Hildegard G. Frey.

The Camp Fire Girls Do Their Bit Or, over the Top with the Winnebagos online

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"Whom did you meet?" he repeated triumphantly.

Veronica opened her lips as if to speak and then closed them again and
remained silent. The room was so still that the heavy ticking of the
clock sounded like hammer blows on an anvil. All eyes were on Veronica;
the Winnebagos stared, open-mouthed; Sahwah's blood ran cold in her
veins; Agent Sanders leaned forward, the whole force of his personality
concentrated in his compelling eyes.

"I didn't meet anybody," said Veronica, returning his gaze steadfastly.

"Where did you go, then?"

Veronica was silent.

"Answer me."

"I can't tell you."

"Why not?"

"Because I can't." There was a ring of finality in Veronica's tone.

Agent Sanders scribbled something more in his little notebook. Then he
renewed his questioning. "You took that letter to somebody, didn't you?"

"I did not," replied Veronica emphatically. "I told you before, and I
repeat it, I know nothing about any letter. I never saw it, and I never
heard of it until you accused me of taking it."

The agent smiled knowingly. "To whom did you telephone from this study
last night?"

"To a friend of mine."

"Who?"

Veronica refused to answer that question, calmly defying the agent to
make her tell. Again there was a sensation in the room. The Winnebagos
were ready to drop with astonishment at the strange behavior of
Veronica. Sahwah looked around at the various faces. Mr. Wing still wore
his puzzled, pained expression; the artist seemed to be getting bored;
he looked out of the window and his left hand was playing with his ear,
pulling down the lobe and releasing it with a jerk, a gesture he was
continually making when his hands were idle. It irritated Sahwah now and
made her nervous; she was filled with a desire to tie his hand down so
he couldn't reach his ear.

"That will do," said Agent Sanders to the Winnebagos, indicating by a
gesture that they were to go out of the room. Sahwah lingered. She stood
up beside Veronica and put her arm around her. "She didn't do it! She
didn't do it!" she said fiercely, facing the three men fearlessly.
"She's as loyal to this country as you are!"

"Possibly," said Agent Sanders drily. "Well, little lady, your faith in
your friend is very beautiful to see, but until we find out that
someone else took that letter we can't take much stock in it."

"I'll prove to you that she's all right," Sahwah proclaimed rashly, and
then reluctantly went out of the room. Her faith in Veronica's innocence
was unshaken. Veronica herself had said that she did not know anything
about the letter, that was enough for Sahwah. Her friend had spoken, and
she never dreamed of doubting her word.

As she went out she saw Mr. Wing rub his hand thoughtfully over his
forehead and heard him say, "But hang it, Sanders, you didn't hear her
play last night. She had us all roused to such a pitch of patriotism
that we were ready to go to the front on the next ship." The agent said
nothing, only went on making notes in his little book. The artist sprang
to open the door for Sahwah, but she took the knob out from under his
very hand and passed him with hostile eyes.

Soon afterward Agent Sanders and Mr. Wing went to Philadelphia and took
Veronica away with them. Before they went the Winnebagos all flung
themselves upon Mr. Wing and implored him not to let the agent take her
away. "_You_ know she is all right," pleaded Sahwah. "_You_ tell him not
to arrest her."

Mr. Wing threw out his hands in a helpless gesture. "You don't
understand, my dear," he said patiently. "I can't tell Special Agent
Sanders 'not to' do anything. I don't happen to have the authority."

"Oh-h," said the Winnebagos.

"You see," he went on gently, "Agent Sanders is only doing his duty in
arresting her. It's his business to run down the enemies of our country
and he is working for the good of all of us. The case against her is
pretty strong, you'll have to admit. She's an alien enemy, a friend of
this Prince Karl Augustus; is wearing a ring which his wife gave her.
Then here comes this letter from him which will expose him as the head
of a great plot. Veronica is in the house with that letter; she is known
to have been alone in the room where it was; soon after that she leaves
the house and says she is going home with a sick headache. When you get
home you find her trying to steal unobserved into the back entry. She
herself admits that she had an appointment with someone during that
time. The next morning the letter is found to have disappeared.
Naturally all suspicion points to her, and how could Sanders do anything
else but put her under arrest? This is a serious matter, much more
serious than you can guess, if that letter goes back into the hands of
the prince's agents."

