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   Chapter 2 THE COUNCIL FIRE.

The Camp Fire Girls in the Maine Woods; Or, The Winnebagos Go Camping By Hildegard G. Frey Characters: 26556

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Supper, which was eaten on the big rock overhanging the lake, was made short work of, for tonight was to be held the first Council Fire.

"What's going to happen?" asked Gladys of Nyoda, watching the girls scrambling out of their bloomers and middies and into brown khaki dresses trimmed with leather fringe.

"Ceremonial Meeting," answered Nyoda, slipping on a pair of beaded moccasins.

"What's that?" asked Gladys.

"You'll see," said Nyoda. "Follow the girls when I call them."

Nyoda slipped out of her tent and disappeared into the woods. In a few minutes a clear call rang out through the stillness: "Wohelo, Wohelo, come ye all Wohelo." The girls stepped forward in a single file, their arms folded in front of them, singing as they went, "Wohelo, Wohelo, come we all Wohelo." Gladys followed at the tail of the procession.

Nyoda stood in the center of a circular space about twenty feet across among the trees, completely surrounded by high pines. In the middle the fire was laid. The girls took their places in the circle, and Gladys, now arrayed in bloomers and middy, with her hair down in two braids and a leather band around her forehead, sat under a tree and looked on. Not being a Camp Fire Girl she could not sit in the Council Circle. Nyoda made fire with the bow and drill, and when the leaping flames lit up the circle of faces the girls sprang to their feet and sang, "Burn, fire, burn," and then, "Mystic Fire," with its dramatic gestures. Gladys, sitting in the shadows, looked on curiously at the fantastically clad figures passing back and forth around the fire singing,

"Ghost-dance round the mystic ring,

Faces in the starlight glow,

Maids of Wohelo.

Praises to Wokanda sing,

While the music soft and low

Rubbing sticks grind slow.

Dusky forest now darker grown,

Broods in silence o'er its own,

Till the wee spark to a flame has blown,

And living fire leaps up to greet

The song of Wohelo."

As they chanted the words the girls acted out with gestures the dancing ghosts, the brooding forest, the rubbing sticks and the leaping fire. So they proceeded through the strange measures, ending up in a close circle around the fire, all making the hand sign of fire together. Gladys began to be stirred with a desire to sit in the circle.

When the girls were again seated in their original places and the roll called, Nyoda rose and read the rules of camp. No one was to leave the camp without telling at least one person where she was going, or the general direction in which she was going, and the length of time she expected to be gone. No candy was to be bought in the village. No one was to go in swimming except at the regular swimming time. Every one pointed a finger at Sahwah when this was read, for she had been going into the lake at least a dozen times a day. No one could go in swimming whose belongings were not in order at tent inspection time. A groan went around the circle at this.

Nyoda dwelt with particular emphasis on the rules governing the canoes. No one could go out in a canoe who had not taken the swimming test. No one could go out in a canoe unless Sahwah, Hinpoha or herself were along. Disobedience to these rules would mean having to stay out of the canoes altogether. She explained to the girls the importance of implicit obedience to the one in charge of a boat, regardless of personal feeling, and how the captain of a vessel had absolute authority over those on board. She spoke of the necessity of coolheadedness and courage on the part of the girl in charge, and ability to control her temper. She said she knew Sahwah and Hinpoha were well able to have charge of a canoe and she would never feel uneasy to have the other girls go out with them. Hinpoha and Sahwah flushed with pleasure and mentally resolved to die rather than prove unworthy of her trust. Gladys gave a little start when the canoe rules were read. She could not swim. She had been looking forward to going out in a canoe very shortly.

The rest of the rules dealt with the day's schedule, which was as follows:

Rising bugle at seven.

Morning dip.


Song hour.

Tent inspection.

Craft work.

Folk dancing.


Lesson in camp cookery.


Rest hour.

Nature study.

Two hours spent in any way preferred.


