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The Camp Fire Girls Solve a Mystery; Or, The Christmas Adventure at Carver House By Hildegard G. Frey Characters: 8033

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"O Nyoda, it can't be true!"

Sahwah's anguished wail cut across the stricken silence of the room.

The eminent surgeon had just made his examination of Sylvia and pronounced the verdict that had sent all their rosy air castles tumbling about their ears: "Nothing can be done. An operation would be useless. It is not a case of a splintered vertebra which could be patched. The nerves which control the limbs are paralyzed. She will never walk again."

The last five words fell upon their ears like the tolling of a sorrowful bell. "She will never walk again." Stunned by the unexpected verdict the Winnebagos stood mutely about Sylvia in anguished sympathy.

She lay motionless on the sofa, a white-faced, pitiful little ghost of a princess; her glad animation gone, her radiance extinguished, her song stricken upon her lips.

"O why did you tell me?" she wailed. "Why did you tell me I could be cured, when I never can? Why didn't you leave me as I was? I was happy then, because I had never hoped to get well. But since you told me I've been planning so--" Her voice broke off and she lay back in silent misery.

"Now I can never be a Camp Fire Girl!" she cried a moment later, her grief breaking out afresh. "I can never go camping! I can never help Aunt Aggie!" All the joyful bubbles her fancy had blown in the last two days burst one by one before her eyes, each stabbing her with a fresh pang. "I'll never be any use in the world; I wish I were dead!" she cried wildly, her rising grief culminating in an outburst of black despair.

"Oh, yes, you can too be a Camp Fire Girl," said Nyoda soothingly. "You can do lots of things the other girls can do-and some they can't. There isn't any part of the Law you can't fulfill. You can Seek Beauty, and Give Service, and Pursue Knowledge, and Be Trustworthy, and Hold on to Health, and Glorify Work, and Be Happy! Campfire isn't just a matter of hikes and meetings. It's a spirit that lives inside of you and makes life one long series of Joyous Ventures. You can kindle the Torch in your invalid's chair as well as you could out in the big, busy world, and pass it on to others."

"How can I?" asked Sylvia wonderingly.

"In many ways," answered Nyoda, "but chiefly by being happy yourself. Even if you never did anything else but be happy, you would be doing a useful piece of work in the world. Just sing as gayly as you used to, and everyone who hears you will be brighter and happier for your song. If you cannot do great deeds yourself, you may inspire others to do them. What does it matter who does things, as long as they are done? If you have encouraged someone else to do something big and fine, all on account of your happy spirit, it is just as well as if you had done the thing yourself. Did you ever hear the line,

'All service ranks the same with God,'?

"Sylvia, dear, you have the power to make people glad with your song. That is the way you will pass on the Torch. You already have your symbol; you chose it when you began to hero-worship Sylvia Warrington, and loved her because she was like a lark singing in the desert at dawning. That is the symbol you have taken for yourself-the lark that sings in the desert. Little Lark-that-sings-in-the-Desert, you will kindle the Torch with your song! Instead of being a Guide Torchbearer, or a Torchbearer in Craftsmanship, you will become a Torchbearer in Happiness!"

With these words of hope and encouragement Nyoda left her sorrowful little princess to the quiet rest which she needed after the fatiguing examination by the surgeon. Going into Hinpoha's room she found her lying face downward on the bed in an agony of remorse, her red curls tumbled about her shoulders.

"I told her, I told her," she cried out to Nyoda with burning self-condemnation. "I couldn't keep my mouth shut till the proper time; I had to go and tell her two days ahead. If I'd only waited till we were sure she would never have had her heart set on it so. Oh, I'll never forgive myself." Sh

e beat on the pillow with her clenched fist and writhed under the lash of her self scorn. For once she was not in tears; her misery was far deeper than that. "I didn't mean to tell her that day, Nyoda, I knew you'd asked us to keep it a secret, but it just slipped out before I thought."

"Hinpoha, dear," said Nyoda, sitting down on the bed beside her and speaking seriously, "will it always be like this with you? Will everything slip out 'before you thought'? Will you never learn to think before you speak? Will you be forever like a sieve? Must we always hesitate to speak a private matter out in front of you, because we know it will be all over the town an hour later? Are you going to be the only one of the Winnebagos who can't keep a secret?"

Hinpoha's heart came near to breaking. Those were the severest words Nyoda had ever spoken to her. Yet Nyoda did not say them severely. Her tone was gentle, and her hand stroked the dishevelled red curls as she spoke; but what she said pierced Hinpoha's heart like a knife. A vision of herself came up as she must seem to others-a rattle brained creature who couldn't keep anything to herself if her life depended upon it. How the others must despise her! Now she despised herself! Above all, how Nyoda must despise her-Nyoda, who always said the right thing at the right time, and whose tongue never got her into trouble! Nyoda might have nothing more to do with such a tattle tale! In her anguish she groaned aloud.

"Don't you see," went on Nyoda earnestly, "what suffering you bring upon yourself as well as upon other people by just not thinking? You could escape all that if you acquired a little discretion."

"Oh, I'll never tell anything again!" Hinpoha cried vehemently. "I'll keep my lips tight shut, I'll sew them shut. I won't be like a sieve. You can tell all the secrets in front of me you like, they'll be safe. Oh, don't say you'll never tell me any more secrets!" she said pleadingly. "Just try me and see!"

"Certainly I'll keep on telling you secrets," said Nyoda, "because I believe they really will be safe after this." She saw the depth of woe into which Hinpoha had been plunged and knew that the bitter experience had taught her a lesson in discretion she would not soon forget. Poor impulsive, short-sighted Hinpoha! How her tongue was forever tripping her up, and what agonies of remorse she suffered afterward!

Hinpoha uncovered one eye and saw Nyoda looking at her with the same loving, friendly glance as always, and cast herself impulsively upon her shoulder. "You'll see how discreet I can be!" she murmured humbly.

Nyoda smiled down at her and held her close for a minute.

"Listen!" she said. From the room where Sylvia lay there came the sound of a song. It began falteringly at first and choked off several times, but went bravely on, gaining in power, until the merry notes filled the house. The indomitable little spirit had fought its battle with gloom and come out victorious.

"The spirit of a princess!" Nyoda exclaimed admiringly. "Sylvia is of the true blood royal; she knows that the thoroughbred never whimpers; it is only the low born who cry out when hurt."

"Gee, listen to that!" exclaimed Slim, sitting in the library with Sherry and the other two boys, when Sylvia's song rang through the house, brave and clear. The four looked at each other, and the eyes of each held a tribute for the brave little singer. Sherry stood up and saluted, as though in the presence of a superior officer.

"She ought to have a Distinguished Valor Cross," he said, "for conspicuous bravery under fire."

"Pluckiest little kid I ever saw!" declared Slim feelingly, and then blew a violent blast on his nose.

"Sing a cheer!" called Sahwah, and the Winnebagos lined up in the hall outside Sylvia's door and sang to her with a vigor that made the windows rattle:

"Oh, Sylvia, here's to you,

Our hearts will e'er be true,

We will never find your equal

Though we search the whole world through!"

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