Read CHAPTER I - AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR of A Campfire Girl's Test of Friendship , free online book, by Jane L. Stewart, on ReadCentral.com.

“Oh, what a glorious day!” cried Bessie King, the first of the members of the Manasquan Camp Fire Girls of America to emerge from the sleeping house of Camp Sunset, on Lake Dean, and to see the sun sparkling on the water of the lake.  She was not long alone in her enjoyment of the scene, however.

“Oh, it’s lovely!” said Dolly Ransom, as, rubbing her eyes sleepily, since it was only a little after six, she joined her friend on the porch.  “This is really the first time we’ve had a chance to see what the lake looks like.  It’s been covered with that dense smoke ever since we’ve been here.”

“Well, the smoke has nearly all gone, Dolly.  The change in the wind not only helped to put out the fire, but it’s driving the smoke away from us.”

“The smoke isn’t all gone, though, Bessie.  Look over there.  It’s still rising from the other end of the woods on the other side of the lake, but it isn’t bothering us over here any more.”

“What a pity it is that we’ve got to go away just as the weather gives us a chance to enjoy it here!  But then I guess we’ll have a good time when we do go away, anyhow.  We thought we weren’t going to enjoy it here, but it hasn’t been so bad, after all, has it?”

“No, because it ended well, Bessie.  But if those girls in the camp next door had had their way, we wouldn’t have had a single pleasant thing to remember about staying here, would we?”

“They’ve had their lesson, I think, Dolly.  Perhaps they won’t be so ready to look down on the Camp Fire Girls after this-and I’m sure they would be nice and friendly if we stayed.”

“I wouldn’t want any of their friendliness.  All I’d ask would be for them to let us alone.  That’s all I ever did want them to do, anyhow.  If they had just minded their own affairs, there wouldn’t have been any trouble.”

“Well, I feel sort of sorry for them, Dolly.  When they finally got into real trouble they had to come to us for help, and if they are the sort of girls they seem to be, they couldn’t have liked doing that very well.”

“You bet they didn’t, Bessie!  It was just the hardest thing they could have done.  You see, the reason they were so mean to us is that they are awfully proud, and they think they’re better than any other people.”

“Then what’s the use of still being angry at them?  I thought you weren’t last night-not at Gladys Cooper, at least.”

“Why, I thought then that she was in danger because of what I’d done, and that made me feel bad.  But you and I helped to get her back to their camp safely, so I feel as if we were square.  I suppose I ought to be willing to forgive them for the way they acted, but I just can’t seem to do it, Bessie.”

“Well, as long as we’re going away from here to-day anyhow, it doesn’t make much difference.  We’re not likely to see them again, are we?”

“I don’t know why not-those who live in the same town, anyhow.  Marcia Bates and Gladys Cooper-the two who were lost on the mountain last night, you know-live very close to me at home.”

“You were always good friends with Gladys until you met her up here, weren’t you?”

“Oh, yes, good friends enough.  I don’t think we either of us cared particularly about the other.  Each of us had a lot of friends we liked better, but we got along well enough.”

“Well, don’t you think she just made a mistake, and then was afraid to admit it, and try to make up for it?  I think lots of people are like that.  They do something wrong, and then, just because it frightens them a little and they think it would be hard to set matters right, they make a bad thing much worse.”

“Oh, you can’t make me feel charitable about them, and there’s no use trying, Bessie!  Let’s try not to talk about them, for it makes me angry every time I think of the way they behaved.  They were just plain snobs, that’s all!”

“I thought Gladys Cooper was pretty mean, after all the trouble we had taken last night to help her and her chum, but I do think the rest were sorry, and felt that they’d been all wrong.  They really said so, if you remember.”

“Well, they ought to have been, certainly!  What a lot of lazy girls they must be!  Do look, Bessie.  There isn’t a sign of life over at their camp.  I bet not one of them is up yet!”

“You’re a fine one to criticise anyone else for being lazy, Dolly Ransom!  How long did it take me to wake you up this morning?  And how many times have you nearly missed breakfast by going back to bed after you’d pretended to get up?”

“Oh, well,” said Dolly, defiantly, “it’s just because I’m lazy myself and know what a fault it is that I’m the proper one to call other people down for it.  It’s always the one who knows all about some sin who can preach the best sermon against it, you know.”

