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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Girls of the Morning-Glory Camp Fire » CHAPTER III CAPTAIN ANDY TAKES OFF HIS HAT
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“Great Neptune! I do declare, she dances as lightly as a Mother Carey chicken balancing upon a wave.”

“You should say, rather, that she dances like a morning-glory in the breeze!” Sesooā looked laughingly up into the face of the massive peacemaker who had separated the two little fighting foreigners; he had delivered them over to the tender mercies of the playground teacher who carried the dripping white water-ball in his arms, while he, the lame stranger whom Jessica opined was a sea-captain, withdrew to a better position for watching the dancing which brought him near to the group under the circular catalpa tree.

“An’ why should I say she dances like a ‘morning-glory,’ may I ask? I don’t know much about flowers, but I know a whole lot about foam-chickens, Carey chickens—stormy petrels you’d call ’em, most likely: and they’re the lightest, most buoyant things on God’s earth! You should see them,” went on the stranger expressively, “with their small wings spread, balancing on a wave-crest, little feet digging down into the foam, never sinking, disappearing into a watery hollow one minute, up again the next, crowing on the top of another foam-hill! I say she dances like that, the girl who’s footing it with the little creature in the broken old shoes and grey frock—as if the wave could never catch her!” There was a little genial mist, like light spray from the stormwater of which he spoke, in the stranger’s eye now, as it followed Jessica and her dumb partner through the last gay stampede of the vineyard dance. “And here’s hoping that the storm-wave never will swallow her!” he added with an eye of such merry fatherly kindness that Sally, part of whose bringing-up it had been not to hold familiar converse with strangers, absolutely forgot to place him in that category and immediately gave her racy little tongue all the freedom it desired.

“That sounds awful-ly nice what you say about her,” she remarked. “And I’ll tell her you said it; she’ll be pleased to hear it because she has made up her mind that you’re a sea-captain and her great-grandfather was one, owned a big ship and sailed out of Newburyport.”

“Ha! The only Newburyport in the United States, with its plaguy sand-bar at the mouth of the Merrimac River, so that ships can sail out of that port, when they’re in ballast, but never put in there, when they’re loaded, after a long voyage!”

“Ye-es,” murmured Sally, not interested. “But fancy thinking so much about one’s great-grandfather! However, I’m going to set to work and look up mine now, my grandparents and great-grandparents an’ what they did—so’s to win a patriotic honor-bead for my Camp Fire Girl’s necklace! But it’s different with her”—volubly indicating the deaf-and-dumb child’s partner, who was now guiding her, with expressive pantomime, through the mazy windings of a ribbon dance—“she thinks so much of that old sea-captain ancestor because she’s got his miniature and because I don’t believe she has any living relatives to think about. Her father and mother are both dead. She’s staying with the Deerings who own that beautiful automobile but I don’t think she’s related to them, except through their elderly cousin”—nodding toward the bench under the catalpa tree—“who’s her cousin, too.”

“What is the girl’s name?” asked the grey-haired peacemaker.

“Jessica Dee Holley.”

“Ha! ‘Dee’ sounds like an old Newburyport name; leastways I’ve seen it in old entries.”

“That was her mother’s name. But she isn’t alone, although she has no near relatives, because she’s a Camp Fire Girl, and we ‘cleave to our Camp Fire Sisters whenever, wherever we find them!’” Sesooā threw back her head with the same loyal gesture as that wherewith she had faced the world after stopping the horse; the golden firefly in her eyes hovering directly over the Camp Fire flame in her heart.

From the ranks of the juvenile dancers came, now, the joyful lilt of another song.
“Two by two,
Two by two,
Here we go!
With merry hearts,
And a cheerful song,
As we march in the double row.”

Two by two, yes, Jessica and her little silent partner leading with a vim, she singing for both!

