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The Camp Fire Girls' Larks and Pranks
OR The House of the Open Door By HILDEGARD G. FREY
AUTHOR OF The Camp Fire Girls Series
A. L. BURT COMPANY Publishers New York
THE Camp Fire Girls Series
A Series of Stories for Camp Fire Girls Endorsed by the Officials of the Camp Fire Girls Organization
By HILDEGARD G. FREY
The Camp Fire Girls in the Maine Woods or, The Winnebago's Go Camping
The Camp Fire Girls at School or, The Wohelo Weavers
The Camp Fire Girls at Onoway House or, The Magic Garden
The Camp Fire Girls Go Motoring or, Along the Road That Leads the Way
The Camp Fire Girls' Larks and Pranks or, The House of the Open Door
The Camp Fire Girls on Ellen's Isle or, the Trail of the Seven Cedars
The Camp Fire Girls on the Open Road or, Glorify Work
The Camp Fire Girls Do Their Bit or, Over The Top With the Winnebago's
The Camp Fire Girls Solve a Mystery or, The Christmas Adventures at Carver House
The Camp Fire Girls at Camp Keewaydin or, Down Paddles
Copyright, 1917 By A. L. Burt Company
THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS' LARKS AND PRANKS
THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS' LARKS AND PRANKS
CHAPTER I THE HOUSE OF THE OPEN DOOR
It was the crisp chill of an early October evening; in the still air thedead leaves came rustling down with a soft sound like whispers, while thecrickets chirped a cheery welcome from the waiting earth. Over thetreetops a big yellow hunter's moon was rising; its comical face grinninggood-naturedly. It looked down on the dark outlines of a large barnstanding in the shadow of a tall tree and the grin widened perceptibly.Evidently something was happening on earth.
A dark form stole softly up the long drive leading to the barn and pausedbefore the door. Through the silence there rose the whistling wail of thewhippoorwill, repeated three times, and ending abruptly in the squall ofa catbird. From within the blackness of the barn came an echo of thewhippoorwill's call, followed by a much more cheerful note--the carol ofthe bluebird. Then a clear voice called from inside, Who goes there?
A friend, came the reply.
Stand and give the countersign, commanded the voice inside.
Other Council Fires were here before, responded the newcomer.
Advance and give the Inner Password, said the invisible sentinel.
The figure passed through the dark entrance and came to a halt justinside, crying, Kolah Olowan!
Mount! commanded the voice above, and the stranger lost no time inobeying the invitation. Scrambling up the ladder fastened to the wallwhich did duty as a staircase, she thrust aside the curtain at the topand stepped out into the lighted upper chamber.
Anyone seeing that dark and deserted looking building from the outsidewould never guess how bright and cheerful was that upper room within. Awood fire roared in a cobblestone fireplace, its gleam lighting up wallshung with leather skins and gay Indian blankets and festooned with spraysof bittersweet. Several more Indian blankets were spread out on the floorin lieu of rugs, while from the rafters were suspended woven baskets andpieces of pottery. Ranged around the sides of the chamber, where thesloping roof met the floor, were four beds, all different, and only oneindicating that the dwellers in that secret lodge were civilized persons.The first was a neat cot bed with blankets tucked in smoothly all around,and a dust cover folded up at the foot; the second was an Indian bedmade of pine branches, dried ferns and sweet grasses, piled several feethigh and ingeniously confined by woven reeds and pliant twigs. The scentof the sweet grasses, mingled with the aromatic odor of the pine, filledthe room with a dreamy fragrance that seemed like a charm to lure downthe Sleep Manitou. The third was a pile of bearskins and the fourth wasanother kind of Indian bed, made of smooth round willow rods tiedtogether with ropes and laid across two poles fastened into the wall.
No windows were visible, as these had been covered with skins. Except forthe camp bed, the wide hearthstone and one other detail it might havebeen the lodge of some Indian Chief of olden time. That other detail wasa green felt pennant stretched across the chimney above the stone shelfof the fireplace, bearing in clean-cut English letters the wordWINNEBAGO. Most of our readers have probably guessed the truth beforethis--the Indian lodge we have been describing is the meeting place ofthe Winnebago Camp Fire Girls and the solitary visitor who uttered theplaintive cry of the whippoorwill with its grotesque ending in a cat callis none other than our old friend, Sahwah the Sunfish.
