Girl Scouts at Dandelion Camp
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The sound of falling water became plainer as they went, and soon, between the trunks of the trees skirting the plateau, the girls spied a beautiful waterfall. It tumbled from one great boulder to another, until it splashed into a basin worn deep in the farthest end of the plateau; thence it sought the easiest way to reach the valley, making many sparkling pools and musical waterfalls in its descent.
“How perfectly lovely!” breathed Betty, standing with clasped hands and a gaze that was riveted on the falls.
“You had plenty of water for cooking and bathing, didn’t you?” said practical Julie.
“Yes, and that was one reason we chose this spot for our camp. You see this high rocky wall made a fine wind-shield from the north, and where could one find a more convenient gymnasium than that flat? The pines and waterfall over here provided shelter and supply. So we built our hut against the wall under those trees.”
“Hut? You never told us you built a hut,” exclaimed Joan.
“No, because I have no idea of finding it here. I suppose the logs have rotted away years ago,” returned Mrs. Vernon.
“We might build another one, Verny, ’cause I see plenty of down-timber,” suggested Betty.
“And it will be great sport to play carpenter,” added Joan.
Mrs. Vernon forced a way through the tangle of briars and bushes that had grown up since that long-ago, and the scouts followed directly after her.
“Girls, here is the pool where we used to swim – isn’t it lovely?”
The girls stood still, admiring the clear water and the reflection of green trees in the pool; then the Captain turned and began breaking down slender twigs and bending aside green berry-bushes, as she eagerly blazed a trail towards the wall.
Here, not fifty feet from the pool, was glimpsed the old frame and timbers of a log cabin. A mass of vines and moss almost hid the hut from view, so that one would unconsciously pass it by, thinking it but the trunk of a cluster of old trees against the wall.
“Oh, we must have built well to have had it survive all these years, girls!” cried Mrs. Vernon, joyfully, as she stood and looked at the handiwork of her friends of years long gone.
“Verny, this is the way we girls will build, too. We will erect a hut alongside this, and show it to our children many years from now,” said Betty, fervently.
“I don’t see why we can’t use this hut, too,” said Julie.
“The frame and floor beams are solid enough,” added Joan, examining the posts.
“It will need a roof and some new side-logs – that is all,” Ruth said, taking a lively interest in the camp-plan.
“Yes, we can easily repair it, and then you girls can build your own hut as an annex to this hotel,” said Mrs. Vernon, still smiling with satisfaction at the discovery of the cabin.
“Dear me! I wish we had brought our camp outfit to-day and could stay to begin work,” complained Joan.
“I’m crazy to start, too,” admitted Julie.
“But we have to have those tools, and some others besides.I shall ask Uncle Verny to sell us some of his extra ones. He has several hammers, screw-drivers, and other implements he can spare,” said Mrs. Vernon.
“Now what can we look at?” inquired Ruth, quickly wearying of one thing. This was one of the weak tendencies Mrs. Vernon hoped to cure that summer.
“You can bring the hampers over to the pool, if you like, and when we are through planning here, we will join you and have our picnic.”
“Why, I don’t want to carry them alone! Can’t we all go now and do it?”
“I want to snoop about here a little more,” said Julie.
“And I want to figure out how many tree-trunks we’ll have to drag over here before we can have a cabin as good as this one,” called Joan, as she measured the length of logs with a hair-ribbon.
“Mercy! Aren’t any of you going to eat before you finish that nonsense?” Ruth asked plaintively.
Mrs. Vernon smiled. Then she turned to Joan and said: “If you girls will really promise to build and finish a hut, I will ask Uncle Verny to loan us the farm-horse to haul the timbers. You girls could never drag them, you know. But Hepsy is accustomed to hauling and heavy work, so we need have no fear of straining her.”
“Just the thing! Hepsy forever!” shouted Joan, throwing her hat in the air for a salute.
“Can you remember all the things we still need this summer, Verny?” asked Julie, anxiously.
“We’ll jot down everything as we remember it, then we can compare lists when we go to order the things,” said Mrs. Vernon.
“Won’t the girls at school look green with envy when we tell them we are going to have a strange girl camp with us this summer?” laughed Julie, as a thought struck her.
“Who is she?” gasped the other girls in surprise.
“Ho! did I get you on that?” teased Julie.
“This is the first hint we’ve had of it,” complained Joan.
“Why no! Verny suggested the plan herself – didn’t you, Verny?”
But Mrs. Vernon shook her head doubtfully, while Julie shouted with delight at their mystification. Then, eager to share her fun, she cried laughingly: “Hepsy, the dear old girl!”
Of course when one is happy and gay it takes but little to cause loud and long merriment, and so it was in this instance. They laughed uproariously at the joke, and decided then and there to tease the other girls at school who were so anxious to join a Patrol, but would not weed the dandelions to earn money for a camp.
