Read CHAPTER II - TROUBLE SMOOTHED AWAY of A Campfire Girl's Test of Friendship , free online book, by Jane L. Stewart, on ReadCentral.com.

Probably none of the Camp Fire Girls had ever been so surprised in their lives as when they heard the object of this utterly unexpected visit.  Marcia’s eyes were rather blurred while she was speaking, and anyone could see that it was a hard task she had assumed.

It is never easy to confess that one has been in the wrong, and it was particularly hard for these girls, whose whole campaign against the Camp Fire party had been based on pride and a false sense of their own superiority, which, of course, had existed only in their imaginations.

For a moment no one seemed to know what to do or say.  Strangely enough, it was Dolly, who had resented the previous attitude of the rich girls more than any of her companions, who found by instinct the true solution.

She didn’t say a word; she simply ran forward impulsively and threw her arms about Marcia’s neck.  Then, and not till then, as she kissed the friend with whom she had quarreled, did she find words.

“You’re an old dear, Marcia!” she cried.  “I knew you wouldn’t keep on hating us when you knew us better-and you’ll forgive me, won’t you, for playing that horrid trick with the mice?”

Dolly had broken the ice, and in a moment the stiffness of the two groups of girls was gone, and they mingled, talking and laughing naturally.

“I don’t know what the presents you brought are-you haven’t shown them to us yet,” said Dolly, with a laugh.  “But I’m sure they must be lovely, and as for accepting them, why, you just bet we will!”

“You know,” said Marcia a little apologetically, “there aren’t any real stores up here, and we couldn’t get what we would really have liked, but we just did the best we could.  Girls, get those things out!”

And then a dozen blankets were unrolled, beautifully woven Indian blankets, such as girls love to use for their dens, as couch covers and for hangings on the walls.  Dolly exclaimed with delight as she saw hers.

“Heavens!  And you act as if they weren’t perfectly lovely!” she cried.  “Why, Marcia, how can you talk as if they weren’t the prettiest things!  If that’s what you call just doing the best you can, I’m afraid to think of what you’d have got for us if you’d been able to pick out whatever you wanted.  It would have been something so fine that we’d have been afraid to take it, I’m sure.”

“Well, we thought perhaps you’d find them useful if you’re going on this tramp of yours,” said Marcia, blushing with pleasure.  “And I’m ever so glad you like them, if you really do, because I helped to pick them out.  There’s one for each of you, and then we’ve got a big Mackinaw jacket for Miss Mercer, so that she’d have something different.”

“I can’t tell you how happy this makes me!” said Eleanor, swallowing a little hard, for she was evidently deeply touched.  “I don’t mean the presents, Marcia, though they’re lovely, but the spirit in which you all bring them.”

“We-we wanted to show you we were sorry, and that we understood how mean we’d been,” said Marcia.

“Oh, my dear, do let’s forget all that!” said Eleanor, heartily.  “We don’t want to remember anything unpleasant.  Let’s bury all that, and just have the memory that we’re all good friends now, and that we’d never have been anything else if we’d only understood one another in the beginning as well as we do now.

“That’s the reason for most of the quarrels in this world; people don’t understand one another, that’s all.  And when they do, it’s just as it is with us-they wonder how they ever could have hated one another!”

“Why, where’s Gladys Cooper?” asked Dolly, suddenly.  She had been looking around for the girl who had been chiefly responsible for all the trouble, and who had been, before this meeting, one of Dolly’s friends in the city from which she and Marcia, as well as the Camp Fire Girls, came.  And Gladys was missing.

“She-why-she-she isn’t feeling very well,” stammered Marcia unhappily.  But a look at Dolly’s face convinced her that she might as well tell the truth.  “I’m awfully sorry,” she went on shamefacedly, “but Gladys was awfully silly.”

“You mean she hasn’t forgiven us?” said Eleanor gently.

“She’s just stupid,” flashed Marcia.  “What has she got to forgive?  She ought to be here, thanking Dolly and Bessie King for finding us, just as I am.  And she’s sulking in her room, instead!”

“She’ll change her mind, Marcia,” said Eleanor, “just as the rest of you have done.  I’m dreadfully sorry that she feels that way, because it must make her unhappy.  But please don’t be angry with her if you really want to please us.  We’re just as ready and just as anxious to be friends with her as with all the rest of you, and some time we will be, too.  I’m sure of that.”