“Turning preacher, Dolly?” asked Eleanor Mercer.  Both the girls spun around and rushed toward her as soon as they heard her voice, and realized that she had stepped noiselessly out on the porch.  They embraced her happily.  She was Guardian of the Camp Fire, and no more popular Guardian could have been found in the whole State.

“Dolly’s got something more against the girls from Halsted Camp!” explained Bessie, with a peal of laughter.  “She says they’re lazy because they’re not up yet, and I said she was a fine one to say anything about that!  Don’t you think so too, Miss Eleanor?”

“Well, she’s up early enough this morning, Bessie.  But, well, I’m afraid you’re right.  Dolly’s got a lot of good qualities, but getting up early in the morning unless someone pulls her out of bed and keeps her from climbing in again, isn’t one of them.”

“What time are we going to start, Miss Eleanor?” asked Dolly, who felt that it was time to change the topic of conversation.  Dolly was usually willing enough to talk about herself, but she preferred to choose the subject herself.

“After we’ve had breakfast and cleaned things up here.  It was very nice of the Worcesters to let us use their camp, and we must leave it looking just as nice as when we came.”

“Are they coming back here this summer?”

“The Worcesters?  No, I don’t think so.  I’m pretty sure, though, that they have invited some friends of theirs to use the camp next week and stay as long as they like.”

“I hope their friends will please the Halsted Camp crowd better than we did,” said Dolly, sarcastically.  “The Worcesters ought to be very careful only to let people come here who are a little better socially than those girls.  Then they’d probably be satisfied.”

“Now, don’t hold a grudge against all those girls, Dolly,” said Eleanor, smiling.  “Gladys Cooper was really the ringleader in all the trouble they tried to make for us, and you’ve had your revenge on her.  On all of them, for that matter.”

“Oh, Miss Eleanor, if you could only have seen them when I threw that basket full of mice among them!  I never saw such a scared lot of girls in my life!”

“That was a pretty mean trick,” said Eleanor.  “I don’t think what they did to bother us deserved such a revenge as that, even if I believed in revenge, anyhow.  I don’t because it usually hurts the people who get it more than the victims.”

Bessie looked at Dolly sharply, but, if she meant to say anything, Eleanor herself anticipated her remark.

“Now come on, Dolly, own up!” she said.  “Didn’t you feel pretty bad when you heard Gladys and Marcia were lost in the woods last night?  Didn’t you think that it was because you’d got the best of the girls that they turned against Gladys, and so drove her into taking that foolish night walk in the woods?”

“Oh, I did-I did!” cried Dolly.  “And I told Bessie so last night, too.  I never would have forgiven myself if anything really serious had happened to those two girls.”

“That’s just it, Dolly.  You may think that revenge is a joke, perhaps, as you meant yours to be, but you never can tell how far it’s going, nor what the final effect is going to be.”

“I’m beginning to see that, Miss Mercer.”

“I know you are, Dolly.  You were lucky-as lucky as Gladys and Marcia.  You were particularly lucky, because, after all, it was your pluck in going into that cave, when you didn’t know what sort of danger you might run into, that found them.  So you had a salve for your conscience right then.  But often and often it wouldn’t have happened that way.  You might very well have had to remember always that your revenge, though you thought it was such a trifling thing, had had a whole lot of pretty serious results.”

“Well, I really am beginning to feel a little sorry,” admitted Dolly, “though Gladys acted just as if she was insulted because we found them.  She said she and Marcia would have been all right in that cave if they’d stayed there until morning.”

“I think she’ll have reason to change her mind,” said Eleanor.  “She’d have found herself pretty uncomfortable this morning with nothing to eat.  And she’s in for a bad cold, unless I’m mistaken, and it might very well have been pneumonia if they’d had to stay out all night.”

“She’s a softy!” declared Dolly, scornfully.  “I’ll bet Bessie and I could have spent the night there and been all right, too, after it was all over.”

“You and Bessie are both unusually strong and healthy, Dolly.  It may not be her fault that she’s a softy, as you call her.  The Camp Fire pays a whole lot of attention to health.  That’s why Health is one of the words that we use to make up Wo-he-lo.  Work, and Health, and Love.  Because you can’t work properly, and love properly, unless you are healthy.”

