Jane L. Stewart.

The Camp Fire Girls at Long Lake Bessie King in Summer Camp online

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as if you was goin' to need us pretty bad, didn't it?"

"It certainly did, Andrew," she answered, gravely. "And I don't want you
to think for a moment that we're not grateful to you for the way you
turned out and scoured the woods."

"Don't talk of gratitude, Miss Eleanor. We've known you for years, but
even if we'd never seen you before, and didn't know nothin' about the
girls that thief had stolen, we'd ha' turned out jest the same way to
rescue them. An' I guess any white men anywhere would ha' done the same
thing.

"But if it was only us you'd had to depend on, I'm afraid the young
lady'd still be out there. It was her friend that saved her. Too bad she
trusted that Lolla witch. If she'd gone to Jim Skelly when she was near
the gypsy camp that time, an' told him where her chum was, he'd have had
her free in two shakes of a lamb's tail."

"I think Dolly and Bessie must be awfully hungry," said Zara, who had
listened with shining eyes to the tale of her friends' adventures.

"Oh, they must, indeed!" said Eleanor, remorsefully. "And here we've
been listening to them, and letting them talk while they were starving."

She turned toward the fire, but already two of the guides had leaped
forward, and in a moment the smell of crisp bacon filled the air, and
coffee was being made.

"Oh, how good that smells!" said Dolly. "I _am_ hungry, but it was so
exciting, remembering everything that happened, that I forgot all about
it! Isn't it funny? I was dreadfully scared when I was alone there, and
again afterward, when we thought we were safe, and that horrid man
caught us.

"But now that it's all over, it seems like good fun. If one only knew
that everything was coming out all right when things like that happen,
one could enjoy them while they were going on, couldn't one? But when
one is frightened half to death there isn't much chance to think of how
nice it's going to be when it's all over, and you're safe at home
again."

"That's just the trouble with adventures, Dolly," said Eleanor. "You
never can be sure that they will come out all right, and lots of times
they don't. It's like the thrilling story that the man told about being
chased by the bear."

"What was that, Miss Eleanor?"

"Well, he told about how the bear chased him, and he got into a trap,
and the bear was between him and the only way of getting out, and it
seemed to him as if he was going to be killed. So they asked him what
happened; how he got away?"

"And how did he?"

"He said he didn't; that the bear ate him up!"

"Miss Eleanor," said Andrew, the old chief guide, as the two girls began
ravenously to eat the tempting camp meal that the other guides had so
quickly prepared, "we've got something more to do here."

Eleanor looked at him questioningly.

"We've got to find that gypsy," he said, "and see that he spends the
night in jail, where he belongs. If I'm not mistaken, he'll spend a good
many nights and days there, too, after he's been tried."

"I suppose he must be caught and taken to a place where he can be
tried," said Eleanor. "I don't like the idea of revenge, but - "

"But this ain't revenge, Miss Eleanor. If you was a-goin' to say that
you was quite right. It's self protection, and protection for young
girls everywhere."

"Yes, you're right, Andrew. Well, what do you want me to do? I am
afraid I wouldn't be touch good in helping you to catch him."

Andrew laughed heartily.

"I ain't sayin' that, ma'am, but there's men enough of us to catch him,
all right. Maybe you didn't notice it, but I sent out some of the men
'most as soon as they got here, just so's they'd be able to fix things
for him to have to stay where we could catch him. Trouble is, none of us
don't know him when we see him. I was wonderin' - "

"Oh, no, not now, Andrew. I know what you mean. You want the girls to go
with you, so as to point him out, don't you? But they're so tired, I'm
sure they couldn't do any more tramping today."

"I know they're tired, ma'am, and I wasn't aimin' to let them do any
more walkin'. I've got more sense than that. But we could rig up a sort
of a swing chair, so's two of the boys could carry one of them, easily.
Then we could take her over there, and she could tell us which was him,
and never be tired at all. She'd be jest as comfortable, ma'am, as if
she was a settin' here by the lake, watchin' the water."

"Well, I suppose we can manage it if you do it that way, Andrew, if you
think it's really necessary."

When it came to a choice, since it was necessary for only one of the
girls to go, Dolly insisted on being the one.