“We’ll make her see what a fool she is!” said Marcia, hotly.  “If she’d only come with us, she’d have seen it for herself.  She said all the girls here would crow over us, and act as if we were backing down, and had done this because someone made us.”

Eleanor laughed heartily.

“Well, that is a silly idea!” she said.  “Just explain to her that we were just as pleased and as surprised to see you as we could be, Marcia.  You didn’t need to come here this way at all, and we know it perfectly well.  You did it just because you are nice girls and wanted to be friendly, and we appreciate the way you’ve come a good deal more than we do the lovely presents, even.”

“Well, I hope we’ll see you again,” said Marcia.  “If you’re going on that half past nine boat we’ll go back now, and let you pack, unless we can help you?”

“No, you can’t help us.  We’ve really got very little to do.  But don’t go.  Stay around, if you will, and we’ll all talk and visit with you while we do what there is to be done.”

“I’m awfully sorry Gladys is cutting up so.  It makes me feel ashamed, Dolly,” said Marcia, when she and Dolly were alone.  “But you know how she is.  I think she’s really just as sorry as the rest of us, but-”

“But she’s awfully proud, and she won’t show it, Marcia.  I know, for I’m that way myself, though I really do think I’ve been behaving myself a little better since I’ve belonged to the Camp Fire.  I wish you’d join, Marcia.”

“Maybe I will, Dolly.”

“Oh, that would be fine!  Shall I speak to Miss Eleanor?  She’d be perfectly delighted, I know.”

“No, don’t speak to her yet.  I’ve got a plan, or some of us have, rather, but it’s still a secret so I can’t tell you anything about it.  But maybe I’ll have a great surprise for you the next time I see you.”

The time passed quickly and pleasantly, and all too soon Miss Eleanor had to give the word that it was time to start for the landing if they were to catch the little steamer that was to take them to the other end of the lake.

“I tell you what!  We’ll all go with you as far as you go on the boat, and come back on her,” said Marcia.  “That will be good fun, won’t it?  I’ve got plenty of money for the fares, and those who haven’t their money with them can pay me when we get back to camp.”

All the girls from Camp Halsted fell in with her suggestion, delighted by the idea of such an unplanned excursion.  It was easy enough to arrange it, too, for the little steamer would be back on her return trip early in the afternoon, even though she did not make very good speed and had numerous stops to make, since Lake Dean’s shores were lined with little settlements, where camps and cottages and hotels had been built at convenient spots.

“We’ve heard you singing a lot of songs we never heard before,” said Marcia to Bessie, as they took their places on the boat.  “Won’t you teach us some of them?  They were awfully pretty, we thought.”

“You must mean the Camp Fire songs,” said Bessie, happily.  “We’ll be glad to teach them to you-and they’re all easy to learn, too.  I think Dolly’s got an extra copy of one of the song books and I know she’ll be glad to let you have it.”

And so, as soon as Bessie explained what Marcia wanted, the deck of the steamer was turned into an impromptu concert hall, and she made her journey to the strains of the favorite songs of the Camp Fire, the Wo-he-lo cheer with its lovely music being, of course, sung more often than any of the others.

“We were wondering so much about that,” said Marcia.  “We could make out the word Wo-he-lo, but we couldn’t understand it.  It sounded like an Indian word, but the others didn’t seem to fit in with that idea.”

“It’s just made up from the first syllables of work and health and love, you see,” said Eleanor.  “We make up a lot of the words we use.  A good many of the ceremonial names that the girls choose are made that way.”

“Then they have a real meaning, haven’t they?”

“Yes.  You see, one of the things that we preach and try to teach in the Camp Fire is that things ought to be useful as well as beautiful.  And it’s very easy to be both.”

“But tell me about the Indian sound of Wo-he-lo.  Was that just an accident, or was it chosen that way on purpose?”

“Both, I think, Marcia.  You see, the Indians in this country had a lot of good qualities that a great many people have forgotten or overlooked completely.  Of course they were savages, in a way, but they had a civilization of their own, and a great many of their practices are particularly well adapted to this country.”

“Oh, I see!  You don’t want them to be forgotten.”

