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


The Camp Fire Girls in the Maine Woods; Or, The Winnebagos Go Camping By Hildegard G. Frey Characters: 24337

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

It was the end of the swimming period and Nyoda was thoroughly exhausted. She had been giving Gladys her first swimming lesson. It had taken a week to coax the girl into the water at all and nearly another one to get her in over her knees. She showed a perfectly unreasoning terror of the water. In vain did Sahwah dive off the tower and come up safe and sound; in vain did Hinpoha demonstrate how impossible it was to sink if you relaxed. Gladys doubled up in a tense knot and grew sick with fear, regardless of Nyoda's supporting hand. Finally Nyoda took her farther up the beach, away from the other girls. "Now, Gladys," she said reassuringly, "do you believe, down deep in your heart, that I would let go of you and let you drown?"

"No," said Gladys.

"Then," said Nyoda, "you come along and let me hold you up while you float." Gladys swallowed hard and stiffened out like a crowbar; then as a wavelet washed over her face she clutched wildly at Nyoda and put her feet on solid bottom. And so she went on. With inexhaustible patience Nyoda tried again and again to get her to lie out flat on the water, but was compelled to admit at the end of the hour that she had made no progress whatever, for Gladys had not made the slightest effort to control either her muscles or her fears. Nyoda sympathized with her great fear of the water, for she realized that it was a very real thing; but she was disappointed that she had not tried to conquer it.

Her first impression of Gladys bad been borne out by later events. She was vain and silly and shallow; she lacked the good sportsmanship which made the rest of the Winnebagos such successful campers. Of team work she had no idea at all. She wanted to order her day to suit herself, and put on an injured air if one of the girls declined to help her make a stencil when it was time to clean up the tent for inspection. Her corner of the tent was never in order, and as a result the Omegas were getting low marks in inspection, much to their disgust, for the rivalry between the two tents was very keen. Gladys had officially joined the Winnebagos, having come into the group at the last Council Fire as Kamama the Butterfly. The very name she chose was an illustration of her character. She had no higher ambition than to be a society butterfly. Nyoda sighed, but she knew Gladys was not to blame, for she had been brought up in an artificial atmosphere of fashion and snobbery.

Nyoda saw at once that in order to get the most good out of camp Gladys must be on the same basis as the other girls, so she defined their relative positions clearly at the beginning. Gladys's father owned the camp, so they were in a measure her guests; therefore, Nyoda would not let her pay a share of the provisions, thus evening things up. Gladys had now been in camp nearly two weeks, but she had not entered heart and soul into the life as the others had. And it was not because they had left her out of things-every girl had gone out of her way to make her feel at home. The fault was clearly Gladys's own.

Nyoda was thinking about all these things when her reverie was interrupted by the sound of an automobile horn, and in a few moments a man came down the path from the road. He approached her and introduced himself as Mr. Bailey. He was a private detective, he said, and was trying to locate a child that had strayed or been kidnapped from a family on the other end of the lake. He was visiting all the camps to see if any one had seen the child. Nyoda shook her head. "We haven't seen any child around here," she said. "Was it a girl or a boy?"

"A boy," answered Mr. Bailey, "three years old; at the time of his disappearance he wore a white sailor suit and hat."

"When did he disappear?" asked Nyoda.

"Last Thursday night."

"We were just coming home from a hiking trip then and had lost one of our own girls and weren't paying much attention to anything else," said Nyoda, "but I'll ask the girls who were in camp while we were looking for Migwan." She blew the bugle and called the girls together and when they had come she introduced Mr. Bailey and asked if they had seen anything of the little boy.

At the mention of a boy in a white sailor suit Migwan pricked up her ears. "Why, I saw him when I was lying in the woods waiting for the girls to come for me. There were two men with him, one carrying him. I spoke to them and asked them to send somebody after me. They said they were hurrying to catch the boat."

"What boat?" asked the detective.

"It must have been the Bluebird,-the Loon Lake boat-for they were going in the direction of Loon Lake."

"Can you describe the men?" asked Mr. Bailey. Migwan tilted back her head and squinted her eyes in an effort to bring back the picture. "One was tall and had a black mustache. He was the one who carried the boy. The other was shorter and smooth-faced," she said.

