Read CHAPTER SIX - LOST ON THE TRAIL of Girl Scouts in the Adirondacks , free online book, by Lillian Elizabeth Roy, on ReadCentral.com.

A few days after the girl scouts’ visit to Grey Fox Camp, they were agreeably surprised by having the boys visit them. Mr. Gilroy was with them, and as each boy carried an ax and a woodman’s knife, the girls knew they came to work.

“We decided to cut a shorter trail over the crest, and as to-day is so cool, we thought it would be a fine time for work,” explained Alec, the leader in the boys’ camp.

“One day’s as good as another! We’re ready to help any time,” replied Julie, as leader of the Girl Scouts’ Troop.

“Why didn’t you let us know, then we might have blazed the trail up our side of the mountain, and you boys would have worked from your side. When we met on top, we might have celebrated with a feast,” ventured Mrs. Vernon.

So the girls ran for axes and knives, and all began work together, back of Dandelion Camp. They cut and chopped, and blazed a fine trail up past Silver Falls, where the doe had called to her mate the first night the girls were at Camp, and so on to the top of the mountain. But it took the greater part of that morning to go as far as they did.

“We’d better stop here, and go back to see how the trail seems,” suggested Mr. Gilroy.

“Why not finish the job, now that we’re on top?” asked Alec.

“Because you boys can easily blaze from here on to your camp, and I am beginning to worry lest my dinner is burning,” laughed Mr. Gilroy.

“Your dinner! Where’s the Indian cook?” asked Alec.

“He’s cooking for fifteen! I have invited guests coming to dine at the bungalow this evening,” returned Mr. Gilroy, meaningly.

“Oh, hurrah! Isn’t that fine? Now we won’t have to wash any supper-dishes!” exclaimed Ruth, who still disliked doing dishes.

The girls laughed, for they understood, but Alec said, “Why talk about a supper so distant! I’d rather plan about something to eat this minute.”

“So would we all. I guess we are nearly starved,” said Ned.

“Why not stop work and cook a few steaks?” suggested Bob.

“You boys have done all the talking about something to eat, but the girls said nothing. Maybe they are not hungry!” ventured Mr. Gilroy.

“Hungry! We’re too weak to speak,” sighed Julie, rubbing the spot under her belt.

“I can eat reindeer moss without its being cooked,” said Amy.

“That settles it! Cook we must, but what?” declared Joan.

“Well, some of us will hunt up the mushrooms; some must gather bracken, some, the lichen; and Gilly can hunt up the coffee beans, alias roots and acorns,” said Alec.

“What will you be doing, meantime?” retorted Mr. Gilroy.

“Oh, I’ll just remove that package of flour from your pocket and use this strip of bacon that I lifted from Dandelion larder; and when the steaks come back, I’ll have bread and fat ready over a fine fire.”

“Bacon! When did you manage to steal that?” demanded the Captain, amazed.

The boys laughed, for Alec’s clever sleight-of-hand was an endless source of fun for them.

“Don’t all hunt together. Divide your strength and see that results come back with you,” advised Alec, rolling up his sleeves preparatory to starting his fire.

“I can’t fish like the other boys, so I’ll go with the girls who are going for the beefsteaks,” said Dick.

“All right. And where will you go, Captain?” asked Alec.

“If Gilly is sent for coffee, I shall hunt for tea. I do not care for his brand of coffee, but I do know where to find the ingredients for a nice fragrant cup of tea.”

A laugh circled the group, and Mr. Gilroy said, “All right. Now see to it that you don’t ask for a drop of my coffee, hereafter.”

So they separated, some of the scouts going with Mrs. Vernon; Bob and Ned going for trout; Hester and Amy with Mr. Gilroy; and Julie, Joan and Judith with Dick, for mushrooms.

After breaking a way through a dense jungle, the latter four scouts came out to a small clearing, but they had not seen any mushrooms.

“What a fine baseball diamond this clearing would make!” said Julie, as they looked around.

“And there are some chestnut stumps on the far side of the clearing!” exclaimed Dick, crossing to the spot.