“That’s just it.  It’s a good way to keep the memory of earlier times alive, and there seems to be something romantic and picturesque about the Indian names and the Indian things.”

“That’s one of the things I like best that I’ve found out about the Camp Fire since you came to Camp Sunset.  We used to think the Camp Fire meant being goody-goody and learning to sew and cook and all sorts of things like that.  But you have a lot of fun and good times, too, don’t you?”

“Yes, and there really isn’t anything goody-goody about us, Marcia.  You’d soon find that out if you were with us.”

“Well, I’m very glad that so many people have been led to know the truth about us,” said Eleanor, with a smile.  “If everyone knew the truth about the Camp Fire, it would soon be as big and as influential as even the most enthusiastic of us hope it will be.  And I’m sure that we’ll grow very fast now, because when girls understand us they see that we simply help them to have the sort of good times they enjoy most.  Having a good time is a pretty important thing in this life.”

“I-I rather thought you would think that we spent too much time just having a good time,” said Marcia, plainly rather surprised by this statement.

“I don’t say anything about you girls in particular, because I don’t know enough about you,” replied Eleanor.  “Of course, it’s easy to get to be so bound up in enjoying yourself that you don’t think of anything else.  But people who do that soon get tired of just amusing themselves, so, as a rule, there’s no great harm done.  They get so that everything they do bores them, and they turn to something serious and useful, for a change.”

“But you just said having a good time was important-”

“And I meant it,” said Eleanor, with a smile.  “Because it’s just as bad to go to one extreme as to the other, and that’s true in about everything.  People who never work, but spend all their time playing aren’t happy, as a rule, or healthy, either.  And people who reverse that, and work all the time without ever playing, are in just about the same boat, only they’re really worse off than the others, because it’s harder for them to change.”

“I think I’m beginning to see what you mean, Miss Mercer.”

“Why, of course you are, Marcia!  It’s in the middle ground that the right answer lies.  Work a little, and play a little, that’s the way to get on and be happy.  When you’ve worked hard, you need some sort of relaxation, and it’s pretty important to know how to enjoy yourself, and have a good time.”

“And you certainly can have bully good times in the Camp Fire,” said Dolly, enthusiastically.  “I’ve never enjoyed myself half so much as I have since I’ve belonged.  Why, we have bacon bats, and picnics, and all sorts of things that are the best fun you ever dreamed of, Marcia.  Much nicer than those stiff old parties you and I used to go to all the time, when we always did the same things, and could tell before we went just what was going to happen.”

“And the regular camp fires, the ceremonial ones, Dolly,” reminded Bessie.  “Don’t you think Marcia would enjoy that?”

“Oh, I know she would!  Couldn’t I bring her to one some time?” Dolly asked Eleanor.

“She’ll be very welcome, any time,” said Eleanor with a smile.  “There’s nothing secret about the Camp Fire meetings,” she went on.  “They’re not a bit like high school and private school fraternities or sororities-whichever you call them.”

“Why, look where we are!” said Marcia suddenly.  “We’ll be at the dock pretty soon.”

“Why, so we will!” Eleanor said.  “That’s Cranford, sure enough, girls!  We get off here, and begin our real tramp.”

“I wish we were going with you,” said Marcia, with a sigh of regret.  “But we can’t, of course.  Well, I told Dolly we might have a surprise for her pretty soon, and we will if I’ve got anything to say about it, too.  This has been awfully jolly!  I guess I know a lot more about your Camp Fire now than I ever expected to.  And I’ve enjoyed hearing every word, too.”

Soon the little steamer was made fast to the dock, and the Camp Fire Girls streamed off, lining up on the dock.  On the steamer the girls from Camp Halsted-all but Gladys Cooper, who had not made the trip-lined up, leaning over the rail.

“We’ll see them off as the boat goes right back again,” said Eleanor.  “And let’s give them the Wo-he-lo cheer for good-bye, girls.”

So their voices rose on the quiet air as the steamer’s whistle shrieked, and she began to pull out.

“Good-bye!  Good luck!” cried Marcia and all the Halsted girls.  “And come back whenever you can!  We’ll have a mighty different sort of welcome for you next time!”

“Good-bye!  And thank you ever so much for the blankets!” called the Camp Fire Girls.