Evening open for any kind of stunt.

First bugle, 8:30.

Lights out, 9:00.

Ceremonial meeting would be held every week on Monday night, because the girls had so many opportunities to win honors now that a whole month would be too long to wait.

After the announcements Nyoda awarded the honors. Medmangi had taken the swimming test, Nakwisi and Chapa had righted an overturned canoe, Sahwah had built a reflecting oven and baked biscuits in it. All the girls had won some kind of an honor. Gladys listened wonderingly to the account of the things they had accomplished-things she did not have the faintest notion of how to do.

Then came the elevating of Migwan to the rank of Fire Maker. Proudly she exhibited her fourteen purple beads, indicating the fulfilment of the fourteen requirements. Nyoda asked her questions on the things she had learned, and asked her to explain to the girls how much better she had gotten along since she started to keep an itemized account book. Migwan blushed and hung her head, for figures were an abomination to her and keeping accounts a fearful task. If it had not been for her ambition to be a Fire Maker she would never have attempted it at all, but once having learned how she realized their value, and heroically resolved to keep accurate accounts right along. When it came to the subject of bandaging she had to give demonstrations of triangular and roller bandaging, with Hinpoha as the subject. Then in a clear, earnest voice she dedicated her "strength, her ambition, her heart's desire, her joy and her sorrow" to the keeping up of the flame of love for her fellow creatures. Satisfied that Migwan was a worthy candidate, Nyoda slipped the silver bracelet on her arm and proclaimed her a Fire Maker. Migwan blushed fiery red and hung her head modestly.

"Speech, speech!" shouted the girls. "Give us a poem, Migwan."

Migwan thought a moment and then recited dramatically:

"I am a Fire Maker!

I have completed

The Fourteen Requirements!

I have repeated

The Fire Maker's Desire!

Now I may light

The great Council Fire!

Now I may kindle

The Wohelo Candles!

Long months have I labored

Gathering firewood,

That I might kindle

The Fire of Wohelo!

My arm is encircled

With a silver bracelet,

The outward symbol

Of the Fire I have kindled;

And those who behold it

Shall say to each other,

'Lo, she has labored,

She has given service,

She has pursued knowledge,

She has been trustworthy,

Fulfilled the requirements,

She is a Fire Maker!'

That symbol is sacred,

A charm against evil,

Evil thoughts and dark passions,

Against envy and hatred!

One step am I nearer

The goal of my ambition,

To be a Torch Bearer

Is now my desire!

To carry aloft

The threefold flame,

The symbol of Work,

Of Health and of Love,

The flaming, enveloping

Symbol of Love

Triumphant; where might fails

I conquer by Love!

Where I have been led

I now will lead others,

Undimmed will I pass on

The light I have kindled;

The flame in my hand

Shall mount higher and higher,

To be a Torch Bearer

Is now my desire!"

A round of applause followed. Next the "Count" was called for. This had also been written by Migwan. In rippling Hiawatha meter it told how the Winnebagos had journeyed

"From their homes in distant Cleveland

To Loon Lake's inviting waters-"

how they pitched the tents and made the beds, how they named the tents Alpha and Omega, how eagerly they awaited Gladys's coming, how Sahwah was placed on the tower to wave at her,

"And the telescope descending,

Fell kersplash into the water,"

and all the rest of the doings up to the beginning of Council Fire.

Nyoda then rose and said that as the Camp Fire was a singing movement she wished the girls to write as many songs as possible, and to encourage this had worked out a system of local honors for songs which could be sung by the Winnebagos. Any girl writing the words of a song which was adopted for use would receive a leather W cut in the form of wings to represent "winged words" or poetry; the honor for composing the music for a song would be a winged note cut from leather, and the honor for writing both words and music would be a combination of the two. These were to be known as the "Olowan" honors, because "Olowan" was the Winnebago word for song, and were quite independent of the National song honors, because a great many songs which could not be adopted by the National organization would be admirable for use in the local group on account of their aptness.

