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CHAPTER I A STROLLING PIANO
“Why did she choose ‘Morning-Glory’ as her tribe name?” asked M?nkw?n the Rainbow of Sesooā the Flame, as Rainbow and Flame, with girlish arms entwining, stood beneath the shelter of the Silver Twins, two kingly birch-trees, so identical in stature even to their topmost jeweled crowns of leaves flashing in the July sun, so alike in the silver symmetry of each fair limb as to be named the Twins.

These silver kings were one-hearted, too, in their benevolent purpose in life, which was to unite in casting a brotherly shade over a certain corner of the broad city playground, dotted with children from every clime, and incidentally to fan the flushed cheeks of the two girls directly beneath them, bound together by a girdling rainbow that played about their waists, woven by the sun’s shuttle amid the quivering birch-leaves, fit symbol of their binding Camp Fire sisterhood.

Sesooā’s eyes danced, lit by a tiny golden flame that uncurled itself in their demure hazel like a firefly alighting on a brown leaf. She caught her lower lip between the pretty incisors that decorated the front of her mouth as she scrutinized the semi-distant figure of a sixteen-year-old girl—perhaps nearer to seventeen—clad in a loose lavender smock to her knees, whence to her ankles there was a gleam of white skirt, with the most bewitching, frilled summer “Tam” of lavender, matching her smock, shielding her brown head, sheltering her face, like the hood of a flower. This floral figure leaned against the open door of a handsome automobile which was standing upon the playground avenue.

“I’m sure it’s beyond me to tell why Jessica Holley (Jessica Dee Holley; she always likes to bring the unusual little middle name in, because it was her mother’s, I suppose), why she chose Welatáwesit, which is the only Indian equivalent she could find for Morning-Glory—literally meaning ‘Climbing Plant’ or ‘Pretty Flower’ for her Camp Fire name. But I believe there’s a story attached to the choice, some ‘cunning’ little anecdote of her childhood. Wish I could ferret it out! She seems, always, to have been called ‘Glory,’ nearly as much as Jessica,” answered Sesooā racily, she who in every-day life bore no flaming cognomen, but was plain little, gay little, Sally Davenport, as full of quips and quirks, of lightning impulses and sudden turns as the wheeling firefly in her eyes.

“Goody! I’d like to hear the anecdote, too. The Morning-Glory name suits her so well that I thought she must have dreamed it—that it came to her in sleep—as I dreamed mine,” laughed the Rainbow, whose rightful name when she was not clad in a leather-fringed robe of khaki, in moccasins and head-band, and seated by a Council Fire, was Arline Champion. “But I call it absurd, meanly absurd, that if there’s any story about her and her name, we should not hear it, we who have named our Camp Fire (and it’s the best in the city, too, though I say it myself!), our whole group or tribe of fourteen girls, after her,” she went on with a stamp of her foot on the playground sod and with rainbowed emphasis; she was the shell-tinted, demurely shining kind of fifteen-year-old girl who unconsciously aims at carrying a rainbow in her pocket, to brighten the dull or tear-wet day.

“Oh! we didn’t exactly ‘name it after her,’” demurred Sally. “She happened to come here last winter to visit those rich girls, the Deerings, who are all fluff an’ stuff; that exactly describes them, Olive and Sybil——” There was the least little green tinge of the spitfire about Sesooā’s flame now as she shot a glance toward two girls seated in the waiting automobile together with an older woman, evidently chaperon to the band of girls. “Oh! I say, pinch me; I shouldn’t have said that, should I, seeing that they brought us here in their car? But ’twas the first time they ever did it, though my father is head-bookkeeper in their father’s office at the Works; and I’ll engage ’twas Morning-Glory—Jessica—who suggested it, as we all wanted to visit this playground where there are so many foreign children, to see them dance their folk dances,” she ran on, speech flitting away from its starting-point in the wake of her firefly dance, which vivaciously hovered from one object or group of objects to another.

Arline waited for it to alight again on Jessica, as it presently did.

“Well! as I was saying,” reverted Sally, “you remember how she came here last February just when we were beginning to organize our Camp Fire group, when we had secured Miss Darina Dewey as Guardian (I think she’s a love of a Guardian and I like her unusual first name, too, though some of the girls don’t!) but before we had applied for our Charter, when we were searching for a name for our new Camp Fire circle, raking over Indian names like leaves until—goodness! we seemed half-smothered in them.” Sally paused for breath, breathlessly smothered, indeed, by the sunlit torrent of her own words, which had a trick of inundating a listener.

