Girl Scouts at Dandelion Camp
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“I wish to goodness Sunday were a week away so we could finish up all the fine plans we have started,” sighed Ruth.
“Well, Ruth, only our folks are coming out this Sunday, you know, and we needn’t mind them much. If it wasn’t that we needed ’Liza’s cake and bread and other things, we could have postponed the call for a week,” said Betty, condolingly.
As usual, Betty’s candor made them laugh, and Mrs. Vernon said: “Yes, I fear our invitation had an awfully big string to it this week.”
CHAPTER TEN – A FOURTH OF JULY OUTING
Saturday night the scouts and Mrs. Vernon planned the dinner for the next day.
“We’ll use some of those onions, and cut potatoes into dice to add to them; then I’ll take a small can of tomatoes, some rice and a bit of bacon, and make a good chowder of the whole. If we only had a few of the little fish Joan caught the other day, they would give it a fine flavor,” suggested the Captain.
“You said we might open a jar of our strawberry preserve, Verny,” reminded Julie.
“Yes, but not for a course; it is too precious for anything but dessert.”
“After the chowder, what can we have?” asked Ruth.
“We’ll boil that artichoke root we dug up this morning. When that is seasoned it tastes just like salsify. If Eliza doesn’t bring any meat, we can run along the mountain-path and cut one of the beefsteak mushrooms I showed you yesterday. I doubt if your folks will be able to tell the difference between it and a tenderloin steak,” the Captain said, chuckling.
“My, won’t they be surprised when they see all we have learned in two weeks!” exclaimed Betty, proudly.
“I hope it doesn’t rain to-morrow,” ventured Julie.
“Yes, ’cause we’ve got to have Eliza’s supplies!” added her twin sister.
“Can you think of anything else that’s novel, Verny, for dinner?” asked Joan.
“We can cut enough dandelion leaves in the morning to have a salad”; Mrs. Vernon glanced doubtfully at Ruth as she spoke.
Ruth caught the look and laughed: “Are you afraid I am going to boil over because you mentioned dandelions?”
“Well, I didn’t know how you might take it?”
“I’ll confess; I’d just as soon call the camp ‘dandelion’ as anything else, for now I appreciate what that digging did for us.”
“I’m so glad, Ruthy; now I can paint that sign. Do you know girls why I refused to hang out the sign you wanted? It was because we were not unanimous in the selection of a name. As Ruth’s objection is removed I will have the sign ready for next Sunday when the Allisons and Bentleys visit us.”
“Did you save that fine ash board you selected the very first day we came here?” asked Ruth.
“Yes, and to-morrow I’ll show it to you – ready to burn.”
“Burn?” came from four girls.
“Yes; I am going to etch the name ‘Dandelion Camp’ in the wood with a red-hot poker, and sketch the dandelions about the name in pyrography, also. Then we can tint the flowers and leaves.You haven’t any idea how soft and beautiful the burnt tones blend with yellow and green paints.”
“It sounds fascinating – I wish I could do it,” said Joan.
“You each may practice and when you can handle the iron well enough, you might try to do little things like book-ends or wall-brackets.”
“We got as far on the bill-of-fare as dandelion salad, Verny, and then switched off on something new – as usual,” laughed Julie.
“That was the end of my menu, as far as I could provide any,” returned the Captain.
Sunday morning it was decided to go for the beefsteak mushrooms and cook them for dinner, even if Eliza brought meat. In that case, they would keep the meat for dinners the following days and give the visitors a treat by having tenderloin steak (?).
Ruth proved her statement that she had outgrown her dislike of dandelions by offering to cut enough plants for the salad. When she returned to camp she had a fine mess of young leaves, and after washing them clean, left them in cold water until wanted.
Joan and Julie had offered to get up early and go for berries. Mrs. Vernon was dubious about berry-picking being in order for scouts on Sunday, when there was enough dessert already on hand.
“But why not? It is wholesome study of nature’s own fruit, you know,” argued Joan.
“Verny, we really must have a dessert for those who do not like preserves, you know. Otherwise father will eat the whole jar of our strawberry preserves,” added Julie.
So the two girls prevailed over the Captain’s mild scruples and hurried down the road to the strawberry field. Before the Lee family arrived, everything was done and ready for their reception.
Eliza, as anticipated, had smuggled a host of good things into the surrey, and when Mr. Lee and May were listening to all that the scouts had accomplished during the week, she transferred the larder hidden in the harness box of the surrey to the camp-larder in the old hut.
As they sat down to dinner, John began showing symptoms of disapproval of his soup (chowder, the scouts called it), and carefully placed his dish upon the rock before him.
“The chowder smells delicious, girls,” said May, as the aroma rose to her nose.
“It’s just as good as it smells, too,” said Julie.
“Is every one served now, Jule?” called Joan, who was waitress for the day.
