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

SADIE PAGE

But the finding of a satisfactory home for the boy proved to be no easy task. At the end of the two weeks Laura was still carrying on the quest. When she told Jim that he was to stay with her another week the look in his eyes brought the tears into hers. For the first time she dared to put her arms about him and hold him close, and Jim stayed there, his head on her shoulder, trying his best to swallow the lump in his throat. When he lifted his head he said in a shaky voice, “G gee! But I’m glad!”

“Not a bit gladder than I am, Jim,” Laura said, “and now we must have a bit of a celebration to-night. Father is dining out, so we’ll have supper up in the nursery and we’ll invite somebody. Who shall it be?”

She thought he would say Jo Barton, but instead he said, “Olga.”

“Olga?” she repeated doubtfully. “I’m not at all sure that she will come, but I’ll ask her. I’ll write a note now and send it to the place where she works.”

Jim gave a little happy skip. He ignored his lameness so absolutely that often Laura too almost forgot it. “I guess she’ll come,” he said in the singing voice he used when he was especially pleased.

Olga was just starting for home when the note reached her. She scowled as she read.

“Dear Olga: Jim wants you to come to supper with us just with him and me to-night at 6:30. I shall be very glad if you will, for, aside from the pleasure of having you with us, I want to talk over with you something that concerns Elizabeth. Please don’t fail us.

“Yours faithfully,

“Laura E. Haven.”

Olga read the note twice, her eyes lingering on the words “something that concerns Elizabeth.” But for those words she would have refused the invitation, but she had not seen Elizabeth for some time, and did not know whether she was sick or well. She did not want to go to supper with Miss Laura and Jim. Jim was well enough her face softened a little as she thought of him, but she did not want to see him to-night. If there was something to be done for Elizabeth, however Reluctantly she turned towards Wyoming Avenue.

Jim was watching for her at the window and ran to open the door before the servant could get there.

“I knew you’d come!” he crowed, flashing a smile up into her sombre face. “I told Miss Laura you would.”

“What made you so sure, Jim?” she asked curiously.

“O ’cause. I knew you would. I wanted you hard, and when you want things hard they come sometimes,” Jim said, the triumph dropping out of his voice with the last word.

Jim did most of the talking during supper, Laura throwing in a word now and then, and leaving Olga to speak or be silent, as she chose. She wondered what it was in Olga that attracted the boy, for he seemed quite at ease with her, taking it for granted that she liked to be there and was interested in what interested him; and although Olga was so silent and grave, there was a friendly light in her eyes when she looked at Jim, and she did not push him away when he leaned on her knee and once even against her shoulder, as the three of them gathered about the fire after supper. But when he had gone to bed, Olga began at once.

“Miss Laura, what about Elizabeth?”

“You told me,” Miss Laura returned, “that you thought Sadie had something to do with her absence from the Council meetings.”

Olga’s face hardened. “I’m sure of it. She’s a hateful little cat that Sadie. I’m sure she is determined that Elizabeth shall not come here unless she comes too.”

“I wonder why the child is so eager to come,” Miss Laura said thoughtfully.

“Oh!” Olga flung out impatiently. “She’s bewitched over the Camp Fire dresses, and headbands, and all the other toggery, and she likes to be with older girls. She’s just set her heart on being a Camp Fire Girl and she’s determined that if she can’t be, Elizabeth shan’t be either that’s all there is about it.”

“Then perhaps we’d better admit her.”

Olga stared in amazement and wrath. “Into our Camp Fire?”

Miss Laura nodded.

“But we don’t want her, a hateful little snake in the grass like that!” the girl flung out angrily. “If you knew the way she treats Elizabeth like the dirt under her feet!”

“I know. Her face shows what she is,” Laura admitted.

“Well do you want a girl like that in your Camp Fire?”

“Yes,” Laura’s voice was very low and gentle, “yes, I want any kind of girl that the Camp Fire can help.”

“The other girls won’t want her,” Olga declared.

“They want Elizabeth, and you think they cannot have her without having Sadie.”

Olga sat staring into the fire, her black brows meeting in a moody scowl.

“Olga, what is the Camp Fire for?” Laura asked presently.

“For? Why ” Olga paused, a new thought dawning in her dark eyes.

