Read CHAPTER I - A GROUNDLESS JEALOUSY of The Camp Fire Girls at Long Lake / Bessie King in Summer Camp, free online book, by Jane L. Stewart, on

“I told you we were going to be happy here, didn’t I, Zara?”

The speaker was Dolly Ransom, a black-haired, mischievous Wood Gatherer of the Camp Fire Girls, a member of the Manasquan Camp Fire, the Guardian of which was Miss Eleanor Mercer, or Wanaka, as she was known in the ceremonial camp fires that were held each month.  The girls were staying with her at her father’s farm, and only a few days before Zara, who had enemies determined to keep her from her friends of the Camp Fire, had been restored to them, through the shrewd suspicions that a faithless friend had aroused in Bessie King, Zara’s best chum.

Zara and Dolly were on top of a big wagon, half filled with new-mown hay, the sweet smell of which delighted Dolly, although Zara, who had lived in the country, knew it too well to become wildly enthusiastic over anything that was so commonplace to her.  Below them, on the ground, two other Camp Fire Girls in the regular working costume of the Camp Fire-middy blouses and wide blue bloomers-were tossing up the hay, under the amused direction of Walter Stubbs, one of the boys who worked on the farm.

“I’m awfully glad to be here with the girls again, Dolly,” said Zara.  “No, that’s not the way!  Here, use your rake like this.  The way you’re doing it the wagon won’t hold half as much hay as it should.”

“Is Bessie acting as if she was your teacher, Margery?” Dolly called down laughingly to Margery Burton, who, because she was always laughing, was called Minnehaha by the Camp Fire Girls.  “Zara acts just as if we were in school, and she’s as superior and tiresome as she can be.”

“She’s a regular farm girl, that Zara,” said Walt, with a grin.  “Knows as much about packin’ hay as I do-’most.  Bessie, thought you’d lived on a farm all yer life.  Zara there can beat yer all hollow at this.  You’re only gettin’ half a pickful every time you toss the hay up.  Here-let me show you!”

“I’d be a pretty good teacher if I tried to show Margery, Dolly,” laughed Bessie King.  “You hear how Walter is scolding me!”

“He’s quite right, too,” said Dolly, with a little pout.  “You know too much, Bessie-I’m glad to find there’s something you don’t do right.  You must she stupid about some things, just like the rest of us, if you lived on a farm and don’t know how to pitch hay properly after all these years!”

Bessie laughed.  Dolly’s smile was ample proof that there was nothing ill-natured about her little gibe.

“Girls on farms in this country don’t work in the fields-the men wouldn’t let them,” said Bessie.  “They’d rather have them stay in a hot kitchen all day, cooking and washing dishes.  And when they want a change, the men let them chop wood, and fetch water, and run around to collect the eggs, and milk the cows, and churn butter and fix the garden truck!  Oh, it’s easy for girls and women on a farm-all they have to do is a few little things like that.  The men do all the hard work.  You wouldn’t let your wife do more than that, would you, Walter?”

The boy flushed.

“When I get married, I’m aimin’ to have a hired gal to do all them chores,” he said.  “They’s some farmers seem to think when they marry they’re just gettin’ an extra lot of hired help they don’t have to pay fer, but we don’t figger that way in these parts.  No, ma’am.”

He looked shyly at Dolly as he spoke, and Dolly, who was an accomplished little flirt, saw the look and understood it very well.  She tossed her pretty head.

“You needn’t look at me that way, Walt Stubbs,” she said.  “I’m never going to marry any farmer-so there!  I’m going to marry a rich man, and live in the city, and have my own automobile and all the servants I want, and never do anything at all unless I like.  So you needn’t waste your breath telling me what a good time your wife is going to have.”

Walter, already as brown as a berry from the hot sun under which he worked every day, turned redder than he had been before, if that was possible.  But, wisely, he made no attempt to answer Dolly.  He had already been inveigled into two or three arguments with the sharp witted girl from the city, and he had no mind for any more of the cutting sarcasm with which she had withered him up each time just as he thought he had got the best of her.

Still, in spite of her sharp tongue and her fondness for teasing him, Walt liked Dolly better than any of the girls from the city who were staying on the farm, and he was always glad to welcome her when she appeared where he was working, even though she interrupted his work, and made it necessary for him to stick to his job after the others were through in order to make up for lost time.  But Dolly had little use for him, in spite of his obvious devotion, which all the other girls had noticed.  And this time his silence didn’t save him from another sharp thrust.