Just before they sang the Goodnight Song, Nyoda drew Gladys into the group and officially invited her to become a Winnebago at the next Council Fire. Gladys accepted the invitation and the girls sang a ringing cheer to her because her coming made it possible for them to have the camp.

To close the Ceremonial Meeting the girls sang "Mammy Moon," ending up by lying in a circle around the fire, their heads pillowed on one another. The fire was burning very low now and great shadows from the woods lay across the open space. Nyoda stole silently to the edge of the clearing and the girls rose and filed past her, softly singing "Now our Camp Fire's burning low." Nyoda held each girl's hand in a warm clasp for a moment as she passed before her and the girls clung to her lovingly. The forest was so big and dark, and they were so far from home, and Nyoda was so strong and tender!

"Wasn't it wonderful?" whispered Migwan to Sahwah, as they picked their way back to the tents in the darkness.

"Wasn't it, though!" answered Sahwah, flashing her little bug light on the path before her.

Gladys's bed was in the Omega tent with Sahwah, Hinpoha and Migwan. One end faced the lake and the stars peeked in with friendly twinkles, while the moon flooded the place with silver light. The three girls were out of their Ceremonial costumes and into their nightgowns in no time, while Gladys fussed around nervously.

"Aren't we going to have the lantern lit?" she asked.

"What for?" said Sahwah. "The moon makes it as bright as day."

Gladys took off her middy. "Where are we going to hang our clothes?" she asked next.

"Throw them across the foot of your bed," answered Hinpoha, "or lay them on the stool, or up on the swinging shelf, or hang them on the floor, the way Sahwah does." At this Sahwah sat up in bed and threw her pillow at Hinpoha. Hinpoha sent it back and Sahwah threw it the second time. Instead of hitting Hinpoha, however, it landed in the basin of water in which Gladys was trying to wash herself, knocking it off the stand and out of the tent door. Gladys gave an exclamation of impatience. Sahwah hastened to apologize. "I'm awfully sorry, Gladys. But you saw how it was. I was trying to hit 'Poha and hit you by mistake." Here the pent-up laughter of the three girls broke forth, and they shouted in unison. Gladys did not laugh. "I'll get you some more water," said Sahwah, getting out of bed. The pail was empty, so Sahwah went all the way down to the lake for water. On the way back she rescued the pillow, which was soaking wet, and stood it up against the tent pole to dry.

Just then came a loud hail from the other tent. "Goodnight,

Omegas!" "Good night, Alphas," they answered, "sleep tight!"

Again came the fourfold voice out of Alpha, "Goodnight, Gladys!"

Gladys was finally ready for bed. "You aren't going to leave the sides of the tent rolled up all night, are you?" she asked in a horrified tone.

"We surely are," said Sahwah, "we always do."

"What if it rains?"

"Plenty of time then to put them down."

Gladys stood irresolute beside the bed. "We'll put your side down, if you prefer it," said Migwan good-naturedly, "but it's really pleasanter with it up. It seemed rather airy to me at first, but now I wouldn't have it down for anything."

"Don't trouble yourself," said Gladys.

"Sure, I'll put it down," said Migwan, making a motion to rise, but just then the second bugle rang out and she subsided.

Gladys got into bed and pulled the blankets over her head. It was the first time she had ever slept out of doors. She felt very small and lonesome and neglected. She had not wanted to come to this camp the least bit. Other summers she had always gone to Atlantic City or some other crowded, lively summer resort with her parents, where she had received considerable attention from young men, just like the older girls with whom she associated. Here, banished to the silent woods, she saw the summer stretch out endlessly before her, intolerably dull and uninteresting. She loved fluffy clothes and despised the bloomers and middies which the girls wore. She loved dainty table service and hated to cook. Up here she would be expected to help with the meals, and all there was to cook on was an open fire and a

gasoline stove! What could her father have been thinking of to want her to join such a club! These girls were not in her own class; they went to public school, they were rough and horrid and threw each other into the water!