"But do you really think she took the letter?" asked Sahwah
despairingly.

Mr. Wing shrugged his shoulders and repeated his gesture of
helplessness. "It's hard to know what to expect from such a
temptestuous nature as that," he said seriously. "A nature which can
work up such a passionate loyalty for an adopted country - what must its
feelings have been toward its own native land? Suppose when the chance
unexpectedly came to aid the cause for which her country is fighting and
for which her father died, the old ties were stronger than the new, and
she could not resist the temptation? A nature like hers is capable of
going to any extreme. Naturally I hate to suspect her of any connection
with enemy agents, but as a servant of the government it is my duty to
act upon anything that is in the least suspicious. Sanders is absolutely
convinced that she's a dangerous spy in the employ of the enemy, for she
answers the description of a young girl he has been trying to find for a
long time, a girl who belongs to the Hungarian nobility who has helped
German agents in this country.

"Sanders is dead sure she took that letter and passed it back to the
prince's agents, and you really can't blame him for thinking so. For,
hang it all, if _she_ didn't, who under the shining sun did?"

Only Sahwah, with her faith in her friend unshaken, though circumstances
pointed accusing fingers from every direction, declared stoutly, "She
didn't, I know she didn't. Some day you'll find out I'm right!"




CHAPTER XVI

CLOUDY DAYS


The days dragged themselves along and a week loitered past which seemed
an age to the Winnebagos. No word had come from Nyoda since a telegram
she had sent upon her arrival, saying that Sherry was very low and not
expected to live. They had written her about Veronica's plight, but
there was no answer to that.

Neither did they hear anything about Veronica. Mr. Wing had been in
Philadelphia ever since the day of Veronica's arrest, but they had not
heard from him since.

The Winnebagos wore themselves out talking about Veronica. The subject
of her mysterious excursions from the house was always in the air, and
it formed a hurdle over which no one could jump. Where had she gone on
those excursions? Why didn't she confide in them and satisfy their minds
on this point?

It usually happens in such instances, where our friends fail to take us
into their confidence on matters which we think we have a right to
know, that our pride is hurt at the neglect and pretty soon we begin to
have suspicions in regard to the mysterious action. So it was with the
Winnebagos. At first they only felt hurt that Veronica should have
secrets away from them, but soon they began to say to themselves that
there must have been something suspicious somewhere, if she could not
confide in them, her best friends.

It was Agony who voiced this sentiment the oftenest, and kept the
mystery constantly stirred up. She never let them forget it for a
moment. She seemed inclined to argue as her father had done, that
Veronica's ties of blood and birth had been too strong for her and in an
unguarded moment she had yielded to the impulse to assist the cause of
her native land. The constant repetition of this belief began to
influence the others. Much as they were loath to believe that Veronica
would assist the enemies of their country, they were always conscious of
the fact that they had never really known Veronica; that they could not
understand her strange, passionate nature; that never in their
acquaintance with her had they ever been able to guess what she would do
next. There had always been a gulf between themselves and her which they
had never been able to cross entirely, much as they had come to love
her; there was always a line drawn around her over which they had never
been able to pass. They loved her dearly; they admired her wildly; but
they no more understood the soul that was locked up in her
uncommunicative nature than they understood the riddle of the Sphinx.
They all realized this, and were filled with sorrowful forebodings. The
fact that she had known Prince Karl Augustus loomed larger and larger in
their minds as the days wore on, and it seemed not at all improbable
that she had seized the opportunity to aid him in his activities,
without ever stopping to think of the consequences of her act. They were
broken-hearted over it, but gradually came to believe the possibility of
the charge against her.

Only Sahwah stood out stanchly for her right along, refusing to doubt
her for a moment.

"I don't care if she _is_ an alien enemy!" she declared vehemently.
"She's my Veronica, and I know she never had anything to do with it, so
there!"

She wouldn't listen to Agony and her wise-sounding talk, withdrew to
herself a great part of the time, and for lack of other supporters spoke
out her mind to the portrait of Elizabeth Carver, hanging serenely over
the harp in the long parlor.