“It was at our second meeting, I think, at Miss Dewey’s house,” she went on, “that Jessica came in, all snow an’ sparkle from her eyes to her toes, and introduced herself by showing a transfer card signed by the Guardian of a Camp Fire circle in a small town in Pennsylvania to which she had belonged, the Akiyuhapi Camp Fire.”

“The Are-you-happy Camp Fire! Sounds just like that!” put in Arline, rainbowed with mirthful memory. “Jessica told us that she had already been initiated as a Wood Gatherer and showed her silver fagot ring. But we were a little flabbergasted, weren’t we, when she sprang her Indian name on us, by which she had chosen to be known among Camp Fire circles: Welatáwesit; it sounded musical as she pronounced it, but it seemed a mouthful! She partly explained it (d’you remember?) by saying that when she was choosing her symbolic name—as all Camp Fire Girls do—she wanted, for a special reason which she kept to herself, to take that of a flower, Morning-Glory. And that Penobscot Indian word was the nearest she could get to it, the morning-glory not being originally a native plant.”

“Yes, and it was at that very meeting, after we had welcomed Jessica with open arms as a Camp Fire Sister”—thus Sally again took up the fascinating thread of reminiscence—“that when each girl had told her symbolic name, Indian or otherwise, and how she came to choose it to express some special wish or aim, that we fell back upon digging for one for the new Camp Fire itself, the new circle or tribe. And then, don’t you remember”—Sesooā’s voice rose to a pitch of excitement—“how Betty Ayres, little fair-haired Betty, who’s so enthusiastic and about as big as a minute—she’s just four feet, five inches and a half——”

“My! but your minutes do stretch—like elastic,” put in Arline, with a rallying elbow poke.

“Humph! Piffle! Betty jumped up suddenly as if she saw a vision, with an idea swelling up so big in her that she seemed to grow two inches on the strength of it. ‘Girls!’ she cried, ‘I’m just tired of browsing among Indian dictionaries, searching for a novel name for our new Camp Fire circle. Why don’t we call it, right away, the Morning-Glory Camp Fire? There’s a name that will reflect glory on us!’ said little Betty, half sobbing and half shining. ‘It suggests so much—so much that I can’t just put into words of——’”

“‘Of the Morning of Life, the Glory of Girlhood—and vice versa—isn’t that what you mean, Betty dear?’ said our Guardian, helping her out!” This reminiscent contribution came from Arline. “And then Miss Dewey went on to say how she thought herself that it would be a glorious name for us who are Daughters of the Sun, so to speak, having the Sun as our general symbol. So the Morning-Glory Camp Fire we are! And when we camp out this summer upon the Sugarloaf Peninsula where the sand-dunes are white as snow, we’re going to call our great, ramshackle wooden shanty, with one side quite open to the airs of heaven, Camp Morning-Glory. So much glory that we shan’t know ourselves, eh? But all this”—slowly—“doesn’t bring us one little bit nearer to answering the question which I asked you at first, why our Glory-girl, Jessica, chose her symbolic name at the beginning. Since it put so much into our heads we’ve got a right to know all about it!” with another laughing stamp upon the playground grass. “I can’t bear mystery; if there’s a secret as big as my thumb, even if it’s about nothing or next to nothing, I want to know it.”

“Oh, mystery—I love mystery! Bubbling mystery!” Sesooā rose on tiptoe under the Silver Twins, looking rather like a Baltimore oriole, that vivid flame-bird, for she, too, wore the latest thing in girlish smock frocks of a dainty peach-color very closely related to orange, shirred or smocked with black by her own clever little fingers that had fashioned the garment, too, the which had won her a green honor-bead to string upon the Camp Fire Girl’s necklace that she wore on ceremonial occasions.

Those fingers had draped the little orange Tam O’Shanter, as well, which covered her crisp, dark hair, a masterpiece of head-gear more jaunty, less hood-like than that of the flower-like figure leaning against the auto’s side to which the wheeling firefly of her glance now turned.