Again Sally’s throat tickled and the firefly bore a little mist upon its wings as she noted the new spirit which had crept into the deaf-and-dumb child’s movements, into the clumsy, ill-shod feet, into the grey, stocky little figure, into the small, stubby fingers which no longer plucked wistfully at the gathers of her coarse frock, but brightly spread themselves in an inspired attempt to copy the waving gestures of the wonderful partner in shining lavender and white who had dropped from the clouds for her.

The sight was moving. The firefly in Sally’s eyes went in out of the rain.

“She’s going to be initiated as a Fire Maker at our next Council Fire gathering,” she murmured, nodding toward Jessica and hardly caring whether her impromptu companion understood her meaning or not. “But, oh”—blinking bright drops from her eyelids—“she ought to be a Torch Bearer! She’s a Torch Bearer already! Look at the light which she has brought into that little dumb girl’s eyes—she has lit a torch in her heart.”

“Well! I guess she has,” returned the big stranger in a moved voice, too.

“I don’t know whether you know much about Camp Fire Girls.”—Sesooā dashed the bright drops away and the firefly reappeared, hovering over a dimple—“but when a girl joins the society she takes a symbolic name, generally an Indian one, that signifies something she aims particularly to do or be. Jessica chose that of a climbing flower, the morning-glory—or its nearest Indian equivalent—for some little secret reason of her own; that’s what made it seem funny—incongruous—you know, when you said she danced like a stormy petrel, a Mother Carey chicken,” poutingly.

“Ah-h!” The stranger drew his massive brows together ruminating for a minute, his eyes on the wavy ribbon dance. “Ah! but, maybe, the two aren’t so wide apart as you think.” He turned and nodded at her. “Take a stormy morning at sea, now. I’ve seen the dawn, the morning-glory to be, come up, just a little grey flutter in the sky—like a dove-grey chicken that the foam had hatched—the foam that was piled like a great, pale egg against the horizon! It’s a funny world, little girl,” with an all-comprehensive wink of the sea-blue eye. “Things an’ meanings of things are never such miles apart but that you can link ’em, somehow; an’ that’s true of more than foam and flower!”

“Why—Captain Andy!”

“Why-y! Miss Winter!”

Cousin Anne had risen suddenly from the bench under the catalpa tree, shocked at seeing one of the girls whom she was chaperoning holding free converse with a stranger. Now she was advancing with warmly outstretched hand.

“Why! Miss Winter, I never expected to meet you here.” The massive stranger, standing bareheaded in the sunshine, was as cordially shaking that proffered hand.

“It’s Captain Andy, my dears!” Miss Anne Winter beckoned to the two Deering girls, her relatives and special charges. “Olive! this is Captain Andrew Davis who saved your Cousin Marvin’s life, with that of several other young men—college chums—when they were wrecked, while yachting a couple of years ago, off the Newfoundland Coast. You remember?” flutteringly.

“Oh! yes, indeed.” Olive extended a gracious, girlish hand; she was conscious of a little creepy thrill at meeting a real live hero, especially one who carried the heroism done up in such massive bulk, but she had heard her Cousin Marvin—before the rescue—speak of this Captain Andy Davis as being a sea-captain in no grand, mercantile way, as commanding no big barque, but only what Marvin—likewise before the rescue—dubbed a smelly fish-kettle, otherwise a New England fishing-schooner, little over a hundred feet in length from stem to taffrail.

Heroism had its noble uses, of course, especially when one had been stranded for hours as Marvin and those other college boys were upon sharp, naked rocks, seeing their yacht broken to pieces by the mountainous swell of an old sea after a storm, death staring them in the face, with no hope of rescue, until Captain Andy and his gallant “fish-kettle” hove in sight and bore down upon them—until Captain Andy, with a volunteer from his crew, launched a dory and succeeded in saving their lives at the extreme risk of his own.

