Girl Scouts at Dandelion Camp
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“Let me tell you something, too!” added Betty. “Let’s try to keep up our spirits while weeding this afternoon, by talking over what we will do when we reach the mountains. I’d rather pretend we were in the Adirondacks, or the Rockies, than over in Europe. But we can picture ourselves in the mountains, somewhere, like Sarah Crewe did you know, about her father and home, even while she had to live in the attic!”
The girls laughed at Betty’s optimism, but she took the laugh in good part; then she began weeding and at the same time began a fine oration on the beauties of the mountains and the wonders of Nature.
Soon the other girls were weeding, too, and vied with one another in thinking of some wonderful camp sports or plan they could talk about. Soon, to Ruth’s great amazement, each girl had rooted out the required number of dandelions for the day.
“Now then, didn’t I tell you we could work better if we thought of pleasant things and plans?” exulted Betty.
“We certainly did our stint this afternoon without the usual complaints and delays,” admitted Joan. “Let’s root some more.”
The rest of the afternoon passed quickly, and by the time the girls carried their baskets of weeds to Mrs. Vernon to be paid for, they found they had earned twice as much money, for they had each rooted out 200 plants instead of their usual 100.
As they sat on the cool verandah enjoying ice-cream and cakes, they told their hostess how it was they had weeded so many dandelions. Then they told her about their discouragement when they had heard how expensive a trip it would be to go to camp in the Adirondacks. But in reply to all their talking, Mrs. Vernon smiled and nodded her head.
They began to say “good-by” for the day, when Mrs. Vernon said: “I’ll have pleasant news for you to-morrow.”
“Oh, can’t we be told just a word about it now?” cried Ruth.
“Is it about a camp in the mountains?” added Joan.
But Mrs. Vernon shook her head in mild reproof of their curiosity, and refused to be beguiled into sharing her secret.
The Dandelion Girls, as they now styled themselves, lost no time after school was dismissed, the next afternoon, in running to the Vernon’s house. They found Mrs. Vernon on the side porch waiting for them.
“Before you begin work to-day, I thought I would mention a little idea I had last night after you left. It is not the secret but it has some connection with it.
“When Mr. Vernon came home last night, he told me he had heard of a fine tent for sale very cheap. There are several cot-beds and four lockers to go with it. He secured an option on it until he could ascertain what your decision might be about the purchase.
“As it is such a bargain, I would advise our buying it; then we can erect it on the rear lawn, and your tools and other chattels can be kept in the lockers. It would also provide us with a clubroom all our own while here, and when we go away to the mountains we will have a tent all ready to take with us.”
“Oh, I think that is lovely!” cried Julie, clapping her hands.
“It is so good of Uncle Verny and you – and we thank you a thousand times!” exclaimed Betty, thinking of gratitude before she gave a thought to the fun they might have in the tent.
“Well, it will make us feel as if we were preparing for a camp-life this summer, even though we may not be able to really afford it,” sighed Ruth, despondently.
“Heigh there! Cheer up, can’t you? Don’t be a gloom just when Verny tells us something so fine!” called Joan, reprovingly.
“But we don’t even know the price! Maybe it will take all the savings we have had on hand for our camping purposes,” argued Ruth.
“That’s so,” admitted Julie and Joan, but Betty said:
“How much will it cost us, Verny?”
“Well, as I am going to enjoy this outfit as much as any one of you girls, I am going to pay my share of the costs – exactly one-fifth of the total, girls.”
Ruth smiled unpleasantly at this reply, as if to say: “And you with all your money only doing what we girls each are doing!”
Mrs.Vernon saw the smile and understood the miscomprehension that caused it, but she also knew that Ruth would soon overcome all such erroneous methods of thinking and feeling if she but continued interesting herself in the Scout work and ideals.
“How much will the total cost be, Verny?” asked Julie.
Mrs. Vernon took out a slip of paper and read aloud the items that went with the tent, then concluded by mentioning the cash sum asked for the entire outfit.
“Why, it sounds awfully cheap!” exclaimed Betty.
“I think it is, girls, that is why I advise you to take it.”
“What under the sun do we want of an ax, a saw, and all that carpenter’s outfit? Why not let the man keep them and deduct the sum from the cost of the outfit?” asked Ruth.
“Because, my dear, a good ax, and other tools, are as necessary in camp-work and life as the tent itself. At present, tools are very expensive, and these are of the best quality steel, Uncle Verny says.”
“Well, buy them if you want to, but don’t expect me to wear water blisters on my hands by handling an ax or spade. Not when I go to camp!” retorted Ruth.