“Oh, bubbles! I’m going right over now to ask her why she chose her Morning-Glory name and symbol,” she went on, each word a tinted bubble of laughing curiosity painting itself upon the sunshine. “Absurd, but I am! If there’s any foolish little child-story woven in with the choice, this is the very time and place to hear it, here on the public playground, with all those children—such funny, foreign-looking tots most of them!—dancing ‘Pop Goes the Weasel!’ Pouf! I feel like dancing with them.”

And the human oriole flitting forth from the friendly shade of the Twins fluttered her shirred plumage in a gleeful pas seul upon the playground grass, where the sun-glare transformed her into an orange flame, while her ears, attuned to all merry sounds, drank in the shrill music of five-and-thirty children’s voices (the number ought to have been even, but in that gleeful chorus there was one silent throat), six dancing sets, shouting with a strange babel of foreign accents, to the accompaniment of their stamping feet, the old nonsense-rhyme of the sixteenth century:
“Half a pound of twopenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle,
Stir it up and make it nice
Pop goes the weasel!”
musical score

hummed Sally, in flaming echo, and stood still.

All the while, that versatile quirk in her nature, corresponding to the flitting firefly in her eyes, which rendered her attention easily diverted when she wasn’t gravely in earnest, changed her all at once from an eager bubble of curiosity, that must burst if it did not penetrate a trifling secret, into an absorbed spectator. She hung upon the fringe of the playground dances, intent upon every rhythmic movement as the leading couple in each juvenile set (it happened to be a little earringed, lustrous-eyed Syrian girl footing it with a small Turk for a partner in that nearest) formed an arch with their uplifted arms for a gay little dancer to pass beneath.

“Oh-h! don’t they catch on well and dance prettily, these playground children?” murmured Sesooā softly to the quivering interest in her own heart. “I’m awfully glad that Jessica proposed our visiting this playground to-day where there are so many little foreigners not born in this country or whose parents haven’t been long here. She”—dreamily soliloquizing, with a glance at that lavender-smocked figure—“said that, last year, she and the other members of the Akiyuhapi Camp Fire in that Pennsylvanian milling town, where she became a Camp Fire Girl, did so much voluntary work upon the public playground, largely among the little immigrants, teaching them American songs, American games, telling them stories, settling their squabbles. Well! I guess I’m not going to bother her with questions about her ‘Morning-Glory’ name just now. Over there where she’s standing”—flashing another glance at the gray auto, with two girls in it and one leaning against its silver door-knob—“I’d have to bray like a jackass to be heard above the music of that absurd piano, perched upon a low cart. Goody!” with a sudden, excited movement of her vivid shoulders. “I shouldn’t like to be that perched-up pianist. Just suppose the playground horse should take it into his head to pop—to dance—to chase the weasel, too?”

Was it any suddenly restless movement on the part of that four-footed servant of the city which drew the strolling piano upon a low cart from playground to playground to thresh out music for the children’s dances—was it that which flashed the thought backward over his flicking tail, over the head of the pounding pianist seated upon a light cane chair before the lashed piano, flashed it into Sally’s brain? That, or the elfin dance of sunbeams upon his stamping hoofs which, together with the popping dance-cries of the children and the louder popping of the musical instrument behind him—deliriously out of tune, too—must surely infect the staidest horse?

Sally did not know which launched the apprehension, the tickling sunbeams or the restless hoofs and head. But she was used to horses. She found herself mechanically straightening up, controlling the giddy dance-spirit in her own soles, moving nearer—nearer—to the low cart as if she could not help it.

A brilliant orange streak in the sunlight she, flecked oriole-like with black, from the velvet ribbon that lent tone to that saucy little Tam, to the black needlework stars upon the heaving girlish breast.

Then all at once this human flame-bird weaving its way in and out between sets of dancing children was halted by a musical crash, brought up short on tiptoe by a screaming commotion through which rang a nightmare of treble chords wildly sustained by the pianist’s right hand blundering among the shrieking keys of the elevated piano, while her left arm waved on high, imploring help, the whole seeming a premature, mad finale to the popping music, to which every voice upon the playground, animate and inanimate, lent a cry—discordantly at that!

The effect was so feverishly funny that Sally, who had the oriole’s gay spirit within her orange-smocked breast, vented a shriek as loud as any, to swell the confusion, automatically clapping her fingers to her ears.

