The Camp Fire Girls at the Seashore; Or, Bessie Kings Happiness

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The Camp Fire Girls at the Seashore

Or, Bessie King's Happiness

Camp Fire Girls Series, Volume VI

By JANE L. STEWART

The Saalfield Publishing Company Chicago Akron, Ohio New York

Copyright, 1914 By The Saalfield Publishing Company

They had hearty appetites for the camp breakfast.]

The Camp Fire Girls at the Seashore

CHAPTER I

FROM THE ASHES

The sun rose over Plum Beach to shine down on a scene of confusion andwreckage that might have caused girls less determined and courageousthan those who belonged to the Manasquan Camp Fire of the Camp FireGirls of America to feel that there was only one thing to do--pack upand move away. But, though the camp itself was in ruins, there were nosigns of discouragement among the girls themselves. Merry laughter viedwith the sound of the waves, and the confusion among the girls was moreapparent than real.

”Have you got everything sorted, Margery--the things that are completelyruined and those that are worth saving?” asked Eleanor Mercer, theGuardian of the Camp Fire.

”Yes, and there's more here that we can save and still use than anyonewould have dreamed just after we got the fire put out,” replied MargeryBurton, one of the older girls, who was a Fire-Maker. In the Camp Firethere are three ranks--the Wood-Gatherers, to which all girls belongwhen they join; the Fire-Makers, next in order, and, finally, theTorch-Bearers, of which Manasquan Camp Fire had none. These rank next tothe Guardian in a Camp Fire, and, as a rule, there is only one in eachCamp Fire. She is a sort of assistant to the Guardian, and, as the nameof the rank implies, she is supposed to hand on the light of what theCamp Fire has given her, by becoming a Guardian of a new Camp Fire assoon as she is qualified.

”What's next?” cried Bessie King, who had been working with some of theother girls in sorting out the things which could be used, despite thedamage done by the fire that had almost wiped out the camp during thenight.

”Why, we'll start a fire of our own!” said Eleanor. ”There's no sort ofuse in keeping any of this rubbish, and the best way to get rid of it isjust to burn it. All hands to work now, piling it up and seeing thatthere is a good draught underneath, so that it will burn up. We can getrid of ashes easily, but half-burned things are a nuisance.”

”Where are we going to sleep to-night?” asked Dolly Ransom, ruefullysurveying the places where the tents had stood. Only two remained, whichwere used for sleeping quarters by some of the girls.

”I'm more bothered about what we're going to eat,” said Eleanor, with alaugh. ”Do you realize that we've been so excited that we haven't hadany breakfast? I should think you'd be starved, Dolly. You've had abusier morning than the rest of us, even.”

”I _am_ hungry, when I'm reminded of it,” said Dolly, with a comicalgesture. ”Whatever are we going to do, Miss Eleanor?”

”I'm just teasing you, Dolly,” said Eleanor. ”Mr. Salters came over fromGreen Cove in his boat, when he saw the fire, to see if he couldn't helpin some way, and he's gone in to Bay City. He'll be out pretty soon witha load of provisions, and as many other things as he can stuff into the_Sally S_.”

”Then we're really going to stay here?” said Bessie King.

”We certainly are!” said Eleanor, her eyes flashing. ”I don't see why weshould let a little thing like this fire drive us away! We are going tostay here, and, what's more, we're going to have just as good a time aswe planned to have when we came here--if not a better one!”

”Good!” cried half a dozen of the girls together.

Soon all the rubbish was collected, and a fire had been built. And,while Margery Burton applied a light to it, the girls formed a circleabout it, and danced around, singing the while the most popular of CampFire songs, Wo-he-lo.

”That's like burning all the unpleasant things that have happened to us,isn't it?” said Eleanor. ”We just toss them into the flames,and--they're gone! What's left is clean and good and useful, and we willmake all the better use of it for having lost what is burning now.”

”Isn't it strange, Miss Eleanor,” said Bessie King, ”that this shouldhave happened to us so soon after the fire that burned up the Pratt'sfarm?”

”Yes, it is,” replied Eleanor. ”And there's a lesson in it for us, justas there was for them in their fire. We didn't expect to find them insuch trouble when we started to walk there, but we were able to helpthem, and to show them that there was a way of rising from the ruin oftheir home, and being happier and more prosperous than they had beenbefore.”