Little attention was paid to this rudeness, as Ruth’s friends knew enough of the laws of the scouts to ignore such shortcomings in others, but to try, instead, to nourish that which was worthy of perpetuation in thought and deed.
“Having our own tent where we can rest when we like makes it seem as if the mountains were much nearer us than so far off as the Adirondacks really are,” said Betty, happily.
“It may turn out that this camp will be all we shall have for this year,” commented Ruth.
“I don’t see why you should say that!” demanded Joan, impatiently.
“Because we’ll spend our money on this old thing and then have to weed and weed all the rest of the summer to earn the carfares.”
“It won’t figure up any differently in the end, ’cause we’d have to have some kind of a tent, wouldn’t we?” asked Julie.
“We might be able to borrow some – or buy them on the installment plan. I even might tease father to lend us the money to buy new ones when we are ready to go,” replied Ruth.
“It isn’t one of our rules to borrow or go in debt. We each want to demonstrate independence as we go along. Buying on credit, or with borrowed capital, is a very undesirable method of doing business,” said Mrs. Vernon, gravely.
“But paying back for a tent next fall, instead of next week, isn’t as bad as you seem to think,” insisted Ruth.
“All the same, we girls are going to buy for cash, and never borrow trouble, if we can help it!” declared Julie, sensibly.
“Then it is settled, is it? We take the tent?” said Mrs. Vernon.
“Of course! Even Ruth must admit that it is a bargain,” returned the three girls in a chorus.
“I don’t know the least thing about costs of camping, and there seems so little hope of my ever participating in such joys!” retorted Ruth. But they all knew she was well pleased with the purchase.
That afternoon they went to work with a zeal hitherto unfelt, for they had a keen sense of proprietorship in something worth-while. Mrs. Vernon felt happy, too, over the way the girls voted to pay cash as they went, for she knew it meant individual freedom for each; and Ruth would soon be made to understand the meaning of “obligations” if she associated with three such practical girls.
The moment the weeding was done for the afternoon, four eager girls assembled to hear about the “great secret.” Mrs. Vernon began by saying:
“Now I don’t want you girls to be disappointed in what I consider my fine secret, but I really think it is the only way out for this summer.”
Ruth sniffed audibly and sat with lifted eyebrows, as if to suggest: “Didn’t I tell you that tent would be all you got this year for your money!”
But Mrs. Vernon continued her preamble without hesitation.
“Even should you girls earn ten times the amount of money you are now receiving each afternoon, you would still lack enough to pay carfares to the Adirondacks, or the White Mountains. And as we agreed from the beginning never to borrow money for our scout work, such a long trip seems out of the question at present.
“Last night I sat puzzling over this situation, when a splendid idea flashed into my mind. I remembered a campsite in the mountains not so far from here, that will give us all the delights of the Adirondacks without the costs. A motor truck can carry our outfits instead of our shipping them by freight, and we can go there in my car, whenever we are ready to start.
“If we decide on such a plan, we could prepare to leave home the week following the closing of school. I think it will take us at least that long to get everything ready, you know.”
“Oh, how wonderful!” breathed Betty, joyfully.
“Our dreams come true!” sighed Joan and Julie.
But Ruth, as usual, could not accept any proposition, no matter how pleasant, without argument. So she said: “How do we know this campsite is where we might wish to spend a summer?”
“Mrs. Lee and I spent a summer there when we were girls, and your own mother cried because she had to go with her parents to the farm in the Catskills, instead of camping with her schoolmates. Perhaps your mother will describe the beauties of this place to you, so you will feel sure it is desirable enough for you,” said Mrs. Vernon, calmly, but with a faint suggestion of sarcasm in her tone.
Ruth had the grace to keep silence after that, and Mrs. Vernon said: “I’m not going to say more about the idea, but you shall judge for yourselves when I take you there in the auto on Saturday.”
“Dear me. I feel so excited that I’m sure I won’t be able to sleep all week!” exclaimed Julie, jumping up and dancing around.
“I feel as if there were wheels whirring around inside of me,” added Joan.
The others laughed, and Mrs. Vernon admitted: “That is the way I felt when it was agreed that I might join my friends for camp-life that summer.”
“It will be so lovely to camp in the same place that mother dear did when she was a little girl,” said Betty, her voice trembling slightly as she thought of the one now absent from sight, but not in spirit.
“I don’t know but what I’d rather try out the first summer in camp with no other scout girls to watch and comment about our mistakes,” confessed Joan. “If we start alone this year, we will feel like experienced scouts by next summer.”
“I agree with you there, Joan,” said Julie.
“Then we are pleased with my plan to ride out and inspect the old campsite on Saturday, eh?” ventured Mrs. Vernon.
