Read CHAPTER VII of The Torch Bearer A Camp Fire Girls' Story , free online book, by I. T. Thurston, on ReadCentral.com.

HONOURS WON

The camp was to break up in a few days, and the Guardians had planned to make the last Council Fire as picturesque and effective as possible something for the girls to hold as a beautiful memory through the months to come. It fell on a lovely evening, a cool breeze blowing from the water, and a young moon adding a golden gleam to the silvery shining of the stars. Most of the girls had finished their ceremonial dresses and all were to be worn to-night.

“I’m ridiculously excited, Anne,” Laura said, as she looked down at her woods-brown robe with its fringes and embroideries. “I don’t feel a bit as if I were prosaic Laura Haven. I’m really one of the nut-brown Indian maids that roamed these woods in ages past.”

“If any of those nut-brown maids were as pretty as you are to-night, they must have had all the braves at their feet,” returned Anne, with an admiring glance at her friend. “What splendid thick braids you have, Laura!”

“I’m acquainted with the braids,” Laura answered, flinging them carelessly over her shoulders, “but this beautiful bead headband I’ve never worn before. Is it on right?”

“All right,” Anne replied. “The Busy Corner girls will be proud of their Guardian to-night.”

Laura scarcely heard, her thoughts were so full of her girls the girls she had already learned to love. She turned eagerly as the bugle notes of the Council call rang out in silvery sweetness. “O, come. Don’t let them start without us,” she urged.

“No danger they will want their Guardians to lead the procession.”

In a moment Mrs. Royall appeared, and quickly the girls fell into line behind her. First, the four Guardians; then two Torch Bearers, each holding aloft in her right hand a lighted lantern. Flaming torches would have been more picturesque, but also more dangerous in the woods, and all risk of fire must be avoided. After the Torch Bearers came the Fire Makers, and last of all the Wood Gatherers, with Katie the cook wearing a gorgeous robe that some of the girls had embroidered for her. Katie’s unfailing good nature had made her a general favourite in camp.

As the procession wound through the irregular woods-path Laura gave a little cry of delight.

“O, do look back, Anne it is so pretty,” she said. “If it wasn’t that I want to be a part of it, I’d run ahead so I could see it all better.”

Mrs. Royall began to sing and the girls instantly caught up the strain, and in and out among the trees the procession wound to the music of the young voices, the lanterns throwing flashes of light on either side, while the shadows seemed to slip out of the woods and follow “like a procession of black-robed nuns,” Laura said to herself.

The Council chamber was a high open space, surrounded on every side but one by tall pines. The open side faced the bay, and across the water glimmered a tiny golden pathway from the moon in the western sky, where a golden glow from the sunset yet lingered.

The girls formed the semicircle, with the Guardians in the open space. Wood had been gathered earlier in the day, and now the Wood Gatherers, each taking a stick, laid it where the fire was to be. As the last stick was brought, the Fire Makers moved forward and swiftly and skilfully set the wood ready for lighting. On this occasion, to save time, the rubbing sticks were dispensed with, and Mrs. Royall signed to Laura to light the fire with a match.

The usual order of exercises followed, the songs and chants echoing with a solemn sweetness among the tall pines in whose tops the night wind played a soft accompaniment.

To-night the interest of the girls centred in the awarding of honours. All of the Busy Corner girls had won more or less, and as Laura read each name and announced the honours, the girl came forward and received her beads from the Chief Guardian. Mrs. Royall had a smile and a pleasant word for each one; but when Myra Karr stood before her, she laid her hand very kindly on the girl’s shoulder and turned to the listening circle.

“Camp Fire Girls,” she said, “here is one who is to receive special honour at our hands to-night, for she has won a great victory. You all know how fearful and timid she was, for you yourselves called her Bunny. Now she has fought and conquered her great dragon Fear and you have dropped that name, and she must never again be called by it.”

With a pencil, on a bit of birch back, she wrote the name and dropped the bark into the heart of the glowing fire. “It is gone forever,” she said, her hand again on Myra’s shoulder. “Now what shall be the new Camp Fire name of our comrade?”