”We're going to do that, too,” said Dolly, with spirit. ”I felt terriblewhen I first saw the place in the light, after the fire was all out, butit looks different already.”

”Mr. Salters will be here soon,” said Eleanor. ”And now there's nothingmore to do until he comes. We'll have a fine meal--and if you're half ashungry as I am you'll be glad of that--and we'll spend the afternoon ingetting the place to rights. But just now the best thing for all of usto do is to rest.”

”I'll be glad to do that,” said Dolly Ransom, as she linked her arm withBessie's and drew her away. ”I am pretty tired.”

”I should think you would be, Dolly. I haven't had a chance to thank youyet for what you did for me.”

”Oh, nonsense, Bessie!” said Dolly, flushing. ”You'd have done it forme, wouldn't you? I'm only just as glad as I can be that I was able todo anything to get you away from Mr. Holmes--you and Zara.”

”Zara's gone to pieces completely, Dolly. She was terriblyfrightened--more than I was, I think, and yet I don't see how that canbe, because I was as frightened as I think anyone could have been.”

”I never saw them get hold of you at all, Bessie. How did it happen?”

”Well, that's pretty hard to say, Bessie. You know, after we found outthat that yacht was here just to watch us, I was nervous, and so wereyou.”

”I think we had reason to be nervous, don't you?”

”I should say so! Well, anyhow, as soon as I saw that the tents were onfire, I was sure that the men on the yacht had had something to do withit. But, of course, there wasn't anything to do but try as hard I couldto help put out the fire, and it was so exciting that I didn't thinkabout any other danger until I saw a man from the boat that had comeashore pick Zara up and start to carry her out to it.”

”They pretended to be helping us with the fire, and they really didhelp, Bessie. I guess we wouldn't have saved any of the tents at all ifit hadn't been for them.”

”Oh, I saw what they were doing! When I saw the man pick Zara up,though, I knew right away what their plan was. And I was just going toscream when another man got hold of me, and he kept me from shouting,and carried me off to the yacht in the boat. Zara had fainted, and theykept us down below in a cabin and said they were going to take us alongthe coast until we came to the coast of the state Zara and I were inwhen we met you girls first.”

”We guessed that, Bessie. That was one of the things we were allworrying about when we came here--that they might try to carry you twooff that way. I don't see how it can be that you're all right as long asyou're in this state, and in danger as soon as you go back to the oneyou came from.”

”Well, you see, Zara and I really did run away, I suppose. Zara's fatheris in prison, so they said she had to have a guardian, and I left theHoovers. So that old Farmer Weeks--you know about him, don't you?--isour guardian in that state, and he's got an order from the judge nearHedgeville putting us in his care until we are twenty-one.”

”But that order's no good in this state?”

”No, because here Miss Mercer is our guardian. But if they can get usinto that other state, no matter how, they can hold us.”

”Oh, I see! And, of course, Miss Eleanor understood right away. When wetold the men who had helped us with the fire that you were missing, theysaid they were afraid you must have been caught in the fire, but MissEleanor said she was sure you were on the yacht. And they just laughed.”

”I heard that big man, Jeff, talking to her when she went aboard theyacht.”

”Yes. They wouldn't let her look for you, and he threatened to put heroff if she didn't come ashore. You heard that, didn't you?”

”Oh, yes! Zara and I could hear everything she said when she was in thecabin on the yacht. But we couldn't let her know where we were.”

”Well, just as soon as she could get to a telephone, Miss Eleanor calledup Bay City, and asked them to send policemen or some sort of officerswho could search the yacht. But we were terribly afraid that they wouldsail away before those men could get here, and then, you see, wecouldn't have done a thing. There wouldn't have been any way of catchingthem.”

”And they'd have done it, too, if it hadn't been for you, Dolly! I don'tsee how you ever thought of it, and how you were brave enough to do whatyou did when you did think of it.”

”Oh, pshaw, Bessie--it was easy! I knew enough about yachts tounderstand that if their screw was twisted up with rope it wouldn'tturn, and that would keep them there for a little while, anyhow. Andthey never seemed to think of that possibility at all. So I swam outthere, and, of course, I could dive and stay down for a few seconds at atime. It was easier, because I had something to hold on to.”

