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   Chapter 1 A NEW WINNEBAGO.

The Camp Fire Girls in the Maine Woods; Or, The Winnebagos Go Camping By Hildegard G. Frey Characters: 13575

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Sahwah the Sunfish sat on top of the diving tower squinting through Nakwisi's spy-glass at the distant horizon.

"Sister Anne, sister Anne," called Migwan from the rocks below, "do you see any one coming?"

Sahwah lowered her glass and shook her head. "No sign of the Bluebird yet," she answered. "If Gladys doesn't come pretty soon I shall die of impatience. Oh, what do you suppose she'll be like, anyway?"

"Beautiful beyond compare," answered Migwan promptly, "and skilled in every art we ever thought or dreamed of. She is going to be my affinity, I feel it in my bones."

Sahwah looked rather pensive. "Nobody in her right mind would choose me for an affinity," she said with a sigh, squinting sidewise down her nose and mentally counting the freckles thereon, "I'm not interesting enough looking."

"Goosie," said Migwan, laughing, "affinities aren't chosen, they just happen. You see somebody for the first time and you don't know a thing about her, perhaps not even her name, and yet something tells you that you two belong together. That's an affinity."

"But how can you tell in advance that you and Gladys are going to be affinities?" asked Sahwah. "How do you know that when she sees me waving the sheet from the tower she won't say to herself, 'The energetic maiden on yon lofty tower is my one and only love. I can only see one bloomer leg and a hank of hair, but that is enough to recognize my soul mate by. Come to my arms, Finny!'"

Migwan laughed at the picture, and replied mysteriously, "Oh, I have a way of telling things beforehand. I can read them in the stars!"

Sahwah sniffed and resumed her watch, holding the sheet in readiness to wave the instant the little steamer should appear around Blueberry Island. The minutes passed without a sign of the Bluebird, and Sahwah grew tired of looking at nothing. She ceased staring fixedly at the distant gap between Blueberry Island and the mainland, and pointed the glass around at the objects near her; at Migwan washing middies in the lake, her soap tied to the dock to keep it from floating away; at the toothbrushes strewn over the rocks like bones bleaching in the sun; at the smooth strip of shining sand; aiming her glass idly now here, now there, her feet swinging in the air eighteen feet above the water, her long brown hair flying in the wind.

High up on the cliff Hinpoha stood nailing the railing around the Crow's Nest, a tiny tree-house just big enough for two, built in the branches of a tall pine tree. She finished her pounding and stood looking out over the gleaming lake, dotted with rocky, pine-covered islands, shading her eyes with her hand. Her gaze strayed again and again to the narrow gap between Blueberry Island and the mainland, and now and then she heaved an impatient sigh. "Oh, please, dear Bluebird," she said aloud, "please hurry up!" By and by her eyes rested upon Sahwah, silhouetted against the sky on top of the diving tower. Picking up a big dry pine cone from the floor of the Crow's Nest, she took careful aim and sent it sailing downward in a swift, curving flight. The prickly missile hit Sahwah squarely in the back of the neck. She started violently and threw up her arms, while the spyglass fell into the water with a loud splash. Hinpoha laughed a ringing laugh when she beheld the effect of her handiwork. Sahwah turned around and saw Hinpoha perched in the Crow's Nest, nearly doubled up with laughter, and she too laughed, and then, shaking her fist amiably in Hinpoha's direction, she prepared to dive from the tower, bloomers and all, in search of the spy-glass.

As she stood there poised on the end of the springboard her ears caught the sound of a swinging boating song, borne on the breeze across the water:

"Across the silver'd lake

The moonlit ripples break,

Their path a magic highway seems:

We'll send our good canoe

Along that highway, too,

And follow where the moonlight gleams."

Around the cliff which jutted out just beyond the camp there appeared two canoes, containing four more of the Winnebagos, making all speed ahead, the girls singing in time to the dipping of their paddles. Sahwah curved her hands around her mouth and set forth a long, yodling hail, which was answered in kind by the paddlers. Then the four girls in the boats, speaking all together as with one voice, called to Sahwah, "J-U-D-G-E T-H-E F-I-N-I-S-H! W-E-'-R-E R-A-C-I-N-G!"

