MoboReader > Young Adult > The Camp Fire Girls in the Maine Woods; Or, The Winnebagos Go Camping

   Chapter 3 INDEPENDENCE DAY.

The Camp Fire Girls in the Maine Woods; Or, The Winnebagos Go Camping By Hildegard G. Frey Characters: 29495

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"Girls!" exclaimed Nyoda one day at the dinner table, "to-morrow is the Fourth of July. Shall we have a celebration?"

Sahwah looked at Hinpoha and slowly lowered one eyelid. "Yes, yes," cried all the girls in chorus, "let's do!"

"Well, what shall it be?" continued Nyoda, "a flag raising and a bonfire and some canoe races?"

"Oh, a flag raising by all means," said Migwan, "they always have one in the Scout camps. My brother is a Scout and he thinks it's awful because we don't have more flag exercises."

"Where will we get the flag?" asked Sahwah.

"It's here already," answered Nyoda, "in the bottom of my trunk. I knew that sooner or later we would want it so I brought it along."

"Who will do the raising?" asked Hinpoha.

"Why, Nyoda, of course," said Migwan, "who else?"

"And I move," said Nyoda, "that Migwan write a poem suitable to the occasion and deliver same."

"Yes, yes," cried all the girls, "a poem from Migwan." Migwan demurred at first, but finally promised, just as she always did.

"Wait a minute," said Sahwah suddenly, "where are we going to get the pole to raise the flag on?" All the girls looked blank for a moment.

"We'll run it up on the diving tower," said Nyoda promptly. "We can find a small dry tree in the woods and strip the branches off and fasten it to the top of the tower and run the flag up on it. There, that's settled. Now, what kind of water sports shall we have?"

Sahwah and Hinpoha exchanged glances, and Sahwah wriggled in her chair. "Wouldn't you like a committee to arrange that?" she asked, trying to make her voice sound natural and disinterested.

"Why, yes, that would be a good idea," said Nyoda, "and I appoint you and Hinpoha as the committee to do the arranging. I am very glad you suggested that, for it leaves me free to go to the village this afternoon. Now, do we need any more committees?"

"There ought to be one on seating arrangements," said Sahwah.

"On what?" asked Nyoda.

"Seating arrangements," repeated Sahwah. "Where to place our guests."

"May I ask who our guests are going to be?" said Nyoda.

"I don't know yet, myself," said Sahwah calmly. "But we ought to have some. It would be sort of flat to have a celebration just for ourselves. We'll all have to be in it and there won't be any audience. How would you feel like giving a show for nobody's benefit? So I thought we'd do it this way.. We'd have a committee on seating arrangements, and they would have to furnish the audience as well as the seats. Isn't that a good idea?"

"It's an original one, anyway," said Nyoda, somewhat breathlessly. "However, I think you are quite right. If there is an audience to be had, by all means let us have one. But I give you fair warning, it may not be the easiest thing to pick up an audience in the Maine woods."

"There are other campers around the lake," replied Sahwah, "and there are the people in the village. We could bring them here in the boats."

"They might have plans of their own, though," said Nyoda, "so we mustn't count too much on having them come to visit us. By the way, Sahwah, whom would you suggest for a seating-arrangements committee?"

"Oh, you would be the best one for that, Nyoda," answered Sahwah.

Nyoda bowed, laughing. "I accept the position of Audience

Furnisher," she said, formally. "Now, every man to his task!

Gladys, would you like to come to the village with me this

afternoon?"

Sahwah and Hinpoha also went to the village, but they waited until Nyoda was well out of sight, then they paddled across the lake with strong swift strokes that sent the canoe fairly flying through the water.

"I thought Nyoda would want some kind of a celebration," said Sahwah, "so it's a good thing we have our plans made, although we did want them to be a complete surprise." Instead of getting out at the regular landing they paddled around the village and up the mouth of a small creek, where they beached the canoe and crept stealthily toward the store. After peeking through the window and satisfying themselves that Nyoda was not within Sahwah entered, while Hinpoha kept watch in the doorway. "Did you get everything?" asked Hinpoha, as Sahwah emerged with her arms full of bundles.

Sahwah nodded. "But it took every yard of bunting they had." They hastened back to camp and preparations for the next day's celebration were soon under way.