"Could you swear to that description?" asked the detective.

Migwan suddenly clapped her hands. "I can do better than that," she said. "I can show a picture of them. The little boy looked so cute I snapped them."

"You have this picture?" said the detective eagerly.

"The film isn't developed yet," answered Migwan.

"How soon can you have it developed?" asked Mr. Bailey.

"We'll do it right away," said Nyoda. "We have a dark room rigged up." Nyoda took every precaution to guard against spoiling the film, and Hinpoha, who was in the dark room with her, hardly dared breathe for fear of working some harm. What an exciting moment it was when the figures finally stood out plainly on the film! The girls crowded around the detective as he held the picture to the light. There were the two men and the little boy just as Migwan had described them.

"What will you take for this film?" asked the detective.

"Take for it!" said Migwan. "You're perfectly welcome to it.

I'm only too glad to help if the picture will be of any benefit."

"Migwan's a heroine!" sighed Sahwah after the detective had departed. "I wish I had a chance to do something big and noble! The only time I can be heroic is in my sleep, and then I make myself ridiculous."

"Cheer up, Sahwah," said Hinpoha, "I can't even be heroic in my sleep. Come on, I'll beat you a game of tennis." And off went the two cronies, arm in arm.

Gladys came and sat beside Migwan, who was spending her convalescent days in a steamer chair on the porch of the shack, where she could watch the girls in the lake and be with them during Craft hour. Nyoda had summoned a doctor from the village who proclaimed Migwan's dislocation a slight one and her prompt setting of it a good thing, and promised that in a few weeks it would be as good as ever. Meanwhile, however, she had to keep off her feet, and the enforced rest bothered her more than the pain did at first. She read a good deal, however, and did much Craft work, and the days went by somehow.

"What are you doing?" asked Gladys.

"Making a woodblock," said Migwan.

"What's it for?"

"Why, you cut a design in the wood," explained Migwan, "and then use it to stamp things with, either scarfs or table covers or book-plates. This is for a book-plate."

"What's a book-plate?" asked Gladys.

"It's a thin sheet of paper stamped with a design bearing your name. You paste it in the front of your books. See my design? The tall pine trees on either side mean friendship; the rocks underneath signify that my friendships have a firm foundation. The letters underneath read, 'Migwan, Her Book.' You have to carve the letters backward so they will print forward. The feather design around the letters is made from my symbol, which is the Quill Pen."

Gladys sat watching Migwan's busy knife cutting out the design. "Why don't you bring your Craft work and keep me company?" asked Migwan presently. "I hate Craft work," said Gladys fretfully, "but I suppose I might as well work on my ceremonial gown." She brought the gown and sat down beside Migwan. "Do you think these beads would be pretty hanging down this way?" she asked, pinning several strings of gay-colored beads to the leather collar.

"You aren't going to put those beads on your dress, are you?" asked Migwan in surprise.

"Why not?" said Gladys, "you've got beads hanging all over yours."

"But they're all honor beads," explained Migwan, "and stand for something."

"But I have no honor beads," said Gladys.

"Then you must win some. We all went with our dresses undecorated until we had won honors."

"I don't care," said Gladys, "I'm going to decorate mine. I won't be the only plain one. Miss Kent," she called, as their guardian passed by with an armful of firewood, "I may put these beads on my ceremonial costume, mayn't I?"

