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   Chapter 12 NOW OUR CAMP FIRE'S BURNING LOW.

The Camp Fire Girls in the Maine Woods; Or, The Winnebagos Go Camping By Hildegard G. Frey Characters: 20269

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"It doesn't seem possible that the summer is nearly over and we are going home next week," said Migwan. "It seems like only yesterday that we came. And yet, somehow I feel as if we had always been here together. Won't it seem queer, not to be eating and sleeping together any more?" The Winnebagos were taking a walk down the road that ran along beside the woods, seeking specimens of flowers and weeds. They could not help noticing the changes in the trees and flowers along the way. Many of the leaves were already crimson, and the wild asters were blooming in profusion everywhere. The air had the cool, crisp clearness of autumn. The sky had become that deep blue which marks the passing of summer, and the clouds seemed thicker in texture. The girls drank in the air in great draughts like strong new wine, rejoicing in the glorious weather, yet it made them feel sad, because it meant that this most wonderful of all summers was very near its end. This would probably be their last nature walk, and the girls were taking a sample of every growing thing that looked in the least promising, and snapshotting all the dear familiar scenes, to be taken home and shown to friends, and the events connected with them lived over again in the telling!

Nyoda and Sahwah, covering the ground with their swift stride, soon left the others far behind. "We really ought to wait for the girls," said Nyoda, coming to a halt when she discovered that they were so far in the lead, and seating herself on a stone fence she helped herself to the blackberries which grew against it, and held out a handful to Sahwah. Opposite them was an old, tumble-down house, weatherbeaten and bare of paint, its empty window sashes gaping like eyeless sockets. The girls had named it the "Haunted House," and wove many a tale of mystery about it. Beside it was an apple orchard, its trees dying of old age, and under one of them was a grave with a headstone. Nyoda swung her heels against the stone wall and contemplated this gaunt remnant of other days. She glanced down the road to see if the girls were coming. They were not yet in sight.

"Sahwah," she said in a tone that proclaimed a sudden inspiration, "I 'stump' you to go into the haunted house and make ghostly noises when the girls come along." Sahwah needed no urging to undertake a mission of this kind. Hand in hand the two stole across the road and climbed in one of the windows of the house. The door, locked years ago, was still holding its ground against intruders. The room they stepped into was empty save for an old spinning wheel, thick with dust and cobwebs, which stood in the corner. The floor echoed hollowly to their footsteps and instinctively they rose up on tiptoe, to stop the noise. Thus they walked cautiously about making believe that they were followed by ghostly footsteps, and clinging to each other in mock terror. There was a closed door at one end of the room and Nyoda whispered dramatically: "In one minute that door will swing open and a ghostly hand will be thrust in."

She had hardly finished speaking when the door did swing open, and a hand clutching a paint brush came through. Nyoda gave a fine shriek and fell over backwards as if fainting. The hand was followed by a body and a head. "What the devil!" said a voice. "Excuse me, ladies, what the devil!" Finding that the haunted house was haunted by a painter they returned to the road and resumed their seat on the fence to wait for the girls.

Thus the days slipped by, each more lovely than the last, filled to the brim with joyous incidents that would linger in the memories of the girls as long as they lived. One of the big events of this last week was the dancing party given for them by the Mountain Lake boys. The boys' big assembly hall was decorated with flags in honor of the occasion, in addition to the trophies and banners lining the walls, which Mountain Lake Camp had won in athletic and aquatic contests with other camps. Hinpoha and Gladys were easily the belles of the ball, and had so many partners to choose from that it was hard choosing. Sahwah said afterward that she was glad she was not so popular, because she did not have to spend so much time splitting dances up, and consequently had more time to dance! Now all the girls were glad indeed for Gladys's rigorous coaching, for they were complimented on every side upon their "different" way of dancing.

Nyoda fell in love with little Manuel, a nine-year-old Spanish boy from Cuba. It was his first visit to America and his first experience with American boys, and he often felt very homesick. Nyoda, with her dark hair and eyes, reminded him of the young women at home and he warmed to her like an old friend. "I like not the baseball," he confided when she inquired as to his favorite sports, "I like the high joomp." He and Nyoda danced together so much that Sherry regretted his intercession with the camp director that the little boys be allowed to stay up all evening.

