Margaret Vandercook.

The Camp Fire Girls by the Blue Lagoon



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Sally Ashton shook her head.

"Don't worry, Tante, Aunt Patricia will never leave this country without you."

Mrs. Burton, who had been glancing into the flames which flickered in a small open fire, now looked up.

"Really, Alice and Vera, I am glad you have done what Aunt Patricia wished, although at first I confess I was hurt and angry. If she needs you, you must fill her life as completely as you can. I don't agree with Sally, much as I would like to. Aunt Patricia is singularly unforgiving and must have lost all affection for me. You'll stay to lunch with us. You and Bettina have not had a moment's conversation and she has a great deal to tell you. I'll go and see about things."

After the Camp Fire guardian had disappeared from the room, Bettina Graham slipped into her place beside Sally.

"Do come and sit close to us in a Camp Fire square, if not a Camp Fire circle," Bettina urged. "If you girls only knew how glad I am to see you and how your being here in New York makes me more than ever anxious to do what I have been planning! You know how I always have hated the idea of making my d?but in society. Well, as the ordeal has drawn nearer, I have found myself hating the possibility more than ever. This summer while we were at our new home, that we call 'The House by the Blue Lagoon,' I at last made up my mind what I really wish to do. I want to devote my life to social work and to begin by studying social settlement work in New York this winter."

Sally Ashton sighed.

"Oh, dear, how did I ever wander into so serious a Camp Fire group? Is there no one of the Sunrise girls who does not wish for a career save me? Of course there are Peggy and Gerry, but they already have chosen matrimony as their careers."

"Do be quiet, Sally. What a perfectly delightful idea, Bettina dear! Why can't you spend the winter with us? We have another small bed-room in our apartment and I am sure Aunt Patricia will be delighted to have you with us," Alice Ashton urged.

Bettina shook her head.

"No such good fortune, Alice! Mother is entirely opposed to my wish and insists upon my following her desire for me. I ran away to New York to try to persuade Tante to use her influence with mother to permit me to do what I like, but I find she takes mother's point of view altogether. We were discussing the subject when you came in and she had just told me she thought it would be selfish and inconsiderate of me to argue the matter any further. So I suppose I must go back to Washington and be a wallflower all winter.

"I forgot to tell you that Elce, our little Lancashire girl, is here with me. She was ill at school and sent to me, as no one seemed able to find anything the matter, save that she was so homesick and miserable. Now something has to be done for her and with her and I am so glad to have the opportunity to ask your advice. I am afraid that to send her to another boarding school would be to have the same thing occur, and yet she must have some education.

She cares for nothing save her music and the outdoors and was perfectly well and happy when she was with mother and me last summer."

A moment the three girls remained silent, then Sally answered.

"If you and Tante think it wise and Alice and Vera and Aunt Patricia are willing, why not have Elce come and live with us this winter? I know she would rather be with you, Bettina, but if you are to be introduced into society in Washington, you will scarcely be able to give any time to her. Besides, your mother may not wish to have her. Elce can go to school in New York and I'll look after her otherwise. Perhaps this is not the best thing for her, but it is the only solution I can suggest. She won't be so homesick with us as at boarding school and she will have greater freedom, then I shall like to feel that I am doing something useful."

"Good gracious, Sally, isn't making a home for Alice and me being useful?" Vera remonstrated. "I am sorry if I seemed cross a few moments ago; this was largely because you were in the right and Alice and I did not enjoy our position."

Before any one could reply there was a knock at the door and another girl entered.

"Mrs. Burton says that luncheon is ready if you will be kind enough to come in. I am going to ask you not to stay long afterwards; Mrs. Burton would not mention it I am sure, but she is supposed to lie down every afternoon for a short rest."

As the four Camp Fire girls followed Juliet Temple out of the room, Sally managed to whisper to Bettina:

"What is there about Juliet Temple that is so annoying? That little speech she just made is the kind of thing that makes me especially angry, as if she were far more intimate with Tante and more devoted to her welfare than any of her Camp Fire girls? I suppose she is devoted to her and certainly she makes herself useful and yet I never feel sure of her. In my opinion she represents one of the causes of Aunt Patricia's estrangement."

Bettina shook her head.