When Nyoda returned at supper time she was immediately surrounded by an eager group clamoring to know who was going to be the audience. Nyoda shook her head sadly. "There ain't no such animal," she replied tragically. "We stopped everybody we met on the street in the village-we only met five people-and, invited them; we invited the storekeeper and the man who rents the boats; but none of them could come. Then we went around to the houses to see if we could find some women and girls, but with the same result. It seems that some local magnate is giving a barbecue out at his farm to-morrow and the whole town is invited."

"But the other campers," said Sahwah hopefully.

Again Nyoda shook her head. "We took the launch and ran in at every landing for several miles around. There aren't so many campers up here yet as you might think. A great many of the cottages were closed. The few people we did talk to had their plans already made. Don't look so disappointed, Sahwah. If we were out in the middle of the desert or shipwrecked on a lonely island there wouldn't be any possibility of an audience, and yet we would be having a celebration for our own benefit just the same."

"Of course we would," said Migwan stoutly, "and to tell the truth, it would never have occurred to me to ask any one else to our celebration to-morrow. I think it's lovely to have it just by ourselves."

"I tell you what we'll do," said Hinpoha with a burst of inspiration, "we'll take turns being the audience. The seating committee can usher us to our seats between our own performances and we can pretend that we don't know what is coming."

"You forget that I, for one, don't know what is coming," said Nyoda, "and will be a very appreciative spectator indeed. Behold me, ladies, at your service, the Audience!" And Nyoda swept them a low curtsey, whereupon they fell on her neck with one accord.

Sahwah woke with the dawn the next morning and craned her neck to look at the weather. To her great disappointment the lake was covered with a heavy mist and there was no sign of the sun. The woods looked dark and gloomy. "Rain!" she exclaimed tragically, and buried her head in the blankets. The clouds were still thick at breakfast time, although no actual rain had fallen.

The flag raising took place right after breakfast, with due ceremony. Up went the Stars and Stripes, without a pause, and just as it reached the top of the pole and yielded its folds to the breeze the sun broke through the clouds and bathed it in a golden glory. The girls cheered and burst into a lusty rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner," after which Migwan's patriotic poem was recited amid much applause.

Then began the water sports, which opened with canoe races. The four who were not in this took their seats on the shore, being placed by Nyoda with great formality, and passed Nakwisi's spy-glass from hand to hand. Hinpoha and Nakwisi, and Sahwah and Migwan were partners in the races. First they raced for distance, paddling around the nearest island and coming back to the dock. Hinpoha and Nakwisi came out ahead, because Migwan, who was paddling stem in her canoe, lost time steering around the island. Then came an obstacle race, in which the girls paddled up to the dock, disembarked, dragged the canoes across the dock and launched them again on the other side. Again Hinpoha and Nakwisi won.

Then came a race between the two crews with the paddlers standing on the gunwales, which tested the skill of the girls to the uttermost. With superhuman effort they kept their balance and came sweeping in neck and neck, the watchers on shore cheering lustily. "Go it, Hinpoha!" shouted Nyoda, and Hinpoha raised her head to look at her, lost her balance, and upset the canoe, leaving Sahwah and Migwan the victors.

The spectators applauded heartily, and sang cheers for the winners, when suddenly the applause was echoed from behind them. Nyoda wheeled swiftly around and faced two gentlemen standing at the foot of the path leading to the dock. As she turned they came forward, hats in hand. The elder man spoke: "I am Professor Bentley, of Harvard University, and this is Professor Wheeler." Nyoda graciously acknowledged the introductions. "We have been staying at the other end of the lake," resumed the stranger, "and intended to return home to-day, but missed the steamer. We were told that a steamer passed Wharton's Landing at noon, so we walked over for it. Can you tell us which is Wharton's Landing?"

"That is Wharton's Landing directly opposite," replied Nyoda, "but the steamer has already gone past. There is a different schedule on holidays. However, it passes again at six this evening. Won't you be our guests until then? We can take you across in the launch." The strangers accepted the invitation and Nyoda introduced the other girls.

Professor Wheeler looked long and hard at Hinpoha. He seemed unable to take his eyes from her hair.

"And now," said Professor Bentley, when they were all comfortably seated upon the rocks, "would you mind telling me what you are and what you were doing when we came up?"