Sahwah waved her arm as a signal that she understood, and then stood motionless, her eyes fixed on the shadow of the springboard on the water, watching to see which canoe would cross it first. In a few moments the slender green craft bearing Nyoda and Medmangi shot into view beneath her, the two paddlers shouting triumphantly. Scarcely a canoe-length behind came the other pair. Choosing the instant when the second canoe was directly beneath her, Sahwah jumped from the springboard and landed neatly in the bow, upsetting the craft and dumping the girls into the lake. The other girls in the first canoe, just ahead, turned to see what was happening, and in their laughter over the upset forgot to hold their own boat steady, and presently there was a second spill. Sahwah came up choking with laughter, and was immediately ducked under again by Nakwisi and Chapa, the two she had dropped in upon. The water flew in all directions, and Migwan fled over the rocks to avoid being drenched. Medmangi and Nyoda also came up thirsting for vengeance, but Sahwah escaped by swimming under water around the dock and clambering out on the rocks. She made an impish grimace at Migwan, who was standing on the rock where she came up. Migwan leaned over and put a streak of soap on her face, Sahwah promptly caught Migwan by the feet and pulled her off the rock into the water. Struggling, they both went under and came up choking and giggling. Hinpoha, from her airy perch in the tree, cheered the combatants on. "Good work, Migwan, hang on to the rock! That's the stuff, Sahwah, pull her off!"

Meanwhile, the four racers, at Nyoda's suggestion, had towed their canoes out some distance from the dock and were trying to right them and climb in. This was easier said than done, for as fast as they splashed the water out on one side it ran in at the other. Nyoda and Medmangi were trying to get all the water out of theirs before getting in themselves, while Nakwisi and Chapa had theirs half empty and had managed to get in and were splashing the water out from both sides at once. Sahwah and Migwan stopped ducking each other to watch the righting process. Nakwisi and Chapa had just triumphantly paddled up to the canoe dock, and Nyoda and Medmangi were just about ready to start, when Hinpoha shouted that the Bluebird was coming. The girls looked up to find

the little steamer hardly a hundred yards from the dock. "Sahwah," cried Nyoda, hastily coming up on the dock, "where is the sheet you were going to wave from the tower when the Bluebird came in sight?"

"It's up on top," said Sahwah, running for the ladder. An instant later she was frantically waving the sheet from the top of the tower. There was no time for the girls to get dry clothes on before the boat stopped beside the dock. They lined up all dripping, except Hinpoha, to greet, the newcomer, and looked on expectantly when a young girl of about sixteen stepped ashore. Nyoda advanced and held out her hand.

"Welcome to Camp Winnebago," she said cordially. "Girls, this is Gladys Evans, our new member, whose father has made it possible for us to camp here this summer. Winnebago Maidens, stand forth and tell your names! You begin, 'Poha."

"I am Hinpoha," said the girl addressed, an extremely fat girl with an amazing quantity of bright red hair that curled below her waist, "it means 'Curly Haired."'

"I am Sahwah the Sunfish," said a slim brown-haired maiden with dancing eyes. "I chose the Sun part because I like sunshine and the Fish part because I like to swim. I am very virtuous and a pattern of propriety." The girls shouted with laughter.

"My name is Migwan," said the next girl. "It means 'Quill Pen,' and stands for my ambition to write stories and things." She was a thoughtful-looking girl with a beautiful high forehead and large dreamy eyes.

So all the girls introduced themselves, Chapa the Chipmunk, Medmangi the Medicine Man Girl, and Nakwisi the Star Maiden. "And this," they cried in unison, encircling one of their number with affectionate arms, "is Nyoda, the best Guardian that ever lived!"

"How do you do, Miss Kent?" said Gladys, in a high, artificially sweet voice, staring amazedly at her wet clothes and then around at the dishevelled group. She was a very fair girl, rather tall, but slender and pale and delicate looking. "Stuck up," was Sahwah's mental estimate.