“I suppose what happened to Gladys last night was one of the things you were talking about when you wanted us to be patient, wasn’t it?”

“What do you mean, Dolly?”

“Why, when you said that pride went before a fall, and that she’d be sure to have something unpleasant happen if we only let her alone, and didn’t try to get even ourselves?”

“Well, it looks like it, doesn’t it?”

“I don’t get much satisfaction out of seeing people punished that way, though,” admitted Dolly, after a moment’s thought.  “It seems to me-well, listen, Miss Eleanor.  Suppose someone did something awfully nice for me.  It wouldn’t be right, would it, for me just to say to myself, ‘Oh, well, something nice will happen to her.’  She might have some piece of good fortune, but I wouldn’t have anything to do with it.  I’d want to do something nice myself to show that I was grateful.”

“Of course you would,” said Eleanor, who saw the point Dolly was trying to make and admired her power of working out a logical proposition.

“Well, then, if that’s true, why shouldn’t it be true if someone does something hateful to me?  I don’t take any credit for the pleasant things that happen to people who are nice to me, so why should I feel satisfied because the hateful ones have some piece of bad luck that I didn’t have anything to do with, either?”

“That’s a perfectly good argument as far as it goes, Dolly.  But the trouble is that it doesn’t go far enough.  You’ve got a false step in it.  Can’t you see where she goes wrong, Bessie?”

“I think I can, Miss Eleanor,” said Bessie.  “It’s that we ought not to be glad when people are in trouble, even if they are mean to us, isn’t it?  But we are glad, and ought to be, when nice people have good luck.  So the two cases aren’t the same a bit, are they?”

“Right!” said Eleanor, heartily.  “Think that over a bit, Dolly.  You’ll see the point pretty soon, and then maybe you’ll understand the whole business better.”

Just then the girls whose turn it had been to prepare breakfast came to the door of the Living Camp, which contained the dining-room and the kitchen, and a blast on a horn announced that breakfast was ready.

“Come on!  We’ll eat our next meal sitting around a camp fire in the woods, if that forest fire has left any woods where we’re going,” announced Eleanor.  “So we want to make this meal a good one.  No telling what sort of places we’ll find on our tramp.”

“I bet it will be good fun, no matter what they’re like,” said Margery Burton, one of the other members of the Camp Fire.  She was a Fire-Maker, the second rank of the Camp Fire.  First are the Wood-Gatherers, to which Bessie and Dolly belonged; then the Fire-Makers, and finally, and next to the Guardian, whom they serve as assistants, the Torch-Bearers.  Margery hoped soon to be made a Torch-Bearer, and had an ambition to become a Guardian herself as soon as Miss Eleanor and the local council of the National Camp Fire decided that she was qualified for the work.

“Oh, you’d like any old thing just because you had to stand for it, Margery, whether it was any good or not,” said Dolly.

“Well, isn’t that a good idea?  Why, I even manage to get along with you, Dolly!  Sometimes I like you quite well.  And anyone who could stand for you!”

Dolly laughed as loudly as the rest.  She had been pretty thoroughly spoiled, but her association with the other girls in the Camp Fire had taught her to take a joke when at was aimed at her, unlike most people who are fond of making jokes at the expense of others, and of teasing them.  She recognized that she had fairly invited Margery’s sharp reply.

“We’ll have to hurry and get ready when breakfast is over,” said Eleanor as they were finishing the meal.  “You girls whose turn it is to wash up had better get through as quickly as you can.  Then we’ll all get the packs ready.  We have to take the boat that leaves at half past nine for the other end of Lake Dean.”

“Why, there’s someone coming!  It’s those girls from the other camp!” announced Dolly, suddenly.  She had left the table, and was looking out of the window.

And, sure enough, when the Camp Fire Girls went out on the porch in a minute, they saw advancing the private school girls, whose snobbishness had nearly ruined their stay at Camp Sunset.  Marcia Bates, who had been rescued with her friend, Gladys Cooper, acted as spokesman for them.

“We’ve come to tell you that we’ve all decided we were nasty and acted like horrid snobs,” she said.  “We have found out that you’re nice girls-nicer than we are.  And we’re very grateful-of course I am, especially-for you helping us.  And so we want you to accept these little presents we’ve brought for you.”