"We are Camp Fire Girls," they cried in chorus, "and we're celebrating the Fourth of July!"

"So you're Camp Fire Girls, are you?" answered Professor Bentley. "That is a Species of the Female that I am greatly interested in. How fortunate that I should have come upon them in their native wilds! Is this where you hibernate?-excuse me, I mean sunburnate!" He wanted to ask a great many questions about the girls, but Professor Wheeler was anxious for the water sports to continue.

"The Audience!" exclaimed Sahwah in a rapturous aside to Hinpoha, "it fell right kerplunk off the knees of the gods!"

Sahwah, who was by far the best diver in camp, now performed a series of spectacular dives, which she had been practising early and late, including forward, backward, somersault, angel, sailor, box-to-springboard, and springboard from the top of the tower. Then she produced a hoop, which she made Hinpoha hold while she dove through it, forward and backward, from the high springboard. She ended her number with what she called the "Wohelo Dive," in which she jumped from the dock to the low springboard, landing in a sitting position, bounced up three times for Work, Health and Love, and then turned a somersault into the water.

"Whew!" whistled Professor Bentley, "what a diver! She's a regular Annette Kellerman!" This was repeated to Sahwah later, to her great gratification.

After the diving was over the girls did a stunt which called for a great deal of endurance. It was invented by Sahwah and called a "Submarine Race." Sahwah, Hinpoha and Nakwisi, the three girls who could swim under water, each tied a toy balloon around her neck, and jumping from the dock on signal, swam beneath the surface to see who could reach the shore without coming up for air. The balloons of course stayed in the air and indicated the progress of the swimmers. This stunt amused both the visitors highly, and they grew quite excited over which one was going to stay down the longest. "I bet on the red balloon," said Professor Bentley, who knew that Sahwah was attached to it.

"The green one for mine," answered Professor Wheeler, who was keeping his eye on Hinpoha.

"It was the weirdest thing," said Migwan afterward, "to see those balloons go darting and wobbling back and forth!"

"And the weirdest feeling when you were attached to them," said Sahwah, "I felt like the keel of a boat when the sails are full of wind."

The second part of the program was a series of tableaux showing events of American history. The first represented Washington Crossing the Delaware. The sponson, a flat-bottomed canoe with air tanks in the sides, came into view around the cliff propelled by one paddler in the stern. In the bottom sat two devoted patriots carrying hatchets. The great George stood in the bow, in defiance of all canoe laws, with one foot up on the bow point, his hand on his sword, his eyes on the distant shore. His hair had turned bright red and he had taken on considerable flesh since his friends had seen him last, but there was no mistaking the military attitude. In the water around the sponson floated a number of water wings, tied to the boat, to represent floating ice cakes. The audience applauded vigorously as the skiff drew near. At the psychological moment, when Nyoda had her camera focused for a snap a huge mosquito settled on George's extended calf. He uttered a sudden yell, brought his hand down on his leg and pitched headfirst into the water. The patriots rescued him and set him on the dock, and Professor Wheeler, who had sprung from his seat and looked as if he were going to the rescue himself, sat down again amid the general laughter.

"What next?" he murmured, chuckling extravagantly.

The next was an episode entitled "The Pirates of Tripoli." Chapa, Medmangi and Nakwisi came swaggering out on the dock dressed as pirates, with turbans and sashes and fearful knives stuck in their belts, singing, "Fifteen men on a dead man's chest!" Striking piratical attitudes on the end of the dock they sang the Pirate song from "Peter Pan," making savage gestures and pointing downward dramatically at the line,

"We're sure to meet below!"

Chorus over, the captain bold set his men to swabbing decks, etc., and ordered the watch up aloft on the tower to plant the flag with the skull and crossbones and keep the lookout. Boldly he paced up and down on top of the tower, sweeping the seas with his spy-glass. Suddenly he paused and uttered a shout. The pirates crowded to the edge of the dock. Looking in the direction he pointed they beheld two sailors approaching in a small open boat. Seeing the pirates, the sailors were overcome with terror and tried to avoid passing the dock, but the ruthless cut-throats flung out a rope and lassoed them. Pulling them up on the dock, they blindfolded them and tied their hands behind them. Then, in spite of pitiful shrieks for mercy, the pirate captain ordered the poor sailors up the ladder to the top of the tower and made them walk the plank off the high springboard, still blindfolded. It was so thrilling the audience squealed with excitement.