"Bessie is much more tired than I am," she said, stoutly. "I was carried
a good part of the way and she tramped all around with that wretched
little Lolla, when she thought Lolla wanted to help her get me away. So
I'm going, and Bessie shall stay here and rest"

"Don't, make no difference to me," said Andrew "Let the other girls come
along with us, if you like, Miss Eleanor. And you can stay hind here
with the one that stays to rest. See!"

And so it was arranged. Bessie, lying on a cot that had been brought
from Eleanor's tent, watched Dolly being carried off in the litter that
had been hastily improvised, and Eleanor sat beside her.

"You've certainly earned a rest, Bessie," said Eleanor, happily. It
delighted her to think that Bessie, whom she had befriended, should
prove herself so well worthy of her confidence. "I don't know what we'd
have done without you. I'm afraid that Dolly would still be there in the
woods if you'd just called us, as most girls would have done."

"I don't quite understand one thing, even yet, Bessie," continued
Eleanor, frowning, "You know, at first, it seemed as if the idea we had
was right; that this man had some crazy idea that he might be able to
make a gypsy of Dolly.

"I'm beginning to think that there was some powerful reason back of what
he did; that he expected to make a great deal of money out of kidnapping
her. It seems, too, as if he knew where we were going to be, and who we
all were, more than he had had any chance to find out."

"I thought of that, too," said Bessie. "If it had been Zara he tried to
steal - but it was Dolly. And she hasn't been mixed up at all in our
affairs."

"I know, and that's what is so puzzling, Bessie. Maybe if they catch
him, though, he'll tell why he did it. I think those guides will
frighten him. They're all perfectly furious, and they'll make him sorry
he ever tried to do anything of the sort, I think - Why, Bessie! What's
the matter?"

"Don't turn around, Miss Eleanor. But I saw a pair of eyes, just behind
you. I wonder if he could have sneaked back around and come here?"

"Oh, I wish we'd had one of the men stay, I was afraid of something
like that, Bessie."

"I'm going to find out, Miss Eleanor. I'll pretend I don't suspect
anything, and get up to go into the tent. Then, if it's John, I think
he'll show himself."

She rose, and in a moment their fears were confirmed. John, his eyes
triumphant, stepped out, abandoning the concealment of the hushes.

"Where is the other?" he said. "The one called Bessie - Bessie King? It's
not you I want - "

"Hands up!" cried the voice of Andrew, the chief guide.

And the gypsy, wheeling with a savage cry, faced a half circle of
grinning faces. He made one wild dash to escape, but it was useless, and
in a moment he was on the ground, and his hands were tied. In the
struggle a letter fell from his pocket, and Bessie picked it up.
Suddenly, as she was looking at it idly, she saw something that made her
cry out in surprise, and the next moment she and Miss Mercer were
reading it together.

"Get this girl, Bessie King, and I will pay you a thousand dollars," it
read. "She is dark, and goes around with a fair girl called Dolly. It
will be easy, and if you once get them to me and out of the woods, I
will pay you the money, and see that you are not in danger of being
arrested. I will back you up."

"Who wrote that letter? Turn over, quickly!" cried Eleanor.

"I know without looking," said Bessie. "Now we can guess why he was so
reckless; why he took such chances! He thought I was Dolly, because of
that mistake about our hair! Yes, see; it is Mr. Holmes who sent him
this letter!"




CHAPTER XIV

THE GYPSY'S MOTIVE


But, despite the revelation of that letter, the gypsy himself maintained
a sullen silence when efforts were made to make him tell all he knew and
the reason for his determined effort to kidnap Dolly. He snarled at his
captors when they, asked him questions, and so enraged Andrew and the
other guides by his refusal to answer that only Eleanor's intervention
saved him from rough handling.

"No I won't let you use violence, Andrew," said Eleanor, firmly. "It
would do no good. He won't talk; that is his nature. You have him now,
and the law will take him from you. There isn't any question of his
guilt; there will be evidence enough to convict him anywhere, and he
will go to prison, as he deserves to do. All I hope is that he won't be
the only one, that we can get the man who bribed him to do this, and
see that he gets punished properly, too."

"I'm sure with you there, ma'am," said old Andrew. "He's a worthless
critter enough, I know, but he ain't as bad as the man that set him on.
If the law lets that other snake go, ma'am, jest you get him to come up
here for a little hunting, and we'll make him sorry he ever went into
such business, I'd like to get my hands on him. I'm an old man, but I
reckon I'm strong enough to thrash any imitation of a man what would
play such a cowardly trick as that. Afraid to do his own dirty work, is
he? So he hires it done. Well, much good it's done him this time."