As weeding had been the best test of endurance and patience Mrs. Vernon could think of at the time, she had felt rather relieved to find that only four responded to the initiation invitation. In doing things according to the Handbook for Captains, she felt she would find four girls sufficient material to practice upon for the first season.
When the luncheon was unpacked and spread out, Mrs. Vernon smiled continuously at the happy chatter of the four girls, and the thousand-and-one plans they made for the camp that summer. Then all sat down to enjoy the feast, for nothing had ever tasted so good to them before, and then – did Verny say it was time to start for home?
“Oh, no! It can’t be late, Verny!” exclaimed Ruth.
“Why, we’ve only been here half a minute, Verny,” added Joan.
The Captain glanced at her wrist watch. “We have been here more than two hours, girls, and it is a two hour drive back, you know.”
“Dear, dear! the only comfort I have in leaving now is the hope of being here for all summer in another week!” cried Betty.
“Then you have decided to choose this site?” ventured the Captain.
“I thought you knew it! Of course this is what we want,” admitted Ruth, frankly. And Mrs. Vernon mentally gave her a credit-mark for forgetting self enough to speak her opinion honestly.
The drive back was much longer than going, even though the girls planned and plotted how to earn more money with which to buy everything they craved for that camp. It was to be a wonder-camp.
“I can add a dollar and seventy-five cents to the fund now,” announced Ruth, calmly.
“A dollar and s-e-v-e-n-t-y – five cents!” gasped the girls.
“Then I’ll have another dollar and a half before next Friday – if I keep on washing those nasty dishes every night!”
“R-rruth!” squealed Betty, throwing her arms about her friend’s neck.
“Ruth Bentley!” cried Joan.
“I cannot believe my ears!” added Julie, in a whisper.
Mrs. Vernon never said a word, but she did a lot of silent praying – thanking Him for this break in the clouds of human will and selfishness that the girl had always displayed hitherto.
Ruth felt embarrassed at so much fussing, and felt a deep gratitude to the Captain for not adding to her self-consciousness. The moment she could free herself from Betty’s loving embrace, she said, recklessly:
“I told mother I’d rather give up camping than do those dishes any more, but now that I’ve seen the place, I’ll scrub the kitchen floor if she wants me to.”
A great laugh relieved every one’s feelings at this statement from Ruth, and the merry party reached the Vernon home feeling very much at peace with the world in general.
CHAPTER FOUR – BEGINNING THEIR CAMP LIFE
The next few days were so filled with the final work to finish the scholastic year, and closing of school, that every one of the girls was kept busy, and had little time to think of camp.
Once Thursday came, however, the only exciting thing remained to be done was Commencement on Friday; so the four girls met at Dandelion Tent to plan for the camp.
“We ought to have our folks give us a great send-off, like they did with the regiments that mustered from the town families,” said Julie.
“If they’ll only give us all I asked for, we will be satisfied,” laughed Joan.
“What did you do?” instantly said three voices.
“First, I told mother what we would have to have for camp, then I got mother to visit your folks and tell them what we really ought to have to make life comfortable in the wild woods.”
“Oh, oh! That’s why Eliza told us she would fix us up with some jams and other food-stuff,” laughed Julie.
“And mother asked me did we want any furniture or china?” added Ruth.
“What did you say?” asked Julie.
“I told her we’d rather she donated the price of china or furniture this time, and let us invest it as we found need.”
The girls laughed and Mrs. Vernon ran out of the side door, saying: “I’m missing all the fun! Do tell me what it is about?”
Then Julie told her what Ruth had replied to her mother’s question, and the Captain laughed also. “I see Ruth is developing a wonderfully keen sense of finance.”
“You’ll say so when you see this scrap of paper, Verny,” said Ruth, taking a crumpled oblong of tinted paper from her middy blouse and passing it over to the Captain.
Mrs. Vernon looked at it in surprise, and gasped: “Why, of all things!”
“The price of china and furniture that mother figured we would smash or damage,” explained Ruth.
“Girls, it’s a check for twenty-five dollars from Mrs. Bentley. We’ll have to vote her a letter of thanks at once.”
“Hurrah! Now, all ready for three cheers for Mrs. Bentley!” shouted Julie, jumping upon the camp-stool and waving her hat.
Instantly the girls began a loud hurrah, but the folding chair suddenly shut up, with Julie frantically trying to balance herself. Before a second hurrah could have been given, Julie was sprawling across the camp table right on top of the hats, pans and what-not that had been accumulated to take to camp. Such a clatter of tins and wild screams of laughter that filled that tent!
Finally Julie emerged from the wreckage and stood up, tentatively feeling of her bones and head and body. “Am I all in one piece, girls?” she asked, trying to appear anxious.