Several names were suggested, and finally Watewin, the Indian word for one who conquers, was chosen. Myra stood with radiant eyes looking about the circle until Mrs. Royall said, “Myra, we give you to-night your new name. You are Watewin, for you have conquered fear,” and the girl walked back to her place, joy shining in her eyes.

Then Mrs. Royall spoke again, her glance sweeping the circle of intent faces. “There is another who has conquered the dragon Fear and who deserves high honour Elizabeth Page.”

Elizabeth, absorbed in watching Myra’s radiant face, had absolutely forgotten herself, and did not even notice when her own name was spoken. Olga had to tell her and give her a little push forward before she realised that Mrs. Royall was waiting for her. For a second she drew back; then, catching her breath, she went gravely forward. The voice and eyes of the Chief Guardian were very tender as she looked down into the shy blue eyes lifted to hers.

“You too, Elizabeth,” she said, “have fought and conquered, not once, but many times, and to you also we give to-night a new name.” She did not repeat the old one, but writing it on a bit of bark as she had written Myra’s, she told the girl to drop it into the fire. Elizabeth obeyed she had never known what the girls had christened her and now she did not care. Breathlessly she listened as Mrs. Royall went on, “Camp Fire Girls, what shall be her new name?”

It was Laura who answered after a little silence, “Adawana, the brave and faithful.”

“Adawana, the brave and faithful,” Mrs. Royall repeated. “Is that right? Is it the right name for Elizabeth, Camp Fire Girls?”

“Yes, yes, yes!” came the response from two score eager voices.

“You are Adawana, the brave and faithful,” said Mrs. Royall, looking down again into the blue eyes, full now of wonder and shy joy.

“Now listen to the honours that Adawana has won.”

As Laura read the long list a murmur of surprise ran round the circle. The girls had known that Elizabeth would have some honours, for they all knew how Olga had compelled her to do things, but no one had imagined that there would be anything like this long list least of all had Elizabeth herself imagined it. Perplexity and dismay were in her eyes as she listened, and as Laura finished the reading, Elizabeth whispered quickly,

“O Miss Laura, there’s some mistake. I couldn’t have all those not half so many!”

“It’s all right, dear,” Laura assured her, and in a louder tone she added, “There is no mistake. The record has been carefully kept and verified; but you see Elizabeth was not working for honours, and had no idea how many she had won.”

Elizabeth looked fairly dazed as Mrs. Royall threw over her head the necklace with its red and blue and orange beads. Turning, she hurried back to her place next Olga.

“It was all you you did it. You ought to have the honours instead of me,” she whispered, half crying.

“It’s all right. Don’t be a baby!” Olga flung at her savagely, to forestall the tears.

Then somebody nudged her and whispered, “Olga Priest, don’t you hear Mrs. Royall calling you?”

Wondering, Olga obeyed the summons. She had reported no honours won, and had no idea why she was called. Laura, standing beside Mrs. Royall, smiled happily at the girl as she stopped, and stood, her dark brows drawn together in a frown of perplexity.

“Olga,” Mrs. Royall said, “it has been a great joy to us to bestow upon Adawana the symbols which represent the honours she has won. We are sure that she will wear them worthily, and that her life will be better and happier because of that for which they stand. We recognise the fact, however, that but for you she could not have won these honours. You have worked harder than she has to secure them for her; therefore to you belongs the greater honour ”

“No! No!” cried Olga under her breath, but with a smile Mrs. Royall went on, “We know that to you the symbols of honours won beads and ornaments have little value but we have for you something that we hope you will value because we all have a share in it, every one in the camp; and we ask you to wear this because you have shown us what one Camp Fire Girl can do for another. The work is all Elizabeth’s. The rest of us only gave the beads, and your Guardian taught Elizabeth how to use them.”

She held out a headband, beautiful in design and colouring. Olga stared at it, at first too utterly amazed for any words. Finally she stammered, “Why, I I didn’t know Elizabeth ” and then to her own utter consternation came a rush of tears. Tears! And she had lived dry-eyed through four years of lonely misery. Choked, blinded, and unable to speak even a word of thanks, she took the headband and turned hastily away, and as she went the watching circle chanted very low,

“’Wohelo means love.
Love is the joy of service so deep that self is
forgotten that self is forgotten.’”