"I'll keep this letter," said Eleanor. "I think it was mighty foolish of
him to sign his name to it. It's a pretty good piece of evidence against
the man, if he is rich and powerful. If there's any justice to be had, I
think he'll suffer this time."

"How did you ever get back here, just when you were so badly needed?"
Bessie asked Andrew.

He smiled at that.

"Well, we get sort o' used to readin' tracks in our work around here,
Miss, and we seen that someone who might be this feller was doublin'
around mighty suspicious. So, bein' some worried about leavin' you two
here alone anyhow, I decided to come back with three or four of the men
here, an' we did it, leavin' the others to go on an' see if they could
pick up the other two gypsies.

"To tell the truth, I thought it'd be mighty strange if we found him
anywhere near that camp. Seemed like he must know that we'd be lookin'
fer him, and that there was the fust place we'd go to. So here we were,
and mighty timely, as you say, Miss."

It was no great while before the sounds of the other party, returning,
resounded through the woods, and soon Lolla and Peter, the man bound,
and the girl carefully guarded by two guides, each of whom held one of
her arms, were brought into the clearing about the camp. Lolla, at the
sight of John, lying against a tree, his arms and his feet bound, gave
a cry of rage, and, snatching her arms from her guardians, ran toward
him, wailing.

"Go away, you fool!" muttered John. "This is your doing. If you and
Peter had not been afraid of your own shadow, this would not have
happened. I am glad they have caught you; you will go to prison now,
like me."

"Look here, young feller," said Andrew, angrily, "that ain't no way to
talk to a lady, hear me! She may be a bad one, but she's stuck to you.
If you get off any more talk like that I'll see if a dip in the lake
will make you feel more polite like. See?"

John gave no answer, but relapsed into his sullen silence again.

Eleanor approached Lolla gently.

"We are not angry with you, Lolla," she said, kindly. "No, nor with
John. You love him, do you?"

Lolla gave no answer, but looked up into Eleanor's face with eyes that
spoke plainly enough.

"I thought so. Then you do not want him to go to prison? Try to make him
tell why he did this. If he will do that, perhaps he can go free, and
you and Peter, too. You wouldn't like to have to leave your people, and
not be able to travel along the road, and do all the things you are used
to doing, would you?

"Well, I am afraid that is what will happen to you, unless John will
tell all he knows. They will take you away, soon now, and you will go
down to the town and there you will be locked up, all three of you, and
you and John will not even see one another, for a long time - two or
three years, maybe, or even longer - "

Still Lolla could not speak. But she began to cry, quietly, but with a
display of suffering that moved Eleanor. After all, she felt Lolla was
little more than a girl, and, though she had done wrong, very wrong, she
had never had a proper chance to learn how to do what was right.

"I'm sorry for you, Lolla," said Eleanor. "We all are. We think you
didn't know what you were doing, and how wicked it was. I will do my
best for you, but your best chance is to make John tell all he knows."

"How can I? He blames me. He says if I and Peter hadn't been such
cowards all would have been well. He is angry at me; he will not forgive
me."

"Oh, yes, he will, Lolla. I am sure he loves you, and that he did this
wicked thing because he wanted to have much money to spend buying nice
things for you; pretty dresses, and a fine wagon, with good horses. So
he will be sorry for speaking angrily to you, soon, and you will be able
to make him tell the truth, if you only try. Will you try?"

"Yes," decided Lolla, suddenly. "I think you are good - that you forgive
us. Do you?"

"I certainly do. After all, you see, Lolla, you haven't done us any
harm."

Lolla pointed to Bessie.

"Will she forgive me?" she inquired. "I tricked her - made a fool of
her - but she made a fool of me afterward. I lied to her; will she
forgive me, too, like you?"

"Did you hear that, Bessie?" asked Eleanor, by way of answer to the
gypsy girl's question.

"Yes," said Bessie. "I'm sorry you did it, Lolla, because I only wanted
to help your man, and if you hadn't done what you said you were going to
do, and helped me to get Dolly away from him, he wouldn't be in all this
trouble now.

"But you didn't understand about that, and you helped your own people
instead of a stranger. I don't think that's such a dreadful thing to do.
It's something like a soldier in a war. He may think his country is
wrong, but if there's a battle he has to fight for it, just the same."