“Goin’ to that ice-cream festival over to the Methodist Church at Deer Crossin’ to-night?” she asked him, trying to imitate his peculiar country accent.

“I’m aimin’ to,” he said uncomfortably.  “You said you was goin’ to let me take you.  Isn’t that so?”

“Oh, yes-I suppose so,” she said, tossing her head again.  “But I never said I’d let you bring me home, did I?  Maybe I’ll find some one over there I like better to come home with.”

Walter didn’t answer, which proved that, young as he was, and inexperienced in the ways of city girls like Dolly, he was learning fast.  But just then a bell sounded from the farm, and the girls dropped their pitchforks quickly.

“Dinner time!” cried Margery Burton, happily.  “Come on down, you two, and we’ll go over to that big tree and eat our dinner in the shade.  Walter, if you’ll go and fetch us a pail of water from the spring, we’ll have dinner ready when you get back.  And I bet you’ll be surprised when you see what we’ve got, too-something awfully good.  We got Mrs. Farnham to let us put up the best lunch you ever saw!”

“Yes you did!” gibed Walter.  He wasn’t half as much afraid of Margery and the other girls who never teased him, as he was of Dolly Ransom, and he didn’t like them as well, either.  Perhaps it was just because Dolly made a point of teasing him that he was so fond of her.  But he picked up the pail, obediently enough, and went off.  When he was out of hearing Bessie shook her finger reproachfully at Dolly.

“I thought you were going to be good and not tease Walter any more!” she said, half smiling.

“Oh, he’s so stupid-it’s just fun to tease him, and he’s so easy that I just can’t help it,” said Dolly.

“I don’t think he’s stupid-I think he’s a very nice boy,” said Bessie.  “Don’t you, Margery!”

“I certainly do, Bessie-much too nice for a little flirt like Dolly to torment him the way she does.”

“Well, if you two like him so much you can have him, and welcome!” cried Dolly, tossing her head.  “I’m sure I don’t want him tagging around after me all the time the way he does.”

“Better be careful, Dolly,” advised Margery, who knew her of old.  “They say pride goes before a fall, and if you’re not nice to him you may have to come home from the festival tonight without a beau-and you know you wouldn’t like that.”

“I’d just as soon not have a beau at all as have some of these boys around here,” declared Dolly, pugnaciously.  “I like the country, but I don’t see why the people have to be so stupid.  They’re not half as bright as the ones we know in the city.”

“I don’t know about that, Dolly.  Bessie’s from the country, but I think she’s as bright as most of the people in the city.  They haven’t been able to fool her very much since she left Hedgeville, you know.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean Bessie!” cried Dolly, throwing her arms around Bessie’s neck affectionately.  “You know I didn’t, don’t you, dear?  And I’m only joking about half the time anyhow, when I say things like that.”

“Here comes Walter now-we’ll see whether he doesn’t admit that this is the best dinner he ever ate in the fields!” said Margery.

It was, too.  There was no doubt at all about that.  There were cold chicken, and rolls, and plenty of fresh butter, and new milk, and hard boiled eggs, that the girls had stuffed, and a luscious blueberry pie that Bessie herself had been allowed to bake in the big farm kitchen.  They made a great dinner of it, and Walter was loud in his praises.

“That certainly beats what we have out here most days!” he said.  “We have plenty-but it’s just bread and cold meat and water, as a rule, and no dessert.  It’s better than they get at most farms, though, at that.”

When the meal was finished the girls quickly made neat parcels of the dishes that were to be taken back, and all the litter that remained under the tree was gathered up into a neat heap and burned.

“My, but you’re neat!” exclaimed Walter, as he watched them.

“It’s one of our Camp Fire rules,” explained Margery.  “We’re used to camping out and eating in the open air, you know, and it isn’t fair to leave a place so that the next people who camp out there have to do a lot of work to clean up after you before they can begin having a good time themselves.  We wouldn’t like it if we had to do it after others, so we try always to leave things just as we’d like to find them ourselves.  And it wouldn’t be good for the Camp Fire Girls if people thought we were careless and untidy.”