With shining eyes yet half afraid Elizabeth waited as Olga came back to her. She knew Olga’s scorn for honours and ornaments. Would she be scornful now or would she be glad? Elizabeth felt that she never, never could endure it if Olga were scornful or angry now if this, her great secret, her long, hard labour of love should be only a great disappointment after all.

But it was not. She knew that it was not as soon as Olga was near enough to see the look in her eyes. She knew then that it was all right; and the poor little hungry heart of her sang for joy when Olga placed the band over her forehead and bent her proud head for Elizabeth to fasten it in place. Elizabeth did it with fingers trembling with happy excitement. The coldness that had so often chilled her was all gone now from the dark eyes. Olga understood. Elizabeth had no more voice than a duckling, but she felt just then as if she could sing like a song sparrow from sheer happiness. It was such a wonderful thing to be happy! Elizabeth had never before known the joy of it.

But Mrs. Royall was speaking again. “Wohelo means work and health and love,” she said, “you all know that the three best things in all this beautiful world. Which of the three is best of all?”

Softly Anne Wentworth sang,

“’Wohelo means love,”

and instantly the girls took up the refrain,

“’Wohelo means love,
Wohelo means love.
Love is the joy of service so deep that self is forgotten.
Wohelo means love.’”

Laura’s eyes, watching the young, earnest faces, filled with quick tears as the refrain was repeated softly and lingeringly, again and yet again. Mrs. Royall stood motionless until the last low note died into silence. Then she went on:

“Work is splendid for mind and body. Some of you have worked for honours and that is well. Some have worked for the love of the work that is better. Some have worked or fought for conquest over weakness, and that is better yet. But two of our number have worked and conquered, not for honour, not for love of labour, not even for self-conquest but for unselfish love of another. That is the highest form of service, dear Camp Fire Girls the service that is done in forgetfulness of self. That is the thought I leave with you to-night.”

She stepped back, and instantly each girl placed her right hand over her heart and all together repeated slowly,

“’This Law of the Fire
I will strive to follow
With all the strength
And endurance of my body,
The power of my will,
The keenness of my mind,
The warmth of my heart,
And the sincerity of my spirit.’”

The fire had died down to glowing coals. At a sign from the Chief Guardian two of the Fire Makers extinguished the embers, pouring water over them till not a spark remained. The lanterns were relighted, the procession formed again, and the girls marched back, singing as they went.

“O dear, I can’t bear to think that we shall not have another Council Fire like this for months even if we come here next summer,” Mary Hastings said when they were back in camp.

“And wasn’t this the very dearest one!” cried Bessie Carroll. “With Myra’s honours and Elizabeth’s, and Olga’s headband wasn’t she surprised, though!”

“First time I ever saw Olga Priest dumfounded,” laughed Louise. “But, say, girls that Poor Thing is a duck after all she is really.”

Bessie’s plump hand covered Louise’s lips. “Hush, hush!” she cried in a tone of real distress, for she loved Elizabeth. “That name is burnt up.”

“So it is beg everybody’s pardon,” yawned Louise. “But Elizabeth couldn’t hear way over there with Olga and Miss Laura. I say, girls,” she added with her usual giggle, “I feel as if I’d been wound up to concert pitch and I’ve got to let down somehow. Get out your fiddle, Rose, and play us a jig. I’ve got to get some of this seriousness out of my system before I go to bed.”

Rose ran for her violin, and two minutes later the girls were dancing gaily in the moonlight.

“I wish they hadn’t,” Laura whispered to Anne. “I wanted to keep the impression of that lovely soft chanting for the last.”

“You can’t do it not with Louise Johnson around,” returned Anne. “But never mind, Laura, they won’t forget this meeting, even if they do have to ‘react’ a bit. I’m sure that even Louise will keep the memory of this last Council tucked away in some corner of her harum-scarum mind.”