The Camp Fire Girls Behind the Lines

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THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS BEHIND THE LINES

BY MARGARET VANDERCOOK

Author of ”The Ranch Girls” Series, ”The Red Cross Girls” Series, etc.

ILLUSTRATED

PHILADELPHIATHE JOHN C. WINSTON CO.PUBLISHERS

Copyright, 1918, byThe John C. Winston Company

A Sentry Ordered Dan to Stop His Car]

CONTENTS

I. ”EL CAMINO REAL”

II. THE LAND OF ROMANCE

III. THE CALL TO SERVICE

IV. THE CAMP AND TEMPERAMENTAL EXCURSIONS

V. ABALONE SHELLS

VI. ”MY OWN WILL COME TO ME”

VII. THE SACRIFICE OF YOUTH

VIII. FELIPE

IX. THE CANTONMENT

X. PLANS

XI. THE DANCE

XII. ”AS YOU LIKE IT”

XIII. HUMAN PSYCHOLOGY

XIV. THE NIGHT OF THE PLAY

XV. ”I WILL MARRY YOU, IF EVER I MARRY WOMAN”

XVI. GERRY'S OPPORTUNITY

XVII. FOLLY AND COURAGE

XVIII. THE SUMMONS

XIX. PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

XX. BITTER WATERS

ILLUSTRATIONS

A SENTRY ORDERED DAN TO STOP HIS CAR

THEIR HOST LED THE WAY THROUGH THE OUTER COURT INTO THE ENCLOSED ONE

ON ONE OCCASION GERRY AND FELIPE DISCOVERED THAT THEY WERE ACTUALLYDANCING ALONE

AS MRS. BURTON DREW NEAR SHE RECOGNIZED ONE OF THEM AS DAN WEBSTER

The Camp Fire Girls Behind the Lines

CHAPTER I

”El Camino Real”

A small cavalcade was slowly winding down a steep, white road.

The bare, brown hills rose up on one side like the earth's friars of St.Francis, while on the other, at some distance away, the Pacific Oceanshowed green and still. Near the shore the waves broke into whitesprites of foam against the deep, incurving cliffs.

A girl riding at the head of the column reined in her horse, afterwardsmaking a mysterious sign in the air with one upraised hand.

In answer to her signal the other riders, a group of Camp Fire girls,also stopped their horses. Across many miles sounded faintly thedeep-toned voices of old mission bells.

”I believe the mission is ringing a farewell to us,” one of the girlsremarked to the companion whose western pony had stopped nearest herown. ”To me, of all the Spanish missions we have seen so far, Carmel wasthe loveliest. '_Carmelo_'--why, the very name has an enchanting sound!

”Bells of the Past, whose long-forgotten music Still fills the wide expanse, Tingeing the sober twilight of the Present With colors of romance!

”I hear you call, and see the sun descending On rock and wave and sand, As down the coast the mission voices, blending, Girdle the heathen land!

”Borne on the swell 'of your long waves receding, I touch the farther Past-- I see the dying glow of Spanish glory, The sunset dream and last!”

The girl who had been reciting possessed an odd, charming voice with aslightly hoarse note. She was small and had bright, almostcopper-colored hair. Her slender nose, which had a queer little twistat the end, destroyed any claim she might otherwise have had toconventional beauty and yet curiously enough added to the fascination ofher expression.

The other girl shook her head.

”I don't agree with you, Marta. You seem to me in as great a state ofenthusiasm over everything we have seen in California as if you were anative. I confess to you I am a little weary of visiting old Spanishmissions. Personally I shall be glad when we are in our summer camp. Themissions are so empty and so sleepy these days with their queer, dreamyold gardens and no one to be seen except an occasional tourist and a fewold monks. Nevertheless I liked your recitation. Sometimes I wonder,Marta, if you intend imitating our Camp Fire guardian's career?”

Gerry Williams spoke in a voice of amused superiority she often employedin talking with other girls.

Marta Clark's eyes, which had the strange characteristic of appearing tochange in color according to her moods, now darkened slightly as sheturned to gaze steadily at her companion.

”Do you know, Gerry, I have an idea the old missions would never havebored you, if you had any thought that a prince might come and discoveryou in one of them!”

”Certainly not,” Gerry laughed.

Gerry was alluring. Her hat was hanging over the pommel of her saddle sothat her fair hair was blowing about her face. Now that the sun and windhad tanned her delicate skin, her blue eyes looked bluer than ever.

Instead of replying, Marta Clark, at this instant, turned her horse withthe intention of riding beside one of the other girls.

Marta Clark was the latest addition to the new group of Sunrise HillCamp Fire girls. The summer before she had met them in Arizona wherethey were camping at the ”End of the Trail.” At that time she was livingnearby in a tent with her brother who had been seriously ill. Herbrother's health had improved and he had written a successful play.Afterwards his marriage to Ellen Deal, one of the older Camp Fire girls,had made it possible for Marta Clark to accept Mrs. Burton's invitationto join her Camp Fire group. As her guests they were now travelingalong the Pacific coast, visiting the old Spanish missions.

The King's Highway, called in the old Spanish tongue, _El Camino Real_,stretches from northern California to the southernmost end.

One of the other Camp Fire girls turned her head as Marta came near her.All the horses were moving on again.

”I wonder why the automobile has not caught up with us?” Peggy Websterremarked. ”I supposed the car would have passed us long ago. As it istime for tea, and I am already tired, I think it would have been moresensible if we had remained together.”