Nyoda dumped her burden on the ground and came over to the girls. "Of course you may if you want to," she said genially. "It's your dress. But do you want to? What does the ceremonial dress mean to you? Is it only a sort of masquerade costume to be decorated up just anyhow to make it look fantastic, or is it a record of achievements, written in a language that only Camp Fire Girls understand? Just think what it means to sit in a circle of girls and be able to tell by their costumes what kind of things they have done! We'll pretend that a Guardian from another group has come to look on at our ceremonial. The first one she happens to see is myself. She looks at my costume, sees the Guardian's symbol on the back and the border of small symbols around the bottom. She counts them; there are seven. She says to herself, 'She is the Guardian and there are seven girls in her group.' She then sees Migwan's costume with the four Wakan honors for Written Thought. She knows that Migwan has literary ability and that her symbol is the Quill Pen, because there is a quill sewn to the front of her dress and feathers are never used for decoration except in case of a personal symbol. She knows that Migwan had to work hard for her Wakan honors because above the first one there are two Shuta buttons and a Keda, showing that her first efforts won only third and second class honors, but she persevered until she reached the first class. She knows Sahwah can swim well because she has a fish on the side seam of her gown, which is the place for local or national honors. She knows Chapa must be very dexterous in Handcraft, for she has a great many green beads on her thong. And then she sees you-with a number of gaudy and meaningless beads sewn around your collar! Just what would be her estimate of you? Whereas, if you had no decoration whatever on your gown she would know at once that you had lately joined the group and had not yet won honors."

The beads gradually slipped from Gladys's hands. "I guess I won't put them on, anyhow," she said, not without some regret.

"However," said Nyoda, "there is no need of your costume being utterly bare of ornamentation. I can suggest several things which you have a perfect right to wear on your dress."

"What are they?" asked Gladys, looking interested.

"The first thing to do," said Nyoda, "is to get your symbol put in a conspicuous place. You have designed your collar with the long bands dropping from the shoulders. Now, I would apply your butterfly symbol to each band about six inches from the bottom, and then cut the leather below the symbol into fringe. I would paint the butterflies red, yellow and blue, which are the colors that represent Work, Health and Love. You could also produce the colors by sewing beads over the design. So much for your symbol. Now in the middle of the hem in the front of your dress you may put the Winnebago symbol-the sign of your tribe. You will find it on the banner before the tents and over the fireplace in the shack, as well as on all the girls' costumes. It is the Indian sign Aki-yu-hapi and means 'Carrying Together.' It is the secret of the wonderful team work of the Winnebagos. Develop this in wood brown and green. When you put the fringe on the bottom, instead of using a straight piece, leave the top edge in uneven peaks to represent mountains and outline them with blue beads for the sky above the

m. This will indicate that you love nature. There you have the costume with the thongs and fringes all ready to receive the honor beads, and there are some honors you should be able to win very soon. You will receive a Handcraft honor for making the costume, and a Campcraft bead for making the headband. You have walked forty miles in ten days-twenty-seven on the hike and the rest going to and from the village. You have done enough camp cooking to win a bead. You will receive these beads next Monday night. If you are sharp you can have enough to get your Woodgatherer's ring. Ask Nakwisi to tell you star lore; also get her to take you into the woods and help you identify trees. You can get enough beads very soon to take away your reproach of being undecorated."

While Nyoda was instructing Gladys in the mysteries of symbolic decoration, Sahwah and Hinpoha, finishing their tennis game, strolled into the woods beyond the court, looking for berries. "Let's make a leaf cup and fill it for Migwan," said thoughtful Hinpoha.

"Poor Migwan," said Sahwah, "she certainly is having a time with that knee. I don't see how she can be so patient. I'd die if I had to sit in one place all day. She's a dead game sport, though, and never complains. She does bushels of Craft work, and studies. I'm proud to be in the same group with her."

"All our girls are good sports," said Hinpoha.

"All but one."

"Which one?"

"You know."

"You mean Gladys?"


"She isn't a good sport, now," said Hinpoha, "but she may develop into one before the summer is over. Let's hope so." Then she added, "She surely has it in for you for some reason."

"I know it," said Sahwah, "and that's what gives me a pain. I never touched her bed the night it fell down, but I might as well have."

"But you did paint her face that night at Balsam Lake," said

Hinpoha, with a giggle at the remembrance.

"Yes, but I thought it was Migwan, and anyhow I apologized."

"Well," said Hinpoha with a burst of altruism, "it's this way. Gladys is as shallow as a pie-tin and a big cry baby and all that, but if she hadn't been like that her father wouldn't have wanted her to be a Camp Fire Girl and we never would have come to this camp. It's an ill wind, you know. Anyway, she's a Winnebago now, and we have to make something out of her."

"You're so good-natured, 'Poha," said Sahwah. "I wish I could like everybody the way you do."