Laura answered as if she had spoken it. “Yes, the Camp Fire is to help any girl in any way possible. Not only to help weak girls to grow strong, and timid girls to grow brave, and helpless girls to become useful, and lonely girls to find friends and social opportunities it is for all these things, but for more much more besides. It is to show selfish, narrow-minded girls like that poor little Sadie the beauty of unselfishness and generosity and thoughtful kindness to others. Don’t you see that we have no right to refuse to give Sadie her chance just because she doesn’t know any better than to be disagreeable?”

Again Olga was silent, and the clock had ticked away full ten minutes before Laura spoke again. “You want Elizabeth to come to our meetings?”

“It’s the only pleasure she has in the world coming to them,” Olga returned.

“I know, and I want her to come just as much as you do,” Miss Laura said, “but I think you are the only one who can bring it about.”

“How can I?”

“There is a way I think but it will be a very unpleasant one for you. It will call for a large patience, and perseverance, and determination.”

Olga, searching Miss Laura’s face, cried out, “You mean Sadie!”

“Yes, I mean Sadie. Olga, do you care enough for Elizabeth to do this very hard thing for her? You did so much for her at the Camp! It was you who put hope and courage and will-power into her and helped her to find health. But she still needs you, and she needs what the Camp Fire can give her. She cannot have either, it seems, unless we take Sadie too, and Sadie needs what the Camp Fire can give quite as much in a different way as Elizabeth did or does. Olga, are you willing for Elizabeth’s sake to do your utmost for Sadie so that the other girls will take her in? They wouldn’t do it as she is now, you know.”

Olga pondered over that and Laura left her to her own thoughts. This thing meant much to the lives of three girls this one of the three must not be hurried. But she studied the dark face, reading there some of the conflicting thoughts passing through the girl’s mind. After a long time Olga threw back her head and spoke.

“I shall hate it, but I’ll do it.”

Laura shook her head doubtfully. “Sadie is keen sharp. If you hate her she will know it, and you’ll make no headway with her.”

“I know.” Olga gave a rueful little laugh. “She’s sharp as needles that’s the one good thing about her. I shall have to start with that and not pretend anything. It wouldn’t be any use. I shall tell her plainly that I’ll help her get into our Camp Fire on condition that she treats Elizabeth as she ought and gets her out to our meetings. I’ll make a square bargain with her. Maybe she won’t agree, but I think she will, and if she agrees, I think she’ll do her part.”

Laura drew a long breath of relief. “I am so glad, Olga glad for Elizabeth and for Sadie both,” and in her heart she added, “and for you too, Olga O, for you too!”

So the very next evening Olga stood again at the door which Sadie had slammed in her face, and as before it was Sadie who answered her ring.

“You can’t see Elizabeth,” she began with a flirt, but Olga said quietly,

“I came to see you this time.”

“I don’t believe it,” Sadie flung back at her.

“I want to talk with you,” Olga persisted. “Can you walk a little way with me?”

Sadie’s small black eyes seemed to bore like gimlets into the eyes of the other girl, but curiosity got the better of suspicion after a minute and saying, “Well, wait till I get my things, then,” she left Olga on the steps till she returned with her coat and hat on.

“Now, what is it?” she demanded as the two walked down the street.

“Do you want to be a Camp Fire Girl?” Olga began.

“What if I do?” Sadie returned suspiciously.

“You can be if you like.”

“In your Camp Fire the Busy Corner one?”

“Yes.”

“How can I? You said I couldn’t before.”

“There wasn’t any vacancy then, but one of our girls has gone to Baltimore, so there is a chance for some one in her place.”

Sadie’s breath came quickly, and the suspicion and sharpness had dropped out of her voice as she asked eagerly, “Will Miss Laura let me join truly?”

“Yes ”

“Yes what?” Sadie demanded, the sharpness again in evidence.

Olga faced her steadily. “Sadie, I’m going to put it to you straight, for if you join, you’ve got to understand exactly how it is.”

“I know,” Sadie broke out angrily, “you’re just letting me in so’s to get ’Lizabeth. You can’t fool me, Olga Priest.”

“I know it, and I’m not trying to,” Olga answered quietly. “Now listen to me, Sadie. I wouldn’t have let you join only, as you say, to get Elizabeth. But Miss Laura wants you for yourself too.”

“’D she say so?” Sadie demanded eagerly.

“Yes, she said so.” Again Olga looked straight into the sharp little suspicious face of the younger girl. “Sadie, you’re no fool. I wonder if you’ve grit enough to listen to some very plain facts things that you won’t like to hear. Because you’ve got to understand and do your part, or else you’ll get no pleasure of our Camp Fire if you do join. Are you game, Sadie Page?”