“Yes, and all anxious to begin – hurry and sit down,” Julie replied.
Joan took her plate and sat down nearest the board from which she had to serve the dinner. John waited smiling knowingly as he sat and watched the others.
Mr. Lee was the first to take a spoonful of chowder. He frowned for a moment, then took a second taste. His mouth puckered and he looked questioningly at Eliza as if to ask her what was wrong with it.
May had already taken her spoonful and immediately cried: “For goodness sake! Who cooked this chowder?”
“Verny – why?” hastily asked the girls.
“Why? Well just taste it!”
Every one had had a good mouthful by this time and every one looked at the Captain reproachfully.
“Really! I’m sure I didn’t salt this chowder as heavily as this! I tasted it just before you arrived and it was delicious,” exclaimed Mrs. Vernon in self-justification.
Joan now looked dreadfully concerned. She tasted the soup and then made a wry face. But she was not going to have any one falsely accused, so she spoke up:
“Verny, you know when you told me to salt something-or-other, I thought you meant chowder; so I put in as much as I felt it needed. Maybe I misunderstood you.”
“Oh, Joan! I called to you and said not to salt the chowder because I saw you seasoning everything you could find!”
Joan looked so woe-begone that every one laughed, and Betty said regretfully: “It’s too bad, Joan, ’cause the chowder was cheap so it was to be the filler, you know. Now we won’t have enough dinner without eating our preserves.”
That made every one scream with merriment, and the salty soup was passed by without further reproach. While waiting for the steaks (?) John cleared his throat as a signal, and said:
“You won’t see me here again this summer.”
“Why not?” queried his sisters.
“’Cause I’m going to camp on Wednesday – Daddy fixed it with the Master at our gym.”
“Going to wash dishes?” teased Julie, winking at Eliza.
“Nope! But I’m going to keep the grounds clean. I have to pick up papers and see that nothing is littered around. Every time I leave trash about, I get fined, so I’ll have to be awake.”
“What splendid practice that will be for you, Johnny. When you come back home, you ought to have the habit so strong that Eliza won’t have to run after you at every step,” declared Julie.
“I know John will make a fine scout for that work,” added Betty.
Being a regular boy, John wouldn’t thank Betty for her kind words but he mentally decided that she was a bear!
The beefsteak mushrooms were a great success and no one could tell what they were eating. Boiled potatoes, artichokes, dandelion salad with Eliza’s French dressing, and a gravy of browned flour, made a fine dinner to go with the steak. Then followed the berries and generous slices of fresh layer cake brought from home. When dinner was over, John frowned and said: “Is this all we get?”
“All! my goodness, isn’t it enough?” demanded Julie.
“Not for Sunday’s dinner. I bet we’ll have a regular feast at our camp, all right!”
“You couldn’t have such cake if you baked for ages!” retorted Julie.
“Cake – pooh! Fellers don’t want cake. We want man’s dinners,” bragged the boy.
“I noticed you ate every crumb, just the same!”
“That’s ’cause I am hungry and had to.”
“Seein’ es how yuh despise my cake, I’ll see you don’t have to eat none of it whiles you are at camp,” said Eliza, at this point of the altercation between brother and sister.
John gasped, for he had already boasted to his boy-chums who were going to camp with him that he could have cakes and lots of goodies sent to him every week!
That afternoon the visitors were escorted about the woods; every beautiful nook and dell was duly admired, and when it came time for good-bys both sides felt that they had had a fine visit.
“We’ll look forward to coming again when it is our turn,” observed Mr. Lee, as he climbed into the surrey.
“We’ll be looking as anxiously for you as you will for us,” Betty replied.
May grinned, for she understood why they would be welcomed. But Ruth said hurriedly: “S-sh! My mother’s coming next and she won’t let your family outdo her in bringing goodies. May, do tell her all you brought to-day.”
Every one laughed at that frank confidence, and the Lees drove away feeling happy and proud of the way their girls were improving under the scout life.
As they trudged back up the hill, Joan said: “Is any one expected for the Fourth?”
“Not that I know of – I forgot the Fourth comes this week,” Mrs. Vernon replied.
“What can we do, Verny? We haven’t any fire-works,” said Betty.
“We’ll have to think out a suitable plan with which to celebrate the National Birthday.”
That evening about the camp-fire, it was discussed and finally voted upon to go for a long outing on the Fourth.
“But where? We don’t want to go down into civilization, you know,” said Ruth.
“Can’t we pack up a dinner and go away off somewhere?” suggested Joan.
“We can drive Hepsy and ride in the buckboard,” added Julie.
“Hepsy hasn’t had much exercise lately, and she’s getting too lazy; it will do her good to thin down somewhat,” laughingly said Mrs. Vernon.