But they found no mushrooms on the stumps, much to their chagrin. “There’ll be other trees about here, where we’re sure to find what we need,” said Dick, eagerly.

So into the woods they plunged, winding about here and there, but not finding what they sought. None of them thought to blaze a trail as they wandered, consequently had no means of telling how far or in what direction they had gone before Dick found a few small mushrooms.

“Only enough for a few of us. We need more than these,” he remarked.

“There’s sure to be more where these are. Let’s keep on hunting,” urged Julie.

So they kept on winding through the underbrush, but with no good results. Finally Dick found a plant that he believed to be a wild potato.

“No, it is not. It hasn’t the leaves or blossom of the Indian potato,” declared Joan.

“That may be, but when it grows old it dries up, you know,” argued Dick, beginning to dig at the root.

The girls wandered about seeking for signs of more mushrooms, but could find none. Then Dick stood up and stretched his back-muscles.

“My that was tough digging when you have no tool. And it wasn’t a potato after all.”

“Well, we’ve been gone a long time now. Suppose we go back with what we have,” said Joan.

“Yes; even if we can’t fill up on steaks to-day, let us eat more of the greens,” added Judith.

So they turned to go back to camp. They climbed over the boulders similar to those over which they had already climbed, over similar fallen timber, and finally came to a stream.

“I don’t remember a brook when we came,” remarked Julie.

“Neither do I,” added Judith.

“All places look alike when you’re hunting anything. We may have crossed a bog or a brook and never have noticed it,” said Dick.

“Oh, I would have noticed it! I wouldn’t be such a poor scout as not to know where I was going,” returned Julie, defensively.

“Now, Dick, I’m sure there was no bog where we came through, but here’s one right ahead of us,” called Joan, who was a few paces ahead.

“No, there was no bog!” affirmed Julie.

“Did you bring a compass?” now asked Dick.

“No, we never thought of being lost,” murmured Julie.

“We’re not lost, just strayed a bit,” Dick assured them.

“’Lost, Strayed or Stolen’ it’s all the same if we have to miss our dinner,” sighed Joan.

They managed to cross the boggy spot and then trailed to a place that Dick claimed was the clearing. But it turned out to be a little fen made by a tiny spring.

“What we should have done was to leave our marks as we came through broken twigs, or trampled grass, or some such signs,” said Julie.

“But we didn’t, and now is no time to talk of it!” Dick said impatiently, for he began to realize that they really were lost.

“We can begin right now, however, and then not keep circling around without recognizing that we were there before!” snapped Julie.

So the girls began, then and there, to leave their signs as they followed after Dick, who really knew not where he was leading.

“Had we better separate and go in different directions to hunt the camp?” asked Dick finally.

“Mercy, no! Better be lost together than get lost each one alone!” exclaimed Joan.

“Sort of ‘United we stand,’ etc.,” chuckled Julie, in spite of her concern over not finding the way.

They kept on forcing a way through the thick bush and resting now and then when they found a little clearing; but finally Judith cried: “You’ll have to go without me! I’m so weak from hunger I can’t walk another step.”

“Girls, suppose we stop and cook the steaks?” asked Dick.

“I say so, too,” agreed Julie.

So they cleared a little space in the woods and with two rubbing-sticks soon produced fire. While two of the girls were doing this, Dick washed the mushrooms in the little spring they had seen, and then sliced them with his knife.

“We haven’t any salt or bacon, but they’ll taste good to starved wanderers,” said Dick, holding one over the fire to cook.

Each girl spiked one on a sharpened stick and held it out to broil. When the mushrooms were cooked they each ate until they felt better. Then Dick made a suggestion.

“Making this fire gave me an idea. Why not make ‘two smokes’ for signals. If Alec or any one else is looking for us, they can see them.”

“Why didn’t we think of that before! Fine idea, Dick,” said Joan.

“What will ‘two smokes’ mean?” asked Judith.

“Means ‘we are lost,’ come find us,” said Dick, busy with two heaps of firewood.

