Margaret Vandercook.

The Camp Fire Girls by the Blue Lagoon



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CHAPTER IX
THE HOUSE BY THE BLUE LAGOON

"It is enchanting, Betty. How in the world did you and Anthony make the discovery?"

"By accident, dear. We were with some friends on a yacht sailing about in the bay, when afar off I spied this tiny island and asked if we might anchor here for an hour and investigate.

"One could not see the house from the shore, but Anthony and I followed the line of the lagoon until on an autumn afternoon we found it in its deserted splendor. It is a theory of mine, Polly, that each one of us possesses a house of dreams. As soon as my eyes fell upon this, I recognized it as mine. But don't let me tire you either with my enthusiasm, or by trying to make you see everything at once. Were I wise I should keep a fresh attraction for each day that I might have you with me the longer."

The two friends were walking about in an open space of lawn before a house built like an English manor house. The house had fallen into partial decay; on this spring day pale green tendrils of ivy climbed the old walls, in the eaves birds were building their nests, here and there bits of the stone were crumbling away.

"We shall never have the money to rebuild the place and have the house appear as it must have a hundred years ago, but I am not altogether sorry. When Anthony found the old place was for sale and the whole of the little island he told me that if we bought it I must never expect this. We only hope to keep it from further destruction."

"You don't mean that you actually own the whole of this island, Betty, all these magnificent trees, the blue lagoon, the shore line with its view of the sea? Let us walk down to the lagoon and rest for a few moments. I am more tired than I realized after last night's journey. As soon as it is warm enough I shall crawl into a small boat and anchor myself in the lagoon for days and nights, when you have grown weary of my society. This might be known as a place of heavenly rest. In sailing across to the island so late yesterday afternoon, I only had a brief glimpse of the lagoon, which cuts into the island from the bay does it not, as if it were an arm reaching into the shore."

Betty Graham nodded.

"Yes, the island is nearly a complete, circle. One can start from a bank of the lagoon, follow the shore line and return to the opposite bank. Originally the lagoon was to form an anchorage for boats without having to depend on the tides. Once the channel was dug the water has forced its way in until the lagoon has become surprisingly deep. You must promise me to be careful, Polly. I can well imagine your dreaming in your boat and being carried out into the bay and then on toward the sea."

"Well, dear, would it be a bad way of ending things? Yet I believe I would rather float into your blue lagoon from the sea than away from it. I wonder if the depth of the water makes it appear blue as the waters in the Tropics? Please tell the Camp Fire girls to be careful.

What a magical place to bring a lot of people together in! I was sorry not to come to you with the Camp Fire girls, but had to give a half dozen more performances of 'A Tide in the Affairs', before my season ended. It was difficult at best, Betty, dear, to close things up while the play was in the height of its popularity. I never could have managed save that you and Richard saw to it that in my original contract I was to be released from playing in the spring. I am supposed to put the same play on next fall, yet I really don't wish to. I was never enthusiastic over it."

"I was not either, Polly, as I told you. Why not play something else? It was never big enough for you!"

"All very well, Betty Graham, but you know nothing of the difficulty of discovering a worth-while play in accord with one's personality or talents. The good fortune of a real play comes only once or twice in a lifetime."

Mrs. Graham hesitated.

"Polly, while you are here do me a favor. In a rash moment I told Allan Drain, our young poet-playwright, to bring the manuscript of his latest effort and that if you were in a good humor you might permit him to read it to you. There is no reason to believe his play would be any worse than other plays one has seen. The boy is very ambitious and I think clever and I have invited him for several weeks, so you will have a chance to rest beforehand."

Mrs. Burton stopped and frowned.

"Betty, dear, please don't ask this of me. Of course if you make it a favor to you, I have no choice but to agree. But I am so tired and shall never be rested in a few weeks. Of course this is not the real trouble. You don't know how disagreeable it is to have youthful geniuses read you their efforts and then be obliged to tell them the truth about their work, or at least the truth as one sees it. It hurts them horribly when you cannot admire what they have done and often they never forgive you. Besides, I am a sympathetic person and really hate having to wound them. As for your young playwright, Allan Drain, to whom you have taken an unaccountable fancy, I several times allowed him to read his efforts to me during the winter when we were shut up in the mountains.44
  See "Camp Fire Girls at Half Moon Lake."