"I feel a good deal as you do, Sally, although I am not even so confident of the reason. Sometimes I think you are a better judge of character than any of the rest of us, so if you have an opportunity this winter I wish you would study Juliet Temple and find out what you can. Is she really devoted to Tante, or is she only devoted to her for what she thinks she can gain? Come, we must not keep luncheon waiting and I want you to see Elce. Suppose we talk to her of your proposal."

CHAPTER IV
NATURAL HISTORY

Mrs. Burton's New York apartment was not large.

In her present state of mind Bettina Graham was restless, so, as her mother had consented that she spend the week with her Camp Fire guardian, she devoted many hours each day to being out of doors and to sight seeing.

She was never alone; one of her excuses was that Elce must be amused and not allowed to be troublesome. The little English girl, the daughter of a Lancashire miner, who had been deserted by her father and in a way thrust upon the Camp Fire girls during a brief visit to Ireland, always accompanied her.

Elce was not a trying companion when one wished to pursue one's own train of thought. She talked but little and seemed shy and not particularly clever save for her extraordinary musical gift. Not that she had any gift for the technique of music. One of Bettina's puzzles and disappointments was that so far the younger girl had failed to show any proper interest in the study of music. Her talent seemed spontaneous and natural as a bird's ability to sing and she seemed as little capable of acquiring musical knowledge.

Undoubtedly a problem, Bettina believed that Elce was chiefly her problem. During the summer in "Merrie England," when the little girl had been a maid of all work in their household, she first had become interested in her and in return Elce, whom they then knew by the Lancashire title of "Chitty," had given her a devotion, which she revealed toward no one else. Indeed, the younger girl appeared curiously free from the ordinary affections and to be strangely shy, or self-contained.

It was at Bettina's request that her father had undertaken to pay for the little girl's education. There had been no thought of making her a member of their household, save perhaps during certain holidays.

With Marguerite Arnot the circumstances were different. Marguerite was older and in spite of her difficult background of poverty and hard work22
  See "Camp Fire Girls in Glorious France."


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was possessed of unusual beauty and charm. Then at once Marguerite had responded to her mother's influence. Indeed, Bettina, although recognizing the unreasonableness of her own attitude, frequently had to stifle pangs of something approaching jealousy at the sympathetic relation between them.

Marguerite was no longer shy save in a graceful and attractive fashion. If she played but an inconspicuous part in the social life now surrounding her, she had the French tact and resourcefulness. It seemed to Bettina that, as her own difference of opinion with her mother had grown and developed, Marguerite was beginning to fill her place. In justice she could not criticize Marguerite for circumstances with which she had nothing to do, although not enjoying the idea that her mother was turning to some one else for the sympathy and devotion which should have been her own to give and to receive.

This afternoon, wandering about the Natural History Museum with Elce, Bettina was not particularly intent upon the exhibitions, but instead was planning a letter which she contemplated writing home later in the evening, when Mrs. Burton had gone to the theater and she could be alone.

She meant to surrender her own desire; nothing else appeared possible, but she also wished her family to appreciate that she believed she was being treated unjustly and that she had the right to her own choice of life.

Reaching a secluded corner and discovering an unoccupied bench, Bettina sat down, suggesting that Elce wander about alone and come back for her later. They were on the floor devoted to the reproduction of wild birds in their native haunts. Since the collection was a rarely beautiful one, Bettina believed it would be of so great fascination as to keep the younger girl occupied for some time. Personally she was already fatigued. Moreover, she wished for an opportunity to think without the possibility of being interrupted at any moment.

After her original talk with her Camp Fire guardian she had not referred to the subject of their interview. There was little reason why she should. Definitely she understood that Mrs. Burton's sympathy was with her mother and that she had but scant patience with her rebellion against what might appear to most girls as a singularly fortunate fate.

Bettina was not only disappointed, but puzzled and aggrieved. From any one save her Camp Fire guardian she would have expected such a point of view. She herself was able to accept the fact that it was but natural other people should consider an opportunity to enter Washington society, chaperoned by her mother and with her father's prominent official position, to be the summit of any natural girl's desire. Yet from her Camp Fire guardian Bettina had hoped for another viewpoint. Had she not heard her oftentimes insist that every living human being must follow his or her own road, and that whether for good or ill she could have followed no career save the one she had chosen.

