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CHAPTER ONE – CAMPING IN THE CITY

“Girls – guess what?” exclaimed Zan Baker, a few days after the return of the Woodcraft Band from their summer camp on Wickeecheokee Farm.

“Goodness only knows what you have to tell now!” laughed Jane Hubert, another of the five girls who founded Wako Tribe.

“Well, I got it direct, so the truth hasn’t been turned or twisted by any one of you girls before it was passed along,” retorted Zan, with a gleam of mischief in her eyes.

“Oh, is that so! Well let me tell you this much: if I had the rare imagination that you have, Zan, I’d compete with Jules Verne,” replied Hilda Alvord, the matter-of-fact member of the Band.

“Judging from the talent Zan has in telling stories it won’t surprise us very much to hear she is a popular authoress,” teased Nita Brampton, the social aspirant of the group.

“I’ll illustrate Zan’s books,” quickly added Elena Marsh, the fifth member of the Woodcrafters.

“Sort of shine in my reflected glory, eh?” laughed Zan, good-naturedly, for all the girls enjoyed this form of badinage.

“Girls, girls! This isn’t hearing the ‘wextry’ news Zan holds cornered! Give her a chance, won’t you?” begged Nita.

“It’s this: Miss Miller wants us to have tea with her, to discuss plans for our Winter Camp and to consider the advisability of admitting another Band so we can apply for a Charter of our Wako Tribe,” announced Zan, with due satisfaction.

“When is the party?” eagerly questioned her hearers.

“Friday afternoon about four; and she also said that if we cared to invite some of the other girls who are crazy to join Woodcraft to meet us in the evening to hear our Summer Reports read, she thought it might give them a fine opportunity to really understand what Woodcraft did for us during the few months we spent in Camp,” explained Zan.

“Miss Miller can count on me being there right on time!” declared Jane, with a determined bob of her head.

“Me too!” added Nita.

“It isn’t likely Hilda and I are going to be absent,” laughed Elena.

Thus it came about that promptly at four o’clock on Friday afternoon the five happy girls stood waiting at the door of the apartment occupied by their Woodcraft Guide. As Miss Miller’s professional business in life was teaching physical culture to the High School girls at the gymnasium of Clinton High, the honourary office as Guide in Woodcraft was more like play to the efficient instructor.

Immediately after the bell rang to announce the visitors, the door was opened and a cheery voice called, “Come right in, girls.”

“Dear me, Miss Miller, isn’t it just too hot for anything? And after our lovely cool Bluff down at Wickeecheokee!” sighed Nita, as soon as they were seated in the front room.

“I will admit that city life certainly is an unpleasant change from camping in the woods,” replied Miss Miller, taking the hats from her girls and handing them each a fan.

“I couldn’t sleep a wink last night in our stuffy city rooms!” exclaimed Hilda who lived with her mother and younger brother in the ordinary regulation flat.

“I didn’t either. I just gasped all night for some air,” added Elena.

“Well what are we going to do? We can’t move the Bluff to the City and we live in so-called modern homes where the only windows open front and back – all except Jane’s and my house where there is an extra city lot on the side so we can have light from additional windows on the sides,” commented Zan, thoughtfully.

“It is odd that you girls should speak of this matter the very first thing, because it is one of the things I wanted to talk over with you before any new members join our Band. If you all approve of the plan I thought out it not only will give us air enough at night but will offer the new Woodcraft members an opportunity to win their coups for sleeping out-of-doors for the required number of nights,” said the Guide.

“Oh do tell us what it is?” cried Zan.

“It must take its place in the order of business,” rejoined Miss Miller; “now let us open Council in the regular way, girls.”

“It won’t seem much like a Council in the regular way without a fire and the preliminary lighting of it,” complained Nita, who was the fault-finder of the Band but was fast out-growing such tendencies.

“Why I thought you girls all knew how to light the indoors Council Fire without the slightest danger of destroying anything about you!” commented Miss Miller, as she went to a small cabinet in the corner, where most of her Woodcraft material was kept.