Olive remembered hearing Marvin say that he did not believe there was another mariner upon the Massachusetts coast who could have “pulled off that rescue” with the sea as it was then. She thrilled again, looking up into the keen blue eye under the heavy lid, into the face which had made Jessica think of sheltering flame. At the same time, she could not help seeing a gulf—a broad gulf with floating shapes of fishy decks, horny hands, scaly oilskins—intervene between her and her sister, daughters of the bi-millionaire owner of big machine works for the manufacture of textile machinery, and this limping weather-beaten master mariner.

Sybil did not even take the trouble to be as friendly as she was.

Meanwhile Cousin Anne, Miss Anne Winter, was introducing Captain Andy Davis in proper form to Arline and Sally, mentioning the fact that the grateful Marvin had taken her to visit him when last she was in Gloucester.

“Oh, I must have felt it in my fingers—or in my tongue—that I knew you, or ought to know you, or that somebody here knew you, or I never would have talked to you so freely!” declared Sally in an orange flutter.

“And how do you come to be in Clevedon just now?” questioned Miss Anne, interrogating the weather-beaten face.

“My artist sent for me.” That florid visage bloomed all over with a boyish smile that gleamed somewhat shamefacedly through the thick, fair eyelashes, not yet turned grey. “She said she hadn’t got my ground colors right—gee! I didn’t know I had any, except when my vessel was grounded in the mud. ‘Carnation colors’ she called ’em—jiminy!”

His breezy bubble of laughter was caught and tossed further by Sally and Arline who eagerly hung upon the novelty of his speech.

“The artist is Miss Loretta Dewey, isn’t she?” So Miss Anne took him up. “She has taken you for the subject of her sea picture: ‘The Breaker King.’”

“Yes. I’m highly flattered. I had other business in this city, too, besides fixing my carnation colors,” with again that boyish laugh stirring the thick eyelashes. “I’ve been in correspondence with a lady here, a cousin of the artist’s, about renting one of my new camps at the mouth of the Exmouth River—tidal river, you know—for the summer.” (Sally caught her breath as if she were fishing for it, rose on tiptoe, stared at him breathlessly.) “The fact is, Miss Winter, I’m tired of being a hayseed,” the ex-mariner went on—“tried it for two years an’ couldn’t take to it.”

“What have you done with your little farm among the Essex woods?”

“Turned it over to my hired man. Oh! he’s a reformed character, he’ll run it all right; he’s got two anchors out now to leeward an’ win’ard, which means he was married a year ago an’ had a son born last month. Guess he had the baby baptized a Scout,” with a twinkle; “he said that ’twas watching the Boy Scouts an’ their manly doin’s that first started him to wanting to hit a man’s trail, at last—make a man of himself.”

But Miss Anne knew that it was Captain Andy who had followed up the unconscious work of the Scouts by taking that hired man, hopeless graduate of a reform school, and setting him on his feet again.

“You’re not thinking of going to sea any more?” she asked.

“No, my damaged spar kind o’ interferes with that.” The mariner looked down at his lame right leg where the sea left its mark on him in his last terrible fight with it. “But I’m gettin’ as near to the ocean as I can while staying ashore,” he volunteered. “I put in this past spring building three big, rambling wooden shanties—they ain’t much more—which I call camps, on the edge of some white sand-dunes, wildest spot on the coast of Massachusetts, where the tidal river meets the bay, or sea.”

“Oh! it’s not the Sugarloaf sand-dunes?” squeaked Sesooā, her voice thin and wiry with excitement.

“Very place! The white Sugarloaf Peninsula! Just a hundred acres, or so, of tall, snowy sand-hills in that part o’ the dunes, and wild life a-plenty on dune an’ river—bird, fish, an’ mammal, or seal! I’ve rented two of the camps already”—went on the speaker, in the teeth of a now prevalent gust of excitement which, blowing toward him, threatened to sweep him off his feet—“one to a family, t’other to a flock; to a lady, right here in this city of Clevedon, who’s going to bring ten or twelve young girls with her, to camp out, some of ’em lately started upon a cruise of their ’teens, others about midway of the voyage,” with a deep gurgle of laughter like the briny bubble of the sea.