"You would have stood up for your friend, no matter what the others
said, wouldn't you?" she demanded beseechingly, and it seemed to her
that Elizabeth nodded her head in confirmation.

Then one day came news which filled them all with consternation.
Veronica was to be interned! Mr. Wing came home and told them about it
briefly. The weight of suspicion had been so strong against Veronica
that nothing could stand against it; her internment had been ordered by
the agents of the government. They were now awaiting the arrival of the
internment papers from Washington; when these came she would be taken
away.

Mr. Wing wearily waved aside the hosts of questions poured out by the
dismayed Winnebagos. He had suffered great chagrin over the loss of the
letter which was to have played such an important part in the coming
trial; sober afterthoughts had convinced him of the possibility of
Veronica's connection with enemy agents; he had come to believe it
implicitly now. Of course, she had taken in these simple girls with her
spectacular protestations of loyalty to this country; that was part of
the game. His anxiety was all for his girls, for fear they had already
compromised themselves in some way.

The Winnebagos saw him in a new mood to-day, stern, inflexible,
obdurate. He curtly advised them to speedily forget their friend and to
say nothing to outsiders about the occurrence. He refused to tell them
where she was at present, and would not hear of their having any
intercourse with her.

"The first thing you know you'll be suspected of connivance yourselves,"
he warned. "And I also advise you not to express too much sympathy for
your friend," he continued. "It's a sure way to make yourselves
unpopular these days."

Stricken, Sahwah sped home, and fleeing from the others, went into the
woods by herself. That was always her place of refuge in trouble. When
others would have sought human comfort and advice, Sahwah fled straight
to the woods. There she could think clearly and gather together her
stunned faculties.

She wandered on blindly until she came to the brook, the little laughing
stream she loved so well, and sat there for hours trying to think of
some plan by which she could save Veronica. For the conviction was
strong within her that Veronica was innocent and it would not budge for
all the suspicions in the world. She thought of one wild extravagant
scheme after the other, and abandoned them all, and at last, utterly
crushed and low-spirited, she took her way back to Carver House.




CHAPTER XVII

THE DRILL CONTEST


While the Winnebagos were gasping under the cold shower of upsetting
events, time marched steadily onward toward the day set for the military
drill contest between Oakwood and Hillsdale. In these last days the
Winnebagos realized what it meant to have the honor of a town on their
shoulders. Although they had little heart for drilling they must turn
out every day with their company of Oakwood girls just as if nothing had
happened, must be the life and brains of the company and never appear to
let their enthusiasm flag. Everyone in town depended upon them to win
the contest for Oakwood; everywhere they went they were greeted with
pleasant smiles and complimentary remarks; they were touched and
flattered by the confidence that was reposed in them - they simply _had_
to win that contest for Oakwood. No one else knew anything about
Veronica; that was kept a state secret. The Winnebagos simply told Miss
Raper that she had been called out of town and would not be in the
contest, and Miss Raper chose another girl to put in her place.

Migwan and Gladys and Hinpoha were sitting together getting the suits
ready which they were to wear in the drill - white skirts and middies,
white shoes and stockings, red, white and blue arm band - when Sahwah
came in waving an envelope over her head. "Letter from Nyoda!" she
called. The three dropped their sewing and fell upon her in a body.

"Open it quick!"

"Here, take the scissors."

"Oh, read it out loud, Migwan, I can't wait until it's passed around."

Migwan promptly complied while the rest listened eagerly as she read:

Good Samaritan Hospital, St. Margaret's, N.S.

DEAR GIRLS:

_Oh_, I'm so thankful I can hardly write; my pen wants to dance jigs
instead of staying on the lines, but I must let you know at once because
I know how anxious you have been. Sherry is out of danger, he rounded
the corner today, and there isn't much doubt about his recovery.

But if you had ever seen the day I arrived - ! I got to St. Margaret's in
the afternoon, tumbled into the first cab that stood outside the
station; begged the driver to lose no time getting to the hospital, and
went rattledly banging over the rough streets as though we were fleeing
from the German army. The hospital was filled to overflowing with the
survivors of the wreck, all of whom had been brought into the port of
St. Margaret's. Beds were everywhere - in the offices, in the corridors,
in the entries. It took me some time to locate Sherry because there
was so much confusion, but I found him at last in one of the wards.