"But remember that the best way to help John now is to make him see that
he has been wrong, and to try to make him understand that he can make up
for his wickedness by helping us to punish the bad man who got him to do
this," said Eleanor. "That man, you see, was too much of a coward to do
his work himself, so he got your man to do it, knowing that if anyone
was to be punished he would escape, and John would get into trouble.

"John doesn't owe anything to a man like that; he needn't think he's got
to keep him out of trouble. The man wouldn't do it for him. He won't
help him now. He'll pretend he doesn't know anything about this at all."

"I will try," promised Lolla. "But I think John is angry with me, and
will not listen. But I will do my best."

And, after a little while, which the guides used to cook a meal, and to
rest after their strenuous tramping in the effort to find the missing
girls, Andrew told off half a dozen of them to make their way to the
county seat, a dozen miles away, with the three gypsies.

"Just get them there and turn them over to the sheriff, boys," said the
old guide. "He'll hold them safe until they've been tried, and we won't
have any call to worry about them no more. But be careful while you're
on your way down. They're slippery customers, and as like as not to try
to run away from you and get to their own people."

"You leave that to me," said the guide who was to be in charge of the
party. "If they get away from us, Andrew, they'll be slicker than anyone
I ever heard tell of, anywhere. We won't hurt them none, but they'll
walk a chalk line, right in front of us, or I'll know the reason why."

"All right," said Andrew. "Better be getting started, then. Don't want
to make it too late when you get into town with them. Let the girl rest
once in a while; she looks purty tired to me."

Bessie and Dolly and the other girls watched the little procession start
off on the trail, and Bessie, for one, felt sorry for Lolla, who looked
utterly disconsolate and hopeless.

"We couldn't let them go free, I suppose," said Eleanor, regretfully.
"But I do feel sorry for that poor girl. I don't think she liked the
idea from the very first, but she couldn't help herself. She had to do
what the men told her. Women don't rank very high among the gypsies;
they have to do what the men tell them, and they're expected to do all
the work and take all the hard knocks beside."

"You're right; there's nothing else to do, ma'am," said old Andrew.
"Well, guess the rest of us guides had better be gettin' back to work.
Ain't nothin' else we can do fer you, is there, ma'am?"

"I don't think so. I don't suppose we need be afraid of the other
gypsies, Andrew? Are they likely to try to get revenge for what has
happened to their companions?"

"Pshaw! They'll be as quiet as lambs for a long time now. They was a
breakin' up camp over there by Loon Pond when the boys come away last
time. Truth is, I reckon they're madder at John and his pals for gettin'
the whole camp into trouble than they are at us.

"You see, they know they needn't show their noses around here fer a
long time now; not until this here shindy's had a chance to blow over
an' be forgotten. And there ain't many places where they've been as
welcome as over to the pond."

"I shouldn't think they'd be very popular here in the woods."

"They ain't, ma'am; they ain't, fer a fact. More'n once we've tried to
make the hotel folks chase them away, but they sort of tickled the
summer boarders over there, and so the hotel folks made out as they
weren't as bad as they were painted, and was entitled to a chance to
make camp around there as long as they behaved themselves."

"I suppose they never stole any stuff from the hotel?"

"That's jest it. They knew enough to keep on the right side of them
people, you see, an' they did their poachin' in our woods. Any time
they've been around it's always meant more work for us, and hard work,
too."

"Well, I should think that after this experience the people at the
hotel would see that the gypsies aren't very good neighbors, after all."

"That's what we're counting on, ma'am. Seems to me, from what I just
happened to pick up, that there was some special reason, like, for this
varmint to have acted that way today, or last night, maybe it was. Some
feller in the city as was back of him."

"There was, Andrew, I'm afraid; a man who ought to know better, and whom
you wouldn't suspect of allowing such a dreadful thing to be done."

Andrew shook his head wisely.

"It's hard to know what to wish," she said. "Sometimes a man is much
worse when he comes out of prison than he was when he went in. It seems
just to harden them, and make it impossible for them to get started on
the right road again."

"It's their fault for going wrong in the fust place," said the old
guide, sternly. "That's what I say. I don't take any stock in these new
fangled notions of makin' the jail pleasant for them as does wrong.
Make 'em know they're goin' to have a hard time, an' they'll be lest
willin' to take chances of goin' wrong and bein' caught with the goods,
like this feller here today. I bet you when he gets out of jail he'll be
so scared of gettin' back that he'll be pretty nearly as good as a white
man."