“Yes, indeed!” chorused four voices; even Ruth agreed with her friends about this week-end outing.
By Saturday the girls had paid for the tent and outfit bought of the man, and had nineteen dollars left for expenses at a camp that summer. They were at Headquarters (they named the tent on the back-lawn “Dandelion Headquarters”) an hour before the time decided upon for the early start to the mountains. But it was as Julie said:
“Better too early than too late!”
Mrs. Vernon was giving last instructions about packing a luncheon to take with them, then she came out and joined her Patrol.
“What do you think, Verny? Eliza said she would bake us a crockful of ginger-snaps and cookies every week this summer, and send them to camp for us, because we would not be home to eat.”
“How are you going to get them? I asked mother about the campsite and she said it was three or four miles from any village,” said Ruth, this being the first inkling she had given that she had inquired about the camp.
“Why Rural Delivery will leave it for us, Daddy said,” replied Julie.
“And my mother said I could make fudge to sell to my family and friends. She would give me the sugar and chocolate. Father ordered two pounds then and there – so that makes a dollar more that I shall have earned before next week,” said Joan.
“I can make good fudge, too. I’ll ask May if I may sell it!” exclaimed Julie.
“Our waitress left last night, and mother said she would pay me a quarter a night if I would wash the dishes. But I hate doing dishes. The greasy water gets all over your hands and then they smell so!” said Ruth, not willing to be left out of this working-community.
“Did you do them?” eagerly asked the girls.
“Of course not! I didn’t want to feel all warm and sticky for the rest of the evening. Besides, I manicured my nails so nicely just before dinner.”
“Dear me! I wish your mother would let me do them – for a quarter a night!” sighed Betty, anxiously.
“Even if she did, would you give that money to the Patrol?” wondered Ruth, doubtfully.
“Sure! Aren’t we all earning for the general good?”
“Well, I’ll ask mother if she’ll let you do them,” replied Ruth, magnanimously. She actually felt that she was bestowing a favor on Betty by allowing her to wash her dishes and donate the earnings to the camp-fund.
CHAPTER THREE – THE OLD CAMPSITE
Early Saturday morning the chauffeur brought the car over to the tent, and Mrs. Vernon told the girls to jump in while she sent Jim for the lunch-baskets. She got in the front seat, as she proposed driving the car.
When all was ready, the merry party started off with Mr. Vernon wishing them a good time. They were soon outside of town limits, and skimming over a good hard country road. Then Mrs. Vernon drove slower and spoke of the place they were bound for.
“Of course you know, girls, that it is not necessary for you to select this site if you do not like it. I am merely driving you there because it seems to meet with our present needs for a camp-life. We still have other places we can investigate, as there is a pyramid of catalogues on the table in the tent.”
“But every one of those camping places will cost us so much money to reach, and that won’t leave us anything for board,” said Joan.
“Father told us last night that he always wanted to get a crowd of the boys to go with him to that camp you all made when you were girls. But his chums wanted to go so far away that they never got anywhere to camp in the end,” said Betty.
“Yes, and he said he wished he could have his boyhood over again. Then he’d spend his vacations in camp even if it was near home,” added Julie.
Mrs. Vernon smiled. “I remember how jealous a few of the boys were when they heard us talk of the fun we had in camp. Betty’s mother was so sorry for them that she invited them to visit the camp now and then. Betty takes after her mother for having a great heart.”
“Maybe we can invite our folks to visit us, too,” said Julie, eagerly.
“So we can – if they will come and bring supplies,” said Ruth.
Every one laughed at this suggestion, and Ruth added: “Well, we can’t afford to pay for visitors, can we? I won’t be surprised to find that we shall have to break camp and return home in a month’s time, just for lack of funds to go on with the experiment.”
“We won’t do even that if we have to chop cord wood to pay our way,” laughed Mrs. Vernon.
“Are there big trees on the mountain, Verny?” asked Betty.
“We girls thought it a great forest in those days. To us it seemed as if the trees were giants – but we had not seen the Redwoods of California then,” Mrs. Vernon chuckled as she spoke.
“What do you call it now?” asked Joan.
“This ridge has no individual name that I know of, but the range is an extension of those known by the name of Blue Mountains. The place I have in mind is one of the prettiest spots on this particular spur of hills. You will find forest trees, streams, pools for bathing, softest moss for carpets, flowers for study, wild woodland paths for hikes – in fact everything to rejoice a nature-lover’s heart.”
“Dear me, can’t you speed up a little?” asked Julie.
“No, don’t, Verny – we’ll land in jail if you go faster!” exclaimed Ruth.