Hinpoha opened her mouth to reply, but instead uttered a prolonged "Ow-oo-oo-oo!" They were sitting on a log when the above conversation took place, and Hinpoha had poked her hand into the hollow end. Now she drew it out hastily and began to dance around, shaking her hand violently.

"Oh, what is it?" cried Sahwah.

"Bees!" shrieked Hinpoha. "Run for your life!"

An angry buzz sounded from the log and the bees began crawling out at the end. Hinpoha fled through the woods with Sahwah close at her heels. By the time they reached camp Hinpoha's hand was swelled all out of shape. It was all she could do to repress a cry of pain. Nyoda rose quickly when she took in the situation.

"Get some moist clay at once," she commanded. "There is some in the woods behind the shack."

Sahwah sped after the clay and returned with a large lump. "Now you make mud pies until the inflammation is drawn out of your hand," said Nyoda.

Hinpoha dutifully sat down beside Migwan and played in the clay. After she had rolled it around in her hand awhile it became a beautiful consistency for modeling, so she began making statuettes of the different girls. She had a great deal of aptness in modeling and managed to make her figures resemble somewhat the girls they were supposed to represent. She became so absorbed in her new occupation that she forgot the burning pain in her hand, and gradually the swelling went down.

Sahwah came along to see how she was feeling and exclaimed in delight at the statuettes. Hinpoha held up her hand warningly, for Migwan was asleep. Sahwah promptly fell to making hand signs of admiration. Hinpoha laughed at her antics, and falling into her mood, arrayed her figures in a semicircle on the ground, and sitting cross-legged behind them, made a gesture to intimate that they were for sale. Sahwah sat down and signalled that she had come to buy. She indicated several that she would like to have and Hinpoha held up fingers for the price. Nyoda came along and watched them with keen amusement; Gladys looked on uncomprehendingly. Sahwah purchased the Winnebagos in effigy, paying for them with pebbles, and making hand signs to the effect that she considered them a bargain at the price. Finally there was only one left. This was Gladys. Sahwah refused to purchase. Hinpoha lowered her price step by step, but Sahwah waved her away. The other girls, crowding around to see the fun, caught on and giggled.

"What's the joke?" asked Gladys. Nobody answered. Finding the eyes of several girls fixed on her, Gladys flushed. "It's something about me," she cried passionately. "I know it's something about me. You know I can't understand your old signs and motions and you can talk about me all you want. I hate you!" she cried, bursting into tears. "I'm going home to-morrow!"

Sahwah sprang to her feet, the realization of what she had done knocking her speechless. One look at Nyoda's pained and surprised face upset her completely and she rushed off to the woods by herself. With rare tact Nyoda smoothed over the difficult situation confronting her. It was no use to pass the thing over as a misunderstanding on Gladys's part, for Sahwah's flight condemned her. Putting her arm around Gladys, she led her down to the dock and into the launch. She set the engine going at full speed, sending the small craft through the water like a torpedo, the spray dashing over the bow and drenching them both. The excitement of this mad flight through the water made Gladys forget her hurt feelings. She watched Nyoda, fascinated. Nyoda was of a decided athletic build, tall and broad-shouldered, with black hair and dark eyes, and high color. She was the picture of health and joyousness as she stood at the wheel of the launch, her hair streaming out in the wind, her eyes sparkling with excitement. Gladys had a real admiration for Nyoda, which was developing into a "crush," and liked to be alone with her. Nyoda could not help seeing this, and with her deep insight into girl nature knew that the solution of the problem which had worried her so at first was in her hands.

By and by she slackened the speed of the boat, and calling Gladys up into the bow with her, she showed her how to steer, and gave the wheel into her hands. She made no mention of the occurrence of the afternoon, not being clear in her mind just how to begin. Gladys finally relieved her of the task by asking: "What was it Sahwah was saying about me this afternoon when she was talking with her hands?"

Nyoda eyed her calmly. "She wasn't saying anything about you at all. She and Hinpoha were playing a game, a very clever and original game, by the way, having an auction sale in sign language. Sahwah bought all the figures but one, and then, wishing a diversion, refused the last one. It just happened to be the one representing you."