"How do you do, girls?" she continued, edging, back a little, as if she were afraid they might also enfold her in a wet embrace, "would you mind telling me your names?"

"We told you our names," said Sahwah.

"I mean your real names," answered Gladys, "you don't expect me to remember all those Camp Fire names, do you?"

"Oh, you'll learn them soon enough," said Nyoda, "we left our old names behind us when we came to camp." Silence fell on the group, and each girl was acutely conscious of her wet clothes. Sahwah looked to see Migwan and Gladys fall into each other's arms, but nothing happened. Nyoda was busy checking over the supplies brought by the boat. The silence became awkward.

"Look, there's an eagle," shrieked Hinpoha suddenly, pointing to a large winged bird that was circling slowly above the lake.

"Quick, where's my glass?" said Nakwisi.

"Wait a minute, I'll get it for you," said Sahwah, and quick as a flash she dove off the end of the dock, coming up with the spy-glass in her hand. Gladys's eyes nearly popped out of her head as Sahwah cast herself headlong into the water.

"Awfully sorry, 'Wisi, I dropped it in off the tower," said Sahwah, tendering her the glass, "will getting it wet hurt it any?" Nakwisi screwed her beloved glass back and forth and wiped the lenses and finally reported it unharmed.

"Sahwah, Sahwah," said Nyoda, shaking her head, "you will never learn to be careful of other people's things?"

Sahwah flushed. "I didn't mean to be careless with it, it just slipped out of my hand."

Here Hinpoha spoke up. "It's all my fault, Nyoda," she explained.

"I hit her with a pine cone and made her drop it."

Nyoda could do nothing but laugh at the good-natured sparring that was continually going on between those two. "Come on, girls," she called, "and get dry clothes on. Whoever gets dressed first may go to the village with me this afternoon."

The girls scurried up the steep path like squirrels and Nyoda followed more slowly with Gladys, whose city shoes made it hard for her to climb. As they went up she explained how she happened to be so wet, describing in detail the upsetting of the canoes. Gladys's eyes opened wide at the tale of Sahwah's pranks. "How dreadful," she said with a shudder, and Nyoda sighed inwardly, for she realized that she had a problem on her hands.

Gladys Evans was not a regular member of the Winnebago Camp Fire. She did not attend the public high school where the other girls went, but went to a private girls' school in the East. Early in the spring, Mr. Evans, with whom Miss Kent was slightly acquainted, came to her and offered her group the use of his camping grounds on Loon Lake in Maine for the summer if they would take Gladys in and teach her to do the things they did. He had become interested in the Winnebago group through a picture of them in the newspaper, and thought it would be a fine thing for Gladys. He and Mrs. Evans were going on an all-summer trip through Canada with a party of friends, and wanted to put Gladys where she would have a good time. He added in confidence that Gladys had been in the company of grown-ups so much that she felt altogether too grown up herself, and he wished her to romp a whole summer in bloomers and forget about styles.

Miss Kent gladly accepted the charge. Aside from her willingness to help Gladys, the offer of a camping ground for the summer was irresistible. All winter the girls had been trying to find a place to camp for at least a few weeks the next summer, and had given a play to raise the money. They had not thought of going so far away as Maine, but now that they could have the camp without paying for it they could use the money for railroad fares. Such a shout went up from the Winnebagos when Miss Kent broke the news that passersby paused to listen. They sang a dozen different cheers to Gladys and her father; then they cheered for the lake and the camp and the good time they were going to have until they were too hoarse to speak. Gladys was then away at school and was to be in New York City with her parents until the first of July, so Miss Kent and her girls came up the last week in June to open camp. Gladys had never seen the place until that day, for her father had just bought it the previous winter. That she did not want to come was evident to Miss Kent. She was overdressed and rather supercilious looking, and was not strong enough to really enjoy the rough and tumble life of the camp. Miss Kent realized that some adjusting would be necessary before Gladys would be transformed into a genuine Winnebago. "But we'll do it, never fear," she thought brightly, with the unquenchable optimism that had won for her the name of "Face Toward the Mountain."

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