The eyes of the two met in a long look and neither wavered. Finally Sadie said sulkily, “Yes, I’m game. Of course, it’s something hateful, but go ahead. I’m listening.”

“No, it isn’t hateful at least, I don’t mean it so,” and actually Olga was astonished to find now that she no longer hated this girl. “I’m just trying to do the best I can for you. Of course, if you come in, Elizabeth, too, must come to all the meetings; but I’ll help you, Sadie, just as I helped her, to win honours, and I’ll teach you to do the craft work, and to meet the Fire Maker’s tests later. I’ll do everything I can for you, Sadie.”

“Will you show me how to make the Camp Fire dress and the bead headbands and all that?” Sadie demanded breathlessly.

“Yes all that.”

“O, goody!” Sadie gave a little gleeful skip. “I know I can learn I know I can better’n ’Lizabeth.”

Then, seeing Olga’s frown, Sadie added hastily, “But ’Lizabeth can learn to do some of them, I guess, too.”

“Elizabeth can learn if she has half a chance,” Olga said. “She works so hard at home that she is too tired to learn other things quickly.”

Sadie shot an angry glance at the other girl’s face, but she managed with an effort to hold back the sharp words she plainly longed to fling out. She was silent a moment, then she asked, “You said ’things that I wouldn’t like.’ What are they?”

“Sadie did you know that you can be extremely disagreeable without half trying?” Olga asked very quietly.

“I d’know what you mean.” Sadie’s face darkened, and her voice was sulky and defiant.

“I wonder if you really don’t,” Olga said, looking at her thoughtfully. “But it’s true, Sadie. You have hateful little ways of speaking and doing things. They’re only habits you can break yourself of them, and quick and bright as you are, you’ll find that the girls our Camp Fire Girls will like you and take you right in as soon as you do drop those ugly nagging ways. You know, Sadie, you can’t ever be really happy yourself until you try to make other people happy ”

Suddenly realising what she was saying, Olga stopped short. Sadie’s eyes saw the change in her face, and Sadie’s sharp voice demanded instantly, “What’s the matter?”

Olga answered with a frankness that surprised herself, no less than the younger girl, “Sadie, it just came to me that you and I are in the same box. I’ve not been trying to make others happy any more than you have ”

“No,” Sadie broke in, “I was going to tell you that soon as I got a chance.”

Olga’s lips twisted in a wry smile as she went on, “ so you see you and I both have something to do in ourselves. Maybe we can help each other? What do you say? Shall we watch and help each other? I’ll remind you when you snap and snarl, and you ”

“I’ll remind you when you sulk and glower,” Sadie retorted in impish glee. “Maybe we can work it that way.”

“All right, it’s a bargain then?” Olga held out her hand and Sadie’s thin nervous fingers clasped it promptly. The child’s cheeks were flushed and her small black eyes were shining.

“I can learn fast if I want to,” she boasted. “I’m going to make me a silver bracelet like Miss Laura’s and a pin; and I’ll have lovely embroidery on my Camp Fire dress. I love pretty things like those don’t you?”

Olga shook her head. “No, I don’t care for them,” she returned; but as she spoke there flashed into her mind some words Mrs. Royall had spoken at one of the Council meetings “Seek beauty in everything appreciate it, create it, for yourself and for others.” Sadie was seeking beauty, even though for her it meant as yet merely personal adornment, and she Olga deep down in her heart had been cherishing a scorn for all such beauty. She put the thought aside for future consideration as she said, “Then, Sadie, you and Elizabeth will be at Miss Laura’s next Saturday?”

“I rather guess we will!” Sadie answered emphatically.

“You don’t have to ask your mother about it?”

Sadie gave a scornful little flirt. “Mother! She always does what I want. We’ll be there.” And then, with a burst of generosity, she added, “You can see Elizabeth, for a minute, if you want to now.”

But again Olga shook her head. “Tell her I’ll stop for her and you Saturday,” she said. “Good-bye, Sadie.”

“Good-bye,” Sadie echoed, turning towards her own door; but the next minute she was clutching eagerly at Olga’s sleeve. “Say tell Miss Laura to be sure and have my silver ring ready for me as soon’s I join,” she cried. “You won’t forget, Olga?”

“I won’t forget,” Olga assured her.