“Did she—did she say they were a Camp Fire Group?” Sesooā’s hands were clasped upon a flame of suspense so eager that it almost scorched them.

“Come to think of it, now, I guess she did! I’ve heard a lot about that tribe, in general, lately. Boy Scouts an’ Camp Fire Girls, they’re in the spot light just now.”

“They deserve to be. And was the Guardian’s—the lady’s—name Miss Dewey?”

“You’ve hit it. I’m to be watch-dog and life-guard to the flock—I’ll have a tent o’ my own near.”

“Then, it’s us! It’s us, Captain Andy!” cried the Rainbow and the Flame together. “It’s our Morning-Glory Camp Fire that has rented your camp for the remainder of this month of July and all the month of August—the Green Corn Moon. Oh, we’re so glad to have met you—that you’re going to be our camp guard and protector!”

“Land o’ Goshen! you ain’t got no corner on the gladness; that I tell you.” The old lifesaver beamed. “Is she coming, too?” pointing to the girlish figure in the flower-like Tam among the shifting playground sets. “Is she going to camp on the dunes, too, the one that dances like a foam-chicken or a foam-clot—the Morning-Glory one?”

“Of course she is.”

“I suppose, now, you’d call her a—what-d’ye-call-it—an?sthetic dancer, eh?” with an inquisitive twinkle.

“?sthetic,” corrected Olive, smiling a superior little smile. “An?sthetic is a thing that puts people to sleep when they’re in pain—a medicine.”

“Oh! aye, I put my foot in the medicine, did I?” gasped the squelched captain, his “carnation colors” deepening.

From the playground came the cooing words of yet another song, dramatic, disconnected, marking the close of the afternoon’s singing games and folk-dances:
“Bluebird, bluebird, through my window!”
“Oh, Jennie, I’m tired!”

At the two random lines, children’s heads were dropped each upon the other’s shoulder in mock fatigue, resting there a moment in drowsy confidence.

“Turk, Armenian, Teuton, Slav, an’ almost every other race thrown in—Lord! if that ain’t a Peace Conference to beat the Hague,” muttered Captain Andy, his eyes watering as they scanned the faces of those foreign buds.

“I think he’s great—and I don’t mean it slangily either! He is Great,” said impulsive Sally in an aside to Olive. “Oh! why don’t Sybil and you join our Camp Fire tribe and camp with us, too, upon his Sugarloaf dunes. I feel like shouting when I think of the fun we’ll have, rowing and swimming, singing and dancing our Indian dances, the Leaf Dance and Duck Dance that Morning-Glory is going to teach us—she learned them from a professor who learned them from the Indians—among those crystal, sugary, sandy dunes.”

“Yes, and cooking your own meals, by turns, laundering your own blouses, washing camp dishes—glorifying work, as you call it! That wouldn’t suit me.” Olive shook her satin curl. “Sybil and I—with Cousin Anne, of course—are going to spend August at an hotel on the North Shore. We’ll have plenty of dancing, too; it’s a very fashionable, exclusive hotel and the most expensive teacher of up-to-date dances is coming from New York to give lessons to the guests, including Sybil and me; I teased Father until he said we might learn from him—otherwise, we shan’t have a study or a thing to do but to amuse ourselves all day long.”

The bright flame of Sally’s enthusiasm wavered and paled like a candle-flame in garish sunshine. Her face fell. To her versatile, girlish fancy the picture which Olive painted of the coming August was richer in coloring, more dazzlingly gilded in frame—with the modern dancing thrown in—than any that the crystal Sugarloaf could offer, even when peopled with fringed and beaded Camp Fire Girls.

Crestfallen, she looked at Captain Andy, partly to hide her chagrin.

He was staring fixedly at the playground before him, where a dumb child unable to reach up and drop her head upon a seventeen-year-old girl’s lavender shoulder—as the other children were doing with their partners—laid it upon her breast.