“You are, but my hat isn’t!” retorted Joan, holding up a crushed straw sailor with the brim severed from the crown.
“I’ll have to work and buy you another,” said Julie.
“Please don’t! I despise sailors and had to wear this one because mother said I would need no new summer hat if I was in camp,” hastily explained Joan.
“Come, girls, we must indite that letter to Ruth’s mother now. Sit down quietly and suggest something fine,” interpolated Mrs. Vernon.
So the letter was composed and given to Ruth to deliver, then the last plans for leaving home were perfected, and the Patrol separated for the day.
Saturday found the girls again at Vernon’s place, eager to hear what day they were to start for camp. Everything that they had on their lists had been provided, and now the only thing to do was to say good-by and leave. This the girls felt could not be accomplished any too soon for their peace and comfort.
“Why, Verny, if we don’t get away in a day or so, those seven girls who are possessed to join us will steal us and hold us as hostages until you agree to take them in our Troop,” said Julie.
“Patience! They’ll have to wait now, and learn the lesson you girls have finished before they can join this Patrol. Why, I wonder if you realize how high you have climbed on the rungs of the ladder of Scout Ideals during these past few weeks?” said Mrs. Vernon.
“I can’t see any change,” said Joan.
“What! don’t you think your friends here have improved any whatsoever since we decided to begin a Troop?”
“Oh – the girls have – a little, but I haven’t!”
“You have, too, but you don’t see it yet. Wait.”
“All the same, Verny, tell us when we can start?” begged Julie.
“Well, Mr. Vernon sails for his European trip on Monday, so I see nothing to keep us home after that. Can you all be ready to go on Tuesday morning?”
“You know we can – why ask?” laughed Julie.
“Maybe you’d prefer us to start Monday afternoon after you come home from the steamer,” suggested Ruth.
Mrs. Vernon laughed. “Hardly as soon as that.”
When Tuesday arrived, however, the girls found many little things to delay them, so it was past nine o’clock before they met at the old headquarters, but the tent had disappeared.
“Here we are, Verny, bag and baggage!” shouted Julie, as they tramped up the side-steps of the porch.
“And some of our folks are coming over in a few minutes to see us off. I suspect they have various advices to whisper to you, as well as leave with us some forgotten parting words,” said Joan.
“Eliza’s going to give us a parting pie,” added Betty, so innocently that every one laughed.
“Well, the visitor that we invited to camp with us for the summer is hitched up and waiting to start,” Mrs. Vernon informed the girls, as she pointed towards the barns, where a horse was seen going down the back road.
“Why, Hepsy’s hooked up to a buckboard? What for?” asked Ruth.
“We won’t need it this summer, so Uncle Verny suggested that Hepsy take it along for us to use if we had to go to the stores at Freedom, or should we want to go away on a picnic.”
“Say – that’s a great idea! I never thought of it,” said Julie.
“Which proves that you have no monopoly on great ideas,” retorted Joan.
Then the automobile drove up to the steps and was soon followed by a heavy rumbling auto-truck that was used for heavy cartage at Mr. Vernon’s factory. He had sent it down for the newly-fledged Scout Troop to make use of to carry tents, boxes and what not to Verny’s Mountain.
The advance line of family members now came straggling up the road to watch their girls depart. Before the truck started, the other friends arrived, so there was quite a crowd to wish them good-by and good-luck as they climbed into the car and wildly waved hats and hands.
The ride seemed very short that morning, for so much had to be talked over, and the village of Freedom was reached before they could realize it. Then began the ascent up the woodroad to the plateau. Here the car halted, and the chauffeur assisted the driver of the truck in transferring the boxes and baggage to the buckboard Hepsy had brought thus far.
“We’ll have to stable Hepsy somewhere, girls,” suggested Julie, as she stood and watched the men work.
“Yes, we ought to make that our first concern, for Hepsy may not appreciate outdoor life as we do – especially if it rains.”
“We’ll build her a hut,” promised Ruth, eagerly.
“And let her sit out under a tree for the four weeks it will take us to erect it?” laughed Joan.
The girls were too eager to reach their campsite to wait any longer for the men to complete the baggage transfer, so they informed the Captain:
“We’ll take our suitcases and start up, Verny!”
Mrs. Vernon readily agreed to this, so they started off and were soon out of sight. Once they had reached the old cabin, Julie said:
“Let’s get out of these city clothes and get into our scout camp-uniforms.”
This met with general approval, and soon the girls were gleefully comparing notes about each other’s appearance. But this was interrupted when shouts and crackling of brush was heard. Then poor Hepsy was seen snorting and pulling to bring the loaded buckboard up to the plateau.
“Gee! That’s some haul – that grade!” complained Jim, as he mopped his hot brow and stood looking back at the steep road.