The difference in their positions Bettina Graham had far too much intelligence not to recognize. She was not choosing the career of an artist and had revealed no exceptional gifts. She merely wanted to give her life in service to persons less fortunate than herself, rather than waste it, as she felt, in a society existence for which she had neither liking nor taste. There was nothing romantic nor inspiring in her desire. Her mother and father were both convinced that such work should be left to older women, or to girls who possessed neither her position nor opportunities.

So since the prop upon which unconsciously she had been leaning, Mrs. Burton's approval and help, had failed her, Bettina decided to make no further protest for the present. Later she must convince her family that her desire was not a whim, a moment's caprice, the influence of a stronger personality, which would vanish when other interests became more absorbing.

Suddenly Bettina got up, realizing that the room in which she was seated was growing surprisingly dark and that a guard was moving about, announcing that the hour for closing had arrived.

Before leaving Bettina had first to find her companion.

At the farther end of the room she observed that a small crowd had formed, who seemed loath to depart.

Drawing near, to her amazement she heard a number of beautiful, birdlike notes with which she was familiar.

Undisturbed by her audience, Elce was standing by a showcase filled with birds from the northern part of England, birds which the little girl had known almost from babyhood, as she had spent the greater part of her time in the woods. To-day amid strange and different surroundings, with apparent unconsciousness, she was repeating such bird notes as she could recall.

The crowd about her was amused and admiring.

Bettina laid her hand on the younger girl's shoulder.

"Elce, we must go at once, it is growing late. And you must remember you are not in the woods, or you will have so large an audience surrounding us some day that we shall not be able to make our escape. You are an odd child! I thought you were exceptionally shy and afraid of people, and now you do a surprising thing like this and appear not in the least abashed."

In farewell Elce was nodding to several persons who had been standing near. She appeared entirely unaware that her behavior had been unusual.

Out in the street Bettina discovered that the darkness had not been due solely to the lateness of the hour, but that a thunderstorm was approaching.

A few moments she stood hesitating. The History Museum was on the west side of the city and uptown and she wished to reach the east side and down town as promptly as possible. By what method she could most quickly accomplish this result she was not certain. Holding tight to her companion's hand Bettina made a hurried rush toward the Broadway subway.

She had no umbrella and large drops of rain were descending. The darkness was surprising and interesting. Men and women stopped in their onward rush to look upward toward the sky, where the clouds were magnificent.

Then the rain became a downpour. Still Bettina and Elce rushed on, scarcely seeing where they were going.

A moment and Bettina found her horizon limited by an umbrella, which made a circular barrier directly in her path.

"Is it possible that people can meet by accident in New York City in this way? I do not see how you can remember us," she was saying the following moment.

"Our meeting is not so surprising as you think; people who live in New York never see their acquaintances unexpectedly, while strangers always do. I am taking it for granted that you are not a New Yorker. You will have my umbrella, won't you?"

Bettina shook her head.

"No, I cannot do that, but if you will see us to the subway and save Elce from drowning in this rain, I shall be under a second obligation to you. We did find Mrs. Burton the other evening in the fashion you suggested."

Bettina was smiling, amused and entertained by her unexpected encounter. The rain was dripping from her hat, her hair blowing, her cloth skirt whipped about her ankles.

"We are trying to reach Gramercy Square," she added, when they had set out, their companion vainly attempting to hold his umbrella above the two girls.

"Then I suggest you take the bus so as not to have to cross to the shuttle at Times Square at this rush hour. You won't think I intend being impertinent, because already I have discovered two things about you. You are staying with Mrs. Richard Burton and apparently she lives in Gramercy Park. You see, you have an unfair advantage of me in one respect, as you know that my name is Burton and I have no idea of yours."

Making no rejoinder, Bettina's manner became perceptibly colder. She was not an unconventional person and was beginning to fear that she had displayed too great friendliness in permitting herself to recognize an acquaintance whom she had met in so informal a fashion.

Yet until this moment he had seemed unusually courteous.

At her change of manner he turned and began talking to Elce, so that Bettina was able to look at him more attentively.

She had only an indistinct impression of him as he stood in his own doorway several evenings before, giving her the aid of his friendly advice. Curious that she should be appealing to his friendliness so soon again! Now she saw that the young man had brown hair and eyes, was a good deal taller than she, and that he had an expression of delightful gaiety. Unconsciously Bettina felt a slight sensation of envy. She knew the copy of Donatello's faun and there was something in her companion which suggested the famous statue. His brown hair, wet by the rain, curled in heavy clusters, his ears were slightly pointed, his face glowed with health and humor.