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I was not busy then and more amiable. His work was only fairly good; really he did not reveal exceptional ability. I am cross and tired now and it would only destroy the boy's pleasure and mine to have to disappoint him. I cannot have him encouraged in the idea that I would ever consider one of his youthful effusions. You are not disappointed, are you?"

"A little, Polly, but the main thing is that you must not be worried, or have anything affect the pleasure of your first visit to me in 'The House by the Blue Lagoon'. I hope you won't mind the young people."

Mrs. Burton laughed.

"If you mean my Camp Fire girls, Betty, I regard the speech as too impossible to answer. As for the youths whom you have asked to entertain them, or be entertained by them, I've an idea that no one of them will have any attention or time to spare for me. Who is here? Not coming down to dinner last evening I am not sure of all the names the girls poured into my ears."

"Oh, only the girls' special friends, Dan Webster, David Hale, Allan Drain of course, Philip Stead, Alice's and Sally's cousin, and Robert Burton. Bettina surprised me by suggesting that I ask the young fellow whom she met by accident in New York when she was searching for you. I wonder if she has seen a great deal of him in the past winter? Has she spoken of him to you? He seems a pleasant chap and admires Sally Ashton. Do you know, Polly, I have half an idea that David Hale is in love with Bettina, and although she is absurdly young, now and then I feel that I would rather she return his affection and lead a woman's natural existence than pursue this idea of social service that the winter's experience, which I hoped in a way might cure her, seems to have deepened. Anthony says David Hale has a brilliant future ahead of him."

The two friends sat down on a low stone bench a few feet from the lagoon. In the April sky small white clouds played at hide and seek upon the field of blue, reflected in the deeper blue of the water.

"And you would like Bettina, Betty dear, to repeat your own life, marry a famous man and be happy ever after? Most parents seem to want their children to repeat their lives, if they have been at all happy and successful. Yet how few of them ever do! Don't set your heart on this idea of Bettina and David. She does not care for him."

"Nonsense, Polly, how do you know! I believe she likes him extremely. She used to write me of him from France."

"Very well, I won't argue the question. There is one person you have left out of your house party, I am afraid purposely, and for my sake I want you to relent. You did not tell me that I might bring Juliet Temple with me, and I need her. Do you dislike her? I never have understood the situation; not one of my Camp Fire girls has ever made a friend of her, Aunt Patricia is violently prejudiced against her, only Richard and I are fond of her. I can scarcely tell you how much she does for us both. She is extremely clever and of late not only has kept house for me, but attends to small business matters that are so annoying. She writes out all the checks for the tradespeople and merely brings them to me to sign, and oh, I scarcely know what she does not attend to! Richard is always congratulating himself at having discovered and brought her to me at Half Moon Lake. The child does not mind doing what a maid would do when I am very tired or very busy, although of course I do not feel I should allow this. I have no right to ask you a favor, have I, Betty, having just refused the one you asked me?"

Betty Graham put her arm about her companion whose frailty always gave her a pang when the met again after any length of parting.

"Oh, have your Juliet Temple if you wish and are so dependent upon her. You know you can do anything you like so far as I am concerned. Yet I think you are making a mistake to trust the girl to such an extent and certainly you should not have her look after your business affairs. She might be careless, and as you are extremely careless yourself, Polly, and Richard not much better, there might be unnecessary temptations. I really believe you both do need Aunt Patricia."

Mrs. Burton shrugged her shoulders.

"You did not succeed in inducing Aunt Patricia to make you the visit while I am here, did you? I am sorry, although not surprised. Richard went to see her not long ago and she seemed rather pathetically pleased, made him stay in the house with her and would hardly allow him out of her sight. She refused, however, to forgive me for whatever imaginary wrong I have committed. She says now that she had grown so old and difficult that I returned to the stage largely in order to be rid of her and that she refuses to be any further burden upon me. And this in view of the fact that Aunt Patricia has taken care of me as if I were a child, has lavished her wealth and time and strength upon me and never allowed me to do anything of any kind to repay her. Well, I am through with making repeated efforts to have her forgive me, for what I am not sure. Alice Ashton and Vera Lagerloff seem to have taken my place and I trust she may find them more satisfying than she ever did me. At no time do I remember Aunt Patricia's approving of anything I ever thought or did."

"Don't talk as if you were a spoiled child, Polly; at any moment you need Aunt Patricia she will come to you at once."