O Nyoda, such larks! cried Sahwah, skipping across the room andbestowing a hasty embrace on the sentinel guarding the fire, whom thereader has doubtless suspected of being Miss Kent, the Guardian of theWinnebago group.
Nyoda laughingly shook herself free and smoothed out the Ceremonial dressshe held in her hand, which had become sadly crumpled during the processof Sahwah's bear hug. What mischief are you into this time? she askedfondly, smiling down into Sahwah's dancing eyes.
Sahwah went into a gale of giggles before she could explain. You knowGladys was going to drive all of us girls down in the Glow-wormto-night, she said, controlling her laughter with an effort, and shetelephoned Hinpoha while I was there to dinner that she was over at Mrs.Varden's, the dressmaker's, having a fit, and the Glow-worm was standingout in front of the house, so we should gather up the other girls and getinto the car and wait for her to come out, to save her the time of goingaround after the girls, for her fit threatened to be a lengthy one. SoHinpoha started out after Medmangi and Nakwisi and I went back home afterthese apples, which I'd forgotten to take along to Hinpoha's. When I gotto the corner of the street along came Gladys in the Glow-worm and saidshe had an errand to do for her mother in a hurry and we had better comestraight out here without her and she would come later. I hurried over toMrs. Varden's house to tell the girls, but when I got nearly there I sawa black car standing out in front and Hinpoha and Nakwisi and Medmangisitting in it as cool as cucumbers, thinking they were in the Glow-worm.I recognized the car as belonging to that horribly bashful son of Mrs.Varden's, and I couldn't resist the temptation to let the girls sit in ituntil he came out. So I stole back up the street, keeping in the shadowof the trees so the girls wouldn't see me, and came out here. Oh, won'tthere be a situation though, when 'Dolly' Varden comes out and finds hisnice bachelor car full of bold, bad girls!
The picture was too much for Sahwah, and she rolled on the bed shriekingwith laughter, in which Nyoda joined heartily. I wonder how long it willbe before they come, said Sahwah, rising from the bed and wiping hereyes. What shall we do to pass away the time?
If I were you, advised Nyoda, I would spend it searching a nice saferetreat to which you can fly when they come and find out you didn't tellthem.
Hardly had she spoken the words when there floated up from below thefamiliar cry of the whippoorwill, followed successively by the long,eerie laugh of the loon, the blithe whistle of the quail and the song ofthe robin. There they are! exclaimed Sahwah in mock terror. Whereshall I hide? Oh, I have it, I'll get inside of that pile of bearskinsand listen while they tell their tale of woe to you and then I'll hop outand laugh at them. Quick as a flash she jumped into the bearskin bed andpulled the skins over her so that she was entirely concealed.
With a great deal of chattering and giggling the three arrivals weremounting the ladder. Keep on going, Hinpoha! exclaimed Nakwisi, you'restepping on my hand.
Keep on going yourself, retorted Hinpoha, you haven't a pie in yourhand. Just at that moment her foot slipped and she clutched wildly atthe ladder for support.
There goes the pie! shrieked someone, as it described a circle in theair and landed with a thud. Hinpoha wrung her hands in grief, for hermouth was already watering for that crisp pastry.
Medmangi walked over to view the remains. It isn't hurt a mite, shesaid calmly, picking it up and dusting it off. Fortunately it landedright side up in the tin.
O Nyoda, cried Hinpoha, beaming once more now that the feast of pie wasassured, we had the most fun getting here! Gladys told us the Glow-wormwas standing out in front of the Varden's house and we should get in andwait for her, and we saw a car and got in. Pretty soon out came young Mr.Varden, got into the front seat without looking to the right or left anddrove off. We thought of course he was driving Gladys' car away and weall three shrieked at him at once. He pretty nearly dropped dead when heheard us, and stopped the car so suddenly we all flew out of the seat.But he was perfectly grand about it when we found out our mistake. Hetold us Gladys had gone home fifteen minutes before, but he would beperfectly delighted to drive us where we wanted to go. And so he broughtus out, she finished with a dramatic flourish, and sat down heavily ontop of the bearskin bed where Sahwah lay hidden. Immediately there was anupheaval and a grotesque animal sprang from the bed, an animal which hadthe skin of a bear and two red stockinged legs which capered wildly aboutwhile their owner shrieked piercingly, She sat on my breathing apparatusand I won't be able to talk for a week!