Taking out a small shallow pan and an earthen bowl, the Guide displayed a squirrel’s nest and some wild-wood material in the pan. “I brought this from the farm for just such an occasion,” said she, smiling, as she placed the earthen bowl on a bread-board and handed the pan to Hilda, thus silently authorising her to help make fire for that Council.

“Does the bread-board signify anything?” laughed Jane, the tease of the group.

“Not having the logs or imitation fire-place for the centre of the Council Ring, I thought the next best thing would be a square of wood upon which to stand the dish. Then too, the bread-board gave me a good idea which I will mention later,” said the Guide.

While she explained, Miss Miller had gone to the cupboard for the rubbing sticks and the necessary block and fire-pan of wood. All being ready for the ceremony, Zan, who was Chief of the Band and Tribe, began.

The usual call to join in a Council was said and the girls sat down upon straw mats in a circle about the fire-board. Miss Miller proceeded to make fire with the rubbing sticks and as the faint spiral of smoke was seen to rise from the tiny heap of wood-powder, the Woodcrafters called “How!”

The smoke thickened and the pungent odour of balsam permeated the room. When the spark hidden under the black dust ignited the dry tinder held close to it and a tiny fork of flame shot up, the girls exclaimed, “How! How!” which is the Woodcraft sign of approval.

The fire was now placed in the earthen dish and as the wild-wood tinder, that was placed on top of the fire flared up, the dish was placed on the board.

“We will now sing the Omaha Tribal Prayer,” continued the Chief, and the girls stood up to sing while the fire burned in the centre of their Council Ring.

Elena Marsh, the artistic member of the Band and the chosen Tally Keeper, now read the reports and mentioned a few items of interest that had occurred since leaving the Camp on the Bluff.

“Now we can hear the Guide’s important plan,” said Zan, who as Chief of the Tribe, was not compelled to ask permission to address the Council as all other members have to do.

“O Chief! Even as our Guide spoke of a plan, I had a wild idea flash through my mind and I wonder if it comes anywhere near to being Miss Miller’s idea,” said Jane.

“Share it with your brethren and if it isn’t too wild to harness we may train it to do good service for us,” said Zan.

“Well, you see, there’s Nita and you and me – we all have goodly sized grass-places back of our houses. Why couldn’t we raise some tents as long as the weather is good and camp out there at night?” said Jane exultantly, for she thought she had anticipated the Guide’s plan.

“That’s all right, Jane, but maybe Hilda and Elena and Miss Miller wouldn’t care to trot from their homes every night to sleep in our back yards,” replied Zan, ludicrously as usual.

The others laughed at the picture outlined by her words, and Miss Miller added: “I think we have a more important problem than camps just now. Let us decide about the new Band first and discuss the out-door sleeping question afterward.”

“I thought you wanted us to settle the matter before the new members join us to-night?” returned Nita.

“So I do, but let us first find out who the new members will be, and then we can better judge whether they will accept this camping-out-doors idea,” answered the Guide.

“Frances and Anne Mason told me to be sure and vote them in at this meeting. They are just crazy to join,” declared Jane Hubert.

“And Eleanor Wilbur wants to join us,” said Nita.

“Mildred Howell told Fiji to tell me not to forget and propose her,” ventured Zan.

“And I know that Ethel Clifford wants to belong to our first Band,” added Elena.

“Well girls, you each have your new member to win a coup, but I haven’t much time out of school to meet the girls, as there is so much work to do at home. Jack Hubert said this noon that May Randall was asking for me before I met him. If she will let me propose her I can keep up with you on this coup,” said Hilda, whose mother was a trained nurse, thus letting most of the care of the home fall upon Hilda’s shoulders.

“She told me that that is why she wants to see you,” said Jane.

“That is very considerate of May Randall,” commended Miss Miller.

“Yes, and it recommends her for membership,” added Zan.

The other girls agreed with this suggestion, and the Guide then said: “That will make eleven girls in all – counting you five. I think that ought to be enough to work with this Fall,” and Miss Miller began to write down the names of the six members proposed.

“But there are loads of other girls who want to join us, Miss Miller,” objected Zan.