“But you can’t signal here under these trees, Dick! We’ve got to find an open place where the smoke can rise up above the tree-tops, you know,” advised Julie.

Dick realized he had been caught napping by a girl, and he didn’t like it very much but he could not show his annoyance, for Julie was right. So he stood up and said: “I’ll shout as loud as possible, maybe they will hear us.” So he shouted until he was hoarse.

“In this dense forest, where the trees break every sound, the smoke signal is as good as any other. Let us find a clearing,” suggested Julie.

So they sought again, and soon found an open spot where the sky was visible without any obstructing tree-branches overhead.

“Why, this looks like the same clearing that I said would make a fine baseball diamond,” declared Julie.

“So it does! And here is a broken twig where we went out,” said Joan.

“Then we can’t be many miles from home,” laughed Julie, her spirits rising again at the slightest encouragement.

They made two smokes, however, and waited to watch the thin spirals rise above the trees, side by side, until they dispersed in the blue ether far overhead. But no sound came in answer to the signals.

“Maybe no one remembered the smoke idea,” ventured Judith.

“And they’d have to be in the open, or climb a tree, to see it,” asserted Joan.

“Maybe they made signals, too, and are waiting for us to answer them. Did you bring a rifle, Dick?” said Julie.

“No, none of us did. But I can climb one of these trees and see if the others made any smokes.”

“Choose that towering pine, you ought to be able to see everything from that high top,” advised Julie.

So Dick climbed the tall pine, but after he had reached the top he saw nothing that might lead him to find the other campers. He shouted and whistled as shrilly as he could from the lofty perch, but no answering sound came to his ears, so he slid down again.

“See anything at all, Dick?” asked Julie, the moment he came down.

“A great sea of waving green tops, one wave back of the other, without a break,” said he.

“Well, what now? Shall we keep on hunting for the way back from this clearing, or just sit and let them find us?” asked Joan, despondently.

“You know they say a flock of ducks will always fly towards water. Now, I saw some ducks flying in one direction when I sat up in that tree,” remarked Dick.

“Then you did see something other than waves of green! Why didn’t you say so!” snapped Julie, impatient with his poor scouting sense.

“I thought they might be flying down towards Little Moose Lake, where Dandelion Camp is, and we want to find our party,” said Dick, in justification.

“Anything to get out of this tangle. We’d just as lief wind up at Dandelion Camp as elsewhere,” said Joan.

“All right then, follow me and we will go in the direction the birds flew,” said Dick, and he started down hill.

Down and down they tramped, chopping away smaller obstructions, until they were stopped by a wide fen that belted the section. Advance was impossible, for every time one tried to step upon the ooze the foot would begin to sink in.

“Oh, how awful!” wailed Judith, ready to cry.

“How can we cross? If only we could find a fallen tree that happened to fall right across,” sighed Joan.

“If only we had a drink of cold water I’d be thankful,” declared Julie, mopping her warm face.

“That’s the easiest part of the whole trouble,” quickly said Dick.

“What do you mean? I wouldn’t drink that slimy liquid for anything,” said Julie, frowning at the water.

“Now, just wait a second and you’ll see what I can do with that water!” bragged Dick, glad to redeem his reputation as a scout.

With hands and a stick he quickly dug a hole to the depth of the marsh. Then he squinted carefully at his well, then at the marsh, and back again. The girls watched him curiously.

“Guess I can go a few inches deeper, the well has to be about six inches below the surface of the nearby pool, you know.”

He dug deeper and soon the well began filling with muddy water. “There, now I’ve got it!” said Dick.

“Do you expect us to drink that!” scorned Joan.

“No, but wait.” Dick hurriedly baled out the well until it was almost emptied. Then he allowed it to fill again.

He baled it out a second time, and permitted it to fill again. The third time the water was almost clear, so he baled once more, and this time the water filtered in as clear as crystal.

He stooped, drank from it, and said: “It’s cold and pure!”

Then the girls drank, and found it most refreshing to their parched tongues and throats.

“Well, I never knew that before! We’ve learned two things by being lost with Dick as guide,” said Julie frankly, and Dick was delighted to hear such nice things about himself.