Gladys had arranged a fancy dance taking in all of the girls, which they presented during the course of the evening. The music for it was the "Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz" and the girls impersonated in their dance the Danube River, winding through its green valley. The girls, dressed in light green, were the river itself, while Gladys, in a filmy white dress with water lilies twined in her long yellow hair, was the Spirit of the Danube, and frolicked among the rhythmically swaying girls like a real river nymph on the rocking waves of the mighty stream. Their dance brought down the house, and the girls were obliged to do it three times before they would stop applauding.

Ed Roberts watched with jealous eyes as Gladys glided off with one or another of the boys, but beyond the one dance she granted him for politeness' sake she paid no further attention to him, and he retired to the side lines to scowl upon the gay scene. The evening drew to a close all too quickly and the boys and girls parted, with many regrets and promises to write.

The next day the Mountain Lake boys broke camp and departed for their homes, and the girls gathered on the dock to see the steamer go by. There was a great waving of handkerchiefs when the Bluebird rounded the cliff. "O look what they're doing!" gasped Sahwah, as a commotion rose on the deck of the boat. The boys had seized one of their number and were dragging him to the rail in spite of vigorous resistance. Superior forces won out and he went overboard with a mighty splash, in accordance with an immemorial custom of the Mountain Lake Camp, that at least one boy be thrown into the water with his city clothes on. The boy didn't seem to mind it in the least, but climbed aboard again perfectly good-natured, and waved his dripping hat at the girls until a bend in the shore line hid them from sight.

"O dear," cried Migwan, "to think that the next time the Bluebird comes we'll get aboard her and sail out through the Gap and leave dear Camp Winnebago behind forever!"

But Nyoda would not let them be sad even though it was all coming to an end, and kept up such a perfect whirl of merrymaking that they did not have any time to think of the evil day so near at hand. Seeing Sahwah sitting pensively on the dock one day she fastened a rope to the launch and bade her hang on to it and then drove the launch around in swift circles. Sahwah shot through the water like a torpedo, holding on for dear life and shrieking with excitement. The other girls came running at the sound and demanded to be towed likewise, and soon the launch had a tail like a kite, that swished along at a fearful rate, leaving a long foaming ridge in its wake, until one by one the joy riders dropped off and swam ashore.

The nights were very cool now and the girls required sweaters and sometimes blankets when they sat on the high rocks after sundown and watched the stars rise over the lake. Nakwisi was in constant demand in those star watches to introduce the girls to their brothers and sisters in the sky, and under her guidance they soon learned where to look for Corona, Arcturus, The Twins, Spica, Vega, Regulus and all the gentle summer stars. The wide open spaces of the sky over the lake were a constant delight to Nakwisi, and she kept saying, "What a joy it is not to have your favorite constellation cut in half by a chimney or a telegraph pole!"

Willingly she told over and over again the story of Castor and Pollux, of the Great Bear and the Little Bear, of Cassiopeia, and Corona Borealis. They were thrilled night after night when Scorpio sprawled his great length over the hilltops, with fiery Antares glowing like a jewel in his shell. They traced out the filmy scarf of the Milky Way and recalled the Indian legend of this being the pathway of the departed spirits. Nakwisi told another tale about two lovers who were separated in death and placed on different spheres, and who built the Milky Way as a bridge so they could communicate with each other. Nyoda had taught the girls the three ways the Indians had of testing eyesight, namely, by reproducing the spots on the rabbit, counting the Pleiades, and spying out the little companion star to the one in the handle of the Big Dipper, the pair which the Arabs call the Horse and Rider, and the girls would not rest until they, too, had caught sight of the tiny point of light. And in learning to know the stars they were doing much more than just that; they were making friends whom they would always keep and love, and who would greet them with the same cheery twinkle wherever they were, rich or poor or joyful or sad, as surely as the seasons came round!

The camp book was finished, and sent off to Professor Bentley with its clever descriptions and cunning illustrations, bound in a leather cover with the Winnebago symbol on the front. The "doings" and adventures recounted in it made it very thick and heavy, and yet there were so many things they had planned to do that were left undone! "We never had our sleeping party on the Bartletts' lawn," said Migwan regretfully.