“I suppose there are, but better not add too many new members at one time, Zan; it will tend to divert your attention from your own progress, and individual work is most important to you at this period in Woodcraft. Were you all experienced or old members of the organisation, I would approve of enlisting the full number of members required for a Tribe,” explained the Guide.

 

“How long will we have to wait before we can be a Tribe?” asked Nita, petulantly.

“If this experiment with the new members turns out well by Christmas, I should think we might start the second Band,” replied Miss Miller.

“Goodness, can’t we start a Tribe before that?” cried Jane, impatiently.

“I thought the same as Jane – that we would be Wickeecheokee Band and the new members be Suwanee Band, and then the two Bands get the charter for Wako Tribe,” added Zan, in a disappointed tone.

“Some Woodcrafters have done that and found to their despair that the new Band knew nothing of the work or laws and were continually calling upon the first Band for help, but not being under the old Chief the first Band had nothing to say about disciplining or advising them. If the new members are subject to our Chief, they have to obey orders and can watch our methods of work for their guidance, and that will spare us many useless words and much valuable time.”

“Well, as usual, Miss Miller wins the day! Her reasons are as sensible as helpful,” commented Jane.

“Good-by Suwanee, I’ll meet you next year!” sighed Zan, wafting a kiss with the tips of her fingers to an imaginary Band.

“Girls, wherever did you find that name? I hunted through an Indian Dictionary of names but couldn’t find a thing like it,” asked Miss Miller, laughingly.

“If a simple little symbolic name like that stumps you, Miss Miller, what will happen when you join the Blackfeet Tribe?” laughed Jane.

“Miss Miller, you know the usual formula given in charades – they begin thus: ‘My first is part of a name, you see, my second is also a part, O gee!’ and so on,” explained Zan, while the other girls laughed.

The Guide puckered her brow for a few moments and the visitors watched eagerly for her to catch Zan’s meaning. Then she laughed, too.

“I see! Su – comes from Suzanne, the name of our Chief, but so seldom used that I forgot she ever had another handle to it than just ‘Zan.’ I must give up the rest of the charade, however.”

“Maybe it is buried so deep that the uninitiated cannot dig it up, but we girls thought it quite simple: ‘Su’ for the Chief, as you said; ‘Wa’ for Wako Tribe – plain enough; and ‘nee’ for all the other members who are willing to change their names from white man’s ways to the Indian’s with its wealth of meaning and beauty.”

As Zan explained, the Guide shook her head as if to admit that it certainly had been buried far beyond her power to dig.

“But it sounds pretty, girls,” said she finally.

“Mayhap we will have an improvement on that name before the Band comes into existence, who knows!” sighed Jane.

“The sooner we start with the new members, then, the quicker we will know about the second Band,” retorted Zan.

“Shall we vote now to invite the six girls mentioned?” asked Elena with Tally Book ready to inscribe the names.

The motion was made and seconded that the names of the six applicants be written on the roll and that evening they would be questioned and admitted if acceptable to the Chief and Guide.

“Now Miss Miller, if there is nothing else to consider let us hear about your idea for a camp in the city,” said Zan.

“When I came into this apartment yesterday afternoon, its stuffiness struck me much the same as you girls said: ‘Close and airless.’ The windows were all open but that didn’t seem to make any difference. While still gasping for the cool breezes of Wickeecheokee I went to my den in the back room and as I stood by the window that opens out on the roof of the extension downstairs, I made a discovery! Last night I slept as comfortably out-of-doors as if on the Bluff, and this morning the English sparrows woke me with their chattering under the eaves three stories above.”

“Miss Miller! Do tell us what you did?” exclaimed the curious girls.

“Well, first I took a crex rug from the floor and laid it on the extension roof to protect the tin from the feet of a cot-bed. Then I carried out a four-fold screen and with the smaller three-fold screen from my den, I made suitable protection about the cot. The camp-cot that I keep in case of an unexpected guest remaining over-night was small and light, and provided me a good place to rest. The whole affair, screens, cot, and mat, took up but half of the small roof and early this morning I slipped back through the open window and dressed, having enjoyed a fine cooling breeze all night.”

“Oh!” sounded the surprised five girls.