You _are_ talking, you goose, said Hinpoha, calmly seating herselfagain after poking the bed to see if it were further inhabited.
You missed it, Sahwah, by going home, she continued. Too bad youweren't along to share the fun.
Sahwah's expression was funny to behold when she learned how the joke hadturned out, for it was not on the girls after all, but on herself, forshe had walked all the way to the lodge by herself. She looked rathersilly as she caught Nyoda's eye, but while Nyoda twinkled mischievouslyat her Sahwah knew that she would never give her away. But of course whenGladys arrived a few minutes later and heard the story, Sahwah's part init came out and she had to stand the gibes of the others because her jokehad turned round on herself, until Nyoda called the beginning of theCeremonial and peace was restored.
One name has been dropped from the Count Book of the Winnebagos sincelast we heard the roll called, and to another there is no reply, althoughit is always called. Early in the fall Chapa the Chipmunk moved to adistant city, and so for the first time the close circle of theWinnebagos was broken. Then shortly afterward Migwan went away to collegeand her departure caused a fresh bereavement. Though Migwan had been ofsuch a very quiet nature, her influence had been widely felt, and thegirls missed her more and more as the days went on. Hinpoha, especially,was almost inconsolable, for she and Migwan had always stood a littlecloser together than the rest of the girls. This was the first CeremonialMeeting without the two and it seemed very strange indeed to omit Chapa'sname from the roll, and when Migwan's name was called and was followed bysilence, Hinpoha sniffed audibly and wiped her eyes.
Sister, this is a very solemn occasion, said Sahwah the irrepressible,in such a forced tone of sorrow that it was impossible not to laugh ather.
That's right, said Nyoda. It won't do for us to pull long faces. Wehave vowed to 'be happy' you know. Think how much worse off Chapa isalone in a strange city. Come, be cheerful and tell what kind deeds youhave seen done today. You begin, Sahwah.
Sahwah took hold of her toes with her hands and tilted back and forth onthe floor as she spoke. Sally Jones did me a great service yesterday incomposition class. You know Sally Jones--the one they call theBlunderbuss. Well, you know what a pig I am when it comes to writingcomposition. I never wrote one yet that I didn't get a blot on. Last weekwhen I handed mine in Miss Snively said that if there was a blot on mypaper this week she would mark me zero for the month. So yesterday whenwe had to write one in class I took the utmost care and got it all donespotlessly and was just signing my name when Anna Green behind me triedto pick a thread off my collar and laid her fishy cold hand against myneck. I jumped and wriggled and the result was a beautiful blot on mycomposition. There wasn't time to copy it over because it was almost theend of the hour, so I resigned myself to a nice fat cipher on my reportcard this month. Then Miss Snively sent Sally around to collect thepapers and when she came to my desk she leaned across it in such anawkward way that she upset my inkwell all over my composition and my onesmall blot was completely hidden by the deluge. Miss Snively graciouslyrequested me to do it over in rest hour, which I did, and handed it in inperfect shape. Upsetting that inkwell was the kindest thing anybody everdid for me.
There was a moment of laughter at Sahwah's tale of kindness and thenquiet fell on the group again. Tell us a story, Nyoda, begged Hinpoha,breaking the silence, we're getting low in our minds again.
Yes, do, begged the others.
Nyoda sat silent a moment staring thoughtfully into the fire. Her handswere clasped around her knees and the light shone on the diamond ringwhich now encircled the fourth finger of her left hand--the only thingwhich made the girls realize that their amazing adventures of the firstweek in September had been a reality and not a dream.