As I came up I heard a doctor who had been attending him say to the
nurse beside him, "It's all up with him, poor chap."

Then he turned around and saw me standing there, and I said quietly, "I
am his wife."

He and the nurse exchanged glances, and he looked distressed. He seemed
to expect me to go off into a fit or a faint, and looked surprised
because I stayed so calm. I was surprised myself. I seemed to be in a
dream and moved and acted quite automatically.

Sherry did not know me; he had been struck on the head while swimming
for a lifeboat, and had been insensible for hours. The doctors said his
skull was fractured. They had done everything they could; there was
nothing to do now but wait until the end came.

I had had nothing to eat all day, because I had been too nervous to eat
on the train. But I stayed by his bedside all that night watching. He
was still living in the morning and I left him at times to help look
after other patients, because the nurses simply couldn't get around fast
enough.

One of the men I waited on was a friend of Sherry's, a Y.M.C.A. man. He
said that Sherry was being sent back to America to give a series of
lectures. Just think! to have come safely through those awful months in
the trenches, and then to perish when so near home!

For three days he lay in a stupor and all that time I never slept a wink
because they said the end would come any minute without warning. But
instead of that he opened his eyes without warning this morning,
recognized me, and said, "Hello, Elizabeth," as casually as if we hadn't
been separated for a year.

He's been awake now for five hours and the doctor says he's out of
danger. I sort of let go then when the tension was over, but I've slept
a bit since and have got a grip on myself again. I'm so happy that I
feel like dancing a jig up and down the wards, and it is only with great
difficulty that I can restrain myself.

I must stop now, because Sherry is clamoring for refreshments.

Your blissful, too-thankful-to-live

NYODA.

P.S. The soap is in the closet under the kitchen stairs. I forgot to
tell you before I went away.

A chorus of glad cries greeted the reading of the letter. "Sherry's
going to get well! Isn't it wonderful?"

Hinpoha and Migwan flung their arms around each other in an exuberance
of feeling just at the same moment that Sahwah and Gladys did the same
thing, and they all laughed and hugged each other for joy.

"Dear Nyoda! Think of her, going without sleep for three nights and
keeping up through it all!"

"And helping to take care of the other injured ones! Isn't that Nyoda
all over, though - _Give Service_, no matter how badly she might feel
herself!"

"But, she never said a word about Veronica," said Sahwah in a puzzled
tone, when the first excitement had subsided. "I can't understand it."

"She probably forgot it, she was so thankful about Sherry," said Gladys.

"Not she," replied Sahwah positively. "She couldn't have gotten our
letter. I'm going to write again."

* * * * *

The day of the great contest had arrived. It was the 15th of August,
the day on which Oakwood celebrated the one hundred and seventieth
anniversary of its founding. An elaborate celebration had been prepared,
with parades and pageants in the daytime, and fireworks and a sham
battle at night. The military drill contest had been a part of this
celebration, that Oakwood's victory over Hillsdale might have a more
spectacular setting. Oakwood was making much more of an occasion out of
that contest than the Winnebagos had expected and their sporting blood
began to tingle. The thought of winning before all that crowd thrilled
them through and through.

Agony was in a high feather. Hers was a nature which expanded in the
limelight; crowded audiences inspired her to outdo herself instead of
"fussing" her as they did Oh-Pshaw. She could hardly wait for their hour
to strike.

The contest was at five in the afternoon, after the parade and before
the evening's program of fireworks. At four o'clock the Hillsdale
delegation drove into town in hayracks decorated with flags and bunting,
the troop of Girl Scouts who were going to drill in the first rack, and
after them several racks full of Hillsdale girls and boys, coming to
watch the contest.

"There they come!" whispered the Oakwood girls to each other, and the
thrill of the coming struggle began to go through them at the sight of
their adversaries.

"Oh, I'm afraid I'm going to make a mistake!" said Oh-Pshaw, turning
quite cold. "I'll never get through that field formation wheel, I know."