Gladys could not go to sleep. She tossed restlessly, thinking rebellious thoughts, and shuddering at the night noises in the woods. The lapping of the water on the rocks below had a lonesome sound. She had not yet learned to hear its soft crooning lullaby. The wind rustled in the pine trees with a ghostly, mysterious sound. From somewhere in the woods came a mournful cry that sent the chills up and down her spine. It was only a whippoorwill, but Gladys did not know a whippoorwill from a bluebird. Then the frogs in a distant pool began their concert. "Blub!" "Blub!" "Knee-deep!" "Better go round!" "Knee-deep!" "Better go round!" "Skeel!" "Skeek!" "Skeel!" "Skeek!" "Blub!" "Glub!" "Chralk!" Gladys's eyes started out of her head at the unearthly noises. Her nerves were just about on edge from their incessant piping when suddenly a long, eerie laugh rang out over the water.

"Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!"

She screamed aloud and sat up in bed. "What's the matter?" said

Migwan, waking up.

"What was it? Oh, what was it?" asked Gladys in a voice cold with terror.

"What was what?" said Migwan.

Just then the sound rang out again. "That!" said Gladys.

"Why, that's nothing but a loon," answered Migwan. "Isn't it lovely!" And she fell asleep again.

But slumber would not come to Gladys. The bed sagged in the middle and she could not get herself adjusted to it. She was finally in the act of dozing off when the bed collapsed with a jarring crash. Instantly the whole camp was awake. Migwan jumped up and lit the lantern, and Nyoda came running over from Alpha to see what was the matter. There was much laughter over the mishap, but unfortunately Gladys got the idea that Sahwah, who had giggled uncontrollably from the start, was responsible for the bed going down. "You made it fall down," she said to her, and burst into tears. Sahwah stared at her open mouthed.

"I never touched it," she declared.

Nyoda hastened to smooth things over. "Nobody made your bed collapse, dear," she said, putting her arm around Gladys, "it's a trick camp beds have." Gladys went on crying, however, so Nyoda sat down on the edge of her bed and talked soothingly to her. She realized that Gladys felt strange in camp and was probably homesick in spite of the fact that the girls had received her with open arms. So to divert the girl's attention from herself she pointed out the constellations blazing in the sky and told some of their stories, and Gladys gradually relaxed and fell asleep.

When she opened her eyes again it was broad daylight and the sun was shining into the tent. She looked around at the others. Hinpoha was still asleep; Migwan was coaxing a chipmunk up on the bed with peanuts; Sahwah was noiselessly getting into her bathing suit. Seeing that Gladys was awake, both girls waved their arms in friendly greeting. Talking was not allowed before the first bugle. There was a soft scurry of little feet on the floor, and another chipmunk darted in and paused inquiringly beside Gladys's bed. Migwan tossed her some peanuts and Gladys held one out gingerly to the little creature. He hopped up boldly and took it from her fingers, stuffing it into his baggy cheek. Then his bright little eyes spied the rest of the peanuts on Gladys's bed, and quick as a wink he was up after them, his tail whisking right into her face. Gladys screamed and wriggled, and he fled for his life, pausing a short distance from the tent to scold about the peanuts he had left behind in his flight.

Just then the bugle blew, and with a whoop Sahwah leapt from bed, while Migwan rose and donned her bathing suit. "Coming in for a dip, Gladys?" she asked.

"Is the water cold?" asked Gladys.

"Well, yes," said Migwan honestly. "It usually is in the morning before the sun has shone very long on it." Gladys decided she would not take a dip. Hinpoha slumbered calmly on. Sahwah pulled the pillow from under her head with a quick jerk and plucked the blankets off. Hinpoha opened her eyes sleepily.