As Sahwah jumped she flung out her arms in a despairing gest

ure, and wobbled beautifully all the way down through the air. It was Migwan, though, who created the most merriment. The two sailors were dressed very correctly in white duck trousers, middies and sailor caps. The trousers were part of the outfit that Sahwah had purchased in the village the day before, and the pair that fell to Migwan were much too big for her. When it came her turn to walk the plank she remembered Sahwah's parting injunction to "hang on to 'em, whatever you do," and in a sudden panic lest she should fall out of them in her flight through the air, she grabbed them firmly by both sides of the belt, and jumped in that position. The watchers on the beach were convulsed and struggled for some minutes to regain their composure.

The last tableau brought tears to Nyoda's eyes-tears of joy and pride. Around the cliff came a gay craft, moving slowly and majestically through the water, but there was no sign of a paddle. As it drew nearer the watchers saw that it was a canoe, its sides covered with red, white and blue bunting. Before it swam Sahwah and Medmangi. Inside, on a flag-covered seat, sat Hinpoha, dressed as Columbia, with a crown on her head, her glorious hair rippling down to her waist and shining like copper in the sunlight. In one hand she carried a torch, in the other she held two white streamers. These streamers were fastened to Sahwah's and Medmangi's waists, who drew the canoe as they swam. The spectators drew a long breath and exclaimed with delight. Professor Wheeler sprang to his feet, camera in hand, and snapped the "Ship of State" at least a dozen times. "Glory! What a head of hair!" he muttered to himself.

The cortege approached the dock and those on shore thrilled with a fearful realism as the swimmers reared up their heads and blew jets of water out through their mouths and noses just like sea horses. As the boat passed the dock the watchers with one accord stood and sang "America," and kept on singing until it had vanished from sight around the next cliff.

"Great!" cried Professor Bentley, applauding until he was red in the face, "great!"

When the three girls came out on the beach after having changed their fancy costumes they were met with another round of applause. "That little pageant of yours," said Professor Bentley, "was about the neatest thing I have ever seen. Was it an original idea?"

The girls proudly replied that it was. "And not only original," added Nyoda, "but executed entirely without my help. The whole program was a surprise to me."

"You don't say so," said Professor Bentley. "Well, all I can say is you are a pretty clever lot of girls!"

Chapa had been busy for the last few minutes gathering driftwood and getting a fire started. The girls had decided to cook dinner down on the beach in order to show the visitors their skill in cooking in the most primitive way. A big kettle of clams was hung over a fire all its own, while another fire was kindled between two long logs, and the pots and pans set along on it in a row. Migwan tended the clams, Sahwah put on a kettle of potatoes and then began making toast, Nakwisi made cocoa, Medmangi fried bacon, and Hinpoha flew about concocting a delicious compound which was her own invention and with which no one dared to meddle. The two men watched with interest every move of the girls as they went about preparing dinner.

"Look at that!" said Professor Bentley to his friend. "That" happened to be Hinpoha, who was momentarily left alone with the fire. The cocoa kettle started to sag as the wood burned away and at the same time the mixture in the other kettle began to boil over. Bracing the cocoa kettle with one foot, she snatched the other kettle from the fire, and stood there on one foot holding the steaming pot. Professor Wheeler sprang to her assistance and propped up the cocoa kettle.

Dinner was the merriest meal imaginable, and "food just faded away," as Sahwah declared. Hinpoha won much praise for her concoction, which she called "Slumgullion." It was a sort of glorified tomato soup, made with a thick white sauce, containing chopped-up pimentoes and hard-boiled eggs, the mixture being served over toast. The clams of course were the main dainty, and when dipped in butter slid down with amazing rapidity. After dinner the girls threw themselves down in the sand in various attitudes of relaxation, while Professor Wheeler, his eyes straying again and again toward Hinpoha, told stories of camping in the Canadian Rockies.