"Of course, the main thing is to frighten any of the others from acting
the same way," said Eleanor. "I think the hotel will be sorry it let
those gypsies stay around there. Because it's very sure that mothers who
have children there will be nervous, and they'll go away to some place
where they can feel their children are safe.

"Well, good-bye, Andrew. I'm glad you think it's safe now. I really
would like to feel that we can get along by ourselves here, but, of
course, I wouldn't let any pride stand in the way of safety, and if you
thought it was better I'd ask you to leave one of the men here."

"No call for that, ma'am. You've shown you can get along all right. We
didn't have nothin' to do with gettin' Miss Dolly away from that scamp
today. It was her chum done that. Goodbye."




CHAPTER XV

A FRIENDLY CONTEST


Morning found both Dolly and Bessie refreshed, and, though the other
girls asked them anxiously about themselves, neither seemed to feel any
ill effects after the excitement of the previous day, with its series of
surprising events. Dolly, at first, was a little chastened, and seemed
wholly ready to stay quietly in camp. And, indeed, all the girls decided
that it would be better, for the time at least, not to venture far into
the woods.

"I think it's as safe as ever now, along the well-known trails that are
used all the time," said Miss Eleanor, "but, after all, we don't know
much about the gypsies. Some of them may be hanging around still, even
if the main party of them has moved on, and we do know that they are a
revengeful race; that when one of them is hurt, or injured in any way,
they are very likely not to rest until the injury is avenged. They don't
care much whether they hurt the person who is guilty or not; his
relatives or his friends will satisfy them equally well"

"I'm perfectly willing to stay right here by the lake," said Margery
Burton, "for one. It's as nice here as it can possibly be anywhere else.
I'd like someone to go in swimming with me."

"If it isn't too cold I will," cried Dolly, cheerfully.

And so, after the midday meal - two hours afterward, too, for Eleanor
Mercer was too wise a Guardian to allow them to run any risk by going
into the water before their food had been thoroughly digested - bathing
suits were brought out, and Margery Burton, or Minnehaha, as the one who
had proposed the sport, was unanimously elected a committee of one to
try the water, and see if it was warm enough for swimming.

"And no tricks, Margery!" warned Dolly. "I know you, and if you found it
was cold it would be just like you to pretend it was fine so that we'd
all get in and be as cold as you were yourself!"

"I'll be good! I promise," laughed Margery, and, without any preliminary
hesitation on the water's edge, she walked to the end of the little dock
that was used for the boats and plunged boldly in. She was a splendid
swimmer, a fact that had once, when Bessie had first joined the Camp
Fire, nearly cost her her life, for, seeing her upset, no one except
Bessie had thought it necessary to jump in after her, and she had
actually been slightly stunned, so that she had been unable to swim.

But this time there was no accident. She disappeared under the water
with a beautiful forward dive, and plunged along for many feet before
she rose to the surface, laughing, and shaking the water out of her
eyes. Then, treading water, she called to the group on the dock.

"It's all right for everyone but Dolly, I think," she cried. "I'm afraid
it would be too cold for her. I like it; I think it's great!"

"You can't fool me," said Dolly, and, without any more delay, she too
plunged in. But she rose to the surface at once, gasping for breath, and
looking about for Margery.

"Why, it's as cold as ice!" she exclaimed. "Ugh! I'm nearly frozen to
death! Margery, why didn't you tell me it was so cold?"

"I did, stupid!" laughed Margery. "I said it was warm enough for me, but
that I was afraid it would be too cold for you, didn't I?"

"I - I thought you were just fooling me; you knew I'd never let the
others go in if I didn't!"

"It's not my fault if you wouldn't believe me. All I promised was to
tell you whether it was cold or not! Come on, you girls! It _is_ cold,
but you won't mind it after you've been in for a minute!"

"Look out! Give me room for a dive!" cried Eleanor Mercer, suddenly
appearing from her tent. "I know this water; I've been in it every year
since I was a lot smaller than you. I'm afraid of it every year the
first time I go in, but how I do love it afterward!"

And, running at full speed, she sped down to the edge of the dock,
leaped up and turned a somersault, making a beautiful dive that filled
the girls who were still dry with envy. And a moment later they were all
in, swimming happily and enjoying themselves immensely. All, that is,


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