"Don't you remember," said Sahwah, s

uddenly grown reminiscent, "when we were waiting for Gladys to come, you said she was going to be your affinity, and I was afraid she would never look at me at all?" And Sahwah smiled happily, for if Gladys had any "affinity" at all it certainly was Sahwah herself.

Meanwhile Gladys and Nyoda were sitting up on the Sunset Rock, looking out over the water and enjoying their own thoughts. The lake was absolutely calm, except for a few long ripples like folds in satin. A motor boat cutting through left a long, fan-shaped tail like a peacock. There was a faint rosy tint on the water, as if the lake were blushing at the consciousness of her own loveliness. Nyoda noted idly that the rocks under the water looked warm and green; those above cold and gray.

"Nyoda," said Gladys.

"What is it, dear?" answered Nyoda, taking her eyes from the lake.

"I've been thinking a great deal of late," went on Gladys, "about what I shall do this winter. You know mother has her heart set on my finishing at Miss Russell's school, but the more I think of it the more I see what I have lost by not going to the public high school. So in my last letter to papa I asked him if I might not go to public school the last two years, and I now have his answer." She spread out a letter and handed it to Nyoda. It read:

"My dear daughter: Nothing could please me more than your request to take the last two years of your high school work in the public school instead of at Miss Russell's, although I must say your mother made a considerable fuss at first on account of the various classes of girls you would be thrown with. However, she thought better of the plan when she heard that your little friend Sahwah is a Brewster of the Samuel Brewsters, and this Hinpoha person you are so fond of is Judge Bradford's granddaughter. As long as Miss Kent is a teacher in the High School and takes such an interest in you there is no objection on our part to your going on to school in the company of your new friends. You are old enough to choose your companions, so from now on it's going to be 'up to you.'

"Lovingly,

"YOUR DADDY."

"My dear child," said Nyoda, "this is certainly good news! I have wanted very much to have you continue in the Winnebago group this winter, but thought of course this was impossible, as you were going away to school. How glad I am!" Their hands met in a warm clasp, setting a new seal on their friendship.

The girls, who had begun to dread the separation from Gladys, were overjoyed at the prospect of having her in school with them. "To think," said Sahwah, "that I have lived in the next block to you for fifteen years, and never knew you until now!"

Dr. Hoffman was very sorry indeed to say goodbye to Sahwah. "You vill write to me, yes?" he begged. "In vinter I lif in Boston in such a street," and he scribbled the address on the back of an envelope. "And, if you should break any more bones, you let me know, and I vill come and tie dem up!"

Then came the last Council Fire at camp. With misty eyes they rose to sing "Mystic Fire" once more under the spell of the forest.

"With hand uplifted we claim thy power,

Guide and keep us as we go,

True to Wohelo.

Thy law is our law from this hour,

Thy mystic spirit flame will show

Us the way to go-"

The glow of their faces was not entirely from the fire which flickered over them as they danced, but was mingled with the light of that inner flame of Wohelo which had been kindled in their hearts, and which would mould and color their whole lives.

Gladys was to be made a Fire Maker at this Council, and when the time came for the bestowing of rank Nyoda called for "Kamama the Butterfly" to stand and present her qualifications. Gladys stood, and before the initiation began asked if she might make a request. Nyoda nodded and Gladys asked if it would be possible for her to change her Camp Fire name. "State your reason," said Nyoda. "If it is a plausible one the change is permissible."

Gladys spoke in a firm, clear voice. "When I was choosing my name I took 'Kamama the Butterfly' because it was such a pretty design to put on my dress, and not because it meant anything to me. I do not wish to be known as 'Kamama the Butterfly' any longer. If I may, I would like to take the name Geyahi, which means 'Real Woman.'"

"Your reason is a good and sufficient one," said Nyoda, "and you may make the change." Then followed the pretty ceremony of taking a new Camp Fire name. The old one was written on a piece of birchbark and put in the fire to signify that it was to be in existence no longer, and as it burned the girls all pronounced the new name in concert, and promised to forget the old one. Proudly Gladys displayed her fourteen required honors and her twenty others, and passed her examination admirably. She stepped back into the circle a full-fledged Fire Maker, with flushed face and downcast eyes, her new rank filling her with a great sense of responsibility.

