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   Chapter 9 THE TRIALS OF AN EXPLORER

The Camp Fire Girls Solve a Mystery; Or, The Christmas Adventure at Carver House By Hildegard G. Frey Characters: 7800

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Oh, tell me again about the time you went camping, and the people thought you were drowning," begged Sylvia.

Hinpoha drew up a footstool under her feet, and sank back into a cushioned chair with a long sigh of contentment. All day long she had been helping the others search for the secret passage, upstairs and downstairs, and back upstairs again, until she dropped, panting and exhausted, into a chair beside Sylvia in the library and declared she couldn't stand up another minute. The others never thought of stopping.

"But you aren't fat," she retorted when Sahwah protested against her dropping out. "You can run up and downstairs like a spider; no wonder you aren't tired. I'm completely inside."

"You're what?"

"Completely inside. Classical English for 'all in.' 'All in' is slang, and we can't use slang in Nyoda's house, you know."

Sahwah snorted and returned to the search, which was now centered in Uncle Jasper's study.

"Now tell me about your getting rescued," said Sylvia.

"We were spending the week-end at Sylvan Lake," recounted Hinpoha, "and there were campers all around. Sahwah and I wanted to get an honor for upsetting a canoe and righting it again, so we put on our skirts and middies over our bathing suits and paddled out into deep water. Nyoda was watching us from the shore. We were going to take the complete test-upset the canoe, undress in deep water, right the canoe and paddle back to shore. We got out where the water was over our heads and upset the canoe with a fine splash. We were just coming up and beginning to pull off our middies, when we heard a yell from the shore. Two young men from one of the cottages were tearing down to the beach like mad, throwing their coats into space as they ran.

"'Hold on, girls, we'll save you,' they shouted across the water, and jumped in and swam out toward us.

"'O look what's coming!' giggled Sahwah.

"'Oh, won't they be surprised when they see us right the canoe!' I sputtered as well as I could for laughing. 'Come on, hurry up!'

"'What a shame to spoil their chance of being heroes,' said Sahwah. 'They may never have another chance. Let's let them tow us in.' Sahwah went down under water and did dead man's float and it looked as though she had gone under. I followed her. But I laughed right out loud under water and made the bubbles go up in a spout and had to go up for air. The two fellows were almost up to us. Sahwah threw up her hand and waved it wildly, and I began to laugh again.

"'Keep still and be saved like a lady!' Sahwah hissed, and I straightened out my face just in time. The two fellows took hold of us and towed us to shore. People were lined up all along, watching, and they cheered and made a big fuss over those two fellows. We could see Nyoda and Migwan and Gladys running away with their handkerchiefs stuffed into their mouths. We lay on the beach awhile, looking awfully limp and scared and after a while we let somebody help us to our cottage, and you should have heard the hilarity after we were alone! We laughed for two hours without stopping. Nyoda insisted that we go and express our grateful thanks to the two young men for saving our lives, and we managed to keep our faces straight long enough to do it, but the strain was awful."

"Oh, what fun!" cried Sylvia, laughing until the tears came, and then with an irresistible burst of longing she exclaimed, "Oh, if I could only do things like other girls!"

"You are going to do things like other girls!" said Hinpoha in the tone of one who knows a delightful secret. "You're going to walk again; Nyoda said the doctor said so."

Sylvia's face went dead white for an instant, and then lighted up with that wonderful inner radiance that made her seem like a glowing lamp.

"Am I?" she gasped faintly, catching hold of Hinpoha's arm with tense fingers.

"You certainly are," said Hinpoha,

in a convincing tone. "Nyoda said you could be cured. The specialist is coming in a day or two to arrange the operation. O dear, now I've told it!" she exclaimed. "We were going to save it for a birthday surprise."

"Oh-h-h-h!" breathed Sylvia, and sank back in her chair unable to say another word. Her eyes burned like stars. To walk again! Not to be a burden to Aunt Aggie! The sudden joy that surged through her nearly suffocated her. To walk! Perhaps to dance! The desire to dance had always been so strong in her that it sometimes seemed to her that she must die if she couldn't dance. All the joy that was coming to her whirled before her eyes in a wild kaleidoscope of shifting images.

"Then I can be a Camp Fire Girl!"

"You're going to be a Winnebago!"

"Oh-h-h!"

"You can go camping with us!"

"Oh-h-h!"

"You will be a singer, and go on the stage, maybe!"

"Oh-h-h-h-h-h!"

"Maybe you'll even--" Hinpoha's sentence was suddenly interrupted by a mighty uproar from the basement. First came a crash that rocked the house, followed by a series of lesser thumps and crashes, mingled with the racket of breaking glass. The Winnebagos, rushing out into the hall from Uncle Jasper's study, were brushed aside by Sherry and Justice and the Captain, tearing down the attic stairs. Sherry snatched up his revolver from his dresser and went down the stairs three at a time, with the boys close at his heels.

"The burglars are in the basement!" came from the frightened lips of the girls as they crept fearfully down the stairs. All felt that the mystery of the footprints on the stairs was about to be cleared up.

Sherry opened the cellar door and paused at the top. "Who's down there?" he called, in a voice of thunder.

From somewhere below came a dismal wail. "Throw me a plank, somebody, I'm drowning. There's a tidal wave down here!"

"It's Slim!" cried Nyoda, recognizing his voice. "What's the matter?" she called.

She and Sherry raced down the cellar stairs, with the Winnebagos and the two boys streaming after.

They found Slim lying on the floor of the fruit cellar, nearly drowned in a pool of vinegar which was gushing over him from the wreck of a two-hundred-gallon barrel lying beside him. Around him and on top of him lay the debris of a shelf of canned fruit.

Sherry and the boys rescued him and finally succeeded in convincing him that he was not fatally injured. The stream of vinegar was diverted into a nearby drain, and Slim told his tale of woe.

He had been down in the cellar looking for the secret passage. There was a place in the stone wall that sounded hollow when he struck it with a hammer, and he went around to see what was on the other side of that wall. It was the fruit cellar. While he was poking around in it a big stone suddenly fell down out of the wall and smashed in the head of the barrel, which tipped over almost on top of him, and nearly drowned him in vinegar, while the jars of fruit came down all around him.

"That loose stone in the wall!" exclaimed Sherry. "I forgot to warn you boys about it when you were sounding the walls with hammers. It's a mighty good thing it fell on the barrel and not on you."

He and Nyoda turned cold at the thought of what might have happened.

But the sight of Slim, dripping with vinegar and covered with canned peaches, drove all thoughts of tragedy out of their minds, and the cellar resounded with peals of helpless laughter for the next twenty minutes. Justice tried to sweep up the broken glass, but sank weakly into a bin of potatoes and went from one convulsion into another, until the Captain finally poured a dipper of water over him to calm him down.

"O dear," gasped Justice, mopping his face with the end of a potato bag, "if Uncle Jasper could only have seen what he started with that diary of his, it would have jolted him clean out of his melancholy!"

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