"I am sorry if I have offended you," he added. "For my own part, I never have understood why human beings require so much formality in learning to know one another. I confess I have been struggling to discover an acquaintance who knows your Mr. and Mrs. Burton ever since our accidental meeting the other evening. No one seems able to help me. The only human being I know named Burton outside my own family is a Captain Burton I saw in France. He was engaged in Red Cross work over there. But I met him on the street after our return and I remember he told me he was living in Washington."

Bettina bit her lips to hide their smiling, not altogether displeased by this information.

"We have reached Broadway, haven't we? I am so much obliged to you, as here comes our bus. It would be odd, wouldn't it, if by chance we should both know the same Captain Burton. My Mr. Richard Burton was in France in the service of the Red Cross and did live in Washington for a time after his return to this country. He does not use his title at present, since he has given up his Red Cross work, although many persons continue to call him Captain Burton. Of course there may have been any number of Captain Burtons in the army. I have no idea that we can possess any acquaintance in common. Good-by and thank you."

CHAPTER V
RENUNCIATION

At the door of Mrs. Burton's private sitting-room, which was slightly ajar, hearing voices inside, Bettina paused. She had changed her wet outdoor costume for a simple dinner dress, but did not wish to disturb any visitor, knowing that her Camp Fire guardian saw only intimate friends at this hour and in this room. The room in which Bettina was standing at present was the ordinary reception room.

Mrs. Burton was speaking and an instant later Bettina caught the sound of her own name.

"I did not dream, my dear, that Bettina could be so selfish and unreasonable. I confess I am deeply disappointed in her! Save that she told me what she wished with her own lips, I could never have believed she could be so inconsiderate of you."

Then a voice followed which surprised Bettina, although it was the one voice with which she was more familiar than any other.

"But, Polly, perhaps you do not understand Bettina. She never before has seemed either selfish or unreasonable. And if she now appears inconsiderate of me, the fault probably is mine. Bettina should have had a more serious-minded mother, one who would not have asked her to waste her gifts and her beautiful, generous nature in a society existence. I have been talking with Anthony since Bettina came to you. He seems unusually severe and for the first time I can recall is annoyed with his 'Slim Princess,' the title he used to bestow on Bettina. Anthony declares that Bettina should wish to be with me beyond any other possible desire and that she particularly needs my influence. This I am afraid is not true. I have been struggling to make Anthony see, and you must recognize this as an excuse for Bettina, Polly, dear, that her wish at present is merely an inheritance from Anthony. For as long as I can remember Anthony has been working to better conditions for people whom he considers less fortunate than himself. This has kept him many years in political life, when often his own desire has been to retire. Now Bettina simply is longing to express the same ideal in the work that, as a young girl, she feels herself by nature fitted for. I have been standing in her way, I am afraid the selfishness has been mine, although at first I was unable to see the situation in this light. I am so proud of Bettina and so wanted her to be with me in order to introduce her to the brilliant and charming friends Anthony and I have acquired in our years in Washington."

"You are an angel, Betty!" Mrs. Burton responded.

Her companion laughed, for the first time her voice revealing a happier tone.

"Polly, there is only one human being in this world possessed of fewer angelic attributes! That person is your famous self. It is ridiculous and not in the least fair of you to be so critical of Bettina. I presume you have forgotten that when you were a girl you disappeared-was it for over a year? – from all of us who cared for you. At that time you deliberately set out to try your fortune in so reprehensible a career as the stage. Now if Bettina had chosen so undesirable a profession as yours, I might be unhappy. The work she wishes to do is constructive and unselfish. I went to call on Miss Merton, the friend Bettina made last summer who interested her in social settlement work. She has a very different impression of Bettina from the one you seem to have acquired as her Camp Fire guardian. She is a remarkable woman and I never wish to forget what she said to me. She even agreed that Bettina should remain this winter with me and do what I planned for her, yet she believes that Bettina has a wonderful personality and unusual gifts and that one day she will do work that may be of permanent value. Under the circumstances it is I who have failed Bettina. In the future she will remember and find it hard to forgive me."



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