In a village in eastern Hungary, began Nyoda, there lived a girl aboutyour age. Her father was a very wealthy man, and lived on a great estate.Veronica--that was the girl's name--was the only child, and hadeverything that her heart desired. The thing she loved to do the best wasride horse-back and she had a beautiful horse for her very own. Sheshowed great talent on the violin and had the best masters. Veronica grewto be seventeen as happy as a girl could be, with an indulgent father anda beautiful, sweet mother. Then a dreadful thing happened. War wasdeclared in the country and the village where they lived was taken by theenemy. Her father was killed, their home was burned and her mother died.Veronica, with the rest of the people in the village, ran away toward themountains when the village burned. But Veronica became separated from herfriends and fell, and could not get up again, for her leg was broken. Shelay there a long time, and gave herself up for lost, when she heard awhinny beside her and there was her pet horse, who had been following herall the way. She managed to swing herself up on his back and he gallopedaway to the safety of the mountains. They found their way across theborder into another country where some kind people took care of theorphan girl. The faithful horse fell after he had brought her to safetyand hurt himself so badly that he had to be shot. The people who tookcare of Veronica sent her across the ocean to her aunt and uncle. So, sadand lonesome, she came to this country to be an American.
Here Nyoda paused for breath, and Hinpoha burst out quickly, Oh, how Iwish this had happened in our time and that poor lonely girl had come tothis city and we had met her and made her happy. Wouldn't we be kind toher, though, if we had a chance?
Nyoda proceeded quietly. All this _has_ happened in your time, and thislonesome girl _has_ come to our city, and you are going to have a chanceto be kind to her often.
Nyoda! shrieked all the girls at once. You mean she lives in our city,and you actually know her? Where does she live? When will we seeher? What is her whole name? How old did you say she was?
Have mercy! exclaimed Nyoda, putting her hands over her ears. I canonly answer ten questions at once. Veronica's uncle is Mr. Lehar, theconductor of the Temple Theatre orchestra. I live next door to them, youknow, and am well acquainted with Mrs. Lehar. She told me about Veronicasome time ago and last week she went to New York to get her. Iimmediately asked her to allow her niece to join the Winnebago group, ifyou girls were willing to take her, that she might not be lonely here.Will you take her in, girls?
We certainly will! cried Gladys and Hinpoha in a breath, and Sahwahsprang to her feet exclaiming vehemently, Well, I guess so!
When is she coming? they wanted to know next.
I'll bring her to the next meeting, promised Nyoda, and I want yougirls to--
What it was she wanted them to do they never found out, for just at thatminute there was a terrific thump on the floor below followed by thehurried clatter of heavy footsteps, then the scraping of feet on theladder, a great waving and billowing of the curtain at the top and thenit was wrenched aside, and into the Council Chamber there burst thefattest boy they had ever seen. His great cheeks hung down over hiscollar; his eyes were nearly buried. His face was purple from violentexertion and he sat limply against the bearskin bed, panting heavily. Thegirls stared open-mouthed at the intruder. Before they had recoveredsufficiently from their astonishment to utter a single word, the barnbelow was filled with the noise of many footsteps and the shouting ofmany voices, and the next minute the sacred Council Chamber of theWinnebagos was filled to overflowing with boys.
At the sight of the lighted chamber and the girls in Indian costumes theintruders stopped and stared in speechless surprise. Then with one accordseven hats were snatched from as many heads and seven voices exclaimed asone, Beg pardon, we didn't know anyone was here.
It was so funny to hear them all saying the same thing at once that theWinnebagos could not help laughing aloud. The confusion of the boys wasso painful that the girls actually felt sorry for them.
There are only _seven_ of you, said Sahwah, as usual breaking thesilence first. I thought at first there were _hundreds_.
Here one of the boys found his voice to speak. He was a tall boy withcurly brown hair and nice eyes, and his face was suffused with blushes ofembarrassment. Sorry to disturb you girls, he said soberly, but with atwinkle in his eye. We were chasing _him_--and he pointed to the fatboy still puffing away for dear life on the floor--and we couldn't seeany light from the outside and we didn't know anybody was up here andwhen Slim ran in we just followed him. We'll go right away again, and letyou go on with your meeting.
Nyoda looked from one face to the other--nice refined boys they were, shedecided, and it would do no hurt to show them courtesy. You needn't bein such a great hurry to go, she said cordially. You may at least stayuntil you have recovered your breath. And she looked quizzically at thefat boy leaning against the bearskins who did not seem ever to be goingto breathe again.
He tried to show his appreciation of her hospitality by getting up andmaking a bow, which threw him into such an advanced stage ofbreathlessness that he sank down again directly and had to be fanned.This caused another general laugh and the boys and girls rubbed elbows soclosely trying to revive him that all feeling of embarrassment vanishedand it suddenly seemed as if they were old friends, in spite of the factthat none of them knew the others' names. Nyoda came to herself with astart.
