one."

"Uh huh!" Jim triumphed under his breath, but the girls heard and there was a shout of laughter. Over the boy's head Laura's laughing eyes swept the group.

"Jim," she said, "will you ask Miss Anne to lend us her flag for a few minutes?"

"Won't ours do? Jo'n' I've got one," Jim cried instantly, and as Miss Laura nodded, he scampered off.

"I think Jim has won, girls," she said, and then the laughter dying out of her eyes, added gravely, "Really I quite agree with him. I think we-I mean our own Camp Fire-have not given as much thought to patriotism as we ought. There have been so many things for us to talk about and work for! But we'll learn the flag to-day, and when we go home, it may be well for us to arrange a sort of 'course' in patriotism for the coming year. Of all girls in America, those who live in Washington ought to be the most interested in their own country. We will all be more patriotic-better Americans-a year from now."

Jim came running back with a small silk flag. He held it up proudly for the inspection of the girls, and it was safe to say that they would all remember that brief object lesson. It was Lena whose eyes lingered longest on the boy's eager face as he looked at the flag.

"He does-he really loves it," she said wonderingly to Elsie standing beside her. "He's right. We girls don't care for it that way-honest we don't."

"Maybe not just for the flag," Elsie admitted, "but we care just as much as boys do for our country. Don't you think we do, Miss Laura?"

"I'm not sure, Elsie. You see many boys look forward to a soldier's life, and most of them feel that they may some time have to fight for their flag-their country-and so perhaps they think more about it than girls do. And patriotism is made prominent among the Scouts."

"They always salute the flag wherever they see it," Mary said.

"Must keep 'em busy in Washington," Lena observed.

"It does. Jim is forever saluting it when he is out with me," Laura replied, "but he never seems to tire of it, and I like to see him do it."

"The girls salute it in the schools-you know we have Flag Day every year," Frances added.

"Yes, and it is a good thing. There is no danger of any of us caring too much for our country or the flag that represents it. When I catch sight of our flag in a foreign land I always want to kiss it."

"Can't we have one in our Camp Fire room when we go back?" Lena asked.

"We surely will. I'm really quite ashamed of myself for not having one long ago. We owe something-do we not?-to a going-to-be Boy Scout for reminding us?" Laura said.

They admitted that they did. "But, anyhow," Frances Chapin added, "even if they do think more about the flag, I won't admit that Scouts love their country any more than we Camp Fire Girls do. We are quite as patriotic as any Boy Scouts."

"And that's right!" Lena flung out as the group separated.

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