When he had finished the girls rose and stretched themselves, and then began to clamor for "more celebration." Nyoda suggested a fire-building contest. Each girl was to have three minutes in which to collect material and get a fire started. No paper was allowed and only three matches. What a scramble there was to find small dry twigs! There was a smart breeze blowing, and most of the matches went out as soon as lighted, putting their owners out of the contest. Sahwah was wise and piled her twigs where a huge stump sheltered them from the wind; Hinpoha sat between hers and the wind. Even then it was difficult to get the twigs to burn. It seemed as if they were in league against the contestants and firmly refused to light.

"Two and a half minutes," called Nyoda warningly, her watch in her hand.

"Mine's burning," shouted Hinpoha, jumping up as the flames began to curl up from the twigs. Just then a gust of wind came up, and pouf! out went the fire.

"Time's up!" called Nyoda, and Sahwah rose from her knees, disclosing a neat little blaze. She had wisely sheltered her fire until the last second, giving it a chance to kindle well.

Now it was the custom of the Winnebagos to have a folk story told by one of their number right after supper, but as the visitors would have to leave early Nyoda asked if the girls wouldn't like to tell the folk story before supper. They agreed, as usual, to anything that would give pleasure to a guest. It was Migwan's turn to tell the story, so seating herself on a rock in the midst of the group, she related the story of Aliquipiso, the heroic Oneida maiden.

"Once upon a time the savage Mingoes made war upon the Oneidas, so the Oneidas were obliged to flee from their pleasant village and seek refuge in the depths of the forest. So well did they hide their traces that the Mingoes were not able to find their hiding place and they remained safe. Their food supply, however, began to be exhausted, for they were hemmed in by the Mingoes and could not break through the lines. They were facing destruction in two ways; either by slow starvation should they remain in hiding, or a cruel death at the hands of the Mingoes should they venture out. The chiefs and warriors of the Oneidas held a council, but none had a plan to offer which would effect their salvation. Then the maiden Aliquipiso stepped forward. With becoming modesty she addressed the chiefs and warriors, saying that the Great Manitou had sent her a dream in which he showed her how great boulders could be dashed on the heads of the Mingoes if they could be lured to a spot directly beneath the bluff on which the Oneidas were hiding. She went on to say that the Great Manitou had inspired her with the desire to be the means of luring the Mingoes to their destruction, and she was ready to start out on her mission.

"The Oneida braves hailed her as the saviour of her people and the Beloved of the Great Spirit, and hung strings of wampum around her neck. Bidding her people farewell, she left the hiding place and was found by the Mingoes wandering in the forest, apparently a lost maiden of the Oneida tribe. They took her to their camp and put her to torture trying to make her tell where her people were hidden. At last she broke down and promised that when night fell she would lead the Mingoes to the hiding place of the Oneidas.

"Under cover of the darkness she led them to the gully at the foot of the ravine. On each side of her was a Mingo warrior, ready to strike her dead at the first cry for help. When she reached the spot where she knew the Oneidas were waiting to hurl immense boulders down over the cliff she uttered a piercing scream-the signal agreed upon. The warrior next to her had just time to strike her dead with his club when the boulders came down, crushing him and all the Mingoes like worms beneath a giant's heel. Thus the Oneidas owed their deliverance to the bravery of a maiden."

"It must be fine to be a heroine," sighed Sahwah, when the applause was finished, "to save a person's life or something. I wish I had lived in the early days of the country. Nothing ever happens now."

Unsuspecting Sahwah! Little did she dream what was hidden under the wings of the Thunder Moon!

The guests rose to depart, after inspecting the tents and partaking of sandwiches and cocoa out on the Sunset Rock. Nyoda took them across the lake in the Sunbeam, the little launch that belonged to camp. Both gentlemen expressed their unbounded admiration for the physical prowess of the Winnebago girls and remarked on their splendid ability to pull together.

Professor Wheeler raved about Hinpoha's hair. "Let me come and paint her," he pleaded. "Sitting out on the rocks-with the sun on that hair-O, what a picture!"

Gently but firmly, Nyoda refused permission. "The girls have come up here for a summer all by themselves; to learn the joys of camping out and of doing things together. Such an interruption would break up the unity of their activities and lessen the influence of camp."

Professor Wheeler begged and entreated, but in vain; Nyoda stood her ground. The most she would promise to do was to send him Hinpoha's address at the close of camp so that he might take the matter up with her parents.