“You must have slept like a multi-millionaire on his sea-going yacht,” laughed Zan.

“I did, and without fear of going to the bottom by a torpedo from a submarine,” retorted Miss Miller.

“We have a wonderful roof on the back verandah – all decked and railed in,” remarked Jane, mentally picturing a row of tents on that desirable camp-site.

“I could use the rear porch that opens from our dining-room windows,” added Nita.

“We have a box-like porch on the second floor that has a back-stair going down from it. It is screened in and can be used for a sleeping-place, I s’pose,” murmured Elena.

“Our flat-house was built soon after Noah landed so we have no sleeping-porch, but I might hang a cot from the fire-escape – until the police make me take it down,” ventured Hilda, with a thoughtful manner.

The others shouted with merriment at the idea of big muscular Hilda swinging from a fire-escape over the street.

“I have my lodging all planned out,” now said Zan. “I shall utilise that square of side-piazza roof over the entrance to Dad’s office. It has a two-foot high coping about it and that makes it perfectly safe for me in the dark. I can use a screen, too, to hide the cot from the street.”

“You girls have all caught my last-night’s idea so suddenly that I haven’t had an opportunity to continue explaining,” interrupted Miss Miller.

“Proceed, fair lady, and we will hold our peace,” said Jane, giggling.

“As I enjoyed the reviving night-breezes and thought of you poor girls tossing in warm rooms, I wondered how we might have an out-door place and still feel secluded from prying eyes. Then I remembered the small tents we left with Bill on the farm. Those of you who have roof-space can erect a tent just outside your bed-room window. The tent-opening can be directly opposite the window so that you can slip in and out without dread of being seen by the public. What do you think of it?”

“It’s great!” exclaimed Zan, enthusiastically.

“Not for me,” grumbled Hilda.

“Nor for me,” added Nita, “’cause Mama won’t think of letting me have anything so original as a camp-tent within a mile of our house – let alone on the front roof!”

“If I speak to your father, who is so delighted at the improvement in your health, he may induce her to look at the plan with different conclusions than these you fear,” ventured the Guide.

“Maybe so; Papa said he would do anything on earth to have me keep up this Woodcraft stunt,” admitted Nita.

“Zan, do you think your father will object if we send to Bill for those small tents?” now asked Miss Miller.

“Mercy no! Dad won’t say a word if you pitch tents all along our entire roof and on the front piazza, too, just so there’s room between the canvas cots for his sick patients to find their way to his office-door.”

“The public will think Dr. Baker has opened a Sanatorium,” laughed Jane.

“Or a Fresh Air Clinic for Flat-Dwellers!” added Hilda.

The others laughed provokingly when they saw Zan flush for they all liked to tease her.

Miss Miller saw the sudden gleam of anger flash from Zan’s eyes and quickly said: “Girls, I am now going to indite that letter to Bill Sherman for the tents – what shall I say and who wants one?”

“One for Nita, one for Elena, and one for me – and of course Zan wants one,” said Jane.

“I can use the same one Fiji and Bob had at the beach this Summer,” replied Zan, brightening again. “Jane, why don’t you use Jack’s, then the extras can go to Miss Miller and Hilda.”

“But Zan, I haven’t a place to camp,” said Hilda, dolefully.

“Then I s’pose you’ll have to borrow some of my roof,” returned Zan, in a matter-of-fact voice.

“Oh Zan, really! I won’t mind walking back and forth every morning and night if you don’t mind my using the roof!” sighed Hilda with relief so great that the others laughed.

The letter for Bill Sherman, the farmer at Wickeecheokee, was given to Zan to mail if her father approved of the camp-plan, and then the Guide excused herself and went out to see if the tea was ready to serve her guests.

That evening the six girls came in and Woodcraft reports were read; then they were invited to join the Band and the conditions of membership plainly outlined. Needless to add, that everyone agreed eagerly to abide by the rules and regulations read to them.

On the way home that evening, however, Eleanor Wilbur whispered to Frances and Anne Mason who were walking with her:

“Of course this Woodcraft fun will be fine when we haven’t anything better to do, but you don’t intend losing any other fun or meeting because of it, do you?”