“Shall we try to circle this fen and get across, or go back again?” now asked Dick.

“It’s hard to tell just what is best to do,” murmured Julie, puckering her brow in thought.

Suddenly two shots echoed down the mountainside, and after an interval of six seconds a third shot rang out.

“There! Alec’s seen our smoke. His signal means ‘Where are you?’ What shall we do?” cried Dick, excitedly.

“How can we answer them?” wondered the girls.

“We’ll have to back-trail to our clearing. That’s where the shots sounded from,” said Dick.

“Dear me, if only we had waited there, they would have found us,” complained Judith.

“But we didn’t, so the next best thing to do is to get back as soon as we can, or they’ll go away again,” declared Julie.

They climbed, scrambled and tumbled up the rugged slope, keeping as far as they could to the rough trail they had made in coming down. When they thought they were near the clearing, they shouted with all their lung-power, and the welcome sound of answering calls soon greeted their ears.

“Oh, Dick, give that cat-call again so they will know we’re on our way,” asked Julie, anxiously.

So Dick gave his ear-splitting whistle by placing his fingers between his lips and blowing through the crevices. In less than ten seconds afterwards, two shots sounded in quick succession.

“That means they’ve heard us and are waiting,” cried Dick. “Come this way, that echo is misleading.”

So the girls followed their young guide, and soon they broke through the fringe of great trees into the clearing where the rest of the party stood. Alec gave them no time to explain. He was angry, and no mistaking it!

“Dick, can you tell me of any concession made to you that allows you to start two fires and then go away and leave them to work their will in these forests? If we had not found the fires you left, what might have resulted to this area of mountain land?”

The girls and Dick stood amazed, for they had forgotten all about the fires started as smoke signals.

“When I broke through the underbrush into this clearing, the fires were blazing away like fury. They had encroached upon all the brush and handy leaves, and were eating a way to the timber-line. In half an hour more those same little fires would be raging over the crest and destroying acres and acres of forest-trees, to say nothing of causing the work all the farmers and forest-rangers would have in trying to control it. Just because a brainless scout forgot his duty!” The scorn in Alec’s last words was cutting.

Dick began to apologize, but Alec held up a hand. “No apology will answer for such a thing.” Then he turned to Ned and said: “Put Dick down for penance at camp.”

“We ought to be punished as well as Dick,” said Julie. “We never remembered the fires, either.”

“That’s up to your Captain, I am merely doing my duty to my Troop,” returned Alec.

“Had anything to eat?” asked Anne, who always felt sorry for any one who was hungry.

“We ate the mushrooms we found,” meekly replied Joan.

“Then come back and eat what we left for you. We had fish and greens and biscuit,” said Hester.

While they were munching the cold food, Alec questioned them further. “Why didn’t you use what scout-sense you had? You know you could have found the way you came through those woods by looking for broken cobwebs across the bushes; by overturned stones with the damp under side showing; or by broken twigs and crushed blades of grass; and last, but hardest, you might have looked to see where leaves on trees and bushes were turned awry from your brushing against them. They do not right themselves immediately, you know.”

“We never heard of that before,” admitted Julie.

“But Dick has, even though he has forgotten it,” said Alec. “He had to learn it from the Manual what he would do in case of being lost in a forest.”

“But even if you knew nothing about that, you all knew it would simplify things for us if you were to blaze a way to guide us the way you went. You could easily have broken twigs and left them hanging, or piled little heaps of stones along the trail you took.”

“Oh, for goodness sake! Let up on us now, and wait until you are lost, will you?” cried Julie, placing her palms over her ears.

“Yes, it’s so easy to tell the other feller what to do!” was all the retort Dick made.

“Well, children, after all I have my inning!” declared Mr. Gilroy, chuckling.

“What’s that?” demanded every one.

“I wanted you to come home and dine with me, but no! you must stop to cook in the woods. Now you’ll all be glad enough to hurry home and come to my party. And the dinner won’t be slighted, either, from so much overeating up here!”