"You will _not_ make a mistake," said Agony emphatically. "Don't think
about the audience, just think about that trip to Washington we're going
to get, and keep cool. I don't see what you're so excited for anyway.
I'm not a bit scared." Then she added, "How are you ever going to be a
Torch Bearer if you can't keep cool?" It was a home thrust, and Agony
knew it. Oh-Pshaw wanted to be a Torch Bearer more than anything else
and she considered this occasion a test of her fitness. She must not get
rattled!

The contest took place on Commons Field. A tent had been set up on
either end of the field for the use of the people in the pageant, and
the two drill companies used these tents as points of entry upon the
drill grounds, forming their squads inside. The judges, who were three
military men belonging neither to Oakwood nor Hillsdale, sat half way up
the hill overlooking the center of the grounds. The Hillsdales, being
the visitors, were given the privilege of drilling first.

The Oakwood girls looked on critically as their rivals marched out on
the field and began their maneuvers. The Hillsdale supporters began to
cheer and kept it up incessantly. The spirits of the Oakwood girls rose
as they watched. The Hillsdale Scouts did their steps perfectly, they
had to admit, but they lacked "pep." The Winnebagos knew they could put
a dash into their performance that would beat this mere mechanical
perfection all hollow. Their nervousness left them; the music of the
band, the presence of the crowd, the sight of themselves in their natty
white uniforms had gone to their heads like wine. They were inspired;
they could hardly wait to get out on the drill grounds; they knew they
would march as they had never marched before.

The Hillsdale Scouts finished their maneuvers and marched off amid a
wild outbreak of applause from their friends, and Oakwood, tingling with
eagerness, sprang to attention at Miss Raper's command. The bugle blew
its signal for their entrance, the band crashed into a march and the
squads began to move forward. A roar of applause went up from the crowds
on the hillside; Oakwood citizens hailed their champions with all their
powers of heart and voice.

"CAMP FIRE GIRLS!" yelled several thousand enthusiastic throats. The
Winnebagos thrilled as they had never thrilled before. Here was the
whole town honoring them, _them_, depending upon them to lead the
Oakwood girls to victory over the ancient rival, Hillsdale. Agony was
nearly suffocating with pride; applause was the breath of life to her.

The company came to a halt opposite the judges, one squad behind the
other.

"Squads Left - Hunch!" Miss Raper's sharp command pierced them like a
bullet. With the ease of long practice the squads moved in obedience to
the command. The maneuvers had commenced. Command after command rang
out, which they obeyed with conscious snap and finish, pivoting,
wheeling, rear marching, left and right flanking in perfect step and
rhythm. Applause was continuous, Oakwood citizens had recognized the
"pep" in their performance and knew what the decision of the judges
would be.

The first half of the maneuvers was over; there remained now only the
prize figure of the drill, the difficult field formation, in which the
squads wheeled into the form of a cross and then revolved by fours
around a common center, like the spokes of a wheel going around. It was
a complicated figure and required rapid thinking as to whether to turn
to right or left in certain places.

The first half of the figure was executed without a flaw; the squads
stood ready to form the cross. "_Ready - Wheel_!"

Alas for Oh-Pshaw! When the critical moment arrived and she got to
thinking how dreadful it would be if she _should_ make a mistake, she
went all to pieces, lost her head and marched forward instead of
backward, crashing violently into Agony, who was marching with the four
ahead. Not prepared for the collision, Agony lost her footing and went
down in a heap on the ground, covering her white suit with dust from
head to foot. A simultaneous gasp of dismay went up from the audience
and the company, while the Hillsdale-ites laughed triumphantly. One of
the Hillsdale boys, a youth of eighteen, who considered himself
superlatively funny, called out, "Oakwood Squad, _Awkw'd_ Squad!"

Agony scrambled to her feet, white with anger, and Oh-Pshaw stood still
where the collision had occurred, too horrorstruck to move. A low
command from Miss Raper and the squads righted themselves into line and
proceeded with the maneuver. There was no vim left, however. Oakwood had
lost. They heroically struggled through the remainder of the figure, but
Oh-Pshaw, completely demoralized, made one misturn after the other. The
bugler "sounded off" and the contest was over.

The Winnebagos and their company would have fled away and hidden
themselves, but no, they must march back onto the field with the
Hillsdale company to hear the decision of the judges. It was a fearful
ordeal, that standing up before the disappointed citizens of Oakwood to


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