“Verny, did you ever hear of Bluebeard’s Cave, ’way back on this mountain?” asked Julie, glancing slyly at her companions.
“I have, but how did you hear of it?”
“Now you’ve got to tell her!” exclaimed Betty, while Joan and Ruth tried to hush her.
“What does this mean – what is there to tell, scouts?” asked Mrs. Vernon, seriously.
“Oh, it isn’t anything – much. Only a little joke we had on you a long time ago,” began Joan, stammeringly.
“Better tell me all about it and end it,” advised Mrs. Vernon, not a little surprised, for she wondered if the girls had ever tried to find the cave, which she knew to be dangerous without a grown person or a lantern to guide them.
“Do you remember the day we built the roof on the hut?” asked Julie, giggling.
“Yes, it was the neatest work you ever did – before or since.”
“But we didn’t do it!” exclaimed Ruth, also giggling.
“You didn’t! Then who did!” gasped the Captain, amazed.
The girls laughed merrily. This was just the sort of a surprise they had looked for. They never thought of the danger in the cave that had worried the Captain, so there was no reason why they should not laugh and enjoy the joke.
Mrs. Vernon saw immediately that there was no ground for her fear, so she managed to laugh too. “What is the joke, girls?”
“You had no sooner gone, that day, when a young woodsman came across the plateau. He lives way back on the last crest,” began Joan, eagerly, but Julie interpolated with: “In winter he traps fur-bearing animals and sells the pelts. He was out hunting that day. He had a gun in his hands and a loaded revolver in his belt.”
“He asked us if we weren’t afraid to camp here alone,” added Betty.
“And we laughed at him. We told him you were always with us, so we were not alone.”
“He then said, we ought to have a big dog to keep away tramps, but we said he was the first stranger we ever saw about. Then we showed him our hut and the roof we had to make. But he laughed.”
“Yes, he laughed, because he said we were doing it wrong. Then he leaned the gun against a tree and showed us how to roof the place properly,” said Ruth.
“He told us always to place a gun with the barrel aiming up or down. Never to lean it sideways or lay it on the ground. He told us how many hunters are accidentally killed through carelessness in handling their firearms,” explained Betty.
“He said he wanted to see you and tell you something, so he waited around, but finally he had to go. We made each other promise not to tell you that day as we wanted you to think we did the fine roof,” concluded Julie, laughing merrily.
“Do you know what he wanted to see me for?” asked Mrs. Vernon, finding an entirely different cause for concern, since she heard this story.
“Nothing, I guess, unless he wanted to get orders for a fur coat next winter,” said Joan, smiling as if to invite a laugh at her wit.
“Oh, no, Joan. He didn’t look like that at all,” said Betty, reprovingly.
“I think he wanted to tell Verny where there might be dangerous places in the mountains, ’cause he warned us not to stray away alone at any time; but we don’t need him for that, ’cause we don’t wander off, like he does,” added Julie.
“And he told you about Bluebeard’s Cave, eh? What did he say about it?”
“We asked him if there were any wonderful places in this mountain that we could visit some day. He told us of a place known as ‘Bluebeard’s Cave’ that was about twelve miles away, but he said we ought to make a day’s trip of it, ’cause it was so fine,” explained Joan.
“We’ll consider going there some day, but I do wish this young man had waited to talk with me,” murmured the Captain.
The days preceding the Fourth, the scouts completed a rustic book-shelf, several original ornaments such as no one could possibly name, and having woven a small grass rug, they felt that the hut was better than any king’s castle.
The morning of the Fourth was cloudless and the scouts were up earlier than usual. It had been decided upon, before going to bed the night before, that the trip to Bluebeard’s Cave would be an interesting outing if the party got away in time to have a full day for the outing.
Hepsy was feeling most frisky because she had had so little exercise the past week; two of the girls led her to the buckboard and hitched her securely, while the other two slid the adjustable rear seat into the grooves meant for it along the sides of the vehicle. As they did so, Joan noticed the edge of one groove seemed splintered.
Mrs. Vernon and the scouts had packed the hamper with a good luncheon, and now the Captain placed the basket in front of the three girls who took possession of the back seat. The other scout sat on the front seat beside the driver.
Hepsy jogged along at her own sweet will, and all the chirruping and switching of the reins failed to bring forth one added bit of speed.
“I think Hepsy’s awful mean to go so slow! We’ll never get there at this rate,” complained Ruth.
“And after the royal way we have treated her, too! Why, one’d think the old nag was tired to death!” added Joan.
“I wish we had tied a feed bag to her nose – then she’d show some speed,” laughed Julie.
“Maybe the climb is too steep for her. I know I wouldn’t want to pull five folks and a wagon up this grade,” said Betty.
“Oh, pshaw! If Hepsy thinks this is steep what will she do when we come to the last mountain climb,” asked Mrs. Vernon, exasperated with urging the horse onwards.