“And Hepsy’s so soft from no recent work!” added Mrs. Vernon, as she reached his side. Jim was too easy with the horses for their own good, so she said what she did to let him know his sympathy was misplaced.
Hepsy began nibbling at the luscious grass that grew near her feet, and Mrs. Vernon laughingly added: “Poor thing! She must be almost dead to be able to start right in and eat like that.”
The luggage was taken to the hut and then Jim went back for a second load. The back seat of the buckboard had been removed so the camp outfit could be easily piled upon the floor of the vehicle. But it did not hold very much, hence it was necessary to make several trips.
When all was carted up to the campsite, Mrs. Vernon said: “Now, Jim, remember to bring the oats once a week for Hepsy, and any other things I write for. See that all mail is forwarded to Freedom, where we can get it.”
Jim promised to see that everything was done as requested, then he, too, left. When the last chugs from the automobile truck and the car died away, Mrs. Vernon turned to the girls.
“Well, scouts, here we are for a whole summer of delights!”
“Hip, hip – ” began Julie, and the others joined in.
“Don’t you think the hut has grown smaller since we were here last?” asked Betty, wonderingly.
“That is because you were picturing the place on a much grander scale after you got home than it actually is. It is your thought that has to dwindle again to take in the proportion of the hut as it is,” replied the Captain, amused at Betty’s experience.
“I thought the very same thing, but I hated to say anything that sounded like criticism,” admitted Joan.
“Tell the truth, girls, I think that hut is tiny, but it looked big enough the other day,” laughed Julie.
“Then we must build ours larger than this,” said Mrs. Vernon, turning to look over the stock of things needing shelter.
“It looks like an awful heap of stuff, doesn’t it?” asked Ruth.
“Yes, but we needed everything, so we had to bring them.”
“What shall we do first, Verny?” asked Betty.
“Better pitch the tent first of all, and arrange the cots, then we can work as long as we like, without worrying about having to make our beds.”
The girls quickly unrolled the large canvas tent they had purchased, but when it came to erecting it, they found it a much more difficult task than they had anticipated. Jim and the gardener had helped pitch it the first time, but now they were absent.
However, after many failures, the tent was up, albeit it looked wobbly and one-sided. The cots were next opened and placed under the canvas, and the lockers were dragged to their right places.
“Where’s the crex rug Verny said we could bring for the ground inside the tent?” called Julie, thrusting her head from the opening of the canvas. But she forgot Ruth had placed a pole directly in front of the entrance to hold up the flap temporarily.
“Ouch! Who left that tree-trunk right in the way?” cried Julie, as she bumped her head smartly.
“That’s the porter standing at the door of our hotel!” retorted Joan, laughing as she saw Julie scowling.
“Well, where’s the crex rug, anyway?” demanded Julie.
“Come to think of it – Jim threw it out when he unloaded the truck, and then he must have forgotten to pick it up again,” said Mrs. Vernon.
“We’ll have to use grass for carpet to-night, then,” said Julie.
“Unless you run down and drag it up,” ventured Ruth.
“That’s what we brought Hepsy for, girls. Who’ll drive her down and bring back the rug?” called Mrs. Vernon from the hut.
All four were anxious to drive and enjoy the fun, so Julie jumped on the front seat and the others sat dangling their feet from the back of the buckboard. The Captain stood smiling and watching as they went, thinking to herself, “What a good time they will have in camp!”
When the amateur truckman returned, Ruth called out: “Guess what, Verny? We found the seat of the buckboard in the bushes, too. Wasn’t it fortunate we went for the rug?”
“We might have hunted all over the camp for that seat when we want to go for a drive, and never have thought of it being left down there,” added Julie.
When the girls ran over to see what next to do, they found the Captain eyeing a board about sixteen inches in length. She was calculating aloud and wondering if it would fit.
“Fit where? What is it for?” asked Joan.
“You’ll soon find out. Now you girls can unpack the hamper and get luncheon ready – I’m hungry,” replied Mrs. Vernon.
She knew this would meet with great approval, and soon they were busy unpacking the ready-made lunch, and placing it on a large flat rock.
“Ruth! quick – brush that awful bug from the butter!” shrieked Julie, as she stood with both her hands filled with dishes.
“Oh – oh! I can’t! It’s an awful looking creature!” cried Ruth, running away from the rock where the luncheon was spread.
“Joan – come here! What’s that beast on the butter – see?” called Julie, trying to set the tier of dishes down on the grass.
“It’s only a young dragon-fly – don’t you know one when you see it?” laughed Joan, shooing the insect away.
“I’ve seen them flying in the sunshine, but never on the butter-dish,” said Julie, picking up the dishes again and placing them on the cloth.
Mrs. Vernon had started for the rock-table when she heard the shouting, but now she laughed heartily. “Joan, where did you study insect-life that you know so much about one of the common members?”
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