The voices of some fourscore children had popped explosively from song and shout to scare-note and shriek, a conglomerate shriek, strengthened by every foreign accent under the sun (any cry ever hurled from the crumbling Tower of Babel was nothing to it!), a shriek that hung, sustained, in air together with the rasping, squelching notes of that unfinished musical measure which seemed to tatter the air itself.

“Ouch! My s-soul!” murmured Sally under her breath. “The horse! It’s the—horse. He is bolting, with the piano lashed to the cart behind him. And the—poor—pianist!”

It needed no more. She saw the girl-musician’s left arm waving, imploring, saw her rock upon the light cane chair before the instrument that was not lashed to the rocking cart; she heard the horse’s mutinous snort, heard it strangely echoed in dumb fashion by a pair of parted childish lips near her; crowning all, she caught the terrified shriek of a small boy who clutched at his raven-black hair and what English he could muster as he started toward a sand-pile ahead, yelling, “Mine babee—mine babee! Horse he go kill her; she—she go all—deaded!”

And like the flame from the cloud leaped the answering fire in Sesooā—little Camp Fire Girl!

“The driver—the boy driver—he ought to be shot; he’s umpiring a baseball game,” was the first distinct thought that leaped to her mind as, like an oriole on the wing, she sped across the sunlit grass in the wake of the still rocking cart, the fiendishly howling piano, the screaming, swaying pianist. The second lightning conviction was: “It’s up-hill and the horse can’t really run very fast with that absurd piano behind him! He’s dancing all over the place, rather than wildly running, now!... Rolie showed me—has told me so often—how to stop a runaway!”

Rolie was her Boy Scout brother and that gallant fourteen-year-old Scout seemed to run neck and neck with her in this crisis, whispering heart into her, advising her movements.

The firefly in her eyes, soaring, golden, above consternation, has lit now upon the horse’s quivering haunch—on his black mane.

“After all, he’s only a horse; I’ve not alone ridden one, but, as a Camp Fire Girl, have saddled and bridled and fed an’ currycombed it, too, every day for the past month!” whizzed thought, darting ahead of her as with another springy step or two her right hand has seized the cart’s shaft to hold on and prevent herself from falling in the supreme effort she is about to make.

Her left hand, attached to a strong little wrist for a girl not yet sixteen, has snatched at the dragging reins, holding them short, is trying to pull the horse’s head down, turn it toward her!

Only a horse! And a brother-horse was such a friend of hers! The firefly bore that thought upon its wings as it wheeled above doubt, resistance, wrenching strain that was tugging her soft young arms from their sockets—her feet from the solid earth.

Only a horse! But a maddened horse, distracted by the shrieking ivories behind him!

Her girl’s strength against his!

Yet his rebel-crest was lowering. His lifted forelegs were uncurling, the waving hoofs that cared not what they smashed returning sanely to the sod.

And over the tumult of his heated horse-play, the inflaming echo of the music playing upon his generally patient nerves, rose the voice of the Camp Fire Girl as one who understands, gentling, soothing:

“Whoa! Whoa-a! old horse. There! there! good boy. Qui-quiet—now! The-ere!”

Her left hand has snatched at the dragging reins.

A snort that shook the earth under her feet, a jolt and rattle of the low cart and lashed piano, straining at its moorings to the cart, an hysterical sob from the pianist, and a girl life-saver stood outlined for one flaming minute at the horse’s head, queen of the equine dance, mistress of him and the situation, her hand to her side, her breath coming in great, ragged gasps that claimed to be sobs, too, sobs of wonder at how she ever did it!

“Well done, little girl! Good work! Well done, little Oriole in the orange smock!” came from spectators known and unknown. “How on earth did you have the presence of mind to do it—to stop him so quickly?”

“I’m a Camp Fire Girl. I ought to have my wits about me!”

Sesooā threw back her head and let them see the flame in her eyes, the flame kindled at that new-born Fire whose divine essence is to “Give Service!”

Suddenly that flame cowered and ran to hide in the tremble that swept over her from head to foot, a sick shudder that carried with it, also, the heroine’s grateful ecstasy as she looked ahead, only six short feet, at a raven-haired small boy flinging himself with a jumble of foreign cries and broken English at a playground sand-box, where, amid other tiny tots, a black-haired baby of eighteen months crawled safely like an insect, at the heart of the silvery pile.


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