Julie laughed as she said, “She’ll let the buckboard run backwards on that hill.”
“Serve her right if we pull her over on her haunches and drag her down with us,” added Joan.
With such complaints and banter, the scouts reached a steep ascent. Hepsy brought the party to the foot of the hill and then stopped. All the urging and switching failed to make her move a foot.
“Girls, you’ll have to get out and walk up – Hepsy used to play this trick on us long ago, but she has forgotten it during the last few years; or perhaps, she hadn’t the occasion to use it until to-day,” laughed Mrs. Vernon.
The scouts joined in the laugh, but jumped out to see if Hepsy would start. The wise old horse turned her head, and finding several of her passengers were out of the buckboard, continued on up the grade.
When they came to the level again, the horse would stop long enough to allow the passengers to get back on the seat. But they had to jump out again when Hepsy reached the next grade.
This amused the scouts tremendously; they laughed and enjoyed the way the wise old animal balked about pulling them up the hills. But Mrs. Vernon had an idea.
“Girls, the next grade we come to, you three jump out and wait for Hepsy to start on her way, then instantly climb up on the tailboard and sit there. We’ll see if she minds the extra weight, or if she is just whimsical.”
So Hepsy halted as usual when she came to the next grade and the scouts did as the Captain suggested. They sat on the back of the buckboard floor, swinging their feet and laughing wildly at the way the horse jogged on up the hill, believing that they were walking.
Having reached the top, Hepsy waited, as was her custom, for the girls to climb in, but they merely crept over the back of the seat and then shouted: “Gid’dap!”
Perhaps it was this pulling and scrambling that moved the seat from the splintered groove, or perhaps it had not been securely slid into place when the two girls adjusted it. No one knew it had worked its way out of the slot and now was merely sitting on top of the side-rails; but the combined weight of the three girls held it firmly while the buckboard ran over level ground.
So elated were the scouts over the success of their hoax that they determined to repeat the trick at the next ascent. They sang and shouted with exuberant spirits, so that Mrs. Vernon had to hold her ears with both hands, while Betty drove.
But Hepsy became annoyed at such unseemly hilarity, and switched her tail impatiently several times. Still the scouts kept on laughing and shouting, so Hepsy expressed her irritation in starting to run.
The added speed only made the scouts laugh and shout louder, and Hepsy ran faster. As this was exactly what they all had wanted for an hour past, the girlish voices rang merrily over the hills and came back in mad echoes.
Now Hepsy determined she would not stand for such nonsense, but there was the steepest ascent of all just ahead. It was the last, but longest, on the mountainside.
Hepsy’s run turned into a gallop that rocked the vehicle from side to side, so that Betty could not control the animal. Mrs. Vernon hastily took the reins and tried to soothe the horse, but it seemed as if Hepsy said: “No, you laughed at the way I was fooled, so now I will have my turn!”
The three girls on the rear seat had to cling to each other to avoid being rolled out of the buckboard; still they never dreamed that much of the swaying was due to the seat being free from the clutch of the grooves.
Just ahead, Mrs. Vernon saw a huge flat bowlder which would prove an awful jolt unless Hepsy could be guided so as to avoid it. The Captain tugged with all her strength on the left rein, but the stubborn horse kept straight on.
Suddenly the front wheel struck the rock and the vehicle went up on one side and down on the other. With the mighty lurch, the seat toppled over, and the three occupants were shot into the bushes and grass growing beside the woodland path. The hamper rolled off afterward and stood upside down in the road.
Once over the obstacle, however, the buckboard righted itself again, and Hepsy kept galloping on as if her life depended upon it. All the shouting and yanking at the reins, that the Captain was capable of, had no effect on the animal.
She climbed the ascent in a galloping pace, and never stopped until the pathway ended in front of the Cave. Then she stood heaving and breathing as if every gasp would be her last.
Mrs. Vernon and Betty jumped and looked with fear and trembling at what had happened to the three scouts so unceremoniously tipped into the woods.
At the foot of the steep climb, the three girls were seen struggling to carry the hamper up to the Cave. But they were laughing so they could not lift the heavy basket.
The Captain made a megaphone of her hands and shouted: “Never mind! Leave the hamper. We can have dinner down there.”
Thankfully then, the scouts placed the hamper in the ferns beside the road, and climbed up to the height where the others stood.
“I never saw such an old fraud in my life!” exclaimed Mrs. Vernon, when the girls came within hearing of her voice.
“Are you all right, girls?” asked Betty, anxiously.
“Yes, but weak from laughing,” shouted Joan.
“Oh, if I ever get a chance to pay Hepsy back!” threatened Ruth, angrily.
“Verny? I’d give my hat if we could only have had a movie taken of this whole episode,” added Julie, still giggling.
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