Mrs. Burton shook her head.

"No, I shall never allow it, or accept any favor from her again. I told Richard this when he returned and said Aunt Patricia still declined to have anything to do with me. I asked him to write this to her, that I should not trouble her at any time in the future. But about Juliet Temple! The child is alone in my New York apartment; Richard is out of town on business for a few days, and I am afraid she is lonely. She has no friends and no relatives except a brother, whom I am afraid, from what she has told me, is not of much account. She seems fond of him, however, and they come from this part of the country I believe; I am not sure just where. As for trusting Juliet to attend to my business affairs, there is an especial reason why I wish her to appreciate that I have entire faith in her. She gave me her confidence upon an occasion when there was no necessity for it and I have always believed in her. As far as money goes, Betty, I am not rich enough to be a temptation to anyone. You know that Richard and I made some unfortunate investments after our return from France and lost the small estate we had saved between us. You did not know that other people were also involved and because Richard was one of the officers of the company, we both feel that we want to pay back to them at least a portion of what they lost. I made a good deal of money last winter, but have kept only what we need for our personal expenses until fall, when I start to work."

"Oh, Polly, you are so quixotic and so unpractical! Suppose you should fall ill again? But there, forgive me, I should not have spoken of such a possibility. When we are both old and you have grown tired of being famous and admired, will you come here and live with me at my 'House by the Blue Lagoon'?"

Mrs. Burton laughed.

"Yes, Betty dear, I'll hide somewhere in one of your secret passages, while you entertain house parties of distinguished persons from Washington, or elsewhere-Senators, Ambassadors, even Congressmen. With all my love for my work, it is you who are admired and who care for society. Small wonder Bettina was never able to keep up with you! Here comes Bettina with her shadows, Elce and the little girl she brought from the settlement. 'Ardelia in Arcady'! Do you recall the old story of the child who came from the city to the country and was expected to care for it and did not? It was very amusing. Bettina's latest prot?g? is a pathetic little figure, with her crutch and her city pallor, but she feels dreadfully lost on your desert island amid all this beauty and romance. She is a little daughter of the tenement! I believe I can understand her better than you or Bettina."

"Princess, what are our visitors doing? Polly and I ran away for an hour's quiet talk. She is to learn to love our place nearly as much as I do," Mrs. Graham exclaimed.

Bettina Graham came nearer. She looked grave and sweet, although a little smile showed at the corners of her lips.

"Oh, they are perfectly well entertained without us, dear, and I thought Maida and Elce needed my society for a little while.

"We have small hope of seeing much of you and Tante for a few days until you have grown accustomed to the wholly new experience of being with each other. You are worse than lovers.

"Actually, mother, your house party has accepted your suggestion and has set to work to make you a garden, a new garden where the old one has been this hundred or more years. It is a charming idea! We are to leave such shrubs and roses as will bloom. David Hale and Dan Webster have taken charge and say we are to work two hours every morning, before we are allowed to do anything else-boat, or bathe, or fish, or sail. It is to be a memory or a friendship garden, although we intend to find a prettier and more original title. Anyhow, the garden is to commemorate our first Camp Fire house party by the blue lagoon. Isn't the place exquisite, Tante? Sitting here by the lagoon can one imagine the poverty and sorrow I see every day in my settlement work, or such an experience as Maida's, whose father is responsible for her lameness? Forgive me, mother, I promised myself not to speak of these things, or even to think of them while I am on your enchanted island."

"This is not my kingdom, Princess, but yours when you will come home to it, yours and Polly's. It is only you people who work for others who deserve enchanted islands. I am delighted to hear about my new garden and my gardeners. We must send for all the flowers we can think of, as April is the perfect month for planting. Do you know I always have wanted a blue garden, I suppose because I have loved blue more than any color all my life and wondered why there were so few blue flowers. Suppose we plant only blue flowers here by the blue lagoon.

"You stay here, dear, I must go and see about luncheon. Bring Polly back with you. I don't want her to go off alone to explore our island and am afraid she has it in mind. One always has the feeling that she will slip away from one somehow."

"No such good fortune, Betty! Bettina, while I think of it, mother has agreed to let me have Juliet Temple here with me, although I am afraid you girls do not want her. I wish you would not be so prejudiced and unfair. She will not be troublesome or intrude on you I am sure, but you will try and see that she has an agreeable time."