“Let’s call this spur ‘Verny’s Mountain,’ shall we, girls?” suggested Betty.
“Yes, let’s!” abetted Joan.
The automobile rolled smoothly and swiftly along, and after the first excitement had abated somewhat, the girls begged their Captain to tell them how she had found the place and what they did at camp when she was a girl.
“I think it was that one summer in camp that made me eager to give every girl an opportunity to enjoy a like experience. But we went there under far different auspices than you girls are now doing. We had to convince our parents that we would not be murdered by tramps, or starved, or made ill by sleeping out-of-doors in the woods.
“Then, too, we had to load our outfit on a farm-wagon and climb in on top of it so that one trip would do all the moving, as horses were scarce for pleasure-trips, but were needed for farm-work in those days.
“I can remember the shock we girls created with the village people, when it was whispered around that we proposed a camp-life that summer, instead of sitting home to do tatting and bleaching the linen. It was all right for boys to have a camp for fun – but for girls, never!
“However we six girls were of the new era for women, and we wanted to do the things our brothers and their schoolmates did. They could go camping and fishing and hiking so why couldn’t we? What difference did skirts and pig-tails make in vacation-time? So we won over our parents’ consent to let us try it for a week.
“But we stayed a month, and then a second month until we made the whole summer of it. And, girls, we brought home more knitted socks and crochet trimming and tatting, with an abundance of good health and experience thrown in, than all the rest of the girls in the village could show together.
“Even the parson, who had visited our mothers to dissuade them from allowing us this unheard-of freedom of camp-life, had to admit that he had been prejudiced by members of his congregation.”
“Just like a story-book, Verny! Do tell us what you did when you first got to camp?” cried Julie.
“Well, it was lucky for us girls that my brother Ted drove the farm-wagon for us. When we reached the steep road that ran up over the mountain, we had to leave the horses and wagon and carry our outfit to the site we had selected.
“Then Ted showed us how to build a fireplace, an oven, and a pot-hanger. He also helped us ditch all about the tent so the rain-water would drain away, and he constructed a latrine for camp.
“He promised to drive up on Sunday to see how we were faring, and bring a few of his chums with him, if they could get off from the farm-work. So we gladly said good-by to him, and felt, at last, much like Susan Anthony must have felt when she realized her first victory in the fight over bondage for women.”
“And didn’t you have any guardian or grown-up to help take care of you?” wondered Ruth.
“The school-teacher planned to stay with us for a month, but she could not come for the first few days; and we feared we might be kept home unless we started before our folks repented, so we went alone on the day agreed upon.
“But, girls, I will confess, every one of us felt frightened that first night; for an owl hooted over our heads, and queer noises echoed all around us, so that we thought of all the dangers the foolish villagers had said would befall us.”
The car now went through a thriving village which Mrs. Vernon said was Freedom, the last settlement they would see this side of the campsite. With the announcement that they were now nearing “Verny’s Mountain,” the four girls were silent; but they watched eagerly for the woodcutters’ road that Mrs. Vernon said would be the place where they would leave the automobile and climb to the plateau.
The further they went, the wilder and more mountainous seemed the country; finally Mrs. Vernon drove the car up a rutty, rocky road until the trail seemed to rise sheer up the rugged side of the mountain.
“Here’s where we have to get out and walk, girls.”
And glad they were, too, to jump out and stretch themselves after the long drive. They stood and gazed rapturously around at the wildness and grandeur of the place, and all four admitted that no one could tell the difference between Verny’s Mountain and the Adirondacks.
“We’ll take turns in carrying the hampers, girls,” said Mrs. Vernon, lifting the well-laden baskets from the automobile.
They began climbing the side of the mountain by following the old woodcutters’ path, until they reached a large, grassy plateau. Back of this flat a ledge rose quite sheer, in great masses of bed-rock. Mosses and lichen clung to the niches of this rocky wall, which was at least forty feet high, making it most picturesque.
“What a wonderful view of the valley we get from this plateau!” exclaimed Joan.
“Is this where you camped, Verny?” eagerly asked Julie.
“No, but this is where we danced and shouted and played like any wild mountain habitants,” laughed Mrs. Vernon, the joys of that girlhood summer lighting her eyes. “And here is where you girls can play scout games and dances, or sit to dream of home and far-away friends.”
“The scout games we’ll enjoy here, but dreams of home – never! We’ll have to go back there soon enough,” declared Joan, causing the others to laugh merrily.
“Well, come on, girls. Our campsite lies just there beyond that cluster of giant pines that rear their heads high above the surrounding forest trees,” said Mrs. Vernon, leading the way across the plateau.
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