Nyoda returned home very thoughtful. Hinpoha's dawning beauty was causing her many thoughtful moments of late. Not that Hinpoha was in the least vain or self-conscious; on the contrary, she was the jolliest and most natural girl in the group, and the least fastidious. That same red hair which Professor Wheeler raved over was the bane of her existence, and she had more than once threatened to cut it off when the curls became hopelessly snarled. Her chief aim in life was to have as much fun as possible and to get as many others mixed up in it as she could. Hinpoha, haughty and proud because of her good looks, was a picture that the imagination balked at. Yet Nyoda could not help noticing that wherever the group went Hinpoha attracted by far the most attention from outsiders. All the way down from Cleveland on the train Nyoda had watched men who had scarcely taken their eyes from Hinpoha. The guardian sighed as she reflected on the problem, for she knew how difficult it would be for Hinpoha to live out the happy normal girl life which was her birthright.

When Nyoda reached camp Hinpoha and Sahwah were lying on their stomachs on the dock, rigging up a light-boat to be sent over the lake. It consisted of a flat board for a keel and voluminous sails dipped in turpentine. As Nyoda landed they set a match to the sails and shoved the boat out into the wind. It made a grand glare as it glided out over the lake and the girls cheered until the last spark had fallen hissing into the water.

"Wasn't it a grand success all the way through?" sighed Sahwah happily as they climbed the path to the tents at the sound of the first bugle. "First we thought it was going to rain and then the sun shone; and first we thought we weren't going to have any audience and then we did anyway, and the dinner didn't burn and everything was lovely!"

The day had been pretty strenuous for most of the girls and it was not long before Nepahwin, the Spirit of Sleep, claimed them for his own. Then it was that the Dream Manitou, hovering over the Omega tent, fluttered down on Sahwah's pillow. In fancy she roamed through the virgin forest, before the white man had come to destroy the Indian lodges. She was the daughter of a Chieftain, the acknowledged leader of the other maidens. Now there was a young brave belonging to a neighboring tribe with whom she was in love, but there was enmity between her tribe and his, and he dared not ask for her hand. So they were in the habit of meeting secretly in the forest. One day when they were together they became aware of footsteps approaching, and peering through the bushes saw a number of braves belonging to the young man's tribe close upon them. So great was their hatred of her father that for them to find her would mean instant death.

"Fly! fly!" whispered her lover, "fly to the edge of the cliff and jump for your life. My canoe is at the foot of the cliff-take it and escape while I divert the attention of these braves!"

Like an arrow from the bow she set out. Reaching the edge of the cliff, she poised for an instant, then leaped into the lake twenty feet below. As she struck the water Sahwah woke up. All about her was darkness and seeming chaos. There was a swirling about her ears and her limbs seemed detached from her body. She seemed to be rising rapidly. Suddenly her head shot clear of the enveloping gloom and she saw the moon and stars overhead. Just above her reared a black framework. Mechanically she flung out her hand and grasped solid wood. The next moment a voice rang out above her head. "Sahwah! What are you doing?" Then a hand came over the edge of the dock and pulled her up. It was Nyoda. Sahwah blinked at her stupidly.

"Whatever possessed you to jump off the tower?" persisted Nyoda.

"He told me to jump and I did," said Sahwah, still in a daze. Then suddenly her eyes fell on her nightdress, dripping at every fold. "Where am I?" she said sharply, her teeth beginning to chatter. "Why, Nyoda!"

Nyoda laughed. "You dreamed it, dear," she said. "You jumped off the tower in your sleep. Come up to bed now before you take cold." Putting her arm around the shivering girl, she led her up the path to the tent and tucked her in between dry blankets. "Too much celebration," she reflected, and then added to herself, "It's a good thing I happened to see her."

Nyoda had wakened in the night and lay looking out through the tent door at the lake bathed in moonlight. The diving tower was right in her line of vision, solitary and black against the moonlight. Suddenly she became aware of a figure climbing up the ladder to the top. She sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes and recognized Sahwah. The girl poised for an instant on the edge and then jumped into the water. Nyoda sped down the path and reached the dock just as Sahwah came up.

"And up until now," thought Nyoda, as she dropped off to sleep again, "I did think they were safe in their beds!"

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