"Wake up, lazy bones," said Sahwah. "It's time to dip!"

"Have a heart," mumbled Hinpoha, opening her eyes a little farther, "the bugle hasn't blown yet!"

"Indeed it has, a whole minute ago! Hurry up or you'll miss the dip!" Sahwah prodded Hinpoha energetically. Hinpoha struggled into her bathing suit and sped down the path to the lake, hot in pursuit of Sahwah. Migwan had already gone down. A minute later the girls from the other tent ran out, calling a cheery good-morning to Gladys. A series of splashes and shrieks followed, which proclaimed the coldness of the water. Gladys lay cozily in bed, watching the chipmunks as they scampered across the floor of the tent. Presently another bugle sounded from somewhere and the girls returned, dripping and rosy, to hustle into middies and bloomers.

"Aren't you going to get up, Gladys?" asked Migwan. "That second bugle means 'get up,' you know."

"Does it?" said Gladys, and rose reluctantly. It seemed as if she had just gone to sleep. She was still combing her hair before the tiny mirror that hung on the tent pole swinging in the wind when the breakfast bugle blew. Migwan waited for her dutifully and escorted her to the "Mess Tent," where the other girls were already gathered around the table.

"We'll call it the 'Mess Tent' until we can find a prettier name for it," explained Migwan. "Sahwah thinks we should call it the 'Grand Gorge.' Have you anything to suggest?"

"No," replied Gladys, "I haven't."

Nyoda greeted Gladys cordially and asked how she slept, and the other girls sang her a Kindergarten Good Morning song, making funny little bows and bobs. Then they sang the Camp Fire Grace, "If We Have Earned the Right to Eat This Bread," and set to work making the fruit and pancakes and cocoa disappear like magic. Gladys ate nearly as much as the others, although she would have been very much surprised if you had told her so. The meal over, each girl carried her dishes and stacked them in a neat pile on the table in the tiny kitchen which formed a part of the small wooden shack which stood on the camp grounds, and dropped her cup into a pan of water. This made very light work for the Dishes Committee, which consisted of two different girls each week. The Dishes Committee took care of all three meals a day for the entire week, as this duty did not require much time, but there was a different Breakfast, Dinner and Supper Committee, each pair serving a whole week at their job. Up until Gladys's arrival there had been only seven in camp and Nyoda had been working alone, but now the division was equal. Gladys was assigned to the supper committee for the rest of the week with Migwan as a partner, for Nyoda thought it would help her get acquainted faster to let her work with one of the girls.

As soon as the dishes were washed the girls gathered in the front part of the shack, where there was an old piano, and sang hymns and camp songs. "Let's pick out some hymns to learn by heart," suggested Nyoda; "think how lovely they'll sound, sung out on the lake in canoes." Nyoda's suggestion found favor with the girls, and they set immediately to work learning the "Crusaders' Hymn."

"Do you know," said Nyoda from her seat on the piano stool, after they had sung it through a couple of times, "I believe that the last verse of that song should be sung first. The climax seems be in the first verse, and the rest, beginning with the last, merely lead up to it. Try it that way once."

The girls sang it through in the new order and declared they liked the effect much better, so the change was adopted. Migwan and Nyoda sang a strong alto, and Sahwah a clear, though somewhat uncertain, high tenor, so the little band succeeded in making a considerable amount of harmony. A tiny song bird, perched on the limb of a tall pine tree just before the shack, blended his notes with theirs and poured out his enjoyment of the universe in a thrilling flood of song. The girls sang their hymn over and over again, just to hear him join in, until Nyoda, looking at her watch, exclaimed, "Ten minutes until tent inspection!"