“Why we are going to go to the regular Councils and meet with the other girls for work or play, whether it happens when we have invitations for other parties or fun, or not,” declared Frances, the elder of the two sisters.

“Oh!” said Eleanor, a trifle disconcerted by the reply. Then after a few moments of silence she said confidentially: “Don’t you think Zan Baker takes an awful lot for granted from us girls? Just see how she took the initiative in everything to-night.”

“But Zan Baker is the Chief of the Band and has to take the lead in Tribal affairs,” explained Anne.

“Oh yes, I know that, but you don’t understand what I mean. I think she is too domineering in her office and Miss Miller certainly shows a great partiality for her. Of course everyone knows that Miss Miller bows humbly at the Doctor’s shrine just because he got her the position at High School Gym!” said Eleanor, significantly.

“Why Ella! It isn’t true! I know for a fact that Dr. Baker merely suggested to the Board that Miss Miller had resigned from college where she had taught for years. Most of us knew what a treasure she is, and the Board were only too glad to have her consider our school, because the salary is half what she was accustomed to receive,” defended Frances.

Eleanor kept silence, but Anne added: “And we girls feel sorry for Miss Miller because she gave up that college position when her mother was left alone and needed her at home!”

The afternoon following the meeting at Miss Miller’s home, Hilda fairly bounced into the gymnasium where the Guide could generally be found for some time after school-hours.

“Oh, Miss Miller, I have the loveliest camp-ground!”

“Better than the fire-escape?” laughed the Guide.

“Better than the roof of a porch! And the funny thing about it is that the janitor of our building came up himself and said: ‘Miss Hilda, I feel sorry for you these hot nights, so you can sleep on the roof if you like!’

“Miss Miller, I never breathed a word to him about a tent, but he took me up and showed me where I could pitch a small tent between the great water-tank and the square box-like place where the roof-steps come up. A stone parapet almost three feet high runs all around the roof, you know, so there isn’t any danger of my falling off even if I walked in my sleep – which I never do.”

“I think that is fine for you, Hilda,” smiled Miss Miller, but she did not add that she had spoken secretly to the janitor that morning on her way to school.

“Mother has no objections to this if I will take Paul up with me. Paul thinks the plan a dandy one so he will be benefited too. I will place a screen about his cot or mine so that I will have privacy.”

“Or you could hang a curtain from a ring at one side of the tent to one at the opposite side. Then Paul could pull or push the muslin to suit himself, and it would not be ruined by rain,” suggested Miss Miller.

“I’m so glad that we live on the top floor of the house, ’cause it will be an easy matter to run up or down the short flight of stairs going to the roof. When I told mother about it she laughed and said: ‘You always used to grumble about climbing the four flights from the street, but I know how much pleasanter it is to be on top instead of under a noisy family in a flat.’”

“Your mother is quite right, and then the air is always better the higher one goes, and the rents are lower – the last not a mean consideration, either,” added the Guide.

Jane Hubert came in just then, and her smile signified good news. “Father never made the slightest objection to the camp idea but he has a still better one for me. He says he will erect Jack’s tent on the lawn under a group of birches that grow near the high brick wall at the back of our place.”

 

Then Nita came in. “Miracles will never cease, Miss Miller. Not only is Mama quite reconciled to my camping on the first-story extension roof where there is a concrete flooring and a parapet to three sides, but she is taking an active part in rearranging my bed-room so that I can step in and out of the French windows without falling over cushioned window-seats and gim-cracks standing about.”

“This is the best news yet, Nita! I felt sure the other girls would have no trouble gaining permission to camp out. Now we only have to hear from Elena, as Zan started in to arrange her tent this noon, I hear.”

“Oh, Elena told me that she could have her tent on the roof of the side-verandah as planned instead of on the boxed-in porch at the back,” hurriedly informed Jane.

“Thank goodness we will be able to enjoy the Spirit’s blessing of sweet fresh air that is free for all mankind,” said Miss Miller, earnestly.

“To say nothing of enjoying a continuation of Woodcraft out-of-doors right in a great city,” added Jane.

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