”It was mighty clever, and mighty plucky of you, too, Dolly.”

”There was only one thing I regretted, Bessie. I wish I'd been able tohear what they said when they found out they couldn't get away!”

”I wish you'd been there, too, Dolly,” said Bessie, laughing. ”They wereperfectly furious, and everyone on board blamed everyone else. It tookthem quite a while to find out what was the matter, and then even afterthey found out, it meant a long delay before they could clear the screwand get moving.”

”I never was so glad of anything in my life, Bessie, as when we saw themen from Bay City coming while that yacht was still here! We keptwatching it all the time, of course, and we saw them send the sailorover to dive down and find out what was wrong. Then we could see himgoing down and coming up, time after time, and it seemed as if he wouldget it done in time.”

”It must have been exciting, Dolly.”

”I guess it was just as exciting for you, wasn't it? But it would havebeen dreadful if, after having held them so long, it hadn't been quitelong enough.”

”Well, it _was_ long enough, Dolly, thanks to you! I hate to think ofwhere I would be now if you hadn't managed it so cleverly.”

”What will they do to those men on the yacht, do you suppose?”

”I don't know. Miss Eleanor wants to prove that it was Mr. Holmes whogot them to do it, I think. But that won't be decided until her cousin,Mr. Jamieson, the lawyer, comes. He'll know what we'd better do, and I'msure Miss Eleanor will leave it to him to decide.”

”I tell you one thing, Bessie. This sort of persecution of you and Zarahas got to be stopped. I really do believe they've gone too far thistime. Of course, if they had got you away, they'd have been all right,because in that other state where you two came from what they did wasall right. But they got caught at it. I certainly do hope that Mr.Jamieson will be able to find some way to stop them.”

”I'm glad we're going to stay here, aren't you, Dolly? Do you know, Ireally feel that we'll be safer here now than if we went somewhere else?They've tried their best to get at us here, and they couldn't manage it.Perhaps now they'll think that we'll be on our guard too much, and leaveus alone.”

”I hope so, Bessie. But look here, there were two girls on guard lastnight, and what good did it do us?”

”You don't think they were asleep, do you, Dolly?”

”No, I'm sure they weren't. But they just didn't have a chance to doanything. What happened was this. Margery and Mary were sitting back toback, so that one could watch the yacht and the other the path thatleads up to the spring on top of the bluff, where those two men we hadseen were sitting.”

”That was a good idea, Dolly.”

”First rate, but those people were too clever. They didn't row ashore ina boat--not here, at least. And no one came down the path, until later,anyhow. The first thing that made Margery think there was anything wrongwas when she smelt smoke and then, a second later, the big living tentwas all ablaze.”

”It might have been an accident, Dolly, I suppose--”

”Oh, yes, it might have been, but it wasn't! They were here too soon,and it fitted in too well with their plans. Miss Eleanor thinks sheknows how they started the fire.”

”But how could they have done that, if there were none of them here onthe beach, Dolly?”

”She says that if they were on the bluff, above the tents, they couldvery easily have thrown down bombs that would smoulder, and soon set thecanvas on fire. And there was a high wind last night, and it wouldn'thave taken long, once a spark had touched the canvas, for everything toblaze up. They couldn't have picked a much better night.”

”I don't suppose that can be proved, though, Dolly.”

”I'm afraid not. That's what Miss Eleanor says, too. She says you canoften be so sure of a thing yourself that it seems that it must havehappened, without being able to prove it to someone else. That's wherethey are so clever, and that's what makes them so dangerous. They canhide their tracks splendidly.”

”I don't see why men who can do such things couldn't keep straight, andreally make more money honestly than they can by being crooked.”

”It does seem strange, doesn't it, Bessie? Oh, look, there's the _SallyS._ with our breakfast--and there's another boat coming in. I wonder ifMr. Jamieson can be here already?”

In a moment his voice proved that it _was_ possible, and a few minuteslater, while the girls were helping Captain Salters to unload the storeshe had brought with him, Eleanor was greeting her attorney from BayCity.