"Naturally, Tante, I am not apt to be rude to a guest and will do what I can. Your Camp Fire girls hoped you would be willing to allow us to be with you and do whatever you wished to have done for the little time you are here. If you cannot get on without Juliet Temple, we shall of course be friendly to her. She has been unfriendly, we never have."

"You are cross already, Bettina. Will you speak to Sally? Obviously Sally does not like Juliet, and Sally has a habit of frankness. Tell her I shall be hurt and displeased if she is not especially kind. Now let us talk of something else. Ask Elce and your little lame girl to come and sit by us.

"Elce, if you will sing for me some day all alone here by the blue lagoon, I'll recite a poem to you about these old trees:

 
"When by the spring's enchanting blue,
You trace your slender leaves and few,
Then do I wish myself re-born
To lands of hope, to lands of morn.
 
 
"And when your wear your rich attire,
Your autumn garments touched with fire,
I want again that ardent soul
That dared the race and dreamed the goal.
 
 
"But, oh, when leafless dark and high,
You rise against this winter's sky,
I hear God's word: "Stand still and see
How fair is mine austerity.
 

"Come, let us go back to the house, it must be nearly lunch time."

CHAPTER X
ONE NIGHT

The grounds surrounding the old house were hung with Chinese lanterns.

Walking about in the semi-darkness were groups of figures, ordinarily two in number.

In the big drawing-room the music had just ceased, while the musicians were having their supper and a brief rest. Senator and Mrs. Graham were giving an informal dance for their daughter and house party.

Other guests had crossed over from the mainland, which was not an hour's journey in a motor boat or one of the small steamboats that carried mail and provisions, but was apt to be a long crossing in the uncertainty of a sail, and almost impossible in a rowboat, unless one were a singularly strong oarsman.

There were half a dozen young officers from the fort and as many girls from a fashionable hotel on the Virginia coast.

"Sally, it has been utterly impossible to have a word with you, to say nothing of a dance! A fellow likes a girl to be a good dancer, but not so good that he never has a chance with her. I must say that you and Robert Burton look pretty well together, he dances almost as well as you do and makes me feel awkward and clumsy. Somehow I am surprised that you are such a fine dancer, Sally, when you don't like other kinds of exercise," Dan Webster concluded.

"If you are going to start our walk, Dan, enumerating my faults, I do not intend to go one step with you, although it is one of your favorite amusements. All very well we have known each other a long time, but I do not think that a sufficient excuse."

Arm in arm Sally Ashton and Dan Webster were sauntering away from the veranda toward a more deserted portion of the lawn.

Sally spoke in the demure tone and manner, which oftentimes disturbed her companion, since he was not able to guess whether she were in earnest or amusing herself at his expense.

"Nonsense, Sally, I could not enumerate your faults for any length of time! I only think you possess two or three faults, and sometimes, not often, I have been known to speak of them.

"At present I cannot imagine what I have said or done to annoy you, unless following you around all evening and trying to induce you to pay some slight attention to me has troubled you. In that case of course in future I shall leave you alone.

"I joined the house party when it was extremely difficult for me to be spared from the farm, chiefly in order to see you. I have seen less of you than any one else and at times this has not looked like an accident. If this is true will you be kind enough to be frank."

Sally gave her companion's arm a slight squeeze.

"Don't be such a bear, Dan. You always were a surly small boy when you were annoyed in the days we used to play together.

"There is a hammock under the linden trees; let us sit down if you do not mind, I am a little tired after dancing so long. You know perfectly well how much engaged we all have been since our arrival at the island. You reproach me for not deliberately separating myself from the others, when I have not said a single word to you for failing to write me a half dozen letters all during the past winter. I suppose you were writing to so many other persons!"

"No such thing, Sally. As you well know, I simply can't write letters that are worth a row of pins; they never seem to express what I think or feel, and I am afraid of boring you. If I speak of something now, you won't consider that I intend criticizing you; I suppose I do keep more of a watch on you than on other girls, because I am more interested. Twice lately you have deserted every one in the house party and gone off somewhere to some mysterious part of the island alone. Please don't repeat this. You see it does not look well and worries me. The island is fairly deserted, but there are spots where fishing boats might land, or people out for a holiday. If you feel you want to be alone, I can follow you and promise not to interfere in any way."



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