The little riding party of six girls was accompanied by a large wagonfilled with a camping outfit. The wagon was drawn by a small pair ofgray mules and driven by a tall, raw-boned man, a typical westernplainsman. Beside him sat a young fellow about seventeen years old. Thewagon was following a few yards behind the riders.

”Then suppose we stop and have tea while we wait and watch for theothers,” Bettina Graham proposed, having overheard Peggy's lament.

”I don't believe they could have lost their way, since one has only tofollow the guide posts of the old mission bells. Nevertheless Tante hasa most eccentric fashion of suddenly deciding to explore along smallbyways. But they must surely come along here finally.”

Peggy Webster shook her head.

”We had best ride on for a little while longer in order to make thedistance we planned to make today. Perhaps by that time the car willhave joined us. In any case we can find a better place to watch and toprepare tea.”

At the present time on each side the road the mustard plants wereblooming, making a broad field of the cloth of gold broken only by thelong trail.

Further along down the slope of a hillside a miniature orange grove hadbeen planted with trees no larger than would have comfortably shadeddolls' houses.

Then, as they rode on, the Camp Fire girls drew nearer to the fine ofthe coast. A fog was blowing in from the sea.

Finally, standing up in her stirrups for an instant, Peggy Websterpointed ahead.

”See those three rocks down there that look like 'the Big Bear, theMiddle-Sized Bear and the Little Bear,' in the fairy story! Don't youthink they would form a comfortable background for our tea party? Atleast they will be a protection from the wind. If we go on and the foggrows much thicker we shall not be able even to see each other.”

Soon after the horses and the wagon halted and Dan Webster climbed down,bearing the tea basket. Mr. Simpson, who was continuing to act as guide,took charge of the horses.

The coast looked bare and wind-swept. There were no trees nearby and nodriftwood along the shore.

However, nearly two hundred years before, when Father Juniper Serrafounded and built the Spanish missions of California, he and his brothermonks left behind them a golden harvest. In all their pilgrimages fromland's end to land's end they flung the seed of the mustard plant alongtheir route.

Leaving the other girls to unpack the tea basket, Marta Clark andBettina walked quickly back along the road until not a quarter of a mileaway they discovered another field of the omnipresent mustard.

Then the two girls began searching for the dried stems of the mustardplant in order to start their camp fire.

Bettina was standing with her arms filled with the long stems when MartaClark came close up beside her. Both of the girls were knee deep amongthe golden flowers.

”You look like Ruth among the corn, Bettina,” Marta remarked, surveyingthe other girl with generous admiration.

”Do you remember the story of Ruth in the Bible? 'So she gleaned in thefield until even, and beat out that she had gleaned. And she took it upand went into the city.'”

Bettina shook her head. ”No, I do not remember. It is wonderful to me,your ability to quote so correctly. If ever you are able to do the thingyou desire, your memory will be a wonderful help. But I am not going totalk about it. I know you feel as embarrassed over your ambition as I doover mine.”

In the past few weeks Marta Clark and Bettina were beginning to feel adeep interest in each other. This was but natural, for although theywere unlike in character they had many tastes in common. Marta was quickand passionate, while Bettina was apt to appear almost too serene andself-controlled. Yet they both cared for books, for human beauty and thebeauty of the great outdoors.

During the few moments the girls were talking the fog had been closingin more thickly about them until it was only possible to see the road afew yards away through a cloak of mist.

At this instant they distinctly heard the noise of an approaching motorcar.

Mrs. Richard Burton, better known to the world as the famous actress,Polly O'Neill Burton, and guardian to the group of Sunrise Hill CampFire girls, had chosen to make the journey down the California coast inher automobile.

This afternoon her sister, Mrs. Webster, her nephew, Billy Webster, VeraLagerloff and the maid, Marie, were traveling with her.

The plan had been that the Camp Fire girls should start on their ridingtrip several hours ahead and that they meet later and camp for the nightat some agreeable place along their journey.

Marta and Bettina ran forward, intending to stop the approaching car.Both girls were thinking that the car was moving much more swiftly thanusual.

Almost immediately they saw that the automobile coming toward them wasnot Mrs. Burton's, but a small khaki-colored roadster driven by a UnitedStates officer with another soldier on the seat beside him.

They were going along at full speed as if they were carrying informationof great importance.

Then suddenly, without Marta or Bettina recognizing the cause, the carswerved, made a wide detour and quickly overturned. A few seconds laterwhen the two girls, hoping to be of service, had reached the car, theyoung United States officer was crawling slowly out from beneath thewreck.

He tried to stand up and to smile reassuringly at Bettina, who chancedto be ahead, but the next moment if she had not put out her arm tosteady him he would have fallen.

A little while after he was sitting unheroically amid the dust of theroadside, smiling somewhat quizzically up at his rescuer.

”I don't believe I am seriously hurt,” he remarked cheerfully, ”but as Iknow you are patriotic and would like to try your first-aid remediesupon me, please go ahead. I am Lieutenant Carson and at present I appearto be a somewhat unsuccessful Paul Revere. But would you mindexplaining, while you are washing the dirt out of this plagued cut on myforehead, why you are wearing a costume that seems to suggest acombination of an Indian princess' outfit and a soldier's uniform?”

Marta Clark was devoting her attention to the other soldier, who did notappear to be hurt but only slightly dazed from his mishap.

Bettina for an instant regretted that she was unable to change placeswith Marta. She had studied first aid, of course, along with her CampFire work, but was not accustomed to masculine patients.

Moreover, Bettina considered that the young officer was showing anunwarranted personal interest in his first war nurse. As a matter offact, she entirely refused to pay any attention to his questioning.