The girls scattered to their tents, and began a hasty cleaning up. Gladys had never made a bed before, and had trouble getting hers straight and smooth, but Migwan took a hand and showed her how to spread the sheets evenly and tuck them in neatly. Her night gown she folded and tucked under the pillow. "One quarter of this swinging shelf belongs to you, Gladys, so you might as well put some of your stuff up here," she said when the bed was finished, "as well as part of the table and the washstand." She moved things around as she spoke, leaving spaces clear for Gladys's possessions. "We aren't supposed to have anything hanging over the edge of the shelf, or out of the compartment of the table," she explained as she moved about. "Nothing is to be left on the bed except one sweater or one folded up blanket, and not more than two pairs of shoes under the bed. Our towels and bathing suits are to be hung on the tent flies as inconspicuously as possible. We also clean up our dooryards and see that there is no waste paper about."

"What happens if everything isn't in applepie order?" asked Gladys, mentally remarking that such rules were an unnecessary nuisance.

"We get marked down in tent inspection, and if our things are left in very bad order we forfeit our swimming hour for that day. Besides, we are all working for the Camp Craft honor of doing the work in a tent for a week, and if the tent isn't properly cared for it doesn't count toward the honor. More than all that, the two tents are racing to see which one gets the highest average at the end of the summer, for Nyoda has offered a banner to the members of the winning family."

She had hardly finished her explanation when the bugle announced the imminent approach of Nyoda on her tour of inspection, and the three girls ran from the tent, pulling Gladys with them. "What's the matter?" panted Gladys. "What are we running away for?"

"We never stay in the tent while it's being inspected," explained Migwan. "Nyoda tells us our standing during Craft hour, and what the matter was, if there was anything, and the weekly averages are to be read at Council Fire."

The girls settled down to Craft work in the shack, for they had chosen that as their workroom, on account of the hinged shelves around the walls, which were so convenient to spread work out on. The front wall of the shack, facing the lake, was all windows, which could be lowered, making the room as cool and airy as could be desired.

The special work which the girls had just begun was the painting of their paddles with their symbols. Gladys, having neither paddle nor symbol, was at a loss what to do. "Here, take the symbol book," said Migwan, "and begin working on your symbol." Gladys took the book and began idly turning the pages. Symbolism was an entirely new thing to her, and she was unable to decide on any of the queerly shaped things in the little book.

"I can't find a thing that I like," she said to Nyoda when she joined the girls in the shack.

"Have you decided on a name?" asked Nyoda. Gladys shook her head. "Well, then," said Nyoda, "I would wait with the symbol until I had chosen a name. And I wouldn't be in too much of a hurry about it, either. Take time to look about you and make your name express something that you like to do better than anything else, or something that you earnestly aspire to do or be. Then choose your symbol in keeping with your name."

"But suppose there shouldn't be a symbol in the book that fitted the name I chose?" asked Gladys.

"Then we would be put to the painful necessity of finding a brand new one!" answered Nyoda with a mock tragic air.

Here the others girls flung themselves upon Nyoda and demanded to be told their standing in tent inspection. "Alpha, 97, Omega, 98," she replied.

The Omegas hugged each other with joy at having received a higher mark than the Alphas. "What was wrong with us?" chorused the disappointed Alphas.

"One bed had not been swept under, one pair of shoes were lying down instead of standing up, and the wash bowl contained a spy-glass," answered Nyoda.

Nakwisi blushed at the mention of the spy-glass. "I didn't mean to leave it there, really and truly I didn't, Nyoda. I was just looking over the lake when Chapa wanted me to help her move her bed and I laid it in the first convenient place and then forgot to remove it."

"No explanations!" called the girls. Nakwisi laughed and subsided.

"Where did we lose our two points, Nyoda?" demanded the Omegas.

"There was a pillow propped against the tent pole and one bed looked decidedly lumpy," said Nyoda.

"I knew you'd go off and leave that pillow there, Sahwah," exclaimed Hinpoha.

"I knew your shoes would show if you tried to hide them in the bed!" returned Sahwah.

"Murder will out," said Nyoda, laughing, "I was not going to mention any names!"

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