Then they got back to work again, and the long summer afternoon passed happily, with all four of the girls doing their share of the work.  The sun was still high when they had finished their work, and Walter gave the word to stop happily, since he wanted time to put on his best clothes for the trip to Deer Crossing, where the ice-cream festival was to be held.  Such festivities were rare enough in the country to be made mightily welcome when they came, especially when the date chosen was a Saturday, since on Sunday those who worked in the fields every other day of the week could take things easily and lie abed late.

“Well, I’ll see all you girls again to-night,” he said.  “I’ll be along after supper, Dolly-don’t forget.  We’re goin’ to ride over together in the first wagon.”

“All right,” said Dolly, smiling at him, and winking shamelessly at Bessie.  “Don’t forget to put on that new blue necktie and to wear those pink socks, Walter.”

“I sure won’t,” he said, not having seen her wink, and, as he turned away, Dolly looked at Bessie with a gesture of comic despair.

“I think it’s very mean to laugh at Walter’s clothes, Dolly,” said Bessie.  “They’re not a bit sillier than some of the things the boys in the city wear, are they, Margery?”

“I should say not-not half as foolish.  I’ve seen some of your pet boys wearing the sort of clothes one would expect men at the racetrack to wear, and nobody else, Dolly.  You want to get over thinking you’re so much better than everyone else-if you don’t, it’s going to make; you unhappy.”

Once they were at the ice-cream festival, where all the girls and young fellows from miles around seemed to have gathered, Dolly seemed prepared to have a very good time, however.  She entered into the spirit of the occasion, and, though she, like Bessie and most of the Camp Fire Girls, would not take part in the kissing games that were popular, she wasn’t a bit stiff or superior.

“I wonder where that nice boy that thrashed Jake Hoover is?” she asked Bessie, after they had been there for a while.

“Oh, that’s whom you’re looking for!” exclaimed Bessie, with a laugh.  “Will Burns, you mean?  That’s so, Dolly-he said he was coming here, didn’t he?”

“He certainly did.  I’d like to see him again, Bessie.  He wasn’t as stupid as most of country boys.”

“He was splendid,” said Bessie, warmly.  “If it hadn’t been for him, I might not be here now, Dolly.  Jake would have got me back into the other state-he was strong enough to make me go where he wanted.  And if I’d been caught there, they’d have made me stay.”

“There he is now!” exclaimed Dolly, as a tall, sunburned boy appeared in the doorway.  “I was beginning to be afraid he wasn’t coming at all.”

Will Burns, who was a cousin of Walter Stubbs, seemed to be well known to the young people of the neighborhood, though his home was near Jericho, some twenty miles away.  He was greeted on all sides as he made his way through the Sunday School room, where the festival was being held, and it was some minutes before the girls from the farm saw that he was nearing them.

“Well-well, so you got home all right?” he said, smiling at Bessie.  “I thought you wouldn’t have any more trouble, once you got on the train.  I’m glad to see you again.”

And then Dolly’s vanity got a rude shock.  For Will Burns began to devote himself at once, after he had greeted Dolly and been introduced to Zara and some of the other girls, to Bessie.  Everyone in the room soon noticed this, and since most of the girls there had tried to make him pay attention to them, at one time or another, his evident fondness for Bessie caused a little sensation.  Dolly, so surprised to find a boy she fancied willing to talk to anyone else that she didn’t know what to do, stood it as long as she could, and then went in search of Walter Stubbs, whom she had snubbed unmercifully all evening.

But Walter had at last plucked up courage enough to resent the way she treated him, and she found that he had bought two plates of ice-cream for Margery Burton and himself, and that they were sitting in a corner, eating their ice-cream, and talking away as merrily as if they had known one another all their lives!

Eleanor Mercer, who had come over to have an eye on the girls, saw the little comedy.  She was sorry for Dolly, who was sensitive, but she knew that the lesson would be a wholesome one for the little flirt, who had been flattered so much by the boys in the city that she had come to believe that she could make any boy do just what she desired.  So she said nothing, even when Dolly, without a single boy to keep her in countenance, was reduced to sitting with one or two other girls who were in the same predicament, since there were more girls there than boys.

Walter did not even come to get her to ride home with him.  Instead, he found a place with Margery Burton, and Dolly had to climb into her wagon alone.  There she found Bessie.

“You’re a mean old thing, Bessie King!” she said, half crying.