“Bless her heart of gold, that girl!” he breathed, his strong face working. “Whether you call her ‘Morning-Glory’ or foam-chicken, I say bless her heart for calling the bluebird through a dumb child’s window when she can’t call it for herself.... I had a little sister, long ago, born deaf an’ dumb; she only lived to be four. I played with her until she died.... I take off my hat to that Camp Fire Girl.”

“Oh-h!” exploded Sesooā between a sob and a song which together cleared the horizon and righted her toppling enthusiasm; that in girlhood to which Captain Andy, hero of a hundred sea-fights, bared his head, as he reverently did, was best worth while; unwittingly he, a connoisseur in Life, had put his finger on that which was lacking in Olive’s picture, present in this: the seeking Beauty not for oneself alone, not in one’s own life only, but to see it blossom in dull, sad, silent corners of the human garden, the Camp Fire ideal.

Swept upon a tide of reaction Sally turned passionately to Cousin Anne. “Oh, Jessica is the dandiest girl,” she exclaimed, slangy with emotion. “Oh! Miss Anne, I do want to ask you a question; do you know, won’t you tell me, why she was bent on choosing Morning-Glory as her Camp Fire name and emblem, why she was called ‘Glory’ as a pet name before?”

“It was because of a little incident in her childhood.”

“Yes, I know! And this playground, teeming with children, is the very place to hear it,” seconded Arline, chiming in.

“Well, I don’t think she would mind my telling you girls, it’s such a trifling little story, but because it’s so tenderly connected with her mother, who died a little more than two years ago, she doesn’t care to speak of it herself; her mother was my cousin.”

“Yes?” breathed the expectant girls.

“I used to visit them when Jessica was a little child; she loved flowers from the time she was a baby girl, and her mother invented a ‘flower game’ which she used to play with her at night after the child was in bed, so that she might fall asleep with a happy impression on her mind; the mother would begin, ‘I am your rose,’ to which the drowsy little voice would answer, ‘I am your violet,’ or something like that and so on through all the flowers they could name, until Jessica was asleep.

“Well! one night the game went on as usual: ‘I am your rose,’ ‘I am your vi’let;’ ‘I am your pansy,’ ‘I am your lily;’ ‘I am your dandelion,’ ‘I am your nasturt’um;’ ‘I am your lily of the valley,’ but to this there was no answer—the mother had the last word—Jessica was fast asleep.

“Early next morning, however, her mother was awakened by two little arms stealing round her neck, by a moist little mouth pressed to her cheek and a child’s voice saying softly into her ear: ‘Mamma! Mamma! I am your morning-glory!’

“Somehow, under cover of sleep, the seed of the flower game had lingered in her mind all night, to blossom in the morning.” Miss Anne gently blinked at such mysteries, looking before her at the dissolving playground sets.

“Oh-h, if that isn’t the sweetest child-story!” burst from Sally in subdued applause. “I’m so glad that you told it to us, satisfied our curiosity.”

“Yes, and we’ll have such a pretty little anecdote to relate, in turn, at our next Council Fire gathering—when we’re supposed to tell of some kind deed which we’ve seen done—about how the Morning-Glory danced with the dumb child, gave her such a good time this morning. I wish I could write it up in verse—even blank verse,” yearned Arline aspiringly. “You’ll be there, won’t you, Miss Anne?”

“Of course she will; it’s to be held outdoors, if the weather is fine, upon the lake shore at the foot of Wigwam Hill, where you can almost see the ghosts of Indians—who camped there in numbers, nearly two hundred years ago—moving about. Of course she’ll be there and Captain Andy, too, to see me light a fire without matches and watch us dance the Leaf Dance!” Sesooā whirled like an orange leaf in a gust of reinstated enthusiasm. “Hurrah for our Morning-Glory Camp Fire! Hurrah and hurrah again for Camp Morning-Glory—our camp that is to be—on the far-away Sugarloaf!” her mind’s eye exploring those white Sugarloaf dunes, amid which she would revel, Puck-like, fairy-like, by the light of the Green Corn Moon.


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