Excuse us, boys, she said, for not introducing ourselves. I am MissKent, Guardian of the Winnebago Camp Fire Girls, and these are theWinnebagos, and she named them in order. We were having a ratherdoleful time when you arrived. You broke up the spell of gloom and we aredeeply grateful.
The tall boy spoke again, this time smiling broadly. We're the ones whoought to apologize for not introducing ourselves, he said in a pleasantvoice, since we have caused so much disturbance. We're the SandwichClub, he continued, including all the boys in a sweeping gesture of hishand. We go to Carnegie Mechanic. That's Slim over there, he said,pointing to the fat one, while all the girls laughed. His real name'sLewis Carlton, but it's so long since anyone has called him that thathe's forgotten what it is himself. We chase him all over the country toreduce him, but sometimes he gives us the slip and hides and it takes usso long to find him that in the meantime he gains more than he lost whilewe were chasing him.
The girls fairly shouted at this and Slim doubled up a cushion-like fistand declared in a choking voice that if the fellows didn't leave him inpeace he'd sit down on them some day and that would be the end of them.The tall boy who was doing the introducing smiled sweetly at Slim andwent on with the introductions.
This one, he said, indicating an extremely thin, hungry-looking,gaunt-featured lad with sombre brown eyes and a grave mouth, is BillPitt. 'Bottomless Pitt,' we call him, because it's impossible to fill himup. You girls have heard of the Sheep Eaters? he asked suddenly, lookingfrom one to the other.
Yes, chorused the Winnebagos, not wishing to appear ignorant, but notsure whether the Sheep Eaters were beasts of prey or persons overfond ofmutton.
Well, continued the spokesman, pointing to the Bottomless Pitt, he'sa Pie Eater, he is. He eats 'em whole.
Hinpoha's glance strayed nervously to the shelf where the apple pie stoodawaiting the end of the Ceremonial Meeting. The tall boy's eyes followedhere and his teeth showed in a wide smile, as he seemed to read herthoughts. Hinpoha blushed fiery red and dropped her eyes. But he lookedaway again immediately and did not increase her embarrassment.
This, he said, drawing forward a spidery little fellow with red hairand freckles all over his face, is Munson K. McKee, called for short,Monkey, and those, indicating the other three, are Dan Porter, PeterJenkins and Harry Raymond. We seven boys have always gone together, so wedecided to form a club, and we all like sandwiches so well that we namedourselves the Sandwich Club. There, now you know all about us.
But you haven't told us _your_ name, said the Winnebagos, who werebeginning to like the spokesman very much, and were anxiously waiting tohear him introduce himself.
Haven't I? he asked. That's right, I haven't. My name, he saidsolemnly, but with that suggestion of a twinkle in his eye again, isCicero St. John--and the fellows _don't_ call me Cissy for short. Herethe corners of his mouth twitched as at some humorous memory.
You bet they don't call him Cissy! put in the Bottomless Pitt.
Hinpoha's eyes met Gladys' in comical dismay. How could anyone in theirright senses name a boy--an American boy--Cicero! The St. John partsounded very fine, but that awful Cicero!
How do you keep them from calling you--Cissy? ventured Sahwah.
He licked the tar out of them! spoke up the Monkey. And he dumped onefellow overboard out in the lake when he tried it. Everybody calls him'Cap' now, because he's captain of the football team.
Indeed, murmured the Winnebagos, looking at Cicero St. John with freshinterest and great respect, for all the world loves a football player.
And then the boys wanted to know all about the Winnebagos, and thoughttheir symbolic names and queer duds even funnier than the girls hadconsidered theirs. But they all voiced their unqualified approval of theCamp Fire Girls when they heard that the Ceremonial Meeting was to betopped off with a feast of apple pie, doughnuts and cider, and did notneed to be asked more than once to stay, and share the feast.
Say, this is a peach of a meeting place, said the Captain with hismouth full. How did you happen to get it, and whoever thought of puttinga fireplace upstairs in a barn?
We got it as the result of a sort of wager, explained Hinpoha. Gladys'father promised that if we could go on an automobile trip all byourselves without once telegraphing to him for aid he would build us aLodge to hold our meetings in, and we did and so he did.