"I see," cried Gladys, breaking into Nyoda's explanation, "she wouldn't buy me."

Nyoda felt weak inside and tingled with a desire to shake Sahwah, but she never changed countenance. "I don't believe that ever occurred to her," she said loyally. "You are so quick to jump at conclusions, Gladys. Just because you couldn't understand what they were doing you thought it must be something unpleasant about you. Your outburst at that time frightened Sahwah so she probably thought she had done something dreadful. Now Sahwah feels badly and so do all the girls. You don't want her to go on feeling that way, do you?"

Gladys said nothing. Nyoda slipped her arm around her and smiled down at her. "You know that the girls are not trying to make it unpleasant for you, don't you, now?"

Gladys smiled faintly. It was impossible to withstand Nyoda's pretty pleading. Nyoda, watching her face, saw that she had gained her point. "And you'll like Sahwah and let her like you, won't you?" she said, hugging Gladys to her.

Sahwah was nowhere to be found when Nyoda returned to camp. Neither did she appear when the supper bugle blew. Hinpoha drooped visibly without her side partner, but Nyoda refused her permission to go out and look for Sahwah. When it began to grow dark Nyoda took her lantern and went into the woods by herself. She soon found Sahwah crouching on the ground at the foot of a tree, her face buried in her hands. "Sahwah, dear, look up," said Nyoda gently, setting her lantern on the ground and seating herself beside Sahwah. Sahwah uncovered one eye. "Oh, Nyoda," she exclaimed tragically, "what will I do? I never dare show my face in camp again. What ever possessed me this afternoon, and what must you think of me?"

Nyoda could not help smiling at the depth of Sahwah's self-abasement. "Cheer up, sister," she said kindly, "it's not as bad as all that. You were thoughtless, that was all, for I will not believe that you were slighting Gladys intentionally."

"That's it," cried Sahwah eagerly. "I never stopped to think what I was doing, and I never dreamed that she would catch on."

Nyoda nodded sympathetically. "I know just how it is," she said. "We never mean to do unkind things, and yet we do them right along, without thinking. The only remedy is to get a habit of thinking before we do anything."

"Not thinking is my besetting sin," said Sahwah, dolefully.

"Yes," said Nyoda frankly, "I believe it is. You do so many things impulsively that you never would have done on second thought. Take the time, for instance, that you jumped off the tower into the canoe and upset it. That was a very dangerous thing to do. You might have landed on top of one of those girls and hurt her badly, or been hurt yourself. Even granting that you were so sure of yourself that you could do it successfully, you set a bad example. Some of the other girls might be tempted to try it sometime with disastrous results."

"I never thought of it in that way," said Sahwah seriously. "I'm awfully sorry I hurt Gladys's feelings, and I'll apologize to her this very night."

"I don't believe an apology would help matters any," said Nyoda slowly. "There are some things you can't make right with an apology any more than you could mend Migwan's dislocated knee by saying you were sorry it got fallen on. It takes special treatment."

"What shall I do then?" asked Sahwah.

"Be especially nice to Gladys from now on. Offer to help her learn to swim, and go out with her in the sponson until she may go out in a canoe. Let her see by your actions that you want to be her friend, and then she won't suspect you of saying unkind things about her. Put yourself in her place. She feels just as strange among you strong, self-reliant, outdoor-loving girls as you would among her friends. You know a great deal that she does not, and she undoubtedly knows a great deal that you do not. She has been abroad several times, and spent a whole year in school in France, while her father was there on business. She paints china beautifully, sings well and does fancy dancing. In fact, she dances so well that various people have tried to persuade her father to allow her to take it up as a profession."

This last statement did not make such an impression on Sahwah as Nyoda expected it would, for Gladys had boasted of her dancing to the girls ever since she had come to camp, and had made fun of the simple folk dances the girls did among themselves. Sahwah, however, was still deeply ashamed of her performance of the afternoon and eager to atone for it and regain her standing in Nyoda's eyes, so she made up her mind that Gladys was a superior being whose superiority would be unveiled by constant effort on her part, and promised to devote her entire time to teaching her the delights of camping.

Then hand in hand she and Nyoda returned to the tents.

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