Nyoda then awarded the special honors for which the girls had been trying all summer. Sahwah and Nakwisi won the banner for keeping up the best form on the Hike; Migwan and Hinpoha had made the best nature count; the Alphas were the best housekeepers and had planned their menus the most economically; Gladys had learned the greatest number of birds, flowers and trees; Migwan had written the most songs. Each girl thus honored felt prouder to wear the bit of painted leather bestowed upon her than if it had been a crown jewel.

After the summer honors had all been given out Nyoda rose again and said there was one more honor to be awarded before the Council was over, and called on Sahwah to stand. Sahwah rose wonderingly. "Sahwah the Sunfish," said Nyoda impressively, "on the thirtieth day of the Thunder Moon you rescued from drowning, at considerable inconvenience to yourself, the maiden we now know as Geyahi. Through some mysterious agency which we will not mention, our good friends, Professor Bentley and Professor Wheeler, heard of your little escapade, and made it known to a National Society which takes delight in hearing such tales. This Society has sent you a little badge for a keepsake. It gives me great pleasure to bestow upon you this Carnegie Hero Medal 'for distinguished bravery."'

"A which?" stammered Sahwah, abandoning both ceremonial etiquette and grammar in her amazement.

"Yes, it's true," laughed Nyoda. "Stand forth and be decorated!"

"Speech!" cried the girls, when the medal had been fastened on Sahwah's ceremonial gown. But instead of making a speech Sahwah sat down on the ground and burst into tears, and had to be patted on the back before she was herself again. So the last Council Meeting ended with a great feather in the cap of the Winnebagos, and the fire sank to embers and the girls filed out softly to the tune of their good-night song:

"Now our camp fire's burning low,

Wohelo, Wohelo,

Off to slumber we must go,

Wohelo, Wohelo."

And the next morning they all stood on the dock waiting for the Bluebird to come and carry them off, laughing at each other's funny appearance in city clothes, and winking the tears back whenever they thought of what they were leaving behind. Gladys, who had never seen the other girls in "suits," scarcely knew them at all. The Keewaydin was crated up and ready to be taken along to the city, and Sahwah's bathing suit, still wet, was tied to the outside of her suitcase, for she had stayed in the lake until the very last minute. "Good-bye, dear, beloved lake," Nyoda heard her whisper as she rose from the depths for the last time. And Gladys, who had been so loth to come to camp with the Winnebagos, was still more loth to go, and her only consolation was that she could be with the girls during the winter!

And by and by the Bluebird came and they got aboard and went sailing out through the Gap, and left the lake and mountains and islands and forest behind them forever. But the strangest part was that they took with them as much as they left behind!

THE END.

* * * * * *

The next volume in this series is entitled "The Camp Fire Girls at School; The Wohelo Weavers."

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THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS IN THE MAINE WOODS; or, The Winnebagos Go

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This lively Camp Fire group and their Guardian go back to Nature in a camp in the wilds of Maine and pile up more adventures in one summer than they have had in all their previous vacations put together. Before the summer is over they have transformed Gladys, the frivolous boarding school girl, into a genuine Winnebago.

THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT SCHOOL; or, The Wohelo Weavers.

It is the custom of the Winnebagos to weave the events of their lives into symbolic bead bands, instead of keeping a diary. All commendatory doings are worked out in bright colors, but every time the Law of the Camp Fire is broken it must be recorded in black. How these seven live wire girls strive to infuse into their school the spirit of Work, Health and Love and yet manage to get into more than their share of mischief is told in this story.

THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT ONOWAY HOUSE; or, The Magic Garden.

Migwan is determined to go to college, and not being strong enough to work indoors earns the money by raising fruits and vegetables. The Winnebagos all turn a hand to help the cause along and the "goings-on" at Onoway House that summer make the foundations shake with laughter.

THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS GO MOTORING; or, Along the Road That Leads the Way.

The Winnebagos take a thousand mile auto trip. The "pinching" of Nyoda, the fire in the country inn, the runaway girl and the dead-earnest hare and hound chase combine to make these three weeks the most exciting the Winnebagos have ever experienced.

For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the publishers

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