'So _they_ did, and _he_ did, and the bears did,' quoted Nyodateasingly.
Hinpoha laughed and went on. He owned this empty barn out here in thefield and he turned it over to us. But we just had to have a fireplace orit wouldn't have been a regular Camp Fire Lodge, so he built thissplendid chimney. We have named the Lodge 'The House of the Open Door,'or the 'Open Door Lodge,' to signify hospitality. Mr. Evans wanted tobuild a fine stairway, too, but we wouldn't have it. It's lots more funto climb the ladder.
Why don't you use the ground floor? asked Slim, who could never see thesense of exerting one's self needlessly.
It's much cosier up here, replied Hinpoha. We have these adorablepeaks and gables to hang things on. Besides, we wanted to leave the bigfloor downstairs clear for dancing.
Dancing? Do you dance? cried the boys, pricking up their ears.
We surely do, replied the girls. Would you like to come down and try?
Down the ladder they went in a hurry, Slim being pushed from above andpulled from below, and landing on the floor in his usual breathlessstate. A few lanterns were hung around the walls and the big door openedwide to let in the bright rays of the full moon and the place was nearlyas light as day. Nyoda played her banjo and the twelve pairs of feetshuffled merrily to the lively strains. As there were only five girls,Slim and Peter Jenkins were left without partners and consoled themselvesby dancing together. Peter came just to Slim's shoulder and weighedninety-five pounds against Slim's two hundred and thirty, and the resultwas so ludicrous that the rest could hardly dance for laughing. It waslike a monkey dancing with an elephant. Slim took mincing little stepsand looked down at his partner with a simpering, languishing expression,while Peter strained heroically to encircle his fair one's waist with hisarm. Rocking back and forth in exaggerated rhythm, Slim tripped over aboard and fell with a great crash, pinning his gallant partner under him.The rest flew to the rescue and propped Peter up against the wall,fanning him vigorously.
He'll recover, pronounced the Captain, after a thorough going over ofhis bones, but he'll never be the same again.
All is over between us, said Slim, wringing his hands in mock despair.Miss Kent, won't _you_ dance with me?
It's time we were going home, said Nyoda calmly. Come, girls.
Go home! echoed the Captain. I thought you lived here.
But how about all the beds upstairs? asked the Captain.
Oh, explained Nyoda, we all constructed different kinds of beds to winhonors, and left them there in case we might want to stay some time.
It's a pretty fine clubhouse, I'll say, remarked the Bottomless Pitt ina tone of envy. I wish we Sandwiches had one like it. We have no placeto call our own.
Hinpoha's thoughts leaped to the Fire Song, the words of which hungbeside the fireplace up above:
_Whose house is bare and dark and cold,_ _Whose house is cold,_ _This is his own._
She spoke impulsively. Oh, Nyoda, couldn't we let them use the groundfloor to hold their meeting in?
A cheer burst from the seven boys' lips. Hooray! May we, Miss Kent?
Nyoda was silent and looked at the boys with a troubled expression, andher glance as it rested on Hinpoha held a reproof. There was an awkwardsilence. Then the Captain spoke up.
I understand what you mean, Miss Kent, he said simply andstraightforwardly. You don't know anything about us and of course youwouldn't want to share your club house with us on such shortacquaintance. We wouldn't think much of you if you did. It was all rightof course for you to ask us to stay and dance with the girls this oneevening when you were here with us, but that doesn't mean that you'rewilling to adopt us. But we like you girls first rate, and want to knowyou better if you will let us. You can go to any of the teachers atCarnegie Mechanic and find out all you want to know about us. Pitt'sfather is Math teacher there and my father is Dr. Cicero St. John. It wassimply great of you to offer to let us come here and hold our meetings,and if you'll still keep the offer open after you have investigated us toyour satisfaction we'll be mighty grateful and will promise not to botheryou upstairs.
The boy's face was so open and manly that it was impossible not tobelieve in him then and there. Nyoda smiled into his earnest face. Allright, Captain, she said, we'll agree to put you on probation, and ifyou stand the test we'll consider the matter of sharing the Open DoorLodge.
The Captain smiled back at her and held out his hand. You're a peach andI like you, he said emphatically, and the two were sworn friends fromthat moment on.