Read CHAPTER III - LONG LAKE of The Camp Fire Girls at Long Lake / Bessie King in Summer Camp, free online book, by Jane L. Stewart, on

“I love traveling,” said Dolly, when they were settled in their places in the train that was to take them up into the hills and on the first stage of the journey to Long Lake.  “I like to see new places and new people.”

“Dolly’s never content for very long in one place,” said Eleanor Mercer, who overheard her remark, smiling.  “If she had her way she’d be flying all over the country all the time.  Wouldn’t you, Dolly?”

“I don’t like to know what’s going to happen next all the time,” said Dolly.

“I know just how you feel,” Bessie surprised her by saying.  “I used to think, sometimes, when I was on Paw Hoover’s farm in Hedgeville, that if only I could go to sleep some night without knowing just what was going to happen the next day I’d be happy.  It was always the same, too-just the same things to do, and the same places to see-”

“I should think Jake Hoover would have kept you guessing what he was going to do next,” said Dolly, spitefully.  “The great big bully!  Oh, how glad I was when Will Burns knocked him down the other day!”

“Yes,” admitted Bessie.  “I didn’t know just what Jake was going to tell Maw Hoover about me next-but then, you see, I always knew it was something that would get me into trouble, and that I’d either get beaten or get a scolding and have to do without my supper.  So even about that it wasn’t very difficult to know what was going to happen.”

“Heavens-I’d have run away long before you did,” said Dolly, with a shudder.  “I don’t see how you ever stood it as long as you did, Bessie.  It must have been awful.”

“It was, Dolly,” said Eleanor, gravely.  “I was there, and I made a point of looking into things, so that if anyone ever blamed me for helping Bessie and Zara to get away, I could explain that I hadn’t just taken Bessie’s word for things.  But running away was a pretty hard thing to do.  It’s easy to talk about-but where was Bessie to go?  She isn’t like you-or she wasn’t.

“She didn’t have a lot of friends, who would have thought it was just a fine joke for her to have to run off that way.  If you did it, you’d have a good time, and when you got tired of it, you’d go back to your Aunt Mabel, and she’d scold you a little, and that would be the end of it.  You must have thought of trying to get away, Bessie, didn’t you?”

“Oh, I did, Miss Eleanor, often and often.  When Jake was very bad, or Maw Hoover was meaner than usual.  But it’s just as you say.  I was afraid that wherever I went it would be, worse than it was there.  I didn’t know where to go or what to do.”

“Well-that’s so,” said Dolly.  “It has been awfully hard.  But then, how did you ever get the nerve to do it at all, Bessie?  That’s what I don’t understand.  The way you act now, it seems as if you always wanted to do just as you are told.”

“I thought you’d heard all about that, Dolly.  You see, when we really did run away, we couldn’t help it, Zara and I. And I don’t believe we really meant to go quite away, the way we did-not at first.  You remember when we saw you girls first-when you were in camp in the woods?”

“Oh, yes; I remember seeing you, with your head just poking out Of the door of that funny old hut by the lake.  I thought it was awfully funny, but I didn’t know you then, of course.”

“I expect you’d have thought it was funny whether you knew us or not, Dolly.  Well, you see, Zara had come over to see me the day it all happened, and Jake caught her talking with me, and locked her in the woodshed.  Maw Hoover didn’t like Zara, because she was a foreigner, and Maw thought she stole eggs and chickens-but never did such a thing in her life.  So Jake locked her in the woodshed, and said that he was going to keep her there till Maw Hoover came home.  She’d gone to town.”

“Why did he want to do that?”

“Because Maw had said that if she ever caught Zara around, their place again she was going to take a stick to her and beat her until she was black and blue-and I guess she meant it, too.  She liked to give people beatings-me, I mean.  She never touched Jake, though, and she never believed he did anything wrong.”

Dolly whistled.

“If she knew him the way I do, she would,” she said.  “And I’ve only seen him twice-but that’s two times too many!”

“Well, after he’d locked her in, Jake went off, and I tried to let her out.  I couldn’t find the key, and I was trying to break the lock on the door with a stone.  I’d nearly got it done, when Jake came along and found me doing it.  So he stood off and threw bits of burning wood from the fire near me, to frighten me.  That was an old trick of his.

“But that time the woodshed caught fire, and he was scared.  He got the key, and we let Zara out, and then he said he was going to tell Maw Hoover that we’d set the place on fire on purpose.  I knew she’d believe him, and we were frightened, and ran off.”

“Well, I should say so!  Who wouldn’t?  Why, he’s worse than I thought he was, even, and I knew he was pretty bad.”

“We were going to Zara’s place first, but that was the day they arrested Zara’s father.  They said he’d been making bad money, but I don’t believe it.  But anyhow, we heard them talking in their place-Zara’s and her father’s-and they said that I’d set the barn on fire, and they were going to have me arrested, and that Zara would have to go and live with old Farmer Weeks, who’s the meanest man in that state.  And so we kept on running away, because we knew that it couldn’t be any worse for us if we went than if we stayed.  So that’s how we finally came away.”

“Oh, how exciting!  I wish I ever had adventures like that!”

“Don’t be silly, Dolly,” said Eleanor, severely.  “Bessie and Zara were very lucky-they might have had a very hard time.  And you had all the adventure you need the other day when you made Bessie go off looking for ice-cream sodas with you.  You be content to go along the way you ought to and you’ll have plenty of fun without the danger of adventures.  They sound very nice, after they’re all over, but when they’re happening they’re not very pleasant.”

“That’s so,” admitted Dolly, becoming grave.

It was late in the afternoon before they reached the station at which they had to change from the main line.  There they waited for a time before the little two-car train on the branch line was ready to start Short and light as it was, that train had to be drawn by two puffing, snorting engines, for the rest of the trip was a climb, and a stiff one, since Long Lake was fairly high, up, though the train, after it passed the station nearest to the lake, would climb a good deal higher.

Even after they left the train finally, they were still some distance from their destination.

“You needn’t look at that buckboard as if you were going to ride in it, girls,” said Eleanor, laughing, as they surveyed the single vehicle that was waiting near the track.  “That’s just for the baggage.  Now you can see, maybe, why you were told you couldn’t bring many things with you.  And if that isn’t enough, wait until you see the trail!”

Soon all the baggage was stowed away on the back of the buckboard and securely tied up, and then the driver whipped up the stocky horses, and drove off, while the girls gave him the Wohelo cheer.

“But how are we going to get to Long Lake?” asked Dolly, apprehensively.

“We’re going to walk!” laughed Eleanor.  “Come on now or we won’t get there in time for supper-and I’ll bet we’ll all have a fine appetite for supper to-night!”

Then she took the van, and led the way across a field and into the woods that grew thickly near the track.

“This isn’t the way the buckboard went!” said Dolly.

“No-We’ll strike the road pretty soon, though,” said Eleanor.  “We save a little time by taking this trail.  In the old days there wasn’t any way to get to the lake, or to carry anything there, except by walking.  And when they built the corduroy road they couldn’t make it as short as the trail, although, wherever they could they followed the old trail.  So this is a sort of short cut.”

“What’s a corduroy road?” asked Dolly.

“Don’t you know that?  I thought you knew something about the woods, Dolly.  My, what a lot you’ve got to learn.  It’s made of logs and they’re built in woods and places where it’s hard to make a regular road, or would cost too much.  All that’s needed, you see, is to chop down trees enough to make a clear path, and then to put down the logs, close together.  It’s rough going, and no wagon with springs can be driven over it, but it’s all right for a buckboard.”

“Ugh!” said Dolly.  “I should think it would shake you to pieces.”

“It does, pretty nearly,” said Eleanor, with a smile.  “One usually only rides over one once-after that one walks, and is glad of the chance.”

When, after a three-mile tramp, Eleanor, who was in front, stopped suddenly at a point where the trees thinned out, on top of a ridge, and called out, “Here’s the lake, girls!” there was a wild rush to reach her side.  And the view, when they got the first glimpse of it, was certainly worth all the trouble it had caused them.

Before them stretched a long body of water, sapphire blue in the twilight, with pink shadows where the setting sun was reflected.  Perhaps two miles long, the lake was, at its widest point, not more than a quarter of a mile across, whence, of course, came its name.  About it the land sloped down on all sides, into a cup-like depression that formed the lake, so that there was, on all four sides, a tree crowned ridge.  From a point about half way to the far end of the lake smoke rose in the calm evening air.

“Oh, how beautiful!” cried Bessie.  “It’s the loveliest place I ever saw.  And how wonderful the smell is.”

“That’s from the pine trees,” said Eleanor.  She sighed, as if overcome by the calm beauty of the scene, as, indeed, she was.  “It’s always beautiful here-but Sometimes I think it’s most beautiful in winter, when the lake is covered with ice, and the trees are all weighed down with snow.  Then, of course, you can walk or skate all over the lake-it’s frozen four and five feet deep, as a rule, by January.”

Dolly shivered.

“But isn’t it awfully cold here?” she inquired “Oh, yes; but it’s so dry that one doesn’t mind the cold half as much as we do at home when it’s really ten or fifteen degrees warmer, Dolly.  One dresses for it, too, you see, in thick, woolen things, and furs, and there’s such glorious sport.  You can break holes through the ice and fish, and then there are ice boats, and skating races, and all sorts of things.  Oh, it’s glorious.  I’ve been up here in winter a lot, and I really do think that’s best of all.”

Then she looked at the rising smoke.

“Well, we mustn’t stay here and talk any more,” she said.  “Come along, girls, it’s getting near to supper time.”

“Have we got to cook supper?” asked Dolly, anxiously.

“No, not to-night,” said Eleanor, with a laugh.  “The guides have done it for us, because I knew we’d all be tired and ready for a good rest, without any work to do.  But with breakfast tomorrow we’ll start in and do all our own work, just as we’ve done when we’ve been in camp before.”

Half an hour’s brisk walk took them to the site of the camp.  There there was a little sandy beach, and the tents had been pitched on ground was slightly higher.  Behind each tent a trench had been dug, so that, in case of rain, the water flowing down from the high ground in the rear would be diverted and carried down into the lake.

Before the tents a great fire was burning, and the girls cried out happily at the sight of plates, with knives and forks and tin pannikins set by them, all spread out in a great circle near the fire.  At the fire itself two or three men were busy with frying pans and great coffee pots, and the savory smell of frying bacon, that never tastes half as good as when it is eaten in the woods, rose and mingled with the sweet, spicy smell of the balsams and the firs, the pines and the spruces.

“Oh, but I’m glad we’re here!” cried Dolly, with a huge sigh of content.  “And I’m glad to see supper-and smell it!”

And what a supper that was!  For many the girls, like Bessie, and Zara, and Dolly, it the first woods meal.  How good the bacon was, and the raised biscuit, as light and flaky as snowflakes, cooked as only woods guides know how to cook them!  And then, afterward, the great plates heaped high with flapjacks, that were to be eaten with butter and maple syrup that came from the trees all about them.  Not the adulterated, wishy-washy maple syrup that is sold, as a rule, even in the best grocery stores of the cities, but the real, luscious maple syrup that is taken from the running sap in the first warm days of February, and refined in great kettles, right under the trees that yielded the sap.

And then, when it was time to turn in, how they did sleep!  The air seemed to have some mysterious qualities of making one want to sleep.